Monday, August 19, 2019

When School Feels Dangerous To Your LGBT Child

GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. New data from the GLSEN National School Climate Survey of LGBT students shows that although homophobic remarks and verbal harassment in schools has leveled off for the first time in a decade, nevertheless victimization, based on gender expression, has increased.

Every child deserves a safe environment in which to learn.  Yet 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.  They are more apt to miss as much as a day of school per month, according to GLSEN, because they are bullied.

What constitutes bullying?  It’s not the same as teasing.  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. 

The lazy days of summer are almost over.  The new backpacks, sharpened pencils, notebooks come shuffling into school soon.  So do the bullies who can make your child’s school year a living Hell unless you help your child prepare NOW!

What Parents Can Do: Devise A Plan Now

·      Although you want the school to be an ally in combating bullying, 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, and buses.)
·      Role play with your child.  Pretend you’re the bully and have your child develop pat answers.
·      Reverse roles.
·      Brainstorm about alternating their route home so that an adult is always present.

Psychiatrist Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D., co-author of When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know (Sterling: 2016), “assure your child that being a bullying victim is not his fault.  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 immediately if anyone is making disparaging remarks or threats.”

How Do You Get Your Child to Open Up?

·      Listen and focus on him. 
·      Emphasize that bullying should not be tolerated.
·      Let him know that his home, school, community will want to protect him.

Says Dr. Tobkes, “ parents are the most effective deterrent to bullying.  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.”

Friday, July 26, 2019

Parents Can Struggle for Years When Their LGBT Kids Come Out

According to a new important study, headed by David Huebner, PhD, MPH, associate professor of prevention and community health at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, many parents still say after two years that it is moderately or very hard for them to adjust to the news of their childrens’ coming outs. In fact, the responses from the questionnaires of 1,195 mothers and fathers with gay, lesbian or bisexual children between the ages of 10 and 25, showed that the responses were, on the average, the same for the parents who have recently learned about their child’s sexual orientation.

  The parents were asked “ How hard is it for you, knowing that your son or daughter is gay, lesbian or bisexual? on a five-point scale, with five being extremely hard.” Funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, the researchers found:

·      African American and Latino parents reported greater trouble adjusting compared to white parents;
·      Parents of older youth reported they had greater levels of difficulty compared to parents of younger children;
·      Fathers and mothers reported similar levels of difficulty as did parents of boys and girls.

  LGBT children who are not accepted at home because of their sexual orientation run the risk of depression, homelessness, suicide, substance abuse, and other health issues.  As two years or more may seem like an eternity for a family facing a strain between the parent and child, Dr. Huebner recommends that future studies examine how that adjustment process can be accelerated so kids will feel more connected to their families.

  There are many reasons for parents’ rejections: fear of their children’s being bullied, of acquiring HIV and AIDS, all covered in my bookfile://localhost/ What You Need To Know (Sterling/ 2016), co-authored with psychiatrist Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.

  Says Dr. Tobkes, “one of the most prominent reasons is denial, a defense mechanism used by individuals to cope with a reality that is perceived as threatening or damaging to one’s self-image or concept of the world.   Not surprising as the vast majority of parents don’t have expectations or wish that their child will be LGBT.  Therefore, they utilize denial in order to cope with a reality that may be perceived as a threat to their self-image or concept of the world.  Upon finding out that a child is LGBT, many parents are unable to assimilate this new data into their previously connected notion of their child’s identity and future life plan.”

              In order to come to terms with acceptance, Dr. Tobkes suggests the following:
·      Confront and break down your denial by working through your own feelings.
·      What is your baseline notion of what it means to be LGBT?
·      The most important steps for working through your denial involve having direct and honest conversations with your child and other family members, reaching out to friends and community supports for additional guidance.
·      Or seek help with a trained professional.

  The good news of the Huebner study is that this difficulty appears to decline within five years for most parents.  Huebner says most parents, even those in shock, when first learning the news, care deeply about their children and eventually do adjust.


Monday, July 15, 2019

Today Is Non-Binary Day


PRIDE month in many cities has come to a close, but not its impact.  Crowds of the non-binary population swelled the streets.  So, how do you define non-binary?

It’s an umbrella term for a person who identifies with or expresses a gender identity that is neither entirely male nor entirely female.  It’s the opposite of cisgender (attracted to the opposite sex only). 

