Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Mother's Plea: A Letter from an LGBT Mom

I originally posted this on 4/26/16 as a Facebook note. It was only meant to reach those family and friends who are closest to me and know my family. Due to overwhelming support many asked to share and I made it public. Since then I've had strangers asking to share and other LGBT mothers contacting me saying things like "I'm going through the same thing!" I'm moved by the response and have copied over my message to this blog, in hopes that it reaches even more people - but especially LGBT moms. #YoureNotAlone #TellOthers
Dear Mothers, I’m a mother of an LGBT teen and she turns 16 tomorrow.
I couldn’t be more proud of my daughter. Honors classes, internships, aspirations of going into digital multimedia, a kind-hearted person, and a critical thinker - Do you know how hard it is to yell at your kid when they use logic! I tell people that my daughter is more like a 16 year old boy - all she wants to do is eat Tostitos, watch Netflix, and play video games. Sound familiar? But if you know my girl you know how sweet and funny she is. I’m lucky to have her in my life.
I’m lucky to have her in my life.
In middle school she let us know that for a while she’d known she was a lesbian. It was hard for her to tell us this not because she feared how we would react, but she feared how others would - our extended family and the public. Through the years we’ve walked with her on her journey - from exploring her gender to identifying her sexuality. But those middle school years were hard. Bullying with stupid questions “Does that mean you kiss girls!?” and when she was exploring her gender-identity it was even more rough. She cut her hair short, wore a breast binder, and even asked a few close friends to call her by a non-binary name. There were many nights of her crying in my arms. I’d always reassure her that she’ll figure it all out and that just let us know how we can help. Her response was always “I just don’t know.” Now that she’s in high school (and in a school that is very LGBT friendly) things are much better. Many children identify as gay or lesbian, and/or gender fluid. She’s friends with many of them and a leader in her school’s GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance club), in which the whole school participated in Day of Silence NOH8 Day last year. But she still has to face the outside world every day.
But she still has to face the outside world every day.
The LGBT community is a minority with only 3.8 percent of Americans identified as gay/lesbian, bisexual, or transgender according to the Williams Institute in 2011. With 318.9 million people in the US that’s only 12 million people. That means that over 300 million people don’t understand, don’t comprehend, don’t feel the way they do. And if you’re anything like me you grew up in a heterosexual household, are heterosexual, and pretty much have heterosexual friends. With only one in 25 people identifying as LGBT, it’s not hard to see how an LGBT person can feel totally alone.
In addition, the LGBT community is the highest suicide rate group compared to the general population. LGBT youth are 4 times more likely to commit suicide than their hetero peers. Our teens are living in a hetero-centric world where they feel isolated, misunderstood, and have nowhere to turn - combine that with general teen malaise and angst. We, as parents, can’t afford to allow this to happen. Our LGBT teens are at risk. We can’t afford our ignorance to drive our children to suicide. We can’t dismiss or hate them. It may cost us their lives.
LGBT youth are 4 times more likely to commit suicide than their hetero peers.
A few years back we went to the mall to go shopping for her an annual birthday “Treat Yo Self” gift - a shameless ploy to 1) go shopping with my daughter and 2) win her love by spoiling her rotten. While walking into the public restroom a lady said out loud and in disgust “Wow, they’re just letting guys in here?” At the moment I didn’t say anything, because I had no idea how to react. I shot a quick glance to my sweet girl and her face was stone cold serious. After we were done, I walked out with her and said “Did you hear that?” and she nodded and said “It’s not the first time, Mom.” Heartbreak. Then she recounted a time at a school State Leg function (she was invited to attend by her school and teacher) that girls made comments about her using the same restroom as them.
In North Carolina a law has been passed that infringes on the transgender community in the bathrooms. In response Target has boldly changed their restrooms to be more transgender friendly. My daughter and I talked about it last night and recounted the above story. It’s etched in her memory. While these laws exist she’ll still have to live in fear of being ridiculed, harassed, and maybe even arrested. Bullying is hard for a parent to take. Our immediate reaction is to contact the school, the parents, to jump in save the day! But how do you stop bullying when it’s in the school? Or the whole city? The state? The country? Last year there was hope for the future. Gay marriage passed in SCOTUS and that was a great first step. I was out of town that day and texted my daughter:
Me: “Did you hear the news!?” Her: “Mom... I can get married now.”
My husband and I were in tears. We held each other. And cried. Finally, after so much discussion, opposition, and years of waiting, all humans in the US had the same marriage rights - including our beloved daughter. One day we’ll see her get married. See her beaming with joy and love in a dapper suit. I’ll wear a beautiful corsage. And we’ll watch as she promises to adore her partner forever and a day - just like my husband and I do.
But our work isn’t done.
Did you know there is no federal law protecting LGBT from discrimination in the workplace? And 29 states (including Louisiana) don’t have laws protecting LGBT in their employment. However there is one currently for vote in Louisiana legislation. My daughter just became legal working age and I cringe at the stories I might receive. The jobs she won’t get because they didn’t like the look of her in the interview. The comments that she may get from her colleagues. The raise or promotion she won’t get cause she’s different.
And that future wedding that I can’t wait to attend? Some states (Texas, Louisiana, and Florida) have laws that protect religious organizations and in some cases those who are affiliated with religious organizations from performing gay weddings. Imagine the embarrassment and frustration of going to Hobby Lobby or a florist and being told I can’t purchase from there. As a mother, I find it appalling.
All of this is of course an unknown. And maybe you’re thinking to yourself “But none of those things might happen!” Maybe. But a heterosexual person has no idea what the LGBT community goes through. An LGBT has to live in fear of these things every day that they step outside their door. They don’t choose a life of bullying. A life of a sub-standard-citizen. They just are the way they are. And all they want is equal rights. They want to use the restroom that they feel most comfortable in. They want to have a job that treats them fairly. And they want to get married to the person they most love - just like everyone else.
All they want is equal rights.
I apologize for the length and if you’ve hung with me this long then I’ll end on this note. As one mother to another, I know you have concerns. You’re concerned for the safety of your children. Concerned about predators in the bathroom. Concerned about your children’s religious rights. I am too. So let’s work on it - together. Let’s work together to protect religious rights without infringing on the rights of others. Let’s work together to pass laws that protect our LGBT sons and daughters from discrimination in the workplace. Let’s work together and talk about our children - their likenesses, their differences. Let’s work together on better understanding the LGBT community. Let’s join together as mothers to have a country rich in diversity and accepting to all. Let’s be the voice for our sons and daughters.
Lastly, in a conversation about this subject, I asked my daughter last night “What can I do to help?” And she said, “Tell others.”
“What can I do to help?” And she said, “Tell others.”
Sincerely, with hope and love,
A PROUD Mother

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