Saturday, May 21, 2016

May Is Mental Health Awareness Month, But Not Every State Honors It

Tennessee and Mississippi Have Discriminatory Laws

Last month, Republican Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee signed into law House Bill 1840 that legalizes discrimination against LGBT people.  The law allows counselors to cite religious beliefs for refusing services to LGBT patients. Originally, the terminology of the bill allowed for “sincerely held beliefs,” but the state House then broadened phrasing to “sincerely held principles.”

Religious Freedom Bill

Tennessee is the only state to allow counselors, because of their “ sincerely held principles,” to turn away potential LGBT clients. Denounced by the American Counseling Association as a “hate bill” against gay and transgender people.

According to the ACA, it violates the group’s code of ethics that delineates that mental health professional can refuse to serve patients in the name of
‘Christian love’ because it compromises the therapists’ “goals, outcomes or behaviors.”

While the bill does not give a mental health professional the right to turn away any patient who is experiencing an emergency nor an excuse from an obligation to refer a patient to another professional, what it does do is discriminate against a marginalized group who already may experience prejudice and is in need of help.
A group who is constantly fighting for their rights that heterosexuals take for granted and witnesses harassment is going to be more in need of psychotherapy than the general population.

Mississippi House Bill 1523

Similarly, Governor Phil Bryant (R) rationalized his Bill, also passed last month, in the name of  “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination.”  House Bill 1523 legislates discrimination by allowing private and public business to refuse business to same-sex couples because of “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

It allows florists, wedding photographers, bakeries, and other wedding-affiliated services, for example, to deny business to gay couples with nuptials although the Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriage throughout the United States.

Despite the progress in civil rights for LGBT people, there continues to be a conservative backlash in this country.  It doesn’t make for equality or good mental health.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

May Is Mental Health Awareness Month

Are YOUR LGBT Kids Mentally Healthy?
Does your child attend class regularly or does he cut class once a month, as GLSEN (Gay Straight Lesbian Education Network) studies show, because he feels unsafe at school? 
Is she bullied in school, and cyberbullied 24/7?  A new study published last January in the American Journal of Public Health found that it “doesn’t always get better.”'t-always-get-better/ Assistant Professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg Medical School, Brian Mustanski, author of the study, found that the majority of the 248 youths in the study (84.6%) experienced decreasing levels of victimization over the four years .  However, 10.3 percent experienced significant increase in bullying, and 5.1% maintained high levels of victimization (bullying, harassment and assault) over the four years.
Despite President Obama’s edict on May 12 that ALL schools have ‘gender-neutral’ bathrooms, is your trans child prevented from using the bathroom of choice (the one he identifies with) rather than the one that matches his birth certificate? 
These are just a few of the challenges that your LGBT children face daily.  LGBT youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide, with the greatest number being transsexuals.
What’s A Parent to DO?
With odds like these, a parent needs to know what’s going on in his/her child’s life? Is the school treating your child with respect?  If not, know your rights so you can advocate for your son or daughter. Consult GLSEN or American Civil Liberties Union
Make sure your child is in touch with community-based LGBT support groups or organizations on-line so he can associate with like-minded individuals?
And if you, as a parent, feel overwhelmed trying to find solutions for your child’s happiness, you can get advice from PFLAG
or The Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State, a research, intervention, education and policy initiative that works to prevent health and mental health risks for LGBT kids.
Both have PDFs you can download.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Mother's Role in Supporting Gay Youth Is Vital!

Tomorrow is Mother's Day.  With all the joys and frustrations of motherhood, don't you sometimes feel as if we mothers should receive a Congressional Medal of Honor?  But I'll compromise with flowers, a card, and a good breakfast.

While unconditional love from both parents is important for a gay child to thrive, it was my experience interviewing straight parents of gay youth for my book When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know (Sterling, June 2016; ISBN: 13-978-14549-1936-0) that most gay sons came out to their mothers first within the family and told them to keep the secret from the rest of the family until told to do so otherwise.  As my co-author Jonathan Tobkes, M.D., explains: " I have found that in my cases, the same-sex parent has a harder time accepting and internalizing the concept, and is, therefore, more likely to turn to denial (for example) when faced with the notion of having a gay child."

Family Acceptance

The Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State that researches the effects of parental rejection of LGBT youth.  Its findings, spearheaded by Caitlin Ryan, Ph.D., ACSW, points to the dire effects (and offers steps to remedy): low self-esteem, truancy, promiscuous behavior, drug abuse, depression, and sometimes suicide.

Parents can counter this potential negativity with hugs and supporting words such as 'I love you and will support you.  I'm glad you revealed such an important facet of yourself.'

Isn't this what we all want from our mothers and not just on Mother's Day?

Friday, April 29, 2016

What is STD Awareness Month?

