Tuesday, December 11, 2012

"Don't Ask For Whom The Bells Toll. They Do Not Toll For Thee!"

The Salvation Army Embeds Everywhere
I bought furniture for my first apartment at The Salvation Army on the west side of Manhattan. When I moved out, I was eternally grateful to the organization; they not only took all my clutter, but came to my door and picked it up. And gave me a tax deduction!

Over the years, I thought of the organization like the Red Cross:  providing shelter and food to the needy, caring in times of emergencies. I always gave them a dollar or two or my loose change during the holiday season.

This Year, Same Bells, but Different Tune Rings Loud to Me
However, this year, I walk past them with impunity outside Publix’s and the Post Office and don’t drop any money into their red kettles. Whether they wear a Santa Hat trying to be contemporary or a Missionary bonnet, I don’t succumb. I know where the money is going: to anti-Gay organizations like National Organization for Marriage, and Proposition 8 to halt the marriage rights of gays and lesbians. In the Salvation Army’s mission statement, they report that “there is no scriptural support for same-sex unions as equal to, or as an alternative to, heterosexual marriage.”

Considered a Church with Tax-exempt Status
You can’t join the Salvation Army or work for them if you’re Christian and you’re attracted to members of the same sex and do NOT embrace celibacy. Yet they can take your money and discriminate against you if you’re LGBT by denying you help in their facilities.

Dan Savage, a prominent gay rights activist and mastermind behind “It Gets Better” Campaign testifies that the Salvation Army homeless shelters and soup kitchens discriminate against gay families and couples by refusing to offer charity services to same-sex couples at the same time.” Like Solomon, they force you to choose only one. 

History of Active Discrimination
The organization has a history of actively lobbying governments all over the world for anti-gay policies that include attempting to make consensual homosexual sex illegal. The donations that well-meaning people give are more than a “mere drop in the bucket” and can be used to hire lobbyists to oppose sexual orientation and gender identity non-discrimination laws. 

Blackballed from Berkeley: Salvation Army Controversy
According to HuffPost, December 07, 2012, gay rights activist and student Matthew Enger introduced at UC Berkeley an ASUC bill that bans the Salvation Army from the campus. Enger cited evidence of allegedly homophobic practices by the Salvation Army. Like Savage, he presented reports of discrimination at food kitchens and shelters.

In lieu of Cash, Give Them Vouchers
America  blogger John Aravosis, suggests that LGBT shoppers and allies give downloadable “vouchers” to Salvation Army bell ringers in lieu of cash in an effort to let the organization know that “bigotry is not a Christmas value.”  To download these printable vouchers, go to http: www. Huffpost Gay Voices, 2012/11/26/salvation-army-gay-rights-voucher.

Friday, November 30, 2012

“There’s No Place Like Home For The Holidays.” Or Is There?

Home for the Holidays.  Ah!  Tried-and-true traditions you can count on: church on Christmas eve, Mom’s turkey with giblet gravy, Aunt Elsie’s mulled cider, and Dad’s rants about gay marriage.

Some Tips for a Smoother, More Peaceful Holiday


·      To keep the peace in your parents’ house, don’t push your agenda on your relatives. While you may want to educate them about your gay lifestyle and how you feel more honest and open being “out,” to your friends, the time to elaborate on your wellbeing is not now.

·      If your parents have had a hard time accepting you for who you are, don’t expect things to be magically different during the holidays.

·      You don’t want to lend more stress to the ubiquitous holiday quest for perfection: this time of year has built-in unrealistic expectations about creating a storybook holiday with the perfect meal, the perfect home, perfectly decorated, and perfect gifts to complement the receivers.

·      Don’t introduce your significant other to the family at this time. Wait until “holiday craziness” is over and the family is more relaxed. Then, maybe your parents can focus on welcoming your boyfriend/girlfriend and getting to know them better.

·      However, if your partner is with you in your parents’ home, and your parents put you in your old bedroom with twin beds, don’t grouse about it. Remember it’s their house! For a few days, you can put up with the sleeping quarters. Sleeping in a “matrimonial bed” may be too “in-your-face” for your folks and may dredge up feelings of disappointment that you’re not heterosexual.


