Monday, October 8, 2018

Not Coming Out on LGBTQ Awareness Day



October 11 is the 30th annual LGBTQ Awareness Day. The purpose of the day is to make LGBTQ orientation more familiar to the public, reduce bullying, and help foster allies in the fight for equality.

Although it would be ideal if everyone felt he could come out, the LGBT child has his own timeline.  Tempting as it may be, it’s not a good idea 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.  Your child may only be out to a few people he trusts and does not want everyone to know.  It’s his story. 

If a child does come out to you on October 11 or any other date, make it his experience, recommends Dr. Logan Stohle, PsyD. Of Yellowbrick, a psychiatric center for young adults in Evanston, Illinois.  Don’t bring up your concerns at that time. Even if you don’t agree or understand your child’s sexual orientation, now is not the time to question.  Just listen. 

Says Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D., author of When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know (2016, Sterling), you might employ these subtle ways to make your LBTQ child 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.




Saturday, September 22, 2018

How To Make Your Child Comfortable So He Will Come Out To You



It always helps if you have discussed what the gender spectrum means beforehand in your home. It will not only show that you are a hip parent who is cognizant of what is going in the non cis-gender culture, but that you can be trusted to be open-minded. When having these discussions, don’t assume that your child will marry a heterosexual or that he has a crush on a girl! Use gender-neutral language when discussing relationships.

If you leave the conversation open-ended, perhaps your child will feel secure talking about his concerns about being LGBT: for example what he may be experiencing in school.  If a parent says that the door is always open, that child will know that he can come to you for support and not be judged.  You will lessen his burden.  Your home will be a safe haven in which your LGBT child can “let down his hair.”

As a parent, you will only alienate your LGBT child if you say the following:

“You can’t be! It’s just a phase!”
Don’t make the conversation about yourself:  “How can you do this to me and your father?”
“I can’t wait to tell your Aunt Ellen!”  Ask for permission to tell anyone, including friends and family.  Find out whom your child has already told. Protect your family’s privacy!
Don’t tell your child that you’re worried about his safety!  You’ve read and seen on television how the LGBT population gets beaten up!
Get your lines right!  Think before you speak!  It’s o.k. to say that you need to think over everything that was stated and that it may take you awhile to digest this important revelation.

If you haven’t gotten your lines right, then apologize and say, for example, that you  were surprised so you didn’t react well.  You want your child to feel respected and heard. You could ask him how you can support him.  Of course, always tell him that you love him! Lastly, thank him for entrusting you with such important information.






Friday, September 7, 2018

Don't Forget the Feelings of Your LGBT's Siblings!


Your LGBT child many not be the only one in the family who is getting bullied at school.  If your LGBT son or daughter is out at school and bullied as a result, chances are their sibling is being harassed as well. As a parent, you want to find out what the sibling endures at school.  Give him/her a voice, to share his or her experiences.

When a child comes out, it changes the family dynamic.  If YOU are not accepting of your LGBT's child's sexual orientation, your heterosexual child may feel uncomfortable living in a house that is always in conflict.  Pressure builds.  Anger, fear, criticism run rampant.

The following can happen to the heterosexual sibling:


  • If the heterosexual child is ignored and the LGBT child receives all the attention, the heterosexual child may act out and spread the news (without permission) to her community, school, church and friends.  
  • If the sibling is used as a pawn between the parent and his LGBT brother/sister, the heterosexual child may be consumed with guilt, particularly if he is told not to tell his parents and keep the secret.
  • The secret can create a lot of needless pressure.  A child shouldn't be put in the position of an adult arbitrator. Just like a parent, a sibling may need some time to reflect, to process the situation before he/she accepts the sibling's sexual orientation. 
Some feelings of the "straight" Sibling:

  • Will I be LGBT too?
  • Do I have to be concerned  to look "feminine" or "masculine" to compensate for the sibling's same-sex attraction, to be the "normal" one? 
  • Fear of attending school where I face bias due to association with LGBT sibling.
  • Feels pressure to defend LGBT sibling after hearing derogatory remarks at home and in school.
As a parent, here's what you can do to bring the house back to equilibrium:
  • It is important that the sibling know that the LGBT child is still the same person, just with a different sexual orientation.
  • When you speak to your child about the sibling's coming out, make the information age-appropriate, at their maturity level, and take into account the sibling's relationship with his brother and sister.
  • Remember that all feelings are valid, but how we respond to feelings, has real impact.
  • Practice treating your LGBT child as an equal to your heterosexual child.  Don't play favorites.
How to Create a Safer Space for Family Members to acknowledge all of the feelings that may Come up:

  • Watch for signs of harassment, bullying and discrimination.
  • Require that family members respect your LGBT child's identity.
  • Support your LGBT child's identity, even if you're still working to understand or be comfortable with it.
  • Seek out LGBT-specific community resources such as PFLAG and supports for yourself such as therapy. Seek out LGBT-specific community.
For your Straight Sibling:

  • Acknowledge and accept if your sibling is struggling.  Offer support.
  • Encourage sibling to attend family/group therapy if needed.
  • Help sibling come up with strategies for addressing homophobic/transphobic remarks.
  • Require they respect your LGBT child's privacy as any other family member.
- Suggestions from Caitlin Ryan, Family Acceptance Project.  Also from Power Point Presentation "When A Loved One Comes Out," Mental Health of America Conference, 6-15-17, by Wesley Davidson, co-author of When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know ( Sterling, 2016) and Nicole Avallone, LCSW.



