Thursday, December 14, 2017

What’s Cooking in those Red Kettles?


Do well-meaning people know that by heeding the call of the uniformed bell ringers and dropping money into those red kettles, that they may be supporting homophobia and transphobia?  

Although the Salvation Army is the largest provider of drug and alcohol recovery services in the United States, and is no “fly-by-night” organization (it was founded in 1865 by a Methodist minister in London), it has come under attack from NYC’s Commission on Human Rights which filed a complaint at one of its substance abuse treatment centers because it discriminated against transgenders during its intake policies.

The complaints from last July charge the centers “with gender identity discrimination for refusing to accept transgender patients and for discriminatory housing policies, including assigning rooms based on a patient’s gender assigned at birth rather than their gender identity, subjecting to physical examinations, and forcing transgender patients into separate rooms.”  

The Salvation Army was blamed for the death of transgender Ms. Gale in Austin, Texas in 2008.  The Salvation Army’s national spokesman Lt. Col. Ron Busroe denies that the transgender woman was turned away from one of their shelters and subsequently died from exposure.  According to Busroe, The Salvation Army in Austin makes specific accommodations including separate bathrooms, for the transgender community.

While the Salvation Army doesn’t turn away homosexuals as its mission is to “preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and meet human needs in his name without discrimination,” one journalist two decades ago was ordered to break up with his boyfriend if they, homeless, wanted to receive services at that time.

Later, the journalist received an apology. 
The Salvation Army doesn’t lobby at the federal level, and claims it, “with no litmus test,” provides equal benefits to same-sex and opposite-sex spouses of employees.

Although more recently, the Salvation Army’s website, it thinks, has made progress towards inclusion by removing links to conversion therapy sites or more commonly known as “ex-gay or “pray-the-gay away” centers. 

However, it still bans gay people from serving as members and it wouldn’t support Australia’s Safe Schools Anti-Bullying program.

While The Salvation Army attests that it stands against homophobia and wants to be an inclusive church community, where members of the LGBT community find welcome and the encouragement to develop their relationship with God, it follows the Supreme Court’s ruling on “ministerial exception” which affirms the right of churches to hire individuals for religious positions whose values are consistent with church doctrine.” 

The Salvation Army is an evangelical church and one of the church’s beliefs is that marriage should be limited to opposite-sex couples. How progressive is that belief?

Don't be swayed by those cute Santa caps and bells!








Don’t be swayed by those cute Santa caps and bells!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Who Owns The Cake?



Tomorrow, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) will hear oral arguments about whether a Colorado baker has the right to refuse making a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

The couple, David Mullins and Charlie Craig, who were married in Massachusetts, complained for being turned down by the baker. It has resulted in a case, The Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, that has dragged on for years.  This case resulted in a win for the plaintiffs. The American Civil Liberties Union represented Craig and Mullins during the appeals.
 Rather than comply with a state law, Jack Phillips, the baker in question,  closed his shop near Denver rather than comply with a state law that bars businesses open to the public from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.

First Amendment vs. State Rights  

However, Mr. Philips believes that his First Amendment rights to free speech and the free exercise of his religion have been violated.  According to the 2017 Pew Research Center Survey, most Americans endorse same-sex marriage. However, Mr. Phillips disapproves and refuses to bake a cake for a same-sex couple.  He will sell, however, pre-made nuptial products.  He just won’t make a custom cake that he considers his crowning achievement. Through Phillips’s eyes, this is also a matter of artistic expression and freedom of speech. He shouldn’t have to express ideas that he’s opposed to.

Is Phillips’s artistic expression protected by the First Amendment?  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect gays and lesbians who were given the national right to marry just a few years ago.  As it stands now, only twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have laws like Colorado’s that protect all customers from discrimination based on race, religion, gender or since 2007, sexual orientation.

 The State’s decision was upheld by the Colorado Court of Appeals on appeal.  The Supreme Court of Colorado declined to hear an appeal.  The National Executive Director of PFLAG, Jaime Grant, Ph.D, will add opening testimony to the rights of the gay couple at the Supreme Court tomorrow.

It’s not just about the cake.  As The Wall Street Journal points out in Review & Outlook “Let Them Not Bake Cake,”  “a ruling for Colorado could encourage other government burdens on First Amendment religious rights, especially in this era of right-left cultural polarization.  Could the state compel Catholic doctors to perform abortions or require Catholic adoption services to place children with same-sex couples?”

On the other hand, the state of Colorado says that the issue is discriminating against gay people, not merely opposition to their right to marry.



 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Coming Out: Is It A Good Idea During The Holidays?