Under this umbrella term are spokes relating to the non-binary term such as Androgynous that means identifying and/or presenting as neither specifically masculine nor feminine, gender-fluid means one who embraces fluidity of gender identity, agender is one who doesn’t identify a particular gender, gender non-conforming is one whose physical or behavioral characteristics don’t correspond to the traditional expectations of their gender, and gender-queer is one who doesn’t identify with a single-fixed gender.

                                                Not Just For Movie Stars

It’s no so unusual to be non-binary.  According to a 2018 Gallup poll, the percentage of American adults identifying as LGBT rose to 4.5% in 2017, greater than 4 percent in 2016. 

Gallup estimated that roughly ½ of those who self-identify as LGBT are bisexual.

Freud’s theory of sexuality as a continuum is being played out. Despite Freud’s theory,  many parents may be shocked if they are told that their child is bisexual.  Why?

·      Many bisexuals “pass” as straight because they are also interested in the opposite sex. Consequently, parents will hold onto the dream of their child marrying the opposite sex.
·      Like society, parents believe you have to choose one sexual orientation or the other.
·       Bisexuals are looked askance by some such as lesbians  who regard them as “half-queer” and sleeping with the enemy.
·      Others may regard bisexuals as being greedy with voracious sexual appetites being satisfied by both sexes.

So, how should a parent react?      

·      Remember that adolescence is a time of trying on different identities.

·      Your child could be bisexual and believes he is.

·      Don’t tell them to “get off the fence” and choose!  They don’t need the added pressure!

·      Recommends psychiatrist Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D., co-author of When Your Child Is Gay:  What You Need To Know ( Sterling, 2016), tell your child how pleased you are that he shared such intimate important information with you.  For example, you can say “I want you always to feel like you can talk to me about any aspect of your life without worrying that I will judge you!”

·      “Say that you love your child very much and that is what matters most,” suggests Dr. Tobkes.        


Sunday, July 7, 2019

Majority of LGBTQ Black & African American Youth Can't Relax At Home


HRC Foundation and University of Connecticut’s report “Black & African American LGBTQ Youth Report,” released last February, details the experiences of Black and African-American LGBTQ youth.  Nearly 1,700 young people, ranging in age from 13 to 17, took part in this HRC’s online 2017 LGBTQ Teen Survey.

What they shared was dismal:

·      They have heard their own family members say negative things about LGBTQ people.
·      80% usually feel depressed, down, worried, nervous or panicked.
·      Nearly half feel critical of their LGBTQ identities. 
·      90% of respondents have experienced racial discrimination.
·      Only 19% of Black and African-American youth feel completely comfortable in their households.

Many of these youth are not only dealing with sexual harassment, but also racial basis. What can parents do to lighten their children’s burden? Here are some suggestions:

·      Make your home a safe haven where your child feels accepted.  Try not to judge!  Open up discussions about other LGBT people to get your child to open up about his/her/theirs sexual identities. 
·      Ask your LGBTQ child the same questions you ask your heterosexual child:  his love interest, what’s happening with that special person.  If you have your cisgender child’s boyfriend/girlfriend to dinner, also invite your LGBTQ child’s boyfriend/girlfriend as well.
·      Don’t avoid the topic of dating and relationships.
·      Share the same information you would with family members and friends about your child being gay, including his dating life as you would with them about your straight child. 
·      Ask the child how he wants to handle letting relatives and close family friends know.
·      If you feel that having a happy child is more important than having a child who fits a certain mold you will be more likely to accept having a gay child than those who hold firmly to preconceived beliefs.

If issues are holding you back from accepting your LGBTQ child, there are more tips in Wesley C. Davidson’s and Dr. Jonathan L. Tobkes’s co-authored book http://www.WhenYourChildIsGay: What You Need To Know (Sterling: 2016)


Monday, June 24, 2019

A Middle Schooler once called “It” Helped Changed SEX Education in Arizona


Santi Ceballos, 13, from Tucson, Arizona came out as non-binary in September 2017.  Many of his former classmates called him “it” because he doesn’t identify as being male or female and is possibly transgender.  Santi uses the pronouns they and them in regards to they’s sexual identities.

