Thursday, April 11, 2019

Beyond “The Talk”


                        

Yesterday was National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.  The purpose of this annual day (April 10) is to support youth HIV prevention by promoting school-based health education.  

However, I’m not “a day late and a dollar short,” because I believe I’m on the money about the importance of parents educating their child about safe sex, including making sure they get tested for HIV and AIDS. Many sex education programs in schools are wholly inadequate and don’t address LGBT students.

The statistics are alarming and underline the need for good education:
·      41% of HIV diagnoses occur in adolescents and young adults.
·      More youth at risk for HIV, other STDs and pregnancy. 
·      1 in 5 new HIV diagnoses were among young people 13-24. 
·      Only 9% of U.S. high school students have ever been tested for HIV.
·      Condom use among sexually active students decreased from 62% in 2007 to 54% in 2017.

According to Dr. Laura Cheever, physician and associate administrator for the HIV/AIDS Bureau at the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, nearly half of all young people living with HIV in the United States don’t know they are infected.

“Young people should get tested because people living with HIV need to be on medication so that they can live a near-normal lifespan.  Once they are on these medications, they have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to someone else,” says Dr. Cheever.

To better support parents in their efforts, here are some links:

·      Use the HIV Testing sites and Care Services locator:
         https://gettested.cdc.gov/
·      For the latest Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) data:
          https://go.usa.gov/xU9SS
·      For more in-depth information about HIV/AIDS prevention:

Parents are the best teachers and know their children better than anyone else.  Don’t leave Health Education to the schools.  Your sex education should go beyond “the birds and the bees” so your children are not misinformed.




Sunday, March 31, 2019

Coming Out as Transgender


                       


            Today is the annual event of International Transgender Day of Visibility.  Its purpose is to celebrate transgender people and raise awareness of worldwide discrimination faced by transgender people.  Prior to 2009, the only well-known transgender-centered holiday was the Transgender Day of Remembrance which mourned the murders of transgender people.  It was a sad day, and not one that celebrated and acknowledged the living transgender community members.

                        What Does Trans Mean?

            A lot of people know what it means for a person to be gay, lesbian or bisexual, but there is still confusion and misinformation out there about what it means to be trans. These misconceptions can result in misunderstanding, disrespect or disbelief.

It is not unusual for straight parents to be baffled when their children come out as transgender, someone who feels that their gender identity is at odds with their physical gender.  The “condition” is called gender dysphoria, in which a person feels that their biological gender is at odds with their emotional and psychological gender identity.

               

                        Steps Parents Can Take if Child Comes Out as Transgender
           
            If your child comes out as transgender to you, feel complimented that your child feels trusted and loved to share this important news with you.  If they felt that coming out jeopardized their safety, health or living situation, they wouldn’t be divulging their heartfelt truth about their sexual identity.

            As a parent, you may need time to accept this new information.  It can be a shock when your child tells you that they’re not who you thought they were.  Give yourself time to think about and try to understand what your child is going through.

            To make it easier on you and your child,

·      Listen to your child and talk to them about their feelings.  Be open and communicative.  Ask questions.
·      They may want to dress or behave differently.  Allow these changes.

·      See how happy your child has become once they’ve started living as the gender they feel they actually are.
·      Show your support and unconditional love.  Ask your child which gender pronouns they prefer and which name they want to use.  Binary pronouns like she and he will not work anymore.  Once someone has decided to start transitioning to the other gender, they are referred to with their new gender identity, regardless of whether you’ve speaking about them before they transitioned.  For a transgender person, they are simply being themselves and who they’ve always felt that they were.
·      You may struggle at first with new pronouns, but keep practicing and correcting yourself.
·      Make sure the school and doctor uses the correct pronouns to honor your child’s identity.

Help your child tackle gender dysphoria so they can become the gender they want to be.
·      Children who are not accepted become depressed and self-harm or attempt suicide.  You don’t want your child to be one of the 40% who tried to attempt suicide. Suicide is real.  For my book, file://localhost/When Your Child Is Gay/ What You Need to Know, I interviewed a female who transitioned to male starting with hormones in college.  He told me that if he had to stay cis-gender, he would have killed himself.
·      See your GP and ask for a referral to an expert on gender dysphoria to arrange initial assessments. 

