Friday, January 20, 2017

Heeding Martha & The Vandellas’s Advice

“... Oh, it doesn’t matter what you wear, just as long as you are there.  “Dancing in the Streets,” a number one hit in 1964, wanted the world to be one big block party.
Two nights ago, 200 people took to the streets outside of now V-P Mike Pence’s rented house in Chevy Chase, Maryland to protest his anti-gay policies that have included voting against same-sex marriage and approval of “conversion therapy.” The latter is an attempt to convert gays to being straight, but has been outlawed in several states because not only is it ineffectual, but because it elicits guilt and depression in those who are trying to be converted in these religious camps.
Dancing to tunes of Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Madonna, the Facebook event was organized by WERK for Peace and Disrupt J20.  (In case, you’re wondering what Disrupt J20 is, it’s a protest group that calls for a bold mobilization against today, the Inauguration Day, January 20). The dancers did not actually reach Pence’s house, but the crowd, dressed in rainbow colors and sequins, made their point: “Daddy Pence, come dance.  We are here, we are queer, we will dance.”  This was a tame, but loud demonstration.  They could have thrown molotov cocktails at Pence’s house.
Public Shaming Smart?
This is not the first time that Pence has been shamed.  During a November 2016 performance of “Hamilton” with his granddaughter in tow, Pence was booed by the audience at the theatre. After the show, with the cast on stage, Brandon Victor Dixon, who played Aaron Burr, read a note, “we wanted to stand up and spread a message of love and of unity. We are a diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us.  We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of us.”
Was it wrong for Pence to be called out in a public theatre?  Although Pence listened to the message and didn’t object, Trump, on the other hand, demanded an apology (which he never received) from the producers of the show for “bad behavior.” The theater was not the place to make a spectacle.
Pence was a gentleman and shrugged it off as he explained to his granddaughter “this is Democracy in action.”  But Trump will tweet for  the slightest “tit for tat” as he did with Meryl Streep. The lauded actress used her acceptance speech at the Golden Globes on January 8th to indirectly criticize Trump as she drew attention to the diversity of background in the arts as“just a bunch of people from other places.”
Although Trump was elected without my help or vote, perhaps we should show more class than he does at times.  Was it necessary for the Republicans today to boo Hilary Clinton when she and Bill sat two rows behind Trump at the Inauguration?  Isn’t it enough that she showed up haven’t lost the electoral college, but winning the popular vote?  Her gesture showed humility and class. 
On many levels, you can see why the LGBT population is afraid of the new administration: their voting records, their control of the Senate and the House. But remember that Obama credited with the first LGBT initiatives evolved.  His Vice-President Biden during a “Meet the Press” interview in May 2012 prematurely said that Obama was for gay marriage, almost forcing Obama’s hand to accept it. At that time, Obama was supporting civil unions and was still “evolving.”  Obama was not the only President who evolved.
President Bill Clinton signed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 1994 before he evolved.
Let’s give Trump a chance.  Not only Presidents evolve but parents who initially aren’t accepting of their LGBT children evolve, the military has evolved.  Let’s hope for the best as we all grow and evolve. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Golden Rule In Action!

Remember your mother and your Sunday School teacher telling you to treat others as you wish to be treated?  One of the largest bullying-prevention initiatives in schools throughout the United States starts tomorrow, on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Day, January 16th and runs until January 20th, Inauguration Day.  It is fitting that No Name-Calling Week of 2017 starts on MLK Day as the great preacher stressed kindness, respect, for the treatment of all people as he called for the acceptance of a diverse society.

No-Name Calling Week, 2017

Nearly half of teachers believe that bullying, name-calling or harassment is a very serious problem at their schools.  Bullied students, research finds, miss up to one day per month of school due to their discomfort at being harassed.

What Exactly Is No-Name Calling Week?

