Friday, January 30, 2015

Tips For Making Your LGBT Child's Life Easier

Family Acceptance Is Key

According to multiple studies, family acceptance can make all the difference to GLBT children. If rejected by families during adolescence, these youth were 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide, 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression, and 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs and have unprotected sex. LGBT teens who are kicked out of their homes account for nearly 40% of the homeless population.

Family acceptance provides a buffer for kids and helps them resist pressures leading to unprotected sex, substance abuse, and suicide.  LGBT people, as you would imagine, whose parents support them show much higher rates of self-esteem and greater well-being.

Helpful Tips for Straight Parents

The Family Acceptance Project (FAP) at San Francisco State University http://www/family, a research, intervention, education and policy initiative that studies the impact of family acceptance and rejection on the health, mental health, and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth, has identified more than 100 ways that parents and caregivers respond to their child’s LGBT identity. Each of those family reactions links to their LGBT adolescent’s health and mental health in adulthood.

Some Positive Family Behaviors: Guidelines

From “Supportive Families, Healthy Children,” by Caitlin Ryan, Ph.D., Family Acceptance Project, San Francisco State University:

Talk with your child or foster child about their LGBT identity.
Express affection when your child tells you or when you learn that your child is LGBT.
Support your child’s LGBT identity even though you may feel uncomfortable.
Advocate for your child when he or she is mistreated because of their LGBT identity.
Require that other family members respect your LGBT child.
Bring your child to an LGBT organization or event.
Connect your child with an LGBT adult role model to show them options for the future.
Work to make your faith community supportive of LGBT members or find a supportive faith community that welcomes your family and LGBT child.
Welcome your child’s LGBT friends and partner to your home and to family events and activities.
Support your child’s gender expression.
Believe your child can have a happy future as an LGBT adult.
If your child is being harassed at school (LGBT kids often are), document the aggression with names, incidents, and dates. Report it first to the teacher and then the principal.  If you don’t get satisfaction, then notify the Superintendent of Schools.
Order a Safe Space Kit from GLSEN, The Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GlSEN), for your school and participate in such national events such as “No Name Calling Week.” Start a Gay-Straight Alliance at the school for greater understanding between the school’s straight population and gay community.

Monday, January 26, 2015

How Do You Know If Your Child Is Gay?

I’m often asked “how do you know if your child is gay?”  After all, there is no litmus test for sexuality.  Adolescence is a time of exploration and trying on different identities, much like adapting clothes to a new persona. So, what’s the answer?

If one believes Freud is right and we’re all born bisexual and sexual orientation is a continuum on the Alfred Kinsey scale, then when do you know what your sexual orientation is?

Caution: Unreliable Internet Tests to Solve the Riddle

Pretending to be gay, I turned to internet quizzes for questioning teens and was appalled at the inane insane questions penned by non-respected writers without credibility in the mental health field.  For example, http://www.all the 31/quiz/1407277397/ Am-I-Gay-Test was completed 71,700 times and asked me to give one of three answers for the question “what kind of porn do you watch? or “your mom asks you to go shopping and you say?” or the best one, “when you’re at the bar, you order?” All the questions smacked of stereotypes, not unlike the portrayal of gay characters on television sitcoms.

Or how about asp.? Maybe it was meant to be amusing because it was laughable.  This multiple choice test asked “Who won Season 1 of Project Runway?”  “How much do you spend on haircuts?” “ Which of the following designers does not produce men’s shoes?” There are gays who don’t “live and breathe” fashion.

As parents or teens looking for answers to the riddle “Is My Child Gay?”, even articles on Huffington Post, particularly, http://www.huffingtonpostcom/2014/02/20/am-i-gay-website_n_can be skeptical.  On that day, it mentioned a website, Gay Check online, that scans the face of the user through their computer’s webcam and delivers a resounding verdict about their sexuality. Really? Reliable?

The Best Online Advice

You want to find accredited mental health professionals such as Richard H. Reams, Ph.D. to lead you closer to a conclusion. Reams authored  Am I Gay? a guide for People who Question Their Sexual Orientation by Richard H. Reams, Ph.D.  online. This psychologist has a lengthy multi-faceted discussion with such breakdowns as explanations of sexual orientation and sexual orientation identity; addressing 7 myths about sexual orientation; helping gather and examining evidence about your sexual orientation; exploration of 4 obstacles to sexual orientation identity development; a recommendation of the next step depending on the outcome of your examination of evidence; and finally, identifying resources for the LGB population.  The guide was similar to an outline for a scientific experiment.

