Monday, February 8, 2016

Self-Identified Clothing Comes Out Of The Closet



Now, gender-queer persons have better chances to express how they feel inside with what they can now wear on the outside.  Fashion is starting to realize that humans come in all sizes and shapes and don’t need to be shoehorned into binary clothes (dresses for women, menswear for men), the traditional categories for shopping in retail stores.

Will and Jaden Smith’s son, Jaden Smith likes wearing dresses as they “flow.” In Louis Vuitton’s Women’s Wear Campaign, you can see him shirtless wearing a kilt. Just seventeen, he is stunning with his blue nail polish and red flower behind his ear in another shot. Jaden is challenging gender and seems to be neither female or male, but nevertheless comfortable in his skin.

February is Fashion Month in Manhattan and you’re sure to see a lot of the androgynous 6’1” model, ex-farm girl Rain Dove, in menswear fashions, but more fluid than Annie Hall in the 70’s.  In the latest Marc Jacobs Campaign, Milk, a relative of Harvey Milk, and his boyfriend James Whiteside kiss.

Fashion is just beginning to reflect the changes in our society.  Butchbaby & Company is creating maternity wear for genderqueer parents. The Verge fashion show by Gogo Graham at the Brooklyn Museum showcased last September  trans/femme models strutting clothing specifically for Trans women.

Perhaps, David Bowie was on to something with his evolution of gender-bending fashion before others came out of the closet.  

 


Sunday, January 31, 2016

It's Not "Sitting on the Fence" and Other Myths Busted


            In our gender binary society, bisexuals or simply “bis” are given a bum rap.  They are criticized for “sitting on the fence” and not choosing to either be a lesbian or a heterosexual.  Lesbians don’t like them because they sleep with the enemy.  Some see them as sexually greedy because they have sex with both men and women.

            Truth is there are persons who identify as bisexual.  Even sex researcher Alfred Kinsey in the  1940’s and 1950’s included them in his rating scale of 0 to 6, the highest number being homosexual. Before then, Sigmund Freud believed in a constitutional bisexuality. 

More recently, however, a new study was done by The Centers for Disease Control which showed the changing way Americans viewed their sexual identities. The study used the 2011-2013 National Survey of Family Growth and sought to provide estimates about sexual behavior, sexual attraction and sexual orientation in the United States.  The CDC selected data from 9,175 adults, ages 18 and 44 years old, of various demographics who participated in computer-assisted interviews.

            Their findings? 
           
·      Women aged 25-44 were more likely to say they were straight and less likely to say they were bisexual compared with women aged 18-24.
·      Same pattern did not exist for men .
·      Almost three times as many women (17.4%) reported any same-sex contact in their lifetime compared with men (6.2%) aged 18-44.
·      5.5% of women and 2% of men identified as bisexual between 2011 and 2013. This shows a marked increase over the 3.9% women and 1.2% of men indicated in the CDC’s 2006-2010. http://www.refinery29.com/2016/01/100729/bisexual-women-survey

Says Ritch Savin-Williams, a developmental psychology professor at Cornell University, and author about sexual orientation, “women now have greater permission to say they have some sexual attraction to other women.”

            What this means for straight parents is there is such a sexual orientation as bisexuality and you shouldn’t challenge your child if your child tells you he/she is bisexual.  While it is normal for even heterosexuals to sexually experiment with the same-sex, and your son or daughter may decide later that they are heterosexual or gay at different stages in their lives ( gender-fluid), don’t second-guess them.

It’s best to refrain from saying:

·      “You just haven’t met the right boy yet!”
·      “I wish you’d choose a guy!”  Why would you want to be a lesbian?”
·      “No more sleepovers for you!”

Stay tuned, informed, and most of all, love your child unconditionally, and take your cues from them!