Chances are you may see your relatives on few occasions.  Thanksgiving may be one of them.  Christmas may be the other.  You don’t want to upset the tone of the holidays by injecting a life-altering announcement that will either elicit a million questions or silence your guests who are unprepared for such news.  The news may not sit as well as the turkey.
You don’t want to usurp and undermine the holiday with your coming out news or embarrass your relatives who thought your boyfriend was just a “friend” in the past.  ( However, if your straight child has a “significant other,” show as much interest in your LGBT child’s love interest. ) For both straight parents and LGBT children, you should come out on your own timetable when you can focus on each other, not when you are busy delumping the gravy, carving the turkey, opening gifts, answering phone calls, and tending to possibly small children.  Most holiday traditions do not include coming out.
So, when is a good time to come out?
·      When the teller and the news recipient aren’t distracted.
·      When the announcement allows time for conversation afterwards.
·      When the parent and child are relaxed.
·      When it is a private conversation.
What Do You Gain By Telling?
Before coming out, an LGBT child should weight the pros and cons.  Before sharing the news, it’s helpful to review questions that you think your parents or loved ones will bombard you with and prepare your responses.  Of course, you don’t owe answers to anyone.  Your parents and other relatives may hug you an express unconditional love and support, hopefully.
Or, if they are adamantly opposed to same-sex love and have voiced this view, skip the revelation.  If you think you could be banished from your house, I wouldn’t tell them until you are financially independent.  As not all coming outs go well at first anyway, parents may try to guilt trip you or change your mind.  Take this into consideration. 
Anyhow, it’s the child’s story.  If you know in advance that your child is LGBT, make sure you first obtain permission from him before he divulges the information to relatives and friends.  Your child may want you to be the messenger.
What Not To Say To Your LGBTQ Child at Thanksgiving
On the website http://mykidisgay.com/5-things-not-to-say-to-your-lgbtqa-child-at-thanksgiving=dinner, writer Alyse Knorr suggests the following:
·      Do not ask your child if they’ve “changed their mind” about their LGBTQA identity. This is not a “phase.”
·      Do not introduce your child’s significant other as their “friend.” Don’t deny the relationship or ignore it.  Ask our child what you should call their “significant other” when introducing that person to family and friends.  Make sure your child doesn’t out his partner before his “main squeeze” is ready to come out.
·      Do not call your child by any names or pronouns other than their preferred chosen name and pronouns. If you flub, apologize and say that you are trying to keep up with the new identity.
·      Do not attempt to set them up with someone. Anyone.  This will not change their mind and who knows better than your child whom he wants to date?
·      Do not ignore the election.  While politics are usually a no-no at the dining table, if Trump’s rescindment of LGBT rights rears its ugly head, you should assure your child that you are the best ally and will have his back.
No holiday is perfect, but these suggestions may make for a more comfortable holiday for everyone, especially the LGBT child.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

It’s National Transgender Awareness Week, Nov. 13-17



Did you know that:
·      The F.B.I. released hate crime statistics for 2016 and highlighted the ongoing epidemic of anti-transgender violence in the U.S.
·      In 2016, advocates tracked 23 deaths of transgender people in the United States.
·      One in every 137 teenagers in the United States identifies as transgender.
In our schools, transgender students don’t feel safe. As reported by the Williams Institute,
·      75% of transgender students felt unsafe at school because of their gender expression.
·      70% of transgender students said they avoided bathrooms because they felt uncomfortable.
·      60% of transgender students had been required to use a bathroom or locker room that did not match the gender they live every day.
States don’t protect them because:
·  Only 13 states and D.C. have education on discrimination laws explicitly protecting transgender students.
·      The U.S. Dept. of Education recently withdrew guidance to states on how to support number of trans students under Title IX of Federal Civil Rights Act.  Title IX ensures that all students can attend school safely regardless of their race or ethnicity, national origin, religion or sex. 
Although the first transgender woman Danica Roem elected to the House of Delegates in Virginia beat a man Robert Marshall (R) who held the office for twenty-four years, her victory doesn’t mean the rest of the country will embrace transsexuals.  Roem centered her campaign around issues that mattered to all people: commuter traffic, importance of teacher pay, Medicaid expansion, while her opponent focused on her gender identity.
It seems as if the U.S. as well as the rest of the world don’t understand transgender people and get terms  mixed up that would have enlightened them.  For example, gender identity is separate from sexual orientation. Gender is a function of culture and about self-expression.  Sexuality is whom you are attracted to.  There are transgender women that are attracted to cisgender (same gender) women.
“People argue that trans women are not genetically female despite the fact that we can’t readily ascertain anybody’s sex chromosomes,” says author of  Whipping Girl,  Julia Serano

Here are Some Perceptions of Transgenders:: Which Ones do you think are True? From Vox.com
·      There is something wrong with transsexual people.
·      Transgender people are confused or tricking others.
·      Sexual orientation is linked to gender identity.
·      Letting trans people use the bathroom or locker room matching their gender identity is dangerous.
·      Transitioning is as simple as surgery.
·      All trans people medically transition.
·      Transgender-inclusive health care is expensive.
·      Children aren’t old enough to know their gender identity.
·      Transgender people are mentally ill.
·      Transgender people make up a third gender.
·      Drag queens and kings are transgender.
None are true.  The transgender community is diverse and has been around a long time.  Cross-dressers are not necessarily the same as trans genders.  One important distinction that trans genders have is that their gender identities definitely vary from the labels that were given to them as babies. This statement is true.



Tuesday, November 7, 2017

November is National Adoption Month


I have two adopted children: a son, born in 1983, and a daughter, born in 1988.  Both were closed adoptions of infants through a well-known adoption agency in Manhattan. I have little medical information about the birthparents from my son’s adoption and precious little from my daughter’s adoption. I’m not sure it would have been a deciding factor to withdraw our applications anyway. 
Why? Because you never know what you’re going to inherit in the gene pool even if your children are biological.  I didn’t adopt for altruistic reasons.  We adopted because I was infertile and knew it before we married.

