Wednesday, October 18, 2017

October is National Bullying Prevention Month

As an integral part of National Bullying Prevention Month, tomorrow is Spirit Day.  Does your child's school have a GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance),  partake in GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network) sponsored activities? Will the students and faculty be wearing purple to show solidarity for LGBT youth and stand against bullying?

Too many students are bullied each day yet fail to tell their parents.  Many children will feel humiliated and ashamed and actually believe they are responsible for being victimized.  Advises psychiatrist Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D., co-author of When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know ( Sterling, 2016), " don't blame your child!"

It's important for a child to know that their home, school, community will want to protect him.  Emphasize that bullying shouldn't be tolerated.  He is entitled to an education in a safe environment.

Here are clues so you can recognize the signs of bullying:


  • Sudden resistance to go to school.
  • A decrease in making social plans after school or on the weekends.
  • Feigning illness to avoid school and other events.
  • Recurrent damage to or loss of property or clothes.
  • Has the child had some mood changes?
  • Does your child seem depressed, less communicative, not hungry or eating all the time?
  • Is he withdrawing from family activities or general interests he loves?
  • Is the child becoming insecure showing a low self-esteem and worthlessness?
If you witness any of these troubling signs, notify the schoolteacher, guidance counselor,  and principal. If your child is being cyberbullied, then not only let the school know, but also the police.  Tell your child not to retaliate, make copies of all social media messages to present to the school and possibly court.  

Monday, October 9, 2017

Why Do We Have National Coming Out Day?



National Coming Out Day is an annual LGBTQ Awareness Day on October 11.  It actually started on 1987 with the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.  Observed in the U.S. and Switzerland as well as seven other countries, you may see participants wearing pink triangles or carrying rainbow flags.

Did you know that one out of every two Americans has someone close to them who is gay/lesbian, according to the Human Rights Campaign?  By breaking the silence of being in the closet and electing to come out, the LGBTQ community, in numbers, demonstrates to the world that they are not alone.  Once the straight community knows they have loved ones who are “gender queer,” they will be less likely to foster homophobic or oppressive views.

Although it would be ideal if everyone felt he could come out, it is never correct for a parent to push a child into coming out.  The child should come out when he is ready and when he does, parents should ask for permission to tell others.  It’s his story.

To be an ally during National Coming Out Day, you don’t have to march.  But at home, you might employ these subtle ways to make your LGBTQ child feel comfortable so that he may want to come out to you.  Or if he has come out, suggests Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D., co-author of When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know ( Sterling, 2016), make him feel as supported as his heterosexual brother/sister by:

Asking your child the same questions you ask your other children.  Specifically, don’t avoid the topic of dating and relationships.  Be sure to invite the significant other to family dinners or functions in the same way you would for a partner of a straight child.  From time to time, make a point of asking your child how his significant others are doing, what are new with them, and so forth.
Accept whatever your child tells you about his sexuality as hard fact and do not try and convince him that he must be either straight or gay.
The most important thing is to make it clear to your child that sexual orientation is only one part of who he is and that it has no bearing on your love for or acceptance of him.

For further tips, see http://www.hrc.org. The Human Rights Campaign has guides and resources such as A Resource Guide to Coming Out, Coming Out to Your Doctor, Coming Out at Work.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

How To Be An Ally At Home



This week (September 25-29) K-12 students will celebrate Ally Week in schools across the United States.  Sponsored by GLSEN.org, (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network) students will have activities that will display their support for their LGBT friends.

An LGBT child’s home should be his haven.  How does a straight parent make it so all the time?

Here are some tips:

Provide unconditional love for your LBTQ children.  Accept them as they are.  Don’t think they will outgrow “this phase.”  In most cases, it’s not a “phase.”  Don’t try to convert them to heterosexuality.  It will only result in low self-esteem, guilt, and the gay-to-straight camps are not successful at converting to heterosexuality in the long run anyway.
If you can’t accept, work on it!  Attend PFLAG meetings that are run by parents, who once like you, needed guidance to overcome obstacles that prevented them from acceptance.  Confide in a trusted, positive friend who won’t belittle you for your concern about your child.
Educate yourself.  There are many on-line organizations that can help you. One is Family Acceptance Project @San Francisco State familyacceptanceproject has PDFs you can download for help with common issues that hinder acceptance.
Are you flattered that your son/daughter paid you the highest compliment by revealing their sexual orientation?  It took courage.
Look at this opportunity to have honest, open dialogues that you can build on in the near future.
Realize that your child’s sexual identity does not change his personality.


