Sunday, June 17, 2018

If Straight Parents Don't March, Are We Tolerating, But Not Accepting?

June is considered GAY PRIDE MONTH, but not everywhere.  However, you demonstrate acceptance, it should be at your own comfort level.

Many LGBT people themselves do not feel it is necessary to be a crusader for gay rights just as some straight parents don't want to march during the Gay Parades held in major cities.  I am one of those parents.

This does not mean that I'm not sensitive to those minorities who haven't achieved full equality. It does mean that I hate crowds and regard rainbow scanty thongs on gay men on floats as hyper sexualization, narcissitic displays of six-pack abs and perhaps doing a disservice to the greater goals of inclusion and equal rights.

You can be accepting without subjecting yourself to all the revelry.  (However, if your child wants you to attend a Gay Pride event, feel like he is an integral part of the whole movement whose civil rights have been backlashed by politics, then you may want to support your LGBT child by attending).

As a parent, it behooves you to demonstrate to your child in both words and actions that you will always love and support him unconditionally.  One way to show your acceptance is to:


  • Ask your LGBT child the same questions you ask your other children.  Specifically, don't avoid the topic of dating and relationships.  If you ask your heterosexual child about his significant other, ask your LGBT child as well.  
  • Says Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D., " If your gay child says that he is dating someone in particular, ask engaging questions about the partner and express an interest in meeting him."  
  • Invite the boyfriend to family dinners as you would for a partner of your straight child.
  • Find out how the boyfriend is doing from time to time.
For more tips on displaying acceptance, see When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know (Sterling: 2016).



Friday, June 8, 2018

The Baker, The Cake, and The Couple Who Ate Crow

Last Monday, the Supreme Court decided the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission No. 16-11.  With just two dissenters, Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayer, the Court ruled in favor of Jack Phillips, the Christian baker who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple, Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins who were married in Boston.

The Court sided with Phillips, who had lost forty percent of his business because of litigation, and had to fire six of his employees.  The grounds for the outcome, whose majority decision was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, was that the Colorado Civil rights Commission, which had originally ruled against Phillips, had acted hostile as it allowed other bakers to refuse to create cakes that demeaned gays and same-sex marriage.  Consequently, what should have been the neutral and respectful consideration in which Phillips was entitled was therefore compromised.

This five-year battled ended in humiliation for Mullins and Craig who never got the cake even though same-sex marriage has been legal in Colorado since 2014.  Although the 7-2 decision ruled in Phillips's favor, The Court also acknowledged the equal rights of LGBT people.

Not The Big Picture

The Court, in this case, did not tackle the bigger picture: religious freedom vs. civil rights for LGBT Americans.  The crucible:  Can a business discriminate against LGBT persons based on the rights protected by The First Amendment?  Can a business owner invoke their First Amendment Rights when they refuse services to gay customers?

As it is, LGBT people, without a National Equality Law, are at risk for being fired, evicted or denied services in thirty-one states.  While the June 4th Supreme Court decision just settled Phillips's case, Phillips's win sets a precedent.  It doesn't bode well for the future:  what's next?  Will all tangential wedding services such as florists and photographers be allowed to shut their doors to those whose so-called "lifestyle" they disapprove of?

Kennedy acknowledged that business owners generally cannot deny equal access to goods and services under a neutral public accommodations law.  Shouldn't a gay person receive the same services when he walks into a store as a heterosexual would?  Cake is Cake.  It doesn't have to be endorsed by the baker.  Once it is made and showcased, you don't think about the baker's viewpoint of same-sex marriage, as Justice Ginsburg referenced.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Coming Out: It’s Not Your Story!



It’s not a good idea to out your kids.  Let them be the messengers.  Their stories are highly personal and should be revealed in their own time when they are comfortable.

Jeff Ingold at Stonewall explains that publicly outing someone “robs that person of the chance to define who they are, in their own terms and ignores the many valid reasons someone may have for not choosing to be open about their sexuality or gender identity to everyone in their life.”