No-Name Calling Week is an opportunity to show you’re an ally to LGBTQ students, particularly transgender and gender nonconforming students, as well as LGBTQ students of color.  An annual event, No Name-Calling Week was inspired by the popular YA novel titled The Misfits (2001) by James Howe.  The book is about four best friends in the seventh grade who experience bullying due to their weight, height, intelligence, and sexual orientation.  During student council elections, they create their own party aimed at eliminating name-calling of all kinds.  The principal gives his support of the party and their founding of the “No-Name-Calling Day” at school.

Simon & Schuster, the publisher of The Misfits, and GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight, Education, Network) formed The No Name-Calling Week Coalition and organized No Name-Calling in schools throughout the United States.  Supported by over sixty national partner organizations, schools organize a week of activities such as posters, dress, written materials to demonstrate their acceptance of differences.

GLSEN provides tools for lessons and activities for elementary, middle, and high schools.  For samples and possibilities for your schools,  see

Celebrate Kindness!

While this week will bring attention to the bullying problem, by modeling kindnes
 in our everyday lives, both in and out of school, you can fulfill King’s prophecy to accept others who may be different from you.  Speak kindly and be thoughtful to others not just this week, but always.  “If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say it at all.”

Saturday, January 7, 2017

What's The Hidden Picture In Highlights?

Our kids, then 6 and 11, used to pour over their Highlights for Children received in the mail.  Of course, they could have read Highlights in their elementary school library, but it seemed special to them to receive their very own copy!

We did some of the crafts and puzzles, and, of course, read the stories.  One of their favorite sections was “Where’s the Hidden Picture?”  Just this week, the trusted non-controversial magazine founded in 1946 became the center of controversy.

The Hidden Picture for Kristina

This controversy began this past October when an LGBT activist named Kristina Wertz posted about the lack of same-sex couples in Hello, a Highlights magazine aimed at children up to 2 years old. Kristina wrote to the magazine’s editors that she’d like to see families with homosexual partners be depicted positively and regularly.

The editors responded by basically saying that the conversations involving same-sex families should be initiated by families.  “The topic of same-sex families is still new, and parents are still learning how to approach the subject to their children.  We believe that parents know best when their family is ready to open conversation around the topic of same-sex families.”

Although the magazine editors assured Kristina that “it is very important to us that every child see his or her ‘face’ in the pages of our magazine at some point,” LGBT activists didn’t want to wait for the Highlights editor to “continue to think deeply about inclusion.”

Quick as the next day, Highlights apologized, saying its initial response was not  “reflective of our values, intentions of our position. All families matter. Love is the essential ingredient,” according to the magazine’s statement.

True to its word, Highlights, in February, will include an illustration of two men loading a station wagon for a family trip in an item that invites readers to send letters.

With Inclusion Comes Backlash 

Despite Highlights’s plans to bring the family up-to-date to “help children become their best selves and understand that all families, including theirs, are important,” this inclusion has upset the conservatives.  While the magazine does not discuss relationships among adults, Rod Dreher of The American Conservative derided Highlights “it is insane that Highlights for Children gets bullied into this, and that the editors would capitulate so quickly. Within a year or two, Highlights is going to face enormous pressure to, um, highlight transgendered tots?”

One Million Moms, a division of the Christian advocacy group the American Family Association,  on December 21, warned that parents are left with no other choice than to cancel their subscription.” 

The Hidden Picture

This planned picture in Highlights has already sparked over 1,000 words and will continue to do so.  Says the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Christine French Cully, “we expect this will make some people unhappy.” 

Families come in all shapes and sizes now.  There are families headed by grandparents, single parents, multi-racial families, same-sex families made by adoption or surrogacy; Highlights is attempting to reflect the new modern family.  Highlights has come out of the closet.  The picture that was once hidden is now hanging on its wall for all its readers to see.   


Friday, December 30, 2016

New Year's Resolution: Accept Your Child's Sexual Orientation

Don’t Assume You Know Best!

If your child comes out, believe his/her/they.  Who would know better?  Don’t try to second guess them or try to convert them to heterosexuality.  These efforts fail, according to research.

