Resident starts gay and lesbian support group in Airdrie
Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) now have a support group in Airdrie.
Elizabeth, who requested her last name be withheld because of the confidential nature of the support group, started the PFLAG chapter in Airdrie this past June.
She thought there would be a need for such a support group considering the rapid growth of the city and she was unable to find one.
Having dealt with PFLAG while living in Ontario during a time a family member was dealing with issues surrounding their sexuality, she knew the organization and jumped at the opportunity to help found a chapter in Airdrie.
When the organization began, she said, it was for exactly those in the name – Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays – but it has evolved.
“It is also for people who identify as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender),” she explained, adding the meetings are a safe place to discuss a variety of issues.
“No one is a professional, everyone is jut there to share their own experiences and to help each other out in whatever capacity, whether it’s in facing discrimination or if someone just needs someone to talk to because they’re getting ready to come out to their parents, anything like that.”
Elizabeth said everyone is welcome, adding the group’s anonymity is a big part of providing that safe environment.
“If people come to our meetings, it’s not like we’re going to go up to them if we see them on the street and call them out. It’s a private thing and everybody’s identity is kept confidential,” she said, explaining those who need to can contact PFLAG at any time to talk to someone by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting their website at www.pflagcanada.ca
“There’s a lot of articles and a lot of research that PFLAG has at its disposal to help educate the public as well. That’s something we strive to do, we try to educate people to who might not know a lot about LGBT issues in general.”
Though she doesn’t identify herself as LGBT, Elizabeth says she is involved because of her love for her family. Having been through the sexual identity issues with a member of her family, she says she offers experience to others who may need a hand.
“Be open and listen, especially to your family member that’s coming out and show your support by loving them,” Elizabeth said. “If you can do that, you can make it through it because just by them sharing their identity with you, that’s a really big step and it can be scary for some people. If you make it the safest place possible for them to do that, it starts everything off on a much more positive foot.”
And even if there are outside groups who won’t initially accept that you’re different, Elizabeth says to press on and try to get them to realize that you can’t change how you were born.
“One of my family members had much more of a struggle from the religious community, but that takes time and sometimes we have to be patient as well,” she said.
“If we have a religious community that is anti-LGBT in any way, it takes patience and love from our side as well because everybody needs a chance to realize that being gay is how you were born and that it’s OK.”
The group meets on the last Saturday of every month at the United Church from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.