Sunday, January 10, 2016

New Year's Long-Lasting Resolutions




The Weight Watchers sign-up line is out the door on January 2nd.  Gym memberships escalate after January 1st.  However, the common resolutions of losing weight and commitment to exercise usually peter out by February.
However, dedication as a parent to your child should be forever.  Here is a checklist of resolutions that straight parents can get started on in 2016:
Physical Health of Your LGBT Child:
·      Make sure your child has a gay-friendly doctor who sees adolescents.
·      Have you talked to your child about safe sex? More than once?
·      If you know your child is sexually active, make sure he is tested
for HIV and STDs at your local community center .

                        Mental Health:
·      Does your child seem happy? Or does he/she isolate him/herself ? You want to give him privacy, but he shouldn’t be shutting out the family.
·      If your child is depressed, look for a therapist who has a positive view of same-sex attractions and doesn’t espouse conversion or fix-it therapy.
            You can find one at http://www.aglp.org                                                 
                                     Does your child have friends? See if his school has a GSA ( Gay-Straight Alliannce). Encourage him to communicate with other gay youth groups on-line  such as http://www.outproud.org
                                    If the school is teaching abstinence-only sex education meant for heterosexuals only, have him get information from a testing center.
                                    Find out if your child is being bullied at school.  Most LGBT students are.  Talk to his teacher, principal, guidance counselor.  If you’re not satisfied with their comments, you may have to complain to a higher authority such as the Superintendent of Schools.  Know your rights. Check the American Civil Liberties Union:  http://www.aclu.org
                        For Straight Parents:
·      Listen to Your Child. Be a shoulder to lean on.  What he’s telling you may be painful to hear, but he’s living the drama.
·      A hug is always welcome.  Whatever you can do to show unconditional love and acceptance is always appreciated.
·      Show as much interest in your gay child’s social life as you would his heterosexual sibling.  You don’t want to give mixed messages.
If you’re finding the acceptance of his/her sexual orientation overwhelming, get help through PFLAG (Parents of Lesbians and Gays), a gay-friendly therapist of your own and communication with other straight parents “who’ve been there” raising LGBT children.
                        Some of these resolutions may seem challenging, but practiced over time, will become easier.  Besides, parenting, like anything else important in your life, takes ongoing effort.
                         


