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 Post subject: Re: Growing up gay
PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2014 3:37 pm 
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Reading over the Rainbow
by Nina
Saturday, 17 May 2014

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Nina: I specifically ran Rainbow Reads with the intention of including everyone under the queer umbrella. There's a lot of queer identities that exist in addition to those more commonly recognised! Photograph: Jose Jacome/EPA

Recently I held a blog event called Rainbow Reads to celebrate books featuring queer characters. And I'm glad to say that the selection is getting bigger and better!

Sorry for the awfully corny title, but last year, I held a blog event called Rainbow Reads to showcase books featuring queer (that is, not cisgender – which means identifying wholly with the gender you were assigned at birth – and/or heterosexual – which means solely attracted to people of other genders as identify as themselves) characters; we held discussions and generally celebrated the queer characters we had in YA literature at the time. Why did I run Rainbow Reads?

The short answer: Because, despite Malinda Lo's amazing Pride Months, as far as I knew, it had been a long time since there was a blog-led event about books with queer characters. And I felt we needed to have one.

The long answer: We live in a world where attitudes towards queer people are slowly becoming more positive. Queer people are becoming more visible and books, like some other forms of media, are reflecting that.

I specifically ran Rainbow Reads with the intention of including everyone under the queer umbrella. The button I designed for it was a pile of books featuring a lot of pride flags. In order: bisexuals, asexuals, intersex people, pansexual people, transpeople, genderqueer people, and the rainbow flag for gay and lesbian people and the general queer movement as a whole. That's missing out some flags, like the flag for non-binary people, androgynes, polysexuals... There's a lot of queer identities that exist in addition to those more commonly recognised!

I wanted to draw attention to the fact that in real life and in fiction, there are people who are kind of minority-minorities, subject to more erasure, that a lot of people don't know about. That ignorance can turn easily turn into prejudice from people who don't feel like those labels apply to them, and it also leads to feelings of exclusion in those who do, both of which make for a generally worse world for us all to be in.

I also wanted to show that as a community, we want queer representation in our books. Lots of people wrote guest posts, and I opened up a questionnaire expecting a few lines of response but ended up with 9,000 words-worth of opinions which was amazing to read and exciting to share.

Books are wonderful things. With some lines on a page, we can be transported into other worlds, other experiences, other lives. We can learn lessons about other people, other perspectives, and ourselves. In the few months even since I ran Rainbow Reads, queer characters have gained more visibility than would have been thought possible a few years ago. With the work of authors such as James Dawson, Patrick Ness, Tess Sharpe, Malinda Lo, Laura Lam and so many more, the range of books for queer teens to see people like themselves and for not-queer teens to see people like themselves (because even if characters don't share your gender or sexuality, there's a lot more you can find to identify with in a character: people and characters should not be defined by these things) is increasing, in terms of both number and genre. Rainbow Reads happened to celebrate the selection of books featuring queer characters. And I'm glad to say that that selection is getting bigger and better.

Nina is a teen blogger and Guardian children's books site member. You can read her blog here.

Source: Guardian UK.

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 Post subject: Re: Growing up gay
PostPosted: Wed Jul 16, 2014 9:19 am 
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Supreme Court clears ban on gay conversion therapy
By LISA LEFF
30 June 2014

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way Monday for enforcement of a first-of-its-kind California law that bars psychological counseling aimed at turning gay minors straight.

The justices turned aside a legal challenge brought by supporters of so-called conversion or reparative therapy. Without comment, they let stand an August 2013 appeals court ruling that said the ban covered professional activities that are within the state's authority to regulate and doesn't violate the free speech rights of licensed counselors and patients seeking treatment.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that California lawmakers properly showed that therapies designed to change sexual orientation for those under the age of 18 were outside the scientific mainstream and have been disavowed by most major medical groups as unproven and potentially dangerous.

"The Supreme Court has cement shut any possible opening to allow further psychological child abuse in California," state Sen. Ted Lieu, the law's sponsor, said Monday. "The Court's refusal to accept the appeal of extreme ideological therapists who practice the quackery of gay conversion therapy is a victory for child welfare, science and basic humane principles."

The law says professional therapists and counselors who use treatments designed to eliminate or reduce same-sex attractions in their patients would be engaging in unprofessional conduct and subject to discipline by state licensing boards. It does not cover the actions of pastors and lay counselors who are unlicensed but provide such therapy through church programs.

Liberty Counsel, a Christian legal aid group, had challenged the law, as did other supporters of the therapy. They argue that lawmakers have no scientific proof the therapy does harm. "I am deeply saddened for the families we represent and for the thousands of children that our professional clients counsel," Liberty Counsel Chairman Mat Staver said in a statement. "The minors we represent do not want to act on same-sex attractions, nor do they want to engage in such behavior."

New Jersey last year became the second U.S. state to ban gay conversion therapy with children and teenagers, and Liberty Counsel also has been fighting that law, which took effect after it was signed by Gov. Chris Christie. The group's litigation counsel, Daniel Schmid, said Monday that the Supreme Court's refusal to consider a challenge to California's law, as opposed to issuing a ruling on the merits, has no bearing on Liberty Counsel's case in New Jersey, which is scheduled to be heard by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on July 9. "We hope to get a good ruling out of the 3rd, which will hopefully get us back up to the Supremes," he said.

