Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tactics to Outwit Cyberbullies

Don’t Let Them Get the Upper Hand!
They’re Everywhere!

No longer relegated to the playground, the bus, the cafeteria, this bully can now work full-time before school, after school at targeting his victim.  With just a few clicks, the humiliation can be witnessed by hundreds, even thousands of people online.

According to research conducted by GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network), more than 80% of LGBT kids experience cyberbullying defined as harassment of others using Internet, mobile phones or other types of cyber technology with intention to threaten or humiliate.

Because of modern technology’s ability to reach large audiences, cyberbullying is particularly invasive.  We’ve all read about suicides of youths resulting from this non-stop form of bullying.  In fact, gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual counterparts.

Ways They Can Get To You

Boys tend to bully by “sexting” or with messages that threaten physical harm.  Girls in general spread lies, rumors, expose secrets or exclude the victim from e-mails. The cyberbully can post pictures to embarrass or hurt, send threatening e-mails or text messages, dupes you into revealing personal information, pretends to be you online and can spread rumors, and all these insidious methods can be done anonymously.

Parent’s Role

So, what can a parent do?
  • ·      Keep all computers in a common area of your house so you can see what’s going on.  Monitor its use.  Try to find out whom your child communicates with.
  • ·      Have your child tell you if he/she receives a harassing message. She/he should not respond to any message or post.  The cyberbully wants you to respond. 
  • ·      Online services can block or ban options. You can prevent communication by blocking the bully’s e-mail address, cell phone number, and deleting them from social media contacts.
  • ·      Talk to your phone and internet provider.  They can provide additional privacy settings.
  • ·      Report activities to their internet service provider (ISP) or to any websites they use to target your child.

It’s Important to:

·      Save evidence of cyberbullying such as a screenshot of a web page.  Report them to a teacher or school counselor
·      Report threats of harm and inappropriate sexual messages to the police.  In many cases, the cyberbully’s actions can be prosecuted by law.
·      Keep reporting every bullying incident.  Although this is time-consuming, it’s a necessary step to stop the cyberbully.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Bullyproof Your Child Before School

  •       9 out of GLBT teens are victims of anti-gay bullying. (Gay, Straight Education Network)
  • ·      More than 50% of GLBT students who took a P.E. class were bullied or harassed during that class. (Gay, Straight Education Network)
  • ·      28% of GLBT students will drop out of school. ( GLBT Teens)
  • ·      Victims of bullying may suffer mental and general health consequences after bullying occurs. (Mental Health guidelines) 

No wonder your GLBT child is dreading school.  Here it is mid-August and that unsettled feeling has already invaded your household.  He/she knows that anyone can be bullied, but chances are he will be targeted because he is perceived as “different” or vulnerable.

As parents, you want to protect your children from bullying.  How can you help?

            Here are some Tips:
  • ·      Start now before school starts to practice anti-bullying strategies.  Teach resilience!
  • ·      It’s important to be specific in defining what bullying is: physical abuse, verbal taunting, online harassment or even passing along a hurtful message or rumor.  (This is different from drama which is short-lived and over-reaction.)
  • ·      Bullying is done on purpose.
  • ·      Encourage friendships.  If your child has many friends and appears to be popular, he’d be less apt to be targeted.
  • ·      Promote self-confidence rather than self-pity.  A humorous line such as “I don’t care what you’re saying about me.  I have better things to do with my time” is off-putting to the bully.  You child can then walk away with confidence.
  • ·      Rehearse hypothetical situations in which a bully can taunt your child.  Help your child come out with solutions in which she can stand up for herself.
  • ·      Your child should know where to go for help at school – a trusted teacher, guidance counselor, principal.  Role play on what she should say. Emphasize that this is not tattling.
  • ·      Learn how bullying is handled in your child’s classroom, but don’t assume the teacher will “stick his neck out” for your child, particularly if he/she may be GLBT and worried about job safety.
  • ·      Know your child’s school policies on bullying.
  • ·      Be a good role model.  How do you retaliate when you’re offended by someone?  Be careful about what you say about people who are “different.”
  • For more anti-bullying tactics, see my former blog post: Bullying

Next week, I’ll write about ways to combat insidious cyberbullying.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

How to Find a Gay-Friendly Therapist

You’re worried.  Your gay child seems more than moody.  Or your lesbian daughter seems more withdrawn and her weight is fluctuating.  Your LGBT child is dreading  school– another year of bullying.

Beware of Conversion Therapy

You think he/she may need a therapist, but you’re read that some mental health professionals try to convert their LGBT patients and make them straight.