Saturday, January 2, 2016

LGBT Terms Defined: The Gender Spectrum



It seems that society, or at least Hollywood, is becoming more sexually fluid and doesn’t like their orientation pigeonholed.  At the same time, there are more labels for the LGBT population than Starbuck’s has flavors of coffee. 
To demystify some of the words and acronyms, here’s a glossary of LGBT terms.
Asexual: A person who generally does not feel sexual attraction or desire to any group of people.
Ally: Usually a non-LGBT person who supports and stands up for the rights of LGBT people.
Binary Gender:  Society’s norm assigning gender to either male or female. Some people identify as non-binary and consider themselves neither men nor women.  It’s possible to be non-binary and identify outside of the male/female divisions, but still identify with a clear gender identity.
Biphobia:  A source of discrimination against bisexuals, and may be based on negative bisexual stereotypes or irrational fear. 
Bisexual or “bi”: A person who is attracted to both men and women.  It does not mean the person is confused and can’t decide whether he/she is attracted to a man or woman.
Cisgender:  Any person who’s physical body matches his gender identity.  In other words, an individual’s experience of their own gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth.
Cross Dressers: Previously known as transvestites, don’t associate with the LGBTQ community and don’t see themselves as anything but straight.  Think Robin Williams as a nanny in Mrs. Doubtfire or Dustin Hoffman as a female actress in “Tootsie.”  Steven Tyler of Aerosmith is another cross dresser.
Drag Queen: They are not usually labelled as crossdresser or transvesites.  People that dress in drag tend to be gay such as RUPAUL, the performance artist.
Gay:  Should a female who is attracted to women be called gay or lesbian?  Gay can be used for any sex (e.g. gay man, gay woman, gay person).
Gender expression: A term which refers to the ways in which we each manifest maculinity or femininity.  It is usually an extension of our “gender identity,” our innate, deeply felt psychological identity as male or female such as way we style our hair, our speech, behavior, movement.
Gender Identity:  The sense of being male, female, gender queer, agender, etc.  Gender identity, biological sex, and sexual orientation are separate and that you cannot assume how someone identifies in one category based on how they identify in another category. Many factors contribute to the formation of gender identity such as society, family, and factors that are in place before birth.
Gender queer:  a person who doesn’t feel as if he/she fits into a male or female label. It may also refer to people who identify as both transgendered AND queer.
Intersex: Persons who have some actual externally visible characteristics such as a combination of both male and female sexual organs.  It is more common than you think.  Statistics place intersexuality at 1.5-2% of the population.
Queer: An umbrella term sometimes used by LGBTQA people to refer to the entire LGBT community.  An alternative that some people use to “queer” the idea of the labels and categories such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, etc.  Similar to the concept of genderqueer.  Some people find the word “queer” offensive.
Questioning:  The process of exploring and discovering one’s own sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
Pansexual: A person who experiences sexual, romantic, physical, and/or spiritual attraction for members of all gender identities, not just standard gender binary.
Sex:  Not the same as gender.  Sex refers to biological differences that include a person’s chromosomes and physical body. Gender refers to the behavioral, cultural, and psychological traits typically associated with one sex. 
Sexual orientation: The type of sexual, romantic, and/or physical attraction someone feels toward others.  Often labeled based on the gender identity/expression of the person such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, etc.
Transgender:  An umbrella term referring to all people who do not identify with their assigned gender at birth or the binary gender system.  This includes transsexuals, crossdressers, genderqueer, drag kings, drag queens, two-spirit people (American native term) and others. It is not a sexual orientation. Many transgender people identify as heterosexual. 
Transphobia:  The hatred or fear of transgender people or gender non-conforming behavior.  Heterosexual people as well as lesbian, gay, and bisexual people can all exhibit transphobia.
Transsexual:  A person whose gender identity is different from their biological sex. He/she may undergo medical treatments to change their biological sex so they can align their sex with their gender identity or they may live their lives as another sex.
Whatever You See In Your Children, Accept
The gender spectrum is vast.  As a parent you may have a genderfluid child who has different gender identities at different times.or bigender. It’s possible for your child to feel as if he is two distinct genders at the same time.  Or she may identify as agender or free of gender. 
Whatever female or male identities your child presents, it can shift over time.  Stay tuned and accepting of your child’s gender identity.  The popular singer Adele said recently that she could see her baby boy, Angelo, now 3, having a boyfriend when he’s older. She is not only being realistic, but in her outlook, is light years ahead of the thinking of most parents.   







Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Holiday No-Nos for Straight Parents



Christmas is a wonderful family holiday.  A chance to regale about the past get-togethers, to guffaw about the near misses with the gravy.
Subject Verboten, For Now...
However, one topic that should be off limits in this group setting is your daughter’s or son’s sexual orientation.  Even if you are bursting to divulge the news or feel that if you don’t tell, you will look as if you are ashamed and are harboring a “dirty little” family secret, now is NOT the appropriate time to break the earth-shattering news.  Just like you, relatives have to go through a process of adjustment.  They also need space and support to digest this information.
Follow the Lead
In this case, your child should be the one who decides whom to tell when to tell them, and if he should be the only one to “come out.”  Or does he want you both to reveal his sexual identity?
Kevin Jennings, Ph.D., author of Always My Child (Simon and Schuster, 2003). suggests that you “respect where your child is in her/his process.”
You can surmise how your relatives are going to react by how close that family member is to your child and is he savvy about LGBTQ issues?  Is Aunt Susie open to diversity and what are her attitudes about homosexuality?  Hopefully, the relative’s unconditional love for your child will outweigh the initial jolt.
Make A List And Check It Twice
If you are told by your child to reveal his sexual orientation, consider this criteria that Jennings  uses for deciding whom to tell out of the close family members:
·      Evaluate your child’s relationship with so and so and your own.
·      How often does your daughter/son see her?
·      What is the nature of the relationship?
·      Would you feel disclosure not sharing something so important with your sister?

