So often I speak with teachers, therapists, and other allies who want to be of assistance but are stymied by the terminology — especially about the difference between gender and sexual orientation. They’re often practically desperate to ask about these things so they can interact with LGBTQ folks in a helpful way, or at least without being offensive!
Language around issues of gender and sexuality can have real impact. Many times people stifle conversation for fear of saying the wrong thing.
Caryn B. Oppenheim, with support from Safe Schools Coalition, has produced a great new guide that can help teachers, schools, gay straight-alliances, college groups and many others answer some of these questions and problems. With sections on “Fluidity, Categorization, and Vocabulary”, “Coming Out”, “Language and Homophobia”, “Intersections of Identity”, “Testimonies” and “International Perspectives” it should really help you feel more “in the know” as you work in your community. Whether you’re a parent, trying to help your child’s school get more educated about LGBTQ issues, or a gay therapist new to the terminology around gender, this guide will go a long way toward creating some shared language — maybe helping us all understand a little more.
A new study by the Family Acceptance Project supports what many of us probably already knew: That LGBTQ students who go to schools with gay-straight alliances (GSAs) — even if they never attend — are happier and more successful. They seem to have lower rates of depression, suicide and substance use. They also have more success in school and are more likely to go on to higher education. This seems to fit with the notion that when LGBTQ youth receive even a small amount of regular support or acceptance, they are healthier and happier. A previous study showed that youth whose parents made even small efforts to be more accepting were had better mental health than those who don’t.
For more information on GSA’s, see the GSA Network. This fantastic non-profit has information about how to find a GSA near you, and how to start and build one in your school!
A great interview by NPR on “Talk of the Nation” with Judy Chiasson with the Office of Human Relations, Diversity and Equity at the Los Angeles Unified School District and Eliza Byard, the executive director of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, also known as GLSEN. Listen to it here.
Two important points are made in the interview. First is that a safe school for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students is a matter of educational equality. LGBT students who are bullied at school miss more school than other students and often, therefore, miss out on important educational opportunities. The other point is that not all LGBT students require the same level of service. This is important because it emphasizes that being LGBT in itself is not a cause for intervention and resources. Problems arise from a non-supportive home or school environment and from the homophobic culture that we all live in. Youth who have supportive families, teachers and friends may only need assistance in clarifying their needs or identity, if that. Other youth may struggle with discrimination on different levels.
NPR does a good job of outlining the most important aspects of the youth experience and how some schools and organizations go about making a safer, more equal environment for all youth.
Parenting young gay men is not always easy. Between working through your own possible issues with his identity, and figuring out how to (and if to) tell the rest of the family, you still end up with concerns. All parents wish to keep their children safe, happy and healthy. Parents want their children to do more than survive, they want them to thrive. This article addresses this and the duty of all parents to provide a supportive, safe environment:
It seems that more gay teens are coming out than there were not too many years ago. Most gay guys are likely to wait until they are older, perhaps until after they have moved from home, started college or even a career, before they find the courage to share that important aspect of themselves with their family or (in some cases) even their friends. In fact, a large portion of gay men never come out to one of both of their parents, something that is frequently an issue of great
Get this sticker!
regret after a parent’s passing. A parent need not be enthusiastic about a child’s sexual orientation, whether gay or straight or somewhere in between. In fact, many of us would prefer to think of our children as totally non-sexual beings as long as possible. However, a parent does need to be supportive of a child in a number of important ways.
Read the rest at Home and Family.
And, for a beautiful, uplifting essay by a mom of a young gay man, see “My Perfect Gay Son“