Our History

 A family of chapters serving Portland

PFLAG Portland is one of the oldest chapters in the PFLAG network, with a 40 year history of support to the LGBTQ community. But PFLAG Portland’s history begins long before it bore the name PFLAG.


PFLAG Portland cofounders Bill and Ann Shepherd with their daughter Susie announcing the formation of Parents of Gays in 1977. This article in the now-defunct Oregon Journal was among the first mentions of gay kids in Oregon media (courtesy GLAPN)


Parents of Gays

PFLAG Portland’s founders, Ann and Bill Shepherd and Rita and Charles Knapp, had become active in LGBT issues after their daughters, Susie and Kristan, respectively, came out in the early 1970s.

In 1977 Oregon Governor Bob Straub’s Task Force on Sexual Preference, of which Ann was a member, noted the need for a parents’ support group. Soon thereafter the Knapps and Shepherds founded Parents of Gays (POG), meeting monthly in the Shepherds’ living room.


PFLAG Portland

Soon after the National Network founding meeting in Los Angeles in 1981, Parents of Gays elected to join the PFLAG National Network as PFLAG Portland.


The Initiatives Years

1990-2004 was a time of intense cultural battles at the ballot box.  PFLAG Portland's membership and influence grew steadily during this time as initiative after initiative restricting the freedoms of LGBTQ Oregonians was introduced, culminating in the devastating 2004 One Man-One Woman marriage amendment to Oregon's Constitution.


A New Outreach

In 2006 PFLAG Portland refocused on community-building efforts, Transgender Portlanders, and Portland's Communities of Color. New community partnerships and a new "satellite chapter" organizational structure in 2009 led to the launching of PFLAG Portland Black Chapter (now an independent organization serving Portland's black LGBTQ young adults), the first PFLAG chapter created by and for Portland's black community.


Suddenly, Equality

Well, not quite.  With 2014's and 2015's momentous legal victories for LGBTQ folks across Oregon and the country, a part of the landscape for our community changed, but not the need for PFLAG's mission of family support. In 2014 the East County satellite chapter was opened and quickly established itself as the safe space for Portland's East Side suburbs. The PFLAG Portland Chapters developed more Training and Policy Partnering to meet Portlanders' need for fact-based policy and action in support of their LBGTQ friends, family, and colleagues.


Changing Horizons

As Portland has grown and prospered, so have the surrounding suburbs -becoming increasingly diverse. 2016 saw the opening of a new Washington County chapter, heightened interest in new chapters throughout the Metro area, and the expansion of PFLAG's safe space into cyberspace, as more and more of those we serve visit us first on-line.

Through much of its history, PFLAG's work has been to keep families strong during the struggle to gain legal equality and cultural acceptance for our LGBTQ citizens. With the newly more supportive legal and cultural landscape for LGBTQ Americans, PFLAG's advocacy is turning towards helping our society become more compassionate; towards helping us to not just accept, but to celebrate the wonderful diversity of our LGBTQ members.