·      Have an escape plan.  If parents make homosexual jokes, don’t get into a fight. Pick your battles. You should be treated with respect, however. For example, you could say to the offender: “ I don’t appreciate that, and quietly excuse yourself for awhile. Don’t compromise your own beliefs, but don’t demand that your family share all your beliefs. By leaving the scene, they can’t continue to harass you.

·      Do have an ally such as an open-minded relative, whom you may prepare before your visit so there’s no arguing about politics, sex, religion during the holiday. Or perhaps a childhood friend who is supportive of you. Check in with your accepting internet buddies while you’re home. 

·      Remember that these are your parents’ and with time, will come to accept your orientation. You’re the same person you’ve always been and whom they’ve loved all along. 

·       Keep in mind that the visit with the family won’t last forever. Try to enjoy yourself. It will soon be over and you will be on your way to your own home.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I Am Grateful for More Than The Norman Rockwell Scene

“With Heart, And Hands, And Voices... Whose Wondrous Things Have Done...”

In two days, I will preside over my great grandfather’s dining table laden with pumpkins, gravy-stained linen, and all those good carbs as I share it with my children and my husband’s siblings (well, two out of three). We will bless the food, thank God for our good health, and good company.
But ever since last year, and especially with this past Election Day, I’ve been grateful for advances in equal rights for GLBT people.

Some Highlights:

For the first time, gay marriage won at the polls by a popular vote in the states of Maine, Washington State, (Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos helped raise 11 million dollars) and Maryland. Sixteen polls show a majority of Americans support the freedom to marry. Public opinion has definitely shifted. Previously, dating back to 1998, same-sex marriage has been rejected in all thirty-two states that have held popular votes.

President Obama “evolved” and endorsed same-sex marriage. Cynics believe he did this as a political move to get more votes while others thought he was preempted by Vice-President Biden’s nod to gay marriage. Whatever the reason, the President’s endorsement represented a historic shift and a milestone. The seeds of this shift were planted in 2011.

DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act stating that marriage is strictly between a man and woman for federal and inter-state recognition purposes in the United States), while still on the books, can not be defended in the courts, according to Obama in 2011. Also, in 2011, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed, allowing gays and lesbians in the military to serve openly.

This year, Edie Windsor (v. U.S.) of New York City was awarded a tax refund after winning her DOMA case in Court of Appeals. Windsor is the surviving same-sex spouse whose inheritance from the deceased spouse was subject to federal taxation. Because the state did not recognize their marriage, Windsor was taxed, but the Court of Appeals found the taxation discriminatory and unconstitutional. Several cases in other states are being challenged on discriminatory grounds as well.

Starting in the New Year, California has outlawed reparative or conversion therapy for minors. Reparation therapy claims to change people from gay to straight. Governor Brown of California says it has no scientific basis and calls it “quackery.”

Gay, Lesbian, and Transgenders Won Seats in Congress and House:  Just to name a few, Tammy Baldwin (Democrat – Wisconsin) became the first openly Lesbian Senator.  New Hampshire voted transgender Stacie Laughton a State Representative Seat.  California’s Mark Tokano, a Japanese-American is the first gay minority to win in Congress.

Out of the 180 candidates endorsed by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, 118 won, including first gay state legislators in North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Florida.  In Colorado and Oregon, gay legislators became State House Speakers.

Sean Patrick Maloney, the first openly gay congressman, won a seat from the 18th Congressional District (Westchester and Putnam Counties in New York). Kyrsten Sinema, the first openly bisexual in the House,  (Democrat – Arizona) won the United States House Seat. 

Attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies, who were adversaries in Bush v. Gore, are now working together in California  as co-counsel for AFER (American Foundation for Equal Rights). They will continue to work together to argue their cases that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional and that DOMA should be struck down.

Miles to Go

While there is still much to be done with tolerance, inclusion, and equal rights for GLBT people, we’ve “come a long way, baby,” and for this I’m very grateful.   