Educate Yourself

These organizations can be of help for you and your child:

·      The Trevor Project
·      PFLAG
·      GLAAD
 

A useful book:  Gender:  Your Guide.  A Gender-friendly primer on What to Know, What to Say, What to Do in the New Gender Culture.  By Lee Airton, Ph.D. (Adams Media: 2018)



Monday, March 11, 2019

“You’re Bi What?”


                                  

            Most parents and society-at-large don’t understand bisexuality.  Sexuality is fluid, according to Freud.  For a person having a bisexual orientation, the orientation is not chosen even though the sex of the partner may be.  According to social psychologist Justin Lehmiller, Ph.D.,  author of The Psychology of Human Sexuality,  being bisexual doesn’t necessarily mean that you are equally attracted to both men and women.

            Many high school students today don’t like to be pigeonholed into binary roles.  They want to label themselves. Cornell psychologist Rich Savin-Williams, Ph.D., author of The New Gay Teenager, says, according to a new study of his, “straight people don’t exist.”   Your son or daughter may try out different orientations before one feels most comfortable.

            Yet, even from the gay and lesbian community, bisexuals experience prejudice as they do from heterosexuals. They are looked upon as sexually confused and promiscuous.  They are “on the fence” about their sexual orientation.

            While the message for your child is similar to that of a LGT child: listen, don’t try to talk him/her out of their truth, love unconditionally, there are alarming statistics re: bisexuals that you should be aware of:

·      The 2015 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey of U.S. High Students found that in the student risk behavior it examined (planning and attempting suicide), bisexual students reported the highest risk. According to The Bisexual Resource Center (BRC), 45% of bisexual women have considered or attempted suicide. 
·      Bisexuals face intense bullying and harassment and report poorer mental health outcomes than gay, lesbian or straight youth.
·      Over a third of bisexuals reported not disclosing their sexual orientation to any medical provider.
·      Young gay and bisexual males have disproportionally high rates of HIV, Syphilis, and other STDs.
·      Adolescent lesbian and bisexual females are more likely to have ever been pregnant than their heterosexual peers. 
·      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 30% of students who had sexual contact with both sexes: experienced dating violence more than heterosexual and gay students.

However, it is not a good idea to dwell on the potential negativity your child may face.  Here’s what you can do to lessen the impact:

In school:

·      Make sure there is an ally who has your child’s back.  Who knows at school of their bisexual orientation?  Are his friends accepting or bullying?  Does the school have abstinence-only sex education that doesn’t apply to non- heterosexuals? Don’t leave the sex discussions up to the school health teacher. See if the school has a GSA (Gay and Straight Alliance). 
At home:

·      Talk about protection from STIs.  It will help your child make healthy choices.  Also discuss consent of sexual relationships.
·      As most schools have inadequate sex education and many teens are too fearful to tell their doctor that they are not cis-gender, it’s up to  you, the parent to be the sex educator.
·      Provide contacts for your child of the same age who have similar experiences such as PFLAG.

According to https://rewirenews/article/2018/04/04/high-risk-resources-bisexual-kids-lack-help-need- , there are many organizations that are aimed specifically at bisexual youth.  However, The Bisexual Resource Center (BRC), in Boston, Massachusetts, America’s oldest national bisexual organization, has many resources.  This month, the BRC is celebrating its sixth annual Bisexual Health Awareness Month (#BiHealth Month) https://bihealthmonth.org/.  BRC is raising awareness about the bisexual + (bi, pansexual, fluid, queer, etc.), community’s social, economic, and health disparities, advocates for resources, and inspire actions to improve bi+ people’s well-being.  This year’s campaign will focus on bisexual + representation in media, politics, and advocacy, healthcare, and education.   








