Advice

Welcome to the Let’s Get This Straight Advice Column! This is a safe zone for youth with LGBTQ parents and LGBTQ parents. Since I have had people calling and emailing me with questions for years, I think this is a valuable and necessary resource to have available.

This is a space where you can share your thoughts, experiences, questions, successes, and daily frustrations with someone who cares how you feel and ultimately wants to empower you. Please know that I am not a licensed therapist. I am an educator and love my role in supporting youth. I am also not the authority of your life experiences, you are. I can provide advice, but only you can determine if that advice is right for you and your family. You are the expert on your life; trust that.

If you’d like to share a question privately, feel free to email me at tinajfakhrid@yahoo.com. Please be aware that your question may be on other’s minds as well and you could be helping them by being brave enough to ask in this space.

Note: Not that I’m blowing you off (I’d never do that), but other wonderful places to view valuable archived questions are the COLAGE website and author of Families Like Mine, Abigail Garner’s website. I like to share the wonderful resources in our community and COLAGE and Abigail have put in a lot of hard work towards this effort.

Now that we’ve gotten all of that out of the way, let’s get started. Ask away!

4 Responses to Advice

  1. Question: At what point should I tell my new girlfriend or boyfriend about my parents?

    Tina’s Response: Tell your girlfriend or boyfriend before that person becomes your girlfriend or boyfriend. Ideally, you will start off as friends. As your friend, you will be able to gauge whether this person is good enough to be your lovebug and if she or he is open enough to see your family as just that, another family. If you don’t trust this person or think that they might have an issue with your parent(s), then you might not want her or him as a love interest because trust, honesty and unconditional love are the first steps toward a good relationship.

  2. Question: How should I handle kids that use “that’s so gay” to mean something negative? It really irks me.

    Tina’ s Response: It depends on the situation. Some people are saying it to be cruel, get a reaction or get attention. It may be best to avoid further conflict since that is probably what they want. An idiot will probably always be such, so you might not want to waste your precious breath. Some people just say it because they don’t know any better and it’s common practice; ignorance is their problem, not eternal idiocy. Focus your attention on them. If this person is your friend, you should politely ask them to find another term like “that’s so dumb” and tell them that this term is offensive to you. If you don’t really know this person and are not interested in 50 questions after they learn that you have an LGBT parent, just say, “Did you know that term is really offensive to the LGBT community? Here’s why…” or “How can something be gay? What do you really mean? Oh. Then say that.” You will still have the jerks that say it anyway, but at least they know where you stand and hopefully, they will be smart enough not to say it around you.

  3. Question: How do I address a teacher who uses homophobic language in the classroom?

    Tina’s Response: This is a serious issue that can negatively impact your educational experience and create a toxic learning environment where homophobia is acceptable, so let’s address it. Let’s call your teacher Mr. Jack. First, you should inform your parent(s) so that they are in the loop at the beginning and then try to handle it on your own. Speak privately to Mr. Jack and respectfully share your observation(s) and more importantly, how it makes you feel when those comments are made. Be sincere and honest, and drop the attitude before engaging in this conversation.
    Teachers tend to respond better when they feel that you are treating them with respect and not trying to embarrass or be confrontational towards them in front of the class. Your teacher may not even be aware, just like some of your peers, that what he is saying is homophobic because that language is unfortunately so accepted in our society. This can be a teachable moment for him and let’s assume that he has the best of intentions; he is a teacher, after all. Also, you can throw in a bit about wanting to feel safe in the class. Teachers have a responsibility to create a safe and comfortable atmosphere for learning. If this polite, but direct one-on-one conversation doesn’t work, then you need to talk to your parent(s) again and ask them to set up a conference with the teacher to rectify the situation. That should do the trick.
    If that still doesn’t work, write a letter to the principal about the incident and how you followed-up appropriately. Document each step of this process (dates, exact homophobic remarks, your response, actions taken, results), so that if you need to move forward with the school board or with legal action, you will have all of the information on hand and are not trying to go off of memory. Sheer memory will fail and will not hold up. Document everything! Hopefully, it won’t get there at all. Surely Mr. Jack has the best of intentions and will do all in his power to self-correct and be sure that he is the role model and professional that he is being paid and trusted to be in the classroom. Good luck and have a great school year!

  4. The most beautiful thing happened today – the second day of the school year. I received my copy of Let’s Get This Straight in the mail last night and frantically took it to work this morning (I’m a high school teacher). I proudly shared it with the new and old students during each class period, saying, “No Flaming Hot Cheetos fingerprints, please!! It’s my only copy!” They treated it like a new born. After school, one of my students came into my classroom to do some ACT Prep and quietly shared that he believed his father was gay and in the closet. The father lives with his “roommate” and gets defensive every time my student tries to broach the subject. However, my student said, “I know he’s gay, so I don’t why he’s hiding it. I love him.” As if that weren’t enough to make me tear up, I gave him the book and directed him to the section on parents coming out to their children, especially the first person accounts from others with LGBTQ parents. He read it for a while and looked up and said, “I’m like this girl right here. I connect with her. Mrs. Deen, I need my own copy of this book.” It was better than sunshine. And I’m still smiling… This is exactly why this book exists – to connect and empower us. My advice – let’s keep talking, reaching out and exploring who we are – with pride.

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