In the fall of 6th grade, Santi attended Camp Born This Way for transgender, gender creative and gender non-conforming kids living in Arizona.  Santi knits and is fond of Ru Paul’s Drag Race.

However, he was not fond of being bullied at his former middle school so he transferred to another one, slightly more progressive, Paulo Freire Freedom School,  According to GLSSEN, which does climate surveys of LGBT+ school students in the United States, thirty-five percent of students who attend school in one of states with “no promo homo law” on books experienced higher levels of harassment or assault in schools.

In April, Republican Governor Ducey of Arizona signed legislation striking down the state’s “no promo homo” law (ARST5-716) that was passed in 1991.  The law was intended to prevent sex education courses from discussing sexuality that “promotes a homosexual lifestyle.”

As Santi was fed up with being singled out for one-on-one sex education since they didn’t qualify for the standard sex education classes that were divided between boys and girls.  Being pulled out of class and singled out for independent study was “horrible,” reported Santi, not to mention humiliating.

The “No promo homo” guidelines prevent LGBTQ+ students from having educational opportunities equal to those of their hetero peers, according to a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court of Arizona this past March.  The plaintiffs  claim those guidelines are unconstitutional under The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Lambda Legal, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Equality Arizona filed an appeal in response to a joint lawsuit challenging K-12 guidelines.  Santi is one of two Arizona students who signed on as lead plantiffs who claim the state’s “no promo homo” laws effectively segregated them from peers during sex education instruction with the same sex.  They want Arizona to include queer identities that they can relate to in the sex education classes.

Normally shy, Santi was so fed up with the anti-LGBTQ laws in his state, that he decided to be one of the plaintiffs who is suing the state schools’ Chief Kathy Hoffman and the State Board of Education for enforcing an Arizona law banning teachers from banning a “homosexual lifestyle” while teaching students about AIDS and HIV during sex education class.
What good is sex education if all students don’t learn about sexual practices, health and aren’t given practical knowledge?  According to recent Gay Times research, only 36% of today’s youth identify as “exclusively straight.”  “The times, they are a changin.’ “ Schools should reflect this change!  

Thursday, June 13, 2019

PRIDE Flags - More Than Decoration

                                                         Created by Daniel Quasar

June is the month associated with PRIDE.  It’s a month of readings, events, Stonewall photography, exhibits, and, of course, marches and parades.  Banners and flags unfurled everywhere, bringing the LGBTQ community together yet highlighting the differences among different groups.  But what do the colors actually signify in the different flags?

This could be a “JEOPARDY” Question.  Here’s a primer culled from “Pride Flags have common theme,” by Laurel Deppen, “The Louisville Courier Journal,”  June 5, 2019, USA TODAY, to explain the meaning and diversity of the flags:

·      The 6-striped rainbow flag was originally commissioned by Harvey Milk and made by Gilbert Baker in 1978.  It had 8 stripes:  pink for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, turquoise for magic, blue for serenity and purple for spirit.  Later, due to expense, the turquoise and pink were later eliminated after Milk’s death.
·      What do black and brown stripes mean on a rainbow flag?  The black and brown are intended as an inclusive message for LGBTQ PEOPLE OF COLOR.
·      What do the wider blue and pink stripes mean with a purple stripe in between on this flag?  The blue and pink represent the male and female genders and the purple signifies sexual attraction to both men and women. It’s a Bisexual flag.
·      Which flag has blue, pink, and WHITE?  The blue and pink represent the traditional male and female gender colors.  The White is for those who are transitioning and don’t identify with the binary gender category. It’s a Transgender Flag.
·      What does a yellow stripe denote in a flag?  Along with the traditional pink and blue, the addition of yellow means it’s a Pansexual flag intended to represent attraction to gender-non-conforming and non-binary people.
·      Which flag means Asexual?  It’s for the asexual population who don’t experience sexual attraction, demisexuals who experience sexual attraction to those they have an emotional bond with, and graysexuals who experience occasional or mild sexual attraction. Its flag has black for asexuality, a gray area between asexuality and sexuality and demisexuality, white for sexuality, and purple for community.
·      If a flag is designed with colors that don’t represent any gender, it’s an Intersex flag.  It is used in a human rights affirming community context.
·      A very colorful flag with the traditional pink and blue, purple for masculinity and femininity, black for all genders, and white for lack of gender is a Genderfluid flag.
·      Similar to the Genderfluid flag is the Genderqueer flag with its lavender stripe for androgyny, white for agender identities, and green for non-binary.
·       It’s a Nonbinary flag if it contains yellow, white, purple, and black. The yellow stripe represents gender outside of the binary.  The white signifies many genders.  Purple is for fluidity between genders.  Black denotes the agender community.
·      The flag with the most colors is the Progress Flag.  It includes 5 additional colors to the 6 common rainbow stripes:  the black and brown to represent LGBT people of color, and light blue, pink and white for the transgender flag. It’s meant to emphasize inclusion and progression.

