Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Your Child Should Come Out To His Doctor

You want the best for your LGBT child, not only for his mental health, but also for his physical health as well. Your family physician is usually the prime care provider for LGBT youth from the ages of 15 to 24.

Lesbian Health Issues

Aside from family acceptance being a protective factor against depression, substance abuse and suicidal ideation and attempts, these physical issues are more prevalent for lesbians and should be discussed with their healthcare provider.

  • Breast Cancer.  Lesbians are more likely to have risk factors for breast cancer yet less likely to get screening exams.
  • Greater depression and anxiety that take their toll on their bodies and result from the chronic stress from discrimination.
  • Gynecological Cancer.  Compared to heterosexuals, lesbians have higher risks for certain types of gynecological cancers such as ovarian cancer.  They need to be screened for STDs. They can get the same sexually transmitted drugs as heterosexual women. Your daughter needs regular pelvic exams, including pap tests, and the HPVvaccine for women up to age 26.
  • Obesity or Overweight.  Lesbians are more apt to be overweight or obese leading to Diabetes and heart disease.  Generally, they have a higher BMI (Body Mass Index).  
  • Tobacco Use.  More often than heterosexuals, lesbians smoke more often and may drink more.
  • Drug Usage.  Lesbians may use drugs more often than heterosexual women.  They need to be taught how to find healthy ways to cope.
                     source: https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/.../lesbian-health-concerns-htm

Gay Health Issues 

  • If you child is gay, have him tell his doctor if he is being sexual and if he has been exposed to an HIV positive person.
  • Hepatitis Immunization and Screening.  Gays are at increased risk of sexually transmitted infection with the viruses that cause the serious condition of the liver, hepatitis.  There are immunizations for Hepatitis A and B Virus.  Safe sex can be effective at reducing the risk of viral hepatitis and is currently the only means of prevention for Hepatitis C.
  • HPV is a virus that causes genital warts and can lead to anal cancer. Some health professionals now recommend routine screening with anal Pap smears.
  • STDs are tricky.  You can have one without symptoms but still give it to others.  Sexually transmitted diseases occur in sexually active gay men at a high rate.
  • Eating Disorders: "Do I Look Fat?" Body image can be more common among gay men.  They are more likely to have eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia nervosa. Obesity can affect many gay men and lead to heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
  • Substance Abuse. Gay men use substances at a higher rate than the general population. Club drugs such as Ecstasy, amphetamines, marijuana, and amyl nitrate ("poppers") are common among gay users.
  • Greater depression and anxiety found in gay men, particularly if they are in the closet and do not have adequate social support, so the conditions worsen.
  • Tobacco Usage.  Several studies show that gay men use tobacco at higher rates, by as much as 50%.
                     source: https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/.../gay-health-concerns-htm

GLMA for GLBT Health Care Professionals

Few physicians are trained to address the sexual orientation of their LGBT patients. Added to this complication is the fact that LGBT kids may be shy about disclosing their sexual orientation for fear of disapproval or embarrassment.

If your child is reluctant to disclose his/her sexual orientation, perhaps you should find a physician from GLMA, Gay Lesbian Medical Association, an organization of more than 1,000 GLBT health care professionals. Your child should be able to tell the health care provider that she is LGBT.  After this contact, the clinician should ask the patient specific questions and offer appropriate testing.                    

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Give Me A "B!" "B!" What Does It Spell? Bisexual!

The only person who seemed to understand bisexuality was Sigmund Freud.  He theorized that we were all born bisexual and that our sexual orientation was a continuum. Freud believed that later we became either straight or gay because of the relationships around us.

Bis Often Left Out of LGBT Considerations

Yet, despite Freud's theories, both straights and gays criticize bisexuals rather than being allies of them.  To them, it's not a real sexual term.  Straights consider them gay.  Gays want bis to make a choice, as if they are indecisive about their orientation.  Heterosexuals think they are promiscuous as they must be having more sex with both males and females. Bisexuals can't win.

The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law estimates, based on its research, that bisexuals comprise roughly half of the total LGBT population or approximately 4 million Americans.  This statistic is slightly more than than the number identifying as gay or lesbian. However, bis are often left out of speeches, news releases, and news reports that allude to LGTs, according to Ellyn Ruthstrom, the former President of Bisexual Resource Center in Boston who says there are few bi political leaders except for Representative Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and now Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown, age 54.

