Stonewall

So….DS12′s class is starting a new instructional unit this week – they’re called “Expeditions”.  He says they haven’t exactly announced it, but last year this expedition was called “Revolutionary”.  And today the 7th grade is fanning out across New York for field work to kick off the expedition.

DS’s crew is going to Stonewall Inn and (now that he’s read a bit about what that is) he’s really excited.

But


“of course, my crew, is stupidly, not mature  enough to have a conversation about it without giggling every time Mr. H said ‘gay’ …….the teacher was trying to be nice to everyone, but he should just tell them to shut the h–l up.  They’re giggling because they think gay is bad and that’s so idiotic.”

It’s actually just a couple of boys who are “not mature” in S’s eyes, but one of them is “H” who has been the bane of his existence since kindergarten, and S is so so ‘done’ with H at  this point.

I’m interested to see/hear  how the teacher and school handle kids/boys who are not able to have this discussion.  I know from experience that they won’t back off or change expedition or field work.  They might let a kid change groups, but I can’t see how that would be presented to the Principals.

Anyway, even in “liberal” New York City, even in the 21st Century, 12yo boys are still 12yo boys, and we’re not at the point where no one giggles at “gay”.  <Sigh>

For my part, I can’t wait to hear about it from DS – he’s very interested and intrigued about the trip!

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LGBT Parents: Good for One’s Character?

Does having lesbian moms—or other LGBT parents—affect one’s character? Opinions are mixed, but not just between left and right.

Iowa college student Zach Wahls, in his twice-viral video, famously said, “The sexual orientation of my parents has had zero impact on the content of my character.” And a University of Virginia study last year concluded what many other studies have found: “Regardless of their parents’ sexual orientation, how well children were adjusted was significantly associated with how warmly their parents were oriented to them.“

But Ashley Harness at Velvet Park Media raises the question of whether a gay sexual orientation can actually have an impact—a positive one—on the character of one’s children.


She imagines a homeless transgender youth adopted by a gay couple. Imagine, she writes, if this girl did a YouTube video:

She says she learned from her adoptive gay parents that love is something you spread around in excess. You color with love outside the lines that a heterosexist, racist, transphobic, classist world prescribes. She practices BEING love in the world—and people notice and ask her why.

She says it’s because she has gay parents.

Harness makes an excellent point. I’ve always urged caution when interpreting research results indicating that LGBT parents are “better” in some way. At best, we can say that there are certain areas in which, on average (but not exclusively), we tend to have strengths. But if those strengths help build our children’s characters, to Harness’ point, then we should acknowledge and celebrate that.

Harness also raises the question of whether Wahls’ video would have had the same impact had he been gay. She herself is a lesbian with lesbian moms. She had been an outspoken advocate for LGBT equality, but when she came out, she said, “I promptly stopped talking publicly about being the kid of gay parents. Nobody outright told me, but I wasn’t a politically savvy messenger for the movement anymore. I had become proof of the Religious Right’s propaganda—gayness rubs off. Gay parents make gay children.”

That right-wing view is, of course, utter nonsense. Some LGBT parents will have LGBT children, because statistically, that’s going to happen. No parent can “make” a child into a particular sexual orientation (or gender identity). The best we can do is support them in being themselves.

Harness also says that while she admires Wahls, she hopes our movement embraces a greater diversity of spokespeople, including LGBT children of LGBT parents. Even Wahls seems to feel the same way. In a piece for The Daily Beast this week, he writes that he has stopped answering questions about his own sexual orientation: “If the only question you have after listening to me defend my family is about my sexuality, I’m afraid you’ve missed my point. Whether I’m gay, straight, or bisexual, tall or short, male or female, white or black, successful go-getter or slacker, is entirely immaterial.”

My take on all this? A parent’s sexual orientation does not prescribe a child’s sexual orientation, nor does the parent’s sexual orientation in itself determine the child’s character. But living with honesty and integrity towards oneself and others, in the face of discrimination and adversity from society, takes tremendous strength of character. That’s a lesson LGBT parents can convey to our children that will definitely have a positive impact.

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LOL Moment

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I heard that a Michigan elementary school teacher took the word “gay” out of the song Deck the Halls. Apparently, he was upset that his first and second graders were giggling at the word “gay”.

But the quotes in this Huffington Post story were hilarious, especially the caroling that came out of it:

One user even incorporated a clever parody of the song’s 19th century lyrics: “See the crazy school before us/Fa la la la la, la la la la/Prejudice with a thesaurus.”

The story also caught the eye of famed sex columnist Dan Savage, who noted, “Someone had to straighten out that carol—can’t have children donning gay apparel.”

LOL! By the way, the school has decided to have the children sing the song with its original use of the word “gay.” What other LOL moments have you had? Have a good day all!

