Monday, December 15, 2014

It Could Happen To You When You Least Expect It!

Last week, I wrote about what not to say when your child comes out.  Due to the many distractions of the holidays, I also suggested that this is the worst time for anyone to come out as he/she will not be heard. However, as some LGBT kids only see their families on major holidays, they may feel it’s an appropriate to divulge the news at this time.

Advice From the LGBT Child

What’s a parent to do in this case?  Some clues came to me through a graduate student at Indiana University.  He came out for the first time when he was 19 over Thanksgiving weekend (another hectic time).  His brave news was met with anger, disbelief, denial, and the urge to reform him. Nasty e-mails, phone calls followed and threats of withholding funds for college, much to no avail.

Parental Response Not So Unusual

When he was home again, the same questions were posed: “Are you sure?” “How would you know?” “You never dated in high school?”  “Your soul is endangered! You will go to Hell!” C. (don’t want to divulge his name as he is planning on coming out again, this time five years later). answered with short replies, followed by silence, then the questions would start all over again.

Tedious, yes! Unnerving, you bet.  With time, many parents usually come around to accepting their child’s sexual orientation.  However, in this case, the acceptance that C. craved, has not shone forth.  Despite his initial plea “this is who I am” he saw that his parents wouldn’t change and last summer, he told them that he was “straight” just so they wouldn’t “bug” him anymore. “It was like they had amnesia.  Suddenly, everything was “hunky-dory.”

Parents & Gay Son Hanging By A Thread

However, this charade has taken its toll on him.  He doesn’t like to “split” holidays, but this year, he is going to his roommate boyfriend’s parents’ home, where they are accepted, in Las Vegas, and then will see his parents alone later during his holiday.  This “dancing around” the issue will soon cease as he is preparing to come out again.

Second Coming Out

Wiser, he thinks the coming out will proceed better this time.  What will he do differently?
Not tell them over a holiday.
Tell his parents that if they want to see him, they must accept him as a gay man and welcome his partner of over a year.
Keep his parents’ attitudes in mind while divulging yet again.

What does C. wish from his parents?

That although his parents may feel shame, guilt, fear, anger, so does he, their child.  It’s a similar journey for both.  “We have to see each other’s perspective and be in each other’s shoes, no matter how hard that is,” says C.
While parents may be jealous of their friends with heterosexual children, they can still experience the joy of having a son/daughter-in-law and the celebration of events. The LGBT child, like C, who is not given unconditional love and support at home, will also be jealous of a family that accepts their child’s sexual orientation.
Admiration for all that he has accomplished in life: top academic honors, positions in leadership clubs, jobs well done. He’s still the same person inside that his folks have always known. His gayness will not erase those good qualities.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Coming Outs Don't Belong At Christmas

Picture this:  Your mother in her Santa sweater, your father in his red tie with tiny green wreaths in a home garlanded like Auntie Mamie’s duplex.  Sis, decked out in velvet, is pouring eggnog for your Aunt Betty and Uncle Ralph as her brother keeps an eye on her munchkins who are pulling the candy canes from the tree. Mom is orchestrating the perfect gravy with cousin Susan in the kitchen.

Enter Stage Left Through A Door Adorned with Sleigh Bells

The prodigal gay son with his significant other who everyone thought was his buddy.  Son introduces his friend as his boyfriend and announces that he is gay.

Conversation halts.  Boyfriend is embarrassed.  Mom and Dad are speechless. Everyone is uncomfortable.  Now the holiday is all about you. What’s wrong with this picture?

Act I Didn’t Get Rave Reviews

Holidays, while a gathering time for families, should not be used as a platform for coming out. It will make your holiday insufferably long.

Parents need time to process the information.  Even though they may know in their hearts that you are gay, it is different to hear it from the source!  Your important pronouncement deserves discussion in a non-distractable atmosphere and respect from those who need time to digest this earth-shaking news. Hectic holiday pace may cause family members to act strangely.

When Is A Good Time?

