Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Holiday No-Nos for Straight Parents

Easter/Passover is a wonderful family holiday.  Health experts advise that while you’re gathered around for carrots, lamb/ham, amid the tulips and colored eggs, that you ask your relatives about their inherited diseases so you can properly fill out those long medical questionnaires and know what to look out for with your own health.  Did Uncle Ed die of cancer?  Does cousin George have diabetes?  Did Granny Smith have heart disease?

Subject Verboten, For Now

However, one topic that is off limits in a group setting is your daughter’s or son’s sexual orientation.  Even if you are bursting to divulge the news or feel that if you don’t tell, you must be ashamed and are harboring a “dirty little” family secret, now is not the appropriate time to break the earth-shattering news.  Just like you, relatives have to go through a process of adjustment.  They also need space and support to digest this information. 

One Instance Where The Child Should Be The Boss

Your child should be the one who decides whom to tell, when to tell them, and if he should be the only one to “come out” or does he want you both to reveal his or her orientation?  Kevin Jennings, Ph.D., author of Always My Child (Simon & Schuster, 2003) suggests that you “respect where your child is in her/his process “(different stages most gay and lesbian kids go through such as denial, fear, shame, loss, guilt, to arrive at acceptance).

You can surmise how your relatives are going to react by how close that family member is to your child and is he savvy about LGBTQ issues?  Is Aunt Susie open to diversity and what are her attitudes about homosexuality? Hopefully, the relative’s unconditional love for your child will outweigh the initial jolt.

Make A List and Check It Twice

Jennings uses the following criteria for deciding whom to tell out of the close family members:
·      Evaluate your child’s relationship with so & so and your own.
·      How often does your daughter or son see her?
·      What is the nature of the relationship?
·      Would you feel dishonest not sharing something so important with your sister?
·      Be clear about your motives for making the disclosure.

Location, Location, Location

It’s important to pick a private place for this important discussion. Choose a time to talk when you won’t be interrupted. Anticipate questions.

“Begin The Way You Mean To Go”

It makes sense to begin “there’s something I want to tell you.” Leave time for questions and keep the door open for further discussions. Remember that you are a family who is working toward the same goal: to love and support one another,  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Silence Can Be More Powerful Than Words

Shhhhh... Day of Silence

GLSEN, Inc., the Gay, Lesbian,& Straight Education Network, since 1996, has been holding a Day of Silence yearly. This year, its Day of Silence is on April 11. With over 8,000 schools participating, students, out of the classroom, take a vow of silence to call attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools.

The Day of Silence is the largest student-led action for creating safer schools for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.  GLSEN is responsible for supplying safe space kits as well as information on how to set up GSAs (Gay-Straight Alliances) in K-12 schools.  If a school is resistant to having a Day of Silence, there is even a site to click on at http://www.dayofsilence.org to get assistance.

Takin’ It To the Streets

For the first time, GLSEN is taking its Day of Silence to the streets.  This year, over one hundred twenty-five middle, high school and college students from 34 states have been taking the message not only to schools, but out into the communities and on line that bullying is not acceptable.  Since March, Street Teamers have been sharing their experiences with bullying and how the Day of Silence helped them overcome challenges that they and other LGBT students face.

Four LGBT students tell their stories, either in writing, or verbally, of how they were harassed and how the Day of Silence changed their lives.  One student urges others to participate in the Day of Silence for your selves while another urges “silence for people who don’t have a voice.” To see the videos, go to http://glsen.org/article/day-silence-street-team.

Whether you are a teacher, student, parent, be an ally by participating in this day of silence that calls attention to the unfair treatment of GLBT people, you will make a GLBT person feel more accepted.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Primer for Straight Parents: Not Your Mother’s Dictionary of Terms!

Labels Explained:

Saturday night, my husband and I watched “Dallas Buyer’s Club”(he for the first time, I for the second).  When actor Jared Leto makes his first appearance in the movie, my husband says “Rayon’s a transsexual, isn’t he? “ I say “Yep, he’s a transgender.” Hubby remarks “isn’t that the same thing?”

This had me wondering.  To solve the riddle, I went to the website of Human Rights Campaign ‘s website that has resources. Here’s what I found:

Transgender is an umbrella term that includes people who are trans-sexual, cross-dressers or otherwise gender non-conforming.
A transsexual has changed or is in the process of changing his or her physical and or legal sex to conform to his or her internal sense of gender identity.  Thus, Rayon is both a transgender and a transsexual.  The term can also be used to describe people who, without undergoing medical treatment identify and live their lives full time as a member and of gender opposite to their birth sex.  Rayon was undergoing treatment to transition from male to female or MTF before he died of HIV. Female transsexuals who transition to males are considered men or FTM.

