Entertainer Frank Ocean and CNN journalist Anderson Cooper recently opening up about their sexuality has helped people become conscious of gay and lesbian community, according to observers in the area.
“It is becoming that more people are coming out and more people are becoming aware,” said Joan Bortnicker, president of the support group Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) of Media.
A longtime Broomall resident, Bortnicker and her husband started the PFLAG of Delaware County chapter in 2009.
“Our son came out to us about 11 years ago and we didn’t know any other parents” that had children who are gay or lesbian Bortnicker explained. “We had colleagues, but it’s a little different when it’s your child.”
PFLAG is national non-profit organization with more than 200,000 members and supporters and more than 350 affiliates in the United States.
Local chapters provide opportunities for dialogue about sexual orientation and gender identity, and act to create a society that is healthy and respectful of human diversity.
The PFLAG of Media chapter has a fluctuating monthly meeting attendance of approximately 15 to 20 people.
According to a Gallop poll conducted in May 2011, on average, an estimated 25 percent of Americans are gay or lesbian. To note, more than half of Americans (52 percent) estimate that at least one in five Americans are gay or lesbian, including 35 percent who estimate that more than one in four are.
As one of the nation’s largest support organizations for families and friends of lesbians and gays, PFLAG has a solid national presence.
Speakers at last year’s national convention included Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, who was the first congressman to come out of the closet voluntarily and recently wedded.
“PFLAG provides an atmosphere of acceptance and understanding, and creates an environment where participants can talk about their most heartfelt feelings and concerns without fear of ridicule or harsh judgment,” said Carol, a Haverford resident and PFLAG of Media’s vice president.
Carol joined the group after the suicide death of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi.
“Our gay family member is still the same wonderful person and is the same person we always loved,” she said. “That gay (or lesbian) person may be your next door neighbor, your boss, your co-worker, or your teacher. There are more similarities than differences.”
As a parent, Bortnicker shared a different perspective that is addressed by the group.
“Many parents also worry about their child’s safety, health and well being in a ‘not always accepting’ society,” she said. “It is also a challenge to accept a “new view” of who their child is.
Suddenly the child they thought they knew is going to have a somewhat different future than the parents anticipated.”
As support groups like PFLAG of Media fill a void for family and friends of people with diverse sexual orientations and identifications, they continue to promote a positive understanding of a segment of our population.
“We will advocate for the dignity of all persons regardless of sexual orientation,” Carol said. “Discrimination due to sexual orientation hurts all of us.”