Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Bells Are Ringing For You and Your Child



After what seems like a long summer recess, parents often look forward to their children returning to school.  But not so for their children, if they are LGBT. For them,  school means more than new back-to-school clothes, freshly stocked backpacks, and revisiting friends.  It also may mean being bullied or worse, cyberbullied.

Here are tips from http://stopbullying.gov. to help parents cope with this frequent and invasive crime:

For Their Safety

To lessen cyberbullying, talk to your kids about online issues.  Emphasize that they can come to you for help. You want to gain their trust! Don’t overreact or underreact.
Don’t blame your kids if they are victims of cyberbullying.  Some kids are scared that they will have computer privileges taken away so they do not report incidents to their parents and may use the computer secretively.
Monitor your child’s online usage. Set a time allowance for non-homework use.
Keep the computer in a public place.
Look at their profile page, Facebook, My Space, and Twitter accounts. Review their “buddy list.”  Ask who each person is and how your kids know him or her.
Tell your kids not to give out their passwords nor personal information online. Don’t send controversial photos that can go viral.  Once received, they can’t be erased.  Don’t open e-mails from people they don’t know.

Once The Invasion Has Occurred

Don’t allow your kids to respond to the bully. They shouldn’t retaliate when angry. Tell them not to forward messages.
Print out messages.  Take screen shots. Keep records of e-mail, texts, with dates, times.  You may need these for law enforcement or school.
Report cyberbullying to the web and cell phone providers. You can see what’s appropriate usage by reviewing their terms and conditions on rights and responsibilities sections.  
Block users.  Change settings to control whom can contact them.  Visit social media safety centers so you can report cyberbullying to them. They can take action against users abusing terms of service.

Get Law Enforcement Involved If:

There are threats of violence.
Sexually explicit messages,  photos or child pornography are sent.
A photo has been taken of someone in a place such as a public restroom where he/she would expect privacy.
If stalking or hate crimes occur.
The National Crime Prevention Council has site maps to find out more about your state’s anti-bullying laws and policies.  Just a click away!

All kids should be educated about the possibility of cyberbullying and how to combat this insidious affront.  Unfortunately, kids who are “different” are prime targets of cyberbullying.  Forty percent of LGBT kids report not feeling safe in their own communities.

Next week, I’ll talk about bullying in school.  The strategies are different.




Monday, July 24, 2017

Sex Ed. From Teen Vogue More Inclusive Than Schools’ Versions



On July 7th, the popular Teen Vogue, aimed at 12-17 year-olds, published an online article “Anal Sex: What You Need to Know/How To Do It The Right Way  that has Conservative right-wingers working themselves into a lather.  Some parents have called to cancel their children’s subscriptions to the publication and started a backlash on social media #Pull Teen Vogue.

Backlash from Unprepared Parents & Schools

One mother of ten named Elizabeth Johnston, author of The Activist Mommy blog showed herself, in a nod to Nazis’ book burning, destroying a copy of the magazine (even though the article appeared only online) in her backyard campfire and the photo went viral.  Accusing the magazine of promoting sodomy and peddling to minors, Johnston was joined by other parents who erroneously think that education leads to encouragement.

 Truth is kids are having sex earlier these days.  If they’re not, they are nevertheless curious.  Sex education, according to Dr. Michael Newcomb of Northwestern University’s Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing, is lacking.  Usually, educators “can only talk about LGBTQ sexuality as a morally incorrect approach or as a risk factor for acquiring HIV.” Most parents would not be equipped to provide discussions, complete with visuals, about the mechanics of anal sex so they should be grateful for the widely-read Teen Vogue on-line article.

Anal Sex Not Just For MSM (Men having Sex with Men)

But education does not lead to promiscuity.  Says the author of the article, Gigi Engle, “this is anal 101, for teens, beginners, and all inquisitive folk.”  Kids should know about anal sex that is also practiced by heterosexuals, according to the Centers for Disease Control.  “Anal sex appears to be more popular than possibly expected among the heterosexual couples under forty-five. In a report titled “Sexual Behavior, Sexual Attraction and Sexual Identity in the U.S.” which reportedly polled thousands of people between ages of 15 and 44 from 2006 through 2008, found that 44% of straight men and 36% of straight women admitted to having anal sex at least once in their lives.” In other words, anal sex is not just for gay males.

High School boys brag that they have done it.  Girls know they will not get pregnant if they engage in anal sex.  Philip Picardi, the digital editor of Teen Vogue, defended the article and stated that not only is the article “rooted in homophobia, but laced in arcane delusion about what it means to be a young person today.”

As a writer, the only shock about the article for me was the fact that it omitted on the first go-round the importance of safe sex:  using condoms.  That point was only added later and was the most salient takeaway message.


 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

What Your Child Fears Most When He Comes Out To You



You think you know your child.  And suddenly, when he comes out, the news can be such a surprise to you that your brain goes into denial mode.  This news goes against the grain of the traditional life you’ve envisioned for your child, even before birth.  How dare he interrupt your dream based on cis-gender roles and tell you, the parent, that he knows better about his future! Even if parents suspect their child is LGBTQ, it’s not always a relief to have your suspicions confirmed.

