Julie Tarney, Author of My Son Wears Heels: One Mom’s Journey from Clueless to Kickass, Will Speak at PFLAG NYC Upper West Side Meeting


Julie Tarney Speaking with the Safe Schools Program

In 1992, Julie Tarney’s two-year-old child, Harry, told her, “Inside my head I’m a girl.” So begins Julie’s tale of what it was like to raise her son in a time when terms like “gender non-conforming,” “gender-creative,” and “transgender” were rare or nonexistent.

It was a time when there were no books to guide her and Google and the internet didn’t exist, so there was no easy way to find information or community.

Mainstream “experts” theorized that a “sissy” boy was the result of a domineering mother. Many PFLAG parents have been there and will empathize. Julie refused to believe it. Without role models and fearful of being judged as a mom who was making her son “too feminine,” Julie embarked on an unexpected parenting path. Read more »

Judy Sennesh

The end of the year is upon us, which means that now is the time to donate to PFLAG NYC with a tax-deductible gift for 2016.

We are preparing to do so much in 2017 and need your support. We are excited to build on the strong momentum our programs have from this year:

  • We are serving dozens of families every month at six monthly support gatherings. We have three general meeting locations across the city, and have expanded to three special groups. We have the TransFamilies Project for families with transgender children, Stepping Stones for parents and young gender-non-conforming kids, and the API Rainbow Parents for families from Asian background with particular language and cultural concerns.

Judy SenneshJudy Sennesh Speaking with the Safe Schools Program

Judy Sennesh, founder of our TransFamilies Project, recently became the board chair of PFLAG NYC. As the end of the year approaches, she shared these reflections with the PFLAG NYC community. Please remember, donations from individuals are the largest source of support to keep our programs going and growing. Please donate today.

The headline caught my attention right away: “Gay and Lesbian High School Students Report ‘Heartbreaking’ Levels of Violence.” That’s how the New York Times reported on health among lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) high school students from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in August.

Sadly, the report confirmed much that I already knew: lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender young people suffer disproportionately from risks no parent wants their child to go through. It also confirmed for me that the work that we’re doing at PFLAG NYC is as needed and as life-saving as ever.

Family Acceptance Is Critical

It’s been 18 years since my middle-school age daughter came out as a lesbian. And 12 years since that same child told me she was male and needed to “transition” so her body could match her sense of self. I was barely aware of the transgender community and needed information and friends walking in my shoes. Read more »

Stuyvesant High School (Photo by Jellybean100 / CC-BY-SA-3.0

The Safe Schools Program of PFLAG NYC marked a milestone on October 19, 2016. We organized our largest school event in the history of the program when we simultaneously spoke to all 830 students in the 9th grade class at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan. All together, 15 members of the Safe Schools Program took time to share their family stories with groups of Stuyvesant freshmen.

PFLAG NYC was invited to Stuyvesant by Assistant Principal Casey Pedrick who, along with her colleagues in counseling and guidance, shared with us how many students had trouble understanding and helping classmates who are LGBT, or dealing with questions of sexual orientation and gender identity themselves. Many students are scared at the thought of having to tell parents the truth that they are learning about themselves. Read more »

Safe Schools Program team in QueensKalima McKenzie-Simms (left) with a Safe Schools Program team at IS 141Q in Queens

My name is Kalima McKenzie-Simms, and I am the Safe Schools Program Coordinator at PFLAG NYC. I am passionate about teaching youth in New York City schools about the LGBTQ — that’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer — community as well as how to be a true, effective ally. Now that a new school year is beginning, I wanted to tell people about the Safe Schools Program from my perspective.

What Schools Get from the Safe Schools Program

Since the early 2000’s, the Safe Schools Program has been visiting schools, and making individual classroom presentations, sharing family stories of LGBT loved ones and personal experiences of coming out with students. Our wonderful volunteers are the heart of our program. Dozens of parents as well as LGBTQ people voluntarily speak to students about their experiences with coming out and coming to terms with either their own sexual orientation/gender identity, or learning to understand and accept that of their child.

The response that our program gets from school faculty and their students is so wonderful. Of course, it hasn’t always been that way. In the early days, many schools were in denial about having gay students, much less transgender ones. They said that they had no need of a program to help LGBT kids feel safe and welcome, because they had no LGBT students. Now it’s different in that most schools recognize that they have students who are grappling with sexual orientation or gender identity, but what’s not different is that those students still need a lot of support in order to succeed and thrive.

At one school we visited, the counselor who hosted us told us:

Your team brought our students such valuable insight and understanding of young person’s coming out — from the perspectives of both a parent and the gay person as well. Many students at this school don’t know how to find support and do not know how to begin such a ‘touchy’ conversation with someone. You laid the groundwork for them to feel comfortable. You were incredibly positive and strong role models for our students, not only ones struggling with coming out, but also with our straight students who can make such a difference with their classmates.” Read more »

Join us at a Safe Schools Speaker Training Workshop

Denise Atherley Speaks with Students at the High School for Law and Public ServiceDenise Atherley Speaks with Students at the High School for Law and Public Service

Personal stories are the most effective tool that the Safe Schools Program uses to open students’ minds and enlist them in making their schools welcoming and supportive for all. Safe Schools’ community volunteers are the essential part of the presentations we use in hundreds of classrooms every year.

This fall PFLAG NYC will hold four Speaker Training Workshops to teach volunteers how to share their story for the Safe Schools Program. The workshops will help both new and experienced volunteers shape a personal story to fit a Safe Schools presentation. In the workshops, you will: Read more »