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.

laverne-cox

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.

Codependency and Gay Youth

Do you feel like it’s impossible to actually get anything done in your life because you feel like you have to take care of other people? Does it always feel like just as you start moving forward, other people have to drag you down? Do you feel hopeless, like nothing you ever do will come out right because someone will just come along and break it? Friends, you might be dealing with codependency.

A lot of gay youth actually come from homes that are less than stellar, and that’s okay. I’m from a dysfunctional family myself. What I’ve learned is that I can’t really function unless I’m fixing the problems that other people leave in my midst. That’s a tough way to live, because it means that you’re controlling other people. Even though you might feel that they can’t take care of themselves and they require you to fix it, you really are mistaken here. See, when we step in and take over other people’s responsibilities, we’re making them dependent on that service for the long run. It’s not that they can’t function, but that they simply choose not to function very well. It makes a lot more sense to take the path of worrying about your own life.

codependency

I think that codependency strikes gay youth harder because we feel like we “have to” fix everything even more, since we’re the “weird ones”. We’re the ones in the family that “aren’t right”. This is a bad way to live, because it means that you’re basically apologizing for being gay. With every action that you do to save someone in your family, you’re apologizing for being gay.

Friends, there’s no need to apologize for being who you are. What needs to happen is that you stand up for yourself and really look at the life that you’ve created. What type of life would you really lead if you weren’t worried about what everyone thinks about you? What type of pleasure would you get out of life if you didn’t have to stop and fret about what other people do with their time? How would you feel if you could focus on your own burdens rather than feeling like you have to carry the entire world on your shoulders?

There are ways out. Try to look for a therapist that works with LGBT youth, or LGBT people in general. Regular therapists might work, but they may have a bias against you, or try to indirectly shame you for being who you are. There are lists of gay-friendly therapists in just about any city.

Remember our post about building your own gay support team? If nothing else, this is one of the biggest reasons why you need a support group around you. Because when you aren’t able to set your own boundaries, you need someone confident enough to do it for you until you develop that skill. Notice the difference: they’re not going to be propping you up forever. There will come a time where you have to spread your own wings and fly to your own rhythms. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it just means that you have to look at more than just what’s pleasant. This path can be rough, but don’t worry: we have you covered.

The next post will go more in depth to looking for LGBT youth friendly therapists. Stay tuned!

Your Gay Support Team Awaits

Trying to be a gay youth on your own, with no support group, is downright insanity. I know that most will tell you to just toughen up and go it alone but this is a bad idea for a lot of different reasons. For starters, you need to realize that if you try to go on your own, you’re just setting the scene to be disappointed. It actually makes a lot more sense to focus on building the right team. Unfortunately, chances are good that nobody’s really taught you about the type of support team that you’re supposed to actually have. You can’t just go with anyone. I hate to break it to you, but not everyone is looking out for you. Not everyone is worried about your success. You have to be able to move forward and embrace a brighter future than that. It’s okay if you’re having some second thoughts, or you’re really worried about the future. It’s just a matter of letting go and letting things unfold as they’re going to unfold.

Support

Trying to control your support team is a bad idea. Trust me, there are going to be times where your support team says something that you absolutely disagree with. You’ll hate even hearing about it, but they’re going to tell you anyway. And that’s the first step to getting a support team in place. You need to pick people who aren’t just going to agree with everything you do. That’s not support, that’s enabling. What you must do instead is to look at the type of people that are going to be able to stand up for you. We are attacked by many voices around the gay community, but that doesn’t mean that they’re right. Your support team can tell you who is worth listening to, and who is just…well, noise.

Another point that you’ll want to think about is the type of skills your support team has naturally. If they’re not really interested in helping you, then they are going to bog you down in some pretty rough ways. It’s better that you get a support team that really has the skills to lift your life up from every corner. You want to move? Having somebody in your network with a truck helps! What about when it’s time to look for a job? You want to move with people that are truly movers and shakers. Even though you might be young, there’s still a lot to think about. Just leaving it up in the air doesn’t work out at all.

Think long and hard on who you really want within your support term, and then go from there.

Bringing Gay Partners Home for the Holidays

Are you looking at trying to go home for the holidays? If you really love your family, you probably dream about a warm, comfortable evening at home with the people that matter most to you. However, in the gay community we don’t have the luxury of just assuming your families are going to accept everything about us. Unfortunately, we have to deal with the potential for major conflict.

If you’ve just recently come out as a gay person, you might struggle with the decision to go home for the holidays, let alone actually bring your gay partner with you. Whether you’re the other half of a gay couple, or a lesbian couple, or a bisexual couple, you have to think about all parties involved. Even though you might feel the urge to just bring home your special someone regardless of what your family thinks…this is the wrong idea, for many reasons. If your family is hostile to the idea of same sex relationships, they’re not going to treat your partner with the kindness, respect, and grace that they deserve. Could you really sit there while your family talks about your partner behind their back, or otherwise shuts them out of the flow of conversation?

Gay couple holding hands

I had a girlfriend for a time and we couldn’t go around her family. They made sure to let me know in no uncertain terms that I wasn’t welcome, that they didn’t approve of my relationship with their relative. That’s a hard battle to win. Sure, they might tolerate you in time but you don’t want to just have tolerance. You want to have acceptance. You want to have love as time goes on. If you’re constantly chasing some idea of acceptance by just hanging around until they break down, this isn’t a good idea either. You need to still consider that sometimes, families just don’t heal the way you want them to heal. They don’t do what you want them to do. And while you may love them, the best remedy is often to put a lot of distance between you and them.

This is the best way to make sure that you’re on the right side of the line in terms of your own sanity. Pushing a gay partner on your family as a surprise isn’t a good idea even when your family is accepting. Logistics in families is a touchy topic. There might not be enough resources to go around, and adding an extra person that wasn’t announced can be troublesome.

So where do you really go from here? You need to sit down had have a good discussion with your family several weeks before you plan to visit them. See where they are at emotionally. If they are still feeling from you revealing that you’re LGBT, and then they aren’t going to be receptive to your partner.

You may go home and find that they do not allow you and your partner to sleep in the same bed. Even though this is annoying, frustrating, and a bit outdated, the reality is that it’s your parents’ house, not your house. You cannot dictate terms to a house where you don’t live there regularly. You have to go with what they want and what they feel is best. Try to handle it politely, even though it might make you upset. Besides, just think about all of the hot gay action you can get when you’re back in your regular place!

The time is right to be open, up front, direct, and honest with your family about your lifestyle. Be prepared for questions, but really? We’re coming to the point where even the most conservative of conservatives has at least one gay friend. Times are truly changing!

Supporting a Family Member That Recently Came Out

When we’re dealing with our own issues as gay people, we can forget how important it is to support our fellow gays at every single turn. Indeed, if you’re just hoping that everything will fall into place for a gay family member that just came out of the closet, you have a lot to learn. The experience of coming out is different for everyone. If you had a great experience, then you might not realize how hard it is when others don’t have as good of an experience as you do. It’s time to make absolutely sure that you’re standing by the family member, and there’s ways to make it work.

First and foremost, you need to let them own the conversation. It’s very tempting to start teaching, or preaching, and that’s not the attitude that we need to cultivate here. You need to be the personal that goes with the flow and treats this all as very normal. Now, this doesn’t mean that you get to cut them off mid-sentence or assume that you understand all of their pain. Even though both of you are gay people, your experiences are going to be naturally different.

Supporting a Family Member

It’s going to be difficult not to make assumptions about what happened, or any type of fallout related to the issue. Some people will have a problem being this open and honest, while others will handle it very well. The way you handle it says a lot about your own skills, of course.

Are you looking to spend more time with the family member that came out? Believe it or not, they might not want to talk that much about being gray. Don’t try to force the issue or tell them about the power of counseling. If they are a grown person, they know what types of resources are out there for them. You can remind them a couple of times, but you just need to step out of their space as quickly as possible. That’s going to be the key to getting things done in a big way.

While you’re sitting here thinking about all of your plans, you might as well think some about your hope for the future as far as it relate to your relative. Do you have children that you need to include in this person’s life? Do you work together with a family member? If so, you may need to help them work through what they’re going to say at the office, if they choose to say anything at all.

Now is the perfect time to look at how you can truly be a shining member of the gay community.

The Hinterlands, An Original Musical Web Series Tackles Gay Teen Bullying

When you live in the middle of nowhere, growing up gay is pretty much the worst thing you can be.  The Hinterlands is an original musical web series about Paul, a 16-year old kid who lives in a rural area where there are few resources and little tolerance for LGBTQ kids, causing him to feel very isolated and terribly alone. Walking down the hallway at school every morning is like running a gauntlet; he is unable to avoid the insults, name-calling and physical confrontations that are launched at him, day after day, just because he’s gay. Paul begins to wonder if it’s worth it, as he doubts the bullying and suffering will ever end. He contemplates taking his own life, but comes to develop and nurture a sense of resiliency that will help him move forward in his life, despite aversion and obstacles.

Paul and his classmates have been assigned to make a mini-documentary about their lives. Through this construct, The Hinterlands allows Paul to tell his own story through a combination of iPhone self-documentation, web-cam confessions and traditional cinematography. The goal of The Hinterlands is to tell an authentic teen story from a teen perspective, so that kids can relate to the character and place themselves in the story, regardless of their own specific situation.

The Hinterlands was devised by the writing team of Michelle Elliott and Danny Larsen (CloakedThe Yellow Wood) and was directed by Brandon Ivie (A Christmas Story, First Date). The web series stars a number of establish and up and coming Broadway stars including Connor Russell (Disney’s Aladdin world premiere) as Paul, Erin Dilly (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Nice Work If You Can Get It) as his mother, John Bolton (A Christmas Story, Curtains, Spamalot) as his father and Zoe Considine (A Christmas Story) as his sister, Janie. Playing Paul’s peers at school are Caitlin Kinnunen (The Bridges of Madison County, Spring Awakening, next to normal), Daniel Quadrino (Newsies, Bye Bye Birdie), Andrew Brewer (Off-Broadway’s Cougar, The Musical and Nymph Errant) and Brianne WylieDavid Andrew Anderson (Meet John Doe) plays Gus.

The Hinterlands premieres October 28, 2013 and will be available online for FREE for kids across the country, along with resources and information for kids, parents and teachers who are confronting bullying. Watch the trailer below:

Weary of Bullies – Stand Up to Them

Bullying is a problem that exists in virtually every single school. In fact, we can’t think of a school that doesn’t have a bullying problem. Of course, statistics can be brought in and said that some schools have less of a problem with bullying than other schools. But the truth is that you definitely still have a problem with bullies. You definitely still have to figure out how to deal with bullies. You can’t just hope and pray that everything is going to be all right. You have to make sure that you know what’s going on all the time, not just when you think everything’s okay. There’s no time like the present to really make sure that you have things covered.

You have to think about the bigger picture no matter what you do. You can’t get worked up about the bullying if you’re part of it. Are you lashing out at people that don’t agree with you? I know it’s not fair, but we can’t afford fair when we’re the ones that are “different”. We have to show that we’re willing to be more than tolerant of other people’s beliefs. We have to show that we’re willing to take the conversation to a higher level. Attitudes about gay marriage are changing, slowly but surely. DOMA being struck down was a major victory for us, but we still have some roads to walk down before we can really feel equal in the eyes of others. That’s the problem, isn’t it? We’re trying to show that we’re just as good as anyone else. This has positive and negative implications.
You have to think about how to stand up to bullies in your life. You’re not going to be the only person bullied. Far too often we forget that bullying affects everyone.

Bullying

If you really want to put an end to the bullies in your life, you have to stand up for yourself. This can be tough when you feel like it’s only going to make it worse. But what you may fail to realize is that if you don’t stand up to them, they’re going to keep trying to hurt you. They know that their words are getting to you, so guess what you’re going to get in return? More words, more anger, more hurt and more pain.

Bullies have often been bullied themselves. In essence, they’re trying to seek power. Plain and simple. They’re trying to get into a world where they can’t seem to get things moving in the right direction. They’re hurting and they want to try to figure out how to make the pain go away. It’s the way it is.

Pain begets more pain, more misery, more sickness, more sadness. It’s the way it is. Just when you think that you’re going to be spared, there’s more pain involved. It’s hurtful. But somewhere down deep, you will find a courage within to stand up to the bullies. Once you cut off their power, bullies realize that they have to go somewhere else. There’s nothing like waking up to a world where you have resources to deal with issues. It can hurt dealing with people that want to see you suffer, but that’s part of life.

We can’t shrink away from bullies. Although we’re writing for gay teens, we are past the teenager stage…and guess what? There are still bullies. Standing up to them isn’t easy, but they’re everywhere. And they can tell whether you’ll fight them or not. The small abuses you put up with today can easily morph into bigger issues that you’ll need to face later down the road. The more that you focus on this, the more likely it is that you’ll get the type of resolution that you’re really looking for. Good luck!

Leave Your Worries Behind – You Have More Allies Than You Thin

The world of a gay teen can be pretty stressful if we really think about it. You have so many different emotions going on at once. You want to be accepted, you want to be liked, you want to have friends, you want to make sure that you have people that you can rely on and trust. But there are times where the life of a gay teen turns dark, to the point where we worry about your safety. How are you doing? Are you worried right now? Are you stressed out? Do you find that your life has taken a very dark turn? It’s okay to admit it if it has. There are plenty of gay teens that are dealing with abandonment and separation. There are plenty of gay teens that are doing with a feeling of hopelessness. There are plenty of gay teens that wonder what it would be like if someone actually just accepted them for who they are, rather than having to play a game where they wear multiple masks just to get along. There are a lot of stressors involved in the world of being a gay teen, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. That doesn’t mean that you have to give up on just about anything and everything that comes your way.

You can wake up to a better world, a brighter world, a world filled with action. You just need to make sure that you’re looking at the bigger picture from start to finish. You have to make sure that you’re focusing on something more than just pain. There are a lot of more allies out there than you think.

DOMA

If you look at Hollywood, you can see that our side is getting a lot more attention. DOMA has just been struck down, which is definitely a good thing. You also have plenty of gay representation in the media. Glee, anyone? Ellen, anyone? Elton John, anyone?

It’s not just about that, of course. We have plenty of gay representation on our side, but more to the point, we now have people that are coming out and telling people that it’s okay to be gay. Lots of straight people are embracing our cause, and that’s definitely a good thing. You have tons and tons of fans that are now saying how wonderful it is to express exactly who you are. You shouldn’t have to run from it, and people that can’t deal with it are just going to have to figure it out.

It’s on them. They’re the ones that are missing out on how awesome you are. If you don’t stand up to them, they will continue to believe that they can walk over people at will. Think about that!

Know Your Rights at School – Always!

Going back to school has never been such a transitional time in a gay teen’s life the way it is now. Just because you get all of your school supplies and your backup doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily ready for school. You need to know the rights you have at school, and you need to make sure that you’re getting your rights upheld at all times.

You see, it’s all about fighting for what’s right, not just taking whatever’s told to you. Every school has a Handbook with the obligations that every student must be bound by. Reading it can give you insight into how things are handled. You also want to make sure that you’re making school officials aware of any problems that you’re having. This isn’t just a nice sentiment — so many abusive statements and actions against gay teens occur because no one knows about it. You are going to deal with some teachers that may turn the other way because you’re gay, but you can’t worry about that. You have to keep fighting for yourself until you find a teacher that will back you up. You also need to realize the chain of power in your school. Just because a few teachers don’t get along well with you doesn’t mean that you have no allies or that no one will speak up for you.

Going back to school

If you can actually check out who’s on your side, you’ll get more insight. Don’t rush to getting angry every time someone says something nasty to you. It’s not easy to deal with, and we’re definitely not trying to downplay your emotions. But when you make yourself open to what they have to say, you’re letting the negativity in. There are straight people that are bullied as well. Bullying is a big issue for teens in general, and it can be downright nasty. You just need to focus more on the bigger picture ahead of you.

Why would you ever want to stop fighting for your rights? We’re not saying to stop at all, here. We’re saying that you need to avoid getting soaked in negativity. When people are attacking you, a firm order to stop is the way to go. If they escalate the situation, then you need to make sure that you get someone in a position of authority on the case. You can’t try to fight all of the battles and expect to win. Why not think about where you’re going next? You will definitely have a better chance at getting people over to your side, when you know the rights that you are supposed to have in the first place.

Realize that the school environment means that your rights may be a bit different than what you expect. For example, you’re not being singled out if everyone else is subject to random locker searchers, but you may be singled out if no one else has gotten searched but you have. It’s a thin line, but it’s a distinction that matters.

Make sure that you really look into this type of thing. It’s easy to say you will, but it’s also easy to back down and accept whatever slop people are trying to serve you. Fight back in style!