Sunday, May 12, 2019

Are Your Kids Mentally Healthy?


                                  

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.  According to American Psychological Association News, March 8, 2019, “more U.S. adolescents and young adults in the late 2010's vs. mid 2000's experienced serious psychological distress, major depression or suicidal thoughts and more attempted suicide."

Anxiety and depression are on the rise and suicide is now the second leading cause of death among adolescents.  As a parent, you may think your child is fine because he doesn’t complain.  So, how do you know if your child is depressed?

Here are the signs to watch out for:

·      Inability to fall asleep or remain asleep for at least a week.
·      Loss of appetite and/or weight loss without trying to do so.
·      Feelings of extreme hopelessness and a sense of doom.
·      Inability to concentrate on work or family duties.
·      Feeling down or sad all the time.
·      No longer finding enjoyment in things or activities that you previously enjoyed.
·      Thoughts of wishing he were dead and/or actual ideas of wanting to harm himself.
·      Feeling consumed by intense worry or concern that bad things are going to happen to him or his family.
From When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know

Studies have shown that in the context of an unsupportive and homophobic environment, gay and lesbian teenagers often escape into substance abuse and other risky behaviors at a greater rate than their heterosexual counterparts.

Parents of LGBT kids can buffer their children from bullying and a hostile environment by keeping the lines of communication open. Steps you can take to be your child’s ally:

1.     Remain involved in their lives.  Ask how they feel on a daily basis.
2.     Don’t avoid topics that can make you feel uncomfortable such as safe sex, harassment at school even if it may appear that they do not want to talk.
3.     Let them know that they are loved and that they matter and that if something is wrong, there is still hope and it can get better.
4.     Seek a therapist if your child’s depression doesn’t lift.

Talking with your LGBT kids about their mental health is one of the most important conversations you’ll ever have.




Tuesday, April 30, 2019


                                                What Constitutes Acceptance?

If a parent doesn’t want to march in a Gay Pride Parade, is he not accepting of his LGBT child? If a parent doesn’t write an amicus brief to the Supreme Court for the three cases being considered for the expansion of the Civil Rights Act of 1967 to cover sexual harassment and gender stereotyping at work, does that mean she’s not an ally of her child?
Not so!
Acceptance, according to Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D., co-author of When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know ( Sterling: 2016), involves acknowledging the reality of a particular situation and recognizing that this is not in your power to change it. The process of acceptance that a child has been through often mirrors the process that a parent will go through, only your child’s journey has begun before yours.
The most basic form of acceptance is not saying to your child that this is a “phase” that he will outgrow.  You can demonstrate to your child in both words and actions that you will always love and support him/her unconditionally. 
To the accepting parent, having a happy child is more important than having a child who fits a traditional binary mold.  How do you express your acceptance?  In words and deeds such as:
·      Don’t harbor differences between your straight and gay child. Ask your LGBT child the same questions as your heterosexual child.
·      Don’t avoid the topic of dating and other relationships.
·      Talk to other family members and friends (with your LGBT child’s permission, of course) openly about your child being gay and share the same information you would with them about his dating life as you would about your straight child.
·      Show interest in your LGBT child’s significant others!  Include them in family meals, ask about them.
By following current news in our nation, your child may feel more accepted and not so alone.  For example, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana is the youngest millenial in the Democratic run for President in 2020.  Pete, a Harvard graduate, who speaks several languages, is gay, married to a teacher Chasten Glezman, and expects to have children.  Author of Shortest Way Home, he is the first gay man to run for President and is #3 in the polls.
However, the starting point for acceptance is within your home.  To love your child for whom she is and her sexuality doesn’t change that.  Your only concern is that she is happy.




Thursday, April 11, 2019

Beyond “The Talk”


                        

Yesterday was National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.  The purpose of this annual day (April 10) is to support youth HIV prevention by promoting school-based health education.  