I have witnessed the joys and frustrations of parenthood over the years just as my friends with biological children have.  Because my son is gay, I have interest in LGBT issues and recently read Eric Rosswood’s excellent book The Ultimate Guide for Gay Dads ( Mango, 2017). 

In a chapter entitled “Questions You Might Get Asked and How to Respond to Them,” I am reminded that we were asked similar questions about our family:

·     “Why Did She Give Him/Her Up?  I Could Never Give Up A Child.”
·     “How Did You Get Him/Her/Them?”
·     “Where Did You Get Him/Her/Them?”
·     “Who Are His Real Parents?”
·     “How Much Did He/She Cost?”

I realize that the author and his husband Matt get more intrusive questions such as “where’s the child’s Mother?” because they are in a same-sex marriage. My children have an adoptive Mother and Father and we’re all Caucasian so we can pass as a biologically- related family.

In Rosswood’s chapter, he lists responses from gay friends that can be applied to certain questions, depending whether you want to educate the inquisitive, just tell them enough to shut them down or slay them a witty retort.  All these answers have to be executed without implying to your child that adoption is shameful while protecting his privacy.

It seems that the outside world has not caught up with the phenomena of motherless or fatherless ) households as gay parents parent through adoption, foster care, and surrogacy.
However, as Eugenia Doubtfire explained to his television audience toward the end of “Mrs. Doubtfire,” families are formed in different ways and they all legitimate and reflective of modern society.  Adoption is just one way of creating a loving family.




Wednesday, October 18, 2017

October is National Bullying Prevention Month

As an integral part of National Bullying Prevention Month, tomorrow is Spirit Day.  Does your child's school have a GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance),  partake in GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network) sponsored activities? Will the students and faculty be wearing purple to show solidarity for LGBT youth and stand against bullying?

Too many students are bullied each day yet fail to tell their parents.  Many children will feel humiliated and ashamed and actually believe they are responsible for being victimized.  Advises psychiatrist Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D., co-author of When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know ( Sterling, 2016), " don't blame your child!"

It's important for a child to know that their home, school, community will want to protect him.  Emphasize that bullying shouldn't be tolerated.  He is entitled to an education in a safe environment.

Here are clues so you can recognize the signs of bullying:


  • Sudden resistance to go to school.
  • A decrease in making social plans after school or on the weekends.
  • Feigning illness to avoid school and other events.
  • Recurrent damage to or loss of property or clothes.
  • Has the child had some mood changes?
  • Does your child seem depressed, less communicative, not hungry or eating all the time?
  • Is he withdrawing from family activities or general interests he loves?
  • Is the child becoming insecure showing a low self-esteem and worthlessness?
If you witness any of these troubling signs, notify the schoolteacher, guidance counselor,  and principal. If your child is being cyberbullied, then not only let the school know, but also the police.  Tell your child not to retaliate, make copies of all social media messages to present to the school and possibly court.  

Monday, October 9, 2017

Why Do We Have National Coming Out Day?



National Coming Out Day is an annual LGBTQ Awareness Day on October 11.  It actually started on 1987 with the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.  Observed in the U.S. and Switzerland as well as seven other countries, you may see participants wearing pink triangles or carrying rainbow flags.

Did you know that one out of every two Americans has someone close to them who is gay/lesbian, according to the Human Rights Campaign?  By breaking the silence of being in the closet and electing to come out, the LGBTQ community, in numbers, demonstrates to the world that they are not alone.  Once the straight community knows they have loved ones who are “gender queer,” they will be less likely to foster homophobic or oppressive views.

Although it would be ideal if everyone felt he could come out, it is never correct for a parent to push a child into coming out.  The child should come out when he is ready and when he does, parents should ask for permission to tell others.  It’s his story.

To be an ally during National Coming Out Day, you don’t have to march.  But at home, you might employ these subtle ways to make your LGBTQ child feel comfortable so that he may want to come out to you.  Or if he has come out, suggests Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D., co-author of When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know ( Sterling, 2016), make him feel as supported as his heterosexual brother/sister by:

Asking your child the same questions you ask your other children.  Specifically, don’t avoid the topic of dating and relationships.  Be sure to invite the significant other to family dinners or functions in the same way you would for a partner of a straight child.  From time to time, make a point of asking your child how his significant others are doing, what are new with them, and so forth.
Accept whatever your child tells you about his sexuality as hard fact and do not try and convince him that he must be either straight or gay.
The most important thing is to make it clear to your child that sexual orientation is only one part of who he is and that it has no bearing on your love for or acceptance of him.

For further tips, see http://www.hrc.org. The Human Rights Campaign has guides and resources such as A Resource Guide to Coming Out, Coming Out to Your Doctor, Coming Out at Work.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

How To Be An Ally At Home



This week (September 25-29) K-12 students will celebrate Ally Week in schools across the United States.  Sponsored by GLSEN.org, (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network) students will have activities that will display their support for their LGBT friends.

An LGBT child’s home should be his haven.  How does a straight parent make it so all the time?