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New Standards for Same-Sex Parents, Attorneys in Custody Disputes

If you’ve been following news about LGBT parents for any length of time, you’ve probably come across at least one, if not several, examples of custody cases in which a biological parent tries to deny custody to a former same-sex partner and non-biological parent, claiming that the latter is not really a parent to the child. The long-running case of Janet Jenkins and Lisa Miller is the most well known example of the type. (In less frequent instances, a legal adoptive parent will try to do the same to the non-adoptive parent.)

To try and stop this practice, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), and NCLR’s National Family Law Advisory Council have just published a revised set of standards for attorneys and parents to adhere to in custody disputes.

The standards also offer suggestions for things same-sex couples can do to protect their families, even if they remain together—and regardless of whether they live in a state that recognizes the relationships of same-sex couples. GLAD has also posted online pledges, for both parents and attorneys to sign, affirming that they will adhere to the standards.

I’ve covered this in more detail for Keen News Service; I hope you’ll go have a read.

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Healing Hearts, Changing Hearts

It’s easy to get cynical about politics. I often tout the importance of making personal connections when trying to make change–which for me, is often about LGBT rights. It is rare, however, that I see an example of the importance of such connections as powerful as this story from RH Reality Check, by Jaime Jenett. Jenett writes from her perspective as the nonbiological mother of a critically ill child, and says, “policies designed to prevent same sex families from having legal protections took on a whole new meaning for me” after the birth of her son.

She also describes her neighbors in California, whose “Yes on Prop 8″ sticker hurt her every time she passed by. She wrote them a letter (also posted at her blog)—and got a response, not from the same neighbor, but from another Yes on 8 supporter whom they had met at a camp for children with cardiac disease.


The woman wrote, “After meeting you two and reading your blogs I’m so sorry for my stupidity. I saw the love you and Laura shared with each other and Simon. As a fellow heart mother I know whats it’s like to have a child fighting for their life. Why would I or should I deny you or Simon the same rights as me.”

You should go read the whole response at Jenett’s blog. You might want a box of tissues handy.

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College Basketball Star Talks About His Lesbian Moms

Morehead State University basketball star Kenneth Faried spoke with ESPN.com recently about the influence of his two moms, one of whom is battling lupus. It’s a touching story and well worth your time, even if ESPN isn’t your regular read.

“When they got married,” Faried said, “that showed me what commitment is all about, that there are people out there that can commit, even though for them it really has been the worst of times. I look at them, what they’ve been through and I think, ‘Wow. That’s amazing.’ They’re amazing to me.”


Notable, too, is that ESPN writer Dana O’Neil says Faried never encountered any teasing about his family while he was growing up in New Jersey, and that his moms never had to sit down and discuss issues of acceptance with him. He just accepted, without needing an explanation.

O’Neil writes of his moms: “They loved one another, they love their kids and now they love their nine grandkids. Life is only complicated if you make it that way.”

Homophobia is rampant in professional and collegiate sports, as educators like Pat Griffin have extensively documented. The fear extends to secondary schools as well, as Stuart Biegel and Sheila James Kuehl have shown in their work for UCLA’s Williams Institute.

People like Faried, however (who now lives in Kentucky, not the most gay-friendly of states), may help break down the barriers. Major kudos to ESPN as well, for publishing such a positive article.

Life is only complicated if you make it that way.

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Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

I’ve been holed up in a house with family and friends up in the Sierra Foothill Mountain area in California. I am just catching up on news and e-mail and read about the tragic shootings in Tucson. My heart and prayers go out to the victims and their families. Like everyone else, I am standing by for more information.

The U.S. State Department has announced that it will change the U.S. passport application to say “Parent” and “Parent” rather than “Mother” and “Father,” according to the Mombian blog. In somewhat related news: sex advice columnist Dan Savage and our favorite coach from Glee, Jane Lynch, recently spoke to Newsweek about being gay in the United States.

The Coffee Party is hosting a summit in Washington D.C. in light of the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC case, which made corporations individuals who can donate unlimited sums of money to political campaigns. The summit is from January 20-22.

In other events: one of our favorite local digs, the Zeum Children’s Museum in San Francisco, will open a youth-driven multimedia exhibit on February 6.  

One of the Momocrats just created this brilliant education blog, K-12 Network News.

Who couldn’t use a little help for that “time of month”? Redbook just released helpful hints on how to curve a host of menstrual ailments like bloating, cramps, fatigue and insomnia.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?

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Lesbian Moms Practice “Transformative Diplomacy” in Albania

For many of us, becoming moms means barely having time to get the laundry done, much less help establish a grassroots LGBT organization in a foreign country, assist them in passing a LGBT-inclusive national antidiscrimination law, and set up “a vibrant and active” LGBT community where none existed.

That’s exactly what Mindy R. Michels and Melissa E. Schraibman did, however, and the U.S. State Department has honored them for it. The women are two of this year’s six winners of the Secretary of State Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Overseas.

