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PFLAG Perspective: Fault lines and steady progress -- recent visits to Latin countries

Imagine a Pride Parade with 25,000 marchers. Decorations, music, and a festive and heart-felt atmosphere.

Now imagine that parade with no spectators.

That was what PFLAG San Diego County Chapter co-President Patti Bowman experienced two years ago, in Santiago, Chile.

A guest of Families for Sexual Diversity (FSD), based in Spain and Mexico, Patti, who is fluent in Spanish, participated in a conference of LGBT activists from throughout the Latin world. FSD convenes these meetings every three to four years.

While there, Patti marched in the parade I mentioned, and met representatives from all over.

Terrie Vorono, also a PFLAG Board member, visited Lisbon and Porto, Portugal this past September.

She was there to meet with Association of Mothers and Fathers for the Freedom of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (AMPLOS) -- seems the more people who get included, the longer our names get. AMPLOS was started by the mother of a lesbian about two years ago.

What did our board members find during their visits?

The Santiago conference reflected the gamut. The Argentinian delegates could boast a progressive social acceptance of LGBT people, more so than the US, given the fact that LGBT marriage in legal in the entire country.

The Dominican Republic representative, on the other hand, was asking for help. LBGT people there must meet in secret, he said, with meeting places announced at the last minute to avoid being shut down.

Santiago itself seemed to have some resources, the key being an LGBT Center modeled, interestingly enough, on the LGBT Center in San Diego!

There is a group called "the Moms," pretty self- explanatory, who get together to try and improve conditions for their kids. But generally, Patti reports, the Chileans lack leadership. In fact, a lot of the leadership comes from the parents at this point.

Lisbon has a vibrant LGBT community, according to Terrie. "It would be our San Francisco," she said.

In Porto, a more conservative city, parental concern was more elevated. They were afraid their children would loose their jobs even if the parents themselves were out. They do have marriage equality in Portugal, but having a Pride event would be “very difficult,” she was told. It’s puzzling.

On that very basic human level, face to face, one on one, parents in both cities have amazing stories to tell about acceptance among colleagues, friends, and extended family. Our PFLAG members made an effort to help in both Chile and Portugal.

In Santiago, Patti showed the Spanish language video put together by Mi Familia here in San Diego. In Portugal, Terrie shared organizational tools that will allow different “chapters” of AMPLOS to be formed whereever there is interest and a few brave folks to get it started.

What were their most memorable experiences?

Patti was quick to say the parade in Santiago. She spoke about the optimism of the marchers, mostly young, and the love that they radiated.

Terrie remembers being touched by the gracious reception she received in Portugal.

"I felt their urgency to meet and talk … it is comforting and disconcerting that our concerns for our loved ones are universal."

PFLAG San Diego’s October Program

This Monday, October 24th, beginning at 7 pm, PFLAG San Diego County will host Al Killen-Harvey, a Clinical Supervisor at the Chadwick Center for Children and Families at San Diego’s Rady Children’s Hospital, and Caitlin Ryan, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, who will speak about “Coming out in the 21 Century.”

Al Killen-Harvey is a frequent presenter, and speaks both nationally and internationally on a wide variety of topics related to children and adolescents. He has served on the board of CAPSAC (California Professional Society on the Abuse of Children) and is also a consultant and trainer for UCLA’s Rape Treatment Center.

More and more individuals are coming out as LGBTQ in their adolescence and as young adults. This process can be an exhilarating, confusing and at times, risky.

Killen-Harvey's presentation will provide the audience with an understanding of the stages of identity development, practical tips for families who have LGBTQ youth and identify what resources are currently available to assist these families.

There will also be an overview of the work that Caitlin Ryan, LCSW, has been doing with the Family Acceptance Project and how to operationalize this research in the day to day lives of the families who have LGBTQ children.

About PFLAG San Diego County Chapter

PFLAG promotes the health and well-being of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons, their families and friends through support, to cope with an adverse society, education, to enlighten an ill-informed public and advocacy, to end discrimination and to secure equal civil rights.

PFLAG San Diego meets every fourth Monday of the month at the First United Methodist Church, 2111 Camino del Rio South in Mission Valley. For more information, visit their pflag.com website or call the PFLAG SD support line, at (888) 398-0006.

You can also follow PFLAG San Diego on Facebook and also on Twitter.

Mark Thompson has been a PFLAG member for six years, including two years as co-president (with his wife Karen) and a year as treasurer. He says his experience of helping in the LGBT community has been one of the most rewarding he's ever had. Mark has lived in San Diego since the late 1960s, is a land use/environmental consultant, and is currently working on a novel.