Monday, April 24, 2017

What Your LGBT Child Wants To Hear From You



You don’t want to be blindsided when your child comes out to you.  Nor do you want to yell at your child (“you can’t be!”) or doubt his revelation ( “it’s just a phase!”).  The Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State reports that most coming outs do not go well because parents are not prepared for the news that jars with the expectations they have had for their child since birth or even before in our binary world. 
The most common defense mechanism for parents is denial.  What could be worse for a child to hear that the parent knows best about the sexual orientation that he/she has felt? Who would know better than the child?
Even if you are caught off-guard, your child has mustered up his courage to share this important part of his self, knowing that he probably is disappointing you, so try to be understanding even if it will take you awhile to “wrap your head around” this new identity.
What should you say? Here are 5 possibilities that connote unconditional love:
·      We love you and support you. ( A hug is always appreciated.)
·      We are pleased that you felt comfortable enough with us to share this important aspect of your self.  Thank you for trusting us.
·      Who else knows?  Classmates? Best friends? How have they reacted?
·      How do you envision your future? How has being gay affected your life?
·      Who haven’t you told yet, and what is your plan?  Remember that it is your child’s story and he/she has a right to privacy.
It’s o.k. to say to your child that it may take awhile for you to adjust fully, but that        you will, with his help and others as well.





Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Gender Spectrum Defined


                                

                                      Dictionary 101 for Straight Parents
 Once Upon a Time, we lived in a binary world with Dick, Jane, and Spot.  Girl wore dresses, boys wore pants. Girls were given pink lunch trays in the grade school cafeteria. The boys received blue trays.  The boys went to “shop” and the girls went to “home ec.” There was no blurring of the binary rules.  If a girl wanted to take shop, too bad.  If a guy wanted to try his culinary skills in “home economics, he couldn’t.  If a girl wanted to be on the boys’ baseball team or even if she identified as a boy, she might be regarded as a “tomboy.”  Nobody knew about transgender kids then, their correct pronouns or their desire to use the bathroom they identified with. 
It’s a whole new world now.  For the older straight parent, the terms can be baffling (even Katie Couric had to learn them during the National Geographic Special “The Gender Revolution.” (February 3, 2017). Let’s start with the basics:
·      Asexuality means a person who generally does not feel sexual attraction or desire to any group of people.
·      Bisexual: a person who is attracted to both people of their own gender and another gender. Also called “bi.”
·      Cisgender: Types of gender identity where an individual’s experience of their own gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth.  e..g. straight.
·      Gender is not the same definition as sex.  Sex refers to biological differences that include a person’s chromosomes and physical body. Gender refers to the behavioral, cultural, and psychological traits typically associated with one sex.
·      Gender expression: how we manifest masculinity or femininity.  Our behavior, speech, behavior, movement, and other factors as masculine or feminine.
·      Gender free/agender.  These people may not feel tied to any form of gender identity and often prefer the pronoun “they.”
·      Gender identity. The sense of “being” male, female, genderqueer, agender, Sometimes it lines up with physical anatomy or expected social roles.  Gender identity, biological sex, and sexual orientation are separate. People’s gender identity can shift over time. This means they are genderfluid.  Bigender people may shift between feminine and masculine gender identities and presentations or feel like they are two distinct genders at the same time.
·      Genderqueer: Identities which fall outside of the accepted sexual binary. May also refer to people who identify as both transgendered and queer, i.e. individuals who challenge both gender and sexuality regimes and see gender identity and sexual orientation as overlapping and interconnected.
·      Intersex.  Some people are born with both sexual organs and XXY. Non-binary:  people who don’t identify as either men or women.  It’s possible to be non-binary and identify outside of the male/female divisions, but still identify with a clear gender identity
·      Pansexual: not limited in sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender, or gender identity.
·      Queer: an umbrella term sometimes used by LGBTQA people to refer to the entire LGBT community. Can be regarded as offensive to some, depending on their generation, geographic location and association with the word.
·      Transgender: umbrella term for all people who do not identify with their assigned gender at birth or the binary gender system.
·      Transsexual: a person whose gender identity is different from their biological sex.



