Monday, June 13, 2016

Backlash of Gay Rights During Gay Pride Month

President Obama proclaimed on May 31st that June is LGBT month.  Said he, “ I call upon the people of the United States to eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people. “

Despite his announcement, on the cusp of Gay Pride Month, Omar Marteen, who lives in St. Lucie County,  Florida and has sworn his allegiance to the Islamic State, decided that LGBT persons are better off dead than living their lives as homosexuals. Isis doesn’t believe in the separation of church and state.  Consequently, he killed more than fifty LGBT persons in a gay nightclub called Pulse in Orlando.

It was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history and what Obama called an “act of terror against people who are LGBTQ. It was an attack on the fundamental belief in equality and dignity for all people.”

Although Gay Pride celebrates the advancement of civil rights for gays, from a time when it was illegal for LGBT people to congregate at a bar or for bars to  even serve LGBT people. (hence the Stonewall Inn rebellion in June 1969).  It also celebrates sexual and gender identities in public.

But recent happenings also remind us that we have a long way to go.  Unrelated to the Pulse shooting, James Wesley Howell, 20, of Jeffersonville, Indiana, was headed to the West Hollywood, California gay pride parade.  However, he wasn’t planning on marching or being in solidary with the LGBT population.

He, like Marteen, came equipped to harm.  Howell was found with three assault rifles and chemicals used to make explosives in his car and was stopped by police.
Unrelated to the nightclub massacre in Florida, Howell’s plan gives one pause.  How many others are out there with similar hatred? How can we assure safety for LGBT citizens?

While great strides in LGBT rights such as legalized gay marriage, gay adoption, why this backlash? What do you think? As a mother of a gay son, I worry for his safety as well as others.

Frank Langella, in his Tony Acceptance Speech on June 12th, said “when something bad happens, we have three choices: we let it define us, we let it destroy us, or we let it strengthen us. “ United in spirit and offering food, shelter, and blood to those who were maimed, let us continue to support those in need of equality.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Segregation All Over Again?

A few weeks ago, I was at the welcoming LGBT Community Center on west 13th Street in New York City.  I wanted to look at the space at the BGSQD (bookstore/event hall) within this well-known community center.

As you might expect, all their restrooms are LGBT-friendly.  I eventually had to use the facilities so I went into a stall in one of the restrooms.   There were, I think, judging from the shoe sizes, two men in the next two stalls.

It didn’t seem weird to me at all.  I wasn’t mugged, accosted. I minded my own business as I took care of business. My experience has me wondering why conservatives like actress Stacey Dash likes bathroom laws that are subject to court battles like in Mississippi and North Carolina that require transgender people to use the bathroom that aligns with their birth.  Dash’s rationale:  “why do I have to suffer because you can’t decide what you wanna’ be that day? I’m not gonna’ put my child’s life at risk because you want to change a law.”

Her remarks are understated compared to evangelist James Dobson’s comments in his latest piece for the Right Wing organization “Family Talk.”   Dobson called President Obama a tyrant , “warping our children” for legalizing unisex bathrooms for public school students.” Writes Dobson,  “would you remain passive after knowing that a strange-looking man, dressed like a woman, has been peeking over toilet cubicles to watch your wife in a private moment? What should be done to the perverts who was using mirrors to watch your children?

You have a greater chance of being harassed in a bathroom by a sex offender who is straight.  I am waxing philosophic here but I think people criticize what they don’t understand.  And transgendered people are misunderstood.  The statistics are alarming:

  • 41% of trans people have attempted suicide.
  • 58.7% of gender non-conforming students have experienced verbal harassment in the past year because of their gender expression compared to 29% of their peers.
  • 49% of transgenders reported physical abuse in a 2007 survey.
  • 50% of trans persons have been raped or assaulted by a romantic partner.•
Trans people of color are more likely to experience physical violence when interacting with police than white cisgender survivors of violence. 
  • 1 in 5 transgender people have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives.
  • 1 in 8 have been evicted from their housing due to their transgender status.
  • 80% of trans students feel unsafe at school because of their gender expression. 

                                   Statistics from

Transgendered persons need to blend into mainstream society, as LGB people have done recently.   They need to be visible. Dobson’s rhetoric is apprehensible – akin to  the late Governor George Wallace’s remarks favoring segregation of blacks in the mid-1960’s.

Transgenders should not fear for their lives when they come out of the closet or, for that matter, use the water closet.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

This Memorial Day, We Remember Those Who Serve/d, Those Who Couldn’t Serve.

