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.