In Part Two of my interview with my nephew Joe, we explore resources available to GLBTQ teens. My saucy sister Loretta (aka Retta), joined in on the interview to give her perspective on Joe coming out. Read on….
Me: Hey Joe!
Me: Happy day after graduation, Joe!
Joseph: lol thanks
So we left off last time with your words of wisdom to other teens who haven’t come out yet.
What else you think is important for teens who are coming out to know?
Joseph: I guess I would want them to know that there are so many others who are coming out and already have. That there’s a community out there even though it can feel like a pretty lonely struggle.
Joseph: I don’t think people really grasp that as much when they’re so busy hiding it. There are people in your position and ways to communicate about your problem without risking coming out before you want to.
Me: So, where are some places that teens can reach out? Any places in particular you have found helpful so far?
Joseph: There are so many different sites you can check out that are helpful. GLAAD, GLSEN, and PFLAG is good when dealing with family communication. Even surfing YouTube was helpful. There are some open and pretty funny people on there that are out and just make you laugh and made me feel more comfortable about it.
Me: YouTube, huh? Any good videos you care to share?
Joseph: I don’t have any specific videos on the brain but one user I liked a lot was Tyler Oakley. He vlogs on his own channel as well as a collaborative channel called the 5AwesomeGays
Joseph: He’s actually interning for The Trevor Project now, according to his vlogs and stuff.
Which is a good organization to mention
Me: Tell me more about the Trevor project
Joseph: The Trevor Project in a nutshell is a crisis hotline for LGBT youth.
Joseph: A place that is there for you and designed to help you get through your issues with being part of the LGBT community and especially for those who might be having suicidal thoughts.
Me: The name come from a short film, right?
Yep. Back in 1994 there was a short film entitled Trevor that dealt with a teen who attempted suicide after his friends reacted badly to his sexuality.
It’s actually a comedy/drama. Not all frowns.
Me: I haven’t seen it, but I’m glad to hear it’s not all sad.
Me: So let’s shift gears a little here, since you’re mom is waiting for us to stop gabbing and get into the interview. So let’s hear from the Mama….
Me: Hey Retta, Welcome to the interview!!
Retta: Hey There!
Me: I loved the comments you made on Joe’s blog- they were very moving, and passionate
Retta: Well I love the kid so much. He’s pretty cool and sometimes the only way I know what’s going through his head is to read his writings.
Me: Well, you’re a great mom. So, in the comments, you said that your response to Joe coming out was a non-event. I know you explained what that meant in your comments, but can you elaborate for those that didn’t read what you wrote?
Retta: For me it was. Like I said, I had suspicions. I remember calling you and asking you if I should ask him and you gave me wonderful advice. You told me to wait until he was ready. I did. He came to us when he was ready and I’m sure that was the best way to handle it.
It’s funny. You speak with people about gay and lesbian kids and they ask “How can they know what they are” I always reply, well, when did you start liking girls? I’m sure most kids know a lot sooner than we think.
Me: Good point.
Retta: Getting back to the non-event. Like I said, I already knew. However, there were challenges. I worried about how his father would take it, his step father and the kids at his school. I didn’t want him to be bullied.
I was surprised that he decided to come out right before senior year in high school. I thought it might be easier to wait until college. It’s the Mom in me. I worry. You just have to read the story of Matthew Shepard and know how bad it can be out there.
Me It sounds like as a mom, you’re very protective of Joe, and you have some honest concerns for your son.
Retta: Yes, I am. Probably over protective. That’s one of my faults.
Me: No, I think that’s normal mom behavior; then again, we come from the same gene pool. ; )
Retta: Like I’ve said on the blog, my main concern is my son being discriminated against. It makes me very angry that society feels they have a right to treat him differently. I can’t believe that this is an issue.
I was reading some blogs from other parents on the PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) site and I found some of what they wrote incredible. By this I mean, how can you want to hide something about your kid? How can you be ashamed of your kid’s sexuality? It’s sad, because it’s ingrained in the brain.
Me: Ingrained in the brain… tell me more about that
Retta: I have to be honest. You don’t see a lot of gays and lesbians walking around holding hands, kissing, showing affection in public. It’s not the norm. I wish it were. It’s going to take a lot of getting used to. Not only by our society, but even me. It’s not something you see every day and it is different from what we are used to. That doesn’t make it a bad thing though. That’s the difference between me and some of those “other” people out there.
Me: No, I know you’re accepting of everyone. That’s how we were raised. So, what can parents, friends, professionals, etc do to help support GLBTQ teens?
Retta: Leave them the hell alone! Let them live their lives. Be happy for them if they have found love. Jeez, wouldn’t you be happy if they found someone to love of the opposite sex. As I get older and get more experience with my children who are now adults, my biggest lesson has been to just get the hell out of the way. That’s goes for this too. Let them live their lives. They’ll come to you if they need you.
Also, be sure to let them know what resources are out there. I spoke with Joey about going online and getting involved in LGBT groups. Whether he decided to do it was his decision. I wasn’t going to push it like some SAT prep course!
Me: Sure, everyone can decide if they need emotional support and what amount they need. How about activism? You mentioned in your comments that more people have to get involved…
Retta: Well, I’ve also decided to let other people know my opinion if I happen to hear them putting anyone in the LGBT community down. I will try to be politically correct, but you know me, I don’t have much politically correct in my personality. I’ve also donated to the community and write to my government representatives when I feel it’s appropriate.
Me: Lol, nobody in our family is very pc—but we are equal opportunity offenders. = )
Where can people go if they want to get more politically active on GLBTQ rights?
Retta: For parents and friends I would suggest PFLAG-they are very involved locally and especially nationally. They have wonderful online support groups and actual meetings once a month. I would highly recommend this. Here’s Joe to tell you what he does:
Joseph: As far getting politically active goes.. I’d say to check out the Human Rights Campaign. They cover a lot of the issues and have links and the like to follow in regards to getting involved. They send out e-mails telling you about legislative initiatives and suggest petitions to sign your name to. Lately I’ve been getting e-mails asking me to call/mail my congressman on issues like Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
Me: Repealing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (allowing people who are GLBTQ to participate openly in the military) is a huge issue right now.
Joseph Yep, and it seems to be getting more attention with the right people now.
As far as a more hands on involvement goes.. I think it’s all about local groups.
Work to improve your own community in some way, even if it’s just your family at first. Churches can be a good help too, but it has to be the right kind. Our family got lucky with that.
Me: Sure have! There are great open and affirming religious groups! Like our family’s church:
Me: So, any final words to the wise from either of you?
Joseph: Final thought? It’s all about community. Support and supporting. The real fact is that gay rights are human rights and should be a concern to all, gay or straight.
Me: That’s a million dollar final thought
Joseph Nah, that’s really the easiest and simplest thought out there: love each other.
That really sums it up = )