Stonewall have just released a new guide for parents who think their kids may be LGB. Called So you think your child is gay?, it’s chock-full of the same erasure of the right-hand-side of the LGBT acronym we’ve come to expect from Stonewall.
I’m not sure what I’m more angry about. Is it the fact that, a decade or so after the rest of us have moved on, Stonewall steadfastedly refuse to drag themselves into the late-20th century and update their acronym to LGBT? Or is it the fact that, despite grudgingly including the B, they insist on using the word ‘gay’ throughout this booklet, throwing in an “or lesbian” or an “or bisexual” just enough to remind the rest of us that they are veguely aware of our existence while still blithely ignoring any and all specific issues that LB people or our friends and families might have? It’s like intersectionality never happened. Then again, since intersectionality did happen, it’s perfectly okay to be angry about both kinds of erasure in distinct and special ways.
I want to do more than be angry, though. I think it’s time for the Ls, Bs, Ts, Qs and As among us to put our money where our great big loud mouths are. All LGBTQ kids and their families and friends deserve equal recognition of their needs, identities and the distinct issues that might come up for them.
I’d like to make an updated version of this booklet that’s inclusive of the rest of us. I’m even willing to give it to Stonewall- for free- to distribute, just as long as they let anyone else who wants to do the same.
But I can’t do this alone. I’m a big loudmouthed bi and queer activist. I can’t speak for trans* kids or ace kids or any of the rest of you. I can’t even speak for bi/pan guys and most genderqueer folks! But I know that you lot can.
Were you a kid or teen who came out, or wanted to come out, as something? Or a kid who didn’t know what the hell to come out as? Are or were you the parent of a kid who came out? Or the friend? What were the questions that you or your family/friends had?
Tell me! Either here in the comments or by email at considertheteacosy at gmail dot com, if you’re not comfortable sharing with everyone. Let’s fix Stonewall’s erasure and make sure that all LGBTQ kids and their families are heard.
Speaking of erasure, this is the first time I’ve heard of this organization, but I’m super uncomfortable that they seem to have taken their organization’s name from the historic 1969 Stonewall riots (at least, I assume), but have absolutely no acknowledgement or recognition of that history on their website anywhere that I could find. Talk about appropriation, especially considering that the Stonewall riots were as much about trans* people as gay/queer people.
That’s exactly what they’ve done. Stonewall Scotland does some token work for trans folks, but Stonewall UK (England and Wales) just describes itself as an LGB charity.
Rankles, doesn’t it?
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I think you’re being greedy here.
As I see it, this guide is for parents who are not too educated and open minded, but at least willing to try. As a parent, if they actually need to look up this info when little Johnny turns 14 and they start to get worried, they don’t know a lot about human sexuality (a pretty common thing in Ireland, based on my time here). And that the very idea of “accepting this” comes up, instead of being natural, means the parents are not too open minded. But, let’s give them credit, because they didn’t disown Johnny on the spot, daddy didn’t beat him up, they are actually trying -likely hard- to deal with the situation.
In my experience girls have this one easy, as people are a lot more understanding with lesbians (for obviously messed up reasons, but still), but it’s most every father’s worst nightmare that little Johnny will go to bed with little Jack. Now, the parents might try to come to terms with Johnny or Jenny being gay, but if you tell them that Johnny is actually not gay, but pansexual, they will lose every point of reference, they’ll feel they have lost every control over everything about Johnny, and most likely they’ll rush him to a doctor to fix him, because it sounds like he has a terrible disease.
I think we should hope to do this in small steps (like we did when we started to defeat racism, at least on this side of the continent), and let them accept first that their kid is not straight, and move on to the finer details later.
It’s interesting that you think I’m ‘greedy’ for wanting my existence, and that of people like me, to be acknowledged.
Apologies, maybe a wrong choice of word; no offence meant. Still, I do feel that listing every possible “orientation” in every printed/online media may be not always feasible, like in this publication, which is very “beginner level”. I seldom find my own little category explicitly listed, and don’t really feel bad about it.
@Chillbro: I agree with you mostly, except that the publication didn’t quite state that “gay boys” are the only option besides classic straight, and I do think that most of the audience -while parents- are still on a very beginner level here, possibly not even capable of understanding the bigger picture. But it’s a start; if they want to do more research on the subject, Google, Wikipedia or a plain old counselor could be the next step.
