Our Monthly Meetings: Frequently Asked Questions
At one time, we all attended our first PFLAG meeting. For some of us, uniting with the LGBTQ community and allies feels familiar and safe: for others, it can initially feel strange and uncomfortable. It might help to know how the meetings work before attending one. As newcomers, many of us also had similar questions and concerns. We hope that this FAQ will provide you answers. If you have further questions or concerns after reading it, please Contact Us and we will be sure to get back to you. You can also check Upcoming Monthly Meetings for more information about our scheduled guest speakers.
Can I talk to a PFLAG member before I attend my first meeting?
Yes. You can contact us by telephone or email and an experienced member will get back to you for a preliminary conversation, where we can discuss in confidence your situation and the services we provide.
When do you meet?
We meet the third Thursday of each month, from 7:00 to 9:00pm. You can check our Event Calendar for details on our guest speaker/activity each month.
Where do you meet?
Our meetings are held at the Bellevue First United Methodist Church at 1934 108th Avenue, Bellevue, WA 98004. You can go to our Event Calendar and click on the meeting to obtain directions and a map. The parking lot is behind the building and parking is free. You will see a PFLAG sign on top of a set of stairs, which lead to a double doors. When you enter and turn right, you will see an open door to the large open space where we meet. One of our members will greet you and there is a table set up for you to sign in and create an optional name tag.
What if I take the bus?
The closest bus stop to the church is at the corner of Bellevue Way and NE 20th St. It is four blocks from the church, and is a level walk on NE 20th St. The meeting location is also in walking distance from the downtown Bellevue transit center.
Are there gender neutral restrooms available?
Yes. The church bathrooms are located outside the sanctuary on the right and one is gender neutral.
Is there any access for disabled members?
There is another set of doors to the left of the ones we use for entrance, which have an available ramp. Please contact us in advance if you will be using the ramp, so that we can arrange for these doors to be open.
Can I come to meetings even if I am not a member?
Absolutely. Feel free to check us out and get to know us. And if at some point you decide to join PFLAG Bellevue/Eastside, you can so online or at one of our meetings.
Who comes to your PFLAG meetings?
A diverse group of people—straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, transgender, or questioning—who share the common goal of supporting each other and advocating for the LGBTQ community. We include allies, such as parents, grandparents, siblings and other family members, as well as friends and colleagues. Our ages range from teens to senior citizens. For some attendees, it is their very first meeting, while others have been coming for years, even since our chapter began. Together we provide a confidential and safe environment, where people can both give and receive support.
Do you have a political or religious agenda?
No. PFLAG does not promote one political or religious view and is inclusive to people of all backgrounds, beliefs, and faiths. We come together with the goal to unify allies with the LGBTQ community and provide support, advocacy and education. While we sometimes feature guest speakers who express a religious or political opinion, we do not advocate it ourselves and work to ensure that our guest speakers come from diverse points of view.
What is your meeting format?
Our meetings are designed to offer support and education in a safe, confidential, and welcoming atmosphere. The meeting usually consist of two parts. The first half of each meeting is dedicated to support. We first meet briefly as a large group for announcements from our President: we then divide into our smaller support circles, each with a facilitator. After refreshments, we join together for the second half of the meeting, which is generally reserved for a guest speaker or educational program.
Do I have to come to both parts of the meeting?
No. You can come for the support circles at 7:00pm and leave before the speaker arrives or skip the support circles and come just for the speaker/education program, in which case you should plan on arriving at 7:55pm.
Who facilitates the support circles?
Our groups are facilitated by experienced PFLAG members who have been trained to lead support circles and who have a strong connection to the LGBTQ community.
How do I know which support circle I should join?
Each facilitator will introduce themselves and then give their particular background and focus. For example, one facilitator might say: “I’m Ben. I’m a gay man who grew up in the Eastside and can speak to that experience” while another facilitator might say: “I’m Vicky, I have a trans daughter, and I’m going to focus on gender issues.” You can then choose the support circle that feels like the best fit for you.
Do I have to be in the same support circle as my spouse/partner/friend/family member?
No. You can split into different support circles or choose the same support circle: whichever you prefer. We often encourage people who come together to check out the experience of being in separate support circles. We find that it often helps people feel more open and free if they are not talking in front of a loved one or friend. In addition, each support circle has its own particular dynamics and therefore leads to unique insights, which you can choose to share with each other.