Friday, November 9, 2012

Slouching Towards Universal Gay Marriage

Prior to Election night 2012, gay marriage had been defeated every time it has been on a ballot in the U.S. In Maine, voters in 2009 overturned a law passed by the state legislature that permitted it. Thirty-two states followed suit and voted it down. The six states that allowed gay marriage were decided by lawmakers or courts. But in this election, Maine, Maryland, and Washington State decided by popular vote to legalize same-sex marriage and Minnesota defeated the ban on same-sex marriage.

“You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby”

What has changed since 2009 is American support of gay marriage. In 2009, only 37% of Americans were in favor of gay marriage. In July 2012, support in the U.S. reached 48% in July, according to the nonpartisan Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. A poll by the Wall Street Journal/NBC News in March found 49% favored gay marriage, and 40% opposed it.

Like the President, Many ‘Evolved'

Our nation reelected a President who endorsed marriage equality, repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and refused to defend the “Defense of Marriage Act.” He also endorsed LGBT students’ rights and LFBT-inclusive bullying-prevention legislation. Led by example, many voters reexamined their consciences.

Polls turned around after the President’s announcement in May that he now favored same-sex marriage. Fifty-nine percent of Latino voters backed marriage equality, ahead of the 48% of the general public. A Public Policy Polling survey after Obama’s change-of-heart found a 10-percent jump in support, especially among African-Americans.

Other Contributing Factors Influencing Marriage Equality and LGBT Rights

New York City Michael Bloomberg and businesses like Starbuck’s advocated for LGBT rights. Studies of gay and lesbian parents show that their parenting skills are just as effective as those of the heterosexuals:  “The Kids Are Alright.” “Modern Family” each week brings a gay married couple into the living rooms of Americans and illustrates that they are a normal family. More people are identifying as openly gay, including this year’s wins for House and Senate, making history.

What will Happen in the Future?

The Catholic Church, NOM (National Organization for Marriage) are not going away with their “tail between their legs.” Nor will Frank Schubert, the mastermind who launched many anti--gay marriage campaigns, quit.

Is Gay Marriage Headed to The Supreme Court? 

How much political clout do gays and lesbians have? The Supreme Court has to decide this. Is Tuesday’s election proof that they have plenty of power or are they politically powerless groups that are discriminated against and consequently deserve greater examination from the court?

Some of the lower courts in New York and Massachusetts have already found the 1996 federal DOMA law unconstitutional. So, does this mean that the current cases considered are of a disadvantaged group that qualifies for more rigorous protection?

Will gay marriage, now allowed in nine states, continue to be settled, state-by-state or will the Supreme Court create a national standard, eliminating the Defense of Marriage Act in all the states? With Tuesday’s gains, will more people be adversely affected by DOMA?

Marriage is Marriage

One question which the American public needs to address is how are homosexual marriages harming heterosexual marriages? How do you define marriage? Isn’t any marriage about compatibility, loyalty, accountability,  commitment, and love, universally? Whether same-sex or opposite sex, that should be marriage’s definition.  

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

How to Outwit Bullies by a Multi-Millionaire Who was Bullied

Many of my blog posts have mentioned allies to GLBT kids who are bullied: GSLEN (Gay Straight Lesbian Educational Network), PFLAG (Parents of Lesbian and Gays). While these are terrific support services for bullied kids and their parents, there are other means for combating bullying that are based on self-reliance and self-advocacy.  Author Trevor Blake espouses this latter principle:

5 Strategies that Tweens and Teens Can Use to Stop Bullying
Inspiration from and for a Bullied Kid

Trevor Blake was bullied as a child.  He used to hide out in the school library. But it wasn’t a waste of time. He found company in autobiographies of famous people who were once bullied, but later become successful:  celebrities like Tom Cruise, Oprah Winfrey, and Angelina Jolie. 
Blake realized, after reading about these renown figures, that they used three behaviors so they wouldn’t become victims.These behaviors became the basis for Blake’s bestselling book, Three Simple Steps:  A Map to Success in Business and Life (BenBella, 2012).

What Does Blake Attribute His Success To?

