Timeline of Our PFLAG Activism

1994 Longtime ACT UP and Queer Nation activist Frank Aqueno wrote to his local PFLAG chapter, PFLAG New Orleans, offering to speak to the chapter about his experience of choosing to be queer. The chapter did not respond. Frank continued writing letters periodically each year afterward, but did not receive any response whatsoever until January 10, 2000.

early 1999

Two queer by choice men, Frank Aqueno and Mark Gonzales, attended a lecture titled "Homosexuality: Choice or Biology?" presented by PFLAG New Orleans as part of its Speakers Series. The lecture was wholly on the side of biology, and spoke mockingly of choice, claiming that only a homophobe could believe anyone chose to be gay. This was despite the fact that PFLAG New Orleans obviously knew very well by now of Frank Aqueno's existence as a queer man in their area who celebrated his queerness as a healthy choice. PFLAG New Orleans continued to completely ignore all of Frank's correspondence and his offers to give a lecture of his own that would offer an alternative viewpoint to the one presented by their "Homosexuality: Choice or Biology?" lecture.

Please note that even now, more than 15 years after Frank first contacted PFLAG New Orleans about this situation, we have yet to see the PFLAG New Orleans chapter express any interest in ceasing to mock the idea of choice or ceasing to deny queer by choice people the right to speak their own views and experiences of choice at PFLAG meetings.

July 5, 1999

Gayle Madwin, owner of the website that would later become QueerByChoice.com, discovered Frank Aqueno's Queer by Choice website and invited him to join the QueerByChoice mailing list, which he did. Over the next month or so, Frank told Gayle the story of his conflict with PFLAG New Orleans.
October 1, 1999 Frank Aqueno began writing to PFLAG National to complain about the continued refusal of his local chapter in New Orleans to respond to his concerns in any way.

The article "Choice & PFLAG," by bisexual by choice writer Toni Pizanie, appeared in the local New Orleans gay magazine Ambush, in which she expressed sympathy for Frank's cause.
January 2000 Frank Aqueno asked Gayle Madwin to find out whether problems similar to those at PFLAG New Orleans were occurring elsewhere throughout the United States and Canada. Over the course of the next three months, Gayle corresponded individually with over 200 different PFLAG chapters, first inquiring about their current policies and then sending information about the resources available to help them better address queer by choice needs. (You can read excerpts from some of the responses Gayle received on our Quotes from Safe Chapters and Quotes from Unsafe Chapters pages. All quotes are intentionally left anonymous except for those we have permission to attribute.)

Through this correspondence, Gayle discovered that PFLAG National had issued an official position statement denying that the possibility of choice. PFLAG National Board President Paul Beeman asked their Policy Statements Task Force to review PFLAG's this position statement and make recommendations to the Board of Directors about whether it should be revised.

Meanwhile, PFLAG New Orleans finally replied to Frank's letters.

May 31, 2000

Kim Ficera's fantastic article "Queer by Choice? The Notion That a Person Can Make a Conscious Decision Regarding His or Her Sexuality Throws a Wrench into the Nature/Nurture Debate," containing interviews with Gayle Madwin, Frank Aqueno, and the leaders of several Connecticut PFLAG chapters, first appeared in the Fairfield County Weekly in Connecticut. Over the course of the next month, the article also appeared in the Hartford Advocate, the New Haven Advocate, the Westchester County Weekly (all Connecticut weekly newspapers), and Flipside: Canada's Alternative Daily Newspaper.
June 9, 2000 Kirsten Kingdon, Executive Director of PFLAG National, issued a formal memo addressed to Frank Aqueno and Gayle Madwin, promising that PFLAG remained committed to investigating our concerns.
July 2000 PFLAG National's Policy Statements Task Force discussed our concerns at a meeting but did not reach a decision.
August 10, 2000 Gayle Madwin uploaded the PFLAG section of this website and notified PFLAG National of its existence.
August 11, 2000 The PFLAG Weekly Email Alert sent by PFLAG National to the chapters referred to our "loosely organized group of glbt people who believe that their sexual orientation is their choice" as item 2 on the agenda, and asked chapter leaders to share their thoughts on this issue. Unfortunately, this was immediately followed in item 3 on the agenda by a letter to the editor complaining about "the intolerance and hate that [homophobes] direct toward a segment of God's children who do not choose to be born gay or lesbian, any more than I chose to be born blond and right handed."
August 22, 2000 Kirsten Kingdon, Executive Director of PFLAG National, sent a letter full of absurdly hypocritical and false accusations against us to every PFLAG chapter in the country, ordering them not to communicate with us. PFLAG National did not inform Gayle of this letter's existence. When chapter leaders told Gayle they had been forbidden to communicate further with us, Gayle asked PFLAG National for a copy of the letter. PFLAG National ignored the request. This made it impossible for us to defend ourselves against the false accusations (until two weeks later, when sympathetic chapter leaders disobeyed Kingdon's orders and sent us a copy of the letter). Worst of all, the order not to communicate was worded in such a way that it seemed to forbid chapters to communicate with any queer by choice person, even one completely unaffiliated with us.
August 29, 2000 Conference call between Executive Director Kirsten Kingdon, two other representatives of PFLAG National, and Frank Aqueno and Gayle Madwin. It was during this telephone call that Gayle and Frank heard for the first time that PFLAG National objected to this website. Also during the same conversation, Frank requested that a statement be sent to all PFLAG chapters encouraging them to support queer by choice people. Gayle requested that a statement be put on the PFLAG National website to let queer by choice people who visit the site know that PFLAG recognizes their existence and is taking steps to support them. At this time, Gayle had still not been able to obtain a copy of Kirsten Kingdon's accusations (and PFLAG National refused to provide it), but Gayle was aware that the chapters were under some kind of instructions to not respond, so Gayle also requested that those instructions be revoked.

