Sunday, July 28, 2013

10 Things Your Gay Child Does NOT Want to Hear From You

You may consider it a compliment that your gay child feels close enough to you to reveal his true self, especially if he thinks his revelation is going to disappoint you.  Or you may feel proud that your child is so self-aware that he knows his sexual orientation at a tender age.  Or you may be in awe that you daughter, knowing she might face rejection, has the self-confidence to come out to classmates.  Or perhaps you’re relieved that the inkling that you had about your son’s sexual orientation has now been confirmed by his coming out.

Research Shows that Most Coming Outs Don’t Go Well

Despite the country’s growing acceptance of gay marriage and other issues, the researchers at The Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University found that most coming outs by kids to their straight parents do not go well.  The news is always a jolt.  Your child may have thought for a long time about how and when she was going to tell you, but you have only a split-second to respond.
Without preparation, it’s easy for a parent to utter the wrong messages to sensitive ears.  Here’s a helpful list of what not to say.

1.     You’re too young to know:  Most GLBT kids sense they are “different” early on.  Even if they are virgins, they know they are attracted to the same sex.  You may be in denial and wishful thinking.
2.     How could you be?  You were just dating Bobby:  Many gay teens wish they were heterosexual.  As it’s the accepted majority, why not try to fit in?  So, they try the norm first.
3.     You’re so girly-girly.  Are you sure you’re a lesbian? Your daughter doesn’t have to be dressed in black leather head-to-toe, have a buzz cut, and multiple piercings to look queer.  There are “lipstick lesbians” such as singer Chely Wright and actress Jane Lynch who look feminine and not “butch.”
4.     How could you do this to me? Children don’t like disappointing their parents.  Sexual orientation is not a choice; as Lady Gaga sings, ‘You’re born this Way.’ You’re probably disappointed because of YOUR expectations for your child, which do not include homosexuality.
5.     You haven’t had Sex yet:  You don’t need to have sex to know whom you’re attracted to.  If the opposite sex doesn’t turn you on, but your own does, then you may be gay.
6.     Don’t tell the rest of the family. It’ll Kill them:  Do not ‘out’ your child to others, without his permission, anyway.  The decision about whom to tell, and when, belongs to your child.  Privacy does not equal shame.  Worst time to tell family members?  Holidays.
7.     Are you sure?  Your life will be more difficult:  Life for any gay or lesbian person can be more difficult due to society’s prejudice, but you can’t change your sexual orientation to make life easier.
8.     No more sleepovers! That’s it: You didn’t encourage your kid’s sexuality by allowing sleepovers any more than an “R” rated movie will cause your child to have sex afterwards.  But if you ban sleepovers, your child will find a way to get around your rules, and it may just be at another house that’s parentless.
9.     You need to go to church more:  You can not pray gay away and convert the person.  You may suppress the desire initially, but it will result in depression, self-hatred. Even gay-to-straight conversion camps like Exodus International are apologizing for their former claims.
1.  People Will Look At Us Differently: Families with GLBT children invite comments, some homophobic, some supporting. You will find out quickly whom your true friends are.

Monday, July 15, 2013

What to Say to Your Child's Coming Out

Prepare Yourself for the Unexpected
Most parents, according to research, are broadsided by the child’s news that he or she is gay.  Like many parents, you may have suspected that your child’s sexual orientation since childhood, but to actually hear the confession from your child’s lips may dredge up a host of reactions: pride that the child is so self-aware that he is confident enough in his identity to divulge the news. You are also proud of your child for coming out to you.

Don’t Appear to be Overwhelmed
More often, the news may spawn emotions you’ve never dreamed of: disappointment: that the child will not live out your expectations for him/her: initial denial because the divulgement is too much for a parent to bear, fear that the child will get fired from a job just for being gay, or perhaps you’re feeling another common emotion, anger.  “Why me?”  Why do I have to deal with this?   Shame: What do I tell my relatives or his school? Guilt:  What did I do to make him gay? (in another blog, I will give suggestions how you can overcome these issues that trip up effective parenting).
If you’re feeling any of these emotions other than relief, pride or acceptance, now is not the time to appear fragile.  It’s not about you.  Your child needs your help.

What to Say to Your Child’s Coming Out
What should you say to the news?  You may only have a split-second to respond even though your son/daughter has thought about what she has just told you for ions.  Your child has just shared with you an important aspect of his/her self.  He needs your help. Give him the courtesy of 100% of your attention. You want to encourage further discussion.

Ten Points to Cover

1.     Start off with a Hug. 
2.     Thank you for sharing your story with me. It must have been hard for you to tell me. Give him/her a hug. (shows pride and encourages further dialogue).
3.     I love you and always will.  (Kids want unconditional love and acceptance, So often, they are told it’s not o.k.)
4.     How long have you known? (shows interest in their journey to gayness.)
5.     Would you like me to discuss this with others? If so, whom? It’s your call.  Have you told your sister?  Brother? Friends at school?  (shows respect for privacy – it’s his or her story).
6.     Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?  Are they out?  I’d like to meet them. (shows interest in whom is important in their life and acceptance of their love interests).
7.     How do you feel about being gay?  Are you accepted at school? (opens up conversation about possible self-hatred or harassment from others).
8.     Do you have support groups for your orientation?  Gay-Straight Alliance, chat rooms on-line, etc. (Knowledge is Power!  Besides your support, your child will obtain further help from LGBT community, particularly from own age group.)
9.     I intend to find out more about gay issues now that I know you’re gay.  I hope you will educate me as well. (shows open mind and ability to have your child take the lead – this is one area where they will most likely know more than you!)
10.  I’m proud that you have the presence at your age to come out.  It shows confidence, honesty, and self-awareness.  (end on a positive note which encourages ongoing discussion).

