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.


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?