These simple three steps outlined in the book, #5 on the New York Times’s BestSeller List, can help anyone, as entrepreneur Blake did, transform their life and achieve success. Using the three principles, despite stock market crashes, dot-com busts, and the recession, Blake founded in 2002 a company focused on solutions for rare diseases, QOL Medical LLC. In 2010, he sold the company for over 100 million. Then in 2006, he founded a unique virtual not-for-profit dedicated to developing low-side effect cancer drugs. In 2011, he co-founded Kalvi Medical LLC. He is currently coproducing a reality show about bullying. 

The author is donating a copy of this book to every U.S. library so kids will learn how to control their own lives as he did. The profits of the book will be donated to cancer treatment research and development in honor of his mother who had cancer for fourteen years.

The Three Simple Steps Defined

Step No. 1. Don’t feel victimized – as if you have no control over your life. 
Step No. 2. This step gives you insight so you can proceed with a plan that will differentiate you from those who are not successful.
Step No. 3.  This step shows you how to turn your insights into profitable and valuable experiences.

Self-Advocacy:  The 3 Steps and 5 Strategies are Intertwined

·      Be a moving target. Don’t make yourself accessible: change your seat at lunch or on the bus or plan to be with a friend. Eventually, the bully will find someone else to pick on.

·      Imagine a better outcome. Positive thoughts can create positive outcomes.  Don’t dwell on negativity that can breed resentment, hatred, anger, and frustration.

·      Walk in the bully’s sneakers.  Figure out why the bully wants to feel superior to his victims.  What is lacking in his life? When you know, you can gain perspective.

·      Wear an invisibility shield. Your child will not absorb the bully’s negativity if he has self-confidence. He should picture being wrapped in an invisible cloak that bullies can’t penetrate.  When the bully has a following, your child can direct attention to the followers, not himself. 

When your son/daughter is alone with a follower, preferably with a friend who is a witness, have him ask the follower why he joins in with the bully. To save face, the joiner may drop out of the bully’s posse.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Guest Post on Cyberbullying by Jessica Simmons

Today’s guest post is by Jessica Simmons, a graduate student and Yale University research assistant. Jessica is a board member of Connecticut’s GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight, Education Network) that promotes safety in schools. 

She runs the website: http://MyKindnessCounts.com, a platform for youth to share experiences about bullying, and more importantly, positive actions, resulting from being bullied, that they partake of in their communities.To contact Jessica, e-mail her at http://jessica@mykindnesscounts.com

Cyberbullying: More Rampant Than In-Person Bullying

By now, many of us have read the story of Amanda Todd, a fifteen year-old Canadian girl whose suicide made headlines. Like Ryan Halligan, 13 and Tyler Clementi, 18, she commited suicide after being bullied by strangers and classmates online. This practice of harassment, on-line and over cell phones, with intention to harm is known as cyberbullying. 

How It’s Spread

Cyberbullies can be classmates, neighbors and anonymous users. Cyberbullying occurs through texting and social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube as well as Instagram, Tumblr, and other photo and blog sites. 

Because of the proliferation of these sites, their speed, and anonymity, it’s hard to keep up and implement” hard and fast” rules and guidelines. However, we need to hold people accountable.

What You as a Parent Can Do

Parents can do their part to thwart the efforts of cyberbullies by heeding the advice contained in  the U.S. Government ‘s anti-bullying initiative and resource website called http://stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying. Here are just a few of the steps you can take immediately (which are outlined in greater detail on the website):

Report cyberbullying:
·      Don’t respond to and don’t forward cyberbullying messages.
·      Keep evidence of cyberbullying.
·      Block the cyberbully.

Involve Law Enforcement if Considered Criminal. Criminal Acts are classified as:
·      Threats of Violence
·      Child pornography or sending sexually explicit messages or photos.
·      Taking a photo/video of someone in place where he/she would expect privacy.
·      Stalking and hate crimes. 

Report Cyberbullying to Schools:
·      Schools can use the information to help inform prevention & response strategies.
·      In some states, schools are required to address cyberbullying in their anti-bullying policy.
·      Some state laws also cover off-campus behavior that’s reflected in a hostile school environment.

