On Feb. 1, Ohio University’s LGBT Center officially launched its new group called Significant Others, Family, Friends and Allies, or SOFFA, which gathers the loved ones of queer individuals to assist in their knowledge and acceptance of queer identities.
For many queer individuals, their loved ones may not be accepting of their identities once they have chosen to come out, or they may simply not understand what this identity means and how to be a proper supporter.
Maddie Moore, a senior studying social work, recognized this issue when choosing to create this group for the LGBT Center.
“I saw a lot of parents who were wanting to be supportive but also very confused about queer identities and would feel a lot of resentment for their child or just anger and confusion for their child and didn't know where to turn,” Maddie Moore said. “So, I thought, what a great way to help people understand queer identity in a loving space, without judgment, without fear, and to let them feel heard — also teach them about what different queer identities mean and how to support their loved ones.”
Due to the group’s centralized focus on the loved ones of queer individuals, Micah McCarey, director of the LGBT Center, said the group will likely not include the queer students.
“We have a practice of keeping this pretty focused on those who fall into that acronym of ‘SOFFA,’” McCarey said. “That's in part because we recognize that it can feel like an unsupportive environment when you're working with folks who haven’t already arrived at a place where they're either as nurturing as they need to be or as sensitive to communication needs, respecting pronouns.”
While the initial wave of unacceptance can be challenging, McCarey said this group helps to recognize the importance of forgiveness and allow time for families and other loved ones to adjust to the new identities that they have recently learned.
“We have parents who are part of this group who can say, ‘I've been through that before, and it is hard, and you should give yourself some grace, and your Bobcat should give you some grace,’” McCarey said. “Because it takes a while to learn new terminology or to get over the emotional hurdles of thinking you understood, fully, a loved one and then realizing that there are things they need from you that you have to work on.”
Joe Moore, Maddie Moore’s father, currently attends the group. Joe Moore said the group allows for varying reactions to someone’s coming out to be addressed thoughtfully and without judgment.
“I, just by my nature, am a very accepting person,” Joe Moore said. “So, when my daughter came out, I hardly batted an eye about it, but not everybody's like that, and that's OK. Everybody has their levels of acceptance and nonacceptance.”
For those experiencing those varying levels, Joe Moore said the group can help parents and other loved ones to connect with one another and use each other as models for future progress.
“This would be a resource where you could sit down and face to face through the computer and (be like), ‘Hey, that person’s like me’ or ‘Hey, I had a very similar experience like I had,' and I see where they are a year later,” Joe Moore said. “We'll get some long-term positivity from the people who are turning to the group for some advice or experience.”
Through her initial idea to bring this organization to life to it starting earlier this month, Maddie Moore is hopeful that it will be a positive and helpful resource for queer students and their respective loved ones.
“I think we'll improve the lives of so many people, not only the families to feel like they have a space where they can go to and talk about it, but also it'll help the kids, too, because then they'll have a more supportive family and better allies in their life,” Maddie Moore said.