Learning with Love: The 2023 PFLAG National Convention Wraps in Washington, D.C.
October 24, 2023
WASHINGTON (Oct. 24)- Sunday afternoon, Oct. 22, the PFLAG National Convention came to a joyful close as Karine Jean-Pierre, one of the most visible openly queer people in the U.S., and Brian K. Bond, PFLAG’s CEO, hosted an intimate conversation during the closing luncheon of Learning with Love: The 2023 PFLAG National Convention. The event opened on Friday, Oct. 20 with remarks by First Lady Jill Biden.
“At its core, PFLAG is about family — and family is love,” the First Lady told the audience of 430. “I am here today to applaud your 50 years of service and advocacy. And to ask you to keep going. Continue to summon Jeanne [Manford]’s courage. Because the world needs those small acts of love now more than ever,” she continued.
Other luminaries who graced the historic LGBTQ+ organization’s stage included Admiral Rachel Levine, M.D., the 17th Assistant Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, MSNBC’s Ali Velshi, American Library Association President Emily Drabinski, author Arvin Ahmadi, American Medical Association President Jesse Ehrenfeld, M.D., M.P.H., Red Wine and Blue’s Julie Womack, and writer, transgender activist, and military veteran Charlotte Clymer.
In his opening remarks to convention attendees, PFLAG CEO Brian K. Bond acknowledged the challenges LGBTQ+ people, parents, families and allies have faced due to organized and funded efforts to cause them harm. Yet, a sense of strength and optimism prevailed throughout the four-day event that began with a lobby day on Capitol Hill on Oct. 19. “PFLAG’s work is critical. Your voices matter,” Bond said. “I see moments every day of selflessness and bravery, and all along the way I get to meet incredible people, including all of you here in this room.”
Highlights of the convention included a Banned Books Week-themed plenary, Let Freedom Read! Read With Love to Support Inclusive Books and Education, moderated by Velshi on Friday, following the First Lady’s remarks.
“One of the greatest things about this country is the freedom to read what you want and be who you are. The kids are on our side, the readers are on our side, and most Americans are on our side if they know about what’s going on,” said Arvin Ahmadi, whose 2020 book How It All Blew Up is among the thousands of books banned or challenged this year.
Saturday’s hot-button event, Courageous Love in Trans Healthcare, addressed the reason PFLAG is suing three states and one governor this year. Susan Thronson, Chair of the PFLAG National Board of Directors and the first parent of a transgender person to hold that position, introduced the event by emphasizing, “For the first time in PFLAG’s 50-year history, we are serving as plaintiffs in four lawsuits across three states — Texas, Missouri and North Carolina — to make it clear that PFLAG will always advocate for transgender youth, their families and their health care providers.”
Adm. Levine, who is a pediatrician, made her position and that of the Dept. of Health and Human Services clear, “I think it’s critically important to understand that gender-affirming care is essential healthcare. It is medical care. Gender-affirming care is mental health care. Gender-affirming care is literally suicide prevention care.”
Along with learning about how to put their love into action, those who attended the PFLAG National Convention came together to honor award winners, including Dayton, Ohio’s Michael Knote of Have a Gay Day with the “Morty Manford Volunteerism Award,” and chapters including PFLAG Westminster-Carroll County, Md., PFLAG Georgetown, Texas, PFLAG Great Lakes Bay Region, Mich., and PFLAG Fort Collins, Colo. with PFLAG National Chapter Awards.
From Oct. 19-22, PFLAG National hosted more than 30 events, including workshops, trainings, networking events, plenaries, socials, and a lobby day. The event was attended by more than 400 chapter leaders, members, LGBTQ+ people, parents, youth, families and allies from across the U.S., the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia, as well as leaders from 14 international PFLAG organizations. Countries represented by these groups included Canada, China, Costa Rica, Lebanon, Lithuania, Moldova, Panama, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Taiwan, Uganda, Ukraine, and Vietnam. The event was sponsored by OREO, Meta, and Lyft, and took place in Arlington, Va. at the DoubleTree Crystal City. Learn more at PFLAG.org/LearningWithLove and stream this year’s plenaries on YouTube at Youtube.com/@pflag/streams.
Quotes from First Lady of the United States Jill Biden
“There’s no more fundamental fight than the fight to be our authentic selves and love who we love.”
“PFLAG is living proof that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. And look at that small group now!”
Quotes from Admiral Rachel L. Levine, M.D., the 17th Assistant Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
“I’m a pediatrician. If your child has a high fever and very bad cough and they’re very sick, you would take your child to your pediatrician or your family physician. If your child has severe asthma you might be referred to a pediatric pulmonologist or a pediatric lung specialist. If your child has a heart condition, your child would be referred to a pediatric heart specialist. If your child has severe diabetes, they would be referred to a pediatric endocrinologist. If they’re depressed, they might be referred to a pediatric psychiatrist or psychologist. And if they’re transgender, then you’re going to call your state representative? No.”
Quotes from Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, M.D., M.P.H., President of the American Medical Association
“We must stand together and continue to make sure that we do not accept the attack on science; that we do not accept legislative overreach that gets between a parent, their child and their doctor making the right decisions for them.”
“When we have diverse healthcare teams, patients do better. For us [the AMA] it’s about patients and patient outcomes: we know that when we have diversity in medicine, people get better care, they see different perspectives; our care systems are more accommodating.”
Quotes from Ali Velshi, Host of “Velshi” on MSNBC and the MSNBC podcast “Velshi Banned Book Club”
“Diverse books allow young people the access to the information they need to learn about themselves and the world around them—and boy do we need that right now.”
Quotes from Emily Drabinski, President of the American Library Association
“We are experts in thinking about books and collections we build for everybody. Librarians are very committed to building collections that have something for everyone in their community.”
Quotes from Charlotte Clymer, writer, transgender activist, and military veteran
“To see so many parents and relatives of LGBTQ children – especially trans children – is such an honor and a treat. Thank you so much for showing up every day as you do. What [PFLAG is] doing is so critical and it really does mean the world, not just to your own loved ones, but to those of us who are observing the love you give to your loved ones.”
Quotes from Julie Womack, Head of Organizing, Red, Wine and Blue
“We want the freedom to parent our children without being told by the state or a small minority of people what we can and cannot do.”
Links to Media Assets
- Getty Photo Links:
- Stream Learning With Love plenaries:
PFLAG is an organization of LGBTQ+ people, parents, families, and allies who work together to create an equitable and inclusive world. We are hundreds of thousands of people and hundreds of chapters from coast to coast who are leading with love to support families, educate allies, and advocate for just, equitable, and inclusive legislation and policies. Since our founding in 1973, PFLAG works every day to ensure LGBTQ+ people everywhere are safe, celebrated, empowered and loved. Learn more, find support, donate, and take action at PFLAG.org.
Laura McGinnis (she/her),
Sr. Manager, Press and Public Relations
[email protected] | (202) 864-2247