October is Bullying (and that includes Cyberbullying) Prevention Month

As cyberbullying is so invasive, let’s take the above precautions as well as others suggested in http:stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying to stem its insidious effects. Otherwise, we are left, too late, on our own to try to save an already damaged teen who has been pushed to the limits.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Celebrate National Coming Out Day on October 11, 2012

What is NCOD?

October 11, 2012 is National Coming Out Day, celebrated in the United States, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom (the latter on October 12th). The purpose of this day is to promote government and public awareness of gay, bisexual, lesbian, transsexual (GBLT) rights and to celebrate homosexuality. On this day, people who may be questioning (Q), or identify as GBLT are encouraged to “come out” and tell those, whom they think will support them, who they really are.

It’s a civil awareness day with a wide variety of support: rallies, parades, and events. You can participate by wearing a classic gay pride symbol to show your allegiance, post a Facebook status or participate in a local event, for example. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) sponsors these events under the auspices of their National Coming Out Project offering resources for LGBT individuals.

History of National Coming Out Day

Founded by Robert Eichberg, a New Mexico psychologist and Jean O’Leary, an openly gay political leader from Los Angeles, to commemorate the anniversary of a March for Lesbian and Gay Rights on October 11, 1987 in Washington, D.C.  when over a half million people decided to take a stand for LGBT rights.

What to Expect When GLBTQ Comes Out

As a straight supporter, either parent or friend of a GLBTQ person, you may find that when he/she comes out, he/she may be relieved, feel elated, scared, vulnerable, angry, depressed, confused, or e) all of the above. Especially if you’re a parent, you may be experiencing these same emotions once your child’s sexual orientation is divulged.

Whether you’re a classmate, a colleague, a friend, or a relative, your GLBT friend looks to you for the following:
·      Unconditional acceptance.  He wants to know that you like him just as much as you did before you knew he was GLBT.
·      Studies show that family acceptance predicts greater self-esteem, social support, and general health. If you’re a straight parent, make your home a safe place where anything can be discussed. 
·      Offer support. Tell the person that you’re flattered that he/she entrusted you with this vital truth, knowing you might reject him/her. You might say “thanks for sharing this with me.  I’m so happy for you.”
·      Help the individual find resources, particularly if they seem unhappy with their orientation.  The Human Rights Campaign, in partnership with PFLAG (Parents of Lesbians and Gays), has an on-line guide, either a PDF file or a flip through digital version, which contains advice such as “Dealing with your Feelings when someone Comes Out,” “Ways to Show Your Support,” as well as resources. (http: //www.hrc.org/resources/entry/straight-guide-to-lgbt-Americans) 
·      Let the GLBT person take the lead.  He or she may have something to teach you about LGBT people and also about acceptance and love.
·      Don’t out the person to anyone else; it’s not your place to do so and is invasion of their privacy. He or she should tell their own story, to whom they want, when they want.
·      If they are questioning and undecided about their sexual orientation, do not try to force them to come to a decision. In time, he or she will realize who they are. “Don’t push, unless he seems to be in real distress.” (See  http: //nytimes.com/2012/.../helping-a-gay-child-to-come-out).
·       For more tips, see my guest blog for Radical Parenting (http://www.radicalparenting.com/2012/02/12/what-do-you-say-to-your-childs-coming-out/ )

Monday, October 1, 2012

“The New Normal” Isn’t That New

The story line of “The New Normal“ would probably not have been written before this year: a gay wealthy couple are paying $35,000 to have a surrogate mother have their baby. Created by an out writer and a lesbian mom who had success with “Glee,”(popular with both straights and gays alike), “The New Normal” aired in September. It can not air in Utah, home of the Mormon Church.

The Plot Thickens, but Not Enough

The gay couple are played by Andrew Rannells of “The Book of Mormon,” and Justin Bartha  from “The Hangover.” Living in Los Angeles, David Murray is the smarter of the two, a gynocologist, who likes to drink beer and watch football. Quieter and less emotional, he is a foil for Bryan Collins, a television producer, who shops at Barneys (the gays’s favorite store, of course) and is the flaming stereotype of a gay male. One day while shopping for “Mary Tyler Capris,” Bryan is taken by a baby in a stroller who smiles and coos at him. He announces to his partner David, “OMG, that is the cutest thing I’ve ever had, I must have it. I want us to have baby clothes and a baby to wear them.”