California's law was supposed to take effect last year, but it has been on hold while a pair of lawsuits seeking to overturn it made their way to the Supreme Court. Now that the high court has declined to take the case, the state will be able to start enforcing the law after the 9th Circuit lifts an injunction it put into place during the litigation, an action that is expected to come within days, according to Christopher Stoll, a senior staff attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

Another eight states and the District of Columbia have pending legislation modeled after the California and New Jersey laws, while lawmakers in five other states have refused to pass similar bans. Meanwhile, the Texas Republican Party this month endorsed reparative therapy, adopting policy language recognizing "the legitimacy and efficacy of counseling, which offers reparative therapy and treatment for those patients seeking healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle."

Source: AP.

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 Post subject: Re: Growing up gay
PostPosted: Thu Aug 21, 2014 11:51 am 
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Bullies nearly gay-bashed me to death, now I’m fighting back
30 July 2014
By Liam Hackett

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Liam Hackett: Survived the bullies, came out as gay and went on to start Ditch the Label to fight bullying.

You know that awkward feeling you get when you go to a party with your friend without knowing anybody else there and your friend disappears?

Without even realizing, fears of rejection quickly set in and you’re left feeling incredibly self-conscious. As a safety barrier, you subtly pull out your mobile and act nonchalant whilst frantically trying to figure out where your mate went. Maybe it doesn’t happen to you anymore, but we can all relate to that distinctive feeling of dread mixed with heightened self-awareness.

I felt this feeling pretty much every single day for 10 years, leading to me developing social anxieties and very low levels of self-esteem. The reason? Well it’s something that affects up to seven in 10 of us and all in different ways: bullying. For me, it wasn’t just a few isolated incidents in the classroom, bullying was a constant for most of my childhood. I was always noticeably different to my peers and preferred to play ‘house’ as opposed to football. I would prefer to hang around with girls as opposed to guys and was branded as ‘the girl’ in primary school.

At the age of eight, I moved from one primary school to another, after I was held against the playground wall by two guys and kicked repetitively in between the legs by a third. Unfortunately, the head teacher refused to punish the students, as one of their parents was a governor of the school. Despite building a group of friends up at my second primary school, I was still incredibly shy and timid. I was always afraid of my own shadow and it took me sometime to build up the confidence to leave the house on my own. Throughout my final year of primary school, I built up a close circuit of friends and we got into the routine of going to town on a Saturday and doing the general stuff kids do.

At the point of leaving primary school, I was feeling comfortable with my surroundings. Naturally, I wanted to grow up to be a ghost hunter as I was obsessed with ghosts at the time. I moved on to secondary school. I had no idea it would be the worst five years of my life. The bullying started on my first day of school. I was immediately singled out for being ‘different’. I would get all the general name-calling and as a result, people didn’t want to hang around with me. The bullying got worse, as did my own personal demons. As I grew older, I found it increasingly difficult to accept myself. I started to develop feelings for guys when I was 13 and did everything I could to try and prevent it. I can remember looking online for guides on how to become more masculine and how to fancy girls.

It all sounds very sad now but at the time, I was experiencing daily homophobic abuse and to me, that was the reason I was being bullied and desperately wanted to change. I became very self-conscious about my appearance and suffered from acne, which really didn’t help.

Towards the end of high school, I had realized I was gay and knew of a guy who I thought was like me. We started talking online and I eventually plucked up the courage to tell him how I felt. He told me he felt the same and suddenly, everything felt ok. The next morning I made extra effort with my appearance but felt like something wasn’t right upon entering the gates. He had printed out our conversation and had told everybody I was gay. He had told some of the ‘tough’ guys I fancied them, even though I didn’t. This led to me getting my head kicked in and being sent home from school.

One evening, I was walking to the shop with a friend and got ambushed by a group of bullies from my school. I repeatedly had my head rammed into a car bonnet and was defenseless. I felt like I was going to die and the saddest part was the fact I was secretly relieved. I was taken to hospital and had stitches across my face.

The final few months of school proved especially challenging. I couldn’t leave the house alone and went through counseling which really changed my life. I performed academically and then moved on to college where I met loads of other people who had been bullied for a range of different reasons. I eventually moved down to Brighton, on England’s south coast, to study at the University of Sussex and truly grew into my own person and accepted myself for who I was. Upon graduating two years ago, I wanted to do something to help other people.

For me, I always felt like a victim and the bullying had really disempowered me and taken away my voice. I felt that approaching a traditional anti-bullying charity, for example, would brand me even more a victim.

In 2012, Ditch the Label was born. Now a team of nine, we are a national anti-bullying charity with a huge difference: we are all about empowering young people and showing them that it’s ok to be different. We are working extensively to tackle the problem head on, without branding anybody as a victim. We work with schools and colleges to help them find shortfalls within diversity and inclusion and then produce engaging content designed to educate young people about different groups of people and issues.

We also work with Habbo, one of the world’s largest virtual teen worlds; offering direct one-to-one advice and support, which is something that has never been done before. In addition, we produce some of the biggest research papers in the world; all designed to build up greater intelligence surrounding bullying and the related issues.

Anti-bullying charities are not a new concept but our way of working is completely new and has shown significant shifts in attitudes and behaviors among young people. As a small charity, we have grown organically so far without any formal grants or funding. We fund all of our work ourselves which has led to a lot of sleepless nights but we all are so desperately passionate about making positive and measurable impacts upon the lives of thousands of young people.

As the CEO of Ditch the Label, it is heartbreaking to see people are still being subjected to serious bullying. It also bothers me that within society, some people seem to believe bullying is ‘just part of growing up’ and is something that you should ignore. Bruises heal but the moment you tell a girl she’s fat or ask a young boy why he doesn’t like football – that is embedded and will stay there forever.

We recently found young people who experience bullying are achieving far lower grades than their counterparts. Why is it then that some of our schools and colleges aren’t sitting up and paying attention to what we are saying? Why have an ‘anti-bullying policy’ that isn’t implemented? Why is it that young people still feel like teachers won’t take them seriously?

