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?”



Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Bells Are Ringing For You and Your Child



After what seems like a long summer recess, parents often look forward to their children returning to school.  But not so for their children, if they are LGBT. For them,  school means more than new back-to-school clothes, freshly stocked backpacks, and revisiting friends.  It also may mean being bullied or worse, cyberbullied.

Here are tips from http://stopbullying.gov. to help parents cope with this frequent and invasive crime:

For Their Safety

To lessen cyberbullying, talk to your kids about online issues.  Emphasize that they can come to you for help. You want to gain their trust! Don’t overreact or underreact.
Don’t blame your kids if they are victims of cyberbullying.  Some kids are scared that they will have computer privileges taken away so they do not report incidents to their parents and may use the computer secretively.
Monitor your child’s online usage. Set a time allowance for non-homework use.
Keep the computer in a public place.
Look at their profile page, Facebook, My Space, and Twitter accounts. Review their “buddy list.”  Ask who each person is and how your kids know him or her.
Tell your kids not to give out their passwords nor personal information online. Don’t send controversial photos that can go viral.  Once received, they can’t be erased.  Don’t open e-mails from people they don’t know.

Once The Invasion Has Occurred

Don’t allow your kids to respond to the bully. They shouldn’t retaliate when angry. Tell them not to forward messages.
Print out messages.  Take screen shots. Keep records of e-mail, texts, with dates, times.  You may need these for law enforcement or school.
Report cyberbullying to the web and cell phone providers. You can see what’s appropriate usage by reviewing their terms and conditions on rights and responsibilities sections.  
Block users.  Change settings to control whom can contact them.  Visit social media safety centers so you can report cyberbullying to them. They can take action against users abusing terms of service.

Get Law Enforcement Involved If:

There are threats of violence.
Sexually explicit messages,  photos or child pornography are sent.
A photo has been taken of someone in a place such as a public restroom where he/she would expect privacy.
If stalking or hate crimes occur.
The National Crime Prevention Council has site maps to find out more about your state’s anti-bullying laws and policies.  Just a click away!

All kids should be educated about the possibility of cyberbullying and how to combat this insidious affront.  Unfortunately, kids who are “different” are prime targets of cyberbullying.  Forty percent of LGBT kids report not feeling safe in their own communities.

Next week, I’ll talk about bullying in school.  The strategies are different.




Monday, July 24, 2017

Sex Ed. From Teen Vogue More Inclusive Than Schools’ Versions



On July 7th, the popular Teen Vogue, aimed at 12-17 year-olds, published an online article “Anal Sex: What You Need to Know/How To Do It The Right Way  that has Conservative right-wingers working themselves into a lather.  Some parents have called to cancel their children’s subscriptions to the publication and started a backlash on social media #Pull Teen Vogue.

Backlash from Unprepared Parents & Schools

One mother of ten named Elizabeth Johnston, author of The Activist Mommy blog showed herself, in a nod to Nazis’ book burning, destroying a copy of the magazine (even though the article appeared only online) in her backyard campfire and the photo went viral.  Accusing the magazine of promoting sodomy and peddling to minors, Johnston was joined by other parents who erroneously think that education leads to encouragement.

 Truth is kids are having sex earlier these days.  If they’re not, they are nevertheless curious.  Sex education, according to Dr. Michael Newcomb of Northwestern University’s Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing, is lacking.  Usually, educators “can only talk about LGBTQ sexuality as a morally incorrect approach or as a risk factor for acquiring HIV.” Most parents would not be equipped to provide discussions, complete with visuals, about the mechanics of anal sex so they should be grateful for the widely-read Teen Vogue on-line article.

Anal Sex Not Just For MSM (Men having Sex with Men)

But education does not lead to promiscuity.  Says the author of the article, Gigi Engle, “this is anal 101, for teens, beginners, and all inquisitive folk.”  Kids should know about anal sex that is also practiced by heterosexuals, according to the Centers for Disease Control.  “Anal sex appears to be more popular than possibly expected among the heterosexual couples under forty-five. In a report titled “Sexual Behavior, Sexual Attraction and Sexual Identity in the U.S.” which reportedly polled thousands of people between ages of 15 and 44 from 2006 through 2008, found that 44% of straight men and 36% of straight women admitted to having anal sex at least once in their lives.” In other words, anal sex is not just for gay males.

High School boys brag that they have done it.  Girls know they will not get pregnant if they engage in anal sex.  Philip Picardi, the digital editor of Teen Vogue, defended the article and stated that not only is the article “rooted in homophobia, but laced in arcane delusion about what it means to be a young person today.”

As a writer, the only shock about the article for me was the fact that it omitted on the first go-round the importance of safe sex:  using condoms.  That point was only added later and was the most salient takeaway message.


 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

What Your Child Fears Most When He Comes Out To You



You think you know your child.  And suddenly, when he comes out, the news can be such a surprise to you that your brain goes into denial mode.  This news goes against the grain of the traditional life you’ve envisioned for your child, even before birth.  How dare he interrupt your dream based on cis-gender roles and tell you, the parent, that he knows better about his future! Even if parents suspect their child is LGBTQ, it’s not always a relief to have your suspicions confirmed.

While this may be a shock to parents, it’s not easy for the one coming out.  Most LGBT kids know they are disappointing their parents with their news, particularly if they have heard homophobic remarks in their house.  If they are bullied at school or in the community in which they live, these feelings are further reinforced. . Ninety-two percent of LGBTQ kids in a Youth Survey reported hearing negative messages about being LGBTQ

So, while you may have to resolve your denial, not to mention other issues such as loss, anger, possibly shame, and fear to arrive at acceptance of your child’s sexual orientation, know that your child has probably already dealt with these issues, painful as they be.

 For some LGBT kids, revealing their inner selves to their parents may release tension and feel as if a burden has been lifted from their shoulders.   For others, they may rehearse or role play with their LGBT friends or known allies what they are going to say to calm their own nerves.

        Fear of Rejection:  Biggest Worry

According to the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State, parents and caregivers are the most important influence in a LGBTQ youths’ lives.  Fear of rejection is the greatest worry of LGBTQ kids after they come out.

What You Can Do

Parents can make their child’s coming out less stressful by:

Praising the child for being so honest with them.
Admiring their self-confidence in doing so.
“Be particularly careful what you say in the days following the coming out,” advises Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D., co-author of When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know (Sterling, 2016). “ The child will be ultra-sensitive during this time.”
Tell the child you love them unconditionally and will always support them.
Find out who else knows the information your child has divulged.
Reassure your child that you still love him for all the good qualities he already possesses and that his sexual orientation doesn’t erase those admirable personality traits.
Reiterate that you are available to your child and he can come to you with any concern.  Inquire how he envisions his future.

If you have responded to the coming out with anger or denial, you can apologize and start over.  The Family Acceptance Project has downloads for your guidance to acceptance.