What parents want

momandmonie

My mom, Anna, on the left in the white dress with her sister on their way to a dance.

My mom is what you would call fierce. She is bold. Independent. Adventurous. She had me when she was considered over the hill for motherhood—28—and she did it scandalously without a husband. Even today at 72 she still walks half-marathons and is the last one on the dance floor at any party. As a young person, she lived life and made all sorts of friends from all walks of life. And when I was growing up, she had many gay friends. When some of my cousins first started to come out, my mom didn’t tolerate the snickering. She was accepting.

Yet, it took me nearly a decade to tell her that I liked women; that my friendship with the woman I had talked so much about, was more than friendship. Did I think she would reject me? No. Did I think she would get mad at me? No. Did I think our relationship would change? Maybe. I didn’t know. When I finally got the courage to tell her, in my little apartment in New Haven, Conn., she did what I never expected. She cried.

Later she would explain that, of course she loved me, but she didn’t want things to be difficult for me. She didn’t want people to treat me badly. She didn’t want for me to be alone. As a parent, her whole goal was to give me a life that was better than her own. She didn’t want my life to be harder than life already is.

Each parent reacts differently to a son or daughter coming out as gay or lesbian or bisexual or questioning. Even some of the most open-minded parents react negatively. Some are disappointed. Some are hurt. Some want someone to blame. Some blame themselves. Some are in denial and are waiting for it not to be true. But I bet that even though these don’t seem to be the most positive responses, it’s not because they have a problem with someone being gay. It’s that they don’t want their child to be gay. They see the discrimination that persists. They see the struggle for equal rights. They see their dreams of the perfect family and career for their children being more challenging to achieve or slipping away completely. Perhaps they, like my mom, just don’t want their son or daughter to struggle. Life is hard enough. And that is a big difference from being unaccepting—and it is something time and love can make better.

Here is a guide for parents of LGBTQ children by RUComingOut.com blog.

Here is a list of resources and books for parents with LGBTQ children coming out by True Colors

Loving and Hating Going Home

Exhausted, the Quinnipiac University student was finishing the last pieces of her course final that she still had two days to complete — and I was trying to help.Image

“I want to go home tomorrow,” she said, then sighed deeply just thinking about the work she’ll need to complete to get on the road a day early.

I remember that eagerness from my college days. Home is where you can find familiar scenes, favorite foods, old friends, and of course, family.

But going home is more complicated for my young friend. Since arriving at college, she has come to the conclusion that she is bi-curious and is now questioning her sexual orientation. She met many friends in the LGBTQ community that are now an important part of her life. Spending time with family means there’s a whole part of her life she isn’t going to share with them. She leaves on campus the experiences and adventures that are too difficult to tell without giving up too much information. Maybe one day. Not now.

Her parents are slightly conservative and may not understand. “I don’t want to make things more complicated,” she explains.

Right about now, many college students across the country are closing their laptops, packing their bags, locking the dorm door and heading home. But if you’re gay, or even questioning your sexual orientation, it’s a long journey back to where you were before.

The fear is real. According to one study, 50 percent of homeless gay teens surveyed said they had a negative reaction from their parents when they came out; 26 percent were kicked out of the house by their parents. How much more challenging is it for colleges students who are relying on parents for support during this transitional –and expensive—time.

Even young people who know their parents love them don’t want to put their parents through the pain of having a gay son or daughter. The uncertainty of how they will react. They don’t want to risk disrupting the family relationships. Even the mention of gay and lesbian friends brings discomfort.

What a heavy burden. I remember how free I was my first year back from college. Brimming with these knew ideas that took me far from the neighborhood where I grew up. I was so eager to talk about the different types of people who were crossing my path. I also remember never once mentioning Paola, when she came into my life a year later. She was part of my life I never shared.

So look at my young friend and I bite my tongue when I want to say that maybe they will understand. Maybe they know and just want you to tell them. Maybe they are like so many of the awesome parents of LGBTQ people who will accept you no matter what. Or maybe be it will be hard for them, but worth it. But I don’t know that, so I stay silent. Only she knows when the time is right for her.

What I can offer is a reminder that when you leave home, you have an opportunity to find new family members. They don’t replace your blood relatives. They may not be in your life forever. They are the people who understand you and who accept you. They are the people you invite to be part of your life. They are the ones who will help you as you find your footing on the path to your true identity. And when you do decide to come out, they will be there no matter what response you receive.

Some parents will never accept, and there isn’t much we can do about that but pray for them—and turn to the people we can rely on.

For those of us who want to help parents, here are some resources:

Contact the Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)

Column by Dr. Gail Gross. 

Psychology Today, “What to do when your child says ‘I’m gay.’”

“Ten Tips for the parent of a LGBT child” 

Although some of these articles refer to young people as children, it’s still offers some good advice for parents. 

UPDATE: Ellen reacts to marriage crumbling!

ImageAfter seeing a tabloid article with the headline, “Ellen and Portia Marriage Crumbles,” Ellen said:  “I was like, ‘Oh, what happened? They seemed so happy.'”

The popular talk show host responded to the ridiculousness of the article, saying that she and Portia have a great marriage. “The only thing we ever argue about is who loves who more. It really is true.” Take THAT same-sex marriage opponents!   Watch the video!

Where to spend your time online: Top 5 blogs for LGBTQ

Search for gay and lesbian blogs and what pops up most often may not what you’re in the mood to see popped up, especially if you’re looking for news or the latest cultural trends. On the upside, it’s nice to see, further down the search list, a growing number of blogs addressing LGBTQ news, politics, fashion, music and celebrities. It’s becoming a lot, especially when you don’t have the time to sift through the trash to get to the good stuff. Unless the good stuff is trashy, like the Cheney sister trash talking each other. But, for some good solid source of what’s going on in the community, here’s a list of OutConnections top five blogs:

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1. Queerty is one of the most comprehensive blogs dedicated to LGBTQ issues. The topics range from politics and news to society and culture. It is updated frequently and will often beat mainstream news sources on hot issues. Good general site to keep you up-to-date with news you need to know.

