One of the most important things LGBTQ youth need to be successful is the acceptance of their parents. Telling them is often one of the most difficult tasks of being LGBTQ. It’s also difficult for some parents of the LGBTQ youth. Other parents just somehow already know, and now everyone can be honest with each other.
Noelle Hamilton-Cambeilh is the contact person for PFLAG, a national support group for parents, allies, friends and family of the LGBTQ population. There is a chapter on Kauai. The YWCA has brochures to read about it, or you can go to the national website at www.pflag.org. Call Noelle at (808) 634-0127 for more information. I asked if students could go to the YWCA for counseling and she said that children under 18 need parental permission unless there is a crisis. The YWCA has helped suicidal LGBTQ in the past, sadly, because their parents could not accept their gender identity, or they did not feel that they had a safe place to go.
Noelle had some tips for kids who want to come out to their parents. Her first was to test the waters. In other words, notice how the parents respond to national news headlines regarding LGBTQ issues. Do they seem open and caring regarding the victims of hate crimes, or do they seem closed-minded to the idea of people being other than heterosexual? One might even ask about the subject, if they are not forthcoming in an opinion. There may be one parent who is supportive and one parent who isn’t. But you’d have an ally.
Noelle recommends that before LGBTQ youth tell their parents, they should have a plan in place of where to go if the parents are truly hostile to the new orientation or expression. Know where the safe places are on campus. There are LGBTQ support groups at Kauai High and Waimea High. There was one at Kapaa High, but student clubs are student driven. It’s up to the LGBTQ students to create the club. So find each other. Even if you don’t necessarily feel the need for support yourself, you may be able to help many people you haven’t even met. And something may come up in your life that you would like for like-minded folks to give their wisdom about.
Noelle told me that the school counselors, Mokihana counselors, and athletic directors at each high school have attended workshops about LGBTQ students. You could start there. They might have some resources for you.
She said that there may be extended family, teachers, counselors or friends, perhaps parents of other LGBTQ youth who would help out till the emotional uproar is over, and people become rational again. Remember emotion trumps cognition. If a person is really sad, angry or fearful, they aren’t thinking their best. It’s better to wait awhile to talk, but do talk. Leave a PFLAG flyer or the national website at pflag.org for them to study.
And here’s the other side: PFLAG was founded by parents who loved their kids and were frightened by what might happen to their children as they came out into the community. Sadly, we all know of hate crimes against the LBGTQ population and most of us know of children who have committed suicide because they didn’t feel their gender orientation/expression would be accepted.
PFLAG envisions a world where diversity is celebrated and all people are respected, valued, and affirmed inclusive of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.
By meeting people where they are and collaborating with others, PFLAG realizes its vision through:
w Support for families, allies and people who are LGBTQ
w Education for ourselves and others about the unique issues and challenges facing people who are LGBTQ
w Advocacy in our communities to change attitudes and create policies and laws that achieve full equality for people who are LGBTQ (pflag.org)
The Kauai group provides opportunity for dialogue about sexual orientation and gender identity, and acts to create a society that is healthy and respectful of human diversity.
It is a resource for parents, kids, employees, whoever would want more information. Knowledge that is both scientifically and psychologically sound is absolutely vital to understanding and accepting a LGBTQ family member or friend. It’s time to get rid of rumors and misconceptions. Contact Noelle Hamilton-Cambeilh at 634-0127 if you would like a presentation for your organization or to speak at a group you go to.
Dr. Carolynn Manka, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and a member of the local chapter of PFLAG. She counsels individuals and families. She said that what is important is to identify the issue that is causing the trouble. Many parents feel that they are to blame because of how they raised their children.
Well, consider this: gender orientation and identity may have a genetic component. There is a significant higher occurrence of different sexual identity among identical twins than in the normal population. That means that it may be that the parent genetically passed on the gene for it. And sometimes the parent is the one who changes sexual orientation or identity.
A generation ago, people had no compassion for alcoholics. They were just will-less people who thought more of themselves than the families they wrecked. Now, it’s pretty well accepted that there is a gene that makes people more likely to become alcoholics. We also know there’s an Alzheimer’s gene, a breast cancer gene, a diabetes gene, etc. Do we hate these people for expressing these “weaknesses.” Heck no! We help them live as normal lives as possible.
So, what is the issue? Are the parents’ dreams of their child’s future crushed? Are they fearful for their safety? Are they shamed? Are they guilty? Are they worried about their social standing? Are they clueless at how to help their child? Are the kids depressed and lost? The child is still a child, and needs basic needs covered, and guidance. Hopefully there will be the understanding that the child or parent is the same lovable being they were before.
“Mahu” was the umbrella term for LGBTQ individuals in the pre-contact Hawaiian culture. It was completely accepted and Mahu were respected. In at least 130 Native American tribes, homosexual people were considered “Two-spirit,” and were given special tasks in some tribes, although some tribes were conflicted about their expression.
Dr. Manka would be willing to meet with a potential PFLAG group member to talk about their situation and learn about PFLAG first, free of charge. If future counseling is needed, fees are sliding scale.
I had an inquiry about gender identity and gender expression. Matthew Houck of the YWCA and Malama Pono explained it to me. The short answer is: Sexual orientation is who you go to bed with, while gender identity is who you go to bed as. Transgender Leelah Alcorn was attracted to men.
Some transgender females are attracted to women, just as a woman can be attracted to either a man or a woman.
In Hawaii, crimes pertaining to sexual orientation and gender identity are recognized as hate crimes. We can all be allies by reporting sexual violence or threats of sexual violence. We need to educate, not hate.
Hale Opio Kauai convened a support group of adults in our Kauai community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Annaleah Atkinson at email@example.com