Straight Allies – How straight parents can raise kids to be allies, during Pride Month and beyond

In a recent chat at our children’s school plant sale, a fellow parent shared some of the many ways their LGBTQ family loves to celebrate Pride Month each June, from wearing rainbow socks to hosting party nights.  Straight Allies welcome!

Although I write and speak regularly about parenting, sexuality and equality — and try year-round to teach my kids, 8 and 12, about inclusivity — hearing another parent describe Pride Month as “huge” for their family made me consider what more we could be doing as straight allies with my kids each June. Here’s what I learned when I went looking for ways all families can recognize LGBTQ Pride Month.straight allies

Learn and listen

Pride is not just a party. Some LGBTQ families and allies say they approach June not so much as a month of celebration but as a time to honor LGBTQ struggles, both historical and ongoing.

“The leap between being someone who’s kind of interested in the issue and being someone who is an active ally is an enthusiasm to learn,” PFLAG National’s Straight for Equality project says in a free online guide to being a straight ally. “Go online. Ask questions. Do some research. Reach out to other allies who might have grappled with the same challenge.”

The guide suggests studying a glossary of “gay-b-c’s” to get comfortable using the terms associated with the LGBTQ community. Straight allies and other parents sometimes ask how young is too young to teach children about gender diversity, sexual orientation and the many shapes families can take. Well before preschool, kids can grasp these basic concepts — and they’re usually quick to embrace messages that feel accepting, kind and fair. Starting an age-appropriate chat can be as simple as asking, “Did you know some families have two mommies? Or two daddies? Or one parent instead of two?”

“This is the month when your children of all ages will ask you questions about ‘what is LGBTQ?’ and ‘why the rainbows?,’ ” said Eliza Byard, the executive director of GLSEN, a national organization supporting K-12 LGBTQ students. “Be ready with a succinct and supportive answer for whatever level of development your child is at.”

Focus the message on other children’s experiences. Here are some examples: “What if you heard someone at a birthday party tell a boy he can’t have a pink balloon?” “Can you think of ways to make sure kids with two moms or two dads feel included in camp stories?” “Have you ever heard a classmate say ‘that’s so gay’ in a negative way? What could you do if you hear that again?” “Did you ever wonder what it might be like for a non-binary kid to have to choose every day between bathrooms marked ‘girls’ and ‘boys’? How could our community work together to make that easier?”

Greet Pride with a smile

Pride is solemn for some observers, but Andrea Hartsough, a San Francisco criminal defense attorney and lesbian mom of two, encourages families to go for the gusto and do whatever makes Pride Month fun.

WashingtonPost.com, by Bonnie J. Rough, June 14, 20`19

Click here to read the entire article.

Sam Thoron, former PFLAG president, dies at 79

Sam Thoron sold insurance and raced sports cars — but he was better known for changing the lives of thousands of straight families with gay children.

His decades of work and eventual national presidency of Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, or PFLAG, began on the day in 1990 when his 19-year-old daughter, Liz Thoron, came home from college on vacation and told him she was gay.sam thoron

“I realized our daughter had not changed but that we needed support in integrating this new information into our lives,” Thoron said in an essay he wrote in 2007. “We found that support with PFLAG. I became deeply committed to the principle that my daughter deserves to be treated, in every aspect of her life, with the same respect and dignity as seems to flow so naturally to her two brothers.”

Thoron, who served for four years as national board president of PFLAG, died Nov. 17 of esophageal cancer in his San Francisco home at the age of 79.

Current PFLAG president Kathy Godwin said Thoron’s leadership was “personal, caring, thoughtful and filled with passion — but mostly it was about the right to love, to be authentic, and to share one’s life in joy and dignity.”

“He was the embodiment of what PFLAG stands for,” said Liz Owen, the group’s communications director. “Warm, loving, with a shoulder for everyone. A strong parental voice for equal rights, not just for his own child but for everyone’s.”

A native of Washington, D.C., Thoron was a 1964 graduate of Harvard University and a U.S. Army veteran who had a brief stint as an amateur race car driver in New England until his wife persuaded him, after an accident, to knock it off.

by Steve Rubenstein, sfchronicle.com, November 30, 2018

Click here to read the entire article.

L.G.B.T. Students in Oregon Were Bullied and Forced to Read Bible, Report Says

In the hallways of a rural Oregon high school, gay and lesbian students were taunted with homophobic slurs. In the cafeteria, students pelted a transgender student with food.

And when gay and lesbian students got into trouble, the school’s principal assigned a specific punishment just for them: readings from the Bible.

Students detailed those allegations in recent state investigative reports into the North Bend School District, a coastal area about 100 miles north of California. In the reports, gay and lesbian high school students described years of harassment and bigotry from school employees and other students, and a deeply religious culture that silenced their complaints.

The two reports, completed in March by an investigator in the Oregon Department of Education and made public this month, found that top officials in North Bend had for at least the past two school years fostered hostile conditions for gay and lesbian students, hesitated to intervene after reports of sexual harassment and retaliated against a school counselor who had cooperated with the state investigation.

The state found “substantial evidence” of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students at North Bend High School. “The department finds that discrimination on the basis of sex and sexual orientation may have occurred,” the investigator wrote.

In schools across the country, L.G.B.T. students are more likely to be bullied and suffer depression than their straight peers, studies have found. It is no different in Oregon, gay and lesbian activists said, despite the perception of the state, and particularly places like Portland, as a progressive paradise.

In the state reports, the district denied that students had been mistreated and said that when they had reported cases of harassment, it resolved them promptly and appropriately.

School officials initially denied that students were required to read the Bible as punishment. But they later told investigators it was true, adding that they handed down the punishment not to promote a religion but “to assist students in understanding the effects of certain behaviors.”

The state ordered North Bend in March to settle with a pair of female students whose complaints to the State Department of Education led to the investigation. But no deal was reached, so the state has scheduled a hearing on May 24 with both sides to help mediate a resolution.

North Bend’s superintendent, Bill Yester, said Wednesday that the district disputes many of the state’s findings and will present its evidence at the hearing. He said the Bible was used as punishment only once.

by Matthew Haag, New York Times, May 17, 2018

Click here to read the entire article.