When Reston resident Barbara Warner’s son, Andrew, called home from college in 1990 to tell her that he was gay, she was stunned.
"I realized that I was up against some ideas and homophobia that I didn’t know I had," she recalled.
But rather than rejecting her son, Warner began to educate herself and soon became involved with the Washington, D.C. chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, a support and advocacy group that helps people through the process of having someone close to them reveal their homosexuality.
Now, in an effort to give Reston families easier access to their support groups, PFLAG has started to hold meetings in Reston. The organization is gathering the first Tuesday of every month at the Washington Plaza Church at Lake Anne.
"We support people who are learning of a friend or family who has just come out," said Warner, a former president of the D.C. chapter. "They often don’t where to go, where to turn. We hold their hand through the process."
In addition to providing support groups, PFLAG works to educate the public about the challenges facing the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered community.
"What people hear and what they see in the media is not necessarily what is happening in reality," Warner said, saying a common misunderstanding is that being homesexual is solely about sex.
"They just happen to love someone of the same sex," she said.
The organization also advocates for tough hate crimes legislation and against state gay marriage bans and the proposed U.S. Constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriages.
ANN RODRIGUEZ, also a Reston resident, received a similar phone call home from college from her son, Paco, 13 years ago. Like Warner, she found out about PFLAG after her son came out to her and quickly became involved.
"I decided that since he has this incredible courage to come out, then I should have the courage to be open about it myself and get involved," Rodriguez said.
But if Rodriguez wanted to attend a PFLAG meeting or support group, she had to travel into the district. Now, by having PFLAG closer to home, parents and friends of lesbians and gays will have an outlet for discussion and support significantly closer to home, she said.
"I’m so excited this is here," Rodriguez said. "There’s so many family members or gays and lesbians that live in Reston."
Reston is considered by many to be an open and accepting community for the GLBT community, Rodriguez said. Many business and organizations in Reston prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and some extend employee benefits to same-sex partners. The new PFLAG group in Reston will add another layer of acceptance to the already tolerant community, she said.
Another PFLAG support group, located in Manassas, was founded in late February. The new Reston and Manassas groups mark the organization's largest foray into the suburbs, said Emily Ahmadu, a representative of Metro D.C. PFLAG.
"It’s really a trail-blazing thing," Ahmadu said.
WARNER’S SON, Andrew, lives with his long-time partner in Milwaukee and has adopted two boys, Tomas, who is four, and David, who is 19 months.
Andrew Warner is the minister of a United Church of Christ congregation and was married in religious commitment ceremony not long ago.
Warner said she is thankful her son included her in the dialogue over his sexual orientation because it has brought her family closer together.
"We’re incredibly grateful that Andrew came out to us and made us a part of his journey," she said.