Tuesday, April 10, 2018

But We Only Did It Once"



I remember seeing this striking headline for a Planned Parenthood ad at New York’s One Club for Art & Copy in 1979.  The print advertisement won a Gold Award.

Fast forward to 2018.  Kids are having sex younger and some self-identify as LGBT before they even get to high school. Yet their sexual practices seem just as uninformed and perhaps tinged with feelings of immortality as in 1979.

All it takes is one time for youth to acquire an infection, STD or HIV.  Despite that reality, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released staggering statistics proving that more has to be done to educate youth.  Witness:

More than 1 in 5 new HIV infections are young people between 13 and 24 years old.
Youth with HIV are least likely to be linked to care of any group.
Only 10% of high school students have been tested for H.I.V.
Nearly half (43%) of all sexually active high school students didn’t use a condom the last time.

It’s not just high school.  The Human Rights Campaign just released a new comprehensive guide for college administrators, staff, and students for better student health and wellbeing. This guide coincides with National Youth HIV and AIDS Awareness Day (NYHAAD), April 10, whose mission is to increase sensitivity about HIV/AIDS and encourage young people to adopt safer sex and lifestyle practices that include getting tested.

College youth need this important information as well because:

80% of new diagnoses occur in people between the ages of 20 and 24.
51% of young people living with HIV do not know their status.
As a group, college-age youth engage in high-risk sexual behavior after using drugs and alcohol, impairing their judgment.

Some challenges for prevention of HIV & AIDS include:

Inadequate sex education.  School could be ensuring that health curricula or materials use language and terminology appropriate for LGBT population.  HIV, STD and pregnancy prevention information should be relevant to LGBT youth, not just heterosexual youth.
The GLSEN 2013 National School Climate Survey found that fewer than 5% of LGBT students had health classes that included positive representations of LGBT-related topics.  Among Millenials surveyed in 2015, only 12% said their sex classes covered same-sex relationships.
Nevertheless, according to the CDC, between 2000 and 2014, the percentage of schools in which students are required to receive instruction on HIV prevention decreased from 64 percent to 41 percent.

Despite the unavailability of LGBT-inclusive sex education, 85% of parents surveyed by the Human Rights Campaign supported discussion of sexual orientation as part of sex education in the high school and 78% of parents of middle schoolers wanted LGBT-inclusive sexual education.

Whether schools are legally barred from teaching more inclusive sex ed. or simply ignore the needs of their students, parents need to pick up the slack and educate their own kids.

Parents should instruct their children about safe sex, the facts about STDs, including HIV and AIDS, the dangers of risky sex after too much alcohol and/or drugs.  Youth have the right to know where to facilitate access to community-based providers who have experience providing health services, including HIV/STD testing and counseling social and psychological services to LGBT youth.

As most youth get their sexual information from peers, mostly faulty, be sure to give your child, whether LGBT or cisgender, knowledge that he can use for his own wellbeing.

I


Saturday, March 31, 2018

Transgender Pain Is Visible on Trans Day of Visibility 2018


 
The career of Danica Roem, the first openly transgender woman to win election to Viriginia’s House of Delegates or the glamorous lives of Laverne Cox or Caitlyn Jenner are not typical of most transgenders.  They may be highly visible, but most transsexuals keep lower profiles. Why?
They are discriminated against by society and families and not understood by doctors who are untrained to deal with their unique issues. In this past year alone:
·      Twenty-five transgender people have been violently killed in 2017, more than during any other recorded year in the past decade. The Human Rights Commission said 84% of victims were people of color and 80% identified as female. This year, there were two deaths within forty-eight hours in New Orleans.
·      Suicide attempts are alarmingly common among transgender individuals.  According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and The Williams Institute which analyzed results from The National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 2016, forty-one percent try to kill themselves at some point in their lives, compared with 4.6% of the general public.

I once interviewed J.R. Vilari, born Jennifer Rebecca in Staten Island, New York, who told me that finding out about the concept of transgender saved his life.  He always felt mismatched with his body. He confessed that if he hadn’t known about how people like himself can actually transition from female to male, he would have probably committed suicide. Not so uncommon!

