Thursday, July 24, 2014

Testing The Undereducated

  • CDC’s Recent  Sexual Orientation Survey Has Flaws

In the July 22 article in The New York Times entitled “Questions of Orientation,” http://New York Times/7/22/14/Questions of Orientation, Jan Hoffman writes about the inadequacies of gathering information about sexual orientation.  For the first time, respondents were asked about their sexual orientation while taking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s annual National Health Interview Survey. 

Findings of Survey

Out of 34, 557 adults ages 18 and older, the survey reported 1.6 percent said they were gay or lesbian.  These numbers are probably low, according to Gary J. Gates, of the Williams Institute of Law at UCLA that focuses on law and policy issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity.  The survey did not measure sexual identity, only sexual orientation.

Problems Inherent In Most Sexual Surveys

Most surveys, including Gallup polls are not truly reflective of the GLBTQ population because:
  • ·      The administrators of these tests don’t define what constitutes sex.  For example, are you still a virgin if you’ve had anal, but not vaginal,  sex? 
  • ·      If you are a guy who has had sex with another male, does that make you gay or were you just experimenting? Do you identify as heterosexual because you are now having sex with females?  Or does your sexual experience with both females and males render you bisexual?

  • ·      In the NHIS survey, slightly over 2 percent identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual. There was evidence that bisexuals perceive more stigma and discrimination than gay and lesbian people.  They reported high levels of psychological distress. ( In our society, some regard bisexuals as being promiscuous, having more partners as well as wishy-washy because they can’t decide if they are gay or straight)
  • ·      Young people under 30, six percent identify as LGBT.  They are more open about their sexuality. Older respondents, according to Gallup data, are three percent and less likely to disclose their orientation.

It is always difficult to obtain an accurate picture of sexual orientation when the interviewer doesn’t elaborate on definitions, and the respondent is willing to disclose his orientation and/or identity without feeling he/she is being judged.

Otherwise, the findings of the testings may as well be in the closet, as so many of the interviewees are.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Introducing Your Gay Partner To Your Straight Parents?

When Is A Good Time?
After a long, cold winter, it’s finally summer.  Time for long weekends or a week’s or two’s vacation at the beach with friends or the annual family reunion at the lake?
You want your significant other to share these times with you.  Being in the throes of the new relationship, you want to show off your boyfriend to everyone.  But when is the best time to introduce your folks to your lover. Here are some guidelines that may make the meeting less tense and more simpatico:

Considerations Before The Attempted Visit

  • ·      If you’re not OUT to your family, don’t expect your boyfriend to come out for you.  It would not only be presumptuous for him, but alienate your family.  It’s your job to communicate this important piece of your self.
  • ·      Consider what your parents’ reactions will be to your partner.  What will their behavior be like?  Will your boyfriend be uncomfortable and   ill at ease?  Is he OUT?  You don’t want to have a charade where you introduce him as your friend.
  • ·      If your parents have had a tough time digesting the fact that you are gay, this trip may be premature.  Give your parents time to get used to the fact that you are gay, accept your sexual orientation, before you introduce your boyfriend.
  • ·      It might be a good idea for you to introduce the idea that your partner is coming home with you first to gauge their reaction to the notion.
  • ·       Don’t introduce your date to your family too early. (This is true for heterosexuals as well). You’ll know within two or three months if this relationship is worth pursuing.

During the Visit

  • ·      Don’t spring a surprise meeting.  Arrive when you say you will.
  • ·      If the extended family is homophobic and is going to be at the reunion, consider another time to present your boyfriend – not Christmas with its frenetic pace, and attention to detail – but one-on-one with your folks.
  • ·      It may take time for your partner and your family to get comfortable with one another. Don’t rush it!
  • ·      If the initial meeting does not go well in your opinion, introduce your lover at another time that isn’t chock full of commitments and more relaxed. 

Hopefully, the slower, shoeless pace of summer will be more conducive to acquaint your parents to your partner.  Don’t expect miracles at the first meeting but try to schedule more time among you to increase familiarity and foster the kind of intimacy you are seeking.  

Sunday, July 6, 2014

National Blame Someone Else Day, July 13, 2014

 Don’t We Blame More Often?
Human nature seems to dictate that it is much easier to blame someone else than accept responsibility for your actions that may thwart or disappoint you.  Sunday, July 13, is supposedly “Blame Someone Else Day.”  I don’t know about you, but I can find myself blaming others for my shortcomings on a daily basis. Why do I need a special day for my actions?
However, as the mother of a gay child, now thirty-one, I learned not to blame my child for the disappointment I initially felt because his life would not be what we envisioned for him: no marriage, grandchildren, openness about whom he is dating.  Of course, nowadays (2014), it is possible for your child to have a same-sex marriage, albeit not in every state, and to parent a child through adoption or surrogacy.
Causes for Blame
As the parent of a LGBT child, you can not afford to blame your child for causing your initial unhappiness.   You may be annoyed that he/she, in your mind, has put you in a position where you feel guilty (what have I done to this child to cause him to be gay?), shameful (what do I tell my friends and how do I deal with the school he/she attends?), angry that your family now has a member who is affiliated with a minority group, that some people hate, through his sexual orientation.

