Thursday, January 11, 2018

Suicide: It's All Too Common

Did you know that suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people, ages ten to twenty-four?  Compared to heterosexuals, LGB youth seriously contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate. 
And the numbers climb when a teen is transgender.  Thirty percent of transgender youth report a history of at least one suicide attempt and nearly 42% report a history of self-injury such as cutting.
As we know, bullying has negative effects. LGBT teens are bullied two or three times more than heterosexuals.  Eighty-nine percent of transgender students have been verbally harassed because of sexual orientation and gender expression, according to GLSEN ( Gay, Lesbian, Straight, Education Network). 
How Do You Know If Your Teen’s Moodiness is Actual Depression?
Moodiness doesn’t last, last, last.  As a parent, you need to know the signs of depression:
·      Inability to fall asleep or remain asleep for at least a week.
·      Loss of appetite and/or weight loss without trying to do so.
·      Feelings of extreme hopelessness and a sense of doom.
·      Inability to concentrate on work or family duties.
·      Feeling down or sad all the time.
·      No longer finding enjoyment in things or activities that you previously enjoyed.
·      Thoughts of wishing you were dead and/or actual ideas of wanting to harm yourself.
·      Feeling consumed by intense worry or concern that bad things are going to happen to you and your family.
How A Parent Can Alleviate Depression
“The best way you can help your child not to feel rejected is by remaining involved in the details of her or her life and by not avoiding topics that may make you uncomfortable,” according to psychiatrist Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.
Ask your child on a regular basis how he is feeling.  If he responds that he is depressed, ask him if he would like to speak to a therapist.
Research has found out that the presence of gay-straight alliances (GSAs) in schools were associated with decreased suicide attempts in a study of LGBTQ youth, ages 13-22.  Students who attended schools with GSAs were less likely to attempt suicide (16.9%) as opposed to students whose schools did not have GSAs (33.1%).
Caitlin Ryan, Ph.D., founder of The Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State, says LGBT youth “who experience high levels of rejection from their families during adolescence were more than eight times likely to have attempted suicide. Parental acceptance, and even neutrality, with regard to a child’s sexual orientation can bring down attempted suicide rate.”
Sources To Help Your Teen With Depression And/Or Suicide
·      The Trevor Project, a 24/7 Crisis Hotline
·      It Gets Better Project:  Hopeful stories from LGBT community.
·      Parents for Lesbians, Gay, and Transgenders
·      The Family Acceptance Project


Friday, December 29, 2017

All Straight Parents Should Be So Understanding

I recently saw the excellent stays-with-you movie “Call Me By Your Name.”  In this film, Elio, a seventeen year-old Italian Jew, falls hard for his father’s research assistant, twenty-four year-old confident doctoral student, Oliver, from the United States.
Elio lives with his family during the languid summer at a villa in Crema ( Northern Italy). His father is an Antiquities Professor, his mother is a translator, and he is a Musician and a scholar himself.
Although Elio has had sex with an adoring French girl in Crema, it is Oliver he is obsessed with.  Oliver and Elio have only six weeks together, and during most of that time, they dance around their attraction to one another until they finally consummate the relationship, but they tell no one about their romance that incorporates identity, love, friendship, and good chemistry.  They are discovering themselves.  It is 1983, before Gay Pride, AIDS.
At his parents’ suggestion, Elio and Oliver spend three giddy days in Rome before Oliver returns to the states and Elio to his home where he first met Oliver.
Heartbroken after leaving Oliver, his first love, Elio, listless, plops down on the couch at home. His father was well aware of the relationship between Elio and Oliver as Oliver relays in a phone call to the family at Chanukkah.  “Your father started treating me like a son-in-law.”  The mother knew better as well.
“Don’t Cauterize the Pain!”
In a magnificent soliloquy, Professor Perlman, Elio’s father, acknowledges Elio’s pain.  He doesn’t ask Elio to confirm that he had a relationship with Oliver, but  he does let Elio know that what he had with Oliver was rare and special.  Perlman encourages Elio not to shut himself after this experience.
Talking about his own love lost, Perlman tells him:  “I may have come close, but I never had what you had.  Something always held me back or stood in the way.  How you live your life is your business.
But remember, our hearts and our bodies are given to us only once.  Most of us can’t help but live as though we’ve got two lives to live. One is the mock-up, the other the finished version and then there are all those versions in between.
But there’s only one and before you know it, your heart is worn out and as for your body, there comes a point when no one looks at it, much less wants to come near it.  Right now, there’s sorrow.  I don’t envy the pain.  But I envy you the pain. “ Or in Tennyson’s words, “’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
You know from Elio’s father’s words, that his son’s life is his business and as a parent, will always be there to listen to him and support him.
What Perlman has done is what every LGBTQ child wishes their parents would do: validate their emotions, not question their sexual orientation, and draw parallels of their own life experiences so the child can relate to another’s past.
 Oliver, in a later phone call to tell the Perlman family he is getting married to a girl in the Spring, confides in Elio that he’s lucky to have such an understanding father and that his own father would have him “carted away to an institution” if he found out about his gay romance.
Although Elio is not coming out to his father, Perlman’s approach is wise.  Says co-author of When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know (Sterling, 2016), Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D. “the best way you can help your child not to feel rejected is by remaining involved in the details of his or her life and by not avoiding topics that may make you feel uncomfortable.  Avoidance of certain areas send a tacit message that you may not be accepting of these things.”