Today, I am remembering my grandfather, born 1887, who received Belgian’s Croix de Guerre, my great grandfather, a Lieutenant in the Coast Guard Navy during the Spanish American War, who received a Congressional Medal of Honor, and my husband, who received a Purple Heart  for his injuries inflicted during operating a helicopter during the Tet Offensive, January 1968 at the height of the Vietnam War.
And those who are currently serving sometimes multiple times in Afghanistan and other countries.

The War Within

But I’m also thinking of the gay and lesbian citizens who were prohibited from serving in the armed forces for seventeen years.  Or those who were disgraced with a discharge before the repeal of  ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in 2011.  To say the least, it wasn’t easy for them even though they can re-enlist.

And what about transgenders?

Where We Stand Now

On May 12, in a Q & A with the U.S. Naval Academy, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said there are military ‘practical issues’ to lifting the ban against transgenders such as grooming, hormone treatment, uniforms, etc.

However, last July he announced plants to lift the prohibition on transgendered troops. Carter called the current regulations “outdated and are causing uncertainity that distract commanders from our core missions.”  It is estimated that up to 15,000 of the roughly 2.2 million active-duty and reserve troops now serving may be transgender people.

First Openly Gay U.S. Secretary of the Army

In some regards, progress in the military is reflected with the appointment of the Army’s first openly gay Secretary, Eric Fanning.  Fanning’s record is impressive:  He was previously appointed Acting Secretary of the Army’s Senior Civilian Assistant and principal adviser on matters related to the management and operation of the Army.

From April 2013 until February 2015, Fanning served as the 24th Under Secretary of the Air Force.  From June 2013 through December, 2013, he was Acting Secretary of the Air Force and from 2009 to 2013, he was Deputy Chief Management Officer in the U.S. Navy. .

On June 1st, Fanning will receive the Paving the Way Award that” honors those in public life who have shown courage and leadership in helping to advance the cause of LGBT rights” during Washington, D.C.’s annual Pride events.

Human Rights Campaign’s President, Chad Griffin called Fanning’s confirmation “historic and a demonstration of continued progress toward fairness and equality in our nation’s armed forces.”

We await the change.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

May Is Mental Health Awareness Month, But Not Every State Honors It

Tennessee and Mississippi Have Discriminatory Laws

Last month, Republican Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee signed into law House Bill 1840 that legalizes discrimination against LGBT people.  The law allows counselors to cite religious beliefs for refusing services to LGBT patients. Originally, the terminology of the bill allowed for “sincerely held beliefs,” but the state House then broadened phrasing to “sincerely held principles.”

Religious Freedom Bill

Tennessee is the only state to allow counselors, because of their “ sincerely held principles,” to turn away potential LGBT clients. Denounced by the American Counseling Association as a “hate bill” against gay and transgender people.

According to the ACA, it violates the group’s code of ethics that delineates that mental health professional can refuse to serve patients in the name of
‘Christian love’ because it compromises the therapists’ “goals, outcomes or behaviors.”

While the bill does not give a mental health professional the right to turn away any patient who is experiencing an emergency nor an excuse from an obligation to refer a patient to another professional, what it does do is discriminate against a marginalized group who already may experience prejudice and is in need of help.
A group who is constantly fighting for their rights that heterosexuals take for granted and witnesses harassment is going to be more in need of psychotherapy than the general population.

Mississippi House Bill 1523

Similarly, Governor Phil Bryant (R) rationalized his Bill, also passed last month, in the name of  “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination.”  House Bill 1523 legislates discrimination by allowing private and public business to refuse business to same-sex couples because of “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

It allows florists, wedding photographers, bakeries, and other wedding-affiliated services, for example, to deny business to gay couples with nuptials although the Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriage throughout the United States.