However, I’m not “a day late and a dollar short,” because I believe I’m on the money about the importance of parents educating their child about safe sex, including making sure they get tested for HIV and AIDS. Many sex education programs in schools are wholly inadequate and don’t address LGBT students.

The statistics are alarming and underline the need for good education:
·      41% of HIV diagnoses occur in adolescents and young adults.
·      More youth at risk for HIV, other STDs and pregnancy. 
·      1 in 5 new HIV diagnoses were among young people 13-24. 
·      Only 9% of U.S. high school students have ever been tested for HIV.
·      Condom use among sexually active students decreased from 62% in 2007 to 54% in 2017.

According to Dr. Laura Cheever, physician and associate administrator for the HIV/AIDS Bureau at the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, nearly half of all young people living with HIV in the United States don’t know they are infected.

“Young people should get tested because people living with HIV need to be on medication so that they can live a near-normal lifespan.  Once they are on these medications, they have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to someone else,” says Dr. Cheever.

To better support parents in their efforts, here are some links:

·      Use the HIV Testing sites and Care Services locator:
         https://gettested.cdc.gov/
·      For the latest Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) data:
          https://go.usa.gov/xU9SS
·      For more in-depth information about HIV/AIDS prevention:

Parents are the best teachers and know their children better than anyone else.  Don’t leave Health Education to the schools.  Your sex education should go beyond “the birds and the bees” so your children are not misinformed.




Sunday, March 31, 2019

Coming Out as Transgender


                       


            Today is the annual event of International Transgender Day of Visibility.  Its purpose is to celebrate transgender people and raise awareness of worldwide discrimination faced by transgender people.  Prior to 2009, the only well-known transgender-centered holiday was the Transgender Day of Remembrance which mourned the murders of transgender people.  It was a sad day, and not one that celebrated and acknowledged the living transgender community members.

                        What Does Trans Mean?

            A lot of people know what it means for a person to be gay, lesbian or bisexual, but there is still confusion and misinformation out there about what it means to be trans. These misconceptions can result in misunderstanding, disrespect or disbelief.

It is not unusual for straight parents to be baffled when their children come out as transgender, someone who feels that their gender identity is at odds with their physical gender.  The “condition” is called gender dysphoria, in which a person feels that their biological gender is at odds with their emotional and psychological gender identity.

               

                        Steps Parents Can Take if Child Comes Out as Transgender
           
            If your child comes out as transgender to you, feel complimented that your child feels trusted and loved to share this important news with you.  If they felt that coming out jeopardized their safety, health or living situation, they wouldn’t be divulging their heartfelt truth about their sexual identity.

            As a parent, you may need time to accept this new information.  It can be a shock when your child tells you that they’re not who you thought they were.  Give yourself time to think about and try to understand what your child is going through.

            To make it easier on you and your child,

·      Listen to your child and talk to them about their feelings.  Be open and communicative.  Ask questions.
·      They may want to dress or behave differently.  Allow these changes.

·      See how happy your child has become once they’ve started living as the gender they feel they actually are.
·      Show your support and unconditional love.  Ask your child which gender pronouns they prefer and which name they want to use.  Binary pronouns like she and he will not work anymore.  Once someone has decided to start transitioning to the other gender, they are referred to with their new gender identity, regardless of whether you’ve speaking about them before they transitioned.  For a transgender person, they are simply being themselves and who they’ve always felt that they were.
·      You may struggle at first with new pronouns, but keep practicing and correcting yourself.
·      Make sure the school and doctor uses the correct pronouns to honor your child’s identity.

Help your child tackle gender dysphoria so they can become the gender they want to be.
·      Children who are not accepted become depressed and self-harm or attempt suicide.  You don’t want your child to be one of the 40% who tried to attempt suicide. Suicide is real.  For my book, file://localhost/When Your Child Is Gay/ What You Need to Know, I interviewed a female who transitioned to male starting with hormones in college.  He told me that if he had to stay cis-gender, he would have killed himself.
·      See your GP and ask for a referral to an expert on gender dysphoria to arrange initial assessments. 