With Democratic Governor John Kithaber having stepped down due to an ethics scandal involving his fiancee, Brown became the first openly bisexual governor on February 18.  Oregon is no stranger to gay candidates.  Tina Kotez, House Speaker, is gay as is Mayor Sam Brown. Married to Dan Little, Brown spent six years as Oregon Secretary of State and another eighteen as Senate Majority Leader in the State Legislature.

Pinning Hopes For BI Community

With Brown in office, the bisexual community is hoping to be included in many civil rights' campaigns that LGT communities have promoted.  Some of Brown's work during her eighteen years in Oregon's State Legislature was aimed at boosting LGBT rights.

Of course, some day when minority groups have equal rights, one hopes that a politician's sexual orientation shouldn't be mentioned nor should it matter.  But for right now, it does.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Keeping Up With A Kardashian Ex

As a rule, I do not keep with the Kardashians.  I find them self-serving.  However, I have been noticing over the past year that Kris Kardashian Jenner's ex-husband Bruce Jenner has been transitioning on the reality series. Sixty-five year-old Jenner is now wearing diamond stud earrings and has his long hair in a ponytail. He looks different.

The Gold Medal winner in the decathlon of the 1996 Montreal Summer Olympics and the former Wheaties spokesman, Bruce will soon have, thanks to E! and GLAAD,  his own Reality Series documenting his transformation. Kris Jenner, his third wife, didn't respond very positively upon first being told (on camera) about her former husband's gender transformation. (Bruce has had two other wives and has children with his second wife Linda Thompson.)

Supporters of Jenner

Kim Kardashian, the star of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, says she supports her step-father's "journey." More importantly, so does Bruce's mother, Esther Jenner, who told the Associated Press "I never thought I could be more proud of Bruce when he reached his Olympic goal in 1976, but I'm more proud of him now. It takes a lot of courage to do what he's doing. I'm at peace with what he's doing." (http://www.zergnet.com/news/394741/bruce-jenners-mother-opens-up-about-his-sex-change).

Like most straight parents of LGBT children, Esther found the news came as a "shock.  It's hard to wrap your head around it." Bruce wanted his mother to know about his identity and realized that she might find out first through the press.

He told her, perhaps to soften the blow (?) as many LGBT kids feel they are disappointing their parents, "Mom, I'm still the same person.  I'm still going to race cars, I'm still going to fly airplanes, and I'm going to get my helicopter's license."

A Straight Mother's Unconditional Love

Bruce is fortunate that his mother is so loving.  She will cushion the blow that the President of the International Transgender Certification Association, gender therapist Carol Clark, feels is inevitable. "Someone like Bruce Jenner is going to have a lot thrown at him.  Some people will support him, but even some people in the transgender community may criticize him.  "Whether he likes it or not, he is going to be the face of this issue, and there will be a lot of drama around it."

As it has been proven with studies of gay children who are not accepted by their parents, LGBT children are at higher risk for substance abuse, depression, even suicide. His mother's acceptance will give him strength to stand up to his critics.  


Saturday, February 7, 2015

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Try to be the Fairest of Them All

We are well into the school year. This means that along with the 3 R’s, parents and school officials are seeing bullies. In fact, According to 2011 data from The Institute of Education Sciences (http://mces/ed/gpv/fastfacts/display.asp?id=719, nearly one-third of middle and high school students report being bullied and cyberbullied.

“It’s Him, Not Me!”

Nobody thinks that their child is a bully. It’s always someone else’s child who is calling other kids hurtful names.

Like Parent, Like Child

Hate and behavior begin at home.  While it may seem incongruous that a lesbian or gay child would bully others, sometimes they do, particularly if they are in the closet, and want to thwart a bully from targeting them. For whatever reason, you don’t want your child to be a bully or be bullied for that matter.

Here are some ways you can lessen the likelihood of your child being a bully:
Be a Good Example

Make sure your own actions are friendly, compassionate and courteous.  If you do slip up, be sure to admit your mistake and point out to your kids how you could have reacted differently.
Mirror the behavior you seek.  Don’t act like a bully yourself.  Do you yell a lot or use verbal threats?  Do you try to manipulate your child with physical violence?  Avoid nagging, threats, and bribery.  Those anti-social behaviors have no boundaries and will follow your child to school and other haunts.
Does your child act like a  2 year-old?  Me, me, me!  Does he/she throw a fit? Threaten? Is uncooperative and mean to siblings?  Is he controlling?  Do you throw “hissy fits?”
Criticize his behavior, not him. Don’t be afraid to discipline. Children need to know that if they violate the rules, there will be consequences. It’s important to squelch bullying behaviors the moment they appear instead of writing them off as a “stage” or “normal part of childhood.”
How do you react to your friends?  Do you hold “grudges,” try to seek revenge when you feel you’ve been wronged? Do you curse at other drivers? Slam the phone down on advertising sales people? Are you curt to waiters?