           

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Prepare for GLSEN's Day of Silence, April 21



As a parent, you want to ensure your child is safe at school.  This is also the goal of GLSEN, Gay, Lesbian, Straight, Education Network, the leading national educational organization focusing on safety for all students.  There is a need to raise awareness and fight homophobia in schools because:
·      In a Harris Interactive Study on Bullying, studies said two out of three reasons students are harassed are actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender expression.
·      According to 2005 report “From Teasing to Torment, School Climate in America,” additionally nearly nine out of ten LGBT students experience harassment.
So, What Is This Day Of Silence About?
GLSEN’s Day of Silence illustrates the silencing effect of bullying and harassment on the LGBTQ students and their allies.  It’s an annual event to raise awareness and protest the silence faced by LGBT people daily. People of all sexual orientations and gender identities who support LGBT rights on April 21st (this year) will take a vow of silence to recognize and protest the silence. Each year, nearly 8,000 middle and high school students register with GLSEN to partake of Day of Silence.  This year, the first 3,000 registered online will receive free swag. all free downloadable posters, organizing resources, and 25% discount off all Day of Silence items like mugs and Tee shirts.
                                    How Can I Get My School To Rally?
First, ask the principal for a meeting and find out if the staff and faculty are interested in joining this project. If your principal is opposed, you have a right to get Lambda Legal involved.
Have your GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) Club or other all-inclusive groups map out the details for the event.  Divide your tasks into Before, During and After as gsanetwork.org/resources/gsa-action/events/day-silence suggests.
BEFORE:
·      Have your GSA prepare a “To Do” List:  Who is in charge of each item?
·      Put up flyers and posters.  Send out e-mail announcement, advertise in school newspaper.
·      How will the school handle a Day of Silence?  Find out if you are to be silent all day or just when you’re not in class.  Should you be silent in the cafeteria and during breaks? Are you to be silent on social media?
·      How will you handle people who are opposed to silence? You have a right to do this.
·      You may want to pass out cards that participants state why they are not speaking.

During:

·      Have a staffed table with resources.
·      Leaders should be visible with same clothing, for example, to group you.
·      Post an announcement explaining the event to be respectful.
·      Do you a designated space for your break on silence?
·      Ask your teachers if they want to do a silent lesson plan.  They can obtain a video “As If It Matters” by calling 415-552-4229 or e-mail info@gsanetwork.org.

After:

·      Write up an evaluation of the event. Remember that next April there will be another Day of Silence.
·      Hold a Breaking the Silence Or Speak Out Activity.  For example, have LGBT population tell their stories of harassment and discrimination after reflecting on the day.
·      Continue the support by educating the community.

For more tips, see glsen.org

 

Prepare

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Those Who Object To LeFou Are Fou!


Those Who Object to Le Fou Are Fou!
I took my kids, then 6 and 11, to see “Beauty and the Beast” on Broadway in 1994.  Terrence Mann played the beast.  It was a great musical with a good message.  I don’t remember any homosexual overtones, except that one of its creators Howard Ashman died of AIDS, the same year of the animated classic “Beauty and the Beast.”
Today, I went to the movie, No. 1 at the box office, and was looking for overtly gay themes that were thought to be scandalous enough to pull the film from a lineup at an Alabama theatre and shelved in Kuwait and Malaysia. Ultra-conservative religious organization such as the American Family Association) are criticizing the movie, reporting that it is “pushing a gay agenda.”
What gay agenda?  In the April issue of Attitude, director Bill Condon confirmed that LeFou is Disney’s first openly gay character.  LeFou, who has been to war with the narcissitic Gaston (whose name Le Fou can’t spell because LeFou admits he’s illiterate).  Riding side-by-side on horseback as Gaston’s sidekick, LeFou jokes that why would Gaston want to marry the town’s pretty girl, Belle, when Gaston can have him instead?  It’s a double-entendre that would go over most cisgender childrens’ heads.  LeFou is a loyal friend, if somewhat clingy, to despicable Gaston. He admires Gaston, but is it a crush?
Says Director Condon, “LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston, (handsome and fearless,) and on another day wants to kiss Gaston. He’s confused about what he wants.  It’s somebody who’s just realizing that he has these feelings.”  If you want a gay stereotype in Beauty and the Beast, look at Stanley Tucci, who is turned into one of the three cross-dressers by the wardrobe in the castle. Condon's inclusion of a gay character may have also been a homage to Alan Menken's collaborative lyricist Howard Ashman.
LeFou’s sexual orientation is so subtle in the movie that it’s hardly worth getting upset about.  In the final scene of about a minute- and –a-half  the former beast, now returned to his princely status, is dancing with Belle in the ballroom with all the town’s people. During this time, LeFou (actor Josh Gad) kisses another man.
Big deal!  If children don’t know personally gay people, they must know of them through television, if nothing else.  The under -30 set seem to “get it,” according to Pew Research.  They are the ones who approve of gay marriage, gay relationships.  It’s the older generation and ultra-right who make a fuss when the arts try to reflect modern values, even if it is Disney!  Whose “fou,” French for crazy?

