Remarks by the First Lady at the 2023 PFLAG National Convention in Arlington, Virginia

October 20, 2023

[As prepared for delivery.]

Thank you, Brian, for that warm introduction. I'm grateful for your friendship.

Several years ago, when you were looking for your next step, you had every opportunity at your fingertips. And you chose to go make a difference by leading PFLAG, because you recognized that there is no more fundamental fight than the fight to be our authentic selves, and love who we love.

Brian, somewhere out there, a boy is growing up in a small, rural town in Missouri. He's gay, and because of your work, he's able find the love and support he needs, and become anything he wants to be. And, maybe he too will go on to improve the lives of so many more.

And to the hundreds of PFLAG members with us today, thank you for being a part of this powerful community, thank you for leading with love.

Sometimes, it's the smallest decisions that change the course of history.

The decision to dump tea off the side of ships in the Boston Harbor.

The decision to refuse to sit in the back of the bus.

The decision to say, "enough is enough," after repeated raids at a New York City gay bar.

In 1972, Jeanne Manford decided to write a letter to the editor.

The week before, her 21-year-old son, Morty, had been beaten for protesting anti-gay bias in New York City while other people stood by and watched. Jeanne, as most parents would be, was scared, heartbroken – and livid.

"I am proud of my son, Morty Manford," she wrote.

In those eight words, Jeanne came out to the world, and gave other parents the space to do the same.

It was a courageous love letter from a mom who just wanted her son to be safe, and to enjoy the same rights and respect as any other human being.

Two months later, Jeanne would walk alongside Morty in New York City's famous Christopher Street Liberation Day March, holding a sign urging parents to unite in support of their gay sons and daughters.

Small decisions, simple acts of protest that launched a movement.

But to Jeanne, this wasn't revolutionary. Loving your child unconditionally, wanting them to be safe, wanting them to find love, wanting them to live in a world where they can be anything they want to be, and they can have any opportunity that their peers have.

To the world in the 1970s, this was radical.

Yet, the overwhelming outpouring of support following Jeanne's small acts of activism led her to start hosting meetings to connect with other parents, families, and friends.

And the rest is your history.

PFLAG is living proof that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.

And look at that small group now.

You provide a safe haven, a home, for so many children who are struggling against a world that is rarely compassionate, and too often violent and unkind.

PFLAG creates a space for parents, families, and friends to become loving allies.

At its core, PFLAG is about family. And family is love.

I am here today to applaud your 50 years of service and advocacy. And to ask you to keep going. Continue to summon Jeanne's courage. Because the world needs those small acts of love now more than ever.

For the trans person who feels seen when we use the right pronouns.

For the gay or lesbian teen kicked out of his or her home who is searching for refuge.

For the bisexual student who wants to see herself reflected in the books she can borrow from her school library.

In America, we don't ban books.

Remember what Jeanne showed us – that change starts with just a step, that worldwide movements can begin with the smallest of actions. Continue bringing that courage back to your communities once this weekend is over.

And know that my husband, President Biden, is your partner in this work.

He's doing everything within his power to protect LGBTQ kids and support families.

He's working to combat the dangerous, cruel practice of conversion therapy.

His Administration launched a crisis hotline for young people.

He's committing more resources to address youth homelessness.

And just a few months ago, we hosted the largest Pride Month celebration ever held at the White House for LGBTQ families.

From today's perspective, it's easy to forget what a revolutionary concept it was that parents, families, and friends would organize in support of their lesbian and gay children.

But you were the first. You made the movement. You changed our culture, along with the course of history.

And you've grown into the largest organization in the world dedicated to supporting, educating, and advocating for LGBTQ individuals and their loved ones.

You are fighting unjust state laws and local school district policies that censor history.

You are bringing cases to courts on behalf of families across the country.

You give hope to advocates everywhere, those who feel like their one voice is not enough.

Your example shows them that real change comes from the people, with a simple act of protest, with a match that lights a fire and inspires a movement.

Thank you for making lasting change. For leading with love.

I'm honored to mark 50 years with all of you.

And I'm so grateful that future generations of children will have you in their corner for the next 50.

Thank you.

Jill Biden, Remarks by the First Lady at the 2023 PFLAG National Convention in Arlington, Virginia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/367350

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