PFLAG emerged when Jeanne Manford, a New York City school teacher, her husband Jules, gay-activist son Morty, a group of parents, and LGBTQ people met for support on March 26, 1973 at the Metropolitan-Duane Methodist Church in Greenwich Village (now the Church of the Village). A year before, in June 1972, she marched alongside Morty in the Christopher Street Liberation Day March holding a sign with the message: “Parents of Gays: Unite in Support for our Children.” She was surprised by the welcome she received that day, The people who approached her asked if she could speak with their mothers and fathers, wishing their families could be so accepting.
“As we marched the parade route, so many people came up and hugged me and cried and talked about their own parents.”
Manford’s role as a gay rights leader began one night as she was watching television in her home. On the news, she saw footage of her activist son being beaten at a protest while police looked on. She took action by writing a letter that appeared in the New York Post on April 29, 1972, in which she declared, “I have a homosexual son and I love him.” Manford later explained, “I didn’t think anything of it, but I guess it was the first time a mother ever stood up publicly and said, ‘Yes, I have a homosexual child.’” A few months later, she took up her sign and marched her way into LGBTQ history.
The first formal meeting took place on March 26, 1973 at the Metropolitan-Duane Methodist Church in Greenwich Village (now Church of the Village). In the next years, through word of mouth and community need, similar groups sprang up around the country, offering “safe havens” and mutual support for parents with gay and lesbian children. Representatives from these groups met for the first time in Washington, DC at the 1979 National March for Gay and Lesbian Rights.
By 1980, PFLAG, then known as Parents FLAG, began to distribute information to educational institutions and communities of faith nationwide, establishing itself as a source of information for the general public. Then “Dear Abby” mentioned PFLAG in one of her advice columns and PFLAG received more than 7,000 letters requesting information.
In 1981, members decided to launch a national organization. The first PFLAG office was established in Los Angeles under founding organizational president Adele Starr. In 1982, the Federation of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, Inc., then representing approximately 20 groups, incorporated in California.
In 1987, PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) relocated to Denver, under President Elinor Lewallen. And by the late 1980s, PFLAG began to have notable success in organizing chapters in rural communities.
In 1993, PFLAG added the word “Families” to the name and added bisexual people to its mission.
As the new millenium starts, PFLAG began to develop nationally-coordinated programs like Cultivating Respect: Safe Schools for All, Straight for EqualityTM, the National Scholarship Program, and One Voice Can Change the World.
In 2014, the organization officially dropped “Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays” and changed its name simply to PFLAG. The mission and vision of the organization were also updated to reflect PFLAG’s decades of inclusive work.