Saturday, October 8, 2016
Last week, I was invited to a Pride Club at a Catholic College in Westchester County. October is National Coming Out month and I was at the college to answer questions from club members about how to come out to parents. As a gay son’s straight mother who had written an advice book When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need to Know, I was familiar with the subject, but hardly omniscient.
Fifteen students showed up for the meeting. Some were straight allies, others were LGBT. They were dressed in sweats, hoodies, flannel shirts, camisoles, one had temporary purple hair, one was in stocking feet. Whatever their appearances, they had one issue in common: they wanted to come out but were afraid.
One student, a Hispanic lesbian from Cuba, told the group that she was afraid to tell her mother and father because they were Catholic and would disown her. “You know the Hispanic culture, it’s traditional and macho. My family is not going to like having a lesbian in the family.” Miss Frightened wanted to maintain ties with her family, but was scared they would reject her.
This young woman’s dilemma is not uncommon. Religious parents who have been indoctrinated that homosexuality is wrong and quote the Bible as proof often have a hard time reconciling their religious tenets with the often unexpected reality of their child’s sexuality.
What can a parent do to accept their LGBT child? They don’t have to reject religion entirely. There are always more open-minded preachers, more LGBT-friendly churches. Realize that God created all men equal and teaches us to love our neighbors.
• To become more accepting of children’s sexual orientation, parents can discuss this issue in PFLAG (Parents of Lesbians & Gays with nationwide chapters.
• Parents who are tempted to put their LGBT kids in conversion camps should do research. They will see the negative effects of conversion therapy or gay-to-straight therapy that has been outlawed in many states because it is not effective, but can do harm.
• To educate, videos parents can view include Karslake, Daniel, For the Bible Tells Me So, First Run Features, 2007. This documentary on the intersection of religion and homosexuality in the United States focuses on the way conservative Christians often interpret The Bible in order to deny homosexual rights.
• Vines, Matthew, https:// www.youtube.com/user/vinesmatthew. These lectures empower LGBT-affirming Christians in non-affirming churches. Matthew Vines is the founder of the Reformation Project and author of God and the Gay Christians.
• There is support for accepting Gays and Lesbians within one’s religion. For example, there is a LGBT Catholic organization, DIGNITY (http://www.dignityusa.org).
“Do I Have To Tell My Extended Family?”
Another worry of these students is are they obligated to tell their aunts, grandparents, cousins once their parents know?
As it is the child’s story, it should be up to them whom they wish to tell. Are they out at school and to friends?
As a parent, you should ask an open-ended question such as “Have you thought about how and when you want to tell Granny? It is conceivable that your child may want you to tell the relatives rather than he having to tell each one. You may have to weigh the pros and cons of telling if the relative is conservative. You don’t want to imply that he should keep it a secret from certain people or act as if he should feel embarrassed or ashamed for others to know.
Coming Out takes nerve and should be done in a quiet setting. If you think your parent will react violently, it is best to wait until you’re not living in the same house as your parents and are not financially dependent on them.
But once you reveal your true self that you may have been hiding, it can be incredibly freeing and create a closer bond between parent and child.
Monday, September 19, 2016
September 19-26 is Bisexual Awareness Week, first celebrated in 1999. Friday, September 23rd is Bisexuality Day started by three U.S. bisexual rights activists: Wendy Curry of New Hampshire and President of BiNet USA, an American National bisexual civil rights organization, Michael Page of Florida and Gigi Raven Wilbur of Texas.
Recognized in the United States as well as other countries, it is celebrated with teach-ins, poetry readings, concerts, festivals, parties, and picnics, under the umbrella of a multi-color flag: pink to signify same-sex attraction, blue for opposite attraction, and purple for attraction to both sexes. Bisexual Awareness Week targets attention to the public policy priorities of bisexual people and celebrates resiliency of the bisexual culture and community. Bi people and their allies learn about history, culture, community,
Bring Attention to a Silent Invisible Group
Co-founded by GLAAD, a U.S. non-governmental media monitoring organization founded by LGBT people in the media, Bisexual Awareness Week aims to accelerate acceptance of the bi community. This community makes up more than fifty percent of the LGBT community that perceives “bis” as either straight or gay. Yet, only a third of bisexuals are out.
Bisexuals are misunderstood. They are accused of “sitting on the fence,” unable to decide which sex they are attracted to. They are called promiscuous, “greedy” for sex in a world that wants them to decide on one gender.
