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.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

MAY IS MENTAL HEALTH MONTH

Homophobia, the stigma of being LGBT, and discrimination can all affect the mental health of your child.  How do you know if your child is well-adjusted to his sexual orientation?  Keep the dialogues open and look for clues in these three areas: school, friends, and physical health.

SCHOOL
  •  Does your child avoid school?  Over 30% of LGBT youth missed school in the past month due to feeling unsafe, according to GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight, Education Network)'s School Climate Survey, 2015.
  • Don't assume that teachers are going to intervene when it's reported that 56% of LGBT students have heard homophobic remarks.  In fact, 64% of LGBT students have heard derogatory comments from the school staff.
  • If your child is trans, he/she/they may be of the 33% of  LGBT students who avoid bathrooms or 48% who avoid locker rooms.
Friends

  • Does your child have friends of both sexes or has he (she/they) been dropped from his original circle of friends due to his sexual orientation?   Is he singled out and verbally harassed?  If he's gay, does he only have female friends who protect him from bullies?
  • Have you gotten to know his friends?  Had them to dinner as you would his cis-gender (straight) siblings?  Do you inquire about his love interests?
HEALTH
  •  Does your child seem happy most of the time or depressed?  Is he relieved now that he came out or more morose?  Do you know that LGB youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexuals?  
  • Compared to LGBT youth, trans kids have a higher suicide rate, nine times the national average.  Forty percent made a suicide attempt, forty-six percent are verbally harassed and nine percent are physically assaulted, particularly trans people of color, according to the Williams Institute's "Just the Facts: LGBT Data Overview," 2015.
  •  If you take your child to a therapist for depression, make sure the therapist is LGBT-friendly. Not all "experts" are trained in this field.  Even though homosexuality has been declassified as a disorder, in some U.S. states, it is still legal to practice conversion therapy that tries to make the gay child straight with disastrous lingering side-effects.
  • Be sure your child's health care provider treats the patient, your child, with respect, that he doesn't blame your child's illnesses on his sexual orientation.   







Monday, April 24, 2017

What Your LGBT Child Wants To Hear From You



You don’t want to be blindsided when your child comes out to you.  Nor do you want to yell at your child (“you can’t be!”) or doubt his revelation ( “it’s just a phase!”).  The Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State reports that most coming outs do not go well because parents are not prepared for the news that jars with the expectations they have had for their child since birth or even before in our binary world. 
The most common defense mechanism for parents is denial.  What could be worse for a child to hear that the parent knows best about the sexual orientation that he/she has felt? Who would know better than the child?
Even if you are caught off-guard, your child has mustered up his courage to share this important part of his self, knowing that he probably is disappointing you, so try to be understanding even if it will take you awhile to “wrap your head around” this new identity.
What should you say? Here are 5 possibilities that connote unconditional love:
·      We love you and support you. ( A hug is always appreciated.)
·      We are pleased that you felt comfortable enough with us to share this important aspect of your self.  Thank you for trusting us.
·      Who else knows?  Classmates? Best friends? How have they reacted?
·      How do you envision your future? How has being gay affected your life?
·      Who haven’t you told yet, and what is your plan?  Remember that it is your child’s story and he/she has a right to privacy.
It’s o.k. to say to your child that it may take awhile for you to adjust fully, but that        you will, with his help and others as well.





Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Gender Spectrum Defined


                                