Genderqueer Star Cambell Kenneford, 23, who transitioned from male to female, explains further why it’s so damaging.  “You feel like someone has taken your identity away from you.  She has been asked if she were a man or a woman while standing in line to a gay club.  She has been humiliated when outed to someone she was flirting with, only to find that person suddenly not interested.

(There are many reasons why an LGBT person, particularly a transsexual, doesn’t want to be open about their sexuality.  Unfortunately, it can incite hate crimes.  Stonewall statistics reveal that one in seven trans people aren’t open about their gender identity to anyone in their family).

Consider yourself privileged if your child has come out to you. Once your child has come out to you, you need to find out whom they’ve told  (most likely, they have told someone before you) and what is their plan to tell other friends and family members, if at all. How did the receivers of the news take it?  Were they supportive or did it cause a rift in the friendship?

Jonathan Tobkes, M.D.. co-author of When Your Child Is Gay (What You Need To Know: Sterling, 2016) suggests that parents may want to help their children devise a plan to tell older family members from a different era if that seems daunting for the child.  You can help, for example, by saying “have you thought about telling Grandma?  If you’d like me to help you figure out how to do that or to be there when you tell her, just let me know.”

You need permission to tell your friends.  If you’re concerned about how your friends and colleagues will react to you having an LGBT child, practice what you are going to say.  Says psychiatrist Dr. Tobkes, “ I have found that most people will react in a way that parallels the manner in which you share the news.  If you seem uncomfortable and ashamed, then they will react awkwardly, but if your share the news  with pride and comfort, they will genuinely feel happy for you.”  If your so-called “friends” make negative remarks, tune them out, and think twice about being with those with shameful feelings.



Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Teacher Appreciate Week May 7-11

Teacher Appreciation Week May 7-11

GLSEN.ORG/thankateacher)

For LGBT youth, school can be an ordeal.  They can be singled out, bullied, feel unsafe in an environment that’s supposed to be free of fear.  In fact, they may elect to miss school as much as a day per month because they are being harassed. Compared to their heterosexual peers, they use illicit drugs disproportionally, are required to attend Sex Education Classes that focus on heterosexual -only contraception or preach abstinence.  They may be scared to use the bathroom of their choice, not the ones that match their birth certificates.  Daily, they may hear “that’s so gay” and other derogatory comments hurled at them.

Yet teachers do not always address the issue of homophobia in their schools.  They may not be trained to do so.  Afraid of losing their jobs if they are outed, some LGBT teachers may not want to be considered “political” and draw attention to themselves.  However, just a few thoughtful deeds is all it takes for  a teacher to ally themselves with LGBT students, he can, for example:

Post a “safe zone” sign in school.
Seek opportunities to include LGBT people such as Michelangelo in Science class.  California is the first state to make its curriculum inclusive of LGBTQ icons and history!
Don’t assume any student is gay.
Organize or encourage district administration to arrange an in-service with a qualified youth advocate.
If the school has a Gay-Straight Alliance, he can volunteer as an Advisor.

These are just a few of the ways that teachers can show support.  PFLAG (Parents For Lesbians & Gays, and now Transgenders) has a “Safe Schools Program” in New York City that hopefully will be adopted by others.  The mission of the “Safe Schools Program” is to promote inclusion, understanding, equality, and non-violence.  To this end, its volunteer speakers help create a learning environment that respects everyone.  The volunteers of all backgrounds include straight family and friends of LGBT people as well as LGBT adults and youth.  They bring family perspective and personal stories to illustrate sexual orientation and gender identity.

PFLAG NYC visits schools throughout New York to work with teachers, parents, administrators, school staff and students to help make sure that discrimination is not present in the classroom. The program:

Addresses students, teachers, counselors, and parents about LGBT issues.
Helps LGBT students find support in understanding their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
Helps faculty and staff to understand and approach LGBT issues respectfully and accurately.
Helps parents understand LGBT issues as it relates to the developing sexuality of their children and their children’s friends and peers.
Teaches straight students, faculty, and parents to be allies.

If you are fortunate enough to have a teacher who has your child’s “back,” you are blessed.  Your child will feel protected.  Together, you, as a parent, and your child’s teacher, will act as a team with your child’s best interests at heart so he can thrive.