Sunday, August 19, 2018

When The School Isn’t An Ally




How To Enforce Anti-Bullying Policies At Your Child’s School

Last week, I wrote about how parents can anticipate bullying of their LGBT child at school and practice tactics at home.  However, as most kids are bullied at school when parents aren’t there to observe the violations or around-the-clock when their LGBT children are cyberbullied, it’s best to know your rights and make the school an ally to solve the problem.
Every child deserves a safe environment in which to learn.

Here are some suggestions:

Include your child in the problem-solving.  He should not be blamed.  He’ll be more apt to adhere to the plan if he’s included.
Document everything: every instance, date, time, outcome.  These records will be crucial for your school meetings, and in the case of physical assault, vandalizing, stalking or cyberbullying, with the police.http://straightparentgaykid.blogspot.com/whentheschoolpersonnelarethebullies/9/3/17.
Talk to school personnel to ascertain what they view:  teachers, guidance counselors, school nurses.  Seek support from the County Office of Education, GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network), ACLU, and anti-bullying projects.
“Cool Your Jets.”  You may be angry at the school for not protecting your child but don’t let that attitude seep through during your meeting.  Be prepared with notes, but remember you don’t want to attack the school employees.  Think of them as potential allies.
Know your school district’s policies and relevant state and federal laws.  Read your state laws.  What are your school district’s policies on safety, bullying, and non-discrimination.
If your complaints are taken seriously, within a reasonable period of time, at the District level, go to the County Office of Education or even the State Department of Education.
If the federal laws are involved in cases of discriminatory harassment on basis of gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, disability, you can contact the Office for Civil Rights at the Federal Department of Education and file a complaint as well. For a sample of the chain of command for a uniform complaint form in California, please seehttp://www.psychologytoday.com/us/...schooling/.../myschoolwon'tstopthebullying/9/3/14.
If all these tactics don’t work, you might consider transferring your child to another school or home school.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

The Time Is Now To Outsmart School Bullies!

The lazy days of summer are almost over.  Soon, the new backpacks, notebooks come shuffling into school.  And it's time for the bullies to return to your LGBT's child school and make your child's school year a living hell unless you intercept.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, LGBT youth are twice as likely as their peers to say they have been physically assaulted, kicked or shoved at their school.  Ninety-two percent of LGBT youth say they hear negative messages about being LGBT: in school, the Internet, and by peers. No wonder LGBT youth miss as much as a day of school per month, according to GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Educational Network).  

Is bullying the same as teasing?  No, it isn't.  It's defined as unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged kids that involves a real or perceived power imbalance.  It includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally and excluding someone from a group on purpose.

According to Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D., co-author of When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know, even if parents don't have the shared experience of being in this "out group," it doesn't mean that you cannot develop a 'radar" for discovering whether this is going on and help your child to combat bullying. It takes time to stop bullying.  Be persistent.

Before school starts, help your child devise a plan to feel safe.  Assure your child that being a bullying victim is not his fault.  Says Dr. Tobkes, "many children will feel humiliated and ashamed and think they have brought it on themselves.  Do not BLAME the child for being bullied.  Tell your child to come to you right away if anyone is making disparaging remarks or threats," advises Dr. Tobkes.

How do you get your child to open up?

Listen and focus on him.  It's important for a child to know that their home, school, community will want to protect him.  Emphasize that bullying should not be tolerated.  Everyone is entitled to be educated in an atmosphere that makes them feel safe.


Here are some ways you can keep your child safe:


  • Brainstorm about alternating their route home so that an adult is always present.
  • Do not call the parents of the bully.  It could backfire on your child.  
  • *Role play with your child.  Pretend you're the bully and have your child develop pat answers.
  • *Reverse roles.
  • Model good behavior.

Parents are the most effective deterrent to bullying.  Says Dr. Tobkes,"  I have found that the most important prognostic indicator for a child being targeted for his sexuality is having a safe haven retreat at home."






Sunday, July 22, 2018

Are LGBTQ Teens Better Off Today?

New Study by HRC/UConn. Shows LGBTQ Feel Anxious and Depressed!

The Human Rights Campaign jointly with the University of Connecticut released their findings last May of the survey done of 12,000 LGBTQ 13 to 17 year-olds across the United States. https://www.teenvogue.com/.../new-study-shows-lgbtq-youth-feel-anxious-and-depressed/ The results revealed that most of these LGBTQ teens are experiencing extreme levels of anxiety and stress daily in school and at home.

Here are highlights of the alarming statistics:


  • 77% of respondents reported that they felt depressed in the last week.
  • 95% experience trouble sleeping.
  • More than 3/4 of the people surveyed reported feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, signs of depression.
At home:

  • 67% said they've heard families make negative remarks about their sexual orientation.
  • 78% surveyed responded that those negative comments influenced their decisions to come out.
  • The non-acceptance is worse for LGBT youth of color and trans youth.  They are more likely to be taunted or mocked by their families.
These findings often run counter to the pride that LGBTQ teens feel.  In fact, 91% reported feeling pride in their identity and 93% feel proud to be members of the LGBTQ community.