                                      Dictionary 101 for Straight Parents
 Once Upon a Time, we lived in a binary world with Dick, Jane, and Spot.  Girl wore dresses, boys wore pants. Girls were given pink lunch trays in the grade school cafeteria. The boys received blue trays.  The boys went to “shop” and the girls went to “home ec.” There was no blurring of the binary rules.  If a girl wanted to take shop, too bad.  If a guy wanted to try his culinary skills in “home economics, he couldn’t.  If a girl wanted to be on the boys’ baseball team or even if she identified as a boy, she might be regarded as a “tomboy.”  Nobody knew about transgender kids then, their correct pronouns or their desire to use the bathroom they identified with. 
It’s a whole new world now.  For the older straight parent, the terms can be baffling (even Katie Couric had to learn them during the National Geographic Special “The Gender Revolution.” (February 3, 2017). Let’s start with the basics:
·      Asexuality means a person who generally does not feel sexual attraction or desire to any group of people.
·      Bisexual: a person who is attracted to both people of their own gender and another gender. Also called “bi.”
·      Cisgender: Types of gender identity where an individual’s experience of their own gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth.  e..g. straight.
·      Gender is not the same definition as sex.  Sex refers to biological differences that include a person’s chromosomes and physical body. Gender refers to the behavioral, cultural, and psychological traits typically associated with one sex.
·      Gender expression: how we manifest masculinity or femininity.  Our behavior, speech, behavior, movement, and other factors as masculine or feminine.
·      Gender free/agender.  These people may not feel tied to any form of gender identity and often prefer the pronoun “they.”
·      Gender identity. The sense of “being” male, female, genderqueer, agender, Sometimes it lines up with physical anatomy or expected social roles.  Gender identity, biological sex, and sexual orientation are separate. People’s gender identity can shift over time. This means they are genderfluid.  Bigender people may shift between feminine and masculine gender identities and presentations or feel like they are two distinct genders at the same time.
·      Genderqueer: Identities which fall outside of the accepted sexual binary. May also refer to people who identify as both transgendered and queer, i.e. individuals who challenge both gender and sexuality regimes and see gender identity and sexual orientation as overlapping and interconnected.
·      Intersex.  Some people are born with both sexual organs and XXY. Non-binary:  people who don’t identify as either men or women.  It’s possible to be non-binary and identify outside of the male/female divisions, but still identify with a clear gender identity
·      Pansexual: not limited in sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender, or gender identity.
·      Queer: an umbrella term sometimes used by LGBTQA people to refer to the entire LGBT community. Can be regarded as offensive to some, depending on their generation, geographic location and association with the word.
·      Transgender: umbrella term for all people who do not identify with their assigned gender at birth or the binary gender system.
·      Transsexual: a person whose gender identity is different from their biological sex.



           

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Prepare for GLSEN's Day of Silence, April 21



As a parent, you want to ensure your child is safe at school.  This is also the goal of GLSEN, Gay, Lesbian, Straight, Education Network, the leading national educational organization focusing on safety for all students.  There is a need to raise awareness and fight homophobia in schools because:
·      In a Harris Interactive Study on Bullying, studies said two out of three reasons students are harassed are actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender expression.
·      According to 2005 report “From Teasing to Torment, School Climate in America,” additionally nearly nine out of ten LGBT students experience harassment.
So, What Is This Day Of Silence About?
GLSEN’s Day of Silence illustrates the silencing effect of bullying and harassment on the LGBTQ students and their allies.  It’s an annual event to raise awareness and protest the silence faced by LGBT people daily. People of all sexual orientations and gender identities who support LGBT rights on April 21st (this year) will take a vow of silence to recognize and protest the silence. Each year, nearly 8,000 middle and high school students register with GLSEN to partake of Day of Silence.  This year, the first 3,000 registered online will receive free swag. all free downloadable posters, organizing resources, and 25% discount off all Day of Silence items like mugs and Tee shirts.
                                    How Can I Get My School To Rally?
First, ask the principal for a meeting and find out if the staff and faculty are interested in joining this project. If your principal is opposed, you have a right to get Lambda Legal involved.
Have your GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) Club or other all-inclusive groups map out the details for the event.  Divide your tasks into Before, During and After as gsanetwork.org/resources/gsa-action/events/day-silence suggests.
BEFORE:
·      Have your GSA prepare a “To Do” List:  Who is in charge of each item?
·      Put up flyers and posters.  Send out e-mail announcement, advertise in school newspaper.
·      How will the school handle a Day of Silence?  Find out if you are to be silent all day or just when you’re not in class.  Should you be silent in the cafeteria and during breaks? Are you to be silent on social media?
·      How will you handle people who are opposed to silence? You have a right to do this.
·      You may want to pass out cards that participants state why they are not speaking.

During:

·      Have a staffed table with resources.
·      Leaders should be visible with same clothing, for example, to group you.
·      Post an announcement explaining the event to be respectful.
·      Do you a designated space for your break on silence?
·      Ask your teachers if they want to do a silent lesson plan.  They can obtain a video “As If It Matters” by calling 415-552-4229 or e-mail info@gsanetwork.org.