What Other Terms Should Parent Know?

With so many labels for a generation that doesn’t want to be labelled, it’s hard to know what the alphabet stands for anymore.  Polite words like homosexuals, now sound stilted, are seldom used today except by Fox News.  Queer, once considered a slur is now being used by the LGBT community as a positive or neutral descriptive of each other, as is “butch” or “dyke” for lesbians whose behavior is judged by society to be masculine.

A lesbian who prefers to dress feminine, likes fashion, makeup, and is attracted to a similar lesbian is called a lipstick lesbian. Is a lesbian technically called a gay?  Although homosexual men are called gay, many lesbians liked their own distinction or sub-group and prefer to be dubbed lesbian.

The Queer Alphabet

Asexual: It means you’re not attracted to anyone, and you do not experience sexual orientation.
Binary gender:  Society’s norm assigning gender to either male or female.
Bisexuality: It means that you are attracted to both men and women.  It does NOT mean that you can’t decide if you are gay or straight.
Boyfriend/girlfriend: If a gay or lesbian introduces you to his boyfriend or her girlfriend, the person is usually a significant other.
Cisgender: Any person who’s physical body matches their gender identity.
Cross-dresser: Previously known as transvestites, don’t associate with the LGBTQ community and don’t see themselves as anything but straight.  Think Robin Williams as a nanny in Mrs. Doubtfire or Steven Tyler of Aerosmith.
Drag Queen: They are not usually labeled as cross-dressers or transvestites. People that dress in drag tend to be gay such as RuPaul, the performance artist.  He has a long-standing boyfriend, a Montana rancher.
Gender Dysphoria or GID: A disorder classified by the American Psychiatric Association marked by severe distress and discomfort caused by conflict between one’s gender identity and one’s designated sex at birth.
Gender Identity:  Refers to a person’s innate, deeply felt psychological identity as male or female.
Inter-sex or inter-sexuality: Refers to some externally visible characteristics such as a combination of both male and female sexual organs.  It is estimated that intersexuality affects 1/5-2% of the population.
Pansexuality: Not limited or inhibited in sexual choice with regards to the gender of activity. It means all genders: boys, girls, gender queers, intersexed.
Partner: Significant other.  Could be a same-sex spouse too.  It’s wise to check first to see if the husband wants to be called a husband or wife.  It may be safe just to use the first name when addressing.
Questioning: It means you are undecided about being straight or gay.  You may be attracted to the same sex, but have not defined yourself as gay.  Maturity will give you the answer.
Sexual orientation: Different from sexual identity. It’s the physical or emotional attraction to same and/or opposite gender.
Third gender: It’s a gender identity.  Neither considered male or female whether by their will or by society. Third genders preferred to be referred to using gender-neutral pronouns such as one, ze, sie, hir or ey.

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

With science’s new discoveries will come a slew of new terms.  Today’s slang will be outdated soon.  The Queer Alphabet will reflect these changes.   

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Limbo Marriages

Glenna DeJong, 53, and Marsha Caspar, 51, from Lansing, Michigan have been together for twenty-seven years. They, the first gay couple in Michigan, were married last week, but now found their marriage on hold as of March 22nd because of the federal appeals court order that prevents same-sex couples from getting married. The appeals court does not have a date when it will make a final decision on gay marriage so the DeJong-Caspar marriage is on hold or to use legal parlance, it is “stayed.”

Emergency Stays

Even though Judge Bernard A. Friedman of Federal District Court in Detroit struck down  Michigan’s 2004 amendment banning same-sex marriage as unconstitutional, Michigan’s Attorney General Bill Schuette filed an emergency request for stay and appeal.  The state (and the Attorney General) believe it’s a risky idea to change the original definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.

Roll Over, Sit, Stay, Stay

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia now have legalized same-sex marriage and fifty-two percent of the U.S., according to the latest Pew poll, is in favor of same-sex marriage.  Yet, Michigan is NOT unique in its reservation for same-sex marriage.  Utah, Texas, Oklahoma and Virginia have also struck down amendments banning gay marriage, only to find that the decision is stayed until further notice. What does this do to the marriages or to those who are excited at the prospect of being married? Ten years ago, it was inconceivable that a gay or lesbian could tie the knot!

