The Hard Truth About Returning Home For the Holidays as an LGBT Youth

Growing up is hard for any child, but making the transition from teenager to young adult as an LGBT youth is even harder. The level of discrimination that’s allowed is absolutely ridiculous. Just when you believe that you have things under control, someone else comes in to stereotype and degrade you. But thankfully, things have gotten better for many LGBT people. We’re on TV, in newspapers, represented in the sciences, and just about anywhere else that we want to be. Hollywood has realized that unflattering portrayals of LGBT people aren’t acceptable, and that’s really improved the image of this community tremendously.

Yet there’s one part of life that hasn’t seemed to change all that much, and that would be the families that we moved away from in order to pursue work or school. When you return home for the holidays, you may have found things have changed.

LGBT Youth

For example, if you have a significant other, they may not be welcome at the house. Before you take the time to book travel accommodations, you need to have a serious talk with your family. They need to meet the people that matter in your life, but you also need to realize that you can’t force them to change. If you encourage them to open their minds a little bit, you’ll go further than condemning them for being homophobes or transphobes.

Other relatives that come down for the holidays may not be comfortable with it at all. However, we’ve found that this is the best time to educate people. All you can do is maintain the best boundaries possible. You don’t have to get into arguments for the entire holiday season. You can just stick to talking about your experiences, and let everyone else make their commentary. Some LGBTs feel that you shouldn’t have to prepare everyone for a visit from you. In a perfect world, we would certainly agree. Yet this world isn’t perfect, but we still have to live in it. When our friends went home for the first time, they tried the “surprise” approach. They had never come out in high school, and now they wanted to reveal their true selves in front of their loving parents. It didn’t end well at all, and they had to fly back to college at their expense before really participating in the holiday festivities. We think it’s sad, but that whole situation could have been prevented by a few phone calls or Skype chats. The reality is that we can’t make the whole world tolerate and accept us. There will be people that just can’t think any other way, and they will have the unfortunate distinction of being our family. [Read more…]

Dressing Up as Caitlyn Jenner For Halloween is a Terrible Idea – Here’s Why

We thought we wouldn’t have to really explain this to people, but we don’t mind educating folks on such a sensitive topic: Halloween costumes. Specifically tasteless ideas like dressing up as Caitlyn Jenner.

Far be it from us to police our fellow LGBTs: you can do what you want, when you want, how you want. Some have even told us face to face and on the hone that they feel like Caitlyn Jenner is such a hero that they want to dress up to honor her. These are all fair emotions, and we certainly don’t wish to take anything away from people that want to dress up as Jenner in order to celebrate her boldness and courage.

Caitlyn Jenner

However, we don’t live in a vacuum. This means that when you do something, everyone sees it…including the groups that won’t necessarily get what you’re trying to say. When you step out on Halloween night as Caitlyn Jenner, you’re actually sending the message that you can take on and take off an image of what it means to be LGBT. You can’t turn being transgendered on and off like that. If it were that easy to turn off, do you really think that transpeople wouldn’t look into it? Do you believe that people love being discriminated against? What saddens us even further is when gays, lesbians, and bisexuals turn around and shame transpeople, while failing to see the irony in that. The truth is that we’re all one, and we all have to share the same planet. It makes more sense to celebrate each other rather than tear each other down.

The next reason is simple: Caitlyn Jenner has access and reach that other transgendered people do not have. Consider this: does the average person just have the funds to splurge on facial reshaping and hormones? If Jenner wishes to change her genitalia, she has the funds to do so. There are homeless transyouth that would kill to even have a fraction of Jenner’s vast resources and access. And when it comes to the concept of exploring intersectionality, access matters. Access can be the difference between having a roof over your head, and being on the street because you “came out” or even worse, you were outed. [Read more…]

The Equality Fight is Far From Over, Part 2

It’s only been a little under a month since the landmark Supreme Court ruling opened the doors for same-sex marriage in all 50 states. And since then, the fires of discrimination and prejudice are still burning brightly. Oh, some people are busy talking about how a decision that affects two people they don’t even know infringes on their rights. Thankfully, we live in a country where things can’t be decided based on a majority religion.

But setting aside marriage, there are plenty of areas for us to fight for. Even if you’re not thinking about getting married yet, there are issues that affect you as you grow up, go into the workforce, and even when you start looking for suitable housing.

Equality Fight

In 29 states, you can be denied service at a hotel or another establishment, simply because of your sexual orientation. Yes, that’s right: you can get legally married, but if the hotel doesn’t want you to sleep there with your new spouse, they don’t have to allow it. This is the case even after gay marriage is now legalized in all states. Some say that it’s perfectly fine to discriminate along these lines. However, if a sign outside a hotel said “We only serve men” or “Asians only, please”, that would be absolutely unacceptable. What if there was a sign that only atheists could stay at the hotel, and Christians had to go somewhere else? Christians would take to every radio show possible to decry such a thing. Yet it’s OK to do this to gay people?

This is where people say, “Well, you choose to be this way!” We disagree with the idea that one chooses their sexual orientation. Some people are gay, some people are straight, others are bisexual, and some are transgendered. The idea that anyone would choose to visibly identify with a group that’s targeted for a wide array of discriminatory practices is absurd. Why would anyone want to risk being bullied, alienated, denied jobs, pushed out of clubs, refused services, or even viciously beaten if they could avoid it? [Read more…]

Gay Marriage Is Legal, But There’s Still Work To Do

On June 26th of this year, gay marriage became legal in all 50 states. That’s right, you read that right; every single state. So even if you live in Mississippi, you can still marry your partner. Happily ever after, right? Homophobia died on the same day that same-sex marriage became legal, right?

Of course not. In fact there are multiple county clerks around the country resigning and otherwise protesting the changes made based on their religious convictions. It is shocking that anyone in this day and age would bring their religion into a civil matter? Not really, because they do so every single day.

This is the reason why gay pride parades exist. Not necessarily because people are showing off how proud they are to be homosexual, but rather that they are fighting for the basic right of celebration and enjoyment that everyone else enjoys. No one thinks twice about a heterosexual romance movie, but sparks fly when the two love interests are of the same sex. It’s this odd taboo that we still have in this country.

gay marriage is legal

Let’s be clear about something: gay marriage is legal, but that doesn’t mean that the fight is over. Many of you are reading this while still in high school or college. So marriage might not be on the horizon, and that’s okay. Just because you can now go to the courthouse and get married doesn’t mean that you have to go out and do so. There will always be a segment of the gay community that doesn’t marry, for its own reasons. Some people feel that they don’t need legal marriage in order to have the partnership they want. Other people feel that it’s critical they get married. [Read more…]

Give Every Student The Customized Assistance They Deserve

Who says that help has to be a bad thing? These days, people talk about the educational system in such a way that makes it sound like a student is “bad” or “in trouble” if they need help. But as an American in Sweden sending her two beautiful mixed-culture children to school here in Stockholm, I realize there are many problems with this statement.

You see, I’ve had the benefit of seeing both educational systems in action, both here and back in the States. The schools here in Sweden are fantastic, and every student truly feels like they’re getting the attention they need and deserve. But no matter how much time you spend with a student, they’re bound to run into a problem that they can’t solve on their own. As a parent, watching your child be frustrated by a problem they just can’t figure out is heartbreaking.


Yet there’s another issue that comes up all too often: the student that has stellar performance, but seems a bit lost as to how to continue. That student tends to fall through the cracks far too often, because a teacher’s concern is making sure that everyone understands the material. That’s true here, as well as back in the States. The reality here is that we need to be able to address both students, yet we only have enough time to address one.

So, how do we address both problems at once? We have to start looking into private solutions, rather than trust the state school system to handle everything.

My oldest child has difficulty in figuring out what he should focus on next, and it’s caused him to be pretty indifferent about school lately. However, I looked into a private option most don’t think about or even know about: This site features professionals that actually work with students of all levels. So if your student is struggling in one or more classes, these people can help you out. Likewise if your student is passing everything with great performance, but they just need a little more challenge.

A teacher instructs a schoolgirl in a high school class

Good homework help isn’t about giving a student all of the answers, or doing it all for them. It’s about meeting the student at their level and helping them succeed. What’s great about allakando is that they go out of their way to help as many students as they can — over 5400 students a year, to be exact. If you live in a decently populated area, the teachers will come out and give private lessons directly to your students. Since we live in Stockholm, I just had a private tutor come in after school a few times a week.

Using services like this are great when you want to give your child a few additional tools they can use for success no matter what. This company has teachers for all courses, and you can meet the teachers in a public place if that would make you more comfortable. The first few times they came out, I met with them at the library. Both of my children received private teaching lessons at the library, but each child received a bit different instruction, tailored to their needs.

We all love to give gifts to our children and spoil them from time to time. This is one gift that you can shower your children with that will affect their education for many years to come. Check it out today!

Gay Marriage Comes to South Dakota – Finally!

The fight for marriage equality shouldn’t be this hard. After all, it’s not like anyone’s asking straight people to suddenly take on a gay partner forever and ever. It’s merely an acknowledgement that other people want to have the same rights that many straight people take for granted. Alas, the battle for equal rights is going to be a long and very drawn out one. But today we have some great news. A federal judge in South Dakota ruled that a ban on gay marriage is simply unconstitutional, and gay marriages must be acknowledged by the state.

This means that couples in South Dakota can finally be acknowledged as married, after all the dust clears.

We keep seeing sharp comments around news articles, questioning whether or not these announcements matter. We think that in order to answer that type of question, we have to look at the people affected by it. For a straight person, gay marriage is something that they can take or leave. It’s something that pops up in their news feeds on Facebook, or they see it when they read the morning newspaper offline. Maybe a coworker mentions something in the workplace, and a few people nod their heads. Free speech is a bit more curtailed at work, so the uptight coworker that thinks marriage should be between a man and woman only can’t necessarily voice their opinion. The trouble with creating a non hostile workplace is that you can’t police people all of the time. When you’re gay and trying to be a professional, it’s hard not to participate in these types of conversations. It’s difficult in part because there’s so much at stake.

gay marriage south dakota

When we’re talking about gay marriage, we’re actually talking about someone’s future. We’re talking about the natural inheritance rules that are limited to only a chosen set. The gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered among us don’t get to have a legally binding wedding. This means that there’s always a chance for a legal battle. How could anyone say that’s okay? What happens if one partner dies? Are you going to fight for gay rights when it’s time for the surviving life partner to take those assets and keep them for the next generation? Gay couples want to adopt children, another issue that tends to light people up. They make the argument that gays shouldn’t adopt because they can’t get married. Now gay marriage is slowly but surely being taken off the table. Now what is the excuse for not allowing gay adoptions?

We see articles that talk endlessly of the concern that children raised by gay couples will turn out to be far more dysfunctional, but no one ever stops to think about if that’s the case for the children born to straight people.

It’s a nasty double standard, and it needs to end in 2015. But you can be part of the change movement in a few small ways. [Read more…]

Support for Transgender Youth is More Important Than Ever

What does it mean to be transgender? We’ve heard it described a few different ways but one description rings in our heads the most: like being born in a bad costume that you can never, ever take off without undergoing intense pain. You know that if someone describes being transgender like that it’s time to pay attention. Unfortunately, we’re not paying attention. Being gay, lesbian, or bisexual has its share of challenges, and we’ve talked about them endlessly in the past. But what does it mean to be transgender, and why are we ignoring the problem?

We think that the conversation on transgender youth needs to definitely be out there. It’s okay to be LGBT, and that definitely includes transgender. But when you have no articles discussing your lifestyle, it’s hard to feel included at the table. We’ve read some reader feedback about this, and felt it was time to correct the situation. Since we’re not transgender, we apologize for any hurt feelings that the lack of inclusion may have caused.

Transgender Youth

Being transgender means a complex series of decisions. Do you consider yourself a male or a female? Do you want to look at gender reassignment surgery? Do you want to dress as a woman, but keep the genitals of a man? There’s no easy answer here, and there’s no wrong answer either.


As a society, we need to allow the discussion to take on more than just genitals and dresses. We also need to highlight transgendered people in the media. Laverne Cox is speaking out about transgender issues. She is an MTF transgender activist and actress who wants the world to accept transgendered people as who they are, rather than as whom the world thinks they should pretend to be. Media representation is the fastest way to increase people’s view of transgender issues, but it’s also a way that criticism creeps in. People tend to reject what they don’t understand. Unfortunately, gay and lesbian people tend to also be in that category. We have to embrace transgender people as allies, not as enemies. We’re all in the same battle. Don’t you want them to have the same freedoms that you enjoy? The “gay agenda” has enjoyed a long time in the sun, but there’s room in the sun for everyone’s issues. We don’t have to pick and choose, though it can feel that way at times. Throw in subjects of race, class, and disability, and the conversation gets even more complicated. [Read more…]

Should You be Openly Gay On Campus?

Everyone wants to fit in whether they want to admit it or not. Even though we’re a gay community, we’re not going to say that there aren’t times where we wish to fit in a lot better than we do. Even as adults, we still look back on our school days and wish that people could just accept us the way we are. Unfortunately, people aren’t always that accepting or forgiving.

As more gay youth find the courage to graduate from high school and start thinking about college, a question hangs in the air: should you be openly gay on campus? Can you be openly gay on campus without risking your entire college career?