Educate Yourself

These organizations can be of help for you and your child:

·      The Trevor Project
·      PFLAG
·      GLAAD
 

A useful book:  Gender:  Your Guide.  A Gender-friendly primer on What to Know, What to Say, What to Do in the New Gender Culture.  By Lee Airton, Ph.D. (Adams Media: 2018)



Monday, March 11, 2019

“You’re Bi What?”


                                  

            Most parents and society-at-large don’t understand bisexuality.  Sexuality is fluid, according to Freud.  For a person having a bisexual orientation, the orientation is not chosen even though the sex of the partner may be.  According to social psychologist Justin Lehmiller, Ph.D.,  author of The Psychology of Human Sexuality,  being bisexual doesn’t necessarily mean that you are equally attracted to both men and women.

            Many high school students today don’t like to be pigeonholed into binary roles.  They want to label themselves. Cornell psychologist Rich Savin-Williams, Ph.D., author of The New Gay Teenager, says, according to a new study of his, “straight people don’t exist.”   Your son or daughter may try out different orientations before one feels most comfortable.

            Yet, even from the gay and lesbian community, bisexuals experience prejudice as they do from heterosexuals. They are looked upon as sexually confused and promiscuous.  They are “on the fence” about their sexual orientation.

            While the message for your child is similar to that of a LGT child: listen, don’t try to talk him/her out of their truth, love unconditionally, there are alarming statistics re: bisexuals that you should be aware of:

·      The 2015 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey of U.S. High Students found that in the student risk behavior it examined (planning and attempting suicide), bisexual students reported the highest risk. According to The Bisexual Resource Center (BRC), 45% of bisexual women have considered or attempted suicide. 
·      Bisexuals face intense bullying and harassment and report poorer mental health outcomes than gay, lesbian or straight youth.
·      Over a third of bisexuals reported not disclosing their sexual orientation to any medical provider.
·      Young gay and bisexual males have disproportionally high rates of HIV, Syphilis, and other STDs.
·      Adolescent lesbian and bisexual females are more likely to have ever been pregnant than their heterosexual peers. 
·      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 30% of students who had sexual contact with both sexes: experienced dating violence more than heterosexual and gay students.

However, it is not a good idea to dwell on the potential negativity your child may face.  Here’s what you can do to lessen the impact:

In school:

·      Make sure there is an ally who has your child’s back.  Who knows at school of their bisexual orientation?  Are his friends accepting or bullying?  Does the school have abstinence-only sex education that doesn’t apply to non- heterosexuals? Don’t leave the sex discussions up to the school health teacher. See if the school has a GSA (Gay and Straight Alliance). 
At home:

·      Talk about protection from STIs.  It will help your child make healthy choices.  Also discuss consent of sexual relationships.
·      As most schools have inadequate sex education and many teens are too fearful to tell their doctor that they are not cis-gender, it’s up to  you, the parent to be the sex educator.
·      Provide contacts for your child of the same age who have similar experiences such as PFLAG.

According to https://rewirenews/article/2018/04/04/high-risk-resources-bisexual-kids-lack-help-need- , there are many organizations that are aimed specifically at bisexual youth.  However, The Bisexual Resource Center (BRC), in Boston, Massachusetts, America’s oldest national bisexual organization, has many resources.  This month, the BRC is celebrating its sixth annual Bisexual Health Awareness Month (#BiHealth Month) https://bihealthmonth.org/.  BRC is raising awareness about the bisexual + (bi, pansexual, fluid, queer, etc.), community’s social, economic, and health disparities, advocates for resources, and inspire actions to improve bi+ people’s well-being.  This year’s campaign will focus on bisexual + representation in media, politics, and advocacy, healthcare, and education.   