Although you may be bursting to tell your parents or feel an obligation to tell them because they have raised you, be sure the surroundings are compatible.
Choose a more relaxed time – perhaps a summer picnic, day at the beach, a non-holiday weekend.
Before you arrive home, you can make a decision about “being out” to each family member.
You may consider writing a letter that can be revisited several times by family members.
Discuss in advance how you will talk about relationships during your visit.
Connect with someone else who is LGBT who has experience coming out to get advice on breaking the news.

If you know in advance that your parents are homophobic and may try to eject you during the holidays, consider spending the holiday with a “chosen” family, one that is positive about your sexual orientation and will be supportive in your journey towards self-affirmation.

For more tips, see my blog's-No-Place-For-Coming-Out-for-the-holidays/12/23/13 and
PFLAG (Parents for Families and Gays), with nationwide chapters, also has advice on coming out

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Your LGBT Or Straight Child Could Be Infected With HIV

Alarming Statistics From Centers for Disease Control

Did you know that:
1 in 4 new HIV infections occur in youth ages 13 to 24.
About 60% of all youth with HIV do NOT know they are infected, and are not getting treated, and can unknowingly pass the virus on to others.
About 50,00 people are infected with HIV yearly.

Talk To Your Kids About Being Safe
Discuss with your child about how HIV is transmitted and how it can be prevented. There may be misconceptions about the virus. Below are links for you to be informed.
Use condoms always.
Get tested.  It’s the only way to know if you or a partner has HIV. Test for other STIS also.

What Are You Testing For:
HIV antibodies, p24 Antigen (substances found on a foreign body or germ that trigger the production of antibodies in the body.) Testing can take several months for detectable levels of HIV antibodies. Consequently, your child should be tested every 3-6 months if sexually active.
For accuracy, test should be done after the window period, term used to describe period of time between HIV infection and indicators of HIV infection showing up on tests, such as antibodies and antigens.  Talk to your doctor about when to take the test. Different types of tests have different window periods.

Types of Tests
Tests use either saliva or blood samples.
FDA approved in 2012 an on-line kit for home sampling. Advantages: privacy, rapid test results, usually 20 minutes.  Disadvantages: Positive result must be confirmed by blood test conducted by healthcare worker in a clinic. The healthcare professional will explain what results means and if positive, the next course of action re: treatment.

Places of Testing:
Health clinics
Doctors Surgeries
Specialist HIV/AIDS voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) sites.
It is recommended that an HIV test be carried out in a healthcare setting.

New Drugs to Combat HIV
PrEP, sold under the name Truvada, is an HIV medication taken by someone who is HIV negative to stop them getting it.  It has proven to be effective, both as a daily pill and as a pill taken just before sex.  Must be used for 7 seven days to be effective and is intended for high-risk people. Not 100% effective. Been in use since 2004.
PEP, or post-exposure Prophylaxis, is an emergency medication that can prevent HIV infection. It should be started as soon as possible before 72 hours after sex.  It works by stopping HIV from making copies of itself and spreading through out your body.  It should be started as soon as possible and must be taken for 28 consecutive days. Not 100% effective.

What You Can Do to Help Stop AIDS
December 1st is World AIDS DAY, established in 1988 by the World Health Organization.
Recommit to addressing HIV/AIDS, a disease that affects approximately 35 million people worldwide.
U.S. Government’s theme this year is “Focus, Partner, Achieve: An AIDS-free Generation.”
Nationwide, youth have been joining Facing Aids photo-sharing initiative.
There’s a video on blog/
Learn and share the facts on youth and HIV using Facebook. Use World AIDS Day poster to make Facebook cover art.
Share images from AIDS gov Instagram page.
Keep the conversations going with tweets using #WAD 2014.