Talk to Your Child About the Effects of Bullying

How does your child talk about others? Does he/she call them “lame,” “gay?” Does he/she make fun of them or gossip?  Does he hang out with a group you don’t believe are nice and respectful of others? Explain how labels hurt feelings!  Encourage empathy for people who are “different.”
What do bullying behaviors look like? These behaviors will not be tolerated in the family!
Make sure your kids know that bullying is hurtful.
Have the Talk About Cyberbullying
Talk to your child about not becoming a cyberbully herself.  Let her know that comments and posts, even offhand ones, can make people feel bad.
Emphasize to your child that she will become part of the bullying if she passes on hurtful comments or laughs at or talks about the victim.
If your child is a bully, you can help teach them other ways to feel powerful.  Give plenty of opportunities to be competent and valued and send a clear, consistent message that picking on people in any way is absolutely not right.  Let the child tell you what should be the consequences if people are hurt and listen enough to hear whatever need in their life they are filling with being a bully.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Fashion Then And Now...

Despite the fact that I grew up in a house with Vogue and Women’s Wear Daily, I looked like a “Glamour Don’t.” “You always have the wrong shoes,” said my oldest sister.  But because of my mother, who was creative with a needle and thread, but was otherwise staid, I followed fashion, and still do.

So, it was with interest that I looked at the pictures from the Paris fashion shows last week in The New York Times, January 29, 2015,  and was intrigued by the headline “Fluidity in the Idea of Gender.” Rick Owens had models with tunics that could have been for either sex, but just in case, you were wondering, he stuck a keyhole next to the model’s privates.

Recently, Miucci Prada recently showed clothes neither feminine or masculine on both men and women. Co-designer for Valentino, Pierpaolo Piccioli, stated that “if you can change aesthetic values, you can change the values of society.”

It’s Tough To Be Pigeonhold

The idea that sexuality is fluid, of course, dates back to Alfred Kinsey who says sexual orientation is a continuum and even further to Freud who says we’re all born bisexual.  More recently, Ritch C. Savin-Williams, Professor of Clinical and Developmental Psychology at Cornell University and author of The New Gay Teenager, 2005, says that most of the teens he interviews don’t like being labelled. “These new teens know they’re not totally straight, and they don’t want to be. Most are okay with it.  Some are thrilled with their sexuality, but don’t see why they must therefore label themselves as gay.  Yes, they are sexually attracted to other girls or other boys, perhaps ever so slightly. Maybe their feelings are romantic, but not sexual, or sexual, but not romantic.  That’s not bad. It’s natural. It gives them an edge, a certain mystery.  It sets them off from their peers-and from us adults.”

Last summer, I went to a 70’s party which included 70’s disco and 70’s food.  For an evening, I dressed as Diane Keaton in Annie Hall, complete with wire-rimmed glasses, pantaloons, tie, vest, man’s shirt, and fedora with pilgrim- type shoes. No make up was visible. “ La-di-da,” as Diane would say. Following Rick Owens’s aesthetics,  I didn’t look feminine or masculine.  My sexual orientation could have been questionable to strangers. But sometimes, it’s fun to look “fluid,” as the designers know.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Tips For Making Your LGBT Child's Life Easier

Family Acceptance Is Key

According to multiple studies, family acceptance can make all the difference to GLBT children. If rejected by families during adolescence, these youth were 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide, 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression, and 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs and have unprotected sex. LGBT teens who are kicked out of their homes account for nearly 40% of the homeless population.

Family acceptance provides a buffer for kids and helps them resist pressures leading to unprotected sex, substance abuse, and suicide.  LGBT people, as you would imagine, whose parents support them show much higher rates of self-esteem and greater well-being.

Helpful Tips for Straight Parents

The Family Acceptance Project (FAP) at San Francisco State University http://www/family project.sfsu.edu, a research, intervention, education and policy initiative that studies the impact of family acceptance and rejection on the health, mental health, and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth, has identified more than 100 ways that parents and caregivers respond to their child’s LGBT identity. Each of those family reactions links to their LGBT adolescent’s health and mental health in adulthood.