While the colors may signify splinter grassroot groups, the flags are all intended to signify equality, human rights, diversity within the LGBTQ+ community and PRIDE.

Monday, June 3, 2019

GAY PRIDE: WHY WE CELEBRATE, Guest Post by Bryce Thompson

June is traditionally GAY PRIDE Month.  Today, Bryce Thompson, M.A., LMFT, author of the forthcoming book, Are You Man Enough?  A Call to Action Guide for Straight Fathers of a Gay Son, is writing a guest blog post on Gay Pride: Why We Celebrate!
PRIDE counters the pain, marginalization, and attempted “eraser” of nature’s diversity! PRIDE is the validation and visibility, in the light of day of the LGBTQ mosaic.  It validates and includes how the LGBTQ community has contributed to the cultural landscape and wealth of knowledge for which we ALL benefit.  It helps to inform and affirm self-worth and value.
Attending PRIDE events is an opportunity for parents of all stripes and caregivers of youth, especially self-identified or perceived “gay” youth, to be exposed to and celebrate our existence and place in the rainbow of humanity.  Just as beneficial is the exhilaration and fun that can be experienced throughout the world.
That said, I would be remiss if I didn’t make note of the “elephant in the room” of what too many people perceive through the “heterosexual” lens as “inappropriate” regarding the PRIDE parade and its outward expression of “sexuality!”  At the end of the day, it’s not so much about what a person is exposed to, it’s that discussions are happening, i.e. teaching moments that are open and not on its face negatively judged. 
Most education takes place outside the classroom and home!  To this end there are many activities/events to attend and to participate in that offer insights, history, and a variety of entertainment for all tastes and interests.  These leave the participants more enlightened and gives them memories for years to come. 
See the link below to locate a PRIDE Festival near you and to hear voices of what PRIDE means and its significance towards a better world for all.

‘ youth.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Are Your Kids Mentally Healthy?


May is Mental Health Awareness Month.  According to American Psychological Association News, March 8, 2019, “more U.S. adolescents and young adults in the late 2010's vs. mid 2000's experienced serious psychological distress, major depression or suicidal thoughts and more attempted suicide."

Anxiety and depression are on the rise and suicide is now the second leading cause of death among adolescents.  As a parent, you may think your child is fine because he doesn’t complain.  So, how do you know if your child is depressed?

Here are the signs to watch out for:

·      Inability to fall asleep or remain asleep for at least a week.
·      Loss of appetite and/or weight loss without trying to do so.
·      Feelings of extreme hopelessness and a sense of doom.
·      Inability to concentrate on work or family duties.
·      Feeling down or sad all the time.
·      No longer finding enjoyment in things or activities that you previously enjoyed.
·      Thoughts of wishing he were dead and/or actual ideas of wanting to harm himself.
·      Feeling consumed by intense worry or concern that bad things are going to happen to him or his family.
From When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know

Studies have shown that in the context of an unsupportive and homophobic environment, gay and lesbian teenagers often escape into substance abuse and other risky behaviors at a greater rate than their heterosexual counterparts.

Parents of LGBT kids can buffer their children from bullying and a hostile environment by keeping the lines of communication open. Steps you can take to be your child’s ally:

1.     Remain involved in their lives.  Ask how they feel on a daily basis.
2.     Don’t avoid topics that can make you feel uncomfortable such as safe sex, harassment at school even if it may appear that they do not want to talk.
3.     Let them know that they are loved and that they matter and that if something is wrong, there is still hope and it can get better.
4.     Seek a therapist if your child’s depression doesn’t lift.

Talking with your LGBT kids about their mental health is one of the most important conversations you’ll ever have.