Schraibman, a U.S. Foreign Service employee, and her partner Michels helped a small group of activists in the Albanian capitol Tirana to establish the Alliance Against LGBT Discrimination (Aleanca Kunder Diskriminimit LGBT). They helped the group draft the legislation that became the non-discrimination law, organized both strategy sessions and social events, and, according to Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW), created “a social and activist network that transformed the lives of the people it reached.” Their accomplishments, said, AAFSW, ”showcase what volunteer service can achieve on behalf of transformative diplomacy.”


Creating change seems to be a family affair as well. Michels told me in an e-mail, “We’re moms to our crazy, wonderful, adorable 5-year-old boy, who had as much fun with the Albanian gay revolution as we did . . . and who was absolutely beloved by the Albanian gay activists.”

We should not only congratulate Schraibman and Michels, but also the State Department for recognizing their efforts. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been one of the strongest LGBT supporters in a senior government role—but it’s good to see her support extends to grassroots efforts like this as well as larger policy changes and diplomatic actions.

(Thanks to Liza of Liza Was Here for the tip.)

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LGBT Youth Helped by Family Acceptance

It may seem obvious to many of us: LGBT youth whose families are accepting of their LGBT identities are more likely to become happy, healthy adults, and less likely to have depression, suicide risk, substance abuse, and similar problems.

But Dr. Caitlin Ryan of the Marian Wright Edelman Institute at San Francisco State University, in a study appearing this month in the peer-reviewed Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, notes that most previous research has looked only at the negative aspects of the relationship between LGBT youth and their parents. And most health care providers, social workers, and educators who work with LGBT youth tend to serve them alone and through peer support, not by engaging their families.

Ryan and her team have provided strong evidence, however, that youth experience better outcomes when their families are involved in their lives and when they express acceptance through specific behaviors such as advocating for their children when they are teased about being LGBT.


The Family Acceptance Project (FAP) that Ryan and colleague Rafael Dìaz developed in 2001 aims to apply the results of their research. The FAP has worked with a variety of community organizations, care providers, and advocates to create culturally diverse educational materials, including a downloadable guide for parents, caregivers, and health care providers (in English and Spanish), and a video series showing the paths of an ethnically diverse group of families toward acceptance of their LGBT children. The FAP is also offering free family support services — from general information to crisis assistance — in English, Spanish, and Cantonese throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

LGBT youth have been much in the news lately because of the ills that may befall them. It is heartening to see someone not just telling them it will get better later in life, but that it can get better now, with their families—and providing tools to help them navigate the journey together.

Below, the first FAP video, “Always My Son.”

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Ladies’ Home Journal Addresses Anti-Gay Bullying

Ladies’ Home Journal, the venerable women’s magazine that launched back in 1883 and has helped define the genre, has published a major article this month on anti-gay bullying, “Gay Teens Bullied to the Point of Suicide.“ The sub-header hints at the broad range of political and religious beliefs held by LHJ readers: “It’s a shocking trend. Isn’t it time for all of us to encourage compassion and respect, no matter how we feel about homosexuality?“

It’s well worth a read, especially because writer Kenneth Miller has geared the piece to appeal even to the more conservative members of his audience. He cites experts from Minnesota, Nebraska, and Ohio, not exactly liberal bastions, as well as Warren Throckmorton, an evangelical professor who has at times advocated for helping people to overcome same-sex desires. Throckmorton is not as extreme or confrontational as many others associated with the far right, however, and in fact has developed for Christian schools an anti-bullying program based on “the Golden Rule Pledge”—treating others as we would have them treat us. An odd choice, perhaps, for those of us used to reading about bullying in more progressive contexts, but one that may carry more weight with LHJ’s audience of varied political persuasions.


Miller also cites clinical social worker Caitlin Ryan, head of the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University, who has shown that the more parents reject their children for being LGBT, the more likely the children will suffer from depression, take drugs, or attempt suicide. Conversely, the more supportive the parents are, the better the kids do. Acceptance, Ryan explains, “doesn’t necessarily mean changing your deeply held beliefs. It means finding a way to balance those beliefs with the love you have for your child.“ (For more on Ryan’s work, see my piece at 365gay.com.)

Miller succeeds here because he is not trying to convince readers that being gay is okay, or not sinful, or just another expression of human sexuality. He doesn’t opine one way or the other—but his very neutrality indicates to me that he is in fact being careful not to raise his audience’s hackles. Instead, he stays focused on the point that children are at risk, and politics and religion aside, we need to act to help them. It’s a great approach for a varied audience like that of LHJ.

I hope you’ll take a moment to sign the petition I’ve created at Change.org. and thank LHJ for publishing the piece. I imagine some readers will take offense at their support for gay youth, no matter what.

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