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Conversion Therapy Busted With 20/20 Undercover Investigation

Last night, I watched with horror the testimony of gay boy named Lucas who ran away from a Restoration Youth Camp in Alabama.  His adoptive Christian parents from Naples, Florida sent him to an unlicensed pray-the-gay-away camp because they couldn’t deal with his homosexuality. Lucas ultimately ran away from the camp as he was beaten, put into solitary confinement.  He testified against the camp pastor who received twenty years for manslaughter after a town Police Chief Charles Kennedy stood up for Lucas and other children after he was handed notes written by the minors about the deplorable conditions that Kennedy later saw for himself.  As Lucas reported about Restoration, “at least in prison, you get three meals a day. They try to beat the gay out of you.  It’s spiritually abusive.”

Similarly, a lesbian, Sarah, was sent by her parents to The Heartlight Christian School in Longview, Texas. It’s a residential counseling program for teens who “struggle with a wide range of behavior and emotional issues.” Sarah’s T.V. celebrity cousin, Jeremy Jordan, started a GoFundMe page, seeking to get attorney fees to get Sarah out of Heartlight. She, too, didn’t want to be converted.

Pointless Exercise

Both these institutions were trying to use religion as a weapon.  You can’t convert LGBT children to heterosexuals.  You can’t “pray-the-gay” away.  No psychological treatment or spiritual counselling is effective in changing a person’s sexual orientation.

The American Psychiatric Association and The American Medical Association oppose reparative or conversion therapy.  In fact, they call the treatment unethical. Homosexuality is no longer regarded as a disease in the eyes of the psychiatric community. Yet, although the effects can be dire resulting in depression, guilt, and even suicide, the practice is only outlawed in six states (Oregon, Illinois, New York, Vermont, New Jersey, California) and the District of Columbia.  However, other states are considering laws against this disreputable practice.

It is uncanny that the day before the 20/20 show aired, March 10, reparative therapy’s founder, Joseph Nicolosi of the Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic, died at age 70. 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

U.S. History's First

When Gavin Grimm’s ACLU lawyers argue his case, Gloucester County School Board vs. G.G.,  scheduled for March 28th, it will be the first major decision on whether transgender people are covered under sex discrimination law.  Grimm’s case is arguing that his high school’s policy violates Title IX of Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination.

The background of his case is this: School administrators in Virginia allowed Gavin to use the boys’ restroom for almost two months without consequence...until the school started receiving complaints from some parents and residents of Gloucester County school board. Gavin and his mother Deirdre notified administrators of his male gender identity at beginning of his sophomore year. ( He’s now a senior). Because of the backlash, the school board adopted the new policy on December 9, 2014, by a vote of 6-1.  Consequently, Gavin has been using a single-sex nurse’s bathroom that he finds humiliating. 

What The Supreme Court Justices Have To Decide

The most important question is whether or not the Department of Education had the ability to read transgenderism into Title IX law.  What do we mean by “sex?” has to be determined.  Since this is gender identification not birth gender, you are arguing an idea, not an apparent trait. 

Grimm’s case stands to influence transgender and all gender non-conforming people across the board.  The intersex (having both sex genitalia) community for the first time has filed a Supreme Court brief. Medical associations, unions, artists, doctors, lawyers, scientists, government employees and fifty-three major corporations such as Apple, IBM, EBay, Microsoft have filed Amicus or Friends-of-the-Court’s briefs.  Two hundred members of Congress, sixty current and former police chiefs and sheriffs, thirty U.S. cities, National Education Association, National Parent-Teacher Association of School Psychologists, the NAACP, the Anti-Defamation League, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the National LGBT Bar Association and the Constitutional Accountability Center and over one hundred transgender adults also signed.

