According to the National Association for Mental Illness, members of the LGBTQ community are approximately three times more likely than the general population to experience depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and other mental health conditions.
Brian Bond, Executive Director of PFLAG National
, joins host Paul Lisnek to discuss how fostering LGBTQ acceptance at home is vital to improving mental health in the community.
Lisnek: Back in 1973, a simple act of a mother supporting her gay son led to the creation of PFLAG. Hi, welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers". I'm Paul Lisnek. Joining me to discuss PFLAG's efforts on behalf of the LGBTQ community, including education, advocacy, and acceptance, is the organization's new executive director, Brian Bond. Brian, it's nice to see you.
Bond: Nice to see you, Paul.
Lisnek: And I say "new executive director" 'cause you've been there for a period of months, but talk to me about the history. What brought you to PFLAG? Because you had a great career up to this point, as well.
Bond: Sure, sure. It's a pleasure to be here today. Just to help some of your audience members, my pronouns are he, him, and his. I have been at PFLAG about I've been in the advocacy space for some time. Probably the most notable components of that would have been as the executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which supports and trains candidates for office. Tammy Baldwin, now Senator Baldwin, prime example of that. I also spent several years off and on working at the Democratic National Committee as the LGBTQ desk there. Probably the thing I'm most proud of in recent time is having served under President Obama as the deputy director of the Office of Public Engagement in the White House, my primary portfolio being LGBTQ+ issues -- "Don't ask, don't tell", hate crimes. That somewhat led to the reason that I wanted to join PFLAG National. It was easy to see over the course of the various interchanges I've had in the community the impact voices of moms, of dads, of family members, of friends and allies in speaking out for equality. There's so much PFLAG does -- and you noted that -- around support and education, but also around advocacy.
Lisnek: It would make sense to me, Brian, that when we think of all the policy issues and your background, so much in that world of law and policy, but acceptance kind of needs to start at home, right? Isn't that the place where it should start?
Bond: So it should start at home. I don't know that it's always that easy to do, and especially in what part of the country we're in. I think that's probably one of the significant reasons that PFLAG has existed for 46 years. There are, again, 400 chapters around the country, These are volunteers. These are fierce advocates to support love and acceptance and appreciation. When a parent or a friend is struggling when their child or family member has come out to them, it's natural for there to be kind of, hopefully, like a pause. "Okay, what does this mean for my kid?" At the end of the day, we work under the assumption that we meet people where they are in the journey, in the discussion, but our goal is as an organization to help parents and family, allies and friends along that journey of acceptance. The LGBTQ+ community is also deeply engaged as members of PFLAG, having either benefited from it or utilizing it as a support mechanism, depending on what part of the country we may be in.
Lisnek: One of the critical things as we look at studies today and whatever is that the rise of suicide is really startling and much more so among LGBT youth in other areas, so talk to me about the work and the role of PFLAG as they try and address and handle crisis that we face.
Bond: Sure. I mean, I think it goes back to what you led with on acceptance. So how are we arming parents, family, and friends and allies with the support they need to be supportive of their kids? To your point, yes, I believe it's three out of five LGBTQ+ kids I think have -- excuse me -- of suicide. That's the higher rate. That's actually percentage rate. And in general, in the transgender community, in the lifespan of an individual, as an option. So cultural acceptance, family acceptance -- all these are a part of a larger narrative that PFLAG works on.
Lisnek: And I have to ask you, is it also -- I mean, you mention transgender.
Lisnek: And, of course, those are issues we deal with today a lot more than we did years ago.
Bond: Correct, correct.
Lisnek: It makes this area and this work even more complex and more important.
Bond: Yes, yes. No, it definitely -- A larger number of support being asked for transgender kids and their families that are having that discussion. They're on that journey. I think one of the examples that I just saw literally two weeks ago, I was at a chapter meeting in California. This was predominantly Asian/Pacific Islander chapter, and a woman came in who was an immigrant. Spoke little English. Didn't know anybody there and came into that meeting because she has a trans kid. Sat down and said basically that. "I need help. I have a trans kid." Immediately, three individuals of that chapter who speak the same language as she does, understand her cultural situation, were able to support her and help her. At the end of the day, this is about saving lives and trying to keep families whole.
Lisnek: You know, Brian, one of the most important things that I get from you is it's one thing to talk about policy and law and general assistance, but it all comes down to people and individuals and individual stories that get told, and I thank you for the work you're doing in the community. Please continue to do great stuff, as I know you will. Brian Bond from PFLAG National. Appreciate you joining us. And thank you for watching, as well. If you want to have more great conversations with leaders in your community and across our country, just go to comcastnewsmakers.com. You'll find them there. I'm Paul Lisnek. Thanks for watching.