Special Performance for PFLAG NYC and Bee’s Fund on November 6

TRANSformation

TRANSformation will be a vibrant evening of storytelling, readings, poetry, and other performances that bring to life the experiences of families dealing with gender identity and that empower these families in their struggle for understanding and full inclusion in their schools and communities. The performance will be the culmination of several months of workshops led by Houses on the Moon Theater Company to draw out the personal stories of members of the community. 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 »

FUN HOME Pride Playbill

The Safe Schools Program of PFLAG NYC featured in an article in the New York Times today about an event where some 20 of our Safe Schools Program volunteer speakers got to swap stories with members of the cast of the Tony Award-winning musical, FUN HOME, and talk about how they connect with audiences. We billed it as a “Safe Schools Master Class with FUN HOME,” because our speakers left with a lot of insight and inspiration to take with them as they head into schools this fall.

Connection Started with Pride March

The partnership between PFLAG NYC and FUN HOME began with the NYC Pride March in June when more than 20 members of the cast marched with us. Wearing FUN HOME shirts in PFLAG gold and holding signs that read “Love Yourself” and “Be proud of your LGBTQ children,” many cast members took part in a Pride March for the very first time, and they were amazed at the crowd’s overwhelming response as PFLAG walked by. Read more »

Join us for a reading and conversation with authors Wesley Davidson and Jonathan Tobkes

 

_When Your Child Is Gay_ Book Cover

With Pride month in June comes a brand new book for parents of gay children. When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need to Know is being released at the beginning of the month and the authors will come to PFLAG NYC’s Upper West Side meeting on June 27 for a book reading followed by Q&A.

Wesley Davidson, a PFLAG mother and blogger at Straight Parent, Gay Kid, and Dr. Jonathan Tobkes, M.D., a psychiatrist who works with patients around LGBT issues, have joined forces to provide a road map so that families can navigate the sometimes rocky, emotional terrain when a child comes out.

Combining real-life stories of relationships of gay children and their parents told by Ms. Davidson with insights from Dr. Tobkes’ professional practice, the book provides a wealth of useful advice for avoiding heart ache and building strong relationships. Read more »

Thank you. Thank you. Your Safe Schools speakers made a
huge difference in our school. The name-calling has all but stopped.”
 

That’s what one school counselor told us about our Safe Schools Program. Give us a few minutes and we’ll tell you why.

Thursday, 8:45 a.m., South Bronx - Students are settling down in their middle school classroom. The teacher asks Justin to settle down. He stops talking to Angela. Tony puts down his pen. In the back of the room, Brianna looks up from her reading. The room becomes still.

Charlie Trotman

As a Safe Schools speaker, I go back to the middle school that I attended. When I learned there what ‘lesbian’ meant, I was groping in the dark. It was scary and I went through some tough times. It’s barely ten years later, but PFLAG has made such a difference at that school.”

— Charlie Trotman

In this 8th grade classroom, 29 students focus on the Safe Schools speaker — a mom telling the story of her daughter’s coming out. She talks about her feelings, her family’s reaction, and how things are today.

Next up… a transgender man talks about coming to understand and accept himself. He talks about coming out to his family and the struggles of his mom. He closes by telling the students about finding a job and career he loves.

When the speakers are finished, Tony raises his hand and shares with the class that his lesbian aunt always takes him out to eat on his birthday. Other students tell stories of LGBT family members — stories they have never shared before. Brianna asks about the best way for someone to come out to their parents.

A Typical Safe Schools Visit

That is a typical class with the Safe Schools Program of PFLAG NYC. We reach thousands of students across the city with similar visits every year. We bring new information and new perspectives about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families. We help LGBT kids feel supported and safe and get straight kids to think about LGBT people with new knowledge and understanding.

Again and again, we hear what an English teacher from a Brooklyn high school told us, “You changed the climate in our school.” Read more »