Some Positive Family Behaviors: Guidelines

From “Supportive Families, Healthy Children,” by Caitlin Ryan, Ph.D., Family Acceptance Project, San Francisco State University:

Talk with your child or foster child about their LGBT identity.
Express affection when your child tells you or when you learn that your child is LGBT.
Support your child’s LGBT identity even though you may feel uncomfortable.
Advocate for your child when he or she is mistreated because of their LGBT identity.
Require that other family members respect your LGBT child.
Bring your child to an LGBT organization or event.
Connect your child with an LGBT adult role model to show them options for the future.
Work to make your faith community supportive of LGBT members or find a supportive faith community that welcomes your family and LGBT child.
Welcome your child’s LGBT friends and partner to your home and to family events and activities.
Support your child’s gender expression.
Believe your child can have a happy future as an LGBT adult.
If your child is being harassed at school (LGBT kids often are), document the aggression with names, incidents, and dates. Report it first to the teacher and then the principal.  If you don’t get satisfaction, then notify the Superintendent of Schools.
Order a Safe Space Kit from GLSEN, The Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GlSEN), http://glsen.org. for your school and participate in such national events such as “No Name Calling Week.” Start a Gay-Straight Alliance at the school for greater understanding between the school’s straight population and gay community.

Monday, January 26, 2015

How Do You Know If Your Child Is Gay?

I’m often asked “how do you know if your child is gay?”  After all, there is no litmus test for sexuality.  Adolescence is a time of exploration and trying on different identities, much like adapting clothes to a new persona. So, what’s the answer?

If one believes Freud is right and we’re all born bisexual and sexual orientation is a continuum on the Alfred Kinsey scale, then when do you know what your sexual orientation is?

Caution: Unreliable Internet Tests to Solve the Riddle

Pretending to be gay, I turned to internet quizzes for questioning teens and was appalled at the inane insane questions penned by non-respected writers without credibility in the mental health field.  For example, http://www.all the tests.com/quiz 31/quiz/1407277397/ Am-I-Gay-Test was completed 71,700 times and asked me to give one of three answers for the question “what kind of porn do you watch? or “your mom asks you to go shopping and you say?” or the best one, “when you’re at the bar, you order?” All the questions smacked of stereotypes, not unlike the portrayal of gay characters on television sitcoms.

Or how about http://www.gay-test.com/gay asp.? Maybe it was meant to be amusing because it was laughable.  This multiple choice test asked “Who won Season 1 of Project Runway?”  “How much do you spend on haircuts?” “ Which of the following designers does not produce men’s shoes?” There are gays who don’t “live and breathe” fashion.

As parents or teens looking for answers to the riddle “Is My Child Gay?”, even articles on Huffington Post, particularly, http://www.huffingtonpostcom/2014/02/20/am-i-gay-website_n_can be skeptical.  On that day, it mentioned a website, Gay Check online, that scans the face of the user through their computer’s webcam and delivers a resounding verdict about their sexuality. Really? Reliable?

The Best Online Advice

You want to find accredited mental health professionals such as Richard H. Reams, Ph.D. to lead you closer to a conclusion. Reams authored  Am I Gay? a guide for People who Question Their Sexual Orientation by Richard H. Reams, Ph.D.  online. This psychologist has a lengthy multi-faceted discussion with such breakdowns as explanations of sexual orientation and sexual orientation identity; addressing 7 myths about sexual orientation; helping gather and examining evidence about your sexual orientation; exploration of 4 obstacles to sexual orientation identity development; a recommendation of the next step depending on the outcome of your examination of evidence; and finally, identifying resources for the LGB population.  The guide was similar to an outline for a scientific experiment.

Ellen Friedrich. MA, is a health educator with extensive experience working with GLBT teens on sexuality and relationship issues.  Her website is enormously popular and is written in layman terms and covers many aspects of being gay, including how to tell if you are. It’s definitely worth a look: Ellen Friedrichs-LGBT Teens-About.com

Time Will Tell, If It Hasn’t Already

With no test for homosexuality yet, the most reliable method may be for a child to look at his  history, his feelings and make an educated guess. He should take into account his thoughts, emotions, and behavior.  Time will tell as his or her orientation solidifies.

How Can A Parent Tell?

Most parents know their kid or think they do.  They may have had suspicions that their children are gay.  However, not always so as the child may have kept their sexuality orientation under wraps for fear of disappointing the parents.  When a child tells you he/she is gay, chances are he has known for awhile so don’t doubt his judgment.

If a child comes out or tells you he’s questioning his orientation, you might ask him how long he has known he’s gay and why he thinks he’s gay. If he’s basing his decision on same-sex attraction common to heterosexuals as well or taking non-reliable tests online, you might explore those perceptions. In any case, take his coming out seriously and not as an adolescent behavior that will change tomorrow. Then the dialogue has a better chance of continuing.