Thursday, February 28, 2019

A Discriminating Vote by Methodists


                      

This week, the delegates of the United Methodist Church gathered to take a vote on whether to reinforce a ban on gay marriage.  This second largest Protestant Church, with 12 million members world-wide voted 53-47 to discriminate against the LGBT community.

With nearly 7 million Methodists in the United States, the younger parishioners polled (six in ten) believed homosexuality should be accepted by their church.  However, the tightening of enforcement of church law was backed by a coalition of members from African nations.  No surprise there.  Africa has little tolerance for the practice of homosexuality, punishable by death, in some cases. (The strong African conservative vote against Episcopalian gay rights also led to a schism in the Episcopalian Church within the last ten years). 

“The Practice of Homosexuality Is Incompatible with Christian Teaching.”

The current church policy of the Methodists states this.  Doesn’t Christian teaching regard all individuals as worthy of God’s love?  Shouldn’t a church be welcome to everyone?  Church should not be a country club that picks its members. 

The Traditional Plan vs. The One Church Plan

In the Traditional Plan of The Methodist Church, the clergy is punished if it officiates at a same-sex wedding.  This plan won majority support in a preliminary vote this week.

In a One Church Plan, individual churches can decide for themselves whether to hire gay clergy or perform same-sex marriages.  It would eliminate church policy that says that homosexuality is incompatible with Christianity. Consequently, the clergy or the church would not be punished for going against church law.

In the future, I hope to see One Church Plans for the Methodists.  I married a Southern Methodist.  I was raised an Episcopalian, still know the service by heart, second verses of the hymns, but probably have some Methodist blood as my father’s name was John Wesley, same as the founder of Methodism.

But my blood boils thinking about how my cis-gender daughter could get married in a Methodist church, but our son could not.  It’s sinful.  If the Methodists don’t resort to the One Church Plans, we may find ourselves returning to the dark, drafty Gothic Episcopal churches that I miss anyway.



 




Sunday, February 17, 2019

It's Not About You!



                                    It’s Not About You!

In an OP-ED New York Times column entitled “It’s Not a Teenage Fad. It’s Life,” 1/09/19, author Jennifer Finney Boylan remarks that when her daughter came out, she felt as if “this person was now going to be different.  It made Jennifer think, at first, that something precious was being taken away.”

Boylan’s daughter was coming out as trans to her mother, a trans activist, who transitioned twenty years ago. Jennifer had a tougher time with her sexual identity back then.

But even if Jennifer were straight, she might have felt the same way because many parents report grief when they are told their child is LGBT.  However, in effect, parents are not losing a child.  Kids are not here to live out our version of how we want them to live their lives. 

To the contrary, being LGBT has advantages:

·      Children are happier.  They are themselves and don’t have to hide their identities.
·      With a better understanding of your child and honesty in your relationship, you can have a closer relationship.
·      It’s a compliment that your child has shared this important information with you.  It shows that he is comfortable enough to reveal this facet of his self even though he may feel that he may be disappointing you. He feels secure enough with you to come out.

However, if you, at first, regard being LGBT as a disadvantage:

·      You may want to attend a Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, now with Transgender groups) or PFLAG http://www.htttp://pflag.org. meeting at which you discuss why you think being LGBT is “lesser than” being straight even though your child is still the same person with the same attributes?
·      If you’re not comfortable with groups, see a gay-friendly therapist. You can find a psychotherapist at the Psychotherapist Association for Gender Diversity through Gaylesta  https://www.gaylesta.org.
·      Don’t think it’s a phase or choice.  It’s not going away. 
·      To integrate this new information with the concept of the child, don’t reject the child altogether.  Writes Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D., co-author of When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know ( Sterling, 2016), “it is very difficult to retract words such as “if you’re gay, you are no longer my child.  Or you can make a choice, continue to be part of this family or be gay on your own.  Even if you disapprove, you should display to your child in both words and actions that you will always love and support your daughter or son.”