So, this positivity is not offset by parental rejection, parents can do the following, according to Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D., co-author of When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know (Sterling, 2016):

  • Accept that you do not have the power to change your child's sexual orientation. Do not think being gay is a phase or choice.  Accept that your child is definitely and permanently gay.
  • If you reacted badly to your child's coming out, it's never too late to remedy the situation: First apologize.  You might say something like "what you told me last week really came as a surprise to me.  While it may take some time to digest the news, but I will always love you."
  • The only way to alleviate internal angst and achieve a sense of equanimity is through acceptance. 
  • Listen, listen, lister to gain understanding of your child's sexuality.  Put down the cell phone/newspaper. Focus on the individual without any distractions.
  • Demonstrate in both words and acceptance that you will always love and support him/her unconditionally.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

When The Birds and Bees Only Fly Straight

As the parent of an LGBT child, you may not want to leave sex education to your child's middle or high school.  In San Diego, parents picket sex education at their schools because they don't find mention of anal sex, masturbation appropriate for middle schoolers. In conservative Orange County, California, parents can withdraw consent for the whole sex education curriculum or for instruction on HIV and STI prevention.  However, what they cannot do is specifically withdraw their consent for class instruction deemed non-discriminatory on sexual orientation and gender identity, according to the California Healthy Youth Act in 2015.

In seven other states, Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas, local or state education laws that expressly forbid teachers of health/sexuality education from discussing LGBT people or topics.  These laws are called "no promo homo." Some laws even require that teachers actively portray LGB people in a negative or an inaccurate way, according to GLSEN, Gay, Lesbian, Education Network.

As LGBT-inclusive curriculums are few, and erratic at best, it's better for parents to be the sex ed. teachers.  A school or doctor can't impart values about sexual relationships as a parent can.  An LGBT student may be embarrassed to ask questions about sexual health in school for fear he will be singled out and harassed.

While you may be uncomfortable discussing sexual practices, birth control, sexual diseases, among other concerns, it will make a favorable impression on your LGBT child. Your home is not a semester-only class.   Do your LGBT homework so you can deliver the material in your home.  It's ok to admit you're embarrassed at first, but the curriculum is yours, and you will know how it's delivered.

Knowledge is empowering.  Contrary to beliefs, frank instruction does not lead to sexual promiscuity.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

If Straight Parents Don't March, Are We Tolerating, But Not Accepting?

June is considered GAY PRIDE MONTH, but not everywhere.  However, you demonstrate acceptance, it should be at your own comfort level.

Many LGBT people themselves do not feel it is necessary to be a crusader for gay rights just as some straight parents don't want to march during the Gay Parades held in major cities.  I am one of those parents.

This does not mean that I'm not sensitive to those minorities who haven't achieved full equality. It does mean that I hate crowds and regard rainbow scanty thongs on gay men on floats as hyper sexualization, narcissitic displays of six-pack abs and perhaps doing a disservice to the greater goals of inclusion and equal rights.

You can be accepting without subjecting yourself to all the revelry.  (However, if your child wants you to attend a Gay Pride event, feel like he is an integral part of the whole movement whose civil rights have been backlashed by politics, then you may want to support your LGBT child by attending).

As a parent, it behooves you to demonstrate to your child in both words and actions that you will always love and support him unconditionally.  One way to show your acceptance is to:


  • Ask your LGBT child the same questions you ask your other children.  Specifically, don't avoid the topic of dating and relationships.  If you ask your heterosexual child about his significant other, ask your LGBT child as well.  
  • Says Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D., " If your gay child says that he is dating someone in particular, ask engaging questions about the partner and express an interest in meeting him."  
  • Invite the boyfriend to family dinners as you would for a partner of your straight child.
  • Find out how the boyfriend is doing from time to time.
For more tips on displaying acceptance, see When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know (Sterling: 2016).



Friday, June 8, 2018

The Baker, The Cake, and The Couple Who Ate Crow

Last Monday, the Supreme Court decided the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission No. 16-11.  With just two dissenters, Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayer, the Court ruled in favor of Jack Phillips, the Christian baker who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple, Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins who were married in Boston.

The Court sided with Phillips, who had lost forty percent of his business because of litigation, and had to fire six of his employees.  The grounds for the outcome, whose majority decision was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, was that the Colorado Civil rights Commission, which had originally ruled against Phillips, had acted hostile as it allowed other bakers to refuse to create cakes that demeaned gays and same-sex marriage.  Consequently, what should have been the neutral and respectful consideration in which Phillips was entitled was therefore compromised.

This five-year battled ended in humiliation for Mullins and Craig who never got the cake even though same-sex marriage has been legal in Colorado since 2014.  Although the 7-2 decision ruled in Phillips's favor, The Court also acknowledged the equal rights of LGBT people.

Not The Big Picture

The Court, in this case, did not tackle the bigger picture: religious freedom vs. civil rights for LGBT Americans.  The crucible:  Can a business discriminate against LGBT persons based on the rights protected by The First Amendment?  Can a business owner invoke their First Amendment Rights when they refuse services to gay customers?

