Monday, February 27, 2012

Is it Depression, Teenage Angst or Suicidal Thoughts?

Tyler Clementi, a gay Rutgers University freshman jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge in 2010. Halyee Fentress and Paige Maravetz, two lesbian 14-year old girls, took their lives in sleepover suicide pact in Minnesota a year later. Eric James Borges, a gay filmmaker in California, killed himself last month. It seems as if GLBT suicide is epidemic. Even one premature teen death is not only poignant, but shocking.
While many GLBT teens are well-adjusted, we know from statistics, provided from the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State, that 25 to 40% of young lesbians and gays have attempted suicide. They are more likely than straight teens to think about(suicide “ideation”).
How do you as a parent know if your child is chronically depressed? All teens are moody and want to be independent. Who knew that ironically Borges would kill himself just weeks after posting an “It Gets Better” video to empower GLBT youth?
When is your GLBT teen’s moodiness no longer considered a “phase?” Teens who are withdrawn, isolated, as many GLBT teens are, are more vulnerable to targets of victimization such as bullying and homophobia. Just last week, a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine revealed that the biggest deterrents to suicide are feeling loved and supported.
To learn more about the warning signs of suicide and how to get help for your family and friends, refer to Ellen Friedrichs GLBT Teens Guide

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Modern Family Redefined: How and When to Tell Siblings of GLB Teens

It’s hard to know what to tell the sibling of a gay/lesbian teen. Should you or your gay teen divulge the news about his/her brother’s orientation? What should the sibling hear first?  and from whom: his parent or the gay brother or sister? How should you approach the subject? 

While some parents may regard this as a teachable moment that will allow you to share your values and beliefs about sexual orientation with your children, others may blush and find it even more difficult to broach the subject than sex education. You don’t want your child to hear the news from outside sources such as a classmate who may not have reliable information. Nor do you want your kid to think you are withholding information because you regard your GL teen’s sexual identity shameful. 

In any case, the information should be delivered in such a way that the sibling will continue to look up to the older brother/sister.  If the child asks “will I be gay? “Assure him/her that although his sibling is gay, it’s not definite that he/she will be.

Here’s a guide for revealing conversations, based on the sibling’s age, as suggested by Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D., a Manhattan psychiatrist:
“I think it’s important to expose all children to the concept of homosexuality once they are older than five years old.” You can say some boys marry boys, some girls marry boys, and some girls marry girls. For example, brother James is a boy who likes boys. Then explain to them that they can decide whomever they want to marry when they’re older. 

What you tell a child depends largely on their developmental age/maturity and their “emotional intelligence.” Try not to tell too much, only what’s digestible. Parents often make the mistake of answering more than what the child is asking of them and overdo it when discussing “the facts of life,” divorce or death). If the child wants or needs more answers, he/she will ask questions, and you can then answer them as honestly and straightforwardly as possible.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What Do You Say to Your Child's Coming Out?

I recently wrote a guest post for the Radical Parenting site. Here's an excerpt:
As a straight parent, you probably will find his announcement shocking, painful, and off-putting. Try not to respond with volcanic anger, silence or remarks negating his/her same-sex orientation. Remember that it is a supreme compliment that your child has revealed his private life and inner self even though it means the loss of your expectations for what you thought was a heterosexual child...
 Read the rest of the post at

Sunday, February 12, 2012

"Love you, Always" Love, Mom and Dad ox

It’s not always easy to love unconditionally, especially when your lifelong dreams for your child have been shattered. Like most straight parents, your child’s coming out has probably precipitated intense uncomfortable feelings in you such as anger(Why our family?), denial(how could she know?), guilt(what did I do to cause this?), shame(I can’t tell anyone), fear(what if he gets Aids, and gets fired for being gay?), or loss(what happened to my dream of son-in-law, biological grandchildren, and traditional marriage?). These normal issues at first may interfere with effectively parenting your teen.
Those issues may also lead to resentment which makes unconditional love challenging.    It helps to put matters in check by:
·      Remembering that this is the same child you’ve always loved.
·      Even if you disapprove of homosexuality, it is possible to “love the sinner, but not the sin.”
·      While her/his news may be a jolt, it’s also a compliment that your child feels “safe” enough and loved enough to trust you with this confession.
·      You may be worried about your future, but think how your kid must feel. She faces harassment in school, possible firing at a future job and other discriminations. 
·      Make your home a haven, a refuge from the vulnerabilities of his present and his doubts about his future.
To work through this omnipresent angst, which may be an obstacle preventing your unconditional love, try the following suggestions:
·      Find a support group such as PFLAG(Parents of Lesbians and Gays) with nationwide chapters.
·      Talk to trusting, nonjudgmental friends.
·      Seek out parents “who’ve been there” with GLBT children.
·      You may want for now individual therapy until you are ready to “share” your concerns with others.
·      Read, read, read.  There are books written for straight parents of gay children, books written by GLBT adults, all for enlightening you.
·      Let your child educate you.  He knows how it feels to be gay.

This Valentine’s Day, as well as other calendar days, give an extra dose of love to your 
gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender child. Chocolates and gift certificates are nice presents, but the greatest gift, which lasts a lifetime, is unconditional love.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

“The Child is the father of The Man” – William Wordsworth

Question:  What causes
·      parents and teens angst?
·      religious organizations to consider it a “choice”?
·      9 million U.S. citizens under age 20 and 9% of high school students to identify with it?
·      Its lack of acceptance accounts for 20-40% of runaway and homeless youth?
·      Is the leading cause of suicide among teens?
·      Accounts for an alarming truancy rate in schools?
Answer:  Teen homosexuality
This hot topic, so prevalent in the media, has many parents wondering if their child is gay. How do you know if your child is gay? It’s hard to know if adolescence is about experimenting sexually, often with both sexes. Studies tell us that it is not uncommon for adolescent boys to explore their sexuality with the same sex. Alfred Kinsey’s Reports(1947 and 1953)taught us that bisexuality behavior was much more prevalent than previously thought: Sex is a continuum. Present day researcher, Professor of Clinical and Developmental Psychology at Cornell University, Ritch C. Savin -Williams, Ph.D., remarks that many students in today’s society like to consider themselves “fluid” and don’t want to be pigeonholed into a “straight” or “gay” category.
There is no litmus test for one’s sexuality. Do you suspect your child is gay because he never dates, is a loner, and doesn’t play contact sports? Are your expectations or perceptions based on society’s macho image of what constitutes male behavior? If your son or daughter has come out to you, do you downplay their orientation by saying:“It’s just a phase you’ll outgrow.” “You’re too young to know?”
“Discounting or questioning your child’s assertion will likely result in resentment and antagonism, and will undermine your child’s attempt at fostering a more intimate relationship with you,” advises Jonathan TobkesM.D., a Manhattan psychiatrist. “The best way to manage your skepticism is by engaging your child in a conversation which will lead to a better understanding of how he/she arrived at this conclusion. Using neutral language, you might say, for example,” I had no idea. When did you first start thinking this may be the case? How have you been feeling about this?”
Truth is the only one who really knows the answer is your son or daughter. He may tell you that, for example, at age six, he felt “different” and knew he was attracted to the same sex or your daughter may tell you she realized she was lesbian when she turned 12, at puberty. Whatever you are told, you should believe your child.