Despite the progress in civil rights for LGBT people, there continues to be a conservative backlash in this country.  It doesn’t make for equality or good mental health.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

May Is Mental Health Awareness Month

Are YOUR LGBT Kids Mentally Healthy?
Does your child attend class regularly or does he cut class once a month, as GLSEN (Gay Straight Lesbian Education Network) studies show, because he feels unsafe at school? 
Is she bullied in school, and cyberbullied 24/7?  A new study published last January in the American Journal of Public Health found that it “doesn’t always get better.”'t-always-get-better/ Assistant Professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg Medical School, Brian Mustanski, author of the study, found that the majority of the 248 youths in the study (84.6%) experienced decreasing levels of victimization over the four years .  However, 10.3 percent experienced significant increase in bullying, and 5.1% maintained high levels of victimization (bullying, harassment and assault) over the four years.
Despite President Obama’s edict on May 12 that ALL schools have ‘gender-neutral’ bathrooms, is your trans child prevented from using the bathroom of choice (the one he identifies with) rather than the one that matches his birth certificate? 
These are just a few of the challenges that your LGBT children face daily.  LGBT youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide, with the greatest number being transsexuals.
What’s A Parent to DO?
With odds like these, a parent needs to know what’s going on in his/her child’s life? Is the school treating your child with respect?  If not, know your rights so you can advocate for your son or daughter. Consult GLSEN or American Civil Liberties Union
Make sure your child is in touch with community-based LGBT support groups or organizations on-line so he can associate with like-minded individuals?
And if you, as a parent, feel overwhelmed trying to find solutions for your child’s happiness, you can get advice from PFLAG
or The Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State, a research, intervention, education and policy initiative that works to prevent health and mental health risks for LGBT kids.
Both have PDFs you can download.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Mother's Role in Supporting Gay Youth Is Vital!

Tomorrow is Mother's Day.  With all the joys and frustrations of motherhood, don't you sometimes feel as if we mothers should receive a Congressional Medal of Honor?  But I'll compromise with flowers, a card, and a good breakfast.

While unconditional love from both parents is important for a gay child to thrive, it was my experience interviewing straight parents of gay youth for my book When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know (Sterling, June 2016; ISBN: 13-978-14549-1936-0) that most gay sons came out to their mothers first within the family and told them to keep the secret from the rest of the family until told to do so otherwise.  As my co-author Jonathan Tobkes, M.D., explains: " I have found that in my cases, the same-sex parent has a harder time accepting and internalizing the concept, and is, therefore, more likely to turn to denial (for example) when faced with the notion of having a gay child."

Family Acceptance

The Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State that researches the effects of parental rejection of LGBT youth.  Its findings, spearheaded by Caitlin Ryan, Ph.D., ACSW, points to the dire effects (and offers steps to remedy): low self-esteem, truancy, promiscuous behavior, drug abuse, depression, and sometimes suicide.

Parents can counter this potential negativity with hugs and supporting words such as 'I love you and will support you.  I'm glad you revealed such an important facet of yourself.'

Isn't this what we all want from our mothers and not just on Mother's Day?

Friday, April 29, 2016

What is STD Awareness Month?

STD Awareness Month is an annual observance in April. National Youth HIV/STD Awareness Day was April 10. (see blogpost April-10-is-National-Youth-HIV/STD-Awareness-Day/4/9/16. )
Each year, the U.S. has 19 million new sexually transmitted diseases.  It’s an ongoing public
health epidemic that costs the health care system 17 billion annually.
Talking To Your Kids About Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Many parents are embarrassed to talk about sex so they avoid the topic.  It’s o.k. to tell your kids that you are uncomfortable discussing sex.  Chances are they are embarrassed too.
Don’t think that just because you give them information or get them vaccinated for the human papillomavirus ( HPV), a group of more than 150 related viruses, that you are encouraging your child to be promiscuous.  Quite the contrary! Research shows that teens are less likely to have sex at an early age if they feel close to their parents.
Don’t Leave Sex Ed. To Others
·      No one can weave your morals, personal insight into a school sex-ed program.
·      Your child may hear about sex from friends and be given misguided information.
·      Without your input, the media could upset them with its hypersexuality, violence, etc.
Be Prepared:
·      Before you start, know the facts. You can get these from online sources as Mediline, Centers for Disease Control, American Sexual Health Association, testing centers, your health care provider, and The American Red Cross.
·      Know the answers to these questions: what is HIV, for example?  How is it spread, and how it can be prevented? The Centers for Disease Control recommends 3 steps: Talk, Test, and Treat.
·      Use specific and correct terms.
·      Answer questions as they come up with age-appropriate answers. (as your child grows older, add more details so that he/she is well informed by high school).
·      But if your teen doesn’t bring the subject up about HIV and other STDs, make a point of talking about them.
Ice Breakers To Get You Started:
·      Watch for ways to start a conversation:
·      TV programs, news articles, radio reports.  Comment on these together.
·      Ask if your child understands what they are talking about.  Does he/she know what HIV is, for example?
·      Ask if the school has talked about HIV and other STDS.  Clear up any misinformation.