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Celebrating 50 Years of PFlag: Birthplace of a Movement of Empathy and Advocacy

Fifty years ago, a groundbreaking movement was born—a movement that would forever change the landscape of LGBTQ+ rights, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We marked the fortieth anniversary of that founding with a plaque marking and honoring the site. This year, we joyfully celebrate the 50th anniversary of PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), an organization founded and rooted in our neighborhood that has played a pivotal role in supporting, educating, and advocating for the LGBTQ+ community and their loved ones. As we reflect on half a century of tireless dedication, unwavering support, and incredible progress, we honor the legacy of PFLAG and its profound impact on countless lives.

For five decades, PFLAG has been a beacon of hope and care, providing a safe space for parents, families, and friends to come together and learn about, understand, and embrace their LGBTQ+ loved ones. What started as a small support group in 1973 has blossomed into a global network of chapters, offering comfort, guidance, and a sense of belonging to countless individuals and families. PFLAG’s message of unconditional love and acceptance has helped bridge the gap between generations, dispel misconceptions, and create a more inclusive society.

The journey of PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) began with a single meeting, held in a location that would forever be a pivot point in LGBTQ+ history. The first meeting of what would become the group took place in 1973 in what is now the Church of the Village, at 13th Street and 7th Avenue.

This iconic location served as the catalyst for a movement that would transform the lives of countless individuals and pave the way for greater acceptance and understanding. The idea for PFLAG arose in a discussion after a symposium sponsored by the “Homosexual Community Counseling Center” on January 22, 1973. After the symposium, Jeanne and Morty Manford, Roy Byrd (pseudonym of a young Gay mental health counselor), his parents, and Rev. Edward Egan of Metropolitan Duane United Methodist Church (MDUMC) gathered for an informal conversation. 

As Ed Egan wrote later, “We sensed the need for an ongoing work with, by and for parents of Gays. We agreed to meet at MDUMC (now The Church of the Billage) on Sunday afternoon, March 31, 1973, open as to where we would go from there.” Rev. Egan attended every monthly meeting of “Parents of Gays” (later PFLAG). for the next four years, while he was at MDUMC. A half dozen members of the MDUMC also attended the early meetings of PFLAG. The church publicized PFLAG meetings in the church bulletin and sometimes on the marquee on 7th Avenue. Ed Egan was already a long-time leader of the struggle for the rights and well-being of gay men and lesbians since the mid-1950s, having served as a board member of the New York Mattachine Society and a spiritual counselor for the Daughters of Bilitis. 

PFLAG has been at the forefront of LGBTQ+ education and awareness, empowering individuals with knowledge and understanding to challenge stereotypes and prejudice. Through workshops, seminars, and resources, PFLAG has equipped parents, families, educators, and communities with the tools they need to support and advocate for LGBTQ+ individuals. By fostering empathy and dispelling ignorance, PFLAG has transformed countless lives, building bridges of understanding between LGBTQ+ individuals and their loved ones.

PFLAG NYC celebrated this momentous anniversary with a gala on June 6, 2023, and continues the good work of the organization in our neighborhoods. This founding chapter of PFLAG continues and grows the important work of this now-national organization. Services include: 

PFLAG NYC continues to build their support from donors and stakeholders throughout our neighborhoods and beyond, as they also archive the history of this important and significant organization. They also have a contingency marching in the 2023 Pride March. A very big year for an organization that has enormous history and impact.

As a part of this work, Village Preservation is working with PFLAG NYC and The Church in the Village to offer “Celebrating PFLAG: 50 Years of Creating a Caring, Just, and Affirming World” on June 22, 2023 at the Church of the Village.  Melissa D’Andrea, PFLAG NYC’s Executive Director, will join Pastor Jeff Wells, Lead Pastor of the Church of the Village, and Clark Wolff Hamel, PFLAG’s director of Educational Programs, to present on PFLAG’s history, evolution, and ongoing crucial work. This free event requires pre-registration. It will also be livestreamed, and documented on Village Preservation’s YouTube video archive. 

The Church of the Village (COTV) is also celebrating this historic anniversary alongside its month-long Pride events, which happen annually in support of those marching for and celebrating Pride in NYC.

Happy anniversary, PFLAG!

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