According to Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D., co-author of When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know (Sterling, 2016), “acceptance involves acknowledging the reality of a particular situation and recognizing that it is not in your power to change it.  The only way to alleviate internal angst and achieve a sense of equanimity is through acceptance. “

To demonstrate that you have your child’s back, consider these suggestions:

You do not feel a qualitative difference between your straight child and your gay child.
You don’t have to march to be a gay rights activist, but should speak up with you see injustices such as school bullying.
Don’t avoid the topic of dating and relationships with your LGBTQ child.  Invite his significant other to dinner just as you would your straight child, for example. You can talk to other family members and friends about your child being gay, but
Find out how your child wants to handle letting relative and close family friends know.
Is your child happy?  What could be more important to a parent?
Realize the benefits of having a gay child.  Does it make you more sympathetic to those who are “different?”

Look At the Positive Now!


Are you flattered that your son/daughter paid you the highest compliment by revealing their sexual orientation?  It took courage.
Look at this opportunity to have honest, open dialogues that you can build on in the near future.
Realize that your child’s sexual identity does not change his personality.
Is your child happy?  What could be more important to a parent?
Realize the benefits of having a gay child.  Does it make you more sympathetic to those who are “different?”



Sunday, September 24, 2017

Tips for Straight Parents of LGBT Kids during Bisexual Awareness Week



Bisexual Awareness Week was this past week and ends today, September 24, 2017.  Yesterday was National Bisexual Day.  This day and week celebrates bisexuals who make up more than 50% of the LGBT community.

There were teach-ins, poetry readings, concerts, festivals, parties and picnics calling attention to the bisexual community, their friends and supporters to recognize and celebrate bisexual history, bisexual community, and culture and all bisexual people in their lives in the United States and Europe.

As a straight parent, what does this mean if you have a bisexual child?  How do you respond?

As you would a gay, lesbian, transgender child, show unconditional love. Love your child even if you don’t love the sexuality.
Don’t regard this as a “phase.” You can’t get rid of their sexual identity.
Don’t sexualize your LGBT kids.  They may not be having sex, but just feel they are attracted to both sexes. If they are having sex, be sure they are practicing safe sex!
Don’t pray that your child will choose one identity.  You will be disappointed.
Know the difference between sexual fluidity and being bisexual.  Bisexual is a sexual orientation that refers to being interested in people of one’s own gender and people of other genders.  Sexually fluid people often feel that their attraction is situated and shifts due to particular partners, their environment, and the time in their life.
Realize that GLSEN research reported that bisexuals have poorer psychological well-being.  Bisexuals have been given a bum rap by society.  Often considered “half-queer,” they are considered sexually greedy, having sex with both genders.  Some lesbians think they are sleeping with “the enemy.” Society wants them to get “off the fence” and choose one gender.
Compared to their straight counterparts, bisexuals have disproportionate levels of substance abuse, suicide, and eating disorders. Bisexual women have 46% of being raped as opposed to 17% of straight women and 13% of lesbians.


Because of these alarming statistics, you can make your home a haven. Seek support for your child within the community and his school through GLSEN.org and a GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance).

Friday, September 15, 2017

A Straight Mother Thanks Edie Windsor



When our gay son was in his twenties, before President Obama’s evolvement of
“sacred” civil marriage unions and President Clinton’s signature on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA),  he announced at dinner “it’s not fair that my straight sister can get married, and I can’t!”

He was right.  I often wondered if he would be alone in later life not knowing the joys and, yes, pitfalls of married life.  And I felt a loss not only for him, but sad I would not be at a wedding for my son as I would my daughter.

Ever so slowly, Obama evolved as his Vice-President Biden preempted him during a television interview and said that the White House was in favor of same-sex marriage.  LGBT activists fought to bring DOMA to its knees as they and others questioned that marriage can only be defined as between a man and a woman.

Progress snowballed when a lesbian widow, Edith Windsor, who married in 2007 in Canada (later recognized in New York State) Thea Spyer, a psychologist who died in 2009.  Windsor, in her 80’S, inherited Spyer’s estate.  Yet, the IRS denied Windsor the unlimited spousal exemption from federal estate taxes available to married heterosexuals because DOMA barred same-sex couples from federal recognition as “spouses,” thus keeping them from the federal benefits accorded to heterosexuals.

Windsor, who had been with Spyer for over forty years sued, claiming that the federal law only recognized heterosexual marriages and unconstitutionally singled out same-sex marriage partners for “differential treatment.”

In the lawsuit, United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court overturned the ruling, in a 5-4 ruling in 2013: “ no person shall be “deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” With this invalidation of DOMA, the Court was granting, for the first time, not only recognition of same-sex partners, but also the many benefits. Windsor became a hero.

However, the Supreme Court stopped short of ruling that same-sex marriage was a constitutional right.  This meant that in thirty-seven states that still had laws banning same-sex marriages, same-sex partners would not receive the benefits that Windsor battled for. Not deterred, she pressed further. Two years later, in a more expansive ruling, Obergefell v. Hodges, as well as three other cases, the Supreme Court held that same-sex couples had a constitutional right to marry anywhere (not just the thirteen states and the District of Columbia) in the nation and with all the benefits that heterosexuals receive.

