28 July 2015

When I was co-facilitating an LGBT youth group, I couldn't help but to notice how many of those young people had lived, or were living, on the streets or in shelters.  The reasons for that were, of course, that they were kicked out of their homes upon "coming out" or they faced abuse from family members (and, too often, bullying in school) and ran away.

Those phenomena have since received attention in the mainstream media as well as in LGBT policy circles.  However, there is another phenomenon I noticed--nearly a decade ago--about which I've still heard or read very little:  LGBT kids who spend time in foster care.  It's more common than people realize, essentially for the same reasons why too many queer kids end up on the streets or in shelters.  Worse yet, they sometimes face the same problems in their foster homes to which they were subjected when they were living with their biological families.  And, of course, they get bullied in school or in their neighborhoods.

With those things in mind, Shaun Osburn of Equality California created this infographic to bring some of the cold, hard numbers to life:


27 July 2015

The Boy Scouts Are Getting There....

As of today, the Boy Scouts of America has lifted its ban on openly gay Scoutmasters, other adult leaders and employees.  This comes a little more than two years after the ban on gay Boy Scouts was ended.

However, BSA will still allow Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout dens chartered by religious organizations to exclude gay adults from serving as leaders or camp counselors.

This change is important and necessary for a number of reasons.  One is that in certain areas, such as small towns and the countryside of the Midwest and South, the local Boy Scout troop or Cub Scout den is one of the few places besides school where boys can meet other boys their own age.  And, in many communities, especially the inner cities, Scoutmasters and other adult leaders are among the few adult male role models many boys have.

Study after study has shown that isolation kills.  The last thing kids who might feel isolated and alienated need is to be further isolated and alienated through exclusion from one of the few social outlets available to them.

Moreover, the old stereotypes about gay boys are dying.  They're not all effeminate and they don't all lack interest in sports or outdoor activities.  And they will probably strive for the same sorts of careers and (mostly middle-class lives) their straight peers want.   So, they need the same sorts of adult role models.  What could be better for a gay kid if that adult is also gay?

Finally, as a former Boy Scout, I can attest that there are a surprising number of ways boys of all kinds can express their talents and pursue interests.  For example, I earned merit badges in reading, writing,scholarship (basically for keeping up a B average) and photography.  Unless things have changed dramatically, there are a number of other merit badges in areas that most people wouldn't associate with Scouting.  

And, finally, there were community service requirements, if I remember correctly, for advancing from one rank to another.  There's certainly not a lack of interest in such things among gay kids--or adults.  

So the Boy Scouts of America is getting it right, I think.  Notice that I said "getting":  It's still a process.  Next....transgender scouts.  If the Girl Scouts can allow trans girls, why can't the Boy Scouts allow trans boys?

26 July 2015

Another Path Of My Past

Yesterday I pedaled along a route I rode often when I was a Rutgers student more than three decades ago.  I hadn’t taken that ride since I graduated and left the area.

The ride—along the Delaware and Raritan Canal towpath—was even more familiar than I expected it to be.  It was also, even more surprisingly, easier, in spite of my age and weight—and the fact that the testosterone in my body has been replaced by estrogen.  

When I am truly recalling or reliving something, my senses are engaged.  Sights and sounds—and, particularly, smells and tastes—return to me.  However, on yesterday’s ride, yet another sense filled me and reminded me of why I rode along the path back in the day, and why I was riding it yesterday.

In those days, I cycled even more than I do now.  Needless to say, I was stronger and faster.  Somehow, though, the ride seemed more effortless for me than it used to be. 

Now I believe I know why.  In those days, I was cycling, as well as lifting weights and engaging in other sports, in part as an attempt to free myself from the constraints of my body.  Sometimes I would pedal, run, lift, kick or fight until—and sometimes after—I couldn’t do any more.  When I’d physically exhausted myself, I was no longer appalled at my body because I had, if only momentarily, beaten it into submission:  I was punishing it for keeping me in a prison of maleness.

Yesterday I felt no such constraint, let alone the anger that festered when I was in it.  Without trying, I passed cyclists who were younger and fitter than I am.  The path was not something to be ridden over; it was something to ride, to ride along, to ride with.

On my way back, a dog crossed into my path.  Back in the days, I would have cursed the dog—and the woman who walked her.  But I stopped and stroked the dog, who licked my hand.  The woman apologized.  “It’s OK,” I demurred. 
A man—her husband, I presume--followed with another dog. He echoed her apology;  I repeated my deflection of it.  He stretched out his hand.  “Can I offer these as penance?”

He had just picked the blackberries.  I don’t remember anything that tasted so good.