History of PFLAG Cincinnati

A REFLECTION OF THE PAST: PFLAG CINCINNATI’S 2ND PRESIDENT
DIANE TOWNLEY

The recent PFLAG banquet, celebrating 20 years of service to Cincinnati brought with it an invitation for me to recall some of my experiences as president of PFLAG. I served as president for 3 years, following Marion Weage, in the early 1990’s.

My involvement began when one of my five children said the infamous, “Hey Mom I’ve got to tell you something.” I became teary eyed and choked up with the fear of his life becoming difficult in the workplace, health concerns, and social scene. Within a few years a second son came out. I knew enough to realize they did not choose to be gay; it was who they were and are. Like their siblings and peers, they have goals and dreams exactly like everyone else.

A mother’s intuition for years had made me aware. I news. Before the official news I had read what was available in the mainstream media at the time. Since being told I needed to do more research. Now that I knew I felt like a shark on a feeding frenzy for information. The public library and telephone book were my first sources. I came across information that PFLAG had a meeting at 4th and Elm which I felt very comfortable with as I had worked in the building. At my first meeting and contrary to my fears everyone was caring and supportive. I attended every local seminar or event offered.

In 1993, I went to the March on Washington. This was my introduction to the AIDS Quilt which soon after
came to the University of Cincinnati and Miami University. Somewhere between the international PFLAG conventions in North Carolina and Indiana I was elected the local president of the PFLAG chapter. The conventions gave me a broader scope on the issues and allowed me to network with others from the region. There were regional meetings held in Cleveland and Columbus.

The kaleidoscope of experiences we enjoyed at these meetings allowed for growth and energy, to the organization. I need to mention others who also contributed successfully to PFLAG’s mission during these years. Marion Weage continued in her leadership role, as well as Lois Kay, Stephen Jones, Stephen’s parents Liz and Harry Jones, Ed Blevins, Judy and Gene Schmeling, Dick and Judy Jacobs, Kitty Green, and Van and Louella Blair. The aforementioned were active in regional and local events and contributed to PFLAG’s service and successes. I am sure I have left out names of others who shared their talents in making the organization so strong, so thanks to them as well.

In my involvement, my thoughts kept returning to how we could offer support for achievements and open new doors. I was not sure exactly how but believed education may be an area to explore. I found an article about a female M.D. from New Orleans who founded a scholarship program for the local chapter in her area. After many phone calls and correspondence I felt ready to inaugurate a PFLAG scholarship fund in Cincinnati. Financial help would be needed from the entire gay and gay supportive community for this endeavor to come to fruition and s and organizations were supportive to get the scholarship off of the ground, grow and continue to what it is today.

During my tenure as president the meetings were moved to Mt. Auburn Presbyterian church. We were welcomed by Rev. Hal Porter and his affirming congregation. Although any endeavor requires time and effort, the friendships developed at monthly meetings and other PFLAG activities will be cherished forever. In our own way each of us somehow has managed to contribute through support, education, and advocacy.

Although I am no longer actively involved in PFLAG, I am thankful for the opportunity, growth and friendships formed. My activism now lies in encouraging others to support diversity. The growth of the organization is encouraging. Thank you to all of those currently serving to make PFLAG an even stronger organization.