As a human race, we have a real issue with accepting others for who they are. This doesn’t just relate to school environments, it extends across our entire society through workplaces, media and practically everywhere else. Insecurity breeds insecurity and often, the bullied can become bullies themselves later on in life. Bullying can undermine self-worth and can significantly damage future career prospects, relationships and mental health.

People are going through radical treatments and procedures to alter their appearance, so that they can feel more accepted by society. Some members of the LGBTI community consider ‘conversion therapies’ as their only way out. Ethnic minorities are now permanently bleaching their skin so that they can fit into the Western ideal and old people are filling their face with poison so that they can look younger.

What happened to the idea of us all embracing who we are? We have an equality problem and it all starts in the classroom. This is not pointing the finger at anybody. This is something we all need to embrace and conquer together. We all have a collective responsibility and this is not going to go away by itself. We are Ditch the Label, stand up and be counted.

Source: GayStarNews.

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 Post subject: Re: Growing up gay
PostPosted: Tue Oct 28, 2014 5:34 pm 
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Who Controls a Gay Russian Teen-ager’s Story?
October 13, 2014
By Masha Gessen

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The Moscow headquarters of the Russian news agency TASS. Credit Photograph by Alessandro Digaetano / LUZphoto / Redux

A scandalous story exploded in the Russian state media earlier this month.

A teen-age boy from Moscow, according to news outlets such as TASS and RIA, had gone to the United States to participate in a high-school exchange program. At a local church, he met a gay couple, two elderly military veterans who were raising two adopted boys.

As the teen-ager’s scheduled time in the U.S. drew to a close, he came out to the couple and asked them for help remaining in America. They promised to shelter him, to fix him up with a couple of gay lawyers who would handle his asylum case, and even, according to the Russian press accounts, to pay for him to attend Harvard. Back in Russia, his mother grew desperate. After contacting the Russian Embassy in the United States, she flew over to try to rescue her child. Unnamed U.S. authorities would permit her to meet with him only in the presence of Russian consular officials and the boy’s gay lawyers. He refused to come home. The officials were certain that his relationship with the elderly couple was sexual, but, the story went, American authorities refused to intervene, because the boy had reached the age of consent. From the Russian perspective, the boy had been kidnapped. Russia cancelled the student-exchange program, catapulting a heartbreaking story of sex, fear, and betrayal into headlines on two continents.

It’s a great story, and in its roughest outline it has some basis in reality. But the boy’s lawyers, Anna Hill and Susan Reed, with whom I have talked extensively, have a very different account of what actually happened in Kalamazoo, Michigan, earlier this year.

According to Hill and Reed, who came to the case through the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, the boy from Moscow told his host family—a heterosexual couple—that he wanted to stay in the United States. The family told him that he had to return to Russia: it was one of the requirements of his program, Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX). The boy had met a gay couple through a local L.G.B.T. resource center; the two men have kids, and at least one of them has served in the military, but they are not elderly. The teen-ager asked whether he could stay with them once the program ended, and they initially agreed, but then backed out after learning that his mother opposed the plan. (There was, the lawyers say, never any talk of Harvard.) So the boy ran away. Because he had effectively left the exchange program, his student visa was no longer valid.

He called the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, which is affiliated with the Michigan Poverty Law Program. Hill and Reed, both of whom happen to be straight, took up his case. First they turned him over to the government. The Office of Refugee Resettlement placed the boy in a group home and notified the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C., that he was in federal custody.

This was when Russian Embassy representatives first showed up in Kalamazoo. They went to see the boy’s lawyers and his host family, and may have visited other people with whom the boy had been in touch. It’s not clear how the officials thought they might wrest the boy from U.S. federal custody, but that is apparently what they wanted to do—at least, that’s what they told the Russian media.

Unsuccessful, they returned to Washington, where they requested a “health and welfare meeting,” which is generally understood to be guaranteed by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations in such cases. The boy’s mother flew in from Moscow. In Michigan, the boy and his mother were, contrary to Russian press reports, able to meet one on one at least twice, and they saw each other again, with his lawyers and the consular officials, at the health-and-welfare meeting.

That meeting, Hill and Reed told me, was like none they had ever experienced. “They were there to intimidate us and intimidate our client with possible criminal prosecution,” Reed told me. The officials spoke of kidnapping and illegal adoption, and of shutting down FLEX. If the boy refused to return to Russia, they said, he would be responsible for dashing hundreds of kids’ dreams of studying in America.

The purpose of a health-and-welfare meeting is to allow officials to make sure a citizen is healthy and well while in another country’s custody. The Russians, the lawyers told me, made it clear that being homosexual—which they believed the boy had become under the influence of Americans—did not fit their definition of “well.” At one point, according to Hill, the officials asked the boy to leave the room, “because, they said, they were going to speak Russian, and their language does not have a politically correct term for what he is.” She and Reed said that if their client left the room they would leave, too. The Russian officials stormed out, stranding the teen-ager’s mother, whom the lawyers later drove back to her hotel. “I have never seen anyone, in any setting, get so angry,” Reed said. “It was not the kind of health-and-welfare meeting the Vienna Convention envisions.”

That was in June. Reed and Hill have filed an asylum application on behalf of their client. He has moved out of the group home and in with the gay couple from the Kalamazoo L.G.B.T. center and their kids. The men are federally licensed foster parents, which qualifies them to take him in.