You want to help but you don’t want your kid to feel badly about himself because the expert is making him feel guilty about being “different” and is trying to make him switch his sexual orientation. This is called reparative therapy. The American Psychiatric Association shuns reparative therapy and in 1973 declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder.

 So, what’s a parent to do?  How do you know if the therapist is gay-friendly before you hire him?  There are ways to gauge if a therapist has had adequate training in this area (most therapists don’t).  So how do you find a GLBT-friendly therapist?

Places to Look
·      Check with your local gay and lesbian center in your area. It may have counseling on-site and usually maintains lists of gay-friendly businesses and health care providers.
·      Get recommendations from a nearby chapter of PFLAG (Parents for Lesbians and Gays).
·      The psychology department of a neighboring  university may have an on-site clinic with mental health professionals.
·      Gay publications such as Out and lesbian magazines such as Curves may have ads for therapists.
·      Ask your family doctor (if she or he is gay-friendly) for a referral.
·      The Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists has an online referral system of participating members. See

What to Look For In a Therapist
·      You need a therapist who does not view being gay as a “problem.”  One who has additional training on what it means to be gay would be ideal.
·      Before you begin as a patient, ask the therapist his or her opinions of LGBT people and lifestyles.  What is the therapist’s views on LGBTQ issues most relevant to you?  What type of approach does he/she take?  Is it gay affirmative therapy?

What To Look For In The Office

·      Ellen Friedrichs of About.Com recommends that you peruse the magazines in the waiting room. Do any of them pertain to the gay and lesbian population or are they right-wing Christian publications?
·      On the informational intake form, does it just say “single” or “married?”  Or does it also have a box marked “sexual orientation?”

Do your homework and you’ll be more likely to find a compatible match for your child, resulting in a happier and healthier state of mind.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tolerance Begins At Home

Homelessness A Big Problem For LGBTQ Kids

Next time you’re in a big city like New York and you see kids as young as 12 living on the street, in the subways, you may think they’re penniless, drop-outs from school or e.) all of the above.  Chances are they are “throwaways,” GLBTQ kids (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning ) kids whose parents disapprove of their sexual orientation and have made it so unwelcoming in their own homes, that these “different” kids would rather live a hand-to-mouth existence on the streets than be bullied at home.

GLBTQ children who hear “no son of mine is going to be gay!” or “you’re going to hell!” or “you can’t be!” would rather leave home, even if it means turning to prostitution, selling drugs, being turned away from a shelter due to lack of beds.

Studies of LGBTQ Youth’s Runaways

The National Alliance to End Homelessness roughly estimates that 550, 000 people up to twenty-four years old are homeless over a year’s time.  A survey of shelters nationwide from 2011 to 2012 found that up to 40% of homeless young adults identified as LGBT, according to the study conducted by three human rights groups.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) conducted its annual homeless assessment and found that 22,000 youths were on the streets nationwide one night last year!

With gay celebrities coming out, it seems every day, and more GLBTQ being more open about their orientation, this “no holds barred approach” has had a direct effect on the homelessness state.  “”We see more and more homeless, “ according to Caitlin Ryan, Director of the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University.  Ryan has seen more youth first disclosing their sexual orientation between the ages of seven and thirteen.

The Family Acceptance Project’s study found that GLBTQ kids are more than 8 x more likely to have attempted suicide, and nearly 6 x as likely to report high levels of depression, 3 x more likely to use illegal drugs and to be at high risk for HIV & sexually transmitted diseases.

A recent study by GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Educational Network)shows that LGBT youth report bullying and harassment online 3 x greater than their non-LGBT peers.  They are also twice as likely to report being harassed via text message.

Odds Are Against LGBTQ

With the likelihood of a more difficult struggle for an LGBTQ child given the statistics, the child needs a secure loving home where he is loved unconditionally. If you are having trouble accepting your child’s sexual orientation, please remember:

  • ·      He/she is the same person you’ve always loved and deserves your unwavering support.
  • ·      With the outside world not always embracing his sexuality, he needs your home to be a haven from outsider’s prejudice.
  • ·      If you disapprove of his LGBTQ behavior, remember you can love the “sinner, but not the sin.”
  • ·      Do you really want to worry about the safety of your child living on the street, possibly contracting HIV, being mugged?
  • ·      Your rejection may sting forever.

What’s a Parent to Do?