Quickie Marriages

Dejong noted a similar situation in California, where a judge’s ruling was stayed, but the marriages performed in the interim remained valid.  “So that’s why we didn’t want to spend a lot of time planning (the wedding) and we just had to be here (marriage clerk’s office) in forty-five minutes once we found out.”
Many couples like Rowse and Dejong are trying to fly “under the radar” in quickie marriages before the appeals courts call their marriages unsuitable.

Same-sex Adoptions

Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer, nurses near Detroit, have sued the state over being prohibited from jointly adopting their three special needs children.  Their two- week trial explored attitudes and research about homosexual marriage and households led by same-sex couples.

The state (in this case Michigan) that believes traditional marriage and child rearing practices are best for couples cited the 2012 study of Mark Regnerus, sociologist at the University of Texas to support their notion that children do best with heterosexual parents. However, Rowse and DeBoer buttressed their position with research that factors such as income and stability being equal, children fared just as well with same-sex parents.

Regnerus vs. Other Researchers

Judge Friedman found many loopholes in Regnerus’s theory that children raised in same-sex households had worse outcomes in life.  Friedman called Regnerus’s study “deeply flawed,” religiously motivated and funded by conservatives who oppose same-sex marriage.

How demeaning to have a higher court decide when and whom you can marry and whether you can adopt children?  Shouldn’t those decisions be left to all individuals?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

“One Bad Apple Doesn’t Spoil The Whole Bunch”

Last week, I wrote about Mark Regnerus’s negative flawed study of children growing up in same-sex households.  Even the Sociology Department at the University of Texas (Austin) where Regnerus works has distanced itself from Regnerus’s findings that incorporated loose definitions of “lesbian mothers” and “gay fathers.” 

But straight parents, take heart.  Your GLBTQ children will  be parents, as some already are, and you will have grandchildren.

Don’t believe everything you read! For every Regnerus’s study supported by right-wing organizations, there are other more scientific studies that prove Regnerus wrong.

·      The “Adolescents of the U.S. National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study”by Nanette Gartrell, MD  and Henny Bos, PhD .2012 found that the absence of male role models produces no negative effects for teens with lesbian mothers.

·      Most importantly, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in 2013 stated that more than twenty-five years of research have found no link between parents’ sexual orientation and their children’s emotional well-being.  “Many factors confer risk to children’s healthy development and adult outcomes, such as poverty, parental depression, parental substance abuse, divorce, and domestic violence, but the sexual orientation of their parents is NOT among them.”

·      The Australian Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families, conducted at Melbourne University, concluded in 2013 that kids 17 years old and younger with two-committed same-sex parents are generally happier and healthier than their peers raised by straight parents. The children raised by same-sex parents scored significantly higher in terms of family cohesion and general health than did kids raised by opposite-sex partners.

Preliminary results from the Australian study indicated that children of gay and lesbian parents were no different from their peers raised by straight parents in terms of physical and mental health, and in their interactions with others and their parents.

·      The Cambridge University Study, published by the British Association of Adoption and Fostering, March 2013, found that” children with same-sex adoptive parents are no more likely to suffer from psychological disorders than children with heterosexual adoptive parents.  Neither do they differ in gender role behaviour.”

What the studies did reveal was that children of gay and lesbian parents are more likely to encounter discrimination based on their parents’ sexual orientation.

In other words, sociologists can not find reasons why same-sex parents shouldn’t adopt, but society nevertheless feels a need to criticize those families with same-sex parents.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Mark Regnerus, Again

The U. Texas Sociologist Testifies in Michigan Against Gay Marriage & Adoption

Why is the author of a disputed gay parenting study from 2012 been chosen as an expert at a trial of two lesbian nurses who want to adopt special needs children in a state that doesn’t allow gay marriage or joint adoption of one another’s children?

Pseudo Science

How can Regnerus be considered an expert when his flawed study has been discredited by his own university as well as his own Sociology Department which “takes the position that the conclusions he draws from his study of gay parenting are fundamentally flawed on conceptual and methodological grounds and that findings from Dr. Regnerus’s work have been cited inappropriately in efforts to diminish the civil rights and legitimacy of LBGTQ partners and their families?”

The study claimed to find that households with same-sex parents were less supportive and nurturing than households with opposite-sex parents.  Truth is that the study actually compared homes with committed opposite-sex parents to broken homes headed by parents who had, at some point, had a same-sex relationship.  These should never have been considered “same-sex households.” Only two of the respondents were raised by a lesbian couple from birth.

Conflict of Interest?

The 2012 paper, in the journal Social Science Research, has undergone an internal audit that found that it should never have been published in the first place. Regnerus has ties to the Witherspoon Institute, the conservative religious organization that funded the study with nearly $700,000.