But bisexual is a legitimate term; it is sexual behavior or an orientation involving physical or romantic attraction to males and females, especially with regard to men and women. It’s not just a choice of Hollywood movie stars.
Why We Need Bisexual Awareness Week
Did you know that:
• Bisexuals have a disproportionate levels of suicide, eating disorders, and substance abuse.
• Bisexual women have a 46% chance of being raped as opposed to 17% of straight women and 13% of lesbians.
• Bisexual women have higher rates of sexual assault, intimate partner abuse and stalking. http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2015/9/21/here's-why-we-need-bisexual-awareness-week
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Gay Bachelor On Reality TV Show Fired From Job
I never liked Reality TV much. Not my generation, I guess. However, when our son watched Jersey Shore, I would occasionally watch as I thought Snooki had a good sense of humor. I showed a passing interest in Heather Dubrow of The Real Housewives of Orange County. Not only did she have FOUR children, but hailed from Chappaqua, New York, where we raised a family for twenty-five years.
My favorite reality celebrity, whom I would actually sit an entire show for, was Big Ang who unfortunately died of cancer this year. The star of Mob Wives, Big Ang, with her enormous breasts, lips, and gravelly voice, was highly entertaining. I miss her!
Finding Prince Charming
Last week, LOGO launched a new reality show called Finding Prince Charming. I thought it would be entertaining and have “eye candy”, if nothing else. There was little else.
The premise of the show was that thirteen gay suitors would arrive at a mansion where they all would stay to meet Prince Charming. Think of it as the Gay Bachelor. An interior designer in Atlanta, Robert Sepulveda, Jr. is the Prince, but disguises himself so he can to know the thirteen contestants better.
They are all tested when they play Truth or Dare, are challenged to create a three-word hashtag to describe themselves. Sepulveda later reveals himself to the thirteen contestants. Later, sitting on the edge of the pool, Robert removed his shirt, exposing his six-pack abs as the aspirants anxiously awaited to lust after his semi-nude body. B-o-o-r-i-n-g!
High Drama AFTER Show
The show never washed over me. But the drama that ensued afterwards I found typical of the prejudice that still goes on against gays. Contestant Aaron S., aka Chad, whose hashtag is #flexible, was fired from his job at Michael Graves Team at the Douglas Elliman real estate firm because of his identification with Prince Charming.
Turns out that Prince Charming was a commoner and a former male escort. Although the show knew this fact beforehand, and vetted Sepulveda , Sepulveda thought it would never be brought up.
“Chad”, who is a real-estate agent in New York City, tweeted that he was “fired without notice because of liability of my TV venture.” He claims that his boss knew he was going to be on gay dating show.
Not many jobs would be able to fire you because of your association with a team member who had a nefarious past, but this does happen if you’re LGBT like Chad.
Truth is that you can still get fired from your job for being gay or transgender in twenty-eight states( March 2016). Religious exemption statues prevent total equality as the LGBT population is turned away from bakers and florists. Title VII non-discrimination protections apply only to employers of at least fifteen people. It’s complicated!
Reality TV may not seem like the real world sometimes, but what happens when you’re LGBT, is.
Tuesday, September 6, 2016
What is It?
Suicide Prevention Month helps promote resources and awareness around the issues of suicide prevention. National Suicide Day is September 10th and is intended for the public to reach out to those affected by suicide, raise awareness and connect individuals with suicide ideation (thinking about suicide and actually constructing a plan for it) to treatment and resources to prevent them from killing themselves.
NEW SELF-EVALUATION AND REFERRALS ON PHONE APP
On September 10th, there will be a suicide prevention telephone app. introduced. It will have a step-by-step suicide screening measure that will determine your risk level. After your risk level is determined, it will have a guided response plan that will lead you to geolocation services. These services will help locate the closest local resources and linkage to a 24/7 crisis hotline and text platforms. It will have a fully integrated safety plan too.
FACTS ABOUT SUICIDE
Suicide is the third largest cause of death among young people according to NAMI, National Alliance on Mental Illness. (4.6% of overall U.S. population has reported a suicide attempt.) According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center and numerous studies, LGBT youth have a higher rate of suicide attempts than do heterosexual youth. In fact, between 10% and 20% of LGBT youth have attempted suicide. The suicide rate for transgenders is even higher (41%).