Your child has probably already blamed himself for being attracted to the same sex. He/she probably wished he’d be straight so his life would be so much easier and he would be more readily accepted. But this lifestyle is not a choice.  If it were, many GLBT people would choose to be straight.  Wouldn’t it be simpler to not be a member of a minority group that the religious right condemn?

According to Kevin Jennings, MA,  founder of GLSEN (Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network), 2003, and author of Always, My Child (2003),” the fact that your child is LGBTQ is not a reflection of your lifestyle, your parenting skills or your masculinity or femininity.” You have not committed an unpardonable sin now visited on your child.

In short, your son or daughter should not be blaming you for what he perceives as a loss nor conversely should you blame him/her for stirring up a torrent of emotions that make you uncomfortable.
If blame is your modus operandi, you could 
  •        benefit from talking to someone who has an LGBT child and has gone through a similar experience when their child “came out.”  Or perhaps a gay-friendly therapist could help you work through your unsettling feeling.  
  •     A nearby chapter of PFLAG (Parents for Lesbians and Gays) has parents who’ve been there and can advise you.   
  •    Human Rights Campaign is just one organization that can refer you to websites and books that can educate you about parenting a gay child.

Although parenting is parenting, as the straight parent of a gay child, you have additional issues to contend with.  Your child looks to you for unconditional love and acceptance.  That’s hard to do when he is blaming himself and you are blaming the world!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

National Forgiveness Day - Not With a Bang but a Whimper

I’m sure most of you did not know that June 26, 2014 was Forgiveness Day.  It wasn’t recorded on your Smartphone, discussed in church or advertised as a Hallmark moment. The day went unnoticed.

Guilty Thoughts Plague
You have to sin in order to be forgiven.  Many straight parents when their children come out, feel as if they are to blame.  Along with a tempest of other typical  reactions such as denial, fear, shame, loss, anger, guilty thoughts can plague a parent:
·      If I were a good parent, he/she would have confided in me sooner.
·      I must have done something wrong as a parent.
·      I must have caused this.

Mea Culpa
Truth is you have done nothing to cause his/her sexual orientation. As Lady Gaga sings, you’re” Born This Way” (or so many think who are polled about the reasons for homosexuality).

 You can not force your child into therapy to “straighten” him out.  In fact, this sexual reorientation therapy so-called “conversion therapy” has been outlawed in California and New Jersey and according to the American Psychological Association has resulted in increased despair, guilt, shame on the LGBTQ individuals who attend the conversion camps. Nor is there evidence to suggest that early abuse causes homosexuality.

Although you, like most parents, probably have unconscious expectations for your child, your child is really not an extension of you.  In the fullness of time, you will let go and let your child be someone you didn’t envision him to be.

Guilt Works Both Ways

Similarly, your child, particularly in the early stages of his self-discovery, may feel guilty about his orientation.  He/she may internalize society’s homophobia and feel guilty that he may not be attracted to the opposite sex. He also may know he is disappointing you because he is not leading a life expected of him; consequently causing him despair and shame.

Both parent and child feel guilty about a life that is not chosen, but simply given. The role of the parent is to help your child become whole and authentic and the role of the child is to develop into that being.

You didn’t cause his gayness nor did he cause your guilty thoughts.  Both of you should be absolved of your self-shaming notions that don’t require forgiveness for you’re never sinned.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Another Bride, Another June

 Not Automatic If You’re Lesbian
The well-known song written by Kahn and Donaldson “Another bride/Another June/Another sunny honeymoon/Another season, Another reason/for makin’ whoopee” is a reality for heterosexuals.  But for lesbians and gays , marriage is not even possible unless they marry in the nineteen states and Washington, D.C. where same-sex marriage is legal.

The State of Many LGBT Unions

Those nineteen states are: CA, CT, DE, Hi, IA, IL, ME, MD, MA, MN, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OR, PA, RI, VT, WA, and Washington, D.C. If you’re LGBT, don’t even  think about marrying in the South, although there are pending cases opposing the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage or the strip of states from North to South in the Mid-west.

In twelve states, judges have issued rulings in favor of the freedom to marry, with many of these rulings now “stayed as they proceed to appellate courts: In AR, ID, MI, OK, TX, UT, VA, and WI judges have struck down marriage bans and in IN, KY, OH, and TN, judges have issued more limited pro-marriage rulings.