After:

·      Write up an evaluation of the event. Remember that next April there will be another Day of Silence.
·      Hold a Breaking the Silence Or Speak Out Activity.  For example, have LGBT population tell their stories of harassment and discrimination after reflecting on the day.
·      Continue the support by educating the community.

For more tips, see glsen.org

 

Prepare

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Those Who Object To LeFou Are Fou!


Those Who Object to Le Fou Are Fou!
I took my kids, then 6 and 11, to see “Beauty and the Beast” on Broadway in 1994.  Terrence Mann played the beast.  It was a great musical with a good message.  I don’t remember any homosexual overtones, except that one of its creators Howard Ashman died of AIDS, the same year of the animated classic “Beauty and the Beast.”
Today, I went to the movie, No. 1 at the box office, and was looking for overtly gay themes that were thought to be scandalous enough to pull the film from a lineup at an Alabama theatre and shelved in Kuwait and Malaysia. Ultra-conservative religious organization such as the American Family Association) are criticizing the movie, reporting that it is “pushing a gay agenda.”
What gay agenda?  In the April issue of Attitude, director Bill Condon confirmed that LeFou is Disney’s first openly gay character.  LeFou, who has been to war with the narcissitic Gaston (whose name Le Fou can’t spell because LeFou admits he’s illiterate).  Riding side-by-side on horseback as Gaston’s sidekick, LeFou jokes that why would Gaston want to marry the town’s pretty girl, Belle, when Gaston can have him instead?  It’s a double-entendre that would go over most cisgender childrens’ heads.  LeFou is a loyal friend, if somewhat clingy, to despicable Gaston. He admires Gaston, but is it a crush?
Says Director Condon, “LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston, (handsome and fearless,) and on another day wants to kiss Gaston. He’s confused about what he wants.  It’s somebody who’s just realizing that he has these feelings.”  If you want a gay stereotype in Beauty and the Beast, look at Stanley Tucci, who is turned into one of the three cross-dressers by the wardrobe in the castle. Condon's inclusion of a gay character may have also been a homage to Alan Menken's collaborative lyricist Howard Ashman.
LeFou’s sexual orientation is so subtle in the movie that it’s hardly worth getting upset about.  In the final scene of about a minute- and –a-half  the former beast, now returned to his princely status, is dancing with Belle in the ballroom with all the town’s people. During this time, LeFou (actor Josh Gad) kisses another man.
Big deal!  If children don’t know personally gay people, they must know of them through television, if nothing else.  The under -30 set seem to “get it,” according to Pew Research.  They are the ones who approve of gay marriage, gay relationships.  It’s the older generation and ultra-right who make a fuss when the arts try to reflect modern values, even if it is Disney!  Whose “fou,” French for crazy?

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Conversion Therapy Busted With 20/20 Undercover Investigation

Last night, I watched with horror the testimony of gay boy named Lucas who ran away from a Restoration Youth Camp in Alabama.  His adoptive Christian parents from Naples, Florida sent him to an unlicensed pray-the-gay-away camp because they couldn’t deal with his homosexuality. Lucas ultimately ran away from the camp as he was beaten, put into solitary confinement.  He testified against the camp pastor who received twenty years for manslaughter after a town Police Chief Charles Kennedy stood up for Lucas and other children after he was handed notes written by the minors about the deplorable conditions that Kennedy later saw for himself.  As Lucas reported about Restoration, “at least in prison, you get three meals a day. They try to beat the gay out of you.  It’s spiritually abusive.”

Similarly, a lesbian, Sarah, was sent by her parents to The Heartlight Christian School in Longview, Texas. It’s a residential counseling program for teens who “struggle with a wide range of behavior and emotional issues.” Sarah’s T.V. celebrity cousin, Jeremy Jordan, started a GoFundMe page, seeking to get attorney fees to get Sarah out of Heartlight. She, too, didn’t want to be converted.

Pointless Exercise

Both these institutions were trying to use religion as a weapon.  You can’t convert LGBT children to heterosexuals.  You can’t “pray-the-gay” away.  No psychological treatment or spiritual counselling is effective in changing a person’s sexual orientation.