Thursday, December 14, 2017

What’s Cooking in those Red Kettles?

Do well-meaning people know that by heeding the call of the uniformed bell ringers and dropping money into those red kettles, that they may be supporting homophobia and transphobia?  

Although the Salvation Army is the largest provider of drug and alcohol recovery services in the United States, and is no “fly-by-night” organization (it was founded in 1865 by a Methodist minister in London), it has come under attack from NYC’s Commission on Human Rights which filed a complaint at one of its substance abuse treatment centers because it discriminated against transgenders during its intake policies.

The complaints from last July charge the centers “with gender identity discrimination for refusing to accept transgender patients and for discriminatory housing policies, including assigning rooms based on a patient’s gender assigned at birth rather than their gender identity, subjecting to physical examinations, and forcing transgender patients into separate rooms.”  

The Salvation Army was blamed for the death of transgender Ms. Gale in Austin, Texas in 2008.  The Salvation Army’s national spokesman Lt. Col. Ron Busroe denies that the transgender woman was turned away from one of their shelters and subsequently died from exposure.  According to Busroe, The Salvation Army in Austin makes specific accommodations including separate bathrooms, for the transgender community.

While the Salvation Army doesn’t turn away homosexuals as its mission is to “preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and meet human needs in his name without discrimination,” one journalist two decades ago was ordered to break up with his boyfriend if they, homeless, wanted to receive services at that time.

Later, the journalist received an apology. 
The Salvation Army doesn’t lobby at the federal level, and claims it, “with no litmus test,” provides equal benefits to same-sex and opposite-sex spouses of employees.

Although more recently, the Salvation Army’s website, it thinks, has made progress towards inclusion by removing links to conversion therapy sites or more commonly known as “ex-gay or “pray-the-gay away” centers. 

However, it still bans gay people from serving as members and it wouldn’t support Australia’s Safe Schools Anti-Bullying program.

While The Salvation Army attests that it stands against homophobia and wants to be an inclusive church community, where members of the LGBT community find welcome and the encouragement to develop their relationship with God, it follows the Supreme Court’s ruling on “ministerial exception” which affirms the right of churches to hire individuals for religious positions whose values are consistent with church doctrine.” 

The Salvation Army is an evangelical church and one of the church’s beliefs is that marriage should be limited to opposite-sex couples. How progressive is that belief?

Don't be swayed by those cute Santa caps and bells!

Don’t be swayed by those cute Santa caps and bells!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Who Owns The Cake?

Tomorrow, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) will hear oral arguments about whether a Colorado baker has the right to refuse making a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

The couple, David Mullins and Charlie Craig, who were married in Massachusetts, complained for being turned down by the baker. It has resulted in a case, The Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, that has dragged on for years.  This case resulted in a win for the plaintiffs. The American Civil Liberties Union represented Craig and Mullins during the appeals.
 Rather than comply with a state law, Jack Phillips, the baker in question,  closed his shop near Denver rather than comply with a state law that bars businesses open to the public from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.

