Since its founding three years ago, a program that hosts lunches for Yale staff and faculty members with LGBTQ children or relatives has grown from a space to ask questions and receive advice into a close-knit support group.

The monthly lunches — which take place in a new space in Founders Hall — began as a collaboration between the Office of LGBTQ Resources and the LGBTQ Affinity Group, an organization for faculty, staff and postdoctoral research at Yale that aims to improve diversity at the University by creating a support network. The program was created when Maria Trumpler, director of the Office of LGBTQ Resources, and members of the Affinity Group were discussing the lack of resources available to community members who may have questions about how to support their children, according to Craig Canfield, an assistant university registrar and coordinator of the program. Canfield told the News that most of the parents who attend have children who identify as transgender.

“Everyone within the group has really gotten to know each other well, so it’s turned into much more than a support group,” he said. “They can have conversations with each other about the experiences they have with their children and how they can support their children.”

Canfield added that there is a small group of regulars know one another well, but there are also couples who seek one-time advice on issues like health care and deciding on a doctor.

At the lunches, parents can “talk openly without fear of judgment,” said Amy Myers, a member of the Affinity Group’s Steering Committee. Often, other family members come along as well, looking for ways to support their LGBTQ loved ones. Canfield said parents often visit to find a safe space in which to ask questions about other families’ experiences and seek guidance on the kind of language to use around their children.

“It’s always kind of fun and sometimes funny because they’ll be like, ‘Is it OK to say that?’ and I’ll be like, ‘Yeah of course it’s OK to say that,’” Canfield said. “It’s one of those funny and kind of touching moments because they really care. Everyone who attends, they care deeply about their children, and they want nothing but the best for their children. It’s interesting watching them balance that deep care for their children while also trying to give their children the space they need, which I think is a pretty common theme among all of them.”

The LGBTQ Affinity Group was established in 2008 with the founding goals of supporting the University’s LGBTQ employees and making Yale a more accepting place. The group was instrumental in pushing for gender-affirmation surgery to be covered for all staff members and students by Yale health insurance. And after the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, it brought in tax experts to inform affected couples about how their finances would change, Canfield said.

Today, the Affinity Group combines outreach, advocacy and service. Florian Carle, the group’s co-chair, said that every year group members hold fundraising events for True Colors, an organization that supports sexual and gender minorities. The group also brings a hiring recruiter from Yale to New Haven Pride and participates in the city’s annual AIDS Walk, Carle added.

Founders Hall is located at 135 Prospect St.

Carolyn Sacco | carolyn.sacco@yale.edu