The American Psychiatric Association and The American Medical Association oppose reparative or conversion therapy.  In fact, they call the treatment unethical. Homosexuality is no longer regarded as a disease in the eyes of the psychiatric community. Yet, although the effects can be dire resulting in depression, guilt, and even suicide, the practice is only outlawed in six states (Oregon, Illinois, New York, Vermont, New Jersey, California) and the District of Columbia.  However, other states are considering laws against this disreputable practice.

It is uncanny that the day before the 20/20 show aired, March 10, reparative therapy’s founder, Joseph Nicolosi of the Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic, died at age 70. 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

U.S. History's First

When Gavin Grimm’s ACLU lawyers argue his case, Gloucester County School Board vs. G.G.,  scheduled for March 28th, it will be the first major decision on whether transgender people are covered under sex discrimination law.  Grimm’s case is arguing that his high school’s policy violates Title IX of Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination.

The background of his case is this: School administrators in Virginia allowed Gavin to use the boys’ restroom for almost two months without consequence...until the school started receiving complaints from some parents and residents of Gloucester County school board. Gavin and his mother Deirdre notified administrators of his male gender identity at beginning of his sophomore year. ( He’s now a senior). Because of the backlash, the school board adopted the new policy on December 9, 2014, by a vote of 6-1.  Consequently, Gavin has been using a single-sex nurse’s bathroom that he finds humiliating. 

What The Supreme Court Justices Have To Decide

The most important question is whether or not the Department of Education had the ability to read transgenderism into Title IX law.  What do we mean by “sex?” has to be determined.  Since this is gender identification not birth gender, you are arguing an idea, not an apparent trait. 

Grimm’s case stands to influence transgender and all gender non-conforming people across the board.  The intersex (having both sex genitalia) community for the first time has filed a Supreme Court brief. Medical associations, unions, artists, doctors, lawyers, scientists, government employees and fifty-three major corporations such as Apple, IBM, EBay, Microsoft have filed Amicus or Friends-of-the-Court’s briefs.  Two hundred members of Congress, sixty current and former police chiefs and sheriffs, thirty U.S. cities, National Education Association, National Parent-Teacher Association of School Psychologists, the NAACP, the Anti-Defamation League, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the National LGBT Bar Association and the Constitutional Accountability Center and over one hundred transgender adults also signed.

Effect of President Trump’s Directive

Last week the Trump administration withdrew guidelines instructing school districts to let transgender students use bathrooms corresponding to their chosen gender (gender identity). Says Gavin “it definitely hurts to hear your government saying that you’re not deserving of protections that you should have as a transgender student.” It’s a discriminatory bathroom policy that segregates transgender students from their peers.
The Williams Institute, that conducts research on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy, reports that one in every 137 teens identify as transgender. They need, like Gavin, to be assured that they will be protected and feel safe in restrooms and locker rooms and not be harassed. 

   

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, 1939 Mr. Gavin Grimm Goes to Washington, 2017


