Showing posts with label Gay Families. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gay Families. Show all posts

February 27, 2019

Kansas Republican Withdraws Support From Anti Gay Bill After Reading Daughter’s Letter on Face Book

Image result for Kansas Republican Ron Highland daughter

By Gwen Aviles
NBC News 
                                     Related image

Kansas Republican Ron Highland is removing his name from an anti-gay bill he co-sponsored after his daughter — who describes herself as a “proud member of Kansas city’s LGBTQ+ community” — shamed him in an open letter posted to Facebook.
“Further isolating the marginalized among the population you serve is far from your duty. Hate has no place in public policy,” Christel Highland wrote in the letter addressed to her father. “I respectfully request an apology on behalf of my family and beloved friends that this cruel attempt at legislation impacts.”
Christel Highland told NBC News on Monday that she and her father have a “long history of writing letters to each other about things we might not be comfortable discussing in person.” She ended her Feb. 20 letter by saying that she loves her father “in spite” of his “flaws,” adding “I cannot, however, condone your cruel actions. Shame on you.”

Ron Highland, a member of the Kansas House of Representatives, was one of seven Republican lawmakers to co-sponsor the Marriage and Constitution Restoration Act, which LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Kansas called the “most vile” legislation in the state’s history.
The bill, introduced Feb. 14, refers to same-sex marriages as “parody marriages” and classifies legal protections for members of the LGBTQ community as “the greatest sham since the inception of American jurisprudence.”
The bill seeks to prove that same-sex marriage is unconstitutional by equating LGBTQ identity with a sect of “secular humanism,” and it argues that such marriages violate the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause — which prohibits the government from establishing a religion.
The Marriage and Constitution Restoration Act, along with its sister bill, the Optional Elevated Marriage Act, were modeled after draft measures written by Chris Sevier, an anti-gay activist best known for filing a series of lawsuits in different states seeking to marry his laptop. 
Following his daughter’s public Facebook post about the controversial marriage bill, Ron Highland told local news outlets that he made a “mistake.”
“The bill that I should not have signed on to co-sponsor contained some hateful language, which I do not condone,” he said in a statement shared with The Wamego Times. “I have asked for my name to be removed from the bill. The process for doing so is in motion.” 
Drag queens protest at border wall to raise money for LGBTQ asylum-seekers
Kansas Rep. Brandon Woodard, an openly gay Democrat, said that other co-sponsors of the bill have also begun to backtrack on their support for the measure. 
While Ron Highland did not immediately respond to a request for comment, Christel Highland applauded her father’s change of heart on the marriage bill, writing on Facebook, “Now I have to write another letter.” 
“I felt proud of him for stating what feels overwhelmingly overlooked right now — that we are here to love and support one another,” she said. “We are better than this.”

February 15, 2019

When He Came Out His Mom Said She Would Mourn Not Getting a Grand Kid From Him But That Changed

"When I came out to my parents in 1988, my mom said she had to mourn the life that I wasn't going to be able to have," Andy Cohen tells PEOPLE exclusively


Andy Cohen “always knew [he] wanted a family,” but he admits that he wasn’t sure becoming a father would ever become a reality for him.
“As a gay man, I never thought it was in the cards for me,” the Watch What Happens Live host, who welcomed son Benjamin Allen via surrogate on Feb. 4, told PEOPLE and Entertainment Weekly Editorial Director Jess Cagle in a candid interview for this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
“When I came out to my parents in 1988, my mom said she had to mourn the life that I wasn’t going to be able to have. And that life meant getting married and having kids,” recounts Cohen, 50.
“[At that time] people were dying of AIDS; [that’s] what was happening in the gay community. So all these years later, gay men are raising families and getting married. There were points where I thought that it was too late for me or that I was really focused on my career, and I was having too much fun to think about it. It was still there nagging at me in the back of my head.” want all the latest pregnancy and birth announcements, plus celebrity mom blogs? Click here to get those and more in the PEOPLE Parents newsletter
 "Turning 50 also played a big part,” Cohen continues. “I just realized that now was the time. From the time I decided, ‘Okay, I’m doing this,’ which was December 2017, for the entire year of 2018 I lived my life as though it was my last year on the planet.”
“I went to London twice. I followed the [Grateful] Dead on tour. I went to Israel for the first time. I went to Europe for three weeks. I took advantage of every opportunity, and it was a joyous, joyous year,” he raves.
“I knew that I was turning a page on that chapter in my life. It’s not to say that I can’t go to a party anymore, but things are changing.” 
Watch the full episode of The Jess Cagle Interview: Andy Cohen, streaming now on, or download the PeopleTV app on your favorite device.