First Amendment vs. State Rights  

However, Mr. Philips believes that his First Amendment rights to free speech and the free exercise of his religion have been violated.  According to the 2017 Pew Research Center Survey, most Americans endorse same-sex marriage. However, Mr. Phillips disapproves and refuses to bake a cake for a same-sex couple.  He will sell, however, pre-made nuptial products.  He just won’t make a custom cake that he considers his crowning achievement. Through Phillips’s eyes, this is also a matter of artistic expression and freedom of speech. He shouldn’t have to express ideas that he’s opposed to.

Is Phillips’s artistic expression protected by the First Amendment?  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect gays and lesbians who were given the national right to marry just a few years ago.  As it stands now, only twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have laws like Colorado’s that protect all customers from discrimination based on race, religion, gender or since 2007, sexual orientation.

 The State’s decision was upheld by the Colorado Court of Appeals on appeal.  The Supreme Court of Colorado declined to hear an appeal.  The National Executive Director of PFLAG, Jaime Grant, Ph.D, will add opening testimony to the rights of the gay couple at the Supreme Court tomorrow.

It’s not just about the cake.  As The Wall Street Journal points out in Review & Outlook “Let Them Not Bake Cake,”  “a ruling for Colorado could encourage other government burdens on First Amendment religious rights, especially in this era of right-left cultural polarization.  Could the state compel Catholic doctors to perform abortions or require Catholic adoption services to place children with same-sex couples?”

On the other hand, the state of Colorado says that the issue is discriminating against gay people, not merely opposition to their right to marry.


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Coming Out: Is It A Good Idea During The Holidays?

Chances are you may see your relatives on few occasions.  Thanksgiving may be one of them.  Christmas may be the other.  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.  The news may not sit as well as the turkey.
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.  ( However, if your straight child has a “significant other,” show as much interest in your LGBT child’s love interest. ) 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 include 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 weight the pros and cons.  Before sharing the news, it’s helpful to review questions that you think your parents or loved ones will bombard you with and prepare your responses.  Of course, you don’t owe answers to anyone.  Your parents and other relatives may hug you an express unconditional love and support, hopefully.
Or, if they are adamantly opposed to same-sex love and have voiced this view, skip the revelation.  If you think you could be banished from your house, I wouldn’t tell them until you are financially independent.  As not all coming outs go well at first anyway, parents may try to guilt trip you or change your mind.  Take this into consideration. 
Anyhow, it’s the child’s story.  If you know in advance that your child is LGBT, make sure you first obtain permission from him before he divulges the information to relatives and friends.  Your child may want you to be the messenger.
What Not To Say To Your LGBTQ Child at Thanksgiving
On the website, writer Alyse Knorr suggests the following:
·      Do not ask your child if they’ve “changed their mind” about their LGBTQA identity. This is not a “phase.”
·      Do not introduce your child’s significant other as their “friend.” Don’t deny the relationship or ignore it.  Ask our child what you should call their “significant other” when introducing that person to family and friends.  Make sure your child doesn’t out his partner before his “main squeeze” is ready to come out.
·      Do not call your child by any names or pronouns other than their preferred chosen name and pronouns. If you flub, apologize and say that you are trying to keep up with the new identity.
·      Do not attempt to set them up with someone. Anyone.  This will not change their mind and who knows better than your child whom he wants to date?
·      Do not ignore the election.  While politics are usually a no-no at the dining table, if Trump’s rescindment of LGBT rights rears its ugly head, you should assure your child that you are the best ally and will have his back.
No holiday is perfect, but these suggestions may make for a more comfortable holiday for everyone, especially the LGBT child.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

