Surrey to get its own chapter of group created for friends, family of LGBTQ people
Parents often join PFLAG to seek information, organizer says
LGBTQ supporters and allies in Surrey, B.C., are getting their own chapter of the group PFLAG just in time for the city's Pride celebrations on Saturday.
PFLAG members across North America meet to discuss how they can support and understand LGBTQ issues. Members are most often parents or friends of LGBTQ people who have recently come out.
Colin McKenna, president of PFLAG Vancouver, says the Surrey group has been operating as an extension of his chapter since November 2016 but recently realized there was enough critical mass for them to go on their own.
"I'm excited for them. I think it's long overdue," McKenna said over the phone from New York City, where he'll be marching in the city's Pride parade this weekend.
"And I know that they're going to provide excellent support for people in Surrey and the greater Fraser Valley."
As of Saturday, the Surrey group will officially have its own chapter, which McKenna says will give the group more autonomy to deal with region-specific issues. McKenna says they plan to have a booth at the Pride festivities there on Saturday.
Surrey's LGBTQ community has been the focus of recent attention because the city refuses to put up a Pride flag and the city's RCMP detachment recently met with resistance when it did.
In nearby Langley, a resident there has had her Pride flag taken from her front lawn at least three times.
"It's time for a chapter there to focus on the issues that are important for Surrey," McKenna said, adding that there is also a chapter in Abbotsford.
Navigating unchartered waters
Lisa Salazar, one of the founders of the Surrey chapter, has been attending PFLAG meetings since 2012, a couple of years after undergoing gender-affirming surgery when she was 60.
Salazar says she enjoyed the atmosphere and helping allay parents' fears about their transgender children. More recently, she says, an increasing number of parents of non-binary children — who identify with neither gender — have been attending meetings.
"It's really confusing and it's great for them to be able to ... hear how other parents are coping or have been able to navigate those uncharted waters," Salazar said.
Salazar first attending meetings in Vancouver, but considered starting a chapter in Surrey because so many members complained about the long commute. And so in 2016, when she moved to south Surrey, she did.
Anywhere from six to 20 parents attend the Surrey meetings, Salazar says. People often come four or five times until they gain some fluency and confidence in LGBTQ issues.
Salazar says many of them come back months later, eager to tell new members about their journey and to help them out.