The surrogate mother is the sweet Goldie, played by Georgia King,who could use the $35,000 from surrogacy services to go to law school. Goldie leaves her philandering husband in Ohio and takes her precocious eight year-old daugher Shania, played by Bebe Wood, to Los Angeles. Shania, a misfit of sorts, is spot-on with her comments and does a hilarious rendition of Little Edith in “Grey Gardens.” Ellen Barkin plays Jane Forrest, Shania’s grandmother Nana, who makes habitual snarky, racist comments. She is Sue Sylvester of  Glee, only more so, and has some of the best lines, although they need to be more interspersed. Jane is the foil for the gays, and other minority groups who come into contact with her such as Nene Leakes, who plays Bryan’s personal assistant “Rocky.”  

“Same Old, Same Old”

While the storyline is modern, the treatment of characters is not fresh. Bryan and David are too stereotypically “butch” and “femme.” Bryan reminds me of  EmmyAward-winning Sean Hayes  who plays Jack McFarland in “Will and Grace,” the hit sitcom from 1998-2006. Jack is a sidekick designed for comic relief. He is vain and self-absorbed. Although Hayes was over-the-top gay,” campy gay,” with a stereotypical love of gay icons such as Cher.  He, too, served as a foil for Karen Walker,played by Megan Mulally, a drunken millionaire, and a bisexual, with a shrill, squeaky voice. Jack McFarland is treated by Karen as her Pet Homosexual. 

The other gay on the show Will Truman was an uptight lawyer who lived with a straight interior designer, Grace Adler, played by Debra Messing. Like David on The New Normal, he is smarter, and less flamboyant. Bryan, like McFarland, is fussy, annoying, and narcissistic. He turned off my gay son who is sick of gay stereotypes on television.

Hammers You Over the Head

“The New Normal” is not only less humorous than  “Will and Grace,” with the latter’s fast-paced dialogue, it buys into reinforcing stereotypes. This portrayal does nothing to foster better understanding among straight parents,,whose only reference about gays may be television, and gay children. If the show is supposed to be about how differences uniting us, it doesn’t work. It’s too contrived because it works too hard to comment on inclusiveness.

For example, when David and Bryan share a kiss at a department store, a father, mother, and young child take offense. It turns into an homophobic rant that is answered with a lecture about hate being taught and passed on from generation to generation by Bryan.When Bryan and David sit on a park bench with their Bernese Mountain Dog, they aren’t just in any park, but one for people who are different: an older mother, over-fertilized, with many children, and a midget mother riding in a toy car with her daughter. 

Modern Family More Successful In This Critic’s Eyes

In the Emmy-winning Modern Family, Jesse Tyler Ferguson (gay in real life) and two-time Emmy winner Eric Stonestreet play partners of five years. They are a liberal homosexual couple who hyphen the last name of their adopted Vietnamese daughter, Lily. 
They are a couple who are not unlike the straight couple, Claire Dunphy, played by Emmy-winning Julie Bowen, and her husband, Phil, played by Ty Burrell, an uptight real estate broker (reminds me of Will Truman and Grace). Mitchell Pritchett is a tightly-wound and nervous lawyer who is the opposite of a gay stereotype. Cameron Tucker, his partner, functioning as his foil, is bubbly, outgoing, and straight in real life.

The Men Rule The Roost

In this sitcom, the men have hierarchy. The sexy Sophia Loren-like Hispanic Gloria Pritchett, played by Sofia Vergara, is a non-working homemaker with a son Manny Delgado and an older husband Jay (Mitchell’s and Claire’s father ). Just as she is a stay-at-home mother, so is Claire Dunphy. How modern is that?

Subtle, with Less Stereotyping

But the show works because the gay subplot is not so didactic. The couples’s relationships are basically alike, whether gay or straight. Like a good book, it shows you, rather than tells you (or shouts at you).
Even Ann Romney says Modern Family is one of her favorite programs.
Post your comment here about the credibility of the gay characters in “Modern Family” and “The New Normal.”  


