You might be here because you’re considering attending an upcoming support meeting. At one time, we also 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. Either way, it might help to know more about our meetings in advance. 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’ll do our best to help.
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 7:00-9:00pm. You can check upcoming meetings for the year’s schedule and details on our guest speaker (when available).
Where do you meet?
The church 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.
So if you meet at a church, are you a religious group?
No. PFLAG National and its affiliates are non-sectarian, non-denominational, and not affiliated with any religious institution. Our chapter meets in the church only for the provided meeting space.
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. If at some point you decide to join PFLAG Bellevue/Eastside, you can do so online or at one of our meetings.
Who comes to your PFLAG meetings?
A diverse group of people who share the common goal of supporting each other and advocating for the LGBTQ community.
- Members of the LGBTQ community: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or gender-expansive, and or queer/questioning.
- Questioning folks: People who wonder about our sexual orientation and gender identity (or in some cases, wonder about their child or someone they care for) and need to explore our feelings.
- Family and friends of LGBTQ people: Parents, grandparents, siblings and other family members as well as people who care about us.
- Allies: People, both straight and LGBTQ, who want to support others in their journey toward acceptance and equality. We need and deeply value our members who come to support others.
- Advocates: Anyone who wants to volunteer and work on behalf of LGBTQ rights, no matter where they are in their journey.
Are you all in the same place in your journey?
We are typically in different places along the way and we each bring our own stories. You might see a mix of the following:
- First time attendees and chapter founding members.
- A range of ages, from young adults to senior citizens.
- Single, married, and divorced people; parents, and child-free people.
- LGBTQ people and/or their families who just came out ourselves or learned someone we love is LGBTQ
- People farther down the road in their journey, who understand and can mentor us.
- Folks in the closet, considering coming out or not sure it it’s possible.
- Folks out and proud, who understand the coming out process.
- People ready to listen and share their own stories.
- People who only want to listen, which we consider a valid form of participation.
So where do PFLAG attendees find commonality?
We are bound by the belief that we are all on a journey to acceptance and equality. Some of us are just starting out, others are further down the road. We understand and respect that we are not all in the same place or from similar backgrounds. What’s important is our intent to give and receive support, to learn, listen, and love, and to move forward together.
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 to unify families and allies with the LGBTQ community and to 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.
Can I still discuss issues with my faith community around LGBTQ issues, even though you are not affiliated with any religion?
Absolutely! PFLAG recognizes many LGBTQ people and their loves ones are people of faith and that the attitude of their faith communities might be a source of profound pain and struggle. Some of us are people of faith who been down that path and can share our own journey of discovery: others of us are not people of faith but we deeply empathize with feelings of being outcast and discriminated against. So while we do not align with any religion, we are here to support you.
What is your meeting format?
Our meetings are designed to offer support and education in a safe, confidential, and welcoming atmosphere. The meeting typically consist of two parts.
- The first half 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.
- The second half follows a refreshment break and is generally reserved for a guest speaker/panel.
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/panel, 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?
Our chapter chair helps us divide into circles, typically by counting off numbers. But you can also feel free to join the circle where you feel most comfortable. We sometimes also feature a gender support circles for people who want to focus on support for trans, non-binary, and other gender identity issues.
Do I have to be in the same support circle as the person I came with (i.e. my spouse/partner/family member/friend)?
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 try being in separate support circles. We often feel more open and free if we are not talking in front of a loved one or friend. In addition, each support circle has its own particular dynamics and can lead to unique insights, which we might later 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 assume we all come from good intentions. Our words might occasionally be awkward and we might sometimes overstep or miss a point, but our hearts are in the right place and we mean well.
- We express our own experiences and emotions, rather than telling another person what to think, feel, or do. To that end, we try to communicate using the “I-Message“ rather than the “You-Statement” (See the next question for complete details.)
- We value listening as much as speaking. Listening is not only a form of learning and participation, but also a gift we can give each other. For many of us in the LGBQ community, being seen and heard as our authentic selves is profoundly impactful.
The support we give each other is the heart of our meetings, a time reserved for people to express their fears and hopes, and hear how others have handled similar situations. We talk, we laugh (more than you might expect!), and sometimes we cry, but PFLAGers will tell you that we feel better when we leave than when we arrived.
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. 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 “they” and “them,” 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, check Learning the Lingo or the PFLAG National Glossary of Terms.
Even though meetings are confidential but can generally describe 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?
Confidentiality is a deeply held tenant of PFLAG. What is said in our meetings, as well as the identities of persons attending, does not leave the room. The LGBTQ community and its allies 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 strive to focus less on the specific names and affiliations of people 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 are a grassroots all-volunteer organization, who offer peer-to-peer support in a safe confidential space, where we speak from our hearts and tell our stories. 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.
I still feel shock, sadness, and confusion about being connected to the LGBQT community. Can I express such feelings in a support circle that 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’m farther down on my journey as an LGBTQ person or ally and I’d like to help others just starting out. 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 to our success and we deeply value our alley members who come to predominately support others. For many who are new to the community, meeting and interacting with LGBTQ people who are further down the road is a positive message that can be life-changing. 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. Our website also includes many helpful resources, like Recommended Reading and Helpful Publications. For information pertaining to the Asian Pacific Islander community, consult API Resources. For information for Spanish-speaking communities, consult En Español.
Why do you have guest speakers at your meetings?
PFLAG is dedicated to education and advocacy, along with support. Toward that end, 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.
Who are your guest speakers?
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 social work and activism for the LGBT community: others express their connection through dance or music. In addition to individual speakers, we host panels on various themes: 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 prominent theater director, LGBTQ athletes (including runners, roller skaters, and hikers), a gay judge for the Washington Supreme Court, a famous LGBTQ author, a well known local radio personality, and a standard poodle and her two mothers who drove across the country to document their gay experience in straight America.
How do I become a PFLAG member?
You can become a member online or at your next PFLAG meeting. By becoming a member, you help support our work for the LGBTQ community in the Seattle Eastside and also automatically join PLFAG National. As a result, you receive a PFLAG bookstore discount and free access to PFLAG Academy Online.
How 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.
Another great resource is our meeting rack card, which is available at our monthly meetings and that we can provide upon request. 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, so it’s important to consider ways to make this information available and still respect the privacy of those who need it.