During this call, the representatives from PFLAG National promised to email Gayle a list of things they wanted removed from this website, saying that if Gayle agreed to remove those things, they would then tell the chapters to feel free to correspond with Gayle again. They never sent Gayle any such list. PFLAG National also asked Gayle and Frank to refrain from telling anyone what was said during the telephone conversation or in any email correspondence with PFLAG National, in exchange for which PFLAG National promised to issue the requested statements supporting queer by choice people. Frank backed out of this deal first thing the next morning, feeling that it did not do enough to address his personal concerns with his local chapter. Gayle tentatively agreed to the deal.

August 30, 2000

PFLAG National sent out a statement to chapters in their Quarterly Affiliate Mailing, encouraging them to discuss ways to provide queer by choice people with support, but instead of referring chapters to queer by choice people for expert assistance as we had repeatedly requested, they instead referred chapters only to their Regional Directors within PFLAG. Since the Regional Directors were not allowed to encourage chapters to contact real queer by choice people either, how much help could they possibly provide? How can any chapter learn to provide good support if its members are not even allowed to talk to queer by choice people and ask us questions about what it means to be queer by choice?
September 2000 Multiple anonymous, sympathetic sources within PFLAG sent Gayle copies of Kirsten Kingdon's August 22 letter in which Kingdon forbade chapters to communcate with us. Aghast at Kingdon's dishonest and unfair accusations against us, Gayle called off the deal we had negotiated during the August 29 conference call and wrote a defense against Kirsten Kingdon's accusations for this website. Gayle informed Kirsten Kingdon that a link to this defense would be emailed to all chapters.

Meanwhile, PFLAG National posted a statement on choice to their national website, as Gayle and Frank had requested on the phone. Originally they had said they would send Gayle a list of things they wanted removed from this website before they would post such a statement, but they never sent any such list.
October 28, 2000 The old PFLAG National Position Statement denying choice was officially rescinded at the PFLAG National Annual Meeting in Portland, Oregon. At the same meeting, the newly elected PFLAG President Arnold Drake spoke extensively and personably in his acceptance speech about his own evolving feelings about queer by choice concerns.
January 2001 According to our contacts at PFLAG National, the Policy Statements Task Force submitted a new policy on choice to the Board of Directors for approval at a meeting in mid-January. The new policy was intended to increase chapter members' awareness of the diversity of beliefs within the queer community about the causes of queerness. However, no such new policy was ever approved.
Since 2001 PFLAG National has not issued any more statements denying the possibility of choice, nor referring to the possibility of choice in any way. We appreciate the increased awareness at the national level of queer by choice people's needs, but we are concerned that at the chapter level, many chapter leaders continue to deny the possibility of choice and thereby create hostile environments in which queer by choice people do not feel supported. Please write to your Regional Director, your local chapter leaders, or anyone else within PFLAG to encourage them to provide support for all queer people and increase their awareness of the full diversity of beliefs within the queer community about the causes of queerness.
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