In February, Tembisa high school pupils showed their support for seven lesbian classmates who were branded as Satanic by their school

In February, Tembisa high school pupils backed seven lesbian classmates who were branded Satanic by their school.

Inspired by PFLAG in the US, a new organisation has been launched to help parents, families and friends of LGBTI youth in South Africa.

PFSAQ (Parents, Families and Friends of the South African Queer) was conceived by long-time LGBTI activist Virginia Magwaza in November last year.

In a show of support for the new Johannesburg-based organisation, the head of PFLAG in the US will be speaking in South Africa later this month.

Magwaza explained that while there are a number of initiatives in the country that seek to address discrimination, homophobia and hate crimes, not many of them involve parents, families and friends.

“PFSAQ believes that if families love and support their homosexual children, brothers and sisters, it will also be easy for society to accept, respect and support them instead of discriminating against them,” she said.

One of the organisation’s key programmes will be to assist parents of LGBTI children to learn more about their offspring’s sexuality and how they can be more supportive and loving.

PFSAQ will also work with LGBTI people who themselves have children, providing support and tools to challenge situations in which they and their children face discrimination.

Magwaza cited a case last year in which a lesbian couple’s child was barred from a religious school, as well as incidents in which being a lesbian has been used as justification to declare a mother unfit in a custody battle.

PFSAQ further intends to directly assist young LGBTI people who are shunned by their communities and families.

“Young LGBTI people tend to leave their homes and live with friends because they try to protect themselves from constant discrimination from family members,” said Magwaza.

She commented that, other than one LGBT shelter in Cape Town, most other existing shelters are likely to be ignorant of the problems unique to LGBT youth and may even add to the discrimination they face.

PFSAQ’s long term objective is to acquire a safe space for LGBTI young people who find themselves homeless because of their sexuality.

Magwaza has invited parents of LGBTI children to a talk by Jody Huckaby, Executive Director of PFLAG in the US. He will speak at Senate House (2nd Floor) at Wits University on 14 August.

PFLAG was started in 1972 by the late Jeanne Manford after her son, a gay activist, was beaten while he was distributing flyers. Outraged, she wrote letters to newspapers and gave interviews to television and radio stations, proudly identifying herself as a loving mother of a gay man.

“It is always said that ‘Charity begins at home’ and yet we fail to love and support our LGBTI children in our homes but become surprised when society hurts, rapes and murders them,” said Magwaza. “This is an opportunity for all of us to be involved in changing the perception of other people towards LGBTI people and to take a stand against discrimination, homophobia and hate crimes.”

For more information about Huckaby’s talk or PFSAQ in general, please email PFSAQ2013@mail.com or find them on Facebook or on Twitter.

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