Saturday, May 28, 2016

This Memorial Day, We Remember Those Who Serve/d, Those Who Couldn’t Serve.

Today, I am remembering my grandfather, born 1887, who received Belgian’s Croix de Guerre, my great grandfather, a Lieutenant in the Coast Guard Navy during the Spanish American War, who received a Congressional Medal of Honor, and my husband, who received a Purple Heart  for his injuries inflicted during operating a helicopter during the Tet Offensive, January 1968 at the height of the Vietnam War.
And those who are currently serving sometimes multiple times in Afghanistan and other countries.

The War Within

But I’m also thinking of the gay and lesbian citizens who were prohibited from serving in the armed forces for seventeen years.  Or those who were disgraced with a discharge before the repeal of  ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in 2011.  To say the least, it wasn’t easy for them even though they can re-enlist.

And what about transgenders?

Where We Stand Now

On May 12, in a Q & A with the U.S. Naval Academy, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said there are military ‘practical issues’ to lifting the ban against transgenders such as grooming, hormone treatment, uniforms, etc.

However, last July he announced plants to lift the prohibition on transgendered troops. Carter called the current regulations “outdated and are causing uncertainity that distract commanders from our core missions.”  It is estimated that up to 15,000 of the roughly 2.2 million active-duty and reserve troops now serving may be transgender people.

First Openly Gay U.S. Secretary of the Army

In some regards, progress in the military is reflected with the appointment of the Army’s first openly gay Secretary, Eric Fanning.  Fanning’s record is impressive:  He was previously appointed Acting Secretary of the Army’s Senior Civilian Assistant and principal adviser on matters related to the management and operation of the Army.

From April 2013 until February 2015, Fanning served as the 24th Under Secretary of the Air Force.  From June 2013 through December, 2013, he was Acting Secretary of the Air Force and from 2009 to 2013, he was Deputy Chief Management Officer in the U.S. Navy. .

On June 1st, Fanning will receive the Paving the Way Award that” honors those in public life who have shown courage and leadership in helping to advance the cause of LGBT rights” during Washington, D.C.’s annual Pride events.

Human Rights Campaign’s President, Chad Griffin called Fanning’s confirmation “historic and a demonstration of continued progress toward fairness and equality in our nation’s armed forces.”

We await the change.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

May Is Mental Health Awareness Month, But Not Every State Honors It

Tennessee and Mississippi Have Discriminatory Laws

Last month, Republican Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee signed into law House Bill 1840 that legalizes discrimination against LGBT people.  The law allows counselors to cite religious beliefs for refusing services to LGBT patients. Originally, the terminology of the bill allowed for “sincerely held beliefs,” but the state House then broadened phrasing to “sincerely held principles.”

Religious Freedom Bill

Tennessee is the only state to allow counselors, because of their “ sincerely held principles,” to turn away potential LGBT clients. Denounced by the American Counseling Association as a “hate bill” against gay and transgender people.

According to the ACA, it violates the group’s code of ethics that delineates that mental health professional can refuse to serve patients in the name of
‘Christian love’ because it compromises the therapists’ “goals, outcomes or behaviors.”

While the bill does not give a mental health professional the right to turn away any patient who is experiencing an emergency nor an excuse from an obligation to refer a patient to another professional, what it does do is discriminate against a marginalized group who already may experience prejudice and is in need of help.
A group who is constantly fighting for their rights that heterosexuals take for granted and witnesses harassment is going to be more in need of psychotherapy than the general population.

Mississippi House Bill 1523

Similarly, Governor Phil Bryant (R) rationalized his Bill, also passed last month, in the name of  “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination.”  House Bill 1523 legislates discrimination by allowing private and public business to refuse business to same-sex couples because of “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

It allows florists, wedding photographers, bakeries, and other wedding-affiliated services, for example, to deny business to gay couples with nuptials although the Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriage throughout the United States.

Despite the progress in civil rights for LGBT people, there continues to be a conservative backlash in this country.  It doesn’t make for equality or good mental health.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

May Is Mental Health Awareness Month

Are YOUR LGBT Kids Mentally Healthy?
Does your child attend class regularly or does he cut class once a month, as GLSEN (Gay Straight Lesbian Education Network) studies show, because he feels unsafe at school? 
Is she bullied in school, and cyberbullied 24/7?  A new study published last January in the American Journal of Public Health found that it “doesn’t always get better.”'t-always-get-better/ Assistant Professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg Medical School, Brian Mustanski, author of the study, found that the majority of the 248 youths in the study (84.6%) experienced decreasing levels of victimization over the four years .  However, 10.3 percent experienced significant increase in bullying, and 5.1% maintained high levels of victimization (bullying, harassment and assault) over the four years.
Despite President Obama’s edict on May 12 that ALL schools have ‘gender-neutral’ bathrooms, is your trans child prevented from using the bathroom of choice (the one he identifies with) rather than the one that matches his birth certificate? 
These are just a few of the challenges that your LGBT children face daily.  LGBT youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide, with the greatest number being transsexuals.
What’s A Parent to DO?
With odds like these, a parent needs to know what’s going on in his/her child’s life? Is the school treating your child with respect?  If not, know your rights so you can advocate for your son or daughter. Consult GLSEN or American Civil Liberties Union
Make sure your child is in touch with community-based LGBT support groups or organizations on-line so he can associate with like-minded individuals?
And if you, as a parent, feel overwhelmed trying to find solutions for your child’s happiness, you can get advice from PFLAG
or The Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State, a research, intervention, education and policy initiative that works to prevent health and mental health risks for LGBT kids.
Both have PDFs you can download.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Mother's Role in Supporting Gay Youth Is Vital!

Tomorrow is Mother's Day.  With all the joys and frustrations of motherhood, don't you sometimes feel as if we mothers should receive a Congressional Medal of Honor?  But I'll compromise with flowers, a card, and a good breakfast.

While unconditional love from both parents is important for a gay child to thrive, it was my experience interviewing straight parents of gay youth for my book When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know (Sterling, June 2016; ISBN: 13-978-14549-1936-0) that most gay sons came out to their mothers first within the family and told them to keep the secret from the rest of the family until told to do so otherwise.  As my co-author Jonathan Tobkes, M.D., explains: " I have found that in my cases, the same-sex parent has a harder time accepting and internalizing the concept, and is, therefore, more likely to turn to denial (for example) when faced with the notion of having a gay child."

Family Acceptance

The Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State that researches the effects of parental rejection of LGBT youth.  Its findings, spearheaded by Caitlin Ryan, Ph.D., ACSW, points to the dire effects (and offers steps to remedy): low self-esteem, truancy, promiscuous behavior, drug abuse, depression, and sometimes suicide.

Parents can counter this potential negativity with hugs and supporting words such as 'I love you and will support you.  I'm glad you revealed such an important facet of yourself.'

Isn't this what we all want from our mothers and not just on Mother's Day?