Ellen Friedrich. MA, is a health educator with extensive experience working with GLBT teens on sexuality and relationship issues.  Her website is enormously popular and is written in layman terms and covers many aspects of being gay, including how to tell if you are. It’s definitely worth a look: Ellen Friedrichs-LGBT

Time Will Tell, If It Hasn’t Already

With no test for homosexuality yet, the most reliable method may be for a child to look at his  history, his feelings and make an educated guess. He should take into account his thoughts, emotions, and behavior.  Time will tell as his or her orientation solidifies.

How Can A Parent Tell?

Most parents know their kid or think they do.  They may have had suspicions that their children are gay.  However, not always so as the child may have kept their sexuality orientation under wraps for fear of disappointing the parents.  When a child tells you he/she is gay, chances are he has known for awhile so don’t doubt his judgment.

If a child comes out or tells you he’s questioning his orientation, you might ask him how long he has known he’s gay and why he thinks he’s gay. If he’s basing his decision on same-sex attraction common to heterosexuals as well or taking non-reliable tests online, you might explore those perceptions. In any case, take his coming out seriously and not as an adolescent behavior that will change tomorrow. Then the dialogue has a better chance of continuing.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Don't Be Tempted By Gay-to-Straight Therapy!

It’s Not A Fix!

A few weeks ago, Leelah Alcorn, 17 years old, a transgender renamed “Joshua,” from Kings Mills, Ohio, committed suicide.  Unfortunately, forty percent of transgenders attempt suicide.  They are perhaps the least understood and most maligned in our society.

Wrote Leelah in her suicide note, “it doesn’t get better, each day it gets worse.” Like many parents of LGBT children, Leelah’s parents, desperate for answers, turned to conversion/reparative or gay-to-straight therapy. Whatever you want to call this type of therapy, it can have serious consequences!

Only Two States Outlawed Conversion Therapy

In 2012, California banned the practice of this so-called therapy. A year later, New Jersey followed suit.  In all of the other U.S. States, it is still on the books as a viable mental health treatment.  Apparently, there is a coordinated effort by ex-gays to introduce themselves to lawmakers and talk up potential benefits of this therapy. Efforts in more than a dozen states have been blocked or stalled.

Those Opposed

While a few claim they have been “cured,” (or merely gone back in the closet?), there are others who question this “fix.” Robert Spitzer, M.D., in 2012 denounced his study on gay culture and reparative therapy.  He stated that “conversion therapy is rooted in Freud’s idea that people are born bisexual and can move along a continuum from one end to the other.” Dr. Sptizer, who was at the forefront for removing homosexuality as a mental disorder from the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM Manual in 1973, apologized to the gay community for his erroneous study that didn’t conclude that conversion therapy actually worked.

The same year, The World Health Organization stated that “services that purport to ‘cure’ people with non-hetero sexual orientation lack medical justification and represent a serious threat to health and well-being of affected people.” Exodus International, the umbrella organization that connected organizations that sought to help people who wished to be straight, shuttered its doors in 2013. Wayne Besen, founder of Truth Wins Out, an organization that works to demolish anti-LGBT organizations, denounced the therapy as “anti-gay malice disguised as medicine.”

According to the American Psychological Association, “conversion therapy is particularly harmful to youth, and is a huge risk for severe depression lower self-esteem, alienation from their families, substance abuse and even suicide.  Still there are advocates for this therapy such as Dr. Charles W. Socarides, who founded NARTH or National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality in 1973. NARTH has been rebranded as Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity (ATCSI), but basically conveys the same mission statement.. Dr. Socarides told the Washington Post that” homosexuality is a psychological and psychiatric disorder.” Dr. Socarides treated homosexuals until his death in 1953 and believed in other words, that being gay was a choice. (His son Richard is a writer for The New Yorker and is an advocate for gay rights and happens to be gay).

What Does Conversion Therapy Entail?

Conversion therapy usually goes hand-in-hand with religious groups.  As medieval as it sounds, some methods employed use electric shock to hands and/or genitals; nausea-inducing drugs associated with homoerotic stimuli, masturbatory reconditional visualitzation, social skills training, psychoanalytic therapy and spiritual interventions, prayer and group support and pressure. Do you really want your kids going through this, especially if there’s no proof that it works in the long run?