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Small Efforts Can Make a Big Difference

As you know from my last blog post, September is National Suicide Prevention Month. The leading national organization focused on suicide prevention, The Trevor Project ,  has launched a campaign to encourage conversation and support for the GLBTQ population. 

Celebrities Endorse “ Talk To Me “ Campaign

With Kevin McHale of Glee fame as a spokesperson, the “Talk to Me” Campaign  (see http://www.thetrevorproject.org/talktome2012)  has named September 27th as  Trevor Day.  Actor Daniel Radcliffe, “Harry Potter,” has since August 2009, given to The Trevor Lifeline,  the first and only nationwide 24 hour crisis and suicide prevention helpline for LGBTQ youth. Radcliffe is promoting the campaign on his Live Chat now on the website as well as You Tube and Google + pages.

How You Can Help. Participate on September 27th.

Here are five ways that you (or anyone) can show concern for a LGBTQ youth. They are:
  • ·      PLEDGE.  Take the “Talk To Me” pledge and promise to be a person that anyone can TALK to when they need a nonjudgmental person to listen.
  • ·      POST.  Write a message to a friend on a sticky note telling them you are there to talk if they ever need you, and leave it in a creative place: locker, lunch box, car. 
  • ·      WEAR. Wear and give out the Trevor gear in a “Talk To Me” kit that includes Tee Shirts.  It helps to spread the message.
  • ·      ACT.  Write a letter to the editor or to your local lawmaker to advocate for funding for inclusive suicide prevention training for school staff.
  • ·      SHARE. Add one of Talk To Me badges to your facebook/twitter profile image, on your website, page or blog.
  • ·      PHOTO GALLERY. You can also contribute to the #TrevorTalkToMe Photo Gallery.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Suicide Prevention Day Lives On

Last Monday, September 10th, was World Suicide Prevention Day, designated by the World Health Organization to promote world-wide commitment and initiatives to prevent suicide. On that day, the 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention was published by the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention and U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin. The strategy details multiple goals for reducing suicide, such as integrating suicide prevention into health care policies and changing the way the public talks about suicide and suicide prevention.

Did you know that:

  • ·      The lifetime prevalence of suicide attempts in gay and bisexual male adolescents and adults was four times that of comparable heterosexual males.
  • ·      Lifetime suicide attempt rates among lesbian and bisexual females were almost twice those of heterosexual females.
  • ·      A 2009 study from the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force found that 41% of adult respondents reported suicide attempts.

Why are these figures so high? It’s no wonder when The Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) reports that 9 out of 10 GLBT teens (and younger) are the victims of anti-gay bullying. As we all know, the effects of bullying are negative: low self-esteem, self-hatred, and suicide ideation (thinking about it).

How Does Your School Counteract Bullying?

As most bullying happens in school or on a phone or computer screen (cyberbullying) away from parental eyes, parents need to know what is happening at their child’s school to combat this invasive problem. Find out if your school has the following:
·      Gay-Straight Alliance
·      Safespace kits provided by GLSEN
·      Punishment for the Bully
·      Training about GLBT issues for teachers, counselors, administrators 

If your school doesn’t have these safeguards, contact GLSEN (http://www.glsen.org/anti-bullying resources ) about instituting them. If GLSEN’s educational tools are not carried out in your child’s school, get in touch with the American Civil Liberties Union (http://www.aclu.org)

Safe Schools Improvement Act in Congress

There are only seven states (California, Iowa, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont and Washington State) that have laws that specifically protect GLBT students from bullying based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  Recently, the Safe Schools Improvement Act, legislation that would amend federal anti-bullying law to include sexual orientation and gender identity, was re-introduced in Congress. It would amend the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act to require schools that receive federal funds to adopt codes of conduct specifically prohibiting bullying and harassment, including bullying on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as race and religion.

Rehearse at Home About How to Deal with Bullying

Have a plan in place so your kids will be prepared for protecting themselves against bullies. See my blog posts: (http: //straightparentgaykid.blogspot.com “Parental Homework for Anti-Bullying Defenses,” and “Anti-Bullying Tactics Begin at Home,” 9.21.11).                                                                               For more tips on how to deal with bullying, see http: //About.com GLBT Teens "What GLBT Teens Can Do About Cyberbullying" and "What's the Deal With Anti-Gay Bullying and Harassment?"

