Today, PFLAG National — America's leading organization uniting the families and allies of LGBTQ youth — named Jaime M. Grant as its new executive director. The group, which since its founding in 1972, has grown into nearly 400 chapters and over 200,000 members, selected Grant based on her three-decade-long track record of leadership in the LGBTQ and feminist movements.
A mother of two, including a proud bisexual son who spearheaded his high school gay-straight alliance, Grant previously was the Policy Institute director at the National LGBTQ Task Force and the founding executive director of the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership. She has also been deeply involved in organizing for transgender justice as the founder and director of the Global Trans Research and Advocacy Project.
“I've been 'in training' for this job my whole life,” said Grant. “I survived an extremely painful coming-out process in my family — an estrangement that lasted over a decade." Her struggle for acceptance as a queer woman led her to PFLAG's advocacy. "I believe so strongly in PFLAG and its work, which, over the past 45 years has created a tremendous cultural shift in parenting values, and fires up advocacy by families and allies," she said. "I am honored and thrilled to accept this position."
Grant's vision for the organization is very much rooted in those past 45 years. "The culture change from 1972 to 2017 around parenting and LGBT kids has been nothing short of a revolution," she told The Advocate. "When I came out in Boston to my Irish Catholic family, I knew what was going to happen — what was happening to almost everyone — which was disownment." Her troubled past led her to drug addiction and self-destructive behavior that she now counsels parents on how to prevent their queer children from diving into.
Grant holds a Ph.D. in women's studies from the Union Institute, where she studied beside LGBTQ scholarly activists Minnie Bruce Pratt, Barbara Smith, and John D’Emilio. A prolific writer who is grounded in women of color feminist theories, she has long worked to address patriarchy and white supremacy within and outside activist spaces.
When it comes to her new space, Grant's excitement to lead PFLAG is palpable. She admires its members, who she calls "foot soldiers for change." Her vision for theie future? "I think for the next chapter of PFLAG, we'll be asking, 'Are we in the places where the most fragile and the most vulnerable, the most targeted LGBT kids are so that we can be sharing the tools of acceptance and support in the places we're most needed?'" To Grant, those places include the foster care system, as well as juvenile rehabilitation and detention centers, where she feels LGBTQ youth are overrepresented and underacknowledged.
Aware of the increasingly polarized environment that is Donald Trump's America, Grant is ready to address the deep divides, even within something as small as families, home and abroad. "Family acceptance is critical, no matter under what culture you're living in or political regime you're living under," she noted, along with her plans to utilize technology to reach more children and their parents. She also has a welcoming approach to the children of many in Trump and Mike Pence's hyper-evangelical base: "We're in a terrible political moment, sure. But PFLAG has always had evangelical parents in the mix," Grant saod, stating that the readily available resources and research can help PFLAG continue to bridge the divide. "We know definitively that there are better things to say to your kids that make it less likely for them to self-harm or run away than others. You can say, 'My religion doesn't support this and this is really painful for me' and' I will love you forever.' That kid is going to do a lot better than if somebody said, 'My religion says you're an abomination and I believe you're an abomination.'"