Alternatives to Conversion Therapy

Although the latest Gallup poll shows that 53% of Americans now say that they are satisfied with the acceptance of gays and lesbians in the United States. That statistic doesn’t equate to the fact that parents look favorably at having an LGBT child.

Many parents are initially shocked and disappointed at finding out their children are LGBT, there are organizations, the most famous being PFLAG (Parents for Lesbian and Gays) with nationwide chapters, that can help struggling parents cope. Their contact information is: 202 467-8180. The Family Acceptance Project, 415 522-5558 also has wonderful informative materials for parents of LGBT parents.

It seems as if the parents who are the most unhappy with their child’s sexual orientation are the most religious so I am including a list of organizations that try to reconcile a person’s religious beliefs with acceptance of homosexuality and thereby their child:
Dignity, Inc. (Roman Catholic) 202 861-0017m
Honesty (Southern Baptist Convention), 502 261-0338,
Integrity, Inc. (Episcopal), 202 462-9193, http: //
Lutherans Concerned 651 665-0863,
National Gay Pentecostal Alliance, 518 372-6001,
Seventh-Day Adventist Kinship International, west 213 876-2076 East 617 436-5950,
Sovereignty (Jehovah’s Witnesses), Box 27242, Santa, Ca. 92799


Monday, January 19, 2015

The Gay Marriage Cases That Quote Loving V. Virginia, 48 Years Later

In 1967, a year before the peaceful Nobel prize-winning Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed, the Supreme Court invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage.  A mixed-race couple named Mildred Jeter, 17, black, married Richard Loving, 23, white.  Due to Virginia’s miscegenation laws forbiding interracial marriage, the Lovings were sentenced to a year in jail.

On the 40th anniversary of the case Loving v. Virginia, Mildred issued a statement supporting gay and lesbian marriage.  Beginning in 2013, it was cited as a precedent in U.S. federal court decisions holding restrictions on same-sex marriage in the United States as unconstitutional.

Same-Sex Marriage Parallel to Loving’s

Loving’s issues are strikingly similar to gay and lesbians who wish same-sex marriages. Do the states have a right to decide if they can marry?  Will the Supreme Court overturn current bans on same-sex marriage and declare that only their court has the power to declare gay marriage for the entire nation?  Will it invalidate state provisions that define marriage as between a man and a woman?

Why The Supreme Court is Getting Involved

In the Sixth Court of Appeals, a decision in November 2014 marked the first and only time a federal appeals court ruled in favor of state bans.  Other appellate courts had found similar bans unconstitutional.  In 2013, the high court struck down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), in a ruling, that key provisions of the 1996 law that banned the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages were unconstitutional. Since then, the U.S. has more than forty lower-court rulings, federal, and state bans that violate the Constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protections.
However, in the states of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee where there are currently bans on same-sex marriage, fifteen couples have fought the state bans, and have taken their fight all the way to The Supreme Court that is hearing their cases now.  By the end of the Supreme Court’s third term at the end of June, the nation should know if the Supreme Court will rule that the states’ gay marriage bans and others violate the U.S. Constitution.

How The Supreme Court Makes The Decision

The Court has to decide on two issues based on the 14th Amendment.
Does the Constitution require states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples?
Do states have to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere?

What Is At Stake

The fifteen couples all cite their state bans on gay marriage as “demeaning their dignity, imposing countless practical difficulties and inflicting particular harm on their children.”

Societal norms are being redefined. Seventy percent of people now live in a state that has constitutional or statutory marriage. This statistic is nearly double what it was just three months ago.  Gallup’s most recent poll last year showed that 55% of Americans approved of gay marriage, up from 27% in 1996.

End The Debate Once and For All

The outcome of the Supreme Court decision is one of the most important civil-rights decisions in a generation.  If the Supreme Court legalizes nationwide marriage equality, it will end the exclusion and inequality of gays and lesbians in America.

Says superstar attorney of Proposition 8, David Boies, “marriage is a fundamental rights that is protects individual freedom, freedom of expression, a freedom of association, that it’s a basic element of liberty.” The legal director of Lambda Legal, Jon W. Davidson, stated that “we are within sight of the day when same-sex couples across the country will be able to share equally in the joys, protections and responsibilities of marriage.”
Having been treated as second-class citizens, gays and lesbians’ emotional well-being is at stake, just as it was for the Lovings.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

"Come On Down, The Weather Is Great," but...