It’s National Transgender Awareness Week, Nov. 13-17

Did you know that:
·      The F.B.I. released hate crime statistics for 2016 and highlighted the ongoing epidemic of anti-transgender violence in the U.S.
·      In 2016, advocates tracked 23 deaths of transgender people in the United States.
·      One in every 137 teenagers in the United States identifies as transgender.
In our schools, transgender students don’t feel safe. As reported by the Williams Institute,
·      75% of transgender students felt unsafe at school because of their gender expression.
·      70% of transgender students said they avoided bathrooms because they felt uncomfortable.
·      60% of transgender students had been required to use a bathroom or locker room that did not match the gender they live every day.
States don’t protect them because:
·  Only 13 states and D.C. have education on discrimination laws explicitly protecting transgender students.
·      The U.S. Dept. of Education recently withdrew guidance to states on how to support number of trans students under Title IX of Federal Civil Rights Act.  Title IX ensures that all students can attend school safely regardless of their race or ethnicity, national origin, religion or sex. 
Although the first transgender woman Danica Roem elected to the House of Delegates in Virginia beat a man Robert Marshall (R) who held the office for twenty-four years, her victory doesn’t mean the rest of the country will embrace transsexuals.  Roem centered her campaign around issues that mattered to all people: commuter traffic, importance of teacher pay, Medicaid expansion, while her opponent focused on her gender identity.
It seems as if the U.S. as well as the rest of the world don’t understand transgender people and get terms  mixed up that would have enlightened them.  For example, gender identity is separate from sexual orientation. Gender is a function of culture and about self-expression.  Sexuality is whom you are attracted to.  There are transgender women that are attracted to cisgender (same gender) women.
“People argue that trans women are not genetically female despite the fact that we can’t readily ascertain anybody’s sex chromosomes,” says author of  Whipping Girl,  Julia Serano

Here are Some Perceptions of Transgenders:: Which Ones do you think are True? From
·      There is something wrong with transsexual people.
·      Transgender people are confused or tricking others.
·      Sexual orientation is linked to gender identity.
·      Letting trans people use the bathroom or locker room matching their gender identity is dangerous.
·      Transitioning is as simple as surgery.
·      All trans people medically transition.
·      Transgender-inclusive health care is expensive.
·      Children aren’t old enough to know their gender identity.
·      Transgender people are mentally ill.
·      Transgender people make up a third gender.
·      Drag queens and kings are transgender.
None are true.  The transgender community is diverse and has been around a long time.  Cross-dressers are not necessarily the same as trans genders.  One important distinction that trans genders have is that their gender identities definitely vary from the labels that were given to them as babies. This statement is true.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

November is National Adoption Month

I have two adopted children: a son, born in 1983, and a daughter, born in 1988.  Both were closed adoptions of infants through a well-known adoption agency in Manhattan. I have little medical information about the birthparents from my son’s adoption and precious little from my daughter’s adoption. I’m not sure it would have been a deciding factor to withdraw our applications anyway. 
Why? Because you never know what you’re going to inherit in the gene pool even if your children are biological.  I didn’t adopt for altruistic reasons.  We adopted because I was infertile and knew it before we married.

I have witnessed the joys and frustrations of parenthood over the years just as my friends with biological children have.  Because my son is gay, I have interest in LGBT issues and recently read Eric Rosswood’s excellent book The Ultimate Guide for Gay Dads ( Mango, 2017). 

In a chapter entitled “Questions You Might Get Asked and How to Respond to Them,” I am reminded that we were asked similar questions about our family:

·     “Why Did She Give Him/Her Up?  I Could Never Give Up A Child.”
·     “How Did You Get Him/Her/Them?”
·     “Where Did You Get Him/Her/Them?”
·     “Who Are His Real Parents?”
·     “How Much Did He/She Cost?”

I realize that the author and his husband Matt get more intrusive questions such as “where’s the child’s Mother?” because they are in a same-sex marriage. My children have an adoptive Mother and Father and we’re all Caucasian so we can pass as a biologically- related family.

In Rosswood’s chapter, he lists responses from gay friends that can be applied to certain questions, depending whether you want to educate the inquisitive, just tell them enough to shut them down or slay them a witty retort.  All these answers have to be executed without implying to your child that adoption is shameful while protecting his privacy.

It seems that the outside world has not caught up with the phenomena of motherless or fatherless ) households as gay parents parent through adoption, foster care, and surrogacy.
However, as Eugenia Doubtfire explained to his television audience toward the end of “Mrs. Doubtfire,” families are formed in different ways and they all legitimate and reflective of modern society.  Adoption is just one way of creating a loving family.