Associate Professor of Medical Sciences at N.W. University’s Feinberg School of Medicine Brian Mustanski did a survey of 246 Chicago-area sexual minority youths, ages 16 to 20 over a two-and-a-half year period. The youths were interviewed at five time points, six months apart.
His research study, in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that respondents who experienced rejection by their family (e.g. family chose not to speak or spend time with them) and friends, or discrimination, victimization or violence had elevated prevalence of suicide attempts. Support from family and friends offer the most protection in preventing youths from thinking about suicide.
WHY LGBT PERSONS CONSIDER SUICIDE
The Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law, did a Suicide Report. It was a National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS), conducted by The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and National Center for Transgender Equality. Released in PDF on January, 2014, the survey was spearheaded by Ann P. Haas, Ph.D., American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Its findings include:
• Discrimination, victimization or violence had elevated prevalence of suicide attempts.
• 57% of those with suicide attempts had families who chose not to speak/spend time with them.
• 50% -54% of those surveyed were harassed or bullied at school.
• 59% experienced discrimination or harassment.
• 60% were refused medical care by doctor or health care provider.
• 64% suffered physical or sexual violence at work.
• 63%-78% experienced harassment or physical violence at school.
• 69% experienced homelessness.
• 57%-61% were disrespected or harassed by law enforcement officers.
• 60-70% suffered physical or sexual violence by law enforcement officers.
What Parents Can Do
While you can’t control everything in your child’s life, you can control the love and respect you give your LGBT child. You can also look for signs of depression such as: loss of appetite and/or weight loss without trying to do so, inability to fall asleep for at least a week, 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 you were dead and/or actual ideas of wanting to harm yourself and feeling consumed by intense worry or concern that bad things are going to happen to you or your family.
and get referrals for treatment. Know the suicide hotline numbers such as TREVOR Hotline: a 24-hr., toll-free, and confidential suicide hotline for gay and questioning youth: http://www.thetrevorproject.org. 1-866-488-7386.
Take measures to ensure that your child is being bullied at school and have them ignore cyberbullies.
Take a Stigma-Free Pledge on NAMI’s website: http://www.nami-org/Get-Involved/Raise-Awareness/stigmaFree-Pledge
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
It’s hard for a parent to really know what goes on in their child’s doctor’s office. Even a minor, WITHOUT PARENTAL CONSENT, by state laws, has access to:
• STI and HIV Services
• Mental Health Services
• Drug or Alcohol use Treatments
Take your teen to the pediatrician and before the visit is over, you are asked to leave the room while the doctor asks your child questions in private. What does the doctor want to know that you are not privy to?
It has been documented that LGBT youth have a hard time confiding to their doctors when the supposed health care providers presume they are heterosexual. Or the doctors are judgmental once they know their patient is LGBTQ and treat them with bias.
In order for your LGBT child to get the best total care, the doctor should realize that LGBT children/adults have health disparities:
• Over ½ of LGBT adolescents report disordered eating behaviors.
• Recent study showed higher risk of pregnancy among LGBT youth. (identity and behavior don’t always align.)
• 60% of youth with HIV don’t know they are infected. (The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends testing all youth at least once by the age of 16-18 regardless whether they report sexual activity).
• There are low rates of HPV vaccination for all teens and preteens.
Not only are teens not hearing enough about sexual health at their check-ups, but they are not being asked by their doctors open-ended questions that will lead to better communication, reduce fear of discrimination, such as:
• Tell me more about the types of people you are attracted to.
• How comfortable are you in your identity? What makes you feel that way?
• Do you see positive examples of LGBTQ people/relationships around you?
• How does your family/community talk about LGBTQ people?
• How do others treat you at school? Do you feel comfortable there? Are you bullied? It is estimated that 84% of LGBT youth have been verbally harassed at school, 1/3 of LGBT students drop out of school at some point due to violence, and 65.3% had been sexually harassed, according to a National Survey of LGBT youth. LGBT youth are 4 to 5 x more likely to attempt suicide and 50% of transgender youth have attempted suicide.
Many doctors are not trained to look for these health disparities resulting from social stigma, family rejection or school violence. If your child is not comfortable talking about his identity and revealing his true self and has trouble raising concerns about his social development, medical and physical changes, you might consider switching doctors. You can find gay-friendly doctors on the hrc.org. site.http://www.hrc.org.
Sunday, August 14, 2016
Gay and Lesbian youths face greater risk of violence, according to the first nationwide study administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is the first time that the federal government’s biennial Youth Risk Behavior Survey investigated sexual identity.