On June 26, 2015, my son was given the same right to marry whomever he chose, same as my daughter.  Today, there is a service at Temple Emmanuel in Manhattan for this glamorous smart ex-IBM programmer.  It’s probably standing-room only. Civil rights organizations for LGBT people such as GLSEN, Human Rights Campaign,
PFLAG will all be represented.  To the millions of straight parents she gave hope to, we will be there, too. Thanks, Edie.






Sunday, September 3, 2017

When The School Personnel Are The Bullies



What’s A Parent To Do?

Schools must do all it can to help stop and prevent bullying it knows or should have known was happening in their district.  Otherwise, the school can become legally responsible if it has not done anything to prevent or stop this offensive behavior.

Last week’s blog concerned a Missouri principal and a school superintendent who removed two seniors’ quotes from a yearbook without warning.  The two gay males were targeted because they alluded to the fact they were gay in their quotes that were amusing and self-deprecating, hardly offensive.  The school personnel apologized later to the boys and said it was a learning experience, but the seniors already felt the sting.

Sometimes, a parent can take all the right steps to combat bullying: has written down the date, details, nature of incident, statement from your child, witnesses, and an account of your child’s emotional state and has reported it to the teacher or principal.  He has also kept accurate records of any additional incidents that may occur and any response received from the school.  And nothing gets accomplished!  Your son or daughter is still bullied. What else can you do?

Did you know that:

Some schools have a contact person trained to deal with bullying. The school Guidance Counselor would know.
Contact the School Board, Superintendant,
If you don’t get satisfaction, seek a lawyer specializing in cases involving bullying. Or an education attorney if school has been negligent.  Your child deserves to be educated in a safe space.
If you’re concerned with safety, contact your local police. Make it clear that your child has been bullied, and that the school has neglected its duty to provide a learning environment that is free of harassment and bullying.
Request that the officer visit the bully for a talk.  Don’t you try to remediate the situation.

Keep in mind that often teachers and other school professionals do not witness bullying because it happens out of their sight (e.g. playgrounds, locker rooms, bathrooms, buses).

If you’re not getting support from the school, stay in touch daily and weekly with the principal, teacher, guidance counselor.  If they still don’t give you satisfaction, you may have to call the American Civil Liberties Union or as a last resort, have your child enroll in another school.

For more tips, see DiMarco, J.E. and Newman, M.K. (2011). When Your Child is Being Bullied/ Real Solutions for Parents, Educators and Other Professionals.  Vivisphere Publishing.








Sunday, August 27, 2017

Joey Slivinski & Thomas Swartz “Most likely to Succeed” (in my book anyway)



In most high schools across America, yearbooks contain quotes under seniors’ pictures.  You’re familiar with the common ones:  “The only way to have a friend is to be one,” or “She walks in beauty as the night.”

Imagine the shock when Seniors Joey Slivinski and Thomas Swartz opened their yearbooks to find just their photos, names, but no captions underneath.  Without advanced warming from their Yearbook Committee or School Board in Western Missouri, their quotes were eliminated.

Why?  Because the two boys were openly gay and made amusing self-deprecating references to their sexual orientation.  Here’s what Joey wrote: “Of course, I dress well.  I didn’t spend all that time in the closet.”  His classmate Swartz penned: “If Harry Potter taught us anything it’s that no one should have to live in the closet.”

Swartz and Slivinski were outraged and told television station KCTV5 and The Kansas City Star that they found their quotes inspirational.  Slivinski said “thank you to Kearney School District for making me feel like you’re ashamed of having a gay student. The School District stung.”

Who robbed their quotes and their dignity?  Who didn’t give them the opportunity to change the quotes?  Kearney High School principal Dave Schwarzenbach and School District Superintendent Bill Nicely.

Their rationale for this homophobia?  “In an effort to protect our students quotes that could potentially offend another student or groups of students are not published.  It’s school practice to err on the side of caution.”

The school district later publicly apologized and spoke of the “incident” as a “learning opportunity to improve the future.”  This happened only because School Board official Matthew Ryan Hunt received hundreds of phone calls, texts, and Facebook messages from Kearney students, past and present, and parents in support of Swartz and Slivinski.

Hunt, who is the first gay Board Member, commented “none of them ( School Board officials) know the sacrifices made and the courage shown by these two individuals to come out as gay in high school.”

Was this incidence a form of bullying by the school district?  It’s not always the students who bully!  Surveys report that the under age 30 group accept gender diversity. The students weren’t offended, the school officials were!

Swartz and Slivinski are now making stickers, quips into their yearbooks as well as those of their friends.

Maybe these proud gay students should have been nominated “most likely to succeed?”