Today the world has lost a pioneer: Jeanne Manford, the founder of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and the Mother of the Straight Ally movement.
Jeanne was one of the fiercest fighters in the battle for acceptance and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. It is truly humbling to imagine in 1972—just 40 years ago—a simple schoolteacher started this movement of family and ally support, without benefit of any of the technology that today makes a grassroots movement so easy to organize. No Internet. No cellphones. Just a deep love for her son and a sign reading “Parents of Gays: Unite in Support for Our Children.”
Some history from PFLAG’s web site:
The idea for PFLAG began in 1972 when Jeanne Manford marched with her son, Morty, in New York’s Christopher Street Liberation Day March, the precursor to today’s Pride parade. After many gay and lesbian people ran up to Jeanne during the parade and begged her to talk to their parents, she decided to begin a support group. The first formal meeting took place in 1973 at a local church. Approximately 20 people attended.
Jeanne decided to march that year to support her son, who had been beaten in April while distributing gay rights pamphlets at a New York poliical event. Jeane became further angered over police inaction, and wrote a letter to the New York Post about it, identifying herself as the mother of a gay son.
Jeanne Manford was 92 years old.