STD Awareness Month is an annual observance in April. National Youth HIV/STD Awareness Day was April 10. (see blogpost April-10-is-National-Youth-HIV/STD-Awareness-Day/4/9/16. )
Each year, the U.S. has 19 million new sexually transmitted diseases.  It’s an ongoing public
health epidemic that costs the health care system 17 billion annually.
Talking To Your Kids About Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Many parents are embarrassed to talk about sex so they avoid the topic.  It’s o.k. to tell your kids that you are uncomfortable discussing sex.  Chances are they are embarrassed too.
Don’t think that just because you give them information or get them vaccinated for the human papillomavirus ( HPV), a group of more than 150 related viruses, that you are encouraging your child to be promiscuous.  Quite the contrary! Research shows that teens are less likely to have sex at an early age if they feel close to their parents.
Don’t Leave Sex Ed. To Others
·      No one can weave your morals, personal insight into a school sex-ed program.
·      Your child may hear about sex from friends and be given misguided information.
·      Without your input, the media could upset them with its hypersexuality, violence, etc.
Be Prepared:
·      Before you start, know the facts. You can get these from online sources as Mediline, Centers for Disease Control, American Sexual Health Association, testing centers, your health care provider, and The American Red Cross.
·      Know the answers to these questions: what is HIV, for example?  How is it spread, and how it can be prevented? The Centers for Disease Control recommends 3 steps: Talk, Test, and Treat.
·      Use specific and correct terms.
·      Answer questions as they come up with age-appropriate answers. (as your child grows older, add more details so that he/she is well informed by high school).
·      But if your teen doesn’t bring the subject up about HIV and other STDs, make a point of talking about them.
Ice Breakers To Get You Started:
·      Watch for ways to start a conversation:
·      TV programs, news articles, radio reports.  Comment on these together.
·      Ask if your child understands what they are talking about.  Does he/she know what HIV is, for example?
·      Ask if the school has talked about HIV and other STDS.  Clear up any misinformation.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

What is #40toNoneDay?

Today is #40toNoneDay.  It serves to raise public awareness about LGBT youth homelessness.  LGBT persons face discrimination, social stigma, and often rejection by their families.  These consequences of society’s non-acceptance can result in 7.4% more acts of sexual violence to them than their heterosexual peers and LGBT youth are more likely to attempt suicide (62%) than their heterosexual homeless peers.
                         Source: FactSheet by NAEH pdf.
Numbers are Proportionally High
Did you know that:
·      In the U.S., each year, up to 1.6 million youth experience homelessness.
·      According to the Williams Institute, a think tank at the UCLA Law School, dedicated to research on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy, 40% of the homeless youth identify as LGBT.
·      Yet the LGBT youth represent an estimated 7% of the total youth population!
·      In terms of healthcare, LGBT youth tend to be underserved due to shortage of clinics and facilities that cater to their unique health needs and because some healthcare providers refuse to treat minors without parental consent.
·      Identity-based family rejection is the most commonly cited reason for LGBT youth homelessness. More than one in four are thrown out of their homes.
What Can Be Done?
Housing and identity-related supports are the two greatest needs for LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness, according to TRUE COLORS FUND. Co-founded by Cyndi Lauper, TCF works to end homelessness by community organizing, public policy, research, and youth collaboration programs.
For #40toNoneDay, GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation that reports media transphobia) and other LGBT advocates are uniting with to sharply reduce the high percentage of LGBTQ homeless youth from 40% to none.
It’s Free For Everyone!
The 40 to None Network has a free online community connecting service providers, educators, researchers, government officials, funders, advocates, young people, and others around the issue. The Network has online discussion groups, member directory, true inclusion directory, conference and workshop directory.
Check It Out today and show your support every day, not just on 4/27!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

10 Things Straight Parents Should Know

When Your Child Is Coming Out:

Remain calm and focused on what he/she reveals.
Give a hug and say “I love you.”
Tell your child how proud you are that she divulged such an important facet of herself.
You might ask how long he has known and why he feels he is gay, bi, trans.

After Coming Out:

Find out whom you should tell, if at all.  You need permission.  It’s your child’s story.
Check in with your child periodically to make sure all is well at school. Is there evidence of bullying/cyberbullying: avoidance of school, physical fights?
If your child appears to be depressed (more than just teenage moodiness), you might consider a LGBT-friendly therapist.  You can find one at Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists (

Have you discussed safe sex with your LGBT child?  Is he comfortable telling his physician that he’s gay? Can the doctor refer him to a STD-testing center of administer STD tests in his office?

How to Save FACE After Bad Reaction To Coming Out

Apologize and you might say “you know you really took me by surprise.  I need time to digest the news.”
Whatever you do, don’t kick your child out of the house.  Nearly 40% of homeless teens on the street have been kicked out of their house for being LGBT.  It’s very difficult to get back in your “good graces” after expulsion from their home.

 You can find more helpful hints from straight parents, LGBT adults, as well as a psychiatrist in When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need to Know (June, 2016, Sterling: ISBN: 978-1-4549-1936-0).

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Hush! April 15th is GLSEN's Day of Silence

Tomorrow is an important day to show your support for LGBT persons.  It’s called The Day of Silence (DOS).  Sponsored by GLSEN (Gay Lesbian Straight Educational Network), The Day of Silence is a national youth movement whereby students typically take a vow of silence as a symbol of the silencing effect of anti-LGBT language and bullying.
This silence is caused by anti-LGBT bullying, name-calling and harassment.  Ending the silence is the first step toward building awareness and making a commitment to stop the bullying and other injustices of LGBT persons.
GLSEN whose mission is to promote school safety has been holding a Day of Silence in schools annually since 1996. It is estimated that the “Silence is Ours,” event will be one of the largest student-led actions in the country, with more than 8,000 middle and high schools, colleges, and universities in every state and seventy world-wide countries expected to participate.
There is a Definite Need for Silence. Know the Facts: 
Harris Poll, between February 17-22, 2016 found that the 2,219 U.S. adults surveyed, 52% reported that they were bullied at school compared to 43% of their heterosexual peers.
·      Did you know that LGBT kids miss as much as one day per month of school due to feeling unsafe? More than half reported avoiding school functions, and extracurricular activities. 
·      Four out of 5 students are bullied in school.
·      61.6% of students who did report an incident in their school said that the school staff did nothing in response.
What is Your School Doing on April 15th? For more ideas, see