There are plenty of openly gay students. I think the question is unfair, because not everyone wants to be openly gay. Not everyone wants to open that part of their life up to public scrutiny. You can’t expect for zero criticism to take place. Anytime you reveal that something about you is different, people are going to talk about it.

Coping with the College Crowd

College is rough because no one really teaches you how to cope. You will find your “niche” in college as long as you stand up for yourself. Don’t be afraid to be weird. Many, many college students are waking up and realizing that being against gays is wrong. There’s nothing wrong with being gay, and we need to treat it as a healthy, normal part of someone’s sexuality.

Openly Gay

The changes, in our opinion, also start from within the gay community. Pressuring someone else is come out is never okay. On the other hand, we should be encouraging to other people that want to be out, but find that they just can’t get themselves to commit to such a big change right away. If your university has a group for LGBT people, join it. If there’s a bigger group in the city where your university is located, join it! You won’t meet like minded people unless you go out there. Some gay people expect everything to be handed to them, and that’s just not the case.

We’re not saying that you’re automatically going to get along with other LGBT youth, just because you share a designation. That’s not the point of this. The point is to find people that you’re going to resonate with. Being locked up in your dorm room isn’t going to help your social life.

Should you “come out” to professors and other staff members? Not as much as you might think. For staff that will be potentially involved in social issues, it might be a good thing to “own up” to being gay. But for your run of the mill professor that is grading your papers and teaching you different subjects? It’s frankly none of their business what your sexuality is. You’re free to love whoever you want to love. The school should have a strong anti-discriminatory policy. But here’s the thing about those politics: they only work when you’re committed to speaking up. If someone is threatening you, file a complaint. Get help. Don’t just assume that your voice will be silenced because you’re gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered.

We know firsthand how tough college can be, so we’ll touch on the subject numerous times before the school year is over.

Why Attacking the CEO of Apple for Not Coming Out Is Wrong

As the iPhone 6 gets ready to launch, everyone is taking notice. But here’s something that people are taking notice of that isn’t a cell phone: Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple. He’s got big shoes to fill after Steve JobsĀ“s death, but it looks like he’s doing just fine.

Yet there’s a growing wave of concern over one issue that Tim Cook seems to avoid: talking about his sexuality. He has backed LGBT issues before, and supported Apple’s $100,000 donation to stopping Prop 8 from passing.

Tim Cook

Many LGBT activists believe that if someone is going to identify as gay, they need to be gay everywhere rather than shying away from the topic. Yet we are firm believers in one principle above all: everyone has the right to remain silent and share what they feel is public information. Tim Cook doesn’t look like he’s ashamed to be identified with LGBT issues at all.

What he looks like to us is a busy executive that really doesn’t want to have a thousand eyes poking into his private life. We can’t blame him at all for taking that stance. Pressuring him to speak about a big issue like his homosexuality isn’t kind, and it destroys the heart of what we believe here.

It’s no one’s business but yours. If you want to sing it from the rooftops, go ahead and do that. But if you want to make it more of an intimate thing that everyone knows but doesn’t hassle you about, then that’s fine too. [Read more…]

Teach Yourself Something This Summer – Why Wait

The online learning boom is here to stay, and we’re definitely glad for it. With so many LGBT youth feeling out of place in the traditional educational system, why aren’t we standing up and making our own choices? Is it fear? Is it the possibility that others will not accept that we’ve taken learning into our own hands? Don’t get us wrong: if you know that your upcoming career of choice is going to require a degree, then you should definitely reach for one. But if you’re just going to pay a lot of money for a degree that won’t serve you, why not skip it?

If you’re unfamiliar with free online courses, you might assume that they’re going to be low quality, or you won’t learn anything. But did you know that professors from MIT, Harvard, John Hopkins and other top tier schools have developed courses that are free to the public? While they will not give you college credit, they could give you some new understandings about a bunch of different subjects.

online learning

You also get the freedom of not having to show up in an environment where you’re going to be judged. Since it’s online, nobody knows that you’re gay. Of course, you can come out and talk about it but this really isn’t the venue for that type of discussion. It doesn’t really matter if you’re gay, because people aren’t concerned. They’re more concerned about showing up to get the valuable lessons they can use for their own lifelong learning journey. It’s freeing being somewhere that you can just relax, right? Absolutely!

Online learning isn’t always going to be easy. Sometimes the work might sound unclear, or you’re going to have to do more research than what you might be used to in a traditional school environment. Don’t get discouraged; see it as a challenge to branch out into subjects you don’t know much about. [Read more…]