Here are some tips:

Provide unconditional love for your LBTQ children.  Accept them as they are.  Don’t think they will outgrow “this phase.”  In most cases, it’s not a “phase.”  Don’t try to convert them to heterosexuality.  It will only result in low self-esteem, guilt, and the gay-to-straight camps are not successful at converting to heterosexuality in the long run anyway.
If you can’t accept, work on it!  Attend PFLAG meetings that are run by parents, who once like you, needed guidance to overcome obstacles that prevented them from acceptance.  Confide in a trusted, positive friend who won’t belittle you for your concern about your child.
Educate yourself.  There are many on-line organizations that can help you. One is Family Acceptance Project @San Francisco State familyacceptanceproject has PDFs you can download for help with common issues that hinder acceptance.
Are you flattered that your son/daughter paid you the highest compliment by revealing their sexual orientation?  It took courage.
Look at this opportunity to have honest, open dialogues that you can build on in the near future.
Realize that your child’s sexual identity does not change his personality.


According to Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D., co-author of When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know (Sterling, 2016), “acceptance involves acknowledging the reality of a particular situation and recognizing that it is not in your power to change it.  The only way to alleviate internal angst and achieve a sense of equanimity is through acceptance. “

To demonstrate that you have your child’s back, consider these suggestions:

You do not feel a qualitative difference between your straight child and your gay child.
You don’t have to march to be a gay rights activist, but should speak up with you see injustices such as school bullying.
Don’t avoid the topic of dating and relationships with your LGBTQ child.  Invite his significant other to dinner just as you would your straight child, for example. You can talk to other family members and friends about your child being gay, but
Find out how your child wants to handle letting relative and close family friends know.
Is your child happy?  What could be more important to a parent?
Realize the benefits of having a gay child.  Does it make you more sympathetic to those who are “different?”

Look At the Positive Now!


Are you flattered that your son/daughter paid you the highest compliment by revealing their sexual orientation?  It took courage.
Look at this opportunity to have honest, open dialogues that you can build on in the near future.
Realize that your child’s sexual identity does not change his personality.
Is your child happy?  What could be more important to a parent?
Realize the benefits of having a gay child.  Does it make you more sympathetic to those who are “different?”



Sunday, September 24, 2017

Tips for Straight Parents of LGBT Kids during Bisexual Awareness Week



Bisexual Awareness Week was this past week and ends today, September 24, 2017.  Yesterday was National Bisexual Day.  This day and week celebrates bisexuals who make up more than 50% of the LGBT community.

There were teach-ins, poetry readings, concerts, festivals, parties and picnics calling attention to the bisexual community, their friends and supporters to recognize and celebrate bisexual history, bisexual community, and culture and all bisexual people in their lives in the United States and Europe.

As a straight parent, what does this mean if you have a bisexual child?  How do you respond?

As you would a gay, lesbian, transgender child, show unconditional love. Love your child even if you don’t love the sexuality.
Don’t regard this as a “phase.” You can’t get rid of their sexual identity.
Don’t sexualize your LGBT kids.  They may not be having sex, but just feel they are attracted to both sexes. If they are having sex, be sure they are practicing safe sex!
Don’t pray that your child will choose one identity.  You will be disappointed.
Know the difference between sexual fluidity and being bisexual.  Bisexual is a sexual orientation that refers to being interested in people of one’s own gender and people of other genders.  Sexually fluid people often feel that their attraction is situated and shifts due to particular partners, their environment, and the time in their life.
Realize that GLSEN research reported that bisexuals have poorer psychological well-being.  Bisexuals have been given a bum rap by society.  Often considered “half-queer,” they are considered sexually greedy, having sex with both genders.  Some lesbians think they are sleeping with “the enemy.” Society wants them to get “off the fence” and choose one gender.
Compared to their straight counterparts, bisexuals have disproportionate levels of substance abuse, suicide, and eating disorders. Bisexual women have 46% of being raped as opposed to 17% of straight women and 13% of lesbians.


Because of these alarming statistics, you can make your home a haven. Seek support for your child within the community and his school through GLSEN.org and a GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance).

Friday, September 15, 2017

A Straight Mother Thanks Edie Windsor



When our gay son was in his twenties, before President Obama’s evolvement of
“sacred” civil marriage unions and President Clinton’s signature on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA),  he announced at dinner “it’s not fair that my straight sister can get married, and I can’t!”

He was right.  I often wondered if he would be alone in later life not knowing the joys and, yes, pitfalls of married life.  And I felt a loss not only for him, but sad I would not be at a wedding for my son as I would my daughter.

Ever so slowly, Obama evolved as his Vice-President Biden preempted him during a television interview and said that the White House was in favor of same-sex marriage.  LGBT activists fought to bring DOMA to its knees as they and others questioned that marriage can only be defined as between a man and a woman.

Progress snowballed when a lesbian widow, Edith Windsor, who married in 2007 in Canada (later recognized in New York State) Thea Spyer, a psychologist who died in 2009.  Windsor, in her 80’S, inherited Spyer’s estate.  Yet, the IRS denied Windsor the unlimited spousal exemption from federal estate taxes available to married heterosexuals because DOMA barred same-sex couples from federal recognition as “spouses,” thus keeping them from the federal benefits accorded to heterosexuals.

