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Voices of Diversity: PFLAG

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28) - A Cedar Rapids group is working to pave the way for people supporting family members in the lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender and questioning community.

Rita Devenney is one of those people.

It wasn't a popular thing to be gay in our community, Devenney said.

Devenney and her wife, Jennifer Rowray, both came from small towns where coming out wasn't easy.
I didn't really have anyone to look to say, 'it's okay to be me, Rowray said.

That changed for Jennifer as a college student at a gay rights parade in Chicago where members of the group, PFLAG were marching.

Strangers from the crowd would run out and hug these parents because they didn't maybe have parents of their own to hug. That really struck me and allowed me to be brave and tell my parents and trust that they would be more like a PFLAG parents than more like a parent that would reject me, Rowray said.

PFLAG is, a group that supports sons, daughters and friends, that are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning. PFLAG also reaches out to those who are supporting someone in their life that is LGBTQ. Many of the organizers of chapters across the country are parents of those in the LGBTQ community. 

Diane Peterson is a PFLAG parent, and chair of the organization.

My youngest son is gay and a lot of people would ask me, how's Jason, and what about that girl I saw him with? Is he dating her? And I was always very open with, you know, my son is gay? Diane Peterson said.

Through PFLAGs monthly support groups, Diane's hoping to help other parents navigate similar situations. PFLAG is even making a difference in Cedar Rapids middle schools.

Bibliotherapy is a way to help through books! Tracie Guenther-Yoke, a school counselor at Harding Middle School explained.

The district and PFLAG came together to choose books for students that represent the LGBTQ community. Schools received the books just last month.

Sometimes students who are not necessarily comfortable approaching an adult, I think sometimes can identify with characters in a book, Guenther-Yoke said.

It's a similar idea to the PFLAG meetings where everyone, straight or gay, is invited to belong.

To see everybody so together and to see how many parents and family are all involved, it just made you feel like you were at home, Devenney said about PFLAG.

In addition to PFLAGs monthly support meetings, they also work with organizations like Diversity Focus and PRIDE to put on events in the community and to promote awareness.
PFLAG can be contacted at:

PFLAG meets on the 2nd Thurs of the month at 7pm at Grantwood AEA, all are welcome.
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