Then Russia announced that it was cancelling its participation in the FLEX program. Domestic media coverage of the decision was followed by a spate of stories in the American press, many of which focussed on the loss suffered by Russian high-school students aspiring to study in the United States. Some also repeated the basic plot of the asylum seeker’s story as it was appearing in Russian news outlets. BuzzFeed quoted a Russian official claiming that the boy had been “illegally put up for adoption.” The lead paragraph of the Washington Post’s article cited a “former participant’s decision to stay with a gay couple”—an assertion that the paper repeated the following day in an eloquent editorial on Russian homophobia, xenophobia, and corruption. A story in the Times stated that the program was cancelled “after a teenage Russian boy who befriended a gay couple sought asylum in the United States.”

The boy, Reed and Hill told me, had come to the United States with a fully formed sexual identity, and had been the victim of bullying and harassment at home. That, not the friendship of the men in Kalamazoo, led him to seek asylum. But such is the insidious power of framing: whoever tells the story first controls it. Russian propaganda outlets have this down to a science. They shape the stories, and Western journalists, even those who make a good-faith effort to unpack them, can fall into traps of narrative and terminology.

Journalists have to do something counterintuitive: follow the lead, but insist on disbelieving almost everything about it until it has been proved. BuzzFeed did publish an interview with Reed the day after its original story, and the Times contacted Reed for its story, but Reed didn’t believe that she was at liberty to share what she knew, because doing so would require her to reveal personal information about her client. “I felt I had no right to talk about anyone’s sexual orientation except my own,” she told me. (She was unaware at the time that an American official had confirmed to the newspaper that her client was seeking asylum on the basis of his sexual orientation.) In the end, BuzzFeed noted that the lawyers were calling the Russian story a distortion, and Reed told the Times that she was straight, married, and Roman Catholic, contradicting a small part of the larger Russian narrative, which had spoken of gay lawyers. The Times printed that detail, but it served mostly to amplify the effect of watching a bunch of straight adults fight over a gay adolescent.

Source: New Yorker.

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 Post subject: Re: Growing up gay
PostPosted: Mon Mar 23, 2015 8:52 pm 
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Study details lives of LGBT youths engaged in 'survival sex'
By DAVID CRARY
February 25, 2015

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This June 13, 2013 photo provided by Will Anderson shows people sitting in Hudson River Park in New York. (AP Photo/Will Anderson)

NEW YORK (AP) — A unique federally funded study offers a detailed look at the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth in New York City who cope with homelessness and poverty by engaging in what the researchers call "survival sex."

In extensive interviews conducted over three years by the Urban Institute, 283 young people spoke about experiencing family rejection, establishing support networks with groups of their peers, and learning how to subsist on earnings from sexual encounters. Many said there were positive aspects to their lives, but a large majority expressed a yearning to get out of the sex business.

"They don't see themselves as victims ... but it's not empowering for them to be doing this," said Meredith Dank, the report's lead author. "These are kids in very desperate situations who will do what they need to do to be able to survive."

The study, funded by the Justice Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, focused on youth between 15 and 21, although a handful of participants were older. Of the respondents, 47 percent identified as male, 36 percent as female and 16 percent as transgender. About 90 percent were black, Latino or multiracial, and nearly 60 percent said they lived either in a shelter or on the street, often after being kicked out of their homes or aging out of foster care.

One gay 19-year-old told an interviewer how his mother had forced him to leave home. "She didn't want me being gay, she wanted grandchildren, she didn't like my lifestyle," he said. "She still loved me but she just didn't want me being there."

Among the report's main findings:

—Many of the youths reported frustrating experiences with social services systems and providers, which often failed to help them find safe housing and adequate health care.

—Many participants have large peer networks, including other youth who engage in the sex business and help them.

—Complaints of violence and abuse were commonplace, inflicted by relatives, clients, peers, law enforcement officers and others. But many youths displayed resilience.

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This Nov. 10, 2014 photo shows an area near the intersection of Christopher Street and West Street in New York. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison)

"They find ways to survive, often relying on their informal networks, street savvy, and quick learning abilities to share resources and skills and to adapt to difficult and often dangerous situations," the report said. Many of the youths said they had some means of protecting themselves physically when trading sex — knives and Mace were the preferred accessories.

On average, the youths saw 3 to 6 customers each day or night — and 11 to 18 a week — during periods when they were engaging in sexual transactions, according to the study. The prices that they reported charging per encounter ranged from about $90 to $230, and income per day generally ranged from about $355 to $735.

About 90 percent of the youths spoke of things they disliked about engaging in the sex trade — saying their work made them feel frustrated, dirty or endangered. Only 7 percent of respondents said they had no desire to stop engaging in the activity. However, more than 80 percent said there were positive aspects — notably helping meet their basic needs and in some cases fostering a sense of community. "It's not as bad as sleeping under the bridge, it's not as bad as going without food," one respondent said.

The report offered several recommendations for steps that might encourage such young people to disengage from the sex trade, including new programs that would offer safe housing, appropriate health care, and a pathway to job opportunities. Any such services would be most effective if designed with the particular needs of LGBT youth in mind, the report said.

The Urban Institute, a non-partisan public policy think tank based in Washington, D.C., did not attempt its own calculations of the overall number of LGBT youth engaged in the New York City's commercial sex market. Its report cited earlier studies estimating the number at between 2,500 and 4,000 young people of all sexual orientations.

Online: Urban Institute
Source: Yahoo! AP.

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 Post subject: Re: Growing up gay
PostPosted: Thu Apr 09, 2015 1:11 pm 
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Gay student to miss prom over no-tux rule
by Barbara Leader
April 3, 2015

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Claudetteia Love (Photo: MARGARET CROFT/THE NEWS-STAR)

MONROE, La. -- Carroll High School senior Claudetteia Love, an openly gay student and top academic scholar, won't attend the school's prom this year because the school won't allow her to wear a tuxedo.

