PFLAG provides support system for family, friends and allies of LBGTQ+ community

ByJason Knowles and Ann Pistone WLS logo
Tuesday, June 13, 2023
PFLAG provides support for family, friends, allies of LGBTQ+ community
PFLAG has been a support system for family members, friends and allies of the LGBTQ+ community for 50 years, and a resource for many LGBTQ+ allies.

LOMBARD, Ill. (WLS) -- The organization PFLAG has been a support system for family members, friends and allies of the LGBTQ+ community for 50 years. They've helped many people, including one local teenager who told us their parents understand who they are thanks to PFLAG.

PFLAG supports parents and allies of the LGBTQ+ community, and the including the Hemmer family in west suburban Lombard, and they are very dedicated to the cause.

"My parents being involved in PFLAG is that extra step," said Ray Hemmer, who is nonbinary, meaning they don't identify as solely female or male. "I first came out as a lesbian around the age of 13, when I had a crush on a girl, the first time. And was I like 'Oh wow! I think that makes me gay.' I was really excited and told my friends and my parents."

After Ray turned 15, they came out as nonbinary.

"I remember, like 'Okay, you are nonbinary,'" Ray recalled of their coming out. "I think there were questions in the beginning because it was new territory for everyone, including me. But there was never any like, 'No that's not what you are, you are confused.'"

Ray said it meant a great deal that their parents were supportive.

"Very, very important; they are my world," Ray said.

And that unwavering support was in part due to their parents' involvement in PFLAG.

"I see it as a support group for the other side of the coin basically," said Ray. "There is tons of support groups for members of the LGBTQ community. But allies need support to."

"It really was that just wanting to advocate and wanted to have to learn more about to be able to educate and teach others and support others," said Dan Hemmer, Rays' father and a PFLAG executive committee member. "And it turns out when they did come out as non-binary was important to us because it was an area that we weren't unfamiliar with. And again, it is a great source of education and knowledge."

PFLAG started with a letter and then a march, which led to its first meeting in 1973 at a church in New York's Greenwich Village. Allies and parents led the movement.

"I have a real hard time understanding parents who don't' support their kids," said Kelly Hemmer, Ray's mother and a PFLAG member. "I guess I would say to them: try to get educated, try to be open minded, especially for parents. I think a lot of people think it won't be my kid and when their kid does come out, and they are kind of taken off guard."

Hemmer's parents want to remind people that PFLAG group meetings and the organization are also open to parents who may not be supportive of LGBTQ+ family members. They can use the organization as a resource to help them one day understand.

"We have met so many people through PFLAG that then regret how they acted when their kid came out. Because that's one of the big things I would say to parents is, think about what kind of parent you want to be when your kid comes out," Kelly Hemmer added.

In addition PFLAG buttons, the Hemmers' home is full of other pride memorabilia, rainbows and love.

"I wear pride shirts all the time. I have a jean jacket covered. I try to look as gay as possible because I want someone to look at me and go that person is LGBTQ, that's awesome," Ray said.

The National PFLAG Organization recently celebrated its National Parent Day.