Useful Web sites:
http:/ blog
http: //www/ signs/ HIV Among Youth/index.html

Monday, November 24, 2014

Born Gay? Largest Study Inconclusive

Suggestion of Genetic Link for Male Homosexuality

This week, NorthShore Research Institute in Evanston, Illinois presented quasi-evidence that people are born gay.  Although this study that looked at 409 sets of gay brothers fell short for a  conclusion that being homosexual is inborn, the data was statistically too weak for a definitive answer to the riddle: Are you born gay or does your environment and upbringing cause you to be gay?

The study identified two genetic regions Xq28 and 8q12 that correlate to homosexuality in men.  According to neuroscientist Simon LaVay, “being straight, bisexual, or gay, or none of these, is a central part of who we are, thanks in part to the DNA we were born with.”  Lead scientist of the National Institutes of Health-financed study Alan Sanders says that “not only genetics play a part in developing sexual orientation, but also upbringing and environment.”

Debate Shouldn’t Matter to Parents, Rights Do

As a parent, whether you’re of the religious right persuasion that believes your child has chosen this wicked lifestyle or you believe it’s innate shouldn’t matter.  It is what it is.

Net, net, you will Not be able to change the person, make him straight. ( The wedding last week of the former advocate of conversion therapy, Dr. John Smid of infamous Love in Action, to Larry McQueen in Oklahoma  is a case in point). The parent who believes that his child’s DNA caused his homosexuality may feel guilty for passing on that DNA responsible for his same-sex preference.  In his mind, that parent could be making more issues in life for the child to combat. On the other hand, he may feel relieved that his actions within the family environment did not force the child to become gay.

Never Less Than

Whatever your beliefs, your child needs to be validated and loved for the person he or she is, not for your idealized version of him that started at birth. He or she is still the same person you’ve always known, only attracted to the same-sex.

Your child needs your support to combat homophobia.  It may seem as if the U.S. is more accepting, with thirty-five states and the District of Columbia with legalized gay marriage, but it’s still not a gay-friendly world.  There are still twenty-nine states where you can be fired for being gay.  Violent Hate Crimes still exist against gays, and not just in rural, remote areas.
Family Acceptance

The Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State cites the problems that LGBT youth face if not accepted at home: higher suicide rates compared to straight youth, more days missed in school if bullied, higher use of illicit drugs, and a large population of LGBT youth living on the streets because of rejection at home.

Movie stars may come out and may continue to be idolized.  But that’s la-la-land.  Many LGBT youth lose straight friends when they come out.

So, don’t worry about why your LGBT kid is gay.  It’s a moot point.  Focus on how you can make your home a haven for his self-acceptance

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Don't Infiltrate Your Agenda Onto My Beloved Cartoon Characters!

Anti-LGBT Rights Groups See Tony the Tiger Destroying Traditional Family Values
But It Started Earlier

In a definitely more innocent time of late 1950’s, I would sit cross-legged in my flannel pajamas anticipating Mighty Mouse with his cape to come swooping into our living room.  Every Saturday a.m., I would wait with bated breath to watch the brave little mouse beat the bad guys.
I even remember part of the show’s theme:

            Mr. Trouble never hangs around
When he hears this Mighty sound
            Here I come to save the day!
            That means that Mighty Mouse is on the way!
            Yes, sir, when there is a wrong to right,
            Mighty Mouse will join the fight.

Mighty Mouse Resurrected in Late 80’s-90’s

I was excited to see that Mighty Mouse, like a prodigal son, returned to television briefly so my children could experience the same Saturday morning pleasure. However, now television didn’t seem so innocent.

On June 6, 1988, two weeks after my daughter was born, Donald Wildmon, head of American Family Association (AFA), the right-wing traditional family organization, decided that Mighty Mouse in The Littlest Tramp was sniffing cocaine out of a crushed flower.  Honestly! 

Also, two male mice who were showering together were thought to be homosexual. And I thought Mitzi Mouse was Mighty’s girlfriend all these years! After a brief rerun on Fox Kids in November 1992, Mighty Mouse disappeared from kids’ lives.

AFA Criticizes Bert and Ernie Too!