Family Acceptance Biggest Buffer Against Suicide 
LGBT youth need to know that there are people out there to help them. If you suspect your child is depressed, seek out a mental health professional for her or him. (see my blog "Get Thee to a Shrink").  To familiarize yourself with the warning signs of suicide, see (http: gayteensabout.com/od.informationforparent1/a/Gay-TeenSuicide-Warning-Signs.html )If he/she even talks about suicide, take your child seriously. 

Here are some Hotlines to help avoid another tragic death:

Trevor Lifeline of The Trevor Project, the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to GLBT community.  866-488-7386
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Get Thee to a Shrink

It is not uncommon for a parent of a recently out child, to want to take him/her to a mental health professional. Every parent wants his child to be happy, and you may be assuming because he/she is gay, that they have deep-rooted problems. While this may seem altruistic and responsible on your part, to your child, it may appear that he/she has a problem that needs “fixing.” 

While I have interviewed gay adults who found relief in talking to professionals, some were skeptical of their parents’ intentions. One gay man from Birmingham, Alabama was annoyed that his mother had arranged an appointment with her friend, a clinical social worker, in Washington, D.C. Luckily, the meeting went well, and the man was able to unburden his soul. The social worker allayed the parents’ fears that their gay son was unhappy. However, the office visit could have been disastrous.

Follow These Suggestions for a Better Experience with a Therapist:

To ensure a productive meeting for your child, you need to first explain to your child why you think it’s a good idea for him to go to a “talking doctor” so he doesn’t misconstrue your motives. Studies have shown that kids who reveal their sexual orientation to their parents want to hear immediately that they are loved unconditionally. Timing is everything. So, it’s not a good idea to bring up a visit to the “shrink” right away. 

How Do I find a GLB-Friendly Therapist?

The American Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists (http://www. AGLP.org.)                                                      has a referral services for GLBT patients looking for therapists.

Is it essential for a GLBT child to be in treatment with a GLBT therapist?

Not necessarily, but your child or daughter may be more comfortable and less guarded talking to a professional with the same orientation who knows what it’s like to be GLBT. Jonathan Tobkes, M.D., a Manhattan psychiatrist with a private practice, offers this advice: “It’s less important that the therapist be gay than if he has worked with gay teens and families. Look for a therapist who has specific training in child and adolescent health.”

Should I be in family therapy with my son’s or daughter’s psychiatrist? It may be better at first to have your own therapist if you are trying to work through your own feelings such as shame, loss, guilt, typical issues that straight parents face. You don’t want your child to know that you are suffering because of his revelation. 

However, Dr. Tobkes recommends, “that if there is significant conflict within the family unit itself, you begin family therapy with a neutral therapist who doesn’t work with any other family member and has no primary allegiance.”

Let Your Child Take the Lead

Remember that this is the therapist for your child and as such, you will not get much feedback from the professional due to patient confidentiality. Do your homework and speak to a therapist about his experience working with GLBT youth, “ but let your child have a say in selecting a therapist,” cautions Dr. Tobkes. “Chemistry is important.”

What to Watch Out For!

Any psychiatrist or psychologist who tells you or your child that homosexuality is a mental disorder.  The American Psychiatric Association declassified (removed) homosexuality as a mental disorder in its DSA (Diagnostic) Manual in 1973.

Any mental health professional who tells you he/she can convert your child from gay to straight. This is known as conversion or reparative therapy and although it is condemned by both the American Psychiatric and Psychological Associations, it is still practiced. Studies haves shown that this type of therapy only sublimates the desire for the same sex, resulting in depression, shame for the GLBT participant. It doesn’t convert and is so ineffectual that the California State Assembly recently approved a groundbreaking ban on so-called ex-gay or reparative therapy aimed at minors. See my blog:( http: www.straightparentgaykid.blogspot.com/"Response to Jane Clementi's Article in New York Times, 8/25/12/ 8/29/12.)