The school says it's simply a dress code, but Love said the school's prohibition is more about her sexual orientation than her fashion choices.

Friday, she sat quietly crying in her living room as she talked about missing one of the signature events of her senior year. The prom is April 24. "I told my mom, 'They're using me. They put me in all these honors and advanced placement classes so I can take all of these tests and get good grades and better the school, but when it's time for me to celebrate the fact that I've accomplished what I need to accomplish and I'm about to graduate, they don't want to let me do it, the way I want to,' " she said.

Last year, Love was one of a group of students presented in a Monroe City School Board meeting as part of the school's high achieving medical magnet program. In a school that has a failing school performance score, Love is one of the academic superstars. She will represent the school at the annual Scholars' Banquet, an event for the top students in Ouachita Parish.

Geraldine Jackson, Love's mom, said she talked to Principal Patrick Taylor about the school's rule of no tuxes for girls. "He said that the faculty that is working the prom told him they weren't going to work the prom if (girls) were going to wear tuxes," she said. "That's his exact words. 'Girls wear dresses and boys wear tuxes, and that's the way it is."

On Friday, Taylor said the decision was simply a dress code and not anything personal against any student. "I feel like he's taking his values and throwing them on my daughter because of what her preference is and what she represents," Jackson said. Love's sister, Mignon, said she's overheard faculty talking about the prom rule. "It's not about how they dress," she said. "They're judging them. They are at school talking about being gay is a sin. Everybody sins. The only person who can judge is God; you can't judge them."

Love hadn't intended to take a date to the prom but wanted to attend with a group of friends who have also now chosen not to attend because of the no-tux rule. She says a petition by members of the senior class to change the rule wasn't acted on by faculty. According to Jackson, her daughter's overall mood has changed since she found out she wouldn't be allowed to attend the prom dressed as she chose, but Love has resolved to use her experience to make a difference for others. "There are other girls in lower grades than me, and I want for them when they come up to not to have to feel like they aren't accepted," Love said. "I don't want them to feel like they are less of a person because people don't accept them. There are people in the world that won't accept you but they don't have to be so judgmental and make you feel like you're less of a person and that you shouldn't express yourself."

Following graduation, Love will attend Jackson State University on a full academic scholarship.

Update: After hearing of Love's plight from members of the community who saw The News-Star's article, Monroe City School Board President Rodney McFarland contacted The News-Star to say that he will take action on Love's behalf. McFarland said he will contact Superintendent Brent Vidrine and request that he discuss the rule with the school's principal. "As school board president, I don't agree with Carroll banning her from her prom just because of what she wants to wear -- that's discrimination," he said. "As far as I know there is no Monroe City School Board policy saying what someone has to wear to attend the prom. You can't just go making up policies."

Source: The News Star, Monroe, Louisiana.

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 Post subject: Re: Growing up gay
PostPosted: Sat Apr 11, 2015 4:56 am 
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Lesbian honors student may wear tux to prom
7 April 2015
By JANET McCONNAUGHEY

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- A lesbian honors student in northeast Louisiana has been told she may wear a tuxedo to her prom, after all, a national advocacy group said Tuesday.

Claudetteia Love, 17, said last week that she and her friends would not go to the Carroll High School prom in Monroe because the principal said she had to wear a dress. Principal Patrick Taylor and Monroe City School Board President Rodney McFarland, who had backed Love, told her on Tuesday that she may wear a tux to the prom April 24, the National Center for Lesbian Rights said in a news release.

Love said in the news release that she was inspired by an incredible outpouring of support since The News-Star published a story about her on its website. "It is a source of strength that I will keep with me as I move on the next phase of my education and life beyond high school," she said. The support included a local businessman's offer to create a prom for Love and her friends and a letter sent Monday to all school superintendents in the state by the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana.

Last week, Taylor told The News-Star that the earlier decision was part of the school's dress code and not anything personal. Love and her family didn't believe it. McFarland had told the newspaper that Taylor's stance was not backed up by board policy.

Source: AP.

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 Post subject: Re: Growing up gay
PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2015 6:21 pm 
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Sorry, Mum, Still Gay - Group Offers Support for Russians With LGBT Children
By Ilnur Sharafiev
May 26, 2015

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Aleksei Tikhonov / Meduza - The offices of Vykhod (Way Out), an LGBT activist group that hosts support meetings for parents of gay children.

Originally published by Meduza.

Meetings of the Parents' Club take place on the third Monday of every month in the office of the LGBT activist group Vykhod (Russian for "Exit" or "Way Out").

It is a typical building in central St. Petersburg, but getting into the gathering isn't easy if you don't know the address, floor and room number. There are neither signs outside, nor markings inside. There is only the guard who asks you to show your passport and tells you where to go. Gathered there are parents of gay children. Ilnur Sharafiev stopped in on one such Parents' Club meeting for a Meduza special report.

The club has a few rules. Organizers can refuse entry to any individual without explanation. They adopted this policy after a visit from Anatoly Artiukh, the coordinator of the St. Petersburg branch of the conservative movement Narodny Sobor ("People's Assembly"). According to activists from Vykhod (not to be confused with the similarly named fund for autism assistance), nothing serious happened. "He just shouted something and left," they say. In a meeting, the only person allowed to speak is the one holding a plush blue dragon doll. Interrupting and criticizing are forbidden, you only speak for yourself, and turning off your phone is preferred.

First, everybody introduces themselves: sitting and holding hands are Valentina and her daughter, Olga, who live in different cities and haven't seen each other in a long time. Three mothers, Nina, Marianna and Elan, have been in the Parents' Club since its founding. A few of the mothers are here for the first time, looking over the people around them with curiosity or modestly looking at the floor. In spite of the fact that it's a club for parents, there are more young women and men at the meeting. And not a single father.

"My mother got very sick recently. I took care of her, and she did not resist," says Sergei, a young man of 30 with the plush toy in his hands. "At least, she didn't yell like she did earlier: 'Ew, gay, get away from me and don't touch my things!'" Seventeen people are listening to him, sitting in a circle wearing handwritten name tags. "Now that mom doesn't reject me, it means she can't completely not care," Sergei goes on. But so far talking with his mother happens rarely. She wanted to throw out the brochures and books from Vykhod that he couldn't give her personally but left in her mailbox, but a neighbor asked to read them.

Nina, one of the club's veterans, asks to be passed the toy. She thinks that you have to try to talk to your parents regardless of the situation. "You have to explain to them that gays aren't the people that they're talking about on television. It takes them a lot of time to become aware of what's happening. Remember how long you spent doing the same. Everybody loves their kids. Everybody will get it."

Immediately a few people object, recalling stories in which parents kicked out their kids or sent them away to be healed of their homosexuality.

"Fine, not everybody, but the majority," Nina corrects herself. "Sometimes they're not ready to read the flyers you bring. That's why it's better to enter a dialogue. I often said to my son, 'I want to ask you something, but I don't know how to put it.' He did it for me, 'Is that what you wanted to ask me?' Honestly, I usually answered, 'Well that too, but I meant something totally different,'" she laughs.

They pass the dragon to Nikita. He thinks that those who hide their homosexuality from their parents are mostly protecting themselves. "I get the impression that people handle acute stress better than a chronic, negative condition. Keeping someone in the dark, being constantly unhappy — for a parent that's harder than coming out," he says.

At Parents' Club meetings discussing and asking anything is allowed. Somebody shares what has happened in his life over the last month, others recommend LGBT-themed films. Those who still haven't made the decision to come out ask other moms how best to handle it or whether it's worth it at all.

Usually the most expressive are those who aren't here for their first time. Newcomers to the Parents' Club — whether parents or their kids — do more listening. Only toward the end of the meeting does the toy make it around to Sasha; he recently moved to St. Petersburg. "I lived for a long time in a small village. The word 'gay' is horrible there, something they can grab you on the street and kill you for," he says. "All of my relatives, they're old-fashioned. I'm worried that if I tell my mother, she'll blame herself. Has that sort of thing happened to any of you?"

The others respond that this is one of the phases of acceptance, that it has to be this way. They advise him to prepare himself and consider the potential consequences. From their experience, coming out to a mother living in a small town is tough.

The club meeting wraps up after 2 1/2 hours. Yelena looks at Valentina and Olga, who held hands for the entire meeting, and smiles. Then she turns her head towards the window and says softly, "I don't want to go back out there."

Yelena: A Mom Crusading for LGBT Acceptance

Yelena became an activist because she thinks that parents of LGBT children can understand people who find themselves in similar situations better than anyone else. Five years ago, her son Dmitry returned from Japan after living and working there for 10 years. Yelena immediately understood that something was troubling her son, at first attributing it to his readaptation to Russian reality. When Dmitry started his coming out with the words, "I want you to hear me, but this might startle you," Yelena thought he might have some sort of disease. Or maybe he had done something he was ashamed of? Yelena had dozens of scenarios running through her mind, but the possibility her son might be gay was unthinkable.

"After our conversation it was terrible and sad," Yelena recalls. "It seemed like I was the only mother who had to come to grips with this. I couldn't just say right away, 'Imagine that!' That would have been dishonest, but I tried not to show him that I was deeply upset. My son's comment was sobering and comforting: 'I am so much happier now than when I was pretending.'"

Dmitry brought her along to a meeting of the Parents' Club a year after his coming out. Yelena remembers her expectations; she figured her son was taking her to some semi-underground place where "gays dwell." Now she laughs, "When I saw that nobody there was prancing around in pantyhose, I was a bit surprised." Before long, Yelena became a club activist, and she now helps other parents accept their LGBT children.

"They usually come to us with horror in their eyes. They look as if they've experienced some family tragedy, usually they're silent. We ask them to relax and look at us: do we look that crushed? It shows that being a parent of an LGBT person isn't fatal, that you can live with it and even be happy," she says.

According to Yelena, "acceptance" can take months or even years. "It's only in movies that you see mothers taking their child's homosexuality easily and immediately." But if a parent keeps coming to the club, there is always progress. "It's noticeable that the mother unwinds a bit, smiles, becomes ready to discuss the situation — that's already good. It means that she no longer considers her child lost." It is true, however, that parents most often come to a meeting, keep quiet, thank them for their help, and do not return. There have been cases in which they've called the group a cult, and explained that they fail to see the importance of Russia's law against "homosexual propaganda." Mothers in the club, meanwhile, think the law isn't just their problem, but a problem facing the entire society. If television is constantly denouncing gays, why should anybody believe a handful of people who disagree?

Marina: A Mother's Journey Through the 5 Phases of Acceptance

"After the coming out they lose their heads, the old world is shattered along with plans for the child's future," says Marina Melnik, founder of the Parents' Club. Her son, Roman, told her about his homosexuality six years ago. She explains that every parent in that situation goes through five phases of acceptance. She uses her experience as an example. "The shock lasted for about 10 days. Then there's denial, though I practically didn't have that. This is when you try to talk the child out of it, prove to them that it is all imagined. Pain arose immediately for me. Once we were sitting in a cafe and Roma turned his attention to an attractive guy — it hurt me. For some reason I wanted him to have looked at a pretty girl. Then I blamed myself for a long time. Did I not love him enough or love him too much? Was I too harsh or too lax? Maybe I bought him the wrong toy as a child — a stuffed animal instead of a car?"

A year and a half after her son's confession, Marina decided to become an activist. Together with other mothers whom she met at the LGBT film festival Side by Side, she founded the Parents' Club. She remembers that four people came to the first meeting — all of them were unsure what to do with their feelings of guilt. "After I talked to other mothers, that feeling finally left me," Marina says.

Then she entered the final phase: acceptance, after which another coming out follows, this time from the parent. "I was terrified to tell my neighbors, those around me," Marina recalls. "That took almost a year."

The club's activists say this is a common situation. The neighbor of one young man suspected he was gay, and his mother started specifically inviting that neighbor over for tea. Then she invited a girl she knew and asked her to act as if she was a couple with her son. "The Parents' Club is the only place where they don't have to lie or feel embarrassed," she says.

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Sergey Chernov / MT - Protesters state: “Parental love does not depend on a child’s orientation!”

Igor: Coming Out to a Family That Never Utters the Word 'Gay'

Igor was able to bring his mother to the Parents' Club two years after he came out. He says that before then, discussing the LGBT issue was difficult.

"In our family nobody said the word 'gay.' Mom used the word goluboi [a common slang term for "gay," literally meaning "light blue"], and dad said pederast [a slur similar to the word "fag"]," Igor remembers from his childhood. He describes his mother and father as having different views. His father is an Orthodox, nationalist patriot. His favorite writer is Grigory Klimov, author of the saying, "If all isn't well between your legs, it isn't well in your head." His mother is apolitical, balanced, and "more liberal in a cultural sense."

"When I was little, I didn't understand how it was possible to have feelings for a person of the same sex. I asked my mom what sexual orientation was, and she answered, 'It's who is goluboi and who isn't.' What goluboi meant, she didn't explain. At age 11, from family conversations, it was understood that gay people were perverts who practice anal sex."

Igor says his father raised him according to the Orthodox canon. Together they read the "Lives of the Saints" and prayed in the morning and evening, before and after eating. Then he frequently went to confession, took communion, and attended Sunday school. His coming out happened unexpectedly. In September 2007, he left his home village in the Pskov region to study in St. Petersburg, and returned in October to visit his parents. His mom casually asked, "You're so nervous, did you fall in love?" Igor answered honestly that he had. "With a man or a woman?" his mother unexpectedly followed up. It became clear that his lover was a man. They cried together, but quickly reached their peace. In a week, Igor went back to St. Petersburg, and it wasn't long before his father found out the news.

"Dad always reacts this way to things that don't fit into his worldview. He breaks dishes, smashes doors," Igor says. "Since I was in Petersburg, the issue only came to shouting by telephone. He said that homosexuality is a great sin, and demanded that I return to the true path."

Soon Igor agreed to come home at his father's request, to attend confession in his presence. He told the priest that he had fallen in love with a young man. The priest advised him to "correct the disease of his spirit" and repent; Igor protested. "Formally he absolved me of my sins, but it was obvious that we were both unhappy with the outcome. After that I was irrevocably disappointed in the church. That was the last time I participated in confession, and I feel fine," he laughs.

Half a year ago, Igor introduced his parents to his partner. "There were no special rituals, I just introduced him as usual: 'I live with this person, and these are my parents, you have to live with this.'"

Now they send each other greetings. Recently Igor was talking to his father by Skype and mentioned his boyfriend. "His face didn't even flinch, he reacted completely normally."

The relationship with his mother is simpler: Igor is confident that if she watched less television, lived with him in St. Petersburg, and talked with the parents in the club, then she would accept him quickly.

Dmitry: Failed Efforts to Come Out of the Closet

For Russia, this remains a rarity — there are no exact statistics, but activists with the Parents' Club estimate that for every LGBT-accepting family there are five unaccepting.

Dmitry belongs to one of those five. After his second unsuccessful coming out, he took on a girlfriend as a cover. "Mama knows Ira well, so there are no questions asked," he says with a smile.

His first coming out was at age 18. Dmitry admits thinking everything would pass over well, so he didn't especially prepare for the conversation. At the outset his mother really did react calmly, but cried after a few hours and a scene unfolded. "She screamed about HIV, about the fact that I would never have children," he recalls. After that, Dmitry decided not to tell his mother about his personal life. If he went out with a guy, he would tell her he'd agreed to meet up with friends. She gradually forgot about her son's homosexuality, and their relationship improved again.

Dmitry couldn't escape the feeling that his mother did not understand him, since he had been unable to explain everything to her properly. So after three years passed, he decided to try coming out a second time. This time he was better prepared — he took brochures from the advocacy group Vykhod and thought out answers to questions his mother might ask. But after the words "I'm sorry, mom, but I'm still gay. That we avoid the issue doesn't change anything," the argument started all over again.

Dmitry didn't know what to do next. He came to gatherings of the Parents' Club a few times, where they told him to show his mother the film "Prayers for Bobby." It is a story of a gay man who killed himself because his religious parents refused to accept him. "First I watched it by myself and cried; it was very painful," Dmitry says. "Then I watched it with my mom, but couldn't understand her reaction. She said the parents had lost their son because they didn't believe strongly enough in God or pray enough."