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Bert and Ernie Snuggle on New Yorker Cover

Conservatives Act As If It’s a Punch and Judy Show

Put Sesame Street’s popular and long-standing muppets “Bert and Ernie” snuggling on the cover of the erudite New Yorker ( July 8 & 15)  and what do you get?  Some, like me, think it’s cute and reflective of the majority of this country’s favorable views on same-sex marriage.  It’s an in-joke perhaps because Bert and Ernie were considered a secretly gay couple over the years, although Sesame Street denied the rumor, and said they were merely “best friends” and insisted that puppets do not have sexual orientation.” (Oh yeah, what about X-rated Kermit the Frog and “Miss Piggy?”) However, so many people, 10,000 to be exact, signed an online petition in 2011 urging the “closeted” couple to get married. Everyone loves a wedding.

Are Bert and Ernie Gay?

The cover infers that Bert and Ernie are gay.  They are watching a television set, albeit black and white one, featuring members of the United States Supreme Court with a rainbow flag in front of them.  Presumably, the date is June 26th, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Prop 8 and Section 3 of DOMA, defining marriage for only heterosexual couples.  In keeping with the tony magazine, Bert and Ernie are watching Scotus decisions, not “Mob Wives.”

Reflection of the Times

In the past, this cover might have been more suited to Mad Magazine and Alfred E. Neumann's  apocalyptic visions.  But given the country’s recent momentum toward gay marriage as evidenced by the Supreme Court striking down California’s ban on gay marriage as well as the definition of marriage as only for heterosexuals, the time is now for a clever cover.  Says the artist, Jack Hunter, of his cover “Moment of Joy,” originally submitted to Tumblr, “it’s amazing how attitudes on gay rights have evolved in my lifetime. It’s great for our kids, a moment we can all celebrate.” BuzzFeed and The Huffington Post both described The New Yorker cover “amazing.”

Critics of Sexualizing Puppets

However, not everyone is thrilled with the “Moment of Joy” cover.  Of course, Bryan Fischer, a Christian radio host of “Focal Point” and  Director of Issues Analysis for American Family Association. He does not like homosexuality and criticizes the magazine editors for being “grossly irresponsible.” Fischer believes that Ernie and Bert are depicted in a “homosexual clinch;” consequently, the magazine cover” promotes child abuse and child endangerment.” The homophobe also said similar remarks about gay Boy Scout troop leaders. Fischer also quotes the Regenerus’s study, now ruled as faulty, published in July 2012, entitled “How Different Are The Adult Children of Parents Who Have Same-Sex Relationships?

You Be The Judge

Should Bert and Ernie Come Out?  Did they come out via The New Yorker cover?  Is the cover in bad taste or merely a reflection of the country’s increased willingness to embrace gay marriage? 

What do you think?  Post your comment here.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Skim Milk Version of Marriage Spoiled, Sort Of

End of Proposition 8 and DOMA

On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States (Scotus) ruled, 5 to 4, that Section 3 of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) that defined marriage as only for heterosexuals, was unconstitutional.  “By seeking to displace this protection and treating these persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statue is in violation of the Fifth Amendment. This ruling meant that now legally married same-sex couples could receive federal benefits and privileges that heterosexual couples now enjoy. It no longer treats them as a special class that is “lesser than.” On the same day, Proposition 8 was struck down in California, an amendment outlawing gay marriage. The Justices essentially adopted the rationale of the federal appeals court that California could not take away the right to marry that had been granted by the state supreme court in 2008, before Proposition 8 passed.

Shift in Public Opinion

While these court decisions are votes of confidence in same-sex marriage and reflect the latest Pew Forum findings on Religion and Public Life that shows that over 50% of Americans support gay marriage, up from 39% in 2008.  The end of DOMA and Proposition 8 have a very narrow radius: gays and lesbians can only collect federal benefits in the states where it is legal to marry: 13 (now with California) and the District of Columbia.  This leaves a Byzantine maze for same-sex couples who live elsewhere to negotiate. 

Inherent Problems with States Settling Gay Marriage

As Justice Scalia points out, what happens when a gay couple in Albany where same-sex marriage is legal, wants to move to Alabama which doesn’t recognize gay marriage?  Or if a couple works in one state, lives in another, and was married in a third state?  Can they collect and file joint tax returns?  What’s to prevent another Hollingsworth vs. Perry in other states?

Leave gay marriage to the states, now 37 of them without it, and the rights of Americans are not based on equality, but upon geographic location.  Why should equal protection apply only in states that recognize gay marriage?  Why doesn’t it apply equally to gays who want to marry in states that refuse to marry them?

Nationalize Gay Marriage

As gay and lesbian couples scramble to get married and legislators draft measures to put same-sex marriage to vote, why not simplify the playing field with the same rules for everyone? Nationalizing gay marriage and not leaving it up to the states has my vote!