As it is, LGBT people, without a National Equality Law, are at risk for being fired, evicted or denied services in thirty-one states.  While the June 4th Supreme Court decision just settled Phillips's case, Phillips's win sets a precedent.  It doesn't bode well for the future:  what's next?  Will all tangential wedding services such as florists and photographers be allowed to shut their doors to those whose so-called "lifestyle" they disapprove of?

Kennedy acknowledged that business owners generally cannot deny equal access to goods and services under a neutral public accommodations law.  Shouldn't a gay person receive the same services when he walks into a store as a heterosexual would?  Cake is Cake.  It doesn't have to be endorsed by the baker.  Once it is made and showcased, you don't think about the baker's viewpoint of same-sex marriage, as Justice Ginsburg referenced.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Coming Out: It’s Not Your Story!



It’s not a good idea to out your kids.  Let them be the messengers.  Their stories are highly personal and should be revealed in their own time when they are comfortable.

Jeff Ingold at Stonewall explains that publicly outing someone “robs that person of the chance to define who they are, in their own terms and ignores the many valid reasons someone may have for not choosing to be open about their sexuality or gender identity to everyone in their life.”

Genderqueer Star Cambell Kenneford, 23, who transitioned from male to female, explains further why it’s so damaging.  “You feel like someone has taken your identity away from you.  She has been asked if she were a man or a woman while standing in line to a gay club.  She has been humiliated when outed to someone she was flirting with, only to find that person suddenly not interested.

(There are many reasons why an LGBT person, particularly a transsexual, doesn’t want to be open about their sexuality.  Unfortunately, it can incite hate crimes.  Stonewall statistics reveal that one in seven trans people aren’t open about their gender identity to anyone in their family).

Consider yourself privileged if your child has come out to you. Once your child has come out to you, you need to find out whom they’ve told  (most likely, they have told someone before you) and what is their plan to tell other friends and family members, if at all. How did the receivers of the news take it?  Were they supportive or did it cause a rift in the friendship?

Jonathan Tobkes, M.D.. co-author of When Your Child Is Gay (What You Need To Know: Sterling, 2016) suggests that parents may want to help their children devise a plan to tell older family members from a different era if that seems daunting for the child.  You can help, for example, by saying “have you thought about telling Grandma?  If you’d like me to help you figure out how to do that or to be there when you tell her, just let me know.”

You need permission to tell your friends.  If you’re concerned about how your friends and colleagues will react to you having an LGBT child, practice what you are going to say.  Says psychiatrist Dr. Tobkes, “ I have found that most people will react in a way that parallels the manner in which you share the news.  If you seem uncomfortable and ashamed, then they will react awkwardly, but if your share the news  with pride and comfort, they will genuinely feel happy for you.”  If your so-called “friends” make negative remarks, tune them out, and think twice about being with those with shameful feelings.



Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Teacher Appreciate Week May 7-11

Teacher Appreciation Week May 7-11

GLSEN.ORG/thankateacher)

For LGBT youth, school can be an ordeal.  They can be singled out, bullied, feel unsafe in an environment that’s supposed to be free of fear.  In fact, they may elect to miss school as much as a day per month because they are being harassed. Compared to their heterosexual peers, they use illicit drugs disproportionally, are required to attend Sex Education Classes that focus on heterosexual -only contraception or preach abstinence.  They may be scared to use the bathroom of their choice, not the ones that match their birth certificates.  Daily, they may hear “that’s so gay” and other derogatory comments hurled at them.

Yet teachers do not always address the issue of homophobia in their schools.  They may not be trained to do so.  Afraid of losing their jobs if they are outed, some LGBT teachers may not want to be considered “political” and draw attention to themselves.  However, just a few thoughtful deeds is all it takes for  a teacher to ally themselves with LGBT students, he can, for example:

Post a “safe zone” sign in school.
Seek opportunities to include LGBT people such as Michelangelo in Science class.  California is the first state to make its curriculum inclusive of LGBTQ icons and history!
Don’t assume any student is gay.
Organize or encourage district administration to arrange an in-service with a qualified youth advocate.
If the school has a Gay-Straight Alliance, he can volunteer as an Advisor.

These are just a few of the ways that teachers can show support.  PFLAG (Parents For Lesbians & Gays, and now Transgenders) has a “Safe Schools Program” in New York City that hopefully will be adopted by others.  The mission of the “Safe Schools Program” is to promote inclusion, understanding, equality, and non-violence.  To this end, its volunteer speakers help create a learning environment that respects everyone.  The volunteers of all backgrounds include straight family and friends of LGBT people as well as LGBT adults and youth.  They bring family perspective and personal stories to illustrate sexual orientation and gender identity.

PFLAG NYC visits schools throughout New York to work with teachers, parents, administrators, school staff and students to help make sure that discrimination is not present in the classroom. The program:

Addresses students, teachers, counselors, and parents about LGBT issues.
Helps LGBT students find support in understanding their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
Helps faculty and staff to understand and approach LGBT issues respectfully and accurately.
Helps parents understand LGBT issues as it relates to the developing sexuality of their children and their children’s friends and peers.
Teaches straight students, faculty, and parents to be allies.

