Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Response to Jane Clementi's article in New York Times, 8/25/12


A hypothetical open letter to Mrs.Clementi 

Dear Mrs. Clementi:

      I was saddened to read your comments in the above article. As the mother of a 29 year-old  gay son, I share your concerns. For fourteen months now, I have been writing a blog for straight parents of gay and lesbian children. Despite our commonalities, never having lost a son, I don’t pretend to know the depth of your despair. 
      It was painful for me to read about the guilt you still feel and hold accountable for Tyler’s premature death. It is normal for parents to feel guilt after a suicide and to play the alternatives  over and over in their head such as “ If only I had ...  What if ?  I could have...” I’m sure you will never get over Tyler’s death, but I hope, the pain will lessen. I trust your work with a foundation promoting acceptance of gay and lesbian teens will help you feel better. 

      You said that you were hurt that Tyler didn’t open up about his sexual orientation until a few days before he was entering Rutgers University. You thought you had a “pretty open” relationship.” Your reaction is common. Tyler may have known since middle school that he was gay but with many gay and lesbian children, they know they are disappointing their parents with this earthshaking revelation, particularly in a family with three boys, and the middle son, James, is already out. In traditional families, gay children may feel as if they are destroying their parents’ dreams for them. It is not only the parents’ expectation for the child, but the child’s expectation for his/her own future which has to be reevaluated.

      So you’re split- second reaction was not uncommon: you were caught off-guard and responded accordingly. “How do you know? Who are you going to talk to?  Who are you going to tell? “  Your response was not one of rejection of Tyler, as his text implied to his friend, but most likely, fear and shame associated with outing the family. This is a common response by parents who are not prepared for the blindsiding news. As your husband, Joe, pointed out, Tyler’s dramatic reaction was typical of a teenager.

      You say that you were not ready to tell friends who later confided that they too had gay children, that you wanted to protect Tyler (you were correct to not out him without his permission) and yourself from the harsh judgment of others. It is the criticism of homophobic outsiders who keep many families silent.

      Your local church, you thought, did not provide support for you nor Tyler, who didn’t think he could be “Christian and gay.” As you said, “you can not pray gay away.” You’ll be glad to know that the California State Assembly has recently approved a groundbreaking ban on so-called ex-gay or reparative therapy aimed at minors. 

     I have known many parents who have left their churches for lack of support. However, there are gay-friendly alternatives such as The Metropolitan Community Church and welcoming organizations such as for Christians such as Dignity, Inc. (Catholic) or Integrity, Inc. ( Episcopal) to name a few. It may interest you to know that the leader of the Episcopal Church, Gene Robinson, is openly gay and advocates same-sex marriage. 
       No one institution or person can be blamed for Tyler’s suicide. Joe’s comment that Tyler’s “ bad luck of roommate lottery” and the other students’ willingness to further invade Tyler’s privacy by watching the webcam video are to blame. Are they collectively accomplices?.  This deplorable act was, in my opinion, “the last straw” for Tyler. If anyone is to blame, it’s our society at large which doesn’t respect diversity. As you stated, “my children don’t need to be changed. What needs changing are attitudes.” 

        The trial of Tyler’s roommate, and the press spotlighting you and your family may have felt as if the public were forcing you, earlier than expected, to come out of the closet in such a powerful way. It’s wonderful that you have found relief in not hiding what others may regard as your family’s business although “it is not something you would have done on your own.”

         As you astutely observed, parents need to come out of the closet, too. Many do with the help of an organization like PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) Some go to the privacy of a therapist’s office. Others can’t deal with it all, reject their children, and throw them out of the house. Almost 40% of teen runaways are GLBT rejected kids. Still others like yourself, become activists. 

          I hope you have found fulfillment with the work you and Joe are now doing to prevent suicide. It’s a testament to your and your husband’s love for Tyler.  I wish you peace.

                                                                                Sincerely yours, 
                                                                                (Ms.) Wesley Davidson

       See my February 2012 post on Tyler Clementi "Is it Depression, Teenage Angst or Suicidal Thoughts?")                                                               


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Vermont Scout Leaders Earn Their Merit Badges

Boy Scouts of America’s Green Mt. Council More GLBT-Friendly

Recently, the BSA reaffirmed its decision to ban openly homosexual members and leaders from its organization. This policy offended President Obama, and presidential nominee Mitt Romney as well as Vermont’s Green Mountain Council. BSA, which is supposed to stand for democracy, inclusion, and leadership, has many Americans upset. Protests have been staged: from letters and Eagle Scout badges being mailed to BSA headquarters, to expelled gay and lesbian scout leaders getting petitions signed for reinstatements. In its own quiet way, The Green Mountain Council has protested.

History of Green Mountain Council’s Objection

After the national Scouts won a Supreme Court case in 2000 allowing the BSA to impose the ban, Scout Executive Edward McCollin, head of the Scouts’ Green Mountain Council, his state’s organization, released its own nondiscrimination policy in 2001 in reaction to the ban. The Green Mountain Council, as an executive board created their own policy based on what Vermont citizens were comfortable with, without going against the national Boy Scouts of America’s policy, according to McCollin.

Similar to the policy of The Girl Scouts of America, the policy at “The Green Mountain Council, Boy Scouts of America, does not inquire into the sexual orientation of existing or prospective members, youth or adult.” When asked if McCollin agrees with the national policy, he said,” that’s not my place. My job is to help young people develop leadership skills. I’m not going to make a call on that.”

Vermont is Progressive 

With the first recycling law, and the first state in 2000 to introduce civil unions for same-sex couples, it is no wonder that Vermont initiated its own play-by-my-rules policy. After all, since the repeal of DADT, if a GLBT marine or any military member can serve, why can’t a gay boy scout?

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Boy Scouts’ Exclusive Policy

Last week, I posted about the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) ongoing policies that ban homosexual scouts and troop leaders from their organization.
Because the Supreme Court found that BSA is a private organization, it can discriminate by limiting their membership, now at 2.7 million youth. The Boy Scout policy states that :”Boy Scouts of America believes that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the obligations in the Scout Oath and Scout Law to be morally straight and clean...”

Growing Dissatisfaction with BSA’s Stance 

Unlike the Girl Scouts of America which does NOT discriminate, the BSA anti-gay policy has many up in arms. Besides the Eagle Scouts who have returned their badges to BSA headquarters, gay activists as well as LGBT service members’ advocacy groups called on BSA to abandon their anti-gay policy.

Make BSA Policy More Relevant To Our Evolving Country

If you find BSA’s modus operandi unacceptable, you can oppose the ban by taking action:
  1. ·      Boycott the organization. Do not contribute any money to BSA.
  2. ·      Tell your friends, co-workers, and family to do the same.
  3. ·      Gather signatures for a petition and mail to BSA headquarters. Address below.
  4. ·      Write a letter to Wayne Perry, President of Boy Scouts, National Executive Board, P.O. Box 152079, Irving, Texas 75015-2079. Send a self-addressed stamped envelope and ask for a reply. In this letter, state that you are not going to support BSA until the anti-gay policy is revised. Mention that you are going to contribute to non-discriminatory organizations that serve youth such as YMCA/YWCA, Campfire, 4H, and Girl Scouts of America.
  5. ·      You may want to send copies of this letter to City Council Members, School Board, and local newspaper.
  6. ·      Have your Troop Leader write as well.

Who’s Morally Straight?

What could be more traditional and ALL-American than the Boy Scouts of America, founded in 1910? It may be a private organization, but it’s not a private country club for an elite group. It should be an open organization that teaches morals, tolerance, responsibility to youth so they can serve their country. Only then will the organization be “morally straight and clean.” 

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