It’s important to pick a private place for this important discussion.  Choose a time to talk when you won’t be interrupted.  Anticipate questions.

‘Begin the Way You Mean to Go’

It makes sense to begin “there’s something I want to tell you.” Leave time for questions and keep the door open for further discussions.  Remember that you are a family who is working toward the same goal: to love and support one another.




Monday, December 21, 2015

When Homophobia Greets You For The Holidays



If you’re LGBT, you know that the holidays can be particularly stressful.  You can feel like an outsider in your parents’ home.  The feeling may be so uncomfortable that you want to crawl back in the closet.
Treated Differently
Your Auntie Claire may not ask you about your significant other, but she inquires your sister about her boyfriend of the opposite sex.  And if your significant other is a guest in your parents’ home, he might be greeted with indifference.
Grandma may be put off by your new buff appearance and comment how she misses the slightly pudgy grandson she knew? “You Can’t Go Home Again?” You can make it easier on yourself if you keep in mind the following:
·      Realize that this too shall pass.  The visit won’t last forever. 
·      If you feel unloved, call a gay friend who has felt similar feelings. Talk out your uneasiness.
·      If you have brought your boyfriend, don’t demand different sleeping arrangements.  True you may be put in your old room with twin beds and school banners on the wall.
·      Don’t respond to your Uncle Joe’s criticism of Hillary Clinton’s platform for LGBT equality.  You can’t win!
·      Be sensitive to your partner’s feelings if he is visiting home with you.
·      Consider playing a family game to “break the ice.” Focus on common interests.
·      Help out with food preparation and cleanup.  The latter, in particular, is greatly appreciated.
·      Take some time for yourself: a visit to a gym, a thoughtful walk, a long shower, can all aid in lowering your blood pressure that is being raised by various family members.

Resources to Get You Through the Holidays
·      PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) http://www.pflag.org. has tips for both straight parents and LGBT children on how to survive the holidays.
·      Family Acceptance Project, a national research, education and training program that helps families to support their LGBT children has advice on-line for parents. http://www.fapa@sfsu.edu
Alternatives
If your visits home at other times of the year when your family isn’t so distracted by the frenetic pace of the holiday yield the same results, you might consider substituting your family for one you build through friends and others who are loving and welcoming. But also be mindful of the fact that parents need time to adjust to your orientation.  How long you can wait for their conditional acceptance is up to you. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

"Stop, Look, and Listen"



The no. 1 complaint I hear from gay teens or adults whom I interview is that their parents don’t listen to them.  When they summon their nerve to come out to their parents and should have the mike, the parents interrupt by saying “You can’t be!” “You’re too young to know!” “It’s just a Phase!” Or, they react with stony silence or  anger as they storm out of the room.
For a parent to be an effective listener, sit still.  Don’t nag, criticize, ask a million questions or lecture.  Watch your body language.  Crossed arms make you appear angry.  Maintain eye contact.  Nodding makes the speaker think you’re listening.
Give your child your undivided attention. Don’t talk on the phone, watch television or check your messages on your cell phone. If you cannot honestly listen at that moment, explain why and ask if you can talk again at another time.
And when your kids talk about their significant other, they want you to not only listen but ask them about their special one in the same way you would inquire about your heterosexual daughter or son’s love interest.  If you don’t show interest in your gay son’s or lesbian daughter’s social life, it connotes that you don’t care about their happiness or you don’t accept their sexual orientation.
If you talk to your friends about your hetero daughter’s dating, you similarly should relay news about your gay child’s relationships if you have his/her permission to do so.
To be a good listener requires patience and diligence.  In our world driven to distraction by multi-media, it is a skill that takes practice.  But when it is achieved, the art of listening speaks louder than words.