Moms from Manhattan Beach to Palos Verdes join forces in support of their LGBTQ kids

We see their true colors.

Generally speaking, around the time kids are in middle school hormones start to kick in and crushes start to occur. Some kids this age may have a boyfriend or a girlfriend. And some kids realize they don’t associate with the gender assigned to them at birth or the sexuality that is expected of them due to their gender assignment. It can be a very confusing and stressful time for teens and their families.

Three local moms who have experienced similar situations with their children in middle school were internally torn apart due to the bullying and vitriol their kids were receiving. Two of the women, Tina Sarafa of Manhattan Beach and Cindy Byrne of Palos Verdes, started a support group called Mama Bears. Tina’s son is homosexual, and Cindy’s child is transgender.

Mama Bears grew as more and more families reach out to Tina and Cindy for the same type of assistance and support. Soon they met Linda Reeves, whose son is gay, and they created a local chapter of PFLAG—the first and largest organization uniting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people with parents, families and allies.

These influential moms feel that it is crucial that members of the LGBTQ community who are experiencing gender or sexual identity issues have support … and support starts at home. It is also important for families and friends to have a support group of others who have had similar experiences to help process the range of emotions that naturally may occur.

There are more than 400 chapters of PFLAG, a grassroots movement, across the United States. PFLAG works to ensure that LGBTQ people are not only valued by society but take pride in and value themselves. Suicide and drug addiction rates for the LGBTQ community are two to three times as high as others because they are more likely to be misunderstood, bullied and face rejection from their families.

“Gender is a cultural construct; the way people express their gender is more authentic.”

PFLAG consists of passionate volunteers working to advocate through peer-to-peer support, educating people on the issues that are important to our community and advocating for inclusive policies and laws. PFLAG’s priorities are that “people who are LGBTQ and their families deserve to be safe and secure, no matter where they live, work, study, pray or play.”

Almost everyone understands or is aware of homosexuality in this day and age, but not everyone is familiar with the spectrum of gender issues. Linda, a licensed marriage and family therapist with a specialty in LGBTQ issues, refers to this as the Gender Revolution. The Gender Revolution is twofold: (1) gender affiliation and gender assignment at birth and (2) homosexuality.

Gender affiliation is not related to being homosexual. “Gender is a cultural construct; the way people express their gender is more authentic,” explains Linda. Within the Gender Revolution, there are individuals who are either transgender or non-binary.

Non-binary is a catchall term for gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine. More and more you will hear a person define their pronouns as “they, theirs and them” for one individual rather than “he, his and him” or “she, her and hers.” These typically plural pronouns are being used in the singular sense.

Linda refers to a quote by Caitlyn Jenner: “There’s no correlation between one’s gender identity and one’s sexuality. There are two different things here. Sexual orientation is whom you go to bed with. Gender identity is whom you go to bed as.”

Many people in the Gender Revolution would like to eliminate gender assignments at birth so everyone is equal. Some believe that assigning gender leads certain individuals who don’t relate to their gender assignment down a more difficult path.

According to the CDC, 2% of high school students identify as transgender and more than one-third of these trans high school students have attempted suicide in the last year.

If you know anyone who is experiencing any issues related to gender identity or sexual orientation, reach out to the community’s new local chapter of PFLAG. Meetings are the first Tuesday of every month, 7 to 9 p.m., in the Fireside Room at Manhattan Beach Community Church, 303 South Peck Avenue in Manhattan Beach.