In 1972, Morty was punched, kicked and thrown down an escalator during a gay rights protest at the New York City Hilton Hotel. Watching the attacks on the evening TV news was Morty’s mother Jeanne Manford. She was outraged that police officers appeared to ignore the assault.
Following this Jeanne wrote a letter to the New York Post, with one sentence that jumped out. “My son is a homosexual and I love him.”
Tom Owens writes:
Manford’s son invited her to march with him in the Christopher Street Liberation Day March in June 1972.
She agreed, accompanying him to the parade and carrying a sign to explain why she was there. The poster board read in large capital letters: PARENTS OF GAYS: UNITE IN SUPPORT FOR OUR CHILDREN.
Today, that sign is part of the Gay and Lesbian Collections of the New York Public Library archives.When the parade began, Manford didn’t understand the initial cheering. She believed the ovation was intended for the marcher behind her, noted parenting advocate Dr. Benjamin Spock.
However, once crowd members ran into the parade route to talk to Manford, she realized the cheers belonged to her.
‘Honored and Treasured People’
During the march, mother and son agreed that a parents support group was needed. In 1973, the first meeting was held at the Metropolitan Duane Methodist Church in New York City.
Since then, PFLAG has gained international representation, with more than 200,000 members and supporters included in 350 chapters.
written for Tolerance.org
That first meeting has now been commemorated by a plaque placed by the Greenich Village Association for Historic Preservation at the church where it was held. Andrew Berman, executive director of GVAHP said:
I did not know Jeanne Manford personally. But I do know the legacy of her work. It certainly touched my life, and that of my family. I have no doubt that because of Jeanne and PFLAG, I, like many other LGBT people of my generation, had to struggle a little bit less, and found greater love and acceptance from family, friends, and peers.
At the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, our job is to help preserve and educate about the incredible history of Greenwich Village. The breadth of that history and its influence upon the broader culture is sometimes almost too vast to comprehend. But even in a community with such an outsized influence, I think that few figures — whether artists or writers, musicians or politicians — have had as profound, and tangible, and positive an impact upon the lives of as many people as Jeanne Manford did.
One of many great points of pride that I take in celebrating the history of Greenwich Village is the incredibly important role that it played in providing a safe, open, and nurturing environment for LGBT people, especially when too few such places existed. It is no coincidence that Jeanne, and other brave and loving parents, found themselves in this church, in this community, forty years ago, seeking to change the fundamental way in which we saw our families and our society.
It is thus with great pride that I would like to unveil today the bronze historic plaque marker which will be placed on the exterior of this wonderful church to mark the beginning, forty years ago, of PFLAG, by Jeanne Manford.
Talking of her son, Jeanne said,
“I loved him. He was my son.”
Would that all parents could say the same of their gay children. Families who want advice in Northern Ireland can contact the Family Ties Project run jointly by Cara-Friend and The Rainbow Project. In other parts of the UK, there is PFLAG UK.
- Obama to Honor PFLAG Founder (advocate.com)