Windsor, who had been with Spyer for over forty years sued, claiming that the federal law only recognized heterosexual marriages and unconstitutionally singled out same-sex marriage partners for “differential treatment.”

In the lawsuit, United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court overturned the ruling, in a 5-4 ruling in 2013: “ no person shall be “deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” With this invalidation of DOMA, the Court was granting, for the first time, not only recognition of same-sex partners, but also the many benefits. Windsor became a hero.

However, the Supreme Court stopped short of ruling that same-sex marriage was a constitutional right.  This meant that in thirty-seven states that still had laws banning same-sex marriages, same-sex partners would not receive the benefits that Windsor battled for. Not deterred, she pressed further. Two years later, in a more expansive ruling, Obergefell v. Hodges, as well as three other cases, the Supreme Court held that same-sex couples had a constitutional right to marry anywhere (not just the thirteen states and the District of Columbia) in the nation and with all the benefits that heterosexuals receive.

On June 26, 2015, my son was given the same right to marry whomever he chose, same as my daughter.  Today, there is a service at Temple Emmanuel in Manhattan for this glamorous smart ex-IBM programmer.  It’s probably standing-room only. Civil rights organizations for LGBT people such as GLSEN, Human Rights Campaign,
PFLAG will all be represented.  To the millions of straight parents she gave hope to, we will be there, too. Thanks, Edie.






Sunday, September 3, 2017

When The School Personnel Are The Bullies



What’s A Parent To Do?

Schools must do all it can to help stop and prevent bullying it knows or should have known was happening in their district.  Otherwise, the school can become legally responsible if it has not done anything to prevent or stop this offensive behavior.

Last week’s blog concerned a Missouri principal and a school superintendent who removed two seniors’ quotes from a yearbook without warning.  The two gay males were targeted because they alluded to the fact they were gay in their quotes that were amusing and self-deprecating, hardly offensive.  The school personnel apologized later to the boys and said it was a learning experience, but the seniors already felt the sting.

Sometimes, a parent can take all the right steps to combat bullying: has written down the date, details, nature of incident, statement from your child, witnesses, and an account of your child’s emotional state and has reported it to the teacher or principal.  He has also kept accurate records of any additional incidents that may occur and any response received from the school.  And nothing gets accomplished!  Your son or daughter is still bullied. What else can you do?

Did you know that:

Some schools have a contact person trained to deal with bullying. The school Guidance Counselor would know.
Contact the School Board, Superintendant,
If you don’t get satisfaction, seek a lawyer specializing in cases involving bullying. Or an education attorney if school has been negligent.  Your child deserves to be educated in a safe space.
If you’re concerned with safety, contact your local police. Make it clear that your child has been bullied, and that the school has neglected its duty to provide a learning environment that is free of harassment and bullying.
Request that the officer visit the bully for a talk.  Don’t you try to remediate the situation.

Keep in mind that often teachers and other school professionals do not witness bullying because it happens out of their sight (e.g. playgrounds, locker rooms, bathrooms, buses).

If you’re not getting support from the school, stay in touch daily and weekly with the principal, teacher, guidance counselor.  If they still don’t give you satisfaction, you may have to call the American Civil Liberties Union or as a last resort, have your child enroll in another school.

For more tips, see DiMarco, J.E. and Newman, M.K. (2011). When Your Child is Being Bullied/ Real Solutions for Parents, Educators and Other Professionals.  Vivisphere Publishing.








Sunday, August 27, 2017

Joey Slivinski & Thomas Swartz “Most likely to Succeed” (in my book anyway)



In most high schools across America, yearbooks contain quotes under seniors’ pictures.  You’re familiar with the common ones:  “The only way to have a friend is to be one,” or “She walks in beauty as the night.”

Imagine the shock when Seniors Joey Slivinski and Thomas Swartz opened their yearbooks to find just their photos, names, but no captions underneath.  Without advanced warming from their Yearbook Committee or School Board in Western Missouri, their quotes were eliminated.

Why?  Because the two boys were openly gay and made amusing self-deprecating references to their sexual orientation.  Here’s what Joey wrote: “Of course, I dress well.  I didn’t spend all that time in the closet.”  His classmate Swartz penned: “If Harry Potter taught us anything it’s that no one should have to live in the closet.”

Swartz and Slivinski were outraged and told television station KCTV5 and The Kansas City Star that they found their quotes inspirational.  Slivinski said “thank you to Kearney School District for making me feel like you’re ashamed of having a gay student. The School District stung.”

Who robbed their quotes and their dignity?  Who didn’t give them the opportunity to change the quotes?  Kearney High School principal Dave Schwarzenbach and School District Superintendent Bill Nicely.

Their rationale for this homophobia?  “In an effort to protect our students quotes that could potentially offend another student or groups of students are not published.  It’s school practice to err on the side of caution.”

The school district later publicly apologized and spoke of the “incident” as a “learning opportunity to improve the future.”  This happened only because School Board official Matthew Ryan Hunt received hundreds of phone calls, texts, and Facebook messages from Kearney students, past and present, and parents in support of Swartz and Slivinski.

Hunt, who is the first gay Board Member, commented “none of them ( School Board officials) know the sacrifices made and the courage shown by these two individuals to come out as gay in high school.”