2. Towerload, dubbed a site with homosexual tendencies, is an ideal site for gay men and masculine issues. It’s smart and has a nice variety of topics, all with an edgy theme. While Queerty gives you information, Towerload gives you entertainment and news with a slice of style.

3. AfterEllen.com is for the women. Towerload is entertaining for any gender, but AfterEllen is unapologetically aimed at women. It’s fun and sexy and smart. It covers the newsmakers and the alternative fashionistas. It gives recaps of our favorite shows, and keeps us sharp with great lists, such as the Six Inspiring Queer-themed TED talks.

4. Out.com, the online companion to Out Magazine, is a great source of interesting articles and profiles. The stories are more polished and the photography more seductive than on other blogs, which makes it an appealing read–and that makes up for Out.com not being as racy as some of its competitors.

5. Huffington Post Gay Voices has a number of writers whose post range from gay and lesbian issues in culture to politics. And the blog is inclusive, writing about transgender experiences, such as in the post, Myths about Gender Confirmation Surgery.Screen shot 2013-12-10 at 9.35.40 PM

The Gay Voices blog doesn’t always hit the mark and sometimes it’s aimed at a straight audience, as with their recent post, 11 Things you always wanted to ask about lesbian sex but were too afraid to ask. Of course, it’s filled with slightly titillating answers (which is funny to me), but it’s also good to send to that creepy colleague who’s always asking weird questions. Still, the variety of voices in the blog posts, and the quality of the news provided makes it a good source for the LGBTQ community.

So what are your top 5 blogs you can count on for some solid LGBTQ news and information?

Stories are powerful

Storytelling is powerful, and it can change lives, said Academy Award-winner and gay-rights activist Dustin Lance Black to Quinnipiac audience a few weeks ago. It changed his.

“I want you to remember that power, that power to change hearts,” said Black, whose presentation was part of Quinnipiac’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History Celebration in October. “If you can change hearts, you can change minds, and if you can change minds, you can change a community. And I am telling you, you can change the world with personal stories. And guess what? You all have them.”

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His storytelling skills won him the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for the film, “Milk.” The 2008 film captured the life of Black’s personal hero Harvey Milk, the first openly gay public official in San Francisco who was assassinated in 1978.

He talked about the ways in which personal stories influenced people, like his mother. After hearing about the personal stories of his gay and lesbian friends, the stereotypes she had learned from her Mormon faith and her time in the military seem to fade, and she was able to fully accept her son for who he is.

“All of the things she learned growing up in the south, in the military growing  in the Mormon church—it was gone in one night because that’s the power of personal storytelling.”

Powerful.

He wasn’t just talking about gays and lesbians. “This is about creating a nation where diversity and difference are embraced, not just tolerated.”

He looked out at the audience and challenged them: “What is it that you have to give of yourself, of your story, that you’re willing to share and share bravely?”

“What will you give of yourself to create one America, with liberty and freedom for all, no matter who you love, no matter the color of your skin, no matter your gender, no matter what God you pray to. I am begging you to get out and share your stories today.”

I do. Will you?

Zac Brokenrope: It gets better.

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Standing in an open field with the cold barrel of a pistol in his mouth, Zac Brokenrope knew one thing for certain: he would miss the watercolor-like Nebraska skies.

Brokenrope, then a high school student, struggled with being gay and, more challenging, the brutal and sometimes physical harassment he endured from his peers when he came out. With little family support and few friends to help him cope, he pulled the trigger.

While some studies site LGBTQ youth as being more likely as their straight counterparts to commit suicide, most organizations say it’s challenging to know true statistics for a group that is often invisible.

By listening to personal stories, we can begin to understand their struggles and what we can do to make it better. Listen to what Zac has to say.

Keep’n everyone protected

This fall, students across the country will be polishing their resumes for the big job search this year. They’re out to catch that first real job after college.

At this moment, most LGBTQ fresh-faced job seekers are going out into a workforce with no protection from discrimination based on their sexual orientation. In most areas of the country, even if they were hired for the job of their dreams, they could fired just because of who they love. Or, they can suffer under harsh ridicule of fellow employees without any protection by the law.

But, theoretically, this could change this week. The Senate is set to vote on bill, Employment Nondiscrimination Act, that would ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Currently, only five states offer protection from sexual orientation in both the private and public sectors. Fourteen states protect employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation in both private and public sectors, as well as gender identity or expression.

When you live in a progressive state or in a forward-thinking community, it’s easy to wonder if this type of law is even necessary. Do people honestly discriminate against gays and lesbians?

Yes, yes they do.

Amy Kraljev was once the head volleyball coach at a university in Louisiana, until some students and parents found out she was a lesbian and complained, NPR reported. The athletic director gave her the choice to step down or be fired. Even if it gets the votes in the Senate, the bill may never pass the House to become a law, but the momentum is moving in the right direction.

When you don’t have to think about the potential problem, if it’s not going to affect you, it’s easy to think it’s not necessary. But it is. As the military learned, the LGBTQ community contributes a lot to our armed forces. It doesn’t surprise me that most Fortune-500 companies already include the LGBTQ community in their anti-descrimination policies. It’s my opinion that they contribute a great deal to every industry from the arts to technology and medicine.

The LGBTQ college students I know have worked too hard over the last four years to let someone’s bias keep them from the career opportunities they deserve or prevent us from seeing the amazing accomplishments they are going to make.