What could be cuter than Bert and Ernie snuggling on their couch as they watch on their television the SCOTUS decision when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Prop 8 and Section 3 of DOMA, defining marriage for only heterosexual couples?  This home-spun sweet scene was depicted on the cover of the New Yorker (July 8 and 15, 2013) by Jack Hunter.

Despite the fact that Bert and Ernie were considered a secretly gay couple over the years, although Sesame Street denied the rumor, and 10,000 in 2011 signed an online petition urging the couple to get married, once again the AFA took to the airwaves to rant. See my blog on the topic ('s-a-Punch-and-Judy-Show/.

Bert and Ernie were criticized by Bryan Fischer, a Christian radio host of “Focal Point” and Director of Issues Analysis for American Family Association, who insisted that the magazine cover “Moment of Joy” promoted child abuse and child endangerment and that the couple were depicted in a “homosexual clinch.”

AFA Working Itself Into a Lather Over Tony the Tiger Now!

More recently, Kellogg, a very LGBT-friendly company, was criticized by guess who?  Kellogg’s sponsorship of Atlanta’s Gay Pride March and support of LGBT community has the AFA incensed once again.  The Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index gave Kellogg a perfect score for diversity and inclusion in their hiring practices and policies.

Yet, AFA is “bent out of shape” about Kellogg’s ad that features Tony the Tiger, which said “wear your stripes with pride.”  “At Kellogg, the ad says, “ we’re an evolving culture that respects and accepts employees’ sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression so that all employees can be authentic and fully engaged.” Kellogg is not the only well-known company to pitch pro-LGBT ads.  (Burger King, Honeymaid, Starbucks, to name a few).

“The Child Is The Father of The Man”

Truth is children don’t have a problem with same-sex marriage.  Adults do.  “You have to be taught to hate.”
Would it be a better world if groups like the American Family Association stopped assigning their agenda to fictional characters?  In the words of Tony the Tiger, it would be G-R-R-R-E-A-T!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Chief of Apple Takes Bite Out of LGBT Stigmatism

Tim Cook Says He’s Gay

Although Tim Cook was out to his friends, on October 30, he made a bold move by announcing that he was gay in a Business Week essay.  According to The New York Times of the next day, “no business executive of Mr. Cook’s stature has ever done something like this before.”

Tim works in a creative environment at Apple in a state with liberal laws against sexual discrimination and gender identity.  He is really rich and is protected by anti-discrimination laws; he is not about to be fired for his confession despite the fact that Silicon Valley has few prominent executives who are openly gay. While it may be “cool” to be out if you’re a celebrity, this new trend of self-realization via the airwaves is not necessarily carried over to most businesses.

“La-La Land” Not The Real World

In twenty-nine U.S. states, your LGBT son or daughter could get fired because of their sexual orientation.  There is presently no federal law protecting workers against discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or identity.  Some states and cities have their own protections, but the Employment Non-Discrimination Act which would protect all LGBT Americans working for employers with at least fifteen employees, hasn’t passed. It’s been ten years since it was introduced in 1994.

Being fired, contracting HIV, verbal daily harassments, assaults, these are all issues that many straight parents fear for their LGBT children.  Does their child have to stay closeted amid rumors about his/her private life?  If word gets out, will their child stay at the lowest rung of the corporate ladder?

Although our country is more progressive with thirty-two states boasting marriage equality, the concerns delineated by the former CEO of Ford, Allan Gilmour, still hold true in many offices today.  Gilmour, who congratulated Cook for outing himself, said as a “gay man, he kept his own sexual orientation a closely guarded secret, but there were rumors...” He was twice passed over for the top job. Retired at age 60 in 1995, two years before Ellen de Generes outed herself in Time magazine, Gilmour waited until after his retirement to announce he was gay. Said he, “my life had a new, and wonderful dimension. I didn’t have to dissemble, lie, exaggerate change the subject, etc. I was what I was.”

