Letter to the Folks

“Amelia” over at the HuffPost‘s Gay Voices page recently published an “Open Letter to Parents.” Though it is addressed to parents in particular, it offers useful and applicable insights to any person who interacts with humankind.

She writes:

Your child might be gay.

I’m not talking about your neighbor’s kid or your cousin’s kid, and I’m not even talking about my kid (although they are certainly included). I’m talking about your kid. Your kid might be gay.

You may want to protest:

“My son doesn’t like show tunes. He likes football and Legos.”

“My daughter doesn’t play softball. She loves princess dresses and pink.”

“My son has a girlfriend.”

“My daughter has a boyfriend.”

“My child is too young to think about those things.”

Well, I am here to tell you that none of those things matter.

She makes a number of great points in this article–it’s worth a read–but I am particularly moved by her observation that our dreams and hopes for our children are important and motivating, but they cannot be allowed to overshadow or squelch who are children are in and of themselves. Hopefully we guide and nurture them as they develop, but they will always grow up to be their own individual.

I eagerly anticipate hanging out with my daughter when she is grown; I believe she will be a formidable individual, and I am positive she’s going to be good fun too!


Dreamgirl X (according to my girl)

My daughter knows her type. When we were playing with the FaceYourManga application a while back she said she was going to make a picture of her ideal girl. After careful creation this lovely gal was created.

The Dreamy Girlfriend

Dreamgirl X is definitely a variation on a couple of girls that caught my daughter’s fancy over the years.

In fact this girl looks like every doll (Barbie and otherwise) that my daughter picked out for herself between years one and three. I guess age four is when you learn from god-knows-where that you are supposed to choose dolls that look like you, not dolls you like the look of.

Interestingly, this imaginary girl also looks suspiciously like her biological dad’s long-time girlfriend. I have heard numerous declarations of how pretty, nice, affectionate, and good smelling the girlfriend is.

When I asked what this girl is like as a person she said, “she’s nice and she loves me.” That sounds like a good start to me.

Being Gay Bad for Your Health? No, but living in a bigoted society is.

A new study published in Sexual Research and Social Policy suggests that being stigmatized by a prejudiced society and enduring repeated “microaggressions” impact the health and well-being of lesbians, gays, and bisexuals. Not surprising, but always very disheartening.

The abstract for the article, “’We’d Be Free’: Narratives of Life Without Homophobia, Racism, or Sexism” (link to HTML of article) reads:

Stigma and social inequality deprive disadvantaged social groups of a sense of social well-being. Stress researchers have focused on prejudice-related events and conditions but have not described more intangible stressors experienced by sexual minorities. We use narrative methods to examine how sexual minorities experience stigma and social inequality as we focus on the more intangible stressors that are both pervasive and difficult to measure. Three themes emerged in the narratives of our ethnically diverse sample of 57 adult sexual minority women and men: (a) stigma deprived them of access to critical possibilities and opportunities; (b) stigma deprives them of safety and acceptance; and (c) despite this, the experience of stigma is also related to the adoption of a positive and collective orientation towards their stigmatized identities. Recognizing these stressors and related resilience can direct policy makers toward interventions that go even beyond eliminating prejudice by including goals to strengthen minority communities.

Obviously the most important response to this is to continue trying to change society. But what can we do for individuals who are being stigmatized right now?

How does one counteract this, especially if you have the opportunity to work with young members of the LGBT community? Are there ways to reduce susceptibility to the negative consequences? Are there coping mechanisms that can be taught?

Thus far my approach has been:*

  • instill a sense of pride of identity (going to Pride, identifying good role models, celebrating lesbianism, buying in-your-face t-shirts, etc.)
  • impart the knowledge that familial support is 100% and unconditional
  • foster a sense of positive agency – “I can make things better”
  • immerse her (as much as possible) in visibly queer environments to reduce the sense of isolation/encourage a sense of community

Yet, I too feel the hostility. I try not to convey the creeping fear and suspicion to my daughter. I want to convey confidence and a belief in our agency. Still, we have to talk honestly about prejudice and hatred, and how to handle it when we encounter it. So hard.

*If you are reading this and think that I must be making my kid gay, realize that this is her identity; she is sure, and she has committed to being out. Way out. This is how I know . . . How Do You Know for Sure?

HuffPo Article: “Lessons from Sharing the Story of my (Possibly) Gay 6-Year-Old Son”

This story “Lessons from Sharing the Story of my (Possibly) Gay 6-Year-Old Son” is simultaneously wonderful and heartbreaking. It is so fascinating (and sad) that people both cannot believe that children can know their identities from a young age.

This story is wonderful because provides additional support for the argument that if children have positive role models and understand the very real concepts of gay, straight, lesbian, queer, trans, etc. they will be able to recognize themselves from among these identities.

And thank goodness for Glee!

“Amelia” writes: “It got me thinking and after awhile I started to feel like I knew this big secret that shouldn’t be a secret at all: Every gay adult used to be a gay kid. It’s not as if all children start off as straight until some time later when someone flips the gay switch. We are who we are from the very moment we are born.”

Yes! And the fact that some (perhaps more) children are able to articulate their identities to parents who will listen to them and honor that knowledge is a testament to the fact that we may have actually made our society better than it was before. Nowadays, there is some legal protection for my child. There are pride parades for her to attend. There are t-shirts for her to buy and wear that speak her truth to the world in proud, bright colors.

I’m sorry that one of the messages from this article is just how much vitriol this poor mother has had to endure. I thank her for sharing her story, because lots of people spoke out in support of her too.

We aren’t alone.

In Her Mind’s Eye – My Daughter’s Vision of Herself

We were messing around with the Face Your Manga application and my daughter wanted to make her self portrait. I was curious about how she sees herself.

My Girl's Self Portrait

I like what she sees!

She understood the idea that she needed to make herself look an appropriate age – not too mature or overdone. I love the t-shirt she made for herself which actually says: I’m gay. I’m proud. It all wouldn’t fit in the photo, so you have to just imagine it.

Another thing that is evident in this picture is that she looks more feminine than she has in the past. This is very accurate.

When she was in third grade and new to the school the kids harassed her about her very short hair and said they couldn’t tell if she was a girl or a boy. In response to what she regarded as incredible stupidity and narrow-mindedness, our little radical cut her hair even shorter and started wearing ties. On special occasions she even wore suits and ties to school.

We have some photos of her dressed for our friends’ wedding where it is really difficult to identify her sex. She was invited by our awesome and aware friends to be an usher in their wedding. This invitation to the wedding party came with the offer that my daughter could wear whatever she wanted.

She wore a pink and green plaid dress and flowery sandals to the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner and a gray pinstripe suit to the wedding and reception. (Sometime I’ll tell the story of the lesbian bartender who worked both nights of the wedding weekend and just doted on our girl.)

My daughter look so handsome! In her gray pinstripe suit, blue shirt, and purple and blue striped tie, she was the only usher of the cadre of child-ushers to match the colors-of-the-peacock inspired wedding party outfits perfectly.

Our wonderful, aware friends helped provide her with a wonderful memory of being herself in the best fancy, looking gorgeous way. I also have to raise a note of appreciation to our neighborhood moms for helping put together the special wedding outfit. One dear friend and neighbor donated her son’s black leather dress belt and some ties. Another mom, the mother of my daughter’s arch-nemesis no less (more on him later, for sure) donated her son’s first confirmation suit(!). I love the fact that the elementary school moms in our southern, bible belt city got on board with my girl’s desire to look handsome and play with expectations of gender performance. Of course, if they weren’t the kind of people to get on board with this, they wouldn’t be our friends, right?

My girl’s desire to undermining her classmates expectations of gender performance was her mission throughout third grade. The wedding took place in June after school let out.

When fourth grade commenced playing with gender performance was done. Fourth grade was about educating her classmates about the existence of lesbians and gay men, and raising awareness about marriage inequality.

Fifth grade is about being OUT! And about the existence of lesbians and gay men, and raising awareness about marriage inequality.

I think the intensity of this fifth grade mission is evident in the serious look on the face of the self portrait, especially when coupled with the I’m-queer-I’m-here-get-used-to-it style slogan on the t-shirt.

She’s a lesbian and she’s proud.

I’m proud too.