"Children Simply Need Good Parents"

Experts testifying for the nurses Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer said “children simply need good parents, no matter their gender or sexual orientation.” The research, more than 100 studies that legitimately exists, is substantial and decisive.

Abby Goldberg, a psychologist who researches gay and lesbian parenting at Clark University, claims that gay parents tend to be more motivated, more committed than heterosexual parents on average.  LGBT parents do not have the 50% accidental pregnancy rate that heterosexuals have.

The October 2011 Report by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute found that 60% of gay and lesbian couples adopted across races – an important finding given that minority children in the foster system tend to linger.  More than half of kids adopted by gays and lesbians had special needs, another hard-to-place category for adoption.

Why Beat A Dead Horse?

With his own University and Sociology Department distancing themselves from him, and the American Psychological Association endorsing gay marriage and adoption, Regnerus should recant his study until he can find better samples, if ever.

Advancing His Conservative Agenda

He pretends his studies are out of noble concern for children and families yet simultaneously they harm children and keep them in households in which the parents can’t marry nor can they legally adopt the kids.  His study as well as his talks have become his platform for anti-gay marriage and adoption.

Perhaps, he should take a page from Robert L.Spitzer, M.D., psychiatrist from Columbia University, who admitted in 2012 that his 2003 study that supported the use of so-called reparative therapy to “cure” homosexuality for people strongly motivated to change was deeply flawed.  Spitzer formally apologized.

Will Regnerus?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Unfinished Business

Chelsea Clinton was wise when she said that LGBT rights are the unfinished business of the 21st Century. Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr. said “fighting for gay and lesbian rights is one of “the defining civil rights challenges of our times.”  LGBT rights are what civil rights for blacks were over fifty years ago.

Rapidly Growing Majority Steamrolling

While over 50% of the U.S. approves of same-sex marriage, this majority approval is not reflected.in states’ voting,  Pew Surveys show that more Democrats than Republicans vote for gay marriage as do adults under 35, as opposed to those over 60.

Windsor’s Case Used as Template in States’ Equality Campaigns

Since the Supreme Court of the United States struck down The Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as between a man and a woman last June, confusion has reigned. Lower court judges now cite Justice Kennedy’s basis for striking down bans on same-sex marriage.  The states that don’t have legalized marriage want the benefits that gay couples are receiving in the states where same-sex marriage is legal.

In the latter states, those benefits are supposed to be equal to heterosexual benefits regarding taxation (Edie Windsor made sure of that! }, military benefits, and  many more! Only seventeen states and the District of Columbia allow legal marriages, not counting the recent decisions, all stayed, from Oklahoma, Utah, and Virginia. There are 29 states, mostly in the South and Midwest that have constitutional bans on same-sex marriages. Talk about unfinished business!

Pandora’s Box

This has caused fury in those states,. The unwed gay couples want the same benefits as legally wed gay couples. Anthony M. Kennedy’s majority opinion in U.S. v. Windsor  extolls the central role of states in defining marriage . It would have been so much easier if the U.S. Supreme Court had extended benefits to all the states.  State by state, lawsuits have ensued all over the U.S. with equality lawyers such as the one that Edie Windsor employed or if you’re lucky, the famous team of David Boies and Ted Olsen who argued away Proposition 8 in California.

Chaos erupts because the laws change. I spoke to a lesbian couple whose marriage was recorded in The New York Times.  They married in Utah when it was legal, only to find there is now a stay on gay marriage in that state.  In Indiana, a conservative state controlled by Republicans, lawmakers pushed forward a constitutional amendment; in the end, the measure was changed, removing language some supporters considered essential.  This will probably result in delaying a statewide vote on marriage for at least two years. A federal judge in Kentucky last week ruled that his state must recognize same-sex marriage from other states.  

Gay couples have sued to overturn Colorado’s same-sex ban in state court.  Oregon has turned against its own marriage ban. Pennsylvania clerks were warned not to marry gay couples  In Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Corbett’s administration have urged a state judge ban on gay marriage by throwing out a lawsuit brought by more than twenty-four couples to challenge its constitutionality. Bruce Hanes, an elected country clerk in Pa. , disobeyed the state law when he decided to grant 174 licenses between the time when Windsor won her case last June and the state court’s order in September.  Virginia overturned the state ban as an infringement of states’ rights and vowed to take the issue to the Supreme Court.

A Solution in the Supreme Court

Maybe it would be simpler if the U.S. Supreme Court issued a uniform decree for all the states. What do you think?