Some  LGBT children find it hard to compartmentalize their life: office vs. personal.  It’s a constant balancing act that dances around the issues: Do I appear too gay for the office?  Do I have to hide whom I spent the weekend with?  Do I not bring my significant other to the office Christmas party?  How many excuses do I have to make up to get out of being fixed up with a cohort’s friend?

Cook As Role Model – “Proud To be Gay”

Tim Cook’s motives for outing himself in a Bloomberg publication appear to be altruistic. He certainly doesn’t need the attention or fame.  As quoted from the essay, “hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with whom he or she is or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy.” According to Bloomberg’s Senior Executive Editor Josh Tyrangiel, Cook had sought and received the approval of Apple’s Board before making the announcement.

Even Cook Gets Criticized

Generally, Cook’s proclamation has been praised.  However, in his boyhood Bible Belt state of Alabama, one of the twenty-nine states without protections, Cook has criticized Alabama for not being quick enough to protect the rights of LGBT people.  For his activism, he has been maligned.

Recently, Putin’s Russia, concerned with the “gay agenda” removed the statue of Cook’s predecessor Steve Jobs.( Sixty percent of Apple’s sales are outside the United States in countries where homosexuality is considered punishable.) But back in the good ole’ U.S., at least, it’s started a dialogue, and who knows, maybe a movement.

Friday, October 24, 2014

National Forgiveness Day=October 25,2014

Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

This year, National Forgiveness Day is celebrated on October 25.  It’s a day to forgive and be forgiven.  It’s a chance to set things right, to put aside old differences, move beyond grievances and hurts.

Human nature is quick to criticize others, find fault to make us feel superior and to emphasize whatever inadequacies we perceive as the truth. Whether Christian or Agnostic, it is often easier to hold “a grudge” than to admit to ourselves that we are wrong.

What's Sinful?
As a parent, we often lash out at a child who disappoints, who doesn’t lead his/her life as we expect them to do.  A parent who envisions grandchildren produced by a heterosexual marriage is going to be nonplussed when his child announces that he/she is gay.  The life-long dream is now dashed by the words “Mom, Dad, I’m gay.”

When it comes to homosexuality within their family, many liberals, who think it’s fine for others, react viscerally to their kid’s “coming out.”  Suddenly, the news is not fit for their backyard.  Common responses include: “you’re too young to know,” “you can’t be, you’re so masculine,”  “you’ll change, I know!”, “what have I done to you?”, “Are you sure?”,   “You’ll go to Hell.”

Many blurt out those inappropriate remarks because they have not adjusted to the news and its meaning to the entire family.  They have split-seconds to react, and surveys have reported that it’s usually not in a loving manner.

What comes across in those angry exchanges is I don’t love you unless you change.  A straight parent of the religious-right will most likely regard his child’s sexual orientation as sinful. However, in reality, there is nothing sinful about being gay.  It’s not a choice, a lifestyle, but an integral factor in their being.
Because there is nothing sinful, there is nothing to forgive.

 However, your child, who desperately wants unconditional love and support, may have a tough time forgiving you. What he/she wanted to hear is “I love you, no matter what.” Remember  this is the same child you’ve always loved for his humor, kindness, and intelligence.

To Err is Sinful, To Forgive Is Divine

To forgive is actually in your hands.  First, forgive yourself for making insensitive remarks. It’s hard to think clearly when you brain goes into denial mode.

How can you recover and readdress the situation?
First apologize.  For example, you could say, “you know you really caught me off-guard the other day when you came out. I reacted badly and should have conveyed my love and support for you.
I’m always here for you.  I hope to learn more about what it means to be gay and would be grateful if you educate me.  How long have you known?
Please feel free to bring any gay friends to my house.  They are welcome.
How have you been treated at school?  Whom would you like me to tell in the family or friends, if any?  Does your sister/brother know or any friends?

By opening up a dialogue with your gay child, you are forgiving yourself, trying to set things right.  In turn, he/she will forgive you as he will know you care enough to admit your past wrongdoings and your current willingness to have an open mind and heart.