Effect of President Trump’s Directive

Last week the Trump administration withdrew guidelines instructing school districts to let transgender students use bathrooms corresponding to their chosen gender (gender identity). Says Gavin “it definitely hurts to hear your government saying that you’re not deserving of protections that you should have as a transgender student.” It’s a discriminatory bathroom policy that segregates transgender students from their peers.
The Williams Institute, that conducts research on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy, reports that one in every 137 teens identify as transgender. They need, like Gavin, to be assured that they will be protected and feel safe in restrooms and locker rooms and not be harassed. 

   

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, 1939 Mr. Gavin Grimm Goes to Washington, 2017


In the popular movie of 1939, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, Gary Cooper plays an unassuming honest senator from Montana who takes on corrupt Washington politicians. This week, a shy, humble and determined seventeen year-old high school student from Gloucester, Virginia, Gavin Grimm travelled to Washington with his mother to be the lead plaintiff in a case that may settle the whole “bathroom issue” once and for all. 
Wearing a hoodie, emblazoned with A.C.L.U., Gavin left his rural town, his pet pig Esmeralda, to represent himself and potentially other transgendered men and women in a suit involving his usage of his high school bathrooms. This suit may go all the way to the Supreme Court and become a landmark case.  After being on “The View,” last Thursday, where he wore a dress shirt stowed in his makeshift luggage, a large white plastic bag, G.G., as he’s known, is now known as an activist for transgender rights and a hero to many transgenders. 
What’s At Stake: More Than Dignity
Gavin, since he was twelve or thirteen, has identified as a boy even though he was born a girl and a twin. Yet, he is not allowed to use the boys’ bathroom at his school.  Gavin’s school has built single-user bathrooms to try to placate outspoken parents and complaining girls.  “It’s incredibly frustrating, it’s embarrassing, it’s very uncomfortable,” attests Gavin who feels that this discrimination makes him feel different from his peers.  He uses the nurse’s restroom instead and that also feels discriminatory.
(Of course, by the time The Supreme Court decides, Gavin may be out of high school, the Supreme Court could send the case back to the appeals court or wait for other cases to piggyback.)
But that’s not the point.  What is the point is that President Trump on February 22nd rescinded Obama’s Federal Directive on Bathroom Use, instructing public schools to let transgender students use bathrooms and locker rooms of their chosen gender, not the one on their birth certificate.  The Obama administration’s guidance was based on its determination that Title IX, the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education, also applies to gender identity.
About Face For Trump: Feels Overreach Violates Safety & Privacy of Straight People
Soon after Trump took office, he announced that he intended to continue enforcing an executive order Obama issued to protect LGBT people from workplace discrimination. Ha!
Without the Obama directive, it will be up to states and school districts to interpret federal anti-discrimination law and determine whether students should have access to restrooms in accordance with their expressed gender identity and not just their biological sex.
Yet, last week, he and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions, bowing to the religious right, decided that states’ rights should take precedence.  The Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos did not want to rescind the Obama guidelines, and recognized the severe risk of not having those Federal laws in place.
 Although DeVos told the Political Action Conference, CPAC, on February 23rd, that the “issue was a huge example of Obama administration overreach, one-size-fits-all approach to issues best solved at personal and local levels,” she also admitted that “we have a responsibility to protect every student in America and ensure that they have the freedom to learn and thrive in a safe and trusted environment.” Even Caitlyn Jenner, a Republican, is annoyed at the Republican response to the federal directive.
GLSEN’s (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network) latest national climate survey reported that 77% of trans students experience harassment or bullying in schools and over 50% of trans youth commit suicide.  Those that identify as transgender will not feel safe, but harassed at school.
PFLAG  (Parents for Lesbians & Gays as well as Transgenders) National & GLSEN relaunched, in response, their joint #Claim Your Rights Campaign from 2009.
Statistics aside, I once interviewed a f-t-m ( born female, transitioned to male), who appeared in the “ Fear chapter “of my co-authored book When Your Child Is Gay,” (Sterling, 2016) Miserable in high school, he used to change into baggy amorphous clothes once he got to school so he could feel more comfortable. However, not totally comfortable in his own skin and at war with the sex he was assigned at birth, as soon as he legally could, realizing he was transgender,  he started taking hormones. He attended college where he was more accepted.  He told me that if he could not have transitioned, he would have killed himself.