You don’t worry about shoveling snow or falling on ice in Florida.  In many ways, life seems easier.  Barefoot, you can walk out in the a.m. to the end of your driveway to pick up the newspapers. Restaurants seem cheaper than Northeast and run “early bird specials.” (No one ever accused me of eating late!).  Storekeepers are friendlier.  There’s no individual income tax nor a state income tax.

But the politics: ‘Oy, vey!’

Florida took its sweet time to finally abandon discriminatory same-sex marriage last week. Even when declared legal, some counties did not allow any couples to get married at courthouses, particularly in the panhandle, to get around marrying gay couples.  They were upholding what ex-Governor Jeb Bush called “religious liberty.” In fact, 35 states and the District of Columbia legalized gay marriage before Florida! The sunshine state also was one of the last two U.S. states to ban gay adoption; Needless to say, it doesn’t have a good track record!

And the same state that boasted ex-beauty queen Anita Bryant, who when she wasn’t drinking Florida orange juice in 1977, tried to push “Save the Children” campaign aimed at repealing a local ordinance that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  A religious zealot, Bryant and her first husband earned the hatred of the gay population when they spread their anti-gay agenda of the sinfulness of homosexuality and the perceived threat of homosexuality recruitment of children and child molestation.

What Current Florida Politicians Have Said About Gay Marriage

Attorney General Bondi argued that “marriage was meant only for couples who planned to breed (prepare your hutches, you bunnies!) and provide enduring relationships.”

Republican Senator Marco Rubio hopes Bondi continues her fight against gay marriage.  “If they wanted to change that law, they would have gone to the legislature or back to the constitution and try to change it.  I don’t agree we should be trying to make those changes through the courts.”

U.S. Rep. Robert Posey, R-Rockledge says ” the U.S. Constitution does not give the federal government authority to define marriage.  It is a state issue.  When I was in the state legislature, I voted for the definition to include one man and one woman.”

Stays, Appeals, Holding up Courts

It seems as if district courts like Arkansas and Missouri have stayed their decisions while their appeals are pending at a U.S. Circuit Court. Florida has yet to hear if its legalization of same-sex marriage could be rescinded.  On December 3, the 11th Circuit Court denied Bondi’s request to extend a stay on a federal judge’s decision to strike down Florida’s 2008 ban on gay marriage.

Should the ban go back into effect, what would happen to all those gay couples who finally received benefits and the desired status that heterosexuals have enjoyed?  Will they be stripped of their dignity? Is same-sex marriage a social issue or a constitutional rights issue?  Shouldn’t gay people have equal dignity and their children as well? It’s a human rights issue as well as a real boon to a state’s economy.

The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court justices have yet to rule this year on states remaining bans against same-sex marriages, some in the deep South, and some in Midwest (although South Dakota just passed gay marriage, sort of).  Justices did not agree to hear any of the petitions filed by gay and lesbian couples from states without gay marriage.

It is possible that by the end of January, the court could decide that marriage is a fundamental right and bans on gay marriage are unconstitutional, making it the law of the land.

With so much progress and momentum on gay marriage, it’s almost shocking to hear of disapproving senators, families and workplaces. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion in the famous 2013 U.S. States v. Windsor case, opined that “times have blinded this country about African-Americans, times have blinded this country about women and times have blinded this country about gay people.” Someday, we will reflect at how nonsensical opposition to gay marriage was.  Hopefully, the awakening will be soon.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Woo-hoo! Florida Becomes 36th State with Marriage Equality!

Gay Marriage Starts in Florida Jan. 9th, but sooner in Miami-Dade.

I was beginning to think marriage equality would never come to Florida, my home and third largest state! With a Governor, Rick Scott, who has switched parties and claimed only a 1% victory, his contender, Charlie Crist, who was reputed to pay hush money for his gay trysts, and an Attorney General whom I’ve derisively dubbed “Blondi Bondi, who herself has been divorced twice, yet is against same-sex marriage, you can understand why I’m pleasantly surprised!  Like Bondi, Former Jeb Bush is also in favor of the state defining gay marriage as well as adoptions by gay couples.

Russ and Schlariet Initiate Change

Ozzie Russ, 48, and Steve Schlariet, 66, have been a couple since 2004.  In 2001, they had a commitment ceremony in Ft. Lauderdale, a gay-friendly town. They live in the rural Florida Panhandle where they raise horses and dogs.

Last March, they entered the county clerk’s office in Washington County to get a marriage license, much to no avail.  As Florida, at that time, did not allow same-sex marriages, they were told that they couldn’t be issued a marriage license!  They filed a lawsuit.