While this may be a shock to parents, it’s not easy for the one coming out.  Most LGBT kids know they are disappointing their parents with their news, particularly if they have heard homophobic remarks in their house.  If they are bullied at school or in the community in which they live, these feelings are further reinforced. . Ninety-two percent of LGBTQ kids in a Youth Survey reported hearing negative messages about being LGBTQ

So, while you may have to resolve your denial, not to mention other issues such as loss, anger, possibly shame, and fear to arrive at acceptance of your child’s sexual orientation, know that your child has probably already dealt with these issues, painful as they be.

 For some LGBT kids, revealing their inner selves to their parents may release tension and feel as if a burden has been lifted from their shoulders.   For others, they may rehearse or role play with their LGBT friends or known allies what they are going to say to calm their own nerves.

        Fear of Rejection:  Biggest Worry

According to the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State, parents and caregivers are the most important influence in a LGBTQ youths’ lives.  Fear of rejection is the greatest worry of LGBTQ kids after they come out.

What You Can Do

Parents can make their child’s coming out less stressful by:

Praising the child for being so honest with them.
Admiring their self-confidence in doing so.
“Be particularly careful what you say in the days following the coming out,” advises Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D., co-author of When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know (Sterling, 2016). “ The child will be ultra-sensitive during this time.”
Tell the child you love them unconditionally and will always support them.
Find out who else knows the information your child has divulged.
Reassure your child that you still love him for all the good qualities he already possesses and that his sexual orientation doesn’t erase those admirable personality traits.
Reiterate that you are available to your child and he can come to you with any concern.  Inquire how he envisions his future.

If you have responded to the coming out with anger or denial, you can apologize and start over.  The Family Acceptance Project has downloads for your guidance to acceptance.
 


Monday, July 3, 2017

How Does Your Child Know He's Gay?



It’s not for parents to doubt.  When a child comes out, many parents believe it’s a phase.  How could a ‘tween or teen know at such a young age, especially if he is still a virgin?

In this regard, it is awfully hard for you to “walk in your child’s shoes.”  This is one instance when your child knows more than you do.  Only he knows whom he is attracted to.  LGBs describe the feeling as an “otherness.”  Some know by age five, others at puberty, and even much later. Freud demonstrated that sexual orientation is a continuum or as described today as “fluid.”

You may want your child to be heterosexual, but you can’t second guess what he’s feeling anyway.  Certainly don’t try to convert him with gay-to-straight therapy (conversion therapy).  It doesn’t work and results in depression, low self-esteem, shame, even suicide.

Apologies In Order

If your reaction to your child’s coming out was anger, which is typical, apologize. Never let your views escalate into violence.  Thirty-four percent of LGBT youth report that they experienced physical violence from their parents because of their sexuality, and 26% of LGBT youth were forced to leave their home because of it.
 If prior to your child’s coming out, you had voiced some biased or prejudiced concepts about gay people, now would be the time to explain that you are going to work on shifting your bias and attitudes.  

Keep the door open for ongoing dialogues.  The Human Rights Campaign’s Survey of more than 10,000 LGBTQ identified Youth ages 13-17, found that less than a third of LGBTQ youth (32%) chose their family among a list of places where they most often hear positive messages about being LGBTQ.

If you need help “getting your lines right,” you might want to consult PFLAG (Parents of Lesbians and Gays, now with transgender chapters) or a therapist.  Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D., co-author of  When Your Child Is Gay:  What Parents Need To Know, in the Anger to Calm chapter, says “it is important that you are very mindful of the things you say to your child in the weeks and months following her coming out, as she will likely be exquisitely sensitive and looking for meaning in your word choice and tone.  Remind your child of why you are proud of him.  Being gay does not erase any of these things.”

A hug and the phrase “I Love You” go a long way as well.





Tuesday, June 20, 2017

What's With LGBT-Exclusionary Sex Ed?

What’s With LGBT- EXCLUSIONARY Sex Ed?


Why doesn’t sex ed in schools apply to LGBT students.  Did you know that
in most states except California, Colorado, Iowa, Washington, and Washington, D.C., LGBT students waste their time in either abstinence-only or sex ed that only pertains to heterosexuals.  LGBT kids sit in classrooms where their teachers and textbooks fail to be inclusive because their LGBTQ identities, behaviors, and experiences are not taken into consideration.

The GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight, Education Network) 2013 National School Climate Survey found that fewer than five percent of LGBT students had health classes that included positive representations of LGBT related topics.  Of millenials surveyed in 2015, only twelve percent said their sex education classes covered same-sex relationships.

Because of this dearth of reliable information in school, LGBT youth turn to the internet or older peers that can both relay misinformation.  Too embarrassed to talk to their parents, they are getting medically inaccurate material that can be misconstrued, built around myths that serve little purpose.

At the very least, LGBT-inclusive sex education should include positive examples of LGBTQ individuals, their relationships and families. It should also stress the need for sexual protection for everyone ( however, this shouldn’t excuse parents from talking to their children about these matters as well!).