Be sure to tell your teacher that you appreciate him/her, not just this week, but other times as well.  They are not only influential, but spend almost as much time with your child as you do.








Sunday, April 29, 2018

Are Your LGBT Kids Mentally Healthy?


                      What Parents Can Do To Ensure They Are


May is Mental Health Awareness Month.  Do you realize that research shows that LGBT individuals are three times more likely to experience a mental health condition?  No wonder as they face health disparities linked to societal stigma, discrimination and the denial of their civil and human rights.  Discrimination against LGBT persons has been associated with high rates of psychiatric disorders, substance abuse and suicide.

However, before you throw your hands up in the air and accept that you can not do anything to buffer your children, consider these options, all intended to support your children:

Research from The Family Project at San Francisco State demonstrates that a family’s acceptance of their LGBT’s children’s sexual orientation has much to do with their children’s mental health and personal safety.  It protects against Suicide, Depression, and Substance Abuse and predicts better health and self-esteem.

For family acceptance:

You can order helpful family education booklets such as “Helping Families to Support Their LGBT Children” by Caitlin Ryan, Ph.D., ACSW from the Family Project. https://familyproject.sfsu.edu/, a research, intervention, education, and policy initiative that works to prevent health risks for LGBT children and youth.

Some parents have difficulty accepting their LGBT children’s sexual orientation due to lack of education, religious dictates, and society’s stigma.  Suggestions from other parents, LGBT adults, and a psychiatrist who happens to be gay can help you attain unconditional acceptance of their LGBT child.  The book When Your Child is Gay: What You Need To Know (Sterling, 2016) can help a parent resolve issues so they can love their LGBT child without reservation.

In terms of health, it is reported that more than one in five LGBT individuals report withholding information about their sexual practices from the doctor or another health care professional.   Over thirty percent of transgender individuals stated that they postponed or avoided medical care when they were sick or injured.  Approximately eight percent of LGB individuals and nearly twenty-seven percent of transgender individuals report being denied health care outright.

For health care:

Consult GLBT-friendly doctors:  http://www.glma.org/index
There is a fairly new app for this search: http://www.newnownext.com/qspaces-app-lgbt-doctors/03/2017/

As LGBT youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide, experience suicidal thoughts, and engage in self-harm, especially if they keep their sexuality hidden, there is an LGBT suicide Hotline: http://www.thetrevorproject.org/1-866-488-7386.  Far worse,  the suicide ideation of transsexuals is estimated at thirty-eight to as high as 65 percent.  The Trans Lifeline:  https://www.translifeline.org./1-877-565-8860.

These are just some of the things as a parent you can reference so your child is not at risk for mental and physical health problems.  You can provide your child with the comfort and stability that are crucial in leading to a positive outcome.  Let your home be a safe haven against bullying and stigma.  Send a message to your LGBT child that you are unequivocally on his side.  The statistics of mental health problems for the LGBT population is already staggering.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

But We Only Did It Once"



I remember seeing this striking headline for a Planned Parenthood ad at New York’s One Club for Art & Copy in 1979.  The print advertisement won a Gold Award.

Fast forward to 2018.  Kids are having sex younger and some self-identify as LGBT before they even get to high school. Yet their sexual practices seem just as uninformed and perhaps tinged with feelings of immortality as in 1979.

All it takes is one time for youth to acquire an infection, STD or HIV.  Despite that reality, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released staggering statistics proving that more has to be done to educate youth.  Witness:

More than 1 in 5 new HIV infections are young people between 13 and 24 years old.
Youth with HIV are least likely to be linked to care of any group.
Only 10% of high school students have been tested for H.I.V.
Nearly half (43%) of all sexually active high school students didn’t use a condom the last time.

It’s not just high school.  The Human Rights Campaign just released a new comprehensive guide for college administrators, staff, and students for better student health and wellbeing. This guide coincides with National Youth HIV and AIDS Awareness Day (NYHAAD), April 10, whose mission is to increase sensitivity about HIV/AIDS and encourage young people to adopt safer sex and lifestyle practices that include getting tested.