PARTICIPANTS IN THE SURVEY
Some 15,600 students across the country, ages 14 to 17, took the survey that looked at more than 100 health behaviors, including two NEW questions: how do they identify themselves sexually, and also the sex of those with whom they had “sexual contact?”
The survey found that about eight percent of the high school population self-identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual. This figure equates to roughly 1.3 million students. Unfortunately, the survey did not include questions for transgender students to answer.
The report notes the fluidity of adolescent sexual identity:
• 3.2% of students chose “not sure.”
• 25% identified as heterosexual.
• 13.6 % identified were uncertain of their sexual identity.
• 2.8% described themselves as LGB although they had sexual contact with only someone of the opposite sex.
The Alarming Findings
While this survey does underscore similar previous findings that LGB students face disproportionate psychological problems compared to heterosexuals such as low self-esteem, truancy, greater drug abuse, for example, this survey points to a greater risk of VIOLENCE. Self-identified LGB students were:
• 3 x more likely to be raped than straight students.
• 29 % had seriously considered suicide.
• 1/3 at least had been bullied on school property.
• Twice as likely to have been threatened or injured with a weapon on school property.
What’s the Answer?
The survey did not concentrate on why LGB students are at such risk for violence.
It also did not include an explanation of what sexual contact is. The test was only given to students currently in high school.
According to Dr. Elizabeth Miller, Chief of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, attributes the violence to “ the intensity of homophobic attitudes and acceptance of gay-related victimization, as well as the ongoing silence around adolescent sexuality.” The marginalization of young people increases their vulnerability to exploitative and violent relationships.”
What Parents Can Do
Self- Acceptance, like hate, can begin at home. Says Dr. Miller, “we have to start conversations early with young people about healthy sexuality, attraction, relationships, intimacy and how to explore those feelings in as safe and respectful a way as possible.”
Friday, August 5, 2016
When it comes to LGBT rights, the Republican and Democratic party differ sharply.
In a nutshell, The Republic platform did not specifically use term LGBT, favors state rights, freedom of religion to exercise opposition to gay marriage, and allows parents to employ conversion/reparative therapy for their LGBT children to make them straight. This form of “therapy” is still practiced by some therapists as well as religious camps (pray-the-gay away) although it is frowned upon by The American Psychiatric Association.
During the 2016 Democratic Convention, Silicone Executive Peter Thiel, declared he was “proud to be gay” before a group of Log Cabin Republicans from California in the forefront. Yet, Thiel didn’t mention what the Republican Platform stood for in terms of advancing gay rights, probably because his party wants to rescind gay rights and return to pre-2015 when the U.S. Supreme Court 5 to 4 decision legalized gay marriage nationwide: Republicans against and Democratic in favor.
Certainly, the Family Research Council, a right-wing, right-to-life organization, believes that marriage is only between a man and a woman as stated in the official platform of the Republican party. States Rachel Hoff, first openly gay person to serve on Repubilcan National Convention platform committee,, “our party, outside of the platform committee, is ready to move on. I think we’ve got to catch up, not just on marriage, but on a full spectrum of issues effecting LGBT community. “ However, Hoff defends her party when she attests that “plenty of Republicans, National Republican leaders, came out for equal marriage before Hilary did.”
Democratic Position on LGBT Equality
Obama didn’t support marriage equality until 2008 when he was practically forced to when Vice-President Joe Biden told a news interviewer that he was in favor of it.
On July 30, 2012, Democrats drafter same-sex marriage as part of their party’s platform. At that convention, Freedom to Marry Founder, Evan Wolfson, favored repeal of the DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as only between a man and woman) signed by President William Clinton in 1996. Wolfson wanted DOMA replaced with the passage of Respect for Marriage Act.
At the 2012 Republican Convention in Tampa, the party denounced marriage equality and endorsed federal constitutional amendments against same-sex marriage. The party was critical of Obama’s administration for its decision not to defend DOMA. And wanted states to pass constitutional amendment against marriage equality.
As far back as 1980, Democrats finally added “sexual orientation” to the platform’s blanket endorsement while the Republican platform included a plank in favor of the “traditional American family.”
The Democrats at the Convention this year had a transgender speaker, Sarah McBride, reflecting the mantra that “we support the right of all families to have equal respect, responsibilities and protections under the law.” The Obama Administration redefined sex discrimination laws to include transgender individuals.
It is obvious to me which party will try to advance LGBT rights NOW!