A Mother First and Gay Rights Activist Second

The story of Jeanne Manford and the baton she passed to me.

I sit at the far end of the semi-circle of tables and chairs. We are gathered in a small meeting room at the back of a pizzeria. The room doubles as a space for both group gatherings and birthday party bashes. As I take my seat, I smell the faint waft of red marinara sauce mixed with mozzarella cheese. Unmistakingly the aroma of pizza.

The man on my right is enjoying a lovely amber ale and the woman on my left greets me with a very warm smile. She is holding a stuffed turtle in her hand. As always in these new situations, I am feeling awkward and momentarily consider bolting for the door.

But then the meeting begins. The seats around the table fill up. The woman next to me holds up the turtle, using it as a talking stick item as she opens the meeting. Whoever is holding the turtle is the one who gets to speak.

Eventually, the turtle makes its way around the room and finds me. I hold it for a second feeling the plush fabric nervously with my fingers before I say, Hello, my name is MaryRose. I use the she/her pronouns. My reasons for being here are my kids. My son is transgender and my daughter identifies as Bi. I am here to find community and to deepen my learning.

I feel a hand on my left arm. I turn to the woman sitting next to me who is not just warmly smiling but beaming! Oh, you are doubly blessed, she says, looking me in the eyes. Welcome to PFLAG.

What is PFLAG?

The Day I Picked up His Banner and Walked With Him

The beginning of one mother’s journey as her son came out as transgender.

My son is twenty-three this year. Five years ago, at the age of seventeen, he came out as transgender.


It was on a rainy, Northwest day my teenage child, then known as my oldest daughter, drove off in the old Toyota. A family car no longer used. My child was setting off for a new college experience. Flying the nest.

The back seat and trunk stuffed full of boxes and belongings obscured my view of my oldest heading down the road and away from me. I worried about the visibility out the back window. I silently worried over the three hours of driving between our home and this new school.

Of course, I also mused; Would my child fit in and make friends at this new school? Will my child be happy there?

I never worried about gender. The idea of transgender, my oldest daughter truly being my son, never entered my mind.

At least not then.

Finding out via Facebook.

It was several hours later and I arrived home from a long day at work. I had not received a phone call so I decided to check Facebook. I flipped open my laptop and after waiting for the familiar screen to flash on, I began to scroll.

There it was. My child’s Facebook page and profile picture looking back at me. Only not my child’s name attached. There before me was a new name! Jace. I leaned back from the computer, confused but still staring at it.

My go-to action was to ask my younger daughter if she had seen this new name and what it might mean? Her reply, I think you better call Jace. Upon which she returned her attention to her Algebra book.

Alone in my bedroom, I dialed my child’s number. Anxiety and nerves built up with each consecutive ring. I don’t know what I anticipated but my body viscerally signaled me something was up because of the pit forming in my stomach and the clamminess to my palms growing into full-fledged sweat.

Six Degrees From the Stonewall Riots

A look back at the inception of PRIDE to see the way forward

Right now, most of us concur we are living through times of uncertainty and civil unrest. A global pandemic with a rising death toll, riots, demonstrations, police brutality, the sinking economy, and the list goes on.

But it’s not the first time our society has felt this type of shakedown.

A similar situation brewed throughout the 1960s with one sector boiling over during the early morning hours of June 28, 1969. This boiling point became known as the Stonewall Riots, and it was here the inception of the gay rights movement began.


In 1969, I turned one year old. My family lived on the West Coast, far from Greenwich Village, Manhattan, or New York and an uprising later to be termed The Stonewall Riots. For obvious reasons, I was unaware of the growing unrest in our country during the late ’60s and early ’70s.

My parents did not openly protest to my knowledge. Preferring to use their voices at the ballot boxes or campaign on initiatives for reform. They saw their voices being heard through the political process and that is okay. It was also a different time.

There was always a news broadcast playing in my home, either on the radio or the evening news on the television. I do not recall my parents speaking on issues of the day such as racism, riots, or drag queens. Perhaps they spoke amongst themselves. Perhaps they felt a child’s childhood should be left to play kick-the-can and savor their wishes to Santa Claus. Perhaps they felt I was too young to be touched by the burdens of the world.

Whatever their reasons, it was those burdening events; the Vietnam war, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Stonewall Riots which would ultimately shape the world I grew up in.

In 1969 the Stonewall Riots became a tipping point for the LGBTQ movement. A banner for equality I would pick up a few decades later when my son came out to me as transgender.

Of course, I knew the word but up until that moment that is all it was for me, a word. At that moment, with my son, it became personal. I had no context for the breadth of its meaning. Contrary to my son’s belief that his liberal-minded, progressive mom knew everything, when in fact I did not.

Where did I begin? I began at what I knew to be the beginning.