In order to love them unconditionally, support them and their attempts to be true-to-themselves.

Suggestions for Accepting

If you have trouble accepting in the new year, you need to figure out why you consider having an LGBT child as a loss or disappointment. To solve the riddle and give you peace in the new year and always, the following supports will give you answers:

·      A gay-friendly therapist
·      A trusted, positive friend
·      A support group for straight parents of LGBT children PFLAG, with nationwide chapters.
·      An LGBT worker or friend who are out.

For more suggestions for resolution of individual issues such as denial, guilt, fear, anger, shame, loss, see

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Coming Out: Don’t Spring It On Your Relatives During Holidays

Chances are you may see your relatives on few occasions: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and possibly a milestone birthday.  You don’t want to upset the tone of the holidays by injecting a life-altering announcement that will either elicit a million questions or silence your guests who are unprepared for such news.
You don’t want to usurp and undermine the holiday with your coming out news or embarrass your relatives who thought your boyfriend was just a “friend” in the past. For both straight parents and LGBT children, you should come out on your own timetable when you can focus on each other, not when you are busy delumping the gravy, carving the turkey, opening gifts, answering phone calls, and tending to possibly small children. Most holiday traditions do not including coming out.
So when is a good time to come out? 
·      When the teller and the news recipient aren’t distracted.
·      When the announcement allows time for conversation afterwards.
·      When the parent and child are relaxed.
·      When it is a private conversation.
What Do You Gain By Telling?
Before coming out, an LGBT child should weigh the pros and cons. Before sharing the news, it’s helpful to review questions that you think your parents or loved one will bombard you with and prepare your responses.  Of course, you don’t owe answers to anyone.  Your parents may hug you and express unconditional love and support.
Or, they also could reject you, particularly if their religion forbids same-sex love. If you think you could be banished from your house, I wouldn’t tell them until you are financially independent. As most coming outs do not go well, they may try to guilt trip you or change your mind. Take this into consideration.
A straight parent should first obtain permission of his LGBT child before he divulges the information to relatives and friends.  It’s the child’s story.  Who in the family is homophobic? Who should know? Your child may want to be the messenger.
Your Child Came Out Already And You Handled It Badly.  Now, What?
If your child has already come out and you reacted badly, there are ways to ameliorate the tension between you.  The Family Acceptance Project gives guidance to parents who have common issues that prevent them from loving their child unconditionally.
In our book When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need to Know ( Sterling, 2016) within The Doctor Is In section written by co-author Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D., there are suggestions for improving the dialogue between you and your child so you both can understand your expectations that you now have to alter.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

World AIDS Day has almost Come and Gone, but HIV and AIDS Linger.

What Is World AIDS Day?
Started in 1988, WORLD AIDS Day was the first global health day. We remember what was considered a plague  (AIDS) back then and how it took the lives of 100,000 + New Yorkers alone. It’s a day to acknowledge our progress in HIV prevention and treatment around the world and renew our commitment annually on December 1st to a future free of HIV.  New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has projected that goal by 2020,
WORLD AIDS DAY is a time for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and show support for people living with HIV. The theme of this year’s World Aids Day is Leadership, Commitment, Impact.  This campaign asks leaders to strengthen their commitment to using evidence-based HIV interventions, prevention tools and testing efforts to help stop HIV. 
Know the Facts About HIV:
·      According to the Centers for Disease and Control, gay and bisexual men continue to be the most affected population, accounting for 2/3 of new diagnosis.
·      More than 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV.
·      Globally, an estimated 36.7 million persons are living with HIV/AIDS. 
·      Each year more than 1 million people become newly infected by HIV.
·      Gay and bisexual men continue to be the most affected population, accounting for 2/3 of new diagnoses.
·      With the recent heroin epidemic in the United States, unless syringes come from a sterile source and aren’t shared, the HIV cases will rise.
Goals for UNAIDS ’90-90-90’ Program
·      Targets 90% of people living with HIV to know their status.
·      90% of those diagnosed to start and stay on antiretroviral therapy (ART) and
·       90% of those on ART to have a suppressed viral load to protect their own health and prevent transmission of HIV.
·      The United Nations wants to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.
·      The UNAIDS Prevention Gap Report shows that worldwide an estimated 1.9 million adults have become infected with HIV annually for at least five years.
·      Make new drugs like PrEP, a pill that when taken prophylactically can prevent HIV infection, less expensive and more readily available.
“No One Should Die Of Ignorance” – Elizabeth Taylor, AIDS Crusader
HIV doesn’t discriminate across race, gender, and age. END THE STIGMA.
As a parent, you should know the following and communicate the information to your children:

·      If your children are sexually active, have them tested once a year for HIV. It’s easy, free, fast and confidential and should be part of his health routine.  
·      They should know about how to prevent transmission (i.e. safe sex) and their HIV stat.
·      For more Information on WORLD AIDS Day and features such as plug-ins for finding a testing site, please see http://www.cdc.gove/features/worldaidsday/.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Are You Transgenderally Aware?

This past week was annual Transgender Awareness Week, culminating today in Transgender Remembrance Day against transphobia.  I have been thinking all week of a transgender man whom I interviewed for my co-authored book When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know (Sterling, 2016). This young man had told me that if he hadn’t transitioned as a freshman in college, he probably would have killed himself.  Without his family’s eventual acceptance, he would have probably been one of the 51% of transgender individuals who attempt suicide.
Like so many other transsexual people. J.R. was not comfortable in the gender identity and/or gender expression he was born with.  Or, a psychiatric term, he had gender dysphoria.  Born to a loud Italian family, Jennifer, his given name, was always at war with his gender assigned at birth.
For example, he would wipe off the makeup his mother encouraged him to wear.  Wanting a quick change out of frilly blouses, at high school, he would take a backpack full of baggy and amorphous clothes that earned him the title of “dyke and “butch.”
Today, he lives as a transgender man and is much happier. He transitioned through hormone therapy as surgeries are horribly expensive, he told me, and not a prerequisite for transitioning. (However, transitioning does NOT necessarily include taking hormones, having surgery or changing identity documents such as driver’s license, Social Security Record, to reflect one’s gender’s identity.)
Transgender 101
What’s the difference between a transgender and a transsexual? Transgender is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth.  It is an adjective. So, do not use word transgenderism, use being transgender.
A transsexual is NOT an umbrella term, but also an adjective. Many transgender people do not identify as transsexual and prefer the word transgender.  Best to ask which term they prefer.
Transgender people are NOT transvestites.  This is an outdated term, anyway. Transvestites wear clothes associated with the opposite sex.  They identify as heterosexual and do NOT wish to change permanently their sex or live full-time as women.
Transgender Etiquette
·      Do not use the following words: “tryanny,” “she-male,” “he/she, “it,” “shim.”
·      Do not use phrase “sex change.” Not all transgender individuals have “top” and “bottom” surgeries.
·      Use the right pronoun when addressing them.  Always uses a transgender person’s chosen name.  Ask the person what pronouns do they use.
·      If you can’t ask, use the pronoun “they” in the singular to reflect their non-binary identity. Use the pronoun consistent with the way the subject lives publicly (he, his, she, her, hers).

 Unfortunately, the legal system, social service agencies, schools, workplace, hospitals are not trained to treat transsexual population with respect.

Did you know that:

·      A patchwork of state and local laws make it difficult for transgender people to update their drivers licenses, birth certificates and other identification records with accurate names.
·      In 31 states, you can be fired on the basis of gender identity.
·      Every three days, a transgender person is murdered somewhere in the world.
·      The Human Rights Campaign said that more transgender people were killed in 2015 than during any other year on record.
·      Vast majority of those killed are of African-American or Hispanic descent.
·      In the first eleven months of 2016, there have been 21 transgender women killed in the U.S.