What are the support circles like?
Our support circles provide a place where we listen and speak to each other other with respect, kindness, and non-judgement. We speak from our hearts and sometimes our feelings might be complex and intense, but we expect that we do not intend to hurt or harm one another and that we all come from good intentions. We also try to remember to use the “I-Message”rather than the “You-Statement” when communicating with each other (see the next question). We frequently hear members say that they leave their support circles feeling connected and encouraged.
How do I communicate using “I-Message”?
The “I-Message” expresses the feelings and views of the person speaking and typically begins with the word “I.” In contrast, the “You-Statement” addresses the person being spoken to and begins with the word “You.” When we speak with the “I-message” to each other, we can express ourselves with less risk of making others feel defensive or judged. And rather than give advice, we can tell our stories so that others can reflect and find their own meaning from them. Here are some examples of the “I-Message form” contrasted with the “You-Statement.”
- I feel like everyone else here is not like me (compared to “You all seem so strange to me.”)
- I had ideas about how my life should be (compared to “You are not living the right life.”)
- I need to take things in more slowly (compared to “You keep telling me too much.”)
Is there anything else to know about how to address other members?
Yes. We also ask members in each support circle to indicate their preferred gender pronouns. The answer might be female or male pronouns or in some cases, more gender neutral pronouns, like “their,” “ze,” or “hir,” which might be new terms to you. (See the next question for more details!)
Are there particular terms that might be helpful for me to know?
Yes. The LGBTQ community has many terms that newcomers might not be familiar with, but your PFLAG faciliator can usually define and explain them to you. For more information, you can check our Getting Started: Learning the Lingo (a quick and easy tutorial for newcomers) as well as the PFLAG National Glossary of Terms.
I know your meetings are confidential but can you give me a general idea of what people talk about in support circles?
We typically discuss issues we face as members or allies of the LGBTQ community, including coming out to our loved ones, supporting a child who is questioning or out, dealing with friends, family, and colleagues who might be insensitive or homophobic, handling situations at work or school that relate to our sexuality and/or gender, and so on. Sometimes we focus on a particular theme (such as a particular holiday or event) and how it relates to where we are in our lives. We also make it a priority to listen and support any newcomers who feel ready to talk.
What if I need to talk about highly confidential issues?
We remind our members at the beginning of each meeting that nothing that is said amongst ourselves ever leaves the room to ensure the strictest confidentiality for members. PFLAG and many members of the LGBTQ community are particularly cognizant of the need for privacy and discretion, as it is an issue many of us face in our families and place of employment. We also consider ways to discuss private issues that focus less on the specific names of people and their affiliations and more with the deeper issues and lessons at hand. In addition, we can arrange that you speak one-one-one with an experienced member at the meeting (or a different time) and/or discuss an issue over the telephone.
What if I really need support from a facilitator but I don’t feel like talking in front of a support circle?
For newcomers, we provide the option to meet with facilitator alone rather than in a support circle. If that is your preference, simply let us know and you will be assigned your own facilitator in a private part of the room. In addition, we offer all members the option to continue talking to a facilitator on a one-on-one basis during the second half of the meeting.
What if I don’t feel like saying anything during the support circle?
That’s fine. We believe that listening is a form of both participation and learning. Facilitators typically ask around the mid-point of the session if anyone who has not yet spoken needs group time, which is simply a check-in and not intended as pressure on anyone to speak.
Is a PFLAG support circle like group therapy or seeing a counselor?
No, it it not. We do not have the training nor is it our intent to provide professional counseling services. If you feel you need psychological therapy, it is very important that you find it. You might consult this page for websites that provide therapists who work with the LGBTQ community.
What if I am in a state of deep crisis right now?
If you (or someone you care about) is considering self-harm or suicide, you deserve and need immediate help. Please call a suicide hotline as soon as possible, such as the Trevor Project (for LGBTQ or questioning youth) or Crisis Clinic, which are both toll-free and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
My connection to the LGBTQ community came as a shock and I feel waves of sadness and confusion. Can I express such feelings in my support circle, when I know it consists of LGBTQ members and allies?