  • ·      Keep your disapproval to yourself.  You can talk to a supportive friend, especially one who has been in similar circumstances.
  • ·      Attend a PFLAG (Parents for Lesbians and Gays) meeting in your area and receive support from parents who’ve “been there.”
  • ·      Seek therapy one-on-one to resolve issues that prevent you from accepting your child.
  • ·      Open up an on-going dialogue with your child.  Ask him how he/she feels about being “different.”  Tell him you want to understand.
  • ·      Get support on-line for parents of gay and lesbian children.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Bird Cage Still Relevant, 8 Years Later

Last week, I watched the hilarious “The Bird Cage” for the umpteenth time.  Based on the play, “La Cage Aux Folles,” it’s a screwball comedy of gay characters trying to pass as straight for a dinner meeting with an Ohio Senator who finds Billy Graham too liberal and is a Vice –President of the Coalition for Moral Order.

The Setting
Senator Keeley (Gene Hackman), his wife Louise (Diane Wiest) and daughter Barbara (Calista Flockhart) come to South Beach, Miami, Florida to divert the public at home from the news that another Ohio senator died in bed with an underage prostitute.  Keely believes that maybe meeting his new in-laws in Florida will appease his right wing constituents by promoting family values.  Little does he and his wife know that the in-laws Robin Williams(Armand Goldman) and Nathan Lane(Albert) are gay, live over and operate a popular drag nightclub in S. Miami Beach and have a Guatemalan shoeless housekeeper (Agador Spartacus) (Hank Azaria) who is flamboyantly gay. (My son finds the gay characters stereotypical and won’t watch the movie.  They are stereotypical, but their orientation advances the plot ).

For this meeting, the straight son, Val (Dan Futterman), is engaged to Barbara Keely. He is the son of Armand and Katherine Archer (Christine Baranski), now divorced, and wants his father to rid himself of all gay ambience in his home, including Armand’s partner Albert.  The house, within a day, goes from splashy with male fertility figures to monastic, complete with crucifix and austere furniture.

At this request, Armand and his lover of twenty years, the more dramatic and insecure of the two, Albert, are insulted.  Not only do they have to hide their belongings, but also their identity.  Williams does not ad-lib as much in this movie and is restrained, but nevertheless has the most poignant line in the whole movie that always brings a tear to my eye: “Yes, I wear foundation. Yes, I live with a man. I’m a middle-aged fag.  But I know who I am, Val.  It took me twenty years to get here, and I’m not gonna’ let some idiot senator destroy that.  F—k the senator, I don’t give a damn what he thinks.”

Albert wants to pretend he’s Val’s uncle, Uncle Al, but Armand quips: “What’s the point?  You’d be Val’s gay Uncle Al.”  Of course, Armand and Albert acquiesce and pretend to be straight to please Val.  Even Agador puts clothes  and shoes on for a change and asquerades as a cook in the house.
The Plot Thickens
Mayhem ensues as in Some Like It Hot when the identities that are trying to be under wraps are exposed. While the year of the movie is 1996 when President Clinton banned gays in the military and Albert, who is trying to pass himself off as Val’s mother, “the old-fashioned girl from Corners Grove” says to his dinner guests: “You know, I used to feel that way too until I found out that Alexander the Great was a fag.  Talk about gays in the military!”  Typical clever funny line brought to you by Mike Nicholas and Elaine May.
Issues Still Hot Today
While the comment about gays in the military may seem dated, the fact that some straight children are still embarrassed and teased about having gay parents still holds true today.  Armand even refers to the fact that he told Val’s kindergarten teacher that he had a different profession so Val wouldn’t be teased. 
Like any parent, Armand and Albert are concerned that Val is getting married too young, at age 20. 

Barbara knows her Republican parents so well and like Republicans under the age of 30, approves of same-sex marriage.  (The latest Pew Research Council poll, May 31, 2014, showed that 61% of Republicans under age 30 favored gay marriage while only 22% of Republicans over the age of 65, approved. )  So, Barbara Keeley who “gets it” and knows her audience (parents) says to her parents that the Coldeman’s (pronounced so not Jewish) South Beach residence is about 2 minutes from Fisher Island where Jeb Bush lives.” Senator Keeley, while portrayed a bit too right-wing is on target with his party’s stance.  Says Armand:  “Albert, these people are right-wing conservatives.  They don’t care if you’re a pig, they just care if you’re a fag.”

Sad, but true.  While the one-liners are great and the charade raucous, there is an undercurrent of truth that gay people are masking themselves, hiding their true sexual orientation to try to please the moral majority, who are in effect, trying to appear self-righteous.

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.