In the popular movie of 1939, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, Gary Cooper plays an unassuming honest senator from Montana who takes on corrupt Washington politicians. This week, a shy, humble and determined seventeen year-old high school student from Gloucester, Virginia, Gavin Grimm travelled to Washington with his mother to be the lead plaintiff in a case that may settle the whole “bathroom issue” once and for all. 
Wearing a hoodie, emblazoned with A.C.L.U., Gavin left his rural town, his pet pig Esmeralda, to represent himself and potentially other transgendered men and women in a suit involving his usage of his high school bathrooms. This suit may go all the way to the Supreme Court and become a landmark case.  After being on “The View,” last Thursday, where he wore a dress shirt stowed in his makeshift luggage, a large white plastic bag, G.G., as he’s known, is now known as an activist for transgender rights and a hero to many transgenders. 
What’s At Stake: More Than Dignity
Gavin, since he was twelve or thirteen, has identified as a boy even though he was born a girl and a twin. Yet, he is not allowed to use the boys’ bathroom at his school.  Gavin’s school has built single-user bathrooms to try to placate outspoken parents and complaining girls.  “It’s incredibly frustrating, it’s embarrassing, it’s very uncomfortable,” attests Gavin who feels that this discrimination makes him feel different from his peers.  He uses the nurse’s restroom instead and that also feels discriminatory.
(Of course, by the time The Supreme Court decides, Gavin may be out of high school, the Supreme Court could send the case back to the appeals court or wait for other cases to piggyback.)
But that’s not the point.  What is the point is that President Trump on February 22nd rescinded Obama’s Federal Directive on Bathroom Use, instructing public schools to let transgender students use bathrooms and locker rooms of their chosen gender, not the one on their birth certificate.  The Obama administration’s guidance was based on its determination that Title IX, the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education, also applies to gender identity.
About Face For Trump: Feels Overreach Violates Safety & Privacy of Straight People
Soon after Trump took office, he announced that he intended to continue enforcing an executive order Obama issued to protect LGBT people from workplace discrimination. Ha!
Without the Obama directive, it will be up to states and school districts to interpret federal anti-discrimination law and determine whether students should have access to restrooms in accordance with their expressed gender identity and not just their biological sex.
Yet, last week, he and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions, bowing to the religious right, decided that states’ rights should take precedence.  The Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos did not want to rescind the Obama guidelines, and recognized the severe risk of not having those Federal laws in place.
 Although DeVos told the Political Action Conference, CPAC, on February 23rd, that the “issue was a huge example of Obama administration overreach, one-size-fits-all approach to issues best solved at personal and local levels,” she also admitted that “we have a responsibility to protect every student in America and ensure that they have the freedom to learn and thrive in a safe and trusted environment.” Even Caitlyn Jenner, a Republican, is annoyed at the Republican response to the federal directive.
GLSEN’s (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network) latest national climate survey reported that 77% of trans students experience harassment or bullying in schools and over 50% of trans youth commit suicide.  Those that identify as transgender will not feel safe, but harassed at school.
PFLAG  (Parents for Lesbians & Gays as well as Transgenders) National & GLSEN relaunched, in response, their joint #Claim Your Rights Campaign from 2009.
Statistics aside, I once interviewed a f-t-m ( born female, transitioned to male), who appeared in the “ Fear chapter “of my co-authored book When Your Child Is Gay,” (Sterling, 2016) Miserable in high school, he used to change into baggy amorphous clothes once he got to school so he could feel more comfortable. However, not totally comfortable in his own skin and at war with the sex he was assigned at birth, as soon as he legally could, realizing he was transgender,  he started taking hormones. He attended college where he was more accepted.  He told me that if he could not have transitioned, he would have killed himself. 

 
 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Who Are You Going To Trust? Not Ghost Busters!



It’s hard to trust the liberal media.  BuzzFeed is not honest-to-God news.  The President tweets on four hours of sleep.  We were told last Tuesday that President Trump will maintain workplace protections for gays and lesbians instituted during the Obama Administration yet supposedly leaks within the hallowed halls of the White House said they Trump was preparing an Executive Order to rescind LGBT rights.  His daughter Ivanka was trying to talk him out of this position. At least 40 anti-LGBT bills, using Religious Freedom Loopholes, have been introduced in sixteen states this year.
LGBT Youth Running Scared
According to Michael Radkowsky, PSY.D., Washington, D.C., “the new government administration has increased gay teen fear.”  The Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest civil rights advocacy group and political organization, concurs.  A new HRC survey of more than 50,000 young people revealed a troubling post-election spike in harassment and bullying. Since the 2016 election, 70% of respondents reported witnessing anti-LGBT actions.
Resources Parents & LGBT Youth Can Trust
In these scary times, parents and their LGBT youth as well as their straight siblings who overhear LGBT criticism in the media, can take comfort in the following dependable resources:
·      PFLAG. org. (Parents for Lesbians and Gays and now includes Transgender, Intersex, and Questioning). Organization has nationwide chapters:
·      It also has resources: https:pflagnyc.org/support/resources to learn about LGBT issues.
·      PFLAG also has publications on various topics of concern:
·      HRC has a topic-centered website: http://www/hrc.org/explore/topic/children-youth
·      Lambda Legal has a website whereby you can select any state to learn more about its legal protections for LGBT people and their families. http://www.lamdalegal.org/states-regions/in-your-state
·      GLSEN ( Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network), an organization for students, parents, and teachers that tries to affect positive change in schools. See 2015 National Climate Survey that for first time includes insights on bisexual school experience, school policies that specifically affect transgender students, and anti-bullying student education: