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Would You Let Your Kids Play With Kids of Gay & Lesbian Parents?

2 Aug

photo by Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com

After posting a story regarding the census reports from the St. Louis area, finding that many gay and lesbian couples were raising children there, STLToday has posed the question: “Would you allow your kids to play with the kids of gay couples?”

As we’ve seen in recent stories like that of a Colorado Catholic School, or a Catholic School in Hingham, MA, children of LGBT parents are often discriminated against. So the questioned posed by the St. Louis publication is not that far a leap.

And while most readers of this blog are either LGBT themselves or allies to the LGBT community, it’s questions like this which shed light on the bigotry and hatred we face on a daily basis. You’ll find most of the comments already posted at STLToday find the very question to be offensive.

Brad Wolf commented:

“I will not allow my children to play with children of bigots because bigotry is actually a learned trait.”

Donna Savage wrote:

“why not let them play together. homosex— is not contagious.”

And Cynthia Prior added:

“I have seen first hand that many people are afraid to let there children spend the night or hang out at the home of my grandson. I’m not sure why I just know there has been an affect. Perhaps they are not sure of what there children might be exposed to or they don’t know how to explain the difference in the parents.”

While the context of Cynthia’s post was not described, and we’re not sure if her grandson is gay or if his parents are a same-sex couple, it’s clear that whether people find the question offensive or not, it’s a legitimate question that should be addressed. One commenter even mentioned that since comments could not be made anonymously, those who are homophobic are less likely to respond truthfully. Could this be true?

How interesting to see moments like this, or like the National Organization for Marriage trying to hide the names of their major donors for fear they might be seen as the bigots they are? Those who discriminate against LGBT people are afraid of receiving threats, as Anti-Gay Senator Chuck Grassley said in the recent Senate DOMA hearings. He claimed one of his potential witnesses was afraid to testify because she feared for her and her family’s safety. I know very few LGBT people who have not felt threatened at some point – and with good cause considering the violence and murder that has been a part of our everyday lives for generations.

So…would you let your kids play with kids of gay and lesbian parents? And if you’re offended by the question, ask yourself why.

WE WON (for now)! NARTH Can No Longer Provide Continuing Education in CA

26 Jul


After a quick and successful campaign and a Change.org petition started by this blog, we are very proud to announce that the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) has had their accreditation pulled.

NARTH was on a list of several hundred organizations which could have provided continuing education credits for Licensed Educational Psychologists, Marriage and Family Therapists, and Licensed Clinical Social Workers to renew their licenses. This essentially meant that NARTH could be responsible for helping to train the people who have to counsel LGBT youth and families.

For those who don’t know, NARTH is a hateful organization which provides conversion or “ex-gay” therapy for their clients. This form of therapy has been not only disproven as being effective, but many who go through it either commit or attempt suicide. As stated in the note above, this form of therapy has been debunked by  the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Counselors Association.

The organization responsible for accreditation of these groups is the California Board of Behavioral Sciences. We put in several calls and sent over 1,100 signatures to demand NARTH be removed from the list. The Sacramento News & Review reports that BBS Spokesman Russ Heimerich said that NARTH was removed from the list as of last week due to “delinquent fees.” In the meantime however, Heimerich said that the Continuing-Education approval process is on the agenda for the next board meeting in September. He also noted “We certainly do believe that there is a lot of room for improvement.”

The following statement was sent to Talk About Equality in response to our Change.org petition:

This is in response to your recent email to the Board of Behavioral Sciences (Board) in which you expressed concerns that the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) appears on the Board’s approved continuing education provider list.

California Code of Regulation, Title 16, Section’s 1887.4 through 1887.14 specifies the requirements to become a Continuing Education Provider. A Continuing Education Provider must ensure its coursework is relevant to a licensee’s practice and is related to direct or indirect patient care. The Board does not have the ability to deny any application that meets these requirements.

Board licensees are permitted to take continuing education coursework from an array of providers such as an accredited or approved school, or an association, health facility, governmental entity, educational institution, individual, or other organization that offers continuing education courses that meet that meet the law’s requirements.  Further, if a Board Continuing Education Provider approval has expired, the provider may not present a course for continuing education credit for licensees of the Board.  Our records reflect that NARTH’s provider approval expired on October 31, 2010. Accordingly, our continuing education provider list has been updated to reflect provider’s with non-expired approvals.

The Board previously identified concerns with the Continuing Education Program.  A discussion about continuing education and possible regulatory changes will be an agenda item for the Board’s September Licensing and Examination Committee meeting.  Additionally, the Board will discuss the concept of a continuing competency model at its October Policy and Advocacy meeting.  Both meetings will in Sacramento, California.  All of the Board’s meetings are public meetings. The agenda and meeting materials will be published on the Board’s website atwww.bbs.ca.gov  ten days prior to the meeting.