Confusion Everywhere

In some states like Wisconsin, some same-sex couples were left in limbo because a Federal District Ct. Judge Barbara B. Crabb ordered a halt to same-sex marriage a week after she struck down the state’s same-sex ban as unconstitutional (as in many states, a federal district court is required to follow the guidance by the Supreme Court).  Are those marriage valid?  Similarly, The United States Supreme Court also halted same-sex marriage in Utah.
It seems so unfair to tell gays and lesbians who have waited so long to be treated equally and have earned the right to finally marry that they can not do so. Or, in effect, tease them by striking down a constitutional ban in their state only to find it stayed a week later by the whim (so it seems) of the court?
Growing Acceptance of Same-Sex Marriage

Despite the resistance of the National Organization for Marriage and other religious organizations, a CBS News Nationwide Poll in February this year, found that 56% of Americans reported that they thought same-same marriage should be legal.
While a majority of Democrats and independent voters support same-sex marriage, a majority of Republicans do not, unless they are under thirty.

Republicans Slowly Coming Around

In order to survive, the Republican Party is realizing that it has to change its platform about gay marriage. Richard Tisel, openly gay candidate running for Congress features his husband in political ads, Mr. Dan Innis, a New Hampshire candidate for Congress features his husband in a Video, and Carl DeMaio  in his campaign ad includes his significant other.

Marriage Is Seasonless

Marriage should be seasonless, “not just another June/another season/” but the reason should be love, regardless of the month or state.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Little Stamp With The L-A-R-G-E Message

Harvey Milk Stamp Creates Controversy

How many Harvey Milk stamps have been “returned to sender?”  Since the U.S. Postal Office has issued the stamp on May 22nd, the date of slain gay rights activist Milk’s birthday, the American Family Association (AFA) has urged the public to trade the stamp for one of the United States flag.  This fundamentalist group, that champions Christian activism and is against gay rights, also dictates that if you receive mail with a Harvey Milk stamp, that you write “Return to Sender” on the envelope.

Milk’s Awards

The AFA contends that the Milk stamp was the result of seven years of lobbying by a self-described drag queen, a California man with implanted breasts who was a former transsexual prostitute, named Nicole Murray Ramirez of San Diego. Regardless, Harvey Bernard Milk was recognized by many as a hero who spoke out on state and national issues of interests not just for LGBT people, but women, racial and ethnic minorities.  For his efforts, Milk was awarded posthumously in 2009 the Medal of Freedom, accepted by his nephew, from President Barack Obama. 

Also listed in Time magazine’s list of “100 most important people of twentieth century,” Milk, a former Math and History teacher from Long Island, New York, owned a camera shop in the Castro District of  San Francisco.  In 1977, after district elections replaced citywide elections, Milk ran again for the post of Supervisor and won.  The election was a landmark event as he was the first openly gay elected official in the United States.  He was appointed by Mayor George Moscone to The  Board of Permit Appeals, making him, , in 1975, the first openly gay commissioner in the United States.

On the California ballot, he worked successfully to defeat on November 7, 1978  Proposition 6 which, if passed, would have mandated the firing of all LGBT public school teachers as well as anyone who supported LGBT rights in the school.  A few weeks later, he was killed by Dan White, a former police officer who clashed with Milk over gay issues. 

In the Face of Hate

Milk was aware of LGBT discrimination throughout the U.S. and regularly received hate mail to such an extent that he recorded his will on several occasions on a tape recorder as seen in the movie Milk.

While the AFA thinks it is “championing Christian activism,” Harvey Milk did so in the face of adversity.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Gay Pride Month, Marching Optional

President Obama has declared June as Gay Pride month. Events are planned across the United States, from San Francisco to New York and all states in between, to celebrate the achievements of the LGBT population and show solidarity not only with these groups but also their straight allies.

 Yet, as the straight mother of a gay adult, I confess that I only marched once – at an enormous rally in Manhattan that coincided with the passage of gay marriage in New York State in June 2011.  While quite excited about the new prospect of same-sex marriage in my favorite city, I would have been just as ecstatic to view the parade, with its floats and rainbow banners waving, from the sidelines.

I do admire those who have marched for civil rights and social justice not just the more famous names such as Martin Luther King,  Jr. but a Queens housewife, now deceased, named Jeanne Manford who marched with her son and later founded the organization now known as PFLAG (Parents for Lesbians & Gays). However, I don’t feel compelled or shamed into thinking that I have to emulate these visible marchers.

Let Me Count The Ways You Can Support

Maybe you don’t feel like marching too. Nor does you GLBT child.  No worries.  There are other ways you can support your child:
  • ·      Most importantly, love your child unconditionally, not just for the month of July, but always.
  • ·      Show an interest in their LGBT friends and “significant others” and make them welcome in your home.
  • ·      Join organizations such as PFLAG to learn how to support your child.
  • ·      Follow organizations such as Human Rights Campaign, GLSEN (GayLesbian Straight Education Network), Lambda Legal, Joe, My God to name a few to keep abreast of legislation being considered for the LGBT population.
  • ·      Write to your senator to encourage him/her to pass a gay rights bill.
  • ·      Ask your child how he/she would like to be supported.

Gay Pride, Your Way

YOU are your child’s greatest straight ally. Whether you write letters to evoke change toward more GLBT-friendly laws, volunteer at a PFLAG event, or have a dialogue with your priest, your involvement does make a difference to your child’s life. It shows your Gay Pride.