Frieda Saraga, mother of five children — all adults one gay son, two twin daughters who are lesbian and a son and daughter who are straight — they all love one another very much and supportive of one another.
My husband, Leonard and I have been married 62 years and certainly did not envision having such a diverse family–we both had a great deal to learn. Since they are all in their 50’s and a little beyond, there were no GSA’s, no local PFLAG chapters and no internet available to us for information but we had the main ingredient–we love our children very much. We began realizing that being gay or lesbian was even much less accepted by many and I began to hear jokes and remarks that were hurtful and suddenly I stopped friends who were making those remarks and tell them these remarks are not ok to use–we have gay children I became an advocate without realizing it. Our friends realized they still loved our children and being gay was just one thing about them. Jacksonville was even more conservative if possible than in this day and age and many religion biases.
Growing up I remembered prejudice for being Jewish–as a child having children stick me with pins to see if I had blood like everyone else–ideas that parents had raised their children with and to realize my children and many of their friends might go thru greater prejudice made both my husband and myself aware that something had to change. After being in retail business with three stores for thirty years we were both at a loss as to what to do when we grow up–I started volunteering at the HIV testing clinic –this was twenty years ago when the gay population was being so infected with the virus. i took the counseling training with the encouragement of my son who felt I would have compassion for the gay population that was coming in to be tested and have remained an HIV testing counselor during my 16 years at Planned Parenthood and the last four years testing every week end in the Bay Street jail with inmates.
At the same time a wonderful co-facilitator, Judy Higgison and myself were asked to take over an HIV support group called Positive Attitudes that met every Tuesday evening and for the past eighteen years we have been with many wonderful men and women thru the years–thankfully for the last few years we have seen people live their lives unlike the first ten years when we saw so many pass away. The group is based on attitudinal healing and we both have gained even more than we have given. As this was all happening, about twenty years ago, our son, Scott, again suggested that perhaps we could have a group that parents of glbt children could meet together, thus the beginning of PFLAG of Jacksonville.
We found a place to meet and thru the years we had to find other meeting places and put something I believe about a support group in a small spot in the paper and a phone number with no address for the security of those who might attend. Those first few years each monthly meeting brought mostly mothers of gay children who were crying and so many were torn because of religious beliefs. Within time we became a chapter of PFLAG National and thru the years have met every month, have a hot line and have become a viable organization which gives support, education, and advocacy in the community concerning GLBT issues. We work hand in hand with JASMYN and are active with many organizations in the community.
I have presented programs for companies, college classes and other groups. Our biggest project being our Scholarship program–the only one in the state of Florida that has awarded over $250,000 to GLBT students since 1996. Imagine conservative Jacksonville in north-conservative Florida having a program that you would expect to find in a more liberal south Florida!
My husband and I have had the privilege of being such a part of our children’s lives and having their partners and friends become our extended family. Their older brother and sister are always advocates on these issues–we have a family that has embraced one another for who each person is and the key word LOVE prevails always.
Life brings many journeys –love and caring- made us speak for those who could not speak. I have been overwhelmed by the respect and love we have received from the community. For parents who refuse to love their child for who they are, and not embrace them with love, they have lost the gift of the journey we have traveled –not always easy–but so worth it–we have grown as a family to love and respect differences, not just likenesses.
See Frieda’s video statement here.