This lawsuit, as well as that of a same-sex Tallahassee couple who wanted their Canadian marriage recognized by Florida, became the basis for U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle’s August 21st ruling that the state’s 2008 same-sex marriage ban, approved by voters, is unconstitutional.

Until January 6, Hinkle stayed his ruling to allow time for the state to appeal his decision. Because no higher court overruled Hinkle, gay marriage will become effective at 12:01 EST on January 6.  The ruling applies to all 67 Florida counties.

Some counties such as Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Holmes Washington, Jackson, Calhoun, Liberty, Franklin, Wakulla, Baker, Clay, Duval, and Pasco (above Tampa) in the comservative panhandle have threatened to close their marriage bureaus to everyone so they don’t have to perform these same-sex marriages.  However, Judge Hinkle reports that every county must follow the orders.

Miami-Dade County First For Florida’s Marriage Equality

Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel ruled last July that the ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional, but stayed the order at the end of that month.  Her judgment was based on her hearing of the case, Pareto v. Ruvin, brought by six same-sex couples in January of last year.

According to Zabel, “the state’s ban on gay marriage serves only to hurt, to discriminate, to deprive same-sex couples and their families of equal dignity, to label and treat them as second-class citizens, and to deem them unworthy of participation in one of the fundamental institutions of our society.”

Momentum for Gay Marriage

Seventy percent of Americans live in states with marriage equality. This statistic is the equivalent of approximately 216 million people.  The surge from 19 to 35 states that allows gay marriage in just two months has been the result of court decisions, not voters or elected representatives.

According to Public Religion Research Institute, a majority of Floridian voters (57%) support marriage equality.

The Human Rights Campaign and other LGBT activist organizations are now concentrating their marriage equality efforts on the reluctant states in the Bible Belt as well as a handful of Midwestern states. With Republicans controlling both Houses, it will be interesting to see the outcomes!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

You Are What You Shop

As a straight ally, I try to avoid businesses that smack of homophobia.  For example, when I go to the mall in my county in which I live, I will not eat at Chic-Fil-A, headquartered in Ga.  Its president Dan Cathy came out against gay marriage in 2012.  Believe it or not, his condemnation actually helped  business, but supposedly someone told him that mixing personal opinion on social issues with corporate policy wasn’t a good idea so Cathy keeps his mouth shut now. I don’t trust the about-face from this deeply religious and conservative man. Instead, I pick Nature’s Table as I’d rather put my money where my mouth is.


I am so happy to be able to shop at a supermarket with wide aisles that has an excellent bakery, and carries everything.  (When I lived outside of New York City in a town made famous by Horace Greeley and later Bill Clinton, I would have to shop at three different supermarkets if I were entertaining!).  If I have a choice between Winn Dixie (all over Florida) and Publix, I choose Publix which now gives coverage for its health, dental and vision benefit plans to same-sex couples who are married in any state where same-sex marriage is legal, regardless of the associate’s state of residence.  However, their generosity was not always the case.  Just last year, The Human Rights Campaign’s annual Corporate Equality Index gave it a 0 rating and a gay employee in the bakery department was fired, causing an outrage.

Those D*** Bellringers
However, when Publix is invaded by Salvation Army bells ringers aggressively announcing the holiday season, I walk by their red kettles outside Publix, with impunity and don’t contribute a dime.  I don’t stop in New York City outside Bloomingdale’s either where the Salvation Army ringers dance to a boom-box or near Rockefeller Center to attract large crowds.  Why don’t I like the Salvation Army that supposedly helps the poor and downtrodden?  The Salvation Army turns away LGBT folks from its shelters. It used to have a link on its website to refer LGBT individuals to conversion therapy which has been frowned upon and not regarded as effective for converting gay-to-straight. The link has been removed.

Target & Starbuck’s

I love Target, a great all-purpose store.  Although it donated in 2010 to anti-gay Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, Target  now has a television ad showing two real gay Dads with their son.  It also is atypical in that it carries greeting cards for same-sex newlyweds.
Even better, in every Target store, there is gay-friendly Starbuck’s, known for its inclusion and diversity. Starbuck’s flies a gay pride flag on top of its headquarters in Seattle.

So, get to know where your stores stand on equality before you plunk down your hard-earned dollar. You don’t unknowingly want to support anti-gay businesses.  Their agenda shouldn’t run counter to yours!