The Challenges of the Pandemic for Queer Youth

The Challenges of the Pandemic for Queer Youth – Issues include limited access to community support and counseling and, in some cases, quarantining with unsupportive family members.

The pandemic has affected queer youth in many ways.  When Brittany Brockenbrough’s transgender son lost his in-school counseling and the ability to have meet-ups with other L.G.B.T.Q. youth during the pandemic, his mental health suffered.How Coronavirus Is Affecting Surrogacy

“He began to feel depressed and was withdrawn,” said Ms. Brockenbrough, a mother of two in Virginia. She was later able to get her son teletherapy and in-home support from a local mental health agency and to find ways for him to stay in touch with others in his community through such activities as weekly Zoom meetings and online game nights.

“He is doing much better now that he is back in treatment and staying connected to the community,” she said. “Social distancing and taking precautions is necessary, but for the L.G.B.T.Q.+ community, even those who have supportive parents, losing the ability to have that in-person social support with other L.G.B.T.Q.+ youth can have a significant impact.”

As young people continue to adjust to the pandemic, some are dealing with increased anxiety and stress. For those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, there may be additional challenges and risks resulting from limited access to community support, lack of in-school counseling and, in some cases, the difficult circumstances of quarantining with unsupportive family members.

“My parents do not accept that I am gay,” an 18-year-old from Yonkers, N.Y. who did not want his name published, said. “My support system was mostly at school, and now I am quarantining with family members who don’t accept who I really am.”

 

The young man, whose virtual high school graduation was last week, said his parents reacted with “anger” and “disgust” when they found out he was gay, and that being home with them during the Covid-19 shutdown has been very uncomfortable. “It is humiliating to have to rely on people who do not respect you,” he said.

L.G.B.T.Q. youth are already a vulnerable population and at higher risk for anxiety, depression, homelessness and self harm than their non-L.G.B.T.Q. peers. A 2018 study in JAMA Pediatrics by researchers at Harvard University and the Fenway Institute found that transgender youth were at a greater risk for attempted suicide, depression and anxiety, and that gender-affirming mental health services are greatly needed to address these concerns.

Sarah Gundle, a clinical psychologist in New York City, said that while online supports are available during this crisis and can provide help, for many they cannot replace in-person treatment and interaction with a community that accepts and validates your identity.

“L.G.B.T.Q.+ youth who have to be at home for extended periods of time and live with unsupportive family members — or their family environment makes it unsafe for them to be out at home — can experience a profound sense of isolation,” Dr. Gundle said. “A pandemic brings significant uncertainty — there is no definitive end — and it can feel as if there is no escape. Many L.G.B.T.Q.+ youth also have to worry about their safety and the repercussions if their family members find out.”

When college campuses closed in March because of the pandemic, having to return home to an unsupportive space was not a safe option for some students.

Danushi Fernando, the director of L.G.B.T.Q. and Gender Resources at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., said that approximately 225 students — following state guidelines — remained on campus through the spring semester for various reasons, some because they did not feel safe sheltering with their families. Vassar also provided support for students through virtual gatherings, support groups and counseling.

NYTimes.com, June 29, 2020 – by Misha Valencia

To read the entire article, click here.

How Co-parenting Has Equipped Queer Families To Handle The Coronavirus Pandemic

Co-parenting families are drawing on the resiliency that comes from living on the margins in the Coronavirus pandemic.

Co-parenting families are drawing on the resiliency that comes from living on the margins in the Coronavirus pandemic. Four months ago, Lisa Lo, from Calgary, separated from the father of her two young children, ages two and five, in part because she wanted to open her marriage to relationships with both men and women.Co-parenting Coronavirus

Lo, whose name has been changed to protect her family’s privacy, is polyamorous, and she’s had three relationships since her separation, one of which has ended, and two of which have been complicated by pandemic living arrangements.

Some of these relationships have brought big feelings, but through it all, Lo is mindful of keeping an emotional balance for her kids, who spend most of their time with her. “They pick up on my emotions,” she said. “If I’m happy, they’re happy. If I’m stressed and upset, then they’re stressed and upset.”

But that was all pre-pandemic: “Now, dating has been put on hold,” she told HuffPost Canada. Lo’s priorities are different these days. She is very much focused on the challenges COVID-19 poses to all multi-household families: creating consistent self-isolation protocols, navigating the handing-off of children, communicating in a time of stress, finding legal counsel.

To create a situation that worked for everyone, Lo had to have hard conversations with her ex-husband about whether to integrate any of her existing polyamorous relationships into their isolation cohort.

They settled on Lo living with one somewhat-ex-partner (it’s complicated). They are also still employing a nanny in both households, in part, because this is supportive of Lo’s mental health. The negotiations about child schedules and hand-offs between households have been complex.

Lo has also been challenged by some of her loved ones about having non-immediate family members in her household “pod” during the pandemic. But, she was able to take that in stride.

She said being queer has given her a lot of practice with tough discussions: “I’m used to being outspoken about things that are unconventional. I’m done being in the closet about anything.”

Rachel Farr is an assistant professor of Psychology, and she runs the FAD (Families, Adoption, and Diversity) research lab at the University of Kentucky. She said that for LGBTQ2 families, this pandemic both feeds into existing patterns of resilience and creates new ones.

“Some of the emotional dynamics I think are true for any family trying to negotiate [this pandemic],” she told HuffPost, “but there are added layers of sensitivity and vulnerability for queer families, who also face stigma and various forms of silencing through institutional discrimination or lack of legal protections.”

Huffingtonpost.ca by Brianna Sharpe, April 23, 2020

Click here to read the entire article.

Coronavirus upends years of planning for international adoptions and surrogacy births

Coronavirus upends years of planning for international adoptions and surrogacy births

Coronavirus upends years of planning for international adoptions and surrogacy births.  Andrea Hoffmann’s mad dash to America began shortly after 2 a.m. on March 12 in Munich, when her husband roused her from sleep and said, “We have to get on a plane now.”Coronavirus adoptions surrogacy

The Hoffmanns both wanted to be in Maryland for the birth of their son to a surrogate who was due in late May. But Christian Hoffmann realized their plans had to be changed after watching President Trump on television as he announced travel restrictions on Europeans to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

When Christian left Andrea at the Munich airport at 6 a.m., they expected he would join her in a few weeks.

More than a month later, Christian Hoffmann is still in Munich, working at home for a pharmaceutical company. His wife is living temporarily in an apartment in Frederick, Md., doing administrative tasks on her laptop for her job as an air traffic controller. She has spent countless hours watching the news and the first five seasons of “Game of Thrones” on Netflix, and bonding with their surrogate, who has brought her three daughters to the parking lot of Andrea’s building so she can watch them dance from a second-floor balcony.

“We are just so glad one of us is here,” she said. “I didn’t think it would come to this. I thought, ‘It will be all right; they cannot lock down everything.’ I never would have imagined this situation.”

The sweeping travel restrictions, imposed with little advance notice, have interrupted plans for prospective new families around the world. The United States has imposed restrictions on travelers who have been in China, Iran and most of Europe, as well as Canada and Mexico. Nine of 10 people in the world live in countries that have closed their borders because of the covid-19 outbreak, narrowing international travel to a trickle.

As a result, many people overseas with surrogates in the United States are either stranded thousands of miles away or stuck in the United States, unable to bring their newborns home. And Americans who were about to fly abroad for international adoptions cannot enter the countries where children wait for them, often in orphanages.

“We literally had 15 families who had tickets purchased to leave the next day or in few days, and 10 families ready to purchase tickets,” said Susan Cox, vice president for policy at Holt International, an Oregon-based Christian organization that arranged more than 500 adoptions from other countries last year.

“In some cases, their adoptions had been in process for two or three years. They were finally at the point where the child was ready to travel, and the adoption was ready to be completed. They were so close.”

Thomas Mitchell and his wife, Callie, had been waiting for eight months to bring a 3-year-old boy home from an orphanage in northern China. Mitchell built him a bed that his daughters painted and decorated his room at their home in Chattanooga, Tenn., with a mural of pandas and pagodas. They had plane tickets to China in early February, but 12 days before their departure date, the adoption was put on indefinite hold.

“At first, we thought it would be a couple weeks’ delay,” said Thomas Mitchell, a real estate transaction coordinator. “Then it snowballed. Now, nobody knows when we can go.”

Washington Post, April 16, 2020, by Carol Morello

Click here to read the entire article.

How Men’s Bodies Change When They Become Fathers

Hint: They don’t just get ‘dad bods’ but men’s bodies change.

Men’s bodies change when they become fathers.  As an anthropologist who studies human fatherhood at the University of Oxford, I’ve run up against a widespread and deeply ingrained belief among fathers: that because their bodies haven’t undergone the myriad biological changes associated with pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding, they’re not as biologically and psychologically “primed” for caretaking as women are.men's bodies change

As a result, they feel less confident and question their abilities to parent: Will they be “good” parents? Will they bond with their babies? How will they know what to do?

As my own personal and professional experiences dictate, the idea that fathers are biologically “less prepared” for parenthood is unlikely to be true. Much of the role of parenting is not instinctual for anyone. (I remember the steep learning curve of those first days of motherhood — learning what each of my baby’s cries meant, mastering the quick diaper change and juggling the enormous amount of equipment necessary just to make it out the door.)

And while the biological changes fathers undergo are not as well understood (nor as outwardly dramatic) as those of mothers, scientists are just beginning to find that both men and women undergo hormonal and brain changes that herald this key transition in a parent’s life.

In essence, being a dad is as biological a phenomenon as being a mom.

Testosterone seems to dip

Take testosterone, the stereotypically “male” hormone that plays important roles in male fetal development and puberty. Testosterone is largely responsible for motivating men to find partners and, studies suggest, men with higher levels of testosterone tend to be more attractive to potential mates. But being a successful human father means focusing inward on the family and resisting the drive to seek out another partner. So, experts believe, men have evolved for some of that testosterone to go.

In a pioneering five-year study published in 2011, for instance, Dr. Lee Gettler, Ph.D., an American anthropologist, followed a group of 624 single, childless men in the Philippines from age 21 to 26. Dr. Gettler found that while all men in the study experienced normal, age-related dips in testosterone, the 465 men who became dads during that five-year period experienced a more significant drop — an average 34 percent (when measured at night) — than those who remained single or married.

Globally, study after study — including my own unpublished findings in the United Kingdom — have found similar results, noting that this reduction in testosterone can happen just before and just after the birth of a man’s first child. And while it isn’t clear exactly what prompts this drop, Dr. Gettler said that his own preliminary results suggest that the more dramatic the drop, the bigger effect it seems to have on a man’s caregiving behavior. “We found that if brand new fathers had lower testosterone the day after their babies were born,” said Dr. Gettler, “they did more caregiving and baby-related household tasks months later.”

While news of this drop in testosterone is often greeted with groans of resignation from men — choose fatherhood and choose the road to emasculation, they think — some studies have suggested that the lower a man’s testosterone, the more likely he is to release key reward and bonding hormones, namely oxytocin and dopamine, when interacting with his child. Caring for your child, therefore, produces not only a strong bond but a neurochemical reward, inducing feelings of happiness, contentment and warmth — a welcome trade-off.

Brains seem to change

The brain also appears to undergo structural changes to ensure that fathers exhibit the key skills of parenting. In 2014, Dr. Pilyoung Kim, Ph.D., a developmental neuroscientist at The University of Denver, put 16 new dads into an M.R.I. machine: once between the first two to four weeks of their baby’s life, and again between 12 and 16 weeks. Dr. Kim found brain changes that mirrored those previously seen in new moms: Certain areas within parts of the brain linked to attachment, nurturing, empathy and the ability to interpret and react appropriately to a baby’s behavior had more gray and white matter between 12 and 16 weeks than they did between two and four weeks.

NYTimes.com, By Anna Machin, June 13, 2019

Click here to read the entire article.

Utah boy speaks out after he says teacher bullied him for having gay parents

A Utah boy is speaking out after he says he was bullied by a substitute teacher for being adopted by two gay men.

In an interview with CBS This Morning, 11-year-old Utah boy Daniel van Amstel opened up about the experience, which happened on Nov. 22 at his elementary school just outside Salt Lake City.same sex parenting

It began when the teacher asked students what they were thankful for, to which he replied that he was “thankful for my dad and dad, my family, my dogs and everybody that I live with now,” the fifth-grader told CBS.

Though the Utah boy has lived with his parents, Louis and Josh van Amstel, for six months, he was only officially adopted on Thursday.

Daniel spoke of the excitement leading up to the adoption in class, which reportedly led to the teacher making homophobic remarks and questioning why he’d be happy to be adopted by them.

“That’s when one of the three kids, ones in my class, they stuck up for me and said, ‘Let’s stop,’” Daniel said. “But she kept going and she said: ‘Are you going to be gay?’”

“I was very mad,” he continued. “It’s not right … to insult other families, even if you don’t like them.

“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it.”

GlobalNews.ca by Meaghan Wray, December 20, 2019

Click here to read the entire article.

He Gave Thanks for His 2 Dads, Louis and Joshua van Amstel. His Teacher Condemned Gay Couples.

The substitute teacher was fired from a Utah public school. One of the boy’s parents, Louis van Amstel of “Dancing With the Stars,” wondered how she had become a teacher in the first place.

A substitute teacher at a Utah public school asked members of a fifth-grade class what they were thankful for before they left for Thanksgiving break.van Amstel

When one of the students answered that he was “thankful for finally being adopted by my two dads,” the teacher retorted that “homosexuality is wrong,” one of the boy’s parents said in a video that has gotten widespread attention on social media. The teacher then told the student that it was sinful for two men to live together, the father said.

The substitute teacher was fired soon after, according to the staffing company that had placed the woman at the school, Deerfield Elementary in Cedar Hills, Utah.

The father, Louis van Amstel, who is known for his role on “Dancing With the Stars,” wrote on Twitter and Facebook that his son, Daniel, 11, had been bullied by the teacher.

“It shouldn’t matter if you’re gay, straight, bisexual, black and white,” Mr. van Amstel said in an interview on Sunday. “If you’re adopting a child and if that child goes to a public school, that teacher should not share her opinion about what she thinks we do in our private life.”

Mr. van Amstel, 47, credited three girls in the class with alerting the principal about the teacher’s actions and with speaking up on behalf of his son, who he said didn’t want the teacher to get in trouble.

“The woman, even when the principal said, ‘Well, you’re fired,’ and escorted her out the door, tried to blame Daniel for what she said,’” Mr. van Amstel said.

NYTimes.com, December 2, 2019 by Neil Vigdor

Click here to read the entire article.

Kmart Selling Popular Family Doll Sets With Two Dads, Two Moms

But online Kmart shoppers don’t get to choose their doll family’s genders.

Kmart Australia recently introduced a line of doll families featuring same-sex parents.same-sex parents

Sydney and Melbourne locations of the Wesfarmers-owned discount department store chain have already reported selling out of the new doll sets, which come with a mom and dad, two moms, or two dads, the Star-Observer reports.

Manufactured by Anko, Kmart Australia’s international house brand, all doll sets include two kids, a baby stroller, a pet, and a picnic basket with food items.

newnownext.com, November 3, 2019 by Brandon Voss

Click here to read the entire article.

‘This baby was meant to be ours’: A gay couple’s journey to become parents

‘This baby was meant to be ours’: A gay couple’s journey to become parents

When Kraig Wiedenfeld and Bill Johnson decided they were ready to start a family and wanted a baby biologically related to one of them, they did what a small but growing number of gay couples with their desire do: They found a surrogate to help them.step parent adoption

As chronicled in The Washington Post last year, the two men, then married for four years, embarked on a journey both complicated and expensive that required: sperm from Weidenfeld, an anonymous egg donor and a young woman to carry the baby.

Christina Fenn had already carried three babies — including a set of twins — for two other same-sex couples, when a surrogacy agency matched her to Wiedenfeld and Johnson.

Before becoming a surrogate, Fenn and her husband, Brian, had two sons of their own. She loved being pregnant and longed to help those who couldn’t conceive children.

Assisted reproduction and surrogacy have been around for years, but these days gay men who can afford the cost are choosing this route to parenthood, experts say.

Sometimes, however, desire and hope — and in Wiedenfeld and Johnson’s case, advanced reproductive science — are not enough to guarantee a baby. A first effort resulted in a miscarriage just a month after the embryo transfer. The second effort had the same outcome, and an even heavier emotional toll for all involved.

But the two men and Fenn had contractually agreed on three embryo transfers, leaving them one final chance. On a crisp day last spring, nearly nine months later, that chance came due.

“Are you ready to be a dad?” Fenn’s eager voice said at the other end of the line.

Weidenfeld and Johnson raced from New York City to the hospital in Connecticut just in time for the birth of a seven-pound, 19.5-inch boy, soon to be known as Teddy.

“It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen,” Johnson said.

After passing the baby around among Fenn, her husband and the two new dads, Weidenfeld turned to Fenn and said, “Look what you’ve done for us. This is not the end of our story together. This is just the beginning.”

“I will be there for every birthday party and special occasion,” Fenn vowed, smiling. “I hope to always be in their lives,” she said of the family.

The number of children born through surrogacy is unknown, but surrogacy agencies say the demand for surrogates has noticeably risen in recent years. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, 738 babies were born via surrogacy in 2004; in 2014, that the number was 2,807.

Victoria Ferrara, founder and legal director at Worldwide Surrogacy, says about 50 percent of the 80 to 100 surrogacy arrangements her organization facilitates involve gay parents. She estimates the number of babies born through surrogacy every year ranges from 2,500 to 5,000 worldwide.

Washingtonpost.com, by Sydney Page, October 26, 2019

Click here to read the entire article.

Gay fathers study shows they receive less parental leave than other couples

Gay fathers study shows they received the same number of weeks off as different-sex couples in just 12% of 33 countries studied

Gay fathers study shows that around the world they receive less paid parental leave than lesbian or heterosexual couples, researchers said on Thursday, with many left struggling to pay household bills if they opt to spend more time at home with their children.gay fathers

The study by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) examined paternity laws in 33 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that offer paid leave to new parents.

First published in the Journal of Social Policy, the research found that gay male couples received the same number of weeks off as different-sex couples in just 12% of those nations.

Lesbian couples received equitable time off in just under 60% of the countries studied, researchers found after examining legislation gathered by the International Labour Organization in 2016. Some countries have since updated their leave policies.

“A lot of the differences in leave stem from gender stereotypes where women are the primary caregivers,” Elizabeth Wong, the lead author, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“That not only affects heterosexual couples, it greatly disadvantages same-sex male couples.”

Laws in most countries did not prohibit same-sex couples from paid leave, but policies only referenced the needs of heterosexual couples and did not acknowledge same-sex couples.

As of 2019, same-sex marriage was legal in less than 30 countries, and gay sex remains illegal in about 70 countries.

The rise of far-right political parties around the world has raised concern around LGBT+ rights, and the fight for parenthood or adoption rights is a legislative battle even in countries like Germany.

On average, same-sex male couples had five fewer months of paid leave than different-sex couples, while same-sex females received three fewer months than heterosexual couples, researchers said.

The study did not address transgender or non-binary couples.

Australia, New Zealand, Iceland and Sweden were the only countries to offer the same paid leave to all couples, including gay men, ranging from 18 to 70 weeks.

While companies in Switzerland often offer parental leave to men, only a minority of people benefited, said Jody Heymann, a director at WORLD Policy Analysis Center.

“There’s little doubt that if you want to avoid discrimination, it’s far better for paid leave to be done through social insurance,” said Heymann of government funded public health programs.

A 2018 report from the WORLD Policy Analysis Center found that OECD countries that offered six months paid parental leave saw increased numbers of workers and no change to unemployment or economic growth.

Thomson Reuters Foundation by Kate Ryan, September 5, 2019

Click here to read the entire article.

Families of gay kids were once seen as the enemy by support groups. That’s changing.

Families of gay kids were once seen as the enemy by support groups. That’s changing.

David Pitches, 74, a retired New York architect, never came out to his parents when he was a teenager growing up in Yonkers. “We were a silent family,” he says. “Coming out to them seemed to entail a family intimacy that I never had, or cared to have.”families of gay kids

Even after his parents figured it out years later, Pitches always felt they disapproved. “My father believed that gay people should lead their lives in private, and my mother never accepted it, even to her dying day at age 94,” he says. “Growing up in the ’50s was not a fun thing for a dreamy little boy who was gay.”

Even if families sought to understand the implications of their child being gay in what was, at the time, an anti-gay culture, they had nowhere to turn for support.

“The idea that I singly, or with them, would ever think to get some sort of therapy or program for coping was absolutely beyond their or my ken,” he says. “I was a deviant, and an embarrassment, who was best kept undercover or well-closeted.”

Fast forward to 2012, when Wendy Williams Montgomery, then a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, discovered that her 13-old son was gay. “Learning this felt both confusing and scary for me,” she says. “It was never a question of: Do I still love him? Can I still accept him? My question was: How do I do this as Mormon? Am I going to have to choose between the God I love, and the child I love?”

For two weeks, she couldn’t eat or sleep. She sought understanding from the church, but found only hostility.

“The message I was receiving by my church leaders, family members, friends and printed text was that my son was broken in an irreparable way, and would have to suffer through a truly horrific life until he died, at which time he would be ‘fixed’ and straight like the rest of us in heaven,” says Montgomery, who quit the Mormon Church five years later.

Fast forward to 2012, when Wendy Williams Montgomery, then a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, discovered that her 13-old son was gay. “Learning this felt both confusing and scary for me,” she says. “It was never a question of: Do I still love him? Can I still accept him? My question was: How do I do this as Mormon? Am I going to have to choose between the God I love, and the child I love?”

For two weeks, she couldn’t eat or sleep. She sought understanding from the church, but found only hostility.

“The message I was receiving by my church leaders, family members, friends and printed text was that my son was broken in an irreparable way, and would have to suffer through a truly horrific life until he died, at which time he would be ‘fixed’ and straight like the rest of us in heaven,” says Montgomery, who quit the Mormon Church five years later.

WashingtonPost.com, August 20, 2019 by Marlene Cimons

Click here to read the entire article.