Absolutely. We understand these feelings and most of us experienced a variation of them at some point. For some, it was when we came to terms with our own sexuality and gender issues. For others, it was when we learned our son is gay, or our daughter is transgender, or our spouse is bisexual, or our sibling is gender-queer, and so on.
We recognize that this is journey for everyone: at one time we were all taking our first step and working through intense, often difficult emotions. Our goal is to work through such feelings in a way that is safe and sensitive. It helps when we use the “I-Message” form of communicating: that way, we can express such feelings as our own processing, rather than a judgement about someone else.
We also have discovered from experience that the more we learn about the LGBTQ community, the more assured we feel over time.
I feel positive and secure being part of the LGBTQ community but would like to help others starting on this journey. How can I be an ally at your meetings?
By simply showing up and being present for us. LGBTQ individuals—and their affirming families and friends—are an essential part of our meetings and we deeply value our members who come to predominately support others. For many who are new to the community, meeting and interacting with LGBTQ people who are farther down the road is a positive message that we know can be life-changing. Your feedback in our support circles is vital: we need and appreciate your experience, expertise, and insights.
In addition, by attending our meetings, you can also learn other ways to support the LGBTQ community through advocacy and education.
I know someone who I think would benefit from attending a PFLAG meeting, but they are hesitant to come. How can I help?
Sometimes people offer to accompany a friend or family member to their first PFLAG meeting for extra comfort and support: in some cases, the support person might come for several meetings. We can also talk or meet with a newcomer on a one-to-one basis before they attend a meeting or in place of them attending one. Contact us for more information.
Do you have educational literature available at your meetings?
Yes. Our welcoming table features brochures and we’ll point you where our chapter library is displayed. Our chapter librarian can help you check out books during refreshment time or right after the meeting ends. If you need additional literature, please talk to one our facilitators and we’ll do our best to connect you to the right sources.
Why do you have guest speakers at your meetings?
PFLAG is dedicated to education and advocacy, along with support. Toward that end, our meetings provide educational programs and updates on current topics that affect the LGBTQ community. Our guest speakers broaden our awareness of the many facets of the LGBTQ community: its diversity, history, activism, creativity, and resilience. We learn of the accomplishments and challenges in our efforts toward equality, so that we can better work to advance it. In most cases, our speakers will share their own personal journey, even if they are addressing another topic.
What kind of guest speakers do you have?
We feature speakers from diverse backgrounds and points of view, representing a range of professions, from politics, law, medicine, and psychology, to education, theology and the arts. Some do vital social work and activism for the LGBT community: others express their connection through dance or music. In addition to individual speakers, we host panels: past ones have included teens, senior citizens, transgender activists, and bisexual therapists.
Our speakers provide solid and often first-hand information on a range of important issues affecting our community, such as equality, health, education, so that we can better understand them and advocate on our behalf.
In the past few years, we’ve been educated, moved, and motivated by local representatives from both Congress and the State Assembly, a scout master, a beloved high school principal, a lifetime Marine and an Army reporter, a prominent theater director, LGBTQ athletes (including runners, roller skaters, and hikers), and a standard poodle and her two mothers who drove across the country to document their gay experience in straight America.
I’ve gained so much from my PFLAG meetings. How do I become a member?
You can become a member online or at your next PFLAG meeting! By becoming a member, you help support our vital work for the LGBTQ community in the Seattle Eastside and also automatically join PLFAG National.
What are ways I can let other people know about PFLAG meetings?
You can direct them to this page on our website. You can also like us on Facebook and share our meeting posts on your time line and if you have a Twitter account, you can tweet a reminder about our meeting. In addition, our meetings are regularly listed on the calendars of most of the Eastside Reporter newspapers, including those for Bellevue, Bothell/Kenmore, Issaquah, Mercer Island, Kirkland, and Redmond, as well as the Snoqualmie Valley Record.
Another great resource is our meeting flyer, which you can give to individuals and organizations via email or hard copy. You can also post it on a public board at a library, school, medical facility or place of business or print multiple copies and make it available in quantity for clients, patients, employees, students, etc.
Remember that some people need to receive meeting information in a confidential and discreet manner: that is, we often need to consider ways to make this information available and still respect the privacy of those who need it.