LGBTQI Victorians woke up on Wednesday morning to the news that one of their staunchest allies Nan McGregor, co-founder of PFLAG Victoria had passed away.
“Today is a sad day for Victoria’s queer communities. Last night, surrounded by family, Nan McGregor passed away,” Todd Fernando, Victorian Commissioner for LGBTIQ+ communities posted on Facebook.
‘Nan Contributed To Making Victoria The Equality State’
“This is huge loss for our communities,” Simon Ruth, CEO, Thorne Harbour Health told Star Observer.
“Nan’s legacy is woven into so many community organizations. She started PFLAG in Victoria and served as an ALSO Board member and life member. Her work in setting up under age gay discos was a precursor to the establishment of Minus 18. Nan advocated for marriage equality long before it became a reality and she worked tirelessly to improve the wellbeing of our LGBTIQ communities. She certainly had a hand in making Victoria the Equality State,” said Ruth.
Nan got involved in LGBTQI activism in 1993, after her son came out to her. She was one of the founders of PFLAG Victoria and believed that parents had a crucial role in supporting their LGBTQI children.
She was also part of the Rainbow Sash movement. She was known to turn up at Catholic Churches along with the late Michael Kelly to receive communion wearing a Rainbow Sash, before they were unceremoniously kicked out.
“That event grew into the Minus18 we know today – an organisation that reaches tens of thousands of young people annually, all thanks to the idea, commitment, and drive, of a middle-aged mum in Glen Waverly,” said Fernando.
“This is a very sad time for the family and our thoughts go out to them. Let’s respect their privacy during this time. We need our allies, and Nan was one of the best,” added Fernando.
‘She Felt Like The Mother Who Would Give You A Hug’
“A genuinely nice person,” is how Michael Barnett, co-convenor of LGBTQI Jewish advocacy group Aleph Melbourne, described Nan.
“She kind of felt like the mother that would give you a hug when you needed it. She was just there for everybody with a smile on her face. Nan was a short statured woman, but she had a big personality and was larger than life. That’s kind of how I recall her. She obviously had failing health in recent years, and I hadn’t seen her in quite some time but I have the fondest memories of Nan.”
Barnett had a deeply personal connection to Nan, who was part of his own coming out journey. “I came out in 1995. I was 26 years old when I told my parents that I was gay,” recalled Barnett.
“My father had heard about PFLAG and didn’t know much, but he knew it was a support group. He contacted PFLAG and I went along with him to meet Nan at a support meeting.”
“Over the years my parents got to know Nan better. It was through Nan’s involvement with PFLAG that helped my parents to better support me as their son, who came out as gay. I am very grateful to her for being there at that time,” said Barnett.