Most Parents Want Sex Ed

The majority of parents polled (96%) want LGBT-inclusive sex education in high schools and ninety-four want it in middle school. Furthermore, The American Medical Association, The American Public Health Association, The Society for Adolescent Medicine, all endorse inclusive sex education.

In a study of more than 1,200 middle-and-high-school students across California, students who had inclusive sex education with positive images of LGBTQ identities, reported less sexual risk among teens and more support positive sexual health outcomes among teens that include: delaying the age of first sexual intercourse, reducing the overall number of sexual partners, unprotected sex, unintended teen pregnancy, and HIV rates and other STIS.

In schools whose sex ed classes are inclusive, LGBT students were bullied less. These inclusive students also felt that they belonged and consequently felt safe at school.



What Can Parents Do?


Gather your friends and demand inclusive sex education. This summer is a good time to start.  Get it on the school calendar for fall. Speak to school health advisory committees such as SHACS for curriculum choices, school boards, and school administrators.  You can order kits from Advocates for Youth and GLSEN LGBTQ-inclusive Curriculum Guide for Educators and lesson plans on bullying, bias, and diversity to start.

Write, speak to federal, state, and local policy makers who can remove gaps in sex education classes.  They can also support funding for effective sex education and resources for teacher training program evaluation and research.








Thursday, June 1, 2017

When Your Child Comes Out, The Family Dynamic Changes




When your teen comes out, let your child take the lead.  Don’t try to talk him out of being gay, calling it a “phase” and don’t attempt to change his sexual orientation by referring him to conversion  (gay-to-straight ) facilities.  Who knows better?
So, what should you do?  For once, let your child educate you about what it’s like to be gay, bi, lesbian, transgender.  Find out how he feels about being non cis-gender and how he envisions his future. 
This is not to say that you should “throw your hands up in the air.”  You don’t want to shirk your parental responsibilities.  Your child needs you more than ever now.  Show love and support. 
You can model responsibility by:
·      Making sure they not only know about safe sex (as you would your heterosexual child), but know where testing sites are for sexual diseases. Advocate for sexual education that includes information directed at the LGBT community.  (Most sex education courses in schools are not inclusive).
·      Take your child’s pulse frequently.  Is he happy at school?  Is he being bullied?  If so, know the proper channels to get satisfaction for the problem.
·      Make sure the physician/therapist your child sees is LGBT-friendly. Your child will feel comfortable bring up health disparities.
·      Show interest in your LGBT child’s love life as you would with your heterosexual child.
·      Don’t let the relatives in on your child’s sexual orientation unless he needs help to come out to them.  It’s his story,
·      Don’t expose your child to negative comments about homosexuals from uneducated relatives.
Even though this experience is new for you, don’t shut own.  You have a responsibility to continue in your role as a parent.  Employ the 3 L’s: listen, learn, and love.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

What Is IDAHOT?



IDAHOT sounds like a new potato to rival the french fries at McDonald’s.  But it’s much more widespread and important.  May 17th is IDAHOT day.  So, what is it?  It’s International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.
This Day, celebrated since 2004, is the largest LGBTI Solidarity event to occur globally to bring attention to the violence of LGBT individuals. It has 1,000 events taking place in 120 countries worldwide. Think of it as a global celebration of Sexual and Gender Diversities. IDAHOT is recognized by international institutions, governments, and marked by UNESCO. 
Why We Need This Day:
·      Same-sex relationships are still illegal in 72 countries (37 of them are UN member states). In places like Chechnya, you can be killed if you’re LGBT or beheaded in Muslim countries.
·      LGBT employees are still not out in the workplace.
·      LGBT students do not feel safe at school and miss at least one day of school per month.
·      Forty per cent of homeless population consist of LGBT children evicted from their homes.
·      Transsexuals have the highest suicide and assault rates of the LGBT population.
·      In some states, therapists are allowed to practice conversion therapy that tries to make the patient straight and is not only ineffective, but produces dire side effects in the LGBT person.
What To Expect On May 17:
·      In San Francisco, at Harvey Milk Plaza, LGBT activists will continue to pressure Russia to act against Chechnya.  With the pink triangle in the background (sign of The Holocaust), co-created by Patrick Carney, he will speak about the significance of remembering LGBT Holocaust victims.
·      Chelsea Manning, the Army transgender intelligence analyst convicted of a Wikileaks leak, will be released from prison after serving the bulk of her thirty-five prison sentence, and being commuted by Obama before he left office.
·      In other areas of the world, Lithuania kicks off the celebration.  In Chile, the local governments joined the Rainbow Campaign initiated by the national LGBT group, Movhil. Kosovo is holding a march to ask for the right to register same-sex partnerships.

For Allies: Teachers, Companies, Social Media

·      Teachers can use this day to organize an activity in class to inspire change.  Unesco, among others, has developed a specific IDAHO lesson plan for both primary and secondary levels.
·      Companies can organize events, issue communications, launch reports and train internally for diversity acceptance.
·      For more inclusive plans to download, go to https:// www.dayagainsthomophobia.org
·      Use hashtag #May17Because.