Was this incidence a form of bullying by the school district?  It’s not always the students who bully!  Surveys report that the under age 30 group accept gender diversity. The students weren’t offended, the school officials were!

Swartz and Slivinski are now making stickers, quips into their yearbooks as well as those of their friends.

Maybe these proud gay students should have been nominated “most likely to succeed?”



Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Bells Are Ringing For You and Your Child



After what seems like a long summer recess, parents often look forward to their children returning to school.  But not so for their children, if they are LGBT. For them,  school means more than new back-to-school clothes, freshly stocked backpacks, and revisiting friends.  It also may mean being bullied or worse, cyberbullied.

Here are tips from http://stopbullying.gov. to help parents cope with this frequent and invasive crime:

For Their Safety

To lessen cyberbullying, talk to your kids about online issues.  Emphasize that they can come to you for help. You want to gain their trust! Don’t overreact or underreact.
Don’t blame your kids if they are victims of cyberbullying.  Some kids are scared that they will have computer privileges taken away so they do not report incidents to their parents and may use the computer secretively.
Monitor your child’s online usage. Set a time allowance for non-homework use.
Keep the computer in a public place.
Look at their profile page, Facebook, My Space, and Twitter accounts. Review their “buddy list.”  Ask who each person is and how your kids know him or her.
Tell your kids not to give out their passwords nor personal information online. Don’t send controversial photos that can go viral.  Once received, they can’t be erased.  Don’t open e-mails from people they don’t know.

Once The Invasion Has Occurred

Don’t allow your kids to respond to the bully. They shouldn’t retaliate when angry. Tell them not to forward messages.
Print out messages.  Take screen shots. Keep records of e-mail, texts, with dates, times.  You may need these for law enforcement or school.
Report cyberbullying to the web and cell phone providers. You can see what’s appropriate usage by reviewing their terms and conditions on rights and responsibilities sections.  
Block users.  Change settings to control whom can contact them.  Visit social media safety centers so you can report cyberbullying to them. They can take action against users abusing terms of service.

Get Law Enforcement Involved If:

There are threats of violence.
Sexually explicit messages,  photos or child pornography are sent.
A photo has been taken of someone in a place such as a public restroom where he/she would expect privacy.
If stalking or hate crimes occur.
The National Crime Prevention Council has site maps to find out more about your state’s anti-bullying laws and policies.  Just a click away!

All kids should be educated about the possibility of cyberbullying and how to combat this insidious affront.  Unfortunately, kids who are “different” are prime targets of cyberbullying.  Forty percent of LGBT kids report not feeling safe in their own communities.

Next week, I’ll talk about bullying in school.  The strategies are different.




Monday, July 24, 2017

Sex Ed. From Teen Vogue More Inclusive Than Schools’ Versions



On July 7th, the popular Teen Vogue, aimed at 12-17 year-olds, published an online article “Anal Sex: What You Need to Know/How To Do It The Right Way  that has Conservative right-wingers working themselves into a lather.  Some parents have called to cancel their children’s subscriptions to the publication and started a backlash on social media #Pull Teen Vogue.

Backlash from Unprepared Parents & Schools

One mother of ten named Elizabeth Johnston, author of The Activist Mommy blog showed herself, in a nod to Nazis’ book burning, destroying a copy of the magazine (even though the article appeared only online) in her backyard campfire and the photo went viral.  Accusing the magazine of promoting sodomy and peddling to minors, Johnston was joined by other parents who erroneously think that education leads to encouragement.

 Truth is kids are having sex earlier these days.  If they’re not, they are nevertheless curious.  Sex education, according to Dr. Michael Newcomb of Northwestern University’s Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing, is lacking.  Usually, educators “can only talk about LGBTQ sexuality as a morally incorrect approach or as a risk factor for acquiring HIV.” Most parents would not be equipped to provide discussions, complete with visuals, about the mechanics of anal sex so they should be grateful for the widely-read Teen Vogue on-line article.

Anal Sex Not Just For MSM (Men having Sex with Men)

But education does not lead to promiscuity.  Says the author of the article, Gigi Engle, “this is anal 101, for teens, beginners, and all inquisitive folk.”  Kids should know about anal sex that is also practiced by heterosexuals, according to the Centers for Disease Control.  “Anal sex appears to be more popular than possibly expected among the heterosexual couples under forty-five. In a report titled “Sexual Behavior, Sexual Attraction and Sexual Identity in the U.S.” which reportedly polled thousands of people between ages of 15 and 44 from 2006 through 2008, found that 44% of straight men and 36% of straight women admitted to having anal sex at least once in their lives.” In other words, anal sex is not just for gay males.

High School boys brag that they have done it.  Girls know they will not get pregnant if they engage in anal sex.  Philip Picardi, the digital editor of Teen Vogue, defended the article and stated that not only is the article “rooted in homophobia, but laced in arcane delusion about what it means to be a young person today.”

As a writer, the only shock about the article for me was the fact that it omitted on the first go-round the importance of safe sex:  using condoms.  That point was only added later and was the most salient takeaway message.


