New PFLAG chapter to support local LGBT, parents

Derrin Coad, Staff Reporter

A new chapter of PFLAG has opened up in Charleston and members are eager to offer support to LGBT children and their parents.

The new Charleston chapter of PFLAG, which stands for Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, is one of the 19 chapters in Illinois and one of more than 350 chapters in the country.

Jena Borah, one of the three officers of Charleston PFLAG, said the new chapter is planning on making sure local LGBT children receive the support they need and their parents understand what their children are going through.

“We want to be a resource to the high school and junior high in any way we can,” Borah said. “(The school system) can refer parents to us and we can provide informational materials and support.”

Starting on Aug. 20, the chapter will have monthly support meetings on the third Thursday of each month at The Charleston Alley Theater, located at 718 Monroe Ave. The meetings start at 6:30 p.m. and are planned to go until 8 p.m.

“Our meetings will include time to offer education, support and resources in a confidential setting,” Borah said.

She also said the group hopes to work with EIU Pride, the Charleston High School Gay/Straight Alliance and the LGBTQA Resource Center on advocacy projects in the near future.

Currently six people including Borah work within the Charleston PFLAG chapter, and Borah said many other members of the community are already interested in becoming involved with the chapter. Donna Hudson and Allison Frees-Williams are the chapter’s other two officers.

As for the recent Supreme Court ruling that made same-sex marriage legal throughout the U.S., Borah expressed excitement about the new passing of civil rights laws for the LGBT community at a local level.

“PFLAG stands for love, family, affirmation and equality for all, and we hope that this community will continue to discover the treasures we have in our LGBT community right here in East Central Illinois,” she said.

While same-sex marriage has been ruled legal throughout the country, Borah knows there is still a lot of work to be done to achieve acceptance for the LGBT community, and she hopes Charleston PFLAG will help in that aspect.

“Illinois is one of the more progressive states with respect to employment, housing and civil rights issues,” she said. “We know we continue to have a great task ahead of us in striving for full social affirmation for LGBT folks and their families, friends and allies.”

Derrin Coad can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].