Saturday, January 12, 2013

Observations from the Window 1.12

In 1972 Jeanne Manford's openly gay son Morty was beaten as he and others where beaten as they handed out fliers outside an annual dinner for politicians and reporters in New York. Two months later she marched with him in the Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day march carrying her hand made sign that said simply "Parents of Gays: Unite in Support for Our Children." The Christopher Street march became the annual Gay Pride parade and Jeanne Manford became the founder of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, a group now 40 years old with 350 chapters in 11 countries (including the People's Republic of China) and over 200,000 members.

Ten years ago she explained in an interview a letter she had written to The New York Post after her son's beating, "I mentioned in my letter that my son was gay and that the police stood by and watched these young gays being beaten up and did nothing about it, and it was printed. Then Morty called me up and said, ‘You can’t believe how everybody’s talking about your letter!’ I didn't think anything of it, but I guess it was the first time a mother ever sat down and very publicly said, ‘Yes, I have a homosexual son.’"

In a 2009 speech to the Human Rights Campaign President Obama praised Manford. Her work was the "story of America, of ordinary citizens organizing, agitating and advocating for change, of hope stronger than hate, of love more powerful than any insult or injury." Than he told a story of the Stonewall Riots during which her son Morty, who died of AIDS in 1992, was arrested. After coming to her door and explaining the arrest one of the officers added "and you know, your son is a homosexual." Manford's answer was "Yes I know, why are you bothering him?"

"She was just a mom, walking with her son in a parade," said Terry DeCrescenzo, a gay and lesbian teen advocate in Los Angeles. "That was what made her so compelling. She was simply standing with her son, bearing witness to the truth of his life."

Jeanne Manford passed away Tuesday, she was 92.

The family requests that any donations be made to the Jeanne Manford Legacy Fund to support the ongoing work of PFLAG National: 1828 L Street, NW, Suite 660, Washington, D.C. 20036.