If you are fortunate enough to have a teacher who has your child’s “back,” you are blessed.  Your child will feel protected.  Together, you, as a parent, and your child’s teacher, will act as a team with your child’s best interests at heart so he can thrive.

Be sure to tell your teacher that you appreciate him/her, not just this week, but other times as well.  They are not only influential, but spend almost as much time with your child as you do.








Sunday, April 29, 2018

Are Your LGBT Kids Mentally Healthy?


                      What Parents Can Do To Ensure They Are


May is Mental Health Awareness Month.  Do you realize that research shows that LGBT individuals are three times more likely to experience a mental health condition?  No wonder as they face health disparities linked to societal stigma, discrimination and the denial of their civil and human rights.  Discrimination against LGBT persons has been associated with high rates of psychiatric disorders, substance abuse and suicide.

However, before you throw your hands up in the air and accept that you can not do anything to buffer your children, consider these options, all intended to support your children:

Research from The Family Project at San Francisco State demonstrates that a family’s acceptance of their LGBT’s children’s sexual orientation has much to do with their children’s mental health and personal safety.  It protects against Suicide, Depression, and Substance Abuse and predicts better health and self-esteem.

For family acceptance:

You can order helpful family education booklets such as “Helping Families to Support Their LGBT Children” by Caitlin Ryan, Ph.D., ACSW from the Family Project. https://familyproject.sfsu.edu/, a research, intervention, education, and policy initiative that works to prevent health risks for LGBT children and youth.

Some parents have difficulty accepting their LGBT children’s sexual orientation due to lack of education, religious dictates, and society’s stigma.  Suggestions from other parents, LGBT adults, and a psychiatrist who happens to be gay can help you attain unconditional acceptance of their LGBT child.  The book When Your Child is Gay: What You Need To Know (Sterling, 2016) can help a parent resolve issues so they can love their LGBT child without reservation.

In terms of health, it is reported that more than one in five LGBT individuals report withholding information about their sexual practices from the doctor or another health care professional.   Over thirty percent of transgender individuals stated that they postponed or avoided medical care when they were sick or injured.  Approximately eight percent of LGB individuals and nearly twenty-seven percent of transgender individuals report being denied health care outright.

For health care:

Consult GLBT-friendly doctors:  http://www.glma.org/index
There is a fairly new app for this search: http://www.newnownext.com/qspaces-app-lgbt-doctors/03/2017/

As LGBT youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide, experience suicidal thoughts, and engage in self-harm, especially if they keep their sexuality hidden, there is an LGBT suicide Hotline: http://www.thetrevorproject.org/1-866-488-7386.  Far worse,  the suicide ideation of transsexuals is estimated at thirty-eight to as high as 65 percent.  The Trans Lifeline:  https://www.translifeline.org./1-877-565-8860.

These are just some of the things as a parent you can reference so your child is not at risk for mental and physical health problems.  You can provide your child with the comfort and stability that are crucial in leading to a positive outcome.  Let your home be a safe haven against bullying and stigma.  Send a message to your LGBT child that you are unequivocally on his side.  The statistics of mental health problems for the LGBT population is already staggering.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

But We Only Did It Once"



I remember seeing this striking headline for a Planned Parenthood ad at New York’s One Club for Art & Copy in 1979.  The print advertisement won a Gold Award.

Fast forward to 2018.  Kids are having sex younger and some self-identify as LGBT before they even get to high school. Yet their sexual practices seem just as uninformed and perhaps tinged with feelings of immortality as in 1979.

All it takes is one time for youth to acquire an infection, STD or HIV.  Despite that reality, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released staggering statistics proving that more has to be done to educate youth.  Witness:

More than 1 in 5 new HIV infections are young people between 13 and 24 years old.
Youth with HIV are least likely to be linked to care of any group.
Only 10% of high school students have been tested for H.I.V.
Nearly half (43%) of all sexually active high school students didn’t use a condom the last time.

It’s not just high school.  The Human Rights Campaign just released a new comprehensive guide for college administrators, staff, and students for better student health and wellbeing. This guide coincides with National Youth HIV and AIDS Awareness Day (NYHAAD), April 10, whose mission is to increase sensitivity about HIV/AIDS and encourage young people to adopt safer sex and lifestyle practices that include getting tested.

College youth need this important information as well because:

80% of new diagnoses occur in people between the ages of 20 and 24.
51% of young people living with HIV do not know their status.
As a group, college-age youth engage in high-risk sexual behavior after using drugs and alcohol, impairing their judgment.

Some challenges for prevention of HIV & AIDS include:

Inadequate sex education.  School could be ensuring that health curricula or materials use language and terminology appropriate for LGBT population.  HIV, STD and pregnancy prevention information should be relevant to LGBT youth, not just heterosexual youth.
The GLSEN 2013 National School Climate Survey found that fewer than 5% of LGBT students had health classes that included positive representations of LGBT-related topics.  Among Millenials surveyed in 2015, only 12% said their sex classes covered same-sex relationships.
Nevertheless, according to the CDC, between 2000 and 2014, the percentage of schools in which students are required to receive instruction on HIV prevention decreased from 64 percent to 41 percent.