Jennifer Finney Boylan, author of She’s Not There: A Life In Two Genders ( 2013) writes in that memoir about how on Cape Breton Island, at the far northern edge, she climbed up a mountain.  It was there that she contemplated suicide in the ocean below.  But a fierce gale blowing into her body kept her from falling, blowing her backwards onto moss. 
Last month, transgenders who want to serve in the military were dealt a blow by President Trump’s ban.  Only those transgenders who are currently in the military and therefore “grandfathered” can serve.  It reminds one of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Gavin Grimm, like other students, was crestfallen when Betsy DeVos, Education Secretary, confirmed that the Education Department is no longer investigating civil rights complaints from transgender students barred from school bathrooms that match their gender identity.  DeVos said states and individual school districts should be able to determine how to accommodate transgender students.  Title IX didn’t obligate schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice, only prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.
This can be regarded as stigmatization that can result in anxiety and depression for the transgender whose sexual identity is not aligned with his birth.  Acceptance and kindness, especially by parents, can prevent the high stress levels that transsexuals have.  Make it visible every day. 
  


Thursday, March 22, 2018

John Oliver’s Marlon Bundo Is More Than A Parody



Jill Twiss’s parody of Vice President’s rabbit Marlon Bundo hippity-hopped to No. 1 on Amazon  a day before the release of Pence’s daughter Charlotte’s children’s book about their real family pet entitled Day in the Life of Vice-President.  So popular, Twiss’s book sold out in a day and 400,000 copies have been ordered for the second printing.
Touted Last Week Tonight by John Oliver, and written by staffer Jill Twiss with charming ilustrations by EG Keller, the spoof beat out ex FBI Director James Comey’s memoir and Pence’s book intended  to educate children about the position of the Vice President in the White House as viewed by the pet rabbit Marlon. The illustrations are by Second Lady Karen Pence.
The gay romance touted by Oliver is intended as a jab to Pence’s views on LGBT equality and same-sex marriage. With the Trump Administration rescinding previous LGBT gains made under Obama, Pence has been a target by LGBT activists.
In this runaway hit, Marlon Bundo falls in love with a boy bunny named Wesley.  Of course, there are obstacles in the way.  “Stinkbug,” loosely based on Pence, decrees that male bunnies can’t marry each other.  Like most children’s books, the ending is happy and the bunnies get married.  All the participants in the wedding are gay:  the official is a cat named pajama who brought her wife, there are two otters as groomsmen who hold hands. 
Proceeds of this allegory go to the LGBT suicide Hotline The Trevor Project as well as AIDS United.  Charlotte Pence’s book is donating its sales to A21, an organization that fights human trafficking as well as Tracy’s Kids which provides young cancer patients with art therapy. Says Charlotte, 24, “Oliver’s book is contributing to charities that I think we can get behind.  We have two books that support giving to charities that are about bunnies so I’m all for it, really.”  She doesn’t like the competition over the two books.  “It doesn’t have to be divisive. I think everyone can come together over Marlon.”
More than a spoof, Oliver’s book can be a learning tool for kids who may feel different, may feel thwarted by bullies, and resolve issues in the end.  It can open up dialogue about what it means to form a non-traditional family.  Studies have shown that children usually start to figure out whom they are attracted to between ages of nine and twelve, some earlier. 
It may be helpful for kids, gay or straight, to know that humans are not the only mammals who are gay.  Reports suggest that about 1500 animal species are known to practice same-sex coupling.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Who’s In Charge When A Child Comes Out?


When a child comes out, the family dynamic changes.  It’s a role reversal.  The child is perceived as being “in charge.” But you play a vital role.  Don’t “roll over and play dead.”

Your response has real impact.  A parent may feel any one or all of these reactions such as denial, shock, anger, confusion. guilt, worry, fear, shame, and loss when told of his child’s sexual orientation.  But how a parent responds matters.  The Family Acceptance Project, 2009, reports that if parents are high rejecting, particularly if they evict their child, the outcomes compared to non-LGBT children are as follows:
·      8 times more likely to commit suicide
·      6 times more likely to report high-level depression
·      3 times more likely to use illegal drugs
·      3 times more likely to have risky sex
While you may not be prepared for this important message, you can make it easier on your child (and self) by:
·      recognizing that your child must have trusted you to reveal such an important part of his self.
·      admiring the child’s self-knowledge and confidence to come out. Maybe relieved that your child felt comfortable with himself to share.
·      being proud of your child for being so open, trusting, and able to share with your parent.
·      realizing that your suspicions were accurate, thereby not constantly worrying or wondering.
·      knowing that your child no longer is harboring a secret.  This may result in improved mental health.