 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

What Your Child Fears Most When He Comes Out To You



You think you know your child.  And suddenly, when he comes out, the news can be such a surprise to you that your brain goes into denial mode.  This news goes against the grain of the traditional life you’ve envisioned for your child, even before birth.  How dare he interrupt your dream based on cis-gender roles and tell you, the parent, that he knows better about his future! Even if parents suspect their child is LGBTQ, it’s not always a relief to have your suspicions confirmed.

While this may be a shock to parents, it’s not easy for the one coming out.  Most LGBT kids know they are disappointing their parents with their news, particularly if they have heard homophobic remarks in their house.  If they are bullied at school or in the community in which they live, these feelings are further reinforced. . Ninety-two percent of LGBTQ kids in a Youth Survey reported hearing negative messages about being LGBTQ

So, while you may have to resolve your denial, not to mention other issues such as loss, anger, possibly shame, and fear to arrive at acceptance of your child’s sexual orientation, know that your child has probably already dealt with these issues, painful as they be.

 For some LGBT kids, revealing their inner selves to their parents may release tension and feel as if a burden has been lifted from their shoulders.   For others, they may rehearse or role play with their LGBT friends or known allies what they are going to say to calm their own nerves.

        Fear of Rejection:  Biggest Worry

According to the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State, parents and caregivers are the most important influence in a LGBTQ youths’ lives.  Fear of rejection is the greatest worry of LGBTQ kids after they come out.

What You Can Do

Parents can make their child’s coming out less stressful by:

Praising the child for being so honest with them.
Admiring their self-confidence in doing so.
“Be particularly careful what you say in the days following the coming out,” advises Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D., co-author of When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know (Sterling, 2016). “ The child will be ultra-sensitive during this time.”
Tell the child you love them unconditionally and will always support them.
Find out who else knows the information your child has divulged.
Reassure your child that you still love him for all the good qualities he already possesses and that his sexual orientation doesn’t erase those admirable personality traits.
Reiterate that you are available to your child and he can come to you with any concern.  Inquire how he envisions his future.

If you have responded to the coming out with anger or denial, you can apologize and start over.  The Family Acceptance Project has downloads for your guidance to acceptance.
 


Monday, July 3, 2017

How Does Your Child Know He's Gay?



It’s not for parents to doubt.  When a child comes out, many parents believe it’s a phase.  How could a ‘tween or teen know at such a young age, especially if he is still a virgin?

In this regard, it is awfully hard for you to “walk in your child’s shoes.”  This is one instance when your child knows more than you do.  Only he knows whom he is attracted to.  LGBs describe the feeling as an “otherness.”  Some know by age five, others at puberty, and even much later. Freud demonstrated that sexual orientation is a continuum or as described today as “fluid.”

You may want your child to be heterosexual, but you can’t second guess what he’s feeling anyway.  Certainly don’t try to convert him with gay-to-straight therapy (conversion therapy).  It doesn’t work and results in depression, low self-esteem, shame, even suicide.

Apologies In Order

If your reaction to your child’s coming out was anger, which is typical, apologize. Never let your views escalate into violence.  Thirty-four percent of LGBT youth report that they experienced physical violence from their parents because of their sexuality, and 26% of LGBT youth were forced to leave their home because of it.
 If prior to your child’s coming out, you had voiced some biased or prejudiced concepts about gay people, now would be the time to explain that you are going to work on shifting your bias and attitudes.  

Keep the door open for ongoing dialogues.  The Human Rights Campaign’s Survey of more than 10,000 LGBTQ identified Youth ages 13-17, found that less than a third of LGBTQ youth (32%) chose their family among a list of places where they most often hear positive messages about being LGBTQ.

If you need help “getting your lines right,” you might want to consult PFLAG (Parents of Lesbians and Gays, now with transgender chapters) or a therapist.  Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D., co-author of  When Your Child Is Gay:  What Parents Need To Know, in the Anger to Calm chapter, says “it is important that you are very mindful of the things you say to your child in the weeks and months following her coming out, as she will likely be exquisitely sensitive and looking for meaning in your word choice and tone.  Remind your child of why you are proud of him.  Being gay does not erase any of these things.”

A hug and the phrase “I Love You” go a long way as well.





Tuesday, June 20, 2017

What's With LGBT-Exclusionary Sex Ed?

What’s With LGBT- EXCLUSIONARY Sex Ed?


Why doesn’t sex ed in schools apply to LGBT students.  Did you know that
in most states except California, Colorado, Iowa, Washington, and Washington, D.C., LGBT students waste their time in either abstinence-only or sex ed that only pertains to heterosexuals.  LGBT kids sit in classrooms where their teachers and textbooks fail to be inclusive because their LGBTQ identities, behaviors, and experiences are not taken into consideration.

The GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight, Education Network) 2013 National School Climate Survey found that fewer than five percent of LGBT students had health classes that included positive representations of LGBT related topics.  Of millenials surveyed in 2015, only twelve percent said their sex education classes covered same-sex relationships.

Because of this dearth of reliable information in school, LGBT youth turn to the internet or older peers that can both relay misinformation.  Too embarrassed to talk to their parents, they are getting medically inaccurate material that can be misconstrued, built around myths that serve little purpose.