College youth need this important information as well because:

80% of new diagnoses occur in people between the ages of 20 and 24.
51% of young people living with HIV do not know their status.
As a group, college-age youth engage in high-risk sexual behavior after using drugs and alcohol, impairing their judgment.

Some challenges for prevention of HIV & AIDS include:

Inadequate sex education.  School could be ensuring that health curricula or materials use language and terminology appropriate for LGBT population.  HIV, STD and pregnancy prevention information should be relevant to LGBT youth, not just heterosexual youth.
The GLSEN 2013 National School Climate Survey found that fewer than 5% of LGBT students had health classes that included positive representations of LGBT-related topics.  Among Millenials surveyed in 2015, only 12% said their sex classes covered same-sex relationships.
Nevertheless, according to the CDC, between 2000 and 2014, the percentage of schools in which students are required to receive instruction on HIV prevention decreased from 64 percent to 41 percent.

Despite the unavailability of LGBT-inclusive sex education, 85% of parents surveyed by the Human Rights Campaign supported discussion of sexual orientation as part of sex education in the high school and 78% of parents of middle schoolers wanted LGBT-inclusive sexual education.

Whether schools are legally barred from teaching more inclusive sex ed. or simply ignore the needs of their students, parents need to pick up the slack and educate their own kids.

Parents should instruct their children about safe sex, the facts about STDs, including HIV and AIDS, the dangers of risky sex after too much alcohol and/or drugs.  Youth have the right to know where to facilitate access to community-based providers who have experience providing health services, including HIV/STD testing and counseling social and psychological services to LGBT youth.

As most youth get their sexual information from peers, mostly faulty, be sure to give your child, whether LGBT or cisgender, knowledge that he can use for his own wellbeing.

I


Saturday, March 31, 2018

Transgender Pain Is Visible on Trans Day of Visibility 2018


 
The career of Danica Roem, the first openly transgender woman to win election to Viriginia’s House of Delegates or the glamorous lives of Laverne Cox or Caitlyn Jenner are not typical of most transgenders.  They may be highly visible, but most transsexuals keep lower profiles. Why?
They are discriminated against by society and families and not understood by doctors who are untrained to deal with their unique issues. In this past year alone:
·      Twenty-five transgender people have been violently killed in 2017, more than during any other recorded year in the past decade. The Human Rights Commission said 84% of victims were people of color and 80% identified as female. This year, there were two deaths within forty-eight hours in New Orleans.
·      Suicide attempts are alarmingly common among transgender individuals.  According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and The Williams Institute which analyzed results from The National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 2016, forty-one percent try to kill themselves at some point in their lives, compared with 4.6% of the general public.

I once interviewed J.R. Vilari, born Jennifer Rebecca in Staten Island, New York, who told me that finding out about the concept of transgender saved his life.  He always felt mismatched with his body. He confessed that if he hadn’t known about how people like himself can actually transition from female to male, he would have probably committed suicide. Not so uncommon!

Jennifer Finney Boylan, author of She’s Not There: A Life In Two Genders ( 2013) writes in that memoir about how on Cape Breton Island, at the far northern edge, she climbed up a mountain.  It was there that she contemplated suicide in the ocean below.  But a fierce gale blowing into her body kept her from falling, blowing her backwards onto moss. 
Last month, transgenders who want to serve in the military were dealt a blow by President Trump’s ban.  Only those transgenders who are currently in the military and therefore “grandfathered” can serve.  It reminds one of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Gavin Grimm, like other students, was crestfallen when Betsy DeVos, Education Secretary, confirmed that the Education Department is no longer investigating civil rights complaints from transgender students barred from school bathrooms that match their gender identity.  DeVos said states and individual school districts should be able to determine how to accommodate transgender students.  Title IX didn’t obligate schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice, only prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.
This can be regarded as stigmatization that can result in anxiety and depression for the transgender whose sexual identity is not aligned with his birth.  Acceptance and kindness, especially by parents, can prevent the high stress levels that transsexuals have.  Make it visible every day.