Thursday, February 28, 2019

A Discriminating Vote by Methodists


                      

This week, the delegates of the United Methodist Church gathered to take a vote on whether to reinforce a ban on gay marriage.  This second largest Protestant Church, with 12 million members world-wide voted 53-47 to discriminate against the LGBT community.

With nearly 7 million Methodists in the United States, the younger parishioners polled (six in ten) believed homosexuality should be accepted by their church.  However, the tightening of enforcement of church law was backed by a coalition of members from African nations.  No surprise there.  Africa has little tolerance for the practice of homosexuality, punishable by death, in some cases. (The strong African conservative vote against Episcopalian gay rights also led to a schism in the Episcopalian Church within the last ten years). 

“The Practice of Homosexuality Is Incompatible with Christian Teaching.”

The current church policy of the Methodists states this.  Doesn’t Christian teaching regard all individuals as worthy of God’s love?  Shouldn’t a church be welcome to everyone?  Church should not be a country club that picks its members. 

The Traditional Plan vs. The One Church Plan

In the Traditional Plan of The Methodist Church, the clergy is punished if it officiates at a same-sex wedding.  This plan won majority support in a preliminary vote this week.

In a One Church Plan, individual churches can decide for themselves whether to hire gay clergy or perform same-sex marriages.  It would eliminate church policy that says that homosexuality is incompatible with Christianity. Consequently, the clergy or the church would not be punished for going against church law.

In the future, I hope to see One Church Plans for the Methodists.  I married a Southern Methodist.  I was raised an Episcopalian, still know the service by heart, second verses of the hymns, but probably have some Methodist blood as my father’s name was John Wesley, same as the founder of Methodism.

But my blood boils thinking about how my cis-gender daughter could get married in a Methodist church, but our son could not.  It’s sinful.  If the Methodists don’t resort to the One Church Plans, we may find ourselves returning to the dark, drafty Gothic Episcopal churches that I miss anyway.



 




Sunday, February 17, 2019

It's Not About You!



                                    It’s Not About You!

In an OP-ED New York Times column entitled “It’s Not a Teenage Fad. It’s Life,” 1/09/19, author Jennifer Finney Boylan remarks that when her daughter came out, she felt as if “this person was now going to be different.  It made Jennifer think, at first, that something precious was being taken away.”

Boylan’s daughter was coming out as trans to her mother, a trans activist, who transitioned twenty years ago. Jennifer had a tougher time with her sexual identity back then.

But even if Jennifer were straight, she might have felt the same way because many parents report grief when they are told their child is LGBT.  However, in effect, parents are not losing a child.  Kids are not here to live out our version of how we want them to live their lives. 

To the contrary, being LGBT has advantages:

·      Children are happier.  They are themselves and don’t have to hide their identities.
·      With a better understanding of your child and honesty in your relationship, you can have a closer relationship.
·      It’s a compliment that your child has shared this important information with you.  It shows that he is comfortable enough to reveal this facet of his self even though he may feel that he may be disappointing you. He feels secure enough with you to come out.

However, if you, at first, regard being LGBT as a disadvantage:

·      You may want to attend a Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, now with Transgender groups) or PFLAG http://www.htttp://pflag.org. meeting at which you discuss why you think being LGBT is “lesser than” being straight even though your child is still the same person with the same attributes?
·      If you’re not comfortable with groups, see a gay-friendly therapist. You can find a psychotherapist at the Psychotherapist Association for Gender Diversity through Gaylesta  https://www.gaylesta.org.
·      Don’t think it’s a phase or choice.  It’s not going away. 
·      To integrate this new information with the concept of the child, don’t reject the child altogether.  Writes Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D., co-author of When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know ( Sterling, 2016), “it is very difficult to retract words such as “if you’re gay, you are no longer my child.  Or you can make a choice, continue to be part of this family or be gay on your own.  Even if you disapprove, you should display to your child in both words and actions that you will always love and support your daughter or son.”