Despite the unavailability of LGBT-inclusive sex education, 85% of parents surveyed by the Human Rights Campaign supported discussion of sexual orientation as part of sex education in the high school and 78% of parents of middle schoolers wanted LGBT-inclusive sexual education.

Whether schools are legally barred from teaching more inclusive sex ed. or simply ignore the needs of their students, parents need to pick up the slack and educate their own kids.

Parents should instruct their children about safe sex, the facts about STDs, including HIV and AIDS, the dangers of risky sex after too much alcohol and/or drugs.  Youth have the right to know where to facilitate access to community-based providers who have experience providing health services, including HIV/STD testing and counseling social and psychological services to LGBT youth.

As most youth get their sexual information from peers, mostly faulty, be sure to give your child, whether LGBT or cisgender, knowledge that he can use for his own wellbeing.

I


Saturday, March 31, 2018

Transgender Pain Is Visible on Trans Day of Visibility 2018


 
The career of Danica Roem, the first openly transgender woman to win election to Viriginia’s House of Delegates or the glamorous lives of Laverne Cox or Caitlyn Jenner are not typical of most transgenders.  They may be highly visible, but most transsexuals keep lower profiles. Why?
They are discriminated against by society and families and not understood by doctors who are untrained to deal with their unique issues. In this past year alone:
·      Twenty-five transgender people have been violently killed in 2017, more than during any other recorded year in the past decade. The Human Rights Commission said 84% of victims were people of color and 80% identified as female. This year, there were two deaths within forty-eight hours in New Orleans.
·      Suicide attempts are alarmingly common among transgender individuals.  According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and The Williams Institute which analyzed results from The National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 2016, forty-one percent try to kill themselves at some point in their lives, compared with 4.6% of the general public.

I once interviewed J.R. Vilari, born Jennifer Rebecca in Staten Island, New York, who told me that finding out about the concept of transgender saved his life.  He always felt mismatched with his body. He confessed that if he hadn’t known about how people like himself can actually transition from female to male, he would have probably committed suicide. Not so uncommon!

Jennifer Finney Boylan, author of She’s Not There: A Life In Two Genders ( 2013) writes in that memoir about how on Cape Breton Island, at the far northern edge, she climbed up a mountain.  It was there that she contemplated suicide in the ocean below.  But a fierce gale blowing into her body kept her from falling, blowing her backwards onto moss. 
Last month, transgenders who want to serve in the military were dealt a blow by President Trump’s ban.  Only those transgenders who are currently in the military and therefore “grandfathered” can serve.  It reminds one of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Gavin Grimm, like other students, was crestfallen when Betsy DeVos, Education Secretary, confirmed that the Education Department is no longer investigating civil rights complaints from transgender students barred from school bathrooms that match their gender identity.  DeVos said states and individual school districts should be able to determine how to accommodate transgender students.  Title IX didn’t obligate schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice, only prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.
This can be regarded as stigmatization that can result in anxiety and depression for the transgender whose sexual identity is not aligned with his birth.  Acceptance and kindness, especially by parents, can prevent the high stress levels that transsexuals have.  Make it visible every day. 
  


Thursday, March 22, 2018

John Oliver’s Marlon Bundo Is More Than A Parody



Jill Twiss’s parody of Vice President’s rabbit Marlon Bundo hippity-hopped to No. 1 on Amazon  a day before the release of Pence’s daughter Charlotte’s children’s book about their real family pet entitled Day in the Life of Vice-President.  So popular, Twiss’s book sold out in a day and 400,000 copies have been ordered for the second printing.
Touted Last Week Tonight by John Oliver, and written by staffer Jill Twiss with charming ilustrations by EG Keller, the spoof beat out ex FBI Director James Comey’s memoir and Pence’s book intended  to educate children about the position of the Vice President in the White House as viewed by the pet rabbit Marlon. The illustrations are by Second Lady Karen Pence.
The gay romance touted by Oliver is intended as a jab to Pence’s views on LGBT equality and same-sex marriage. With the Trump Administration rescinding previous LGBT gains made under Obama, Pence has been a target by LGBT activists.
In this runaway hit, Marlon Bundo falls in love with a boy bunny named Wesley.  Of course, there are obstacles in the way.  “Stinkbug,” loosely based on Pence, decrees that male bunnies can’t marry each other.  Like most children’s books, the ending is happy and the bunnies get married.  All the participants in the wedding are gay:  the official is a cat named pajama who brought her wife, there are two otters as groomsmen who hold hands. 
Proceeds of this allegory go to the LGBT suicide Hotline The Trevor Project as well as AIDS United.  Charlotte Pence’s book is donating its sales to A21, an organization that fights human trafficking as well as Tracy’s Kids which provides young cancer patients with art therapy. Says Charlotte, 24, “Oliver’s book is contributing to charities that I think we can get behind.  We have two books that support giving to charities that are about bunnies so I’m all for it, really.”  She doesn’t like the competition over the two books.  “It doesn’t have to be divisive. I think everyone can come together over Marlon.”
More than a spoof, Oliver’s book can be a learning tool for kids who may feel different, may feel thwarted by bullies, and resolve issues in the end.  It can open up dialogue about what it means to form a non-traditional family.  Studies have shown that children usually start to figure out whom they are attracted to between ages of nine and twelve, some earlier. 
It may be helpful for kids, gay or straight, to know that humans are not the only mammals who are gay.  Reports suggest that about 1500 animal species are known to practice same-sex coupling.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Who’s In Charge When A Child Comes Out?