Soon icons began appearing in their apartment, along with calendars featuring the Virgin Mary, Orthodox magazines, and brochures about monasteries. Dmitry says they didn't interact for a long time, and that's apparently when his mother decided the church was the only path to saving her son. "I came home and already in the stairwell I could smell burnt incense," he tells. "Mom could have spent her last penny on new calendars, crosses, Bibles, arranging them on the tables, and hanging them from the walls. I asked, why? She responded by speaking of bad influences, a spiritual haze, and the wrong path. Our apartment began to look like a church shop." The arguments became more frequent, and after one of them his mother decided to move in with a friend. She came back in a month, having heard that her cat's ears were hurting.

Dmitry isn't going to come out a third time. He has already been dating Grigory for 2 1/2 years, yet he tells his mother that he has a girlfriend named Irina. Just as after his first coming out, they avoid the topic of homosexuality. The crosses and Bibles gradually disappeared from the apartment — some of it was donated, the rest is in boxes in the attic. His mother stopped going to church.

Leading a double life takes a lot of effort; to talk on the phone Dmitry shuts himself in the bathroom and turns on the water. If his mother asks something about his personal life, he tells it like it is, only changing the name Grigory to Irina. Last year he and Grigory went to Egypt, but he could only show his mother pictures of the hotel, the beach and nature. "The Parents' Club does not approve of legends like mine. They suggested that I come to the group with her, but I'm afraid of her reaction," Dmitry says. "If she thinks that religion helped me, so be it. What matters is that mom is happy and satisfied."

Source: Moscow Times.

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 Post subject: Re: Growing up gay
PostPosted: Fri Nov 04, 2016 5:52 pm 
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Human rights group seeks LGBT-inclusive school curriculum in Japan
By Keiji Hirano
4 November 2016

TOKYO (Kyodo) — A human rights group is urging the Japanese government to give ample consideration to sexual minority students in compiling educational guidelines and teacher training programs, in a proposal to fully protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children from harassment and bullying at school.

Given a lack of an LGBT-inclusive curriculum, students in Japan receive inaccurate and biased information about LGBT people from teachers, Kanae Doi, Japan director of Human Rights Watch, told Kyodo News in a recent interview. “It is necessary to enable teachers, through comprehensive training, to adequately respond to consultations by LGBT students and make it obligatory to cover LGBT issues in classrooms, rather than leaving it optional, to shed light on the minority children,” she said.

Doi has delivered these messages to lawmakers and education ministry officials during meetings with them, as a once-a-decade revision of official curriculum guidelines is now under way. The proposal is based on recent research by Human Rights Watch, for which the international rights body interviewed more than 100 people nationwide, including LGBT students who revealed heartbreaking episodes, as well as teachers, government officials and lawyers.

According to the report on the study, the group found Japanese schools focus on keeping school harmony, rather than protecting vulnerable students. The group was also aware of “pervasive homophobic environments across all types and levels of schools,” while pointing out that strict gender segregation, seen in school uniform polices and gender-segregated activities, makes it difficult for gender nonconforming children to lead desirable school lives.

A man, who came out as gay when he was a high school student, said during an interview that his teachers had told him his admission broke the harmony of the school, according to the report. A physical education teacher told him other students think what he did was a joke and that “by even standing next to you, people will think I’m gay too,” the report noted.

An 18-year-old lesbian in Nagoya, who has not come out, said she was shocked at the age of 16 when a home economics teacher told female students that their responsibility in life is to get married to a man and have children. “I got really upset during the lesson and I started to panic. I couldn’t breathe. I started crying.”

Meanwhile, a transgender student was told by his teachers his sense of discomfort as a girl is a temporary thing and that he would grow out of it — comments, he said, made him deeply sad because he had “so much respect for the teachers but they knew nothing about me,” the report said. According to a lawyer interviewed by Human Rights Watch, several schools allow transgender students to wear uniforms and have access to lavatories and school activities in accordance with their gender identity. But “such approaches by schools appear to be the exception rather than the norm,” the group said.

Many transgender students are at odds with their sense of self and hence feel humiliated when they are required to use toilets and lockers that do not correspond to their gender identity. Since they are forced into compliance, “their rights to receive equal education, including access to toilets and dressing rooms in accordance with their gender identity, are denied,” Doi said.

LGBT teachers must also run the gauntlet. Interviewees said they remain reluctant to come out at school, not because of fears of losing their jobs but because of concerns of losing the respect of their students and peers, the report said. “As a result, LGBT students have no adult role models whom they know to be LGBT, increasing their sense of isolation,” it added.

According to a separate survey mentioned in the report of nearly 6,000 teachers in Japan from kindergarten through high school levels, around 70 percent said LGBT issues should be included in the curriculum. However, less than 14 percent have experiences of discussing it in classrooms. According to the survey, just 8 percent of respondents said they learned about sexuality during their teacher training, and only nine percent about transgender issues, while more than 60 percent said they want to receive sexual diversity training, if it exists.

Given these findings, Doi said, “All teachers need to be trained so they can properly deal with sexual minority students, based on an assumption that there are LGBT students in their classrooms.” Doi, on the other hand, welcomes some steps initiated by the education ministry, which, for example, created booklets about sexual minority children for teachers and other school employees with the aim of improving the environment for them at school. The booklet noted, “It is possible that gender identity and sexual orientation are touched upon as part of human rights education.” In keeping with the promising move, “the government should use the current 2016 curriculum revision process as an opportunity to make concrete progress toward protecting all students,” Doi said.

An education ministry official who was contacted for this article, said while the government is aware of HRW’s proposal, it has no comment on the situation at this time. Human rights issues of sexual minorities have gradually drawn public attention in Japan, with some local governments starting to issue certificates recognizing same-sex partnership as being equivalent to marriage.

Source: Kyodo via Japan Today

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