Thank you for contacting the Board with your concerns.

Sincerely,

Kim Madsen

Executive Officer

Openly Gay Maine Couple Crowned Prom King & Queen

30 May

A beautiful story out of southern Maine (one of only two New England States not recognizing marriage equality). 17 year-old Christian Nelsen was just crowned Sanford High School’s Prom Queen.

Christian and his boyfriend, Caleb Jett decided to put their names in the running as Prom King and Queen to change minds across their community and in their state. With the help of his friends, Christian got enough votes to win Prom Queen. Happily, his boyfriend Caleb won King. The two wore suits and proudly showed off their tiara and crown and shared a King and Queen dance.

Here’s an interesting point. This interview from WNTW News 8 mentions that while some were very happy for the results of the election, others were very unhappy. News 8 tried to interview dozens of people and those who were against it declined to comment on camera – one even said he was afraid of offending someone. How wonderful is it when those who are on the wrong side of history and humanity can acknowledge their ignorance and bigotry through their silence.

Many Congrats to Christian and Caleb and many thanks to them and their friends for doing something so courageous. Please know that your work now will make all the difference in the world to LGBT kids for generations to come.

WATCH AND SHARE: The Kids Are Listening

4 May

With the non-stop influx of social media nowadays, it takes something really special to break through and make you take more than a glance at something. And today, this little video popped up on my facebook feed and I knew I had to do more than take a glance:

I followed through to the website listed on the video and I discovered what looks to be a moving and desperately-needed campaign aimed at improving the lives of LGBTQ foster youth. This is quite clearly the most underserved portion of our community and we must do more to include these kids in our conversations around equality.

According to the campaign running The Kids Are Listening website:

The Opening Doors Project works to make life better for LGBTQ youth today. The project is dedicated to training and supporting the legal and social service professionals on the front lines to ensure that LGBTQ foster youth have the support they deserve and the rights they demand.

Through on-the-ground trainings, local task forces and comprehensive research and training material The Opening Doors Project provides the legal community with the advocacy tools they need to successfully represent LGBTQ youth in foster care.

Also on the site, you can sign up to receive more information from the campaign. The pledge you sign is also linked to the It Gets Better Project.

So many organizations and campaigns come and go and I truly hope to see more from the people who put together this stirring video. Please share the video wherever you can and visit their site to find out more.

Growing Up GLBTQ: Now There’s a Guide!

30 Mar GLBTQ--survival-guide

When I was just considering coming out, I was 18 years old. I lived with my mom on the bottom floor of a house next door to a church. Across the street was a little plaza which contained a video store. When I was home on breaks from college, I would wander through the tiny video store reading the back of every VHS tape and searching for the word “gay.” I’d tuck the bulky tapes under my coat and sneak them into my house and spend afternoons watching them while my mother was at work.

It was then I learned that others like me existed. From the beautiful Merchant Ivory film, Maurice to the campy Jeffrey, I was discovering who I was through film. It was the perfect anonymous way to do a little research. Movies like this are what made me realize that there was a community for me. As I became more confident, my friend Michael Hammond became my fairy godmother in a way. He would take me to Boston or Cambridge and we’d go see gay movies in the art houses there – we tried to catch Johns with David Arquette, but it was unfortunately sold out that evening. “Johns is sold out” then became code when Michael wanted to point out to me another person who was gay. I was beginning to discover my community.

I often think about what would have happened had I started that research when I was still in high school, but there was very little available to me that would answer the questions I had. Things have changed.


Free Spirit Publishing has published the second edition of GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Teens. This is a book I would have stolen from my library. Written by Kelly Huegel, GLBTQ is a book that NEEDS to be in every junior high and high school library. The book is thorough and could help empower so many young people who are going through their adolescence full of fear.

The book covers so many different topics, opening with the basics of figuring out who you are and moving through how to deal with homophobia, strategies for coming out – specifically figuring out if it is safe to do so and how to tell your family if it is, finding community, dating, sexual and emotional health, religion and even features some in-depth discussion for transgender teens.

The author not only offers intelligent commentary and advice for teens, but she features real-life examples. Throughout the book, you’ll find segments titled “BEEN THERE,” which feature teens’ stories of how they have dealt with the challenges mentioned in each chapter. These real-life examples help illustrate the real-life challenges kids face, and how they deal with them.

The Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has a wonderful program which sends “Safe Space Kits” to schools around the country. For only $20, you can send a kit to your high school to help educate that school’s staff and administration on how to make the school safe for LGBT students. It’s a wonderful campaign, and I can tell you that the two high schools and three junior high schools I attended have all received one. I would like to recommend to GLSEN that they find a way to include this book in their kits. And if that is not cost-effective, I would like to call on anyone who reads this, to send a copy of this book to your own school library.

GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Teens is available at Amazon for $10.87!  Please, take a moment and do an ounce of research. Find out who at your high school or junior high should receive this to make it a part of the school’s library collection and send a copy. Make sure that the kids who are growing up now have a resource. And more importantly than that – help those kids understand that there is a community for them, they have friends and people who love them unconditionally.

Being a teenager is rough. Being an LGBTQ teenager can be hell. We know this. Help make it easier and send this book back to your school.

Stonewall, LA Principal Punishes 8th Grader Wearing Gay Positive T-Shirt

21 Mar

In the ironically-named Stonewall, Louisiana, it seems the principal of DeSoto Middle School is the one who needs some schooling.

Though students are usually required to wear a uniform, eighth grader Dawn Henderson had earned the right to dress casually to school. So she sported a t-shirt that read “Some kids are gay and that’s o.k.”

Dawn had the shirt covered by a zip-up, but word still spread around until she was told by the principal that she needed to change the shirt immediately. According to Dawn, “He basically told me he thought it was a distraction…My opinion is any shirt can be distracting.”

Principal Keith Simmons couldn’t be reached for a comment as of this afternoon, but we hope to be speaking with him soon.

Meanwhile, the t-shirt is available at FCKH8.com.

An Awkward Lunch With Mrs. Mesheau: How Teachers Change the World

18 Mar

Mrs. Mesheau was the toughest teacher in the Grace Farrar Cole School in Norwell, MA. You wandered from 1st to 2nd to 3rd grade hearing stories of how horrible it would be if you wound up with Mrs. Mesheau when you got into 6th grade. Stories of strict rules, public humiliation and the “Mesheau Glare” haunted every 5th grader in the summer before that first day of 6th grade.

She was an older troll-like woman who smelled of stale cigarettes and regret. She required every student have an American Heritage Dictionary in their desk at all times with their last name emblazoned in black sharpie across the side of the book. She’d toss out random words and point at you. If you didn’t know the definition, you were required to stand up and recite the definition to the class – branding you an “idiot” for the rest of the day.

6th grade was not unlike every other grade for me – I was fairly quiet and reserved because every time I opened my mouth, someone would make fun of me. I was picked on mercilessly, thrown into thorny bushes after school and spent my recesses playing “spank the babies” with the girls (it was basically “tag” but if you got caught, you had to be spanked by the person who tagged you – wow. yeah, things were different then).

Then one day in the Spring, I was in line at the cafeteria spending my 25 cents on the little carton of milk when I smelled her behind me. Her chubby nicotined fingers wrapped around my tiny arm and she said “come with me, we’re eating in the classroom.” I immediately panicked and wondered what I’d done wrong. Sweating, I followed her.

We sat down and she said to me, “Jamie, I notice you’re not having a very good time in school. I see what the other kids do to you, how they treat you.” I nodded my head as I ripped the cellophane off the plastic half-sandwich container which concealed my peanut butter and fluff. She went on, “Don’t listen to them…they don’t really matter.” I sat in silence, still somewhat frightened that I was somehow in trouble and that I’d become another story passed-down to the 1st graders to terrify them. “I want you to know that you should be exactly who you are and be the great person I know you’re going to be.” I sat in silence.

Of course these aren’t direct quotes as I wasn’t carrying a tape recorder and my memory of 6th grade has grown somewhat misty at this point, but I do remember her telling me I was going to be a great person someday and specifically that I should be exactly who I am. I also distinctly remember her telling me to not tell anyone about our meeting because she had an image to uphold, and with a wink, she lit her cigarette and told me to go back to the cafeteria.

Teachers play such an enormous part in our young lives and tonight, when I googled Carol Mesheau, I made the sad discovery that she’d passed a few years ago at the age of 77. It makes me sad that I was never able to tell her what a difference she made in my life, but somehow, somewhere – I can’t help but imagine that she knew. I couldn’t have been the only kid she took off her mask for.

I was thinking about Mrs. Mesheau today when I received an email about the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network’s (GLSEN) Educator of the Year award. While the form they ask you to fill out asks you to talk about specific work your nominee has done for the LGBT students and such, I think the most important thing any teacher can do for a student is to let them know that they should be proud of exactly who they are.

So thank you Mrs. Mesheau, and all you educators out there who are making differences in the lives of your students, one awkward lunch at a time.

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