I received two emails today. Both looking for support to begin a PFLAG Chapter.  PFLAG is the Parents and Friends of Lesbian and Gays organization that provides support to parents and friends of sexual minorities.   It is broader than Lesbian and Gays, this organization includes bisexuals and transgender supports as well.  There are currently two PFLAG chapters in Mississippi.  One in Oxford and the other in Waveland, MS.   These are both on opposite sides of the states, north and south. 

These are life giving resources for parents of sexual minorities and for sexual minorities themselves.  I say life giving because we live in a society that is hostile to sexual minorities.  It is more so in conservative regions of the country such as Mississippi.

I came out of the closet as a gay man in CT; a state that has multiple resources for sexual minorities.  A state that also has legislated protections for people like me.   I was protected in my employment.  I was protected in my housing.  I was protected in parental rights and in adoption.  And CT is one of a few states that have civil unions ensuring partnership rights on a state level.  Mississippi does not have these rights secured for sexual minorities.  In this state it is still legal to discriminate housing and employment based on sexual identity.  Ironically, single gays and lesbians can adopt but same sex couples cannot adopt in this state.  In this state, gay fathers who divorce their wives in order to live their life with integrity can be court mandated to hide their sexuality, hide their partners from their children so as to not influence their children’s sexuality or lose visitation rights.   

In this state, homophobia is the norm.  I remember reading a news article shortly after arriving here about the KKK’s current activities in Mississippi.  The journalist writing the story made a passing remark in the story about the KKK no longer being the vile racist organization because their targets were now gays and immigrants.   The assumption was that it was understandable how the KKK could be angered about the presence of gays and immigrants.  The implied was aren’t we all? 

None of the six Unitarian Universalist congregations in Mississippi have been certified as Welcoming Congregations. This is a certification program that the UUA offers congregations desiring to learn more about homophobia and how it operates in society.   I serve two congregations in the state and have visited two additional congregations, and fortunately I have not felt any homophobia in these congregations.  All of the congregations I am personally aware of have sexual minority members.   However, having the designation would be a public sign to sexual minorities that our congregations are a save place to come and worship openly for who they are.  It is an excellent program and one I recommend for UU congregations.  Especially here in the conservative bible belt where sexual minorities are shunned because they love differently.  It is quite likely that some people coming out of conservative religious communities and into our faith communities are living with an internalized homophobia that has been taught to them.  This program is a good one to go through every so many years in a congregation to re-affirm their welcoming congregation status so that the congregation as a whole continues to grow towards justice for all.

Forming these two new PFLAG chapters is important vital work.  It is important that resources be made available so that parents, especially conservative religious parents have a place to go where they can talk about their situation in a supportive non-judgmental arena.  A place where their questions can be heard and answered, rather than judged and condemned  because something sinful happened to cause this event.  A place where they can learn the skills to help their children to live healthful and productive lives. 

I look forward to these chapters forming in Mississippi.  I know the work that PFLAG has done in other communities and the lives they have saved.  Blessings, Rev. Fred L Hammond 


Published in: on April 24, 2008 at 4:55 am  Comments Off on PFLAG  
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