Here’s the thing. It’s fine that you personally aren’t put out by your own little category of orientation not being explicitly listed. That’s nice for you.
However, that still doesn’t mean that bi, ace and trans kids should continue to be ignored. I’m frankly baffled at what you think is so complicated about “some people like one gender. Some people like more than that. Some people don’t fancy anyone at all. Some people are a different gender to the one you assume they are”.
And this isn’t just a question of semantics. Bi people have specific needs that aren’t being catered for, higher levels of mental health difficulties and substance abuse. These are tied to the lack of social supports available to bi people in comparison to LG people.
And when it comes to trans* people? Dear sweet FSM, have you any idea what the stats are? Forty percent have attempted suicide. Forty. Per. Cent.
Like I said. It’s nice that you don’t have any problems with your own orientation not being mentioned. You’re incredibly lucky. I think that the people who aren’t so lucky deserve at the very least a nice simple pamphlet explaining to their families that they exist.
I think that the well-being worth bothering about.
“I agree with you mostly, except for your point.” The idea that these parents may find gay men “accessible” as the sole visible representation of LGBT+ people isn’t a useful handle to be grabbed at – it’s a problem that’s already harming substantial groups.
Making token mentions of other orientations doesn’t change the overwhelming slant towards “we shouldn’t confuse our audience by substantially including lesbian, bi, or trans people”, which is depressingly symptomatic of the creeping idea in social justice circles that you can only focus on getting rights for one group at a time, so all the effort should go towards gay men because They’re The Important Ones (and we’ll totally get around to some others one of these years).
Rights should either go to every group, or I’d prefer to simply “everybody”, because if we start listing groups, chances are, somebody will be left out.
But this is a different story. This is the education of the not-too-smart people, where an all-or-nothing approach will likely result in just nothing. And if the desired results are not media coverage, but actually saving people, then I think saving a few percent more every year is preferred to saving everybody in 20+ years from now.
And yes, in a country, where divorce is frowned upon and marriage is still popular before having kids, it is hard for the masses to understand that the Bible didn’t really cover all possibilities.
“not-too-smart people”, “the masses” – the elitism and condescension that seeps out in wording like that makes me bristle, and I’m not even part of the group you’re describing. Ignorance is not stupidity, and nor is being raised in a problematic culture.
Beyond that, all I can see in your argument is “Well, if we try to paint a more inclusive picture of LGBT+ people, there’s a very hazily-defined, blind-assertion risk that it might not be the absolute best thing for gay men!”, while you accept it’s already FAR from the best for the rest of the spectrum.
Moreover, the assertion of risk ties in to the superior tone you use when talking about the parents who need educating – I think you’re grossly, even insultingly, underestimating their ability to assimilate new ideas, especially when their ability to relate to their children is at stake. “Your child might be attracted to people of the same gender, or even both. Moreover, your child might have ideas about his or her own gender that don’t seem to make sense to you. None of this is as bad as you think!” isn’t that difficult – even when steeped in dangerous and hateful ideologies, parents largely do what they do because they want the best for their children.
When they have that kind of cause to be receptive to new ideas, the worry that they might not be receptive ENOUGH is a terrible reason to push a huge fraction of queer kids under a bus.
Possibly different experiences here. I’ve seen far too many parents murder their own child for ridiculous reasons to generally assume that everybody is capable of the necessary mental/emotional growth for the sake of having a happy family.
When teaching a new subject, especially in the sciences, we often start beginners out with “easy” versions of things, because teaching them the state-of-the-art, most comprehensive version might be more than they’re mentally equipped to handle yet. This is why we have physics undergrads still learning about Newtonian gravity, rather than having to apply general relativity and solve multi-dimensional field equations. The important thing is, though, that it’s counter-productive and even harmful to teach a simplified model unless it’s genuinely useful – enough so that it’s still used as an approximation by professionals.
This is why we don’t teach medicine students four-humour theory, we don’t teach neurology students phrenology, we don’t teach astronomy students the geocentric model, and we SHOULDN’T teach clueless parents that gay cisgender men are the only gender/sexuality minority that exists.
Gah. Coming out is a whole big thing I’d rather avoid. Through my blog, people in my real life know I am bi. My parents and my sister and my colleagues to do not. I’m in a relationship with a man so it’s never really questioned, and while it’s easier in some ways, it does hurt to think that my bisexuality isn’t really “real”, like somehow I have to prove it in some way.