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History of PFLAG Cincinnati

By: Marian Weage

My journey began in the summer of 1979 when my son told me that he was gay. It was the summer after he had graduated from high school. We were living in a small town in Michigan at the time and I had no one to talk to. I did tell a few friends and I had a horrendous telephone bill calling my brother in Kentucky and crying over the phone.

Don’t get me wrong! There was no way that I would have discarded my wonderful son, but everything I had ever heard about gays was negative, and I needed correct information and support. I ended up at the mental health clinic in the nearest town, and it was a great comfort to talk and learn.

The next year (after my youngest daughter had graduated from high school and left for college), I moved to Lansing for a job. The councilor at the clinic had told me about a group there called PFLAG, so I got in touch. The group consisted of three mothers who got the word out and met once a month to talk. After I got there, we were four.

In 1984 I decided to move back to my hometown of Cincinnati. Soon after, I heard a week long report on the gay community in Cincinnati on Channel 12 during the 11 o’clock newscast. I called the station to talk to the newscaster and asked her if there was a PFLAG chapter in the city. She said that she did not know, and gave me the number of the gay/lesbian hotline. I called the number and asked the man who answered the same question. He said “NO”, so I said “well, I guess we’d better start one.” On the other end of the line I heard “Hooray!”

The man who answered was named RAY. I can’t recall his last name since it was a long time ago and he has since moved out of town. However, Ray, Todd Camm, Ron Mohring and I spent the next year working to start a chapter. We looked for a place to meet, pooled our money, had fliers printed, and hit all the gay bars, etc. to post them. We approached the Enquirer to write an article on me and they would not touch it with a ten foot pole, but Maureen Conlan of the Post came and interviewed me. The article was in the post July 1985, with a box announcing our first meeting.

The first meeting took place in the back room of the Crazy Ladies Bookstore in August 1985, and there were 12 ladies in attendance. The next month there was only three including me and Martha Weyand. Martha’s daughter Peggy and husband Bob worked tireless in the early days, along with Mary and Ernie Whiteside, Beverly and Chuck Bell, Chris Ott and his then partner Kenne Pelfrey, among others. In January of 1986 we elected our first officers, me as president and Martha as treasurer. In our seventh year I passed the gavel to Diane Townley when she was elected president. Diane was instrumental in starting our scholarship program, our first banquet was only 12 of us who got together and had dinner at a restaurant.

Our meetings have moved from different venues until Yvonne Rivior offered us the facilities at Family Services in downtown Cincinnati. We met there for several years until we outgrew the room and asked Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church if we could meet there and we remain there to this day.

At the beginning, in order to become more visible in the community, we began our “Homemade cookies and a hug” program for a donation. When the AIDS Crisis reared its ugly head, we wanted to do something for AIDS Awareness. I suggested“Condoms and a Hug” (but for no donation this time.) Everyone agreed and we hit the bars once more with piles of condoms which we handed out to everyone. We had used double sided tape to attach a note which read:

“Wear this in good health. From your Moms and Dads at PFLAG”.

I really don’t remember our first boards or officers beyond what I have mentioned. I may be able to find some record eventually, but may also have thrown them away in a frenzy of cleaning and sorting.

If everyone returned who had ever come to a meeting through the years, we would have a huge crowd. I imagine close to 1,000.