At the very least, LGBT-inclusive sex education should include positive examples of LGBTQ individuals, their relationships and families. It should also stress the need for sexual protection for everyone ( however, this shouldn’t excuse parents from talking to their children about these matters as well!).

Most Parents Want Sex Ed

The majority of parents polled (96%) want LGBT-inclusive sex education in high schools and ninety-four want it in middle school. Furthermore, The American Medical Association, The American Public Health Association, The Society for Adolescent Medicine, all endorse inclusive sex education.

In a study of more than 1,200 middle-and-high-school students across California, students who had inclusive sex education with positive images of LGBTQ identities, reported less sexual risk among teens and more support positive sexual health outcomes among teens that include: delaying the age of first sexual intercourse, reducing the overall number of sexual partners, unprotected sex, unintended teen pregnancy, and HIV rates and other STIS.

In schools whose sex ed classes are inclusive, LGBT students were bullied less. These inclusive students also felt that they belonged and consequently felt safe at school.



What Can Parents Do?


Gather your friends and demand inclusive sex education. This summer is a good time to start.  Get it on the school calendar for fall. Speak to school health advisory committees such as SHACS for curriculum choices, school boards, and school administrators.  You can order kits from Advocates for Youth and GLSEN LGBTQ-inclusive Curriculum Guide for Educators and lesson plans on bullying, bias, and diversity to start.

Write, speak to federal, state, and local policy makers who can remove gaps in sex education classes.  They can also support funding for effective sex education and resources for teacher training program evaluation and research.








Thursday, June 1, 2017

When Your Child Comes Out, The Family Dynamic Changes




When your teen comes out, let your child take the lead.  Don’t try to talk him out of being gay, calling it a “phase” and don’t attempt to change his sexual orientation by referring him to conversion  (gay-to-straight ) facilities.  Who knows better?
So, what should you do?  For once, let your child educate you about what it’s like to be gay, bi, lesbian, transgender.  Find out how he feels about being non cis-gender and how he envisions his future. 
This is not to say that you should “throw your hands up in the air.”  You don’t want to shirk your parental responsibilities.  Your child needs you more than ever now.  Show love and support. 
You can model responsibility by:
·      Making sure they not only know about safe sex (as you would your heterosexual child), but know where testing sites are for sexual diseases. Advocate for sexual education that includes information directed at the LGBT community.  (Most sex education courses in schools are not inclusive).
·      Take your child’s pulse frequently.  Is he happy at school?  Is he being bullied?  If so, know the proper channels to get satisfaction for the problem.
·      Make sure the physician/therapist your child sees is LGBT-friendly. Your child will feel comfortable bring up health disparities.
·      Show interest in your LGBT child’s love life as you would with your heterosexual child.
·      Don’t let the relatives in on your child’s sexual orientation unless he needs help to come out to them.  It’s his story,
·      Don’t expose your child to negative comments about homosexuals from uneducated relatives.
Even though this experience is new for you, don’t shut own.  You have a responsibility to continue in your role as a parent.  Employ the 3 L’s: listen, learn, and love.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

What Is IDAHOT?



IDAHOT sounds like a new potato to rival the french fries at McDonald’s.  But it’s much more widespread and important.  May 17th is IDAHOT day.  So, what is it?  It’s International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.
This Day, celebrated since 2004, is the largest LGBTI Solidarity event to occur globally to bring attention to the violence of LGBT individuals. It has 1,000 events taking place in 120 countries worldwide. Think of it as a global celebration of Sexual and Gender Diversities. IDAHOT is recognized by international institutions, governments, and marked by UNESCO. 
Why We Need This Day:
·      Same-sex relationships are still illegal in 72 countries (37 of them are UN member states). In places like Chechnya, you can be killed if you’re LGBT or beheaded in Muslim countries.
·      LGBT employees are still not out in the workplace.
·      LGBT students do not feel safe at school and miss at least one day of school per month.
·      Forty per cent of homeless population consist of LGBT children evicted from their homes.
·      Transsexuals have the highest suicide and assault rates of the LGBT population.
·      In some states, therapists are allowed to practice conversion therapy that tries to make the patient straight and is not only ineffective, but produces dire side effects in the LGBT person.
What To Expect On May 17:
·      In San Francisco, at Harvey Milk Plaza, LGBT activists will continue to pressure Russia to act against Chechnya.  With the pink triangle in the background (sign of The Holocaust), co-created by Patrick Carney, he will speak about the significance of remembering LGBT Holocaust victims.
·      Chelsea Manning, the Army transgender intelligence analyst convicted of a Wikileaks leak, will be released from prison after serving the bulk of her thirty-five prison sentence, and being commuted by Obama before he left office.
·      In other areas of the world, Lithuania kicks off the celebration.  In Chile, the local governments joined the Rainbow Campaign initiated by the national LGBT group, Movhil. Kosovo is holding a march to ask for the right to register same-sex partnerships.

For Allies: Teachers, Companies, Social Media

·      Teachers can use this day to organize an activity in class to inspire change.  Unesco, among others, has developed a specific IDAHO lesson plan for both primary and secondary levels.
·      Companies can organize events, issue communications, launch reports and train internally for diversity acceptance.
·      For more inclusive plans to download, go to https:// www.dayagainsthomophobia.org
·      Use hashtag #May17Because.