A group of Burbank educators, clergy, parents and community members begin regular PFLAG meetings for parents, family and friends of the LGBTQ community on Monday, February 8, at the American Lutheran Church.
Burbank Unified Board of Education member Dr. Roberta Reynolds, former Burbank PTA Council President/parent Steve Fritner and photographer/parent Kathy Flynn connected with community members and clergy to start the Burbank PFLAG chapter.
“The journey to bring this group to Burbank actually began several years ago. A group of community LGBTQ advocates and allies began meeting in a living room several years,” explained Reynolds. “The purpose was merely to form a network of community members who could support and help our LGBTQ community members in any way that presented itself.”
“Our major focus was to find ways to make our schools a safe place for all of our students. As our network continued to grow, we found we had outgrown the living room format. We found a welcoming venue at American Lutheran Church, which is a faith community with an intentionally LGBTQ inclusive ministry.”
PFLAG as an organization is not affiliated with any church. Many PFLAG groups meet in churches as a welcoming venue, just as many twelve-step programs find meeting venues in churches with no direct connection between the two organizations.
“After working on the Burbank Council PTA LGBTQ+ Inclusiveness Resolution Committee, and working alongside Burbank parents, students and alumni to get the resolution passed at last year’s California PTA convention, was a life changing experience,” commented Flynn. “I saw that there was still much work to be done, both locally and on a larger scale.”
“The issues of inclusiveness and equality are of great importance to me, and with my youngest child graduating from high school last year, this seems to be the best place to expend my volunteer energy,” she added.
Flynn, Fritner and Reynolds and their group connected with PFLAG, a national organization with over 400 chapters and 200,000 members nationwide. The mission of PFLAG is support, education and advocacy for the LGBTQ community, with a focus on families.
“Forming a Burbank chapter seemed like the logical next step for our informal network of advocates and allies,” added Reynolds. “Some of our members began to visit local chapters in Silverlake, Santa Clarita and Pasadena. We found wonderfully supportive mentors in the Pasadena PFLAG Chapter who were eager to help us form a Burbank Chapter.”
The group discovered that many Burbank community members had been attending neighboring community chapters, as there was no Burbank PFLAG. The new Burbank PFLAG chapter has already had 11 volunteers train to become meeting facilitators.
“The need for this definitely exists here in Burbank,” said Flynn. “While many LGBTQ+ youths in the community feel accepted and loved, that isn’t always the case. Ideally, the Burbank PFLAG will not only help family members understand and support their LGBTQ children, but will be a source of education and advocacy for them as well.”
Fritner also worked on the Burbank Council PTA LGBTQ+ Inclusiveness Resolution last year. He found the PFLAG meetings they attended very helpful.
“I found that they were a great place to listen and to learn; to share experiences and emotions without fear of being judged,” Fritner also said. “As the father of a transgender son, it was interesting to hear about other people’s experiences.”
“Of even more value to me was the knowledge that by people sharing those experiences, and by sharing my own, we were giving support to those who think they’re alone in what they are going though and hope and encouragement that things can and will get better.”
“This is what we expect to bring to the Burbank community with the start of the PFLAG chapter,” Fritner said. “Based on anecdotal evidence of some of the people I’ve met at the various PFLAG chapter meetings, I think there is a real need for this organization here. We’d love for people to know that we are here for them.”
“I have been an advocate and ally for the LGBTQ community almost all of my adult life because of friends in that community: real people with real stories who have shared their struggles to be accepted,” continued Reynolds. “I lived through the 1980’s when AIDS was identified as a syndrome.”
“I have watched friends die. I have watched friends struggle for acceptance,” she also said. “As a pharmacist, I have worked with patients who struggled with survival with HIV. As a member of the faith community, I have advocated for LGBTQ equality within the church.”
“While many things have gotten better for the members of the LGBTQ community, the challenges still exist and are very real,” Reynolds added. “I am hopeful that the Burbank PFLAG chapter will be a resource of support for our families and our students. We have a large network of community members and school district staff who are committed to the mission of equality and for making our schools a safe place for all students.”
Burbank PFLAG meetings will be held on the second Monday of every month at 7:00 p.m. at the American Lutheran Church located at 755 N. Whitnall Highway. More information on PFLAG can be found here.