Saturday, January 26, 2019

Supreme Court Bans Transgenders in the Military

On Tuesday, January 22, 2018, The Supreme Court voted 5-4 to impose a ban on Transgendered adults in the military.  But it's more complicated.  Previously, lower courts had placed injunctions on the ban, but on the 22nd, some of these injunctions were put on hold so the ban can't go into effect yet.

Nefarious History

In July, 2017, our Commander-in-Chief Trump tweeted: " our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgenders in the military would entail."  Myth:  The military, according to Christopher Ingraham of The Washington Post, July 26,2017, states that " the military spends four times as much on Viagra (even for retired military) as it would on transgender troops' medical care. Annually, the military spends 41.6 million on Viagra alone.  

One month later, The White House put out an actual policy.  Trump would return to pre-2016 era  (before Obama's policy that transgender adults could serve in the military) in which trans troops could not serve openly.  And that wasn't the only stipulation: it would also ban the military from paying for gender-affirming surgeries, with some exceptions such as "protecting the health of someone who had already begun transitioning."  It also allowed the Secretary of Defense, after consulting with the Secretary of Homeland, "some wiggle room," to decide what to do with already serving trans service members and let them advise the President on reversing the ban.

The Federal Courts halted the ban from going through, finding in part that trans service members were able to joining the military.  Starting on January 1, 2018, the military has already paid for some trans-inclusive medical services, including gender-affirming surgeries.

In March, 2018, The White House, following a Pentagon review, rescinded the previous ban.  This move was expected to ban most trans people from openly serving in the military with exceptions for people who already begun serving as trans prior to the memo and trans people "who have been "stable for three years in their biological sex prior to accession."  The Lower Courts put the ban on hold.

Some Wiggle Room?

Stanley McChrystal, a retired **** Army General, who lead the Joint Special Operations Command and NATO Forces during the War in Afghanistan, says that the ban on transgender people serving in the military is a "mistake." Kristin Beck, retired transgender Navy Seal, who has multiple Service awards, agrees.  Shane Ortega, 1st U.S.A. transgender soldier, now retired, told MSNBC that the ban perpetuates the "cycle of dehumanization."

McChrystal, Beck and Ortega all prove that transgenders in the military can be what the Pentagon calls "combat effective."  Trans troops, who stay in the closet, will have mental health issues.  It's dangerous for their service and their personal health and safety.  If they are allowed to live openly, they will perform better in the military and not feel as if they are erased.

 

Saturday, January 19, 2019

GENDA to ENDA discrimination & Ban Conversion Therapy in New York State

 New York parents will sleep better knowing that GENDA and Ban on Conversion Therapy passed the New York House and Senate on January 9, 2019.

GENDA or Gender Expression Non-Discrimination bill added gender identity and expression to the state's anti-discrimination laws as a protected class in housing, employment and public accommodations.  Legally, it declares that being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is not a disease, disorder, illness, deficiency or shortcoming.  

This passage in the Assembly (134-3) and Senate (57-4) is quite a victory for LGBT rights because since 2003, GENDA has been put forward in the New York State Legislature, but died in the Republican-controlled New York Senate.  The bill was sponsored by all new 39 Democratic senators in the new Democratic majority and was sponsored by Senator Brad Hoylman, the only openly member of the Senate.

Governor Cuomo is expected to sign this bill as well as the Conversion Therapy ban the week of January 21st.  The ban on conversion therapy would prohibit licensed therapists from trying to change a minor's sexual orientation that The Human Rights Campaign refers to as a "fraudulent practice." (For more information about conversion therapy, see my blogpost https://straightparentgaykid.blogspot.com/2018/11/you-cant-pray-gay-away.html.) Supporters said these two pieces of legislation are the most significant civil rights bills specifically impacting the state's LGBTQ community since same-sex marriage passed in 2011. 

It would be great if ALL states could have these laws, but there is no FEDERAL law against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.  Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal law that prohibits employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion.  Because there is ambiguity in the courts regarding the definition of sex, LGBT citizens are at the mercy of municipal and state law.  In over half the U.S. states, you can still expect discrimination.  Let's hope New York State will serve as a beacon for others.