Like you, your child may have mixed feelings.  His reactions:
  • ·      he may be fearful of anticipated, potential or actual rejection.
  • ·      he may feel that he has disappointed you, made the family’s life harder for which he feels guilt and sorrow.
  • ·      or, he can be relieved at telling his parents.  A burden has been lifted!
  • ·      he may feel greater self-esteem, not harboring secrets and feel good about educating parents.
  • ·      he may feel healthier: his sleeping and eating habits may improve. He may have a more positive outlook.
You can support your LGBT child with the following steps:
  • ·      Identify and engage LGBT adult mentors: teacher, relative, work friend.
  • ·      If needed, seek out a LGBT-affirming therapist.
  • ·      If your child is harassed at school, tell teacher, principal, even Superintendent of Schools. Keep records of conversations and written requests.
  • ·      Safety Planning: Find “safe spaces” at school and en route to home.
  • ·      Join or form a GSA (Gender and Sexuality Alliance) at school.
  • ·      Seek out LGBT-affirming health care providers you can trust.
  • ·      Advocate for inclusive sex education in school.




Tuesday, March 6, 2018

What To Expect From PFLAG


 
Parents feel better when they realize that they are not alone and that there are parents like them who are experiencing similar thoughts, feelings and reactions to having an LGBTQ child. That’s the premise of a nationwide organization called PFLAG ( Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians & Gays, and now Transgender and Questioning).
The seed of PFLAG was founded in 1972 when Jeanne Manford marched  for equality alongside her gay activist son Morty during the Christopher Street Liberation Day.  The next year, PFLAG was founded at a local church with just twenty attendees. On March 11, 2018, PFLAG celebrates its forty-fifth anniversary of helping straight parents and LGBTQ adults. Its membership has mushroomed to 200,000 + members, with 400 chapters. PFLAG was formerly incorporated in California in 1982 and is one of the largest grassroots chapter-based networks of volunteers.
If you need support, information and answers to raising an LGBTQ child, PFLAG is a good match. If you’re nervous about attending a meeting, these guidelines will help you know what to expect before you venture forth:
·      Meetings are free, but if the meeting is in a church, for example, the President may pass a basket for a donation.  Have a $5 dollar bill or singles with you.  You don’t have to R.S.V.P. to attend a meeting.
·      To accommodate working parents, meetings are at night, once a month.
·      There are always snacks and beverages.
·      You may bring a spouse, relative, neighbor or friend.  Although LGBTQ adults are present, I don’t advise bringing your children to the same meeting as you may not feel like opening up in front of them, at least not at first.
·      The PFLAG leader always reads the purpose of the group:  “PFLAG promotes the health, well-being of LGBTQ persons, their families and friends through support, to cope with an adverse society; education, to enlighten an ill-informed public; and advocacy to end discrimination and to secure equal civil rights.”
·      Attendees introduce themselves.  The meetings are confidential.  Whatever is said remains in the room.  It is a diverse group of people: different professions, religions, income, and communities.  What they do have in common is support for those struggling with issues accepting their child’s sexual orientation.
·      The group may share announcements that PFLAG is organizing on a national level such as corporate and community outreach programs, “Stay Close” Campaign that features celebrity families speaking out for loving family relationships or local events such as PRIDE that is related to LGBTQ. To promote safety in schools, for example, PFLAG volunteers may work with teachers, principals, counselors and students to educate them about diversity and  the equal rights of LGBTQ students.
·      If there are pressing issues such as cyberbullying or questions about parenting, those present will often spend time listening and sharing any stories that they have to help those in need.
·      The meetings have in common: listening, sharing, and socializing.
·      You are not required to speak.  When I first attended, I sat with my hands folded politely and just listened.  By the third meeting, I was comfortable enough to speak.
·      There are support materials for you to take home as well as a suggested reading list.
For more information, contact PFLAG in Washington, D.C. http://www.pflag.org.202-467-8180.  Local chapters can be found on this site.  If you don’t have a chapter near you, you can always connect by phone and online.






Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Slouching Toward Equality In The Workplace



Gay workers in Connecticut, New York, and Vermont will sleep better tonight knowing that yesterday a federal appeals court in Manhattan ruled that gay employees are allowed to sue their employers over sexual orientation. 
The ruling does not apply nationwide and could be headed to the Supreme Court where possibly it could be reversed because of a history of conflicting rulings.  The decision on February 26th by the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is not unlike a ruling in Chicago in April 2017 by appeals judges.  Last year, a federal appeal court in Atlanta ruled the opposite way and the Supreme Court declined the petition.  The federal courts are split around how to interpret anti-discrimination protection under Title VII.  Does the law’s prohibition on sex discrimination in the workplace also cover sexual orientation discrimination?
Donald Zarda thinks it does. Zarda claims that his employers Altitude Express violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits employment discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex or national origin.”  
The case Zarda v. Altitude Express, 15-3775.:  Donald Zarda, a skydiver, now deceased, sued his employer Altitude Express because he said he was fired in 2010 after a customer complained about Mr. Zarda’s disclosure of his sexual orientation during a jump with a female skydiver.  Mr. Zarda died in 2015, but his family and estate have taken his claim to court.
Last April, a lower court dismissed his case, and the Second Circuit rejected his appeal because they found a distinction between sex and sex orientation. In an unusual move, his case was granted a full appeals court.
The ruling was 10-3 that sexual orientation is defined by one’s sex in relation to the sex of those to whom one is attracted; therefore, it’s impossible for an employer to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without taking sex into account. Consequently, sexual orientation discrimination is a subset of sex discrimination.
In 2015, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, responsible for enforcing Title VII, insisted that the Civil Rights Law covers sexual orientation.  The Justice Department does not share its views.  In July, the Justice Department under the Trump Administration filed an amicus brief that does not support EPOC’s position. Others like Judge Gerard Lynch advocates that Title VII should fall to Congress, not the courts.
The entire United States still does not have a policy that protects LGBTQ workers from being fired for their sexual orientation.  However, with Monday’s federal appeals court ruling siding with LGBTQ people despite Trump’s Administration’s opposition, at least the protections are making inroads.  Maybe Title VII’s arguments like Edie Windsor’s case for legalizing same-sex marriage, will prevail in the Supreme Court, and sexual orientation will be protected throughout the workplaces in the United States.      
   

Friday, February 16, 2018

Mike Pence Is On Thin Ice with Rippon

Of the fifteen LGBTQ athletes competing in the Winter Olympics, Gus Kenworthy the American freestyle skier and Adam Rippon, the American figure skater have attracted the most attention for their stances against Vice -President Mike Pence’s past voting records on LGBT rights.
Pence led the U.S. delegation at the opening of The Winter Olympics at Pyeongchang before the figure skating began. Rippon has been very vocal about LGBT rights when he’s not competing on the ice. “Being here at the Olympics does give me a louder voice.  It has given me a platform. It’s given me a voice to reach young kids.”
Rippon, who came out in 2015 during an interview with Skating magazine, says “he doesn’t want his Olympic experience to be about Mike Pence.”  Rippon’s comments about Pence refer to Pence’s 2000 congressional campaign website on which the then-candidate said he believed resources should be “directed to those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior. “  Pence’s spokesman said he wasn’t referring to conversion therapy.  Hmmm. Sure sounds like it! When Pence was Governor of Indiana, he rejected gay marriage and in 2006, he said gay couples signaled societal collapse.  He also opposed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. 
 Rippon says the feud is becoming a distraction to the games, and that he was not offered a meeting with Pence. He does not want to go with TEAM USA to the White House for he feels he would not be welcome by the current Administration. 
Pence did tweet to Rippon to “Go for the Gold!” Commentator of the Winter Olympics Johnny Weir called Rippon’s performance ” spellbinding.”  Co-commentator Tara Lipinski called him “the prince of the Olympics.”  The Bronze Medalist Rippon has been called the most fun to be interviewed by NBC.
Says witty Rippon, “my blades are sharp, but my tongue is sharper.”  Although Rippon, 28, was first place with a 87.95 score in the short-skating program, he was later beaten by Russia’s Dimitri Aliev who received a 98 score.  Rippon’s skating did not include quads so his score fall despite his clean triple axels.
Whoppi Goldberg from “The View” wrote on Huffington Post that asking Rippon to meet Pence is like “asking a Jewish person to sit down and understand where the Nazi is coming from.” However, Republicans such as Sarah Palin’s daughter, Briston and Donald Trump, Jr. defend the Vice-President.
Should Rippon as an American and U.S. Team member go to the White House?  Or should he boycott because Pence’s stance on LGBTQ rights is at odds with his own.  What do you think?