LGBT Perspective: Same Need, Different Approach
July 31, 2008
In April 1993, our son told us he was gay. We were devastated. We hoped it was a phase like the time he dyed his hair green, but it was not, and we spent the next two years learning what it means to have a gay son.Almost immediately after he told us, our son sent us a package of booklets from Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays. Those little booklets were the first real information we ever read about lesbians and gays and, for a while, the only information.
PFLAG is an organization that supports and advocates for LGBTs. Its 500 chapters and 200,000 members nationwide make it the largest network in the struggle for LGBT rights. But in Fremont Calif., where we live, there was no PFLAG chapter. So Belinda and like-minded friends started the first PFLAG-Fremont/East Bay in 1995, and she became its first president.
PFLAG’s model for support is a meeting based on a general format. Meetings are monthly and begin with all attendees introducing themselves, with some admitting that they have an LGBT child, relative or friend. A program follows, after which the attendees form small discussion groups.
Belinda soon noticed that no Asian Pacific Islanders attended the meetings. Forty-eight percent of Fremont’s population is API, and it is unlikely that ours is the only gay son. Friends in San Francisco explained: APIs are unwilling to go in front of a group of strangers and divulge that they have an LGBT child or relative, and then continue to discuss it in group no matter how small. PFLAG’s model for support is antithetical to API culture,where having an LGBT child or relative causes shame and dishonor.”
At about the same time PFLAG-Fremont began, a few APIs in San Francisco discussed ways to help API families with LGBT children in more culturally appropriate ways. They decided to make a video where LGBT children and parents discussed obstacles to acceptance and strategies to overcome them. The video would be viewed in the privacy of their home.
The group became what is now API Family Pride, and its video, “Coming Out, Coming Home,” has been distributed to over 10,000 homes, schools and universities.
In the meantime, PFLAG has recognized that its model is failing to reach people of color and initiated a Families of Color Network. We remember the Network’s first conference in Las Vegas in 1999 as a difficult one and the meeting’s result was essentially lost because of staff turnover. PFLAG struggles with sustaining the effort but keeps trying to find ways to be more inclusive.
We learned that one size does not fit all. We also learned that it is difficult to develop culturally specific resources for the diverse populations asking for help. And this holds for the diverse populations within the API community itself.
Written by John and Belinda Dronkers-Laureta