Some Interesting Facts to Celebrate Pride Month

June is Pride month. Every year, the LGBT+ community celebrates solidarity through various events. Here are some interesting facts about Pride:

  • The month of June is significant due to the Stonewall Riots; a 1969 movement that resulted after the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in NYC, was raided by police. For 6 days, protestors sent out the message that LGBT+ people needed to be able to establish places in which they could be open about their sexual orientation without fear of being arrested.
  • Brenda Howard, also known as the “Mother of Pride,” organized Gay Pride Week a year after the Stonewall Riots. Part of Pride Week included the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade, now known as NYC Pride March.
  • The rainbow gay pride flag was designed by Gilbert Baker who was commissioned to design a symbol that was all encompassing. It was flown for the first time at the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade, on June 25, 1978. It has since become a universal symbol throughout the world.
  • It was during Pride week that on June 26, 2015, The U.S. Supreme Court makes same-sex marriages legal in all 50 US states. Same-sex marriage in Canada was legally recognized nationwide with the enactment of the Civil Marriage Act on July 20, 2005.

Pride is a movement that celebrates sexual diversity while promoting equal rights; it also helps to create social awareness of the importance of inclusivity. It is a way for all people to support those in the LGBT+ community – not only because it is kind and generous to do so, but also because there we find our sons and daughters, our grandkids, our friends and coworkers, our families. Heart emoji.

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A Short Clip on Transitioning

In a short clip entitled, “You are beautiful.” How this transgender woman found the courage to transition” featuring Maya Henry and found on CBC Docs, we meet Maya, a young woman who talks about what it felt like before and after her transition. Here are some key quotes:

“I always knew I was different. I just didn’t know how to describe it.”

“It felt like I could be who I wanted to be at home. With my sisters, I was one person, but then going to school, I had to be another person.”

“Everyone wants to be accepted. Everyone wants to feel like they are a part of the community.”

“The feeling of being other, of being isolated, of being different, made me hate myself.”

Listening to Maya’s experience before she made the decision to transition, reminds us that her statements, which reflect her inner experience, are actually quite universal to anyone who feels different, who struggles to feel accepted. We are a relationship species, which includes the families and communities we belong to. Maya makes the decision to transition after attending a Pride parade, where she noted that someone was able to look into her eyes and see who she really was – that acceptance became a piece of her courage. After transitioning, Maya states:

“I don’t want the most interesting thing about me to be that I am transgender. We just need society to reach a place where its no longer a spectacle.”

“I almost can’t remember that feeling of isolation. I feel like life now is so much better.”

Another lovely universal statement that reflects the sentiment of so many people who reach their truth and begin to live it.

To watch the 5 minute segment: https://www.cbc.ca/documentarychannel/docs/how-this-transgender-teen-found-the-courage-to-transition

To subscribe to Maya Henry’s you tube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCf0CRezZYOUcvqrdMmozowQ

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Photo credit: http://Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

How Adults Can Make a Difference to an LGBTQ Youth

In an article entitled, “Just one supportive adult cuts the chance an LGBTQ youth will attempt suicide by 40%” written by Gwendolyn Smith and featured on LGBTQNATION, we learn that:

“Suicide is the second leading cause of death amongst young people, and LGBTQ youth are four times more likely to consider, plan for, and attempt suicide than their non-LGBTQ peers.”

Four times more likely. That is a frightening reality for our LGBTQ youth and one that can be avoided. We know the reality of being supported; when we feel validated for our feelings, and know that someone will love us unconditionally for who we are, we feel the strength of that foundation. It gives us the freedom to move forward despite our fears.

The article also talks about the fact that although the parent of an LGBTQ youth is the ideal person for that role, any adult in a youth’s life will make a difference:

“While past studies have focused on the importance of parents who accept their LGBTQ children, this new report goes farther, finding out that any supportive adult can make a difference. Just over 27% reported who did not have a supportive adult in their live reported an attempted suicide in the last year, compared to just 17% among those who did have adult acceptance.”

Adult acceptance. It really is that simple. If you have an LGBTQ youth in your life, find ways to voice and show your support. Let them know that they are not alone, as you walk beside them. 🙂

To read the full article: https://www.lgbtqnation.com/2019/07/just-one-supportive-adult-cuts-chance-lgbtq-youth-will-attempt-suicide-40/

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Love Lives Here; A Worthy Read

One of the books I read on vacation was “Love Lives Here: A Story of Thriving in a Transgender Family” by Amanda Jette Knox. Knox’s overall theme that runs throughout the memoir is to ‘lead with love;’ a message that comes to pass in countless ways as her family shifts to embrace two trans people within their fold.

An interesting fact from its pages include:

“This extremely vulnerable population (trans youth) carries high rates of depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide. Trans kids are more likely to face discrimination, harassment, bullying and assault. LGBTQ young people are disproportionately represented in the homeless population, finish high school less often and have a harder time finding work.”

From Knox’s experience:

“I didn’t know what it felt like to be trans, but I did know what it was like to go through a lot of the same issues: self-harm, suicidal ideation, depression, anxiety, harassment, bullying and assault……… I knew what it was like to not be accepted by those around you, even if for different reasons.”

How Alexis (Amanda’s daughter) coped with the judgement of people around her:

“Alexis learned she could enter any space as if she belonged there, regardless of how people treated her. She learned to expect respect, even if others aren’t willing to give it easily. As someone who would likely face discrimination throughout her life, she needed this critical lesson. I wanted her to know that her worth comes from within, and not how others might value her.”

“Love Lives Here” is an honest story that aims to help shed the stigma associated to a marginalized community. Knox weaves the reader through not only her daughter’s transition, but also of her wife’s and the unique challenges they faced. By the end of its pages, one thing is clear – when we ‘lead with love,’ it carries with it courage and faith.

“Love Lives Here” is a worthy read.

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A Children’s Book That Brings Gender-Questioning to Light

Jessica Love is the author and illustrator of “Julian is a Mermaid,” a children’s book about a gender-questioning child who finds acceptance from his grandmother. In PinkNews‘s article “Trans Kids’ book ‘Julian is a Mermaid’ is winning hearts and awards” by Josh Jackman, we read about Jessica’s labour of love.

Love notes that she wrote the book based on some conversations she had with a friend who transitioned in his 50’s due to pushback he had as a child when questioning his gender. She chose to feature mermaids as they have become symbolic to transgender people and their allies.

‘Julian is a Mermaid’ has won the 2019 Stonewall Book Award and has been nominated for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize.

Having this book in our children’s library promotes an open and inclusive attitude; it also allows any child who might be gender-questioning the opportunity to feel accepted and validated.

To read the full article: https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2019/02/17/trans-kids-book-julian-is-a-mermaid-awards/

To check out the book: https://www.amazon.ca/Julián-Mermaid-Jessica-Love/dp/0763690457/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3SZM2VE1A3HSL&keywords=julian+is+a+mermaid&qid=1577618281&s=books&sprefix=julian+i%2Caps%2C172&sr=1-1

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Being an Ally to the LGBTQ2+ Community

This is what Frommer’s had to say about travelling to Jamaica if you’re gay:

“Jamaica is the most homophobic island in the Caribbean, with harsh anti-gay laws, even though there’s a large local gay population. If you’re desiring a trip to get some sun,  forget Jamaica unless you want to stay deep in the closet.”

I would never had known this had we not researched gay-friendly Caribbean locations last year when planning a family vacation. This is why being an ally to the LGBT community is important; it helps to bring awareness and understanding to a community that often experiences discrimination and harassment.

Here are some tips for being an ally to the LGBTQ2+ community:

  • Educate yourself as to the challenges and needs of the community. Look up statistics; do the research.
  • Listen. If you don’t understand something, or wish to know an issue facing the LGBT community, ask…and then listen to understand.
  • Be supportive and loving.
  • Confront your own privilege. If you’re straight, you are afforded privileges that gay people aren’t. Understand that that can impact the LGBT community in ways that you may not understand.
  • Be mindful of language. Words and tone matter; make sure to use politically correct terms and stop using the words associated to the community in a derogatory manner.
  • Be welcoming.
  • Speak up. If you see an injustice, say something; even when its uncomfortable. I can guarantee you it’s not going to feel nearly as hurtful as the person on the receiving end of being discriminated against.

Being an ally to the LGBT community means being a friend; it is aligning with others so as to promote fairness, kindness and equality. 🙂

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Finding Your Comfort Zone When Coming Out

I had the richest of conversations with a young woman who had recently come out to her family. Although telling her parents and siblings she was gay went fairly smoothly, she spoke about an experience shortly afterwards that occurred  to which she was unsure of how to respond. She noted that she had been at a social gathering at her parents home and an acquaintance of her parents, in the process of small talk, asked her if she had a boyfriend. Although she answered truthfully that she didn’t, she stated that it made her feel uncomfortable and felt some internal dissonance – she wanted to be true to herself, but was not sure what to say in that moment, and how to say it.

In exploring all the ins and outs of her recent experience, we were able to come up with some thoughts about finding your comfort zone when coming out:

  1. Give yourself permission to have a private life. We all have a level in which we feel open to sharing. Regardless of where you sit on that continuum, it is okay to honour your sense of privacy when sharing with others details of your private life, including your sexual orientation.
  2. Think about who it is that’s asking. Is this person part of your support circle? Just making small talk? Are they being nosy? How important is it for the young woman, in that moment, to share that she is gay? If it doesn’t feel right, perhaps the context is wrong, or her comfort level is not lining up with full disclosure. Understand that it is okay to wait until it does feel right.
  3. Find avenues to share that fits your comfort zone. Not everyone you tell is going to be supportive and loving (although you would certainly hope so). In order to protect yourself from someone’s immediate reaction, think about sharing in ways that provide some space for absorption, such as an email, or asking someone in your support circle to share on your behalf. This is perfectly acceptable as a way for you to find your comfort zone in telling others that you are gay.
  4. Remind yourself that other people’s reactions are not yours to carry. It may take some for people in your life to process their feelings – and that is okay. At the end of the day, they need to love you for who you are; not for their expectations of who you are.
  5. Remember that being true to yourself is one of the pillars of self-actualization and growth. I felt proud of this young woman who had navigated this important process with confidence, despite some understandable nervousness.

Coming out can be a fearful process- you are potentially putting a lot on the line. Finding your comfort zone will help you to feel grounded and safe; as your experiences of sharing grows, so will your confidence in being true to yourself.

Photo credit: Me! This image was created in Canva.

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My Child is Gay; Now What?

In an article entitled, “Modern do’s and don’ts for parents of gay kids coming out” by Ryan E. Thompson and featured on CBC Life, Thompson writes about the things to say (or not say) when your child comes out to you. Written with some cheeky wit, Thompson lists 5 key pieces of advice:

  • Foster a positive LGBTQ atmosphere.  “Create a sense of diversity/openness in your home where your kids can feel comfortable if they are questioning. Don’t assume everyone in the world is straight, and your kids will feel less out of place in your home.”
  • Refrain from saying “I’ll love you no matter what.”  “It translates to ‘I love you even though you are gay’ as if gayness were an illness or aberration.” As for a suggested alternative? “How about just ‘Thank you for telling me. I love you.”
  • Don’t make it about you. “Coming out is a big deal in a gay person’s life. For some, it ends up being the most important moment in their lives. It’s a big deal for parents too. Often mothers and fathers need time to adjust, be re-educated and mourn the loss of expectation they had for their kid. Your issues as a parent do deserve attention, but shelving it for a while helps as you and your kids adjust to a new dynamic.”
  • Have an open dialogue. “This one is key. Getting comfortable with your kid’s sexual identity demands conversation but….If your son or daughter doesn’t feel comfortable talking to you right away, or if you don’t feel comfortable talking about it right away, try consulting another gay person or organization.”
  • Refrain from asking if it’s a phase. “Your gay son or daughter knows who they are attracted to the same way you do. Yes, sexuality exists on a spectrum and yes it can be fluid, but If they are coming to you with this information, it’s safe to say they are currently quite sure.”

Some wonderful advice for not only parents, but for aunts and uncles and grandparents too. To read the full article (it was very well written, funny, and goes into much greater detailing than I have included here), go to: https://www.cbc.ca/life/wellness/modern-do-s-and-don-ts-for-parents-of-gay-kids-coming-out-1.4065509

A great resource for parents is Pflag Canada: https://pflagcanada.ca/

Photo credit: http://Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash

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Lead with Love; LGBTQ2S

When I was in high school (the late 80’s in a small, rural town), no one in my graduating class was gay. CORRECTION: no one in my high school class would have felt supported enough to authentically identify and live as gay, bisexual or trans. Although I like to think that based on friendship, we would have been accepting, society at the time hardly encouraged it, and coming out would have been too frightening of a prospect.

Let’s face it; history has never been that straight. Today we are more progressive and less tolerant of hate – although as a society we still have a lot to work on. It warms my heart to see that many of my daughter’s friends have felt safe enough to come out during their time in high school, and to have felt accepted.

As a way to lead with love, and to be respectful of the LGBT community, let’s begin by becoming familiar with some terms and definitions:

What the Letters Mean:

Lesbian: A woman who is physically, romantically and/or emotionally attracted to other women.

Gay: A man who is physically, romantically and/or emotionally attracted to other men.

Bisexual: An individual who is physically, romantically and/or emotionally attracted to men and women.

Transgender: An inclusive term for people whose gender identity and/or expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. 

Transsexual: A person who experiences a mismatch between the sex they were assigned at birth and the sex they identify as being. 

Queer: In the past, queer was a derogatory term, but now some LGBT people use it to describe themselves and their community; others still consider it offensive.

Questioning: People still in the process of exploring their sexual identity who are not ready to apply a label to themselves.

Two-Spirit: is a cultural identity used by some indigenous people who have both masculine and feminine spirits.

A Few More Terms:

Ally: Is a straight person who supports queer and trans people.

Asexual: is a person who generally does not experience sexual attraction (or very little) to any group of people.

Cisgender: is a person whose gender identity matches society’s expectations of someone with their physical sex characteristics

Closeted: is a term to describe someone who is keeping their sexuality or gender identity a secret from people

Out: Being out about your sexual orientation and/or gender identity

Outing: Revealing a person’s sexual orientation without their permission.

Pansexual: is a person who experiences sexual, romantic, physical and/or spiritual attraction for members of all gender identities and expressions.

Being a part of a community is a way for us to feel validated, being supported for our choices allows us to feel accepted, being loved for who we are allows us to feel free. Let’s lead with love 🙂

Information for this post was found at: http://lgbtq2stoolkit.learningcommunity.ca/wp/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/LGBTQ2S-Definitions.pdf

As well as: https://www.loveisrespect.org/pdf/Healthy_LGBTQ_Relationships.pdf

Photo credit: http://Photo by Tristan Billet on Unsplash

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Words Matter

When I was about 8 years old, after my sister and I had come in from outside, I was singing to myself this little song the neighbour girls had taught us. “Eenie meenie, miney mo, catch a ‘n-word’ by the toe. If he hollers, let him go, eenie, meenie, miney, mo.” WELL! I will never forget my mother’s immediate reaction; to this little kid, I had absolutely no idea what was getting her all ruffled. She went on to explain of course why the use of the ‘n-word’ was so derogatory and that I was to never use it. It was quickly replaced by the word ‘tiger.’

During grade school at some point, we started saying “That’s gay” in response to something lame, and “That’s retarded” in response to something stupid or ridiculous. It was part of the ascribed slang, no different at the time I suppose than “That’s wicked,” or “Kiss my grits.” Except now when we say those expressions, they do matter. They are hurtful, disrespectful and defamatory.

Sometimes we slip up and accidentally say them, but if those types of expressions are a part of our everyday language, we need to change them. Kindness matters. Words matter. As Albert Einstein  once stated “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” 

Photo credit: http://Photo by Renee Fisher on Unsplash

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