Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

PFLAG Founder, Our Mother, Jeanne Manford Dies at 92

Jeanne Manford (1920 - 2013), proudly cradling the photo of her gay son, Monty.

Jeanne Manford (1920 – 2013), proudly cradling the photo of her gay son, Monty.

Washington, D.C. – The founder of PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), Jeanne Manford, has died at the age of 92.  She was a Giant whose influence for healing and hope among queer folk and their families is incalculable.  Tributes are pouring in from all over the world, led by this one issued by PFLAG Executive Director, Judy Huckaby, which we quote here in its entirety:

“Today the world has lost a pioneer: Jeanne Manford, the founder of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and the Mother of the Straight Ally movement.
 
“Jeanne was one of the fiercest fighters in the battle for acceptance and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. It is truly humbling to imagine in 1972 – just 40 years ago – a simple schoolteacher started this movement of family and ally support, without benefit of any of the technology that today makes a grassroots movement so easy to organize. No Internet. No cellphones. Just a deep love for her son and a sign reading “Parents of Gays: Unite in Support for Our Children.”
 
“This simple and powerful message of love and acceptance from one person resonated so strongly it was heard by millions of people worldwide and led to the founding of PFLAG, an organization with more than 350 chapters across the U.S. and 200,000 members and supporters, and the creation of similar organizations across the globe.
 
“Jeanne’s work was called ‘the story of America…of ordinary citizens organizing, agitating, educating for change, of hope stronger than hate, of love more powerful than any insult or injury,’ in a speech by President Barack Obama in 2009.
 
“All of us – people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and straight allies alike – owe Jeanne our gratitude. We are all beneficiaries of her courage. Jeanne Manford proved the power of a single person to transform the world. She paved the way for us to speak out for what is right, uniting the unique parent, family, and ally voice with the voice of LGBT people everywhere.”
Jeanne Manford’s world changed the day in 1972 when she saw her gay activist son, Monty Manford, brutally attacked at a Gay Activist Alliance (GAA) Rally.  The police refused to intervene.  In her sorrow and outrage, Mrs. Manford wrote letters to the New York Post, penning the now famous words, “I have a homosexual and I love him.”  With uncommon courage, in a hostile context we have largely forgotten once existed, her mother-love acted to defend and empower her child, and all the children of difference who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer. She founded Parents of Gays (POG), the parent organization of we know now as PFLAG.
Through decades of harsh heartbreak, Mrs. Manford comforted the parents and friends of the queer community, fired their children with the grace and fire to live everyday of their lives as the beloved creations of God they were born to be, and challenged the systems and structures of oppression.  Because of her efforts, the world we know experiences less hostility and discrimination than the one she and Monty knew all too well.  In too many ways for us to count, Jeanne Manford was the Mother of us all.
Fr. James Martin, SJ, moved by the news of her passing, wrote his Evening Meditation as a tribute to her today. He concludes it with a heartfelt benediction and blessing upon the work, soul, and life of this great, prophetic spirit.  His words serve as ours tonight:  “May Jeanne Manford rest in peace, and may we always love prophetically, recklessly, prodigally, dangerously, eternally.”  Amen.  Mother of us all, rest well.

January 8, 2013 Posted by | GLBTQ, Jeanne Manford, LGBTQ, PFLAG, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , | Comments Off on PFLAG Founder, Our Mother, Jeanne Manford Dies at 92

   

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