When a child comes out, the family dynamic changes.  It’s a role reversal.  The child is perceived as being “in charge.” But you play a vital role.  Don’t “roll over and play dead.”

Your response has real impact.  A parent may feel any one or all of these reactions such as denial, shock, anger, confusion. guilt, worry, fear, shame, and loss when told of his child’s sexual orientation.  But how a parent responds matters.  The Family Acceptance Project, 2009, reports that if parents are high rejecting, particularly if they evict their child, the outcomes compared to non-LGBT children are as follows:
·      8 times more likely to commit suicide
·      6 times more likely to report high-level depression
·      3 times more likely to use illegal drugs
·      3 times more likely to have risky sex
While you may not be prepared for this important message, you can make it easier on your child (and self) by:
·      recognizing that your child must have trusted you to reveal such an important part of his self.
·      admiring the child’s self-knowledge and confidence to come out. Maybe relieved that your child felt comfortable with himself to share.
·      being proud of your child for being so open, trusting, and able to share with your parent.
·      realizing that your suspicions were accurate, thereby not constantly worrying or wondering.
·      knowing that your child no longer is harboring a secret.  This may result in improved mental health.

Like you, your child may have mixed feelings.  His reactions:
  • ·      he may be fearful of anticipated, potential or actual rejection.
  • ·      he may feel that he has disappointed you, made the family’s life harder for which he feels guilt and sorrow.
  • ·      or, he can be relieved at telling his parents.  A burden has been lifted!
  • ·      he may feel greater self-esteem, not harboring secrets and feel good about educating parents.
  • ·      he may feel healthier: his sleeping and eating habits may improve. He may have a more positive outlook.
You can support your LGBT child with the following steps:
  • ·      Identify and engage LGBT adult mentors: teacher, relative, work friend.
  • ·      If needed, seek out a LGBT-affirming therapist.
  • ·      If your child is harassed at school, tell teacher, principal, even Superintendent of Schools. Keep records of conversations and written requests.
  • ·      Safety Planning: Find “safe spaces” at school and en route to home.
  • ·      Join or form a GSA (Gender and Sexuality Alliance) at school.
  • ·      Seek out LGBT-affirming health care providers you can trust.
  • ·      Advocate for inclusive sex education in school.




Tuesday, March 6, 2018

What To Expect From PFLAG


 
Parents feel better when they realize that they are not alone and that there are parents like them who are experiencing similar thoughts, feelings and reactions to having an LGBTQ child. That’s the premise of a nationwide organization called PFLAG ( Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians & Gays, and now Transgender and Questioning).
The seed of PFLAG was founded in 1972 when Jeanne Manford marched  for equality alongside her gay activist son Morty during the Christopher Street Liberation Day.  The next year, PFLAG was founded at a local church with just twenty attendees. On March 11, 2018, PFLAG celebrates its forty-fifth anniversary of helping straight parents and LGBTQ adults. Its membership has mushroomed to 200,000 + members, with 400 chapters. PFLAG was formerly incorporated in California in 1982 and is one of the largest grassroots chapter-based networks of volunteers.
If you need support, information and answers to raising an LGBTQ child, PFLAG is a good match. If you’re nervous about attending a meeting, these guidelines will help you know what to expect before you venture forth:
·      Meetings are free, but if the meeting is in a church, for example, the President may pass a basket for a donation.  Have a $5 dollar bill or singles with you.  You don’t have to R.S.V.P. to attend a meeting.
·      To accommodate working parents, meetings are at night, once a month.
·      There are always snacks and beverages.
·      You may bring a spouse, relative, neighbor or friend.  Although LGBTQ adults are present, I don’t advise bringing your children to the same meeting as you may not feel like opening up in front of them, at least not at first.
·      The PFLAG leader always reads the purpose of the group:  “PFLAG promotes the health, well-being of LGBTQ persons, their families and friends through support, to cope with an adverse society; education, to enlighten an ill-informed public; and advocacy to end discrimination and to secure equal civil rights.”
·      Attendees introduce themselves.  The meetings are confidential.  Whatever is said remains in the room.  It is a diverse group of people: different professions, religions, income, and communities.  What they do have in common is support for those struggling with issues accepting their child’s sexual orientation.
·      The group may share announcements that PFLAG is organizing on a national level such as corporate and community outreach programs, “Stay Close” Campaign that features celebrity families speaking out for loving family relationships or local events such as PRIDE that is related to LGBTQ. To promote safety in schools, for example, PFLAG volunteers may work with teachers, principals, counselors and students to educate them about diversity and  the equal rights of LGBTQ students.
·      If there are pressing issues such as cyberbullying or questions about parenting, those present will often spend time listening and sharing any stories that they have to help those in need.
·      The meetings have in common: listening, sharing, and socializing.
·      You are not required to speak.  When I first attended, I sat with my hands folded politely and just listened.  By the third meeting, I was comfortable enough to speak.
·      There are support materials for you to take home as well as a suggested reading list.
For more information, contact PFLAG in Washington, D.C. http://www.pflag.org.202-467-8180.  Local chapters can be found on this site.  If you don’t have a chapter near you, you can always connect by phone and online.






Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Slouching Toward Equality In The Workplace



Gay workers in Connecticut, New York, and Vermont will sleep better tonight knowing that yesterday a federal appeals court in Manhattan ruled that gay employees are allowed to sue their employers over sexual orientation. 
The ruling does not apply nationwide and could be headed to the Supreme Court where possibly it could be reversed because of a history of conflicting rulings.  The decision on February 26th by the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is not unlike a ruling in Chicago in April 2017 by appeals judges.  Last year, a federal appeal court in Atlanta ruled the opposite way and the Supreme Court declined the petition.  The federal courts are split around how to interpret anti-discrimination protection under Title VII.  Does the law’s prohibition on sex discrimination in the workplace also cover sexual orientation discrimination?
Donald Zarda thinks it does. Zarda claims that his employers Altitude Express violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits employment discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex or national origin.”  
The case Zarda v. Altitude Express, 15-3775.:  Donald Zarda, a skydiver, now deceased, sued his employer Altitude Express because he said he was fired in 2010 after a customer complained about Mr. Zarda’s disclosure of his sexual orientation during a jump with a female skydiver.  Mr. Zarda died in 2015, but his family and estate have taken his claim to court.
Last April, a lower court dismissed his case, and the Second Circuit rejected his appeal because they found a distinction between sex and sex orientation. In an unusual move, his case was granted a full appeals court.
The ruling was 10-3 that sexual orientation is defined by one’s sex in relation to the sex of those to whom one is attracted; therefore, it’s impossible for an employer to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without taking sex into account. Consequently, sexual orientation discrimination is a subset of sex discrimination.
In 2015, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, responsible for enforcing Title VII, insisted that the Civil Rights Law covers sexual orientation.  The Justice Department does not share its views.  In July, the Justice Department under the Trump Administration filed an amicus brief that does not support EPOC’s position. Others like Judge Gerard Lynch advocates that Title VII should fall to Congress, not the courts.
The entire United States still does not have a policy that protects LGBTQ workers from being fired for their sexual orientation.  However, with Monday’s federal appeals court ruling siding with LGBTQ people despite Trump’s Administration’s opposition, at least the protections are making inroads.  Maybe Title VII’s arguments like Edie Windsor’s case for legalizing same-sex marriage, will prevail in the Supreme Court, and sexual orientation will be protected throughout the workplaces in the United States.      
   

Friday, February 16, 2018

Mike Pence Is On Thin Ice with Rippon

Of the fifteen LGBTQ athletes competing in the Winter Olympics, Gus Kenworthy the American freestyle skier and Adam Rippon, the American figure skater have attracted the most attention for their stances against Vice -President Mike Pence’s past voting records on LGBT rights.
Pence led the U.S. delegation at the opening of The Winter Olympics at Pyeongchang before the figure skating began. Rippon has been very vocal about LGBT rights when he’s not competing on the ice. “Being here at the Olympics does give me a louder voice.  It has given me a platform. It’s given me a voice to reach young kids.”
Rippon, who came out in 2015 during an interview with Skating magazine, says “he doesn’t want his Olympic experience to be about Mike Pence.”  Rippon’s comments about Pence refer to Pence’s 2000 congressional campaign website on which the then-candidate said he believed resources should be “directed to those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior. “  Pence’s spokesman said he wasn’t referring to conversion therapy.  Hmmm. Sure sounds like it! When Pence was Governor of Indiana, he rejected gay marriage and in 2006, he said gay couples signaled societal collapse.  He also opposed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. 
 Rippon says the feud is becoming a distraction to the games, and that he was not offered a meeting with Pence. He does not want to go with TEAM USA to the White House for he feels he would not be welcome by the current Administration. 
Pence did tweet to Rippon to “Go for the Gold!” Commentator of the Winter Olympics Johnny Weir called Rippon’s performance ” spellbinding.”  Co-commentator Tara Lipinski called him “the prince of the Olympics.”  The Bronze Medalist Rippon has been called the most fun to be interviewed by NBC.
Says witty Rippon, “my blades are sharp, but my tongue is sharper.”  Although Rippon, 28, was first place with a 87.95 score in the short-skating program, he was later beaten by Russia’s Dimitri Aliev who received a 98 score.  Rippon’s skating did not include quads so his score fall despite his clean triple axels.
Whoppi Goldberg from “The View” wrote on Huffington Post that asking Rippon to meet Pence is like “asking a Jewish person to sit down and understand where the Nazi is coming from.” However, Republicans such as Sarah Palin’s daughter, Briston and Donald Trump, Jr. defend the Vice-President.
Should Rippon as an American and U.S. Team member go to the White House?  Or should he boycott because Pence’s stance on LGBTQ rights is at odds with his own.  What do you think?