Every month Chandler Pride hosts a meeting where parents who are dealing with their child coming out as LGBTQ+ can get support.
“I show up,” said Schroder, who is president of Chandler Pride. “I have been there in the past alone waiting for someone to come join me and sometimes they don’t come.”
Chandler Pride is celebrating its first anniversary as an advocacy organization this month. Schroder, and the group’s secretary, Jennifer Morrison, know what it’s like to go through that coming out process as a parent. Schroder is the mother of a transgender child, and Morrison the mother of a gay child.
“We’re fortunate enough to have, I think, maneuvered through the coming out process with our children,” Morrison said. “Not that it isn’t challenging, and shocking, and sometimes difficult. But we managed to come through that in a very positive way.”
The group, which officially became a nonprofit in July 2021, has staged a Pride event, put together a candidate forum, and hosts the monthly Parents & Ally support group.
But some of the most important work they do, Schroder said, is to connect people.
For example, a group of student activists wanted to protest the city’s refusal to adopt a non-discrimination ordinance (NDO) to protect its LGBTQ+ residents. She helped student leaders from different campuses connect so they could work on it together.
Same with students concerned about mental health. Since LGBTQ students are more likely to die by suicide, they decided to get involved in that issue as well.
“There are other organizations in the community that we are pulling in to our events,” Schroder said. “And then from here on, one of the focuses would be to continue to have conversations around youth mental health, youth homelessness specifically.
“Then look around and see what potential partners we can develop, who might be interested in, in contributing to alleviating, if not solving, the problems.”
Schroder said one moment where she felt like Chandler Pride was making a difference came during its candidate forum. Council candidate Farhana Shifa gave the group credit for helping her think differently about the NDO issue.
Chandler is the largest city in Arizona without a NDO to protect its LGBTQ residents. While she did not commit to voting in favor of one, Shifa said that if shown enough evidence that one was needed, then perhaps she would be willing to consider it.
That was a bit of an evolution from her answer at the Chamber of Commerce forum, where she said she would vote against one if given the chance. Three Council candidates favor a NDO: Angel Encinas, Matt Orlando and Jane Poston. So does mayoral candidate Ruth Jones.
Mayor Kevin Hartke and Shifa are against it. Council candidate Darla Gonzalez has not taken a position.
Shifa credited Schroder with helping to educate her on the issue. So did Shifa change her answer because she was at a Chandler Pride forum, or was it a true change of heart?
“I think the most important thing out of that is holding a forum that holds them accountable,” Morrison said. “Having them have to answer the question. This topic for some people is very uncomfortable. And they answer with the equivalent of, you know, hope and prayers. But they don’t answer the hard question of what will you do?”
There is no PFLAG (Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays) chapter in Chandler, Schroder said. So, Chandler Pride is the only group as of now to help anyone who is struggling with the coming out process.
So every first Tuesday of the month, Schroder or another member of Chandler Pride’s leadership, heads to Holy Trinity Lutheran Church between 6:30 and 8 p.m., just in case someone needs to chat.
“We’re there, and we are going to continue to show up,” Schroder said.