June 5, 2018

Coming Out to Your Family of Nephews and Nieces by The Out LGBT Individual

You will some Excerpted from “Rainbow Relatives: Real-World Stories and Advice on How to Talk to Kids about LGBTQ+ Families and Friends” by Sudi (“Rick”) Karatas. Copyright 2018 by Skyhorse Publishing, Inc. They appeared on Salon by SUDI "RICK" KARATAS. Adamfoxie took Excepts of the excepts for our audience. We wanted you to  see how some of us feel (the ones with nephews and nieces) that  are LGBT.
 I feel the whole array of LGBT not just gay should be made available to explain to the kids about themselves as soon as they can understand that mom and dad are married. If you wait for them to ask or express curiosity, it might never happen, particulalry with boys. Remember as soon as the kids  start going to school they will find many boys and girls that in many cases will be different from each other. If you wait for other kids to educate your kids they will be educated by those kids friends, parents or something they hear on tv. or the church.
Would it be better for all involved that the people closest with the issue of LGBT and their parents be the ones that educate their kids. I have so many nieces and nephews in my family I don't even know half of their names. We are a big spread out un-united family. If that was not enough religion is the mix with this family. I don't mean the religion with respect to going to church on sundays but the ones that want your kids to eduate them in their mantra. Some name them as mystical, evangelicals, Jehovas's and I don't know what else. Once the immediate family gives the right information to their kids it will be hard for someone who has no interest in the edcuation of your kids they same way you do to change the roots of what your kids already know because it would have been given by someone the kids trust and love.
One mistake some parents do is explain to the kids without giving the opportunity to a close gay or LGBT family member to come out to them. No one can explain the way Iam better than Me. This obviously only aplies to LGBT that are out. This is something that was taken away from me even being close to some in my family. The reason is problably they did not wanted it explain as a positive thing. May be neutral or may be not so neutral. If you have anyone in the family that doesn't know, this might help. Adam🦊
Just in time for Pride in June, "Rainbow Relatives: Real-World Stories and Advice on How to Talk to Kids About LGBTQ+ Families and Friends" (May 8, 2018) is a collection of intimate, real-life stories and advice about coming out to family members—parents to children, aunts and uncles to nieces and nephews, grandparents to grandchildren.
The concept for "Rainbow Relatives" was born when author Sudi "Rick" Karatas asked his sister if her children knew about his (their uncle's) sexual orientation. She said they didn't, as she hadn't been sure how to approach the topic and wished there was a book she could read to help her have those conversations. So, Sudi wrote that book. He hopes "Rainbow Relatives" will make readers more accepting of all people and families, especially in the LGBTQ+ community. 
When my nephew was thirteen years old, his Christmas wish list included the movie "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry," a movie about two men pretending to be gay and getting married for health-care benefits. He was already an Adam Sandler fan and thought the premise of the movie sounded pretty funny. At the time, I wondered if he might be too young for a movie with that subject matter and thought perhaps it was better if he didn’t see it. (Okay, so maybe I thought he shouldn’t see it because it had a ridiculous plot.) But I was also concerned because I had no idea if my nephew knew his uncle is what Chuck and Larry were pretending to be. I decided not to buy it for him, but someone else bought him the movie anyway.
Is Younger Better?
As I did research for my book, I realized not only was my nephew old enough to watch a film with a gay theme, but that younger is probably better for children to be introduced to people who are different in a few ways yet the same in so many others.
The consensus of the people I interviewed was that it’s easier to be more accepting at an earlier age before kids are exposed to outside influences that may lead to forming negative beliefs or homophobia. 
I’m not saying it’s a good idea to throw in "Brokeback Mountain" or "Queer as Folk" between episodes of "Sesame Street" but by the time kids get to elementary school, they should not equate gay people with aliens from outer space. The more they know, the less of a big deal it seems—and it really isn’t a big deal at all. The more it’s kept a secret and not talked about, the more taboo, wrong, and shameful it may seem and the bigger the issue becomes.
Many gay people I spoke to were like me in that they simply weren’t sure if their nieces or nephews knew. Many people don’t live near their families, or they don’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend around enough in their daily lives, so the kids didn’t have the chance to put it together on their own. However, in some families, the subject just wasn’t tackled or talked about.
To Tell or Not to Tell, That Is the Question
Every family and situation is different. Questions that often arise include: Who gets to decide when a child should know? What if the parents don’t want their kids to know about their aunt or uncle yet, but the aunt or uncle wants their nieces and nephews to know? Should the aunt or uncle have to hide who they are or pretend that they’re someone other than themselves? What if they have a significant other whom they would like to bring to family gatherings just like everyone else? 
One person I interviewed at the Los Angeles Gay Pride Parade put it simply: “When children see two people in a loving relationship, it’s not really talked about. They just see that this couple love[s] each other, and as they get older they just understand. They are not told unless they ask. So it’s more of a coming to know. They just see a relative with someone else in a relationship of the same gender, and they kind of just get it.”
I interviewed one person who had a nephew who was nine years old. He said to his uncle, “I hope you find someone to love like Aunt Barbara has.” Aunt Barbara had a female lover. The kid figured it out by himself. He had never been told his uncle was gay, but somehow he knew.
Avoiding the discussion of gay issues with children can end up harming everyone involved. Silence isn’t going to change someone’s sexual orientation or make it go away; it only makes it seem wrong or shameful. It’s a matter of not just letting kids know about LGBTQ relatives, but also making sure their questions and concerns continue to be addressed. It’s likely that children will hear some classmates make negative comments about LGBTQ people, or they’ll see prejudice on TV or social media. They may see news coverage of many states trying to pass anti- LGBTQ laws, like those allowing someone to deny service to an LGBTQ person if it’s against their religious beliefs. In fact, in February of 2014, Arizona did pass a law of this nature, but the governor later vetoed it.
A lot has changed even in the past few years I’ve spent writing Rainbow Relatives. While it’s certainly becoming easier to be out or openly gay in today’s world, conflicting messages are still being put out there as debates over gay rights continue to ignite salacious talk in the media.
Questions and Answers on Coming Out to Nieces and Nephews
Much of the research for my book came from surveys I asked a number of people to fill out. In many of them, on the subject of when and how to tell children about their relatives’ sexual orientation, the adults indicated they were nervous about how the kids would react, while most of the kids indicated that the news didn’t bother them at all. The following are some of the questions and answers taken from the surveys to give you a feel for the basis of my research.
Do your nieces and nephews know you are gay? If yes, how old were they when they were told or found out? How were they told? How did they react? If they have not been told, why not?
  • Paul: Yes. They were about nine and eleven when they found out. My niece was the one who “outed” the situation, so to speak. My sister and I had been on the phone and I was talking about my boyfriend. When she got off the phone, her daughter said, “Who were you talking to?” She said, “It’s your uncle.” Her daughter laughed and said, “No, you were talking about someone and their boyfriend.” That opened up the dialogue for my sister to explain to her daughter that her uncle was gay. She listened and took everything in stride. She wasn’t offended or freaked out. But the funniest part was at the end of the conversation when she said, “I only have one question . . . does that mean I have lesbian blood in me?” My sister laughed a little and was more shocked that her daughter even knew the term lesbian. She then informed her daughter that her uncle being gay has nothing to do with her [own] sexuality. My niece said, “Cool . . . and no wonder he dresses so well.” Ha! Later that day she explained it to my nephew. They had to be a little more gentle with him because he looks so much like me and so many people tell him that; they wanted to make sure that [he understood] people wouldn’t “assume” he was gay because of the similarities. Luckily, he was fine with it too. Neither has ever shown me any resentment or bias. Impressive, since they live in Middle America.
  • Sandra: [My kids] found out when they were ten and twelve years old. My son realized there was only one bed in the apartment my brother shared [with his boyfriend] and came right out and asked if he was gay. I said yes—I knew that they probably already knew.
  • Eddie: I never “came out” and said “I’m gay,” but I never hid it from [my nieces and nephews]; they all met my partner and figured it out. I don’t censor my speech or my actions around them. If I did, it would imply there’s something wrong with it.
  • Rosa: Yes, at age nine, my niece saw a picture of me and my partner and asked her mom, my sister, if I was gay. My sister replied yes. A bit later my sister asked her if she had any questions—and she said no.
What were some questions they asked, and how were they answered? Did boys react differently than girls? How?
  • Allen: They asked, “Do they love each other?” And things like “What’s a lesbian?” or “What’s a gay person?” My response was, “They are with a person of the same sex, just like people are with people of the opposite sex, and there’s nothing wrong with that!”
  • Adrienne: They didn’t ask questions—I asked them an important question. “Now that you know that your uncle is gay—do you feel any differently about him?” Their immediate response was no.
  • Trevor: The girls were more vocal about not caring. The boys were quieter.
  • Alastair: When my nephew found out, he said he didn’t want to talk about it.
  • Sybil: The girls wanted to know the love story; [the] boys didn’t ask, just accepted without questions.

April 2, 2018

The SUV with The Entire Family of 8 Seems to Have Intentionally Driven off The Clip


This March 20, 2016, photo shows the Hart family of Woodland, Wash.,
 at a Bernie Sanders rally in Vancouver, Wash.
Tristan Fortsch/AP
Police say that the driver of an SUV carrying a family with several adopted children may have intentionally plunged off a cliff along California's scenic coast last month, according to local news reports.
The family from Woodland, Wash. — Sarah and Jennifer Hart, who was married, and at least three of the couple's six adopted children — was in the vehicle on California's scenic Highway 1 near the city of Westport when it accelerated rapidly off the cliff and fell 100 feet to the rocky shore.
However, Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman told KGW-TV that authorities have "every indication to believe" that all six children were inside at the time of the crash.
The Associated Press reports: "The two women, both 