by Ken Heideman, Concord PFLAG Representative

When you go to the Concord Carlisle Human Rights Council (CCHRC) web site you find this statement: “The climate of the community is the responsibility of the citizens of the community.” That philosophy is why I am proud to be associated with CCHRC, and reflects the values of Greater Boston PFLAG (GBPFLAG), on whose Board I am honored to serve.

While many of you know about the CCHRC, you may not know about PFLAG. As can be seen on its home page at www.gbpflag.org, GBPFLAG offers help in the form of support, education, and advocacy for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBTQ) youth, their families, schools, and communities, around the topic of sexual orientation and gender identity. Local chapters of PFLAG throughout Massachusetts, including the one one right here in Concord that meets from 7-9 PM on the third Sunday of each month at the West Concord Union Church (see the web site for other locations and times), provide confidential support groups for all to help LGBTQ youth and their families and friends to navigate the sometimes challenging path toward unconditional love and acceptance.

One of the hallmarks of GBPFLAG is the hundreds of engagements at middle and high schools around the state where allies, parents, and LGBTQ individuals train faculty and interact with entire school communities by telling the stories of their lives. I can say as one who has taken part in these moving events that the positive impact is palpable and lasting. I am a dad who is gay, and I know that my young kids and I feel fortunate to live in a time and a place where acceptance of individuals for who they are is more far-reaching than it has ever been. But this is no time for complacency, even here in Massachusetts. There are still far too many LGBTQ people and families who are suffering right here in our midst as the result of ignorance, stigma, and discrimination. As with many troubling things in society, if you don’t look for it you won’t see it.

Establishing and maintaining an inclusive and welcoming climate in our schools, workplaces, and communities are indeed responsibilities that all of us share and supporting and/or participating
in organizations such as CCHRC and PFLAG are a great way to foster the environment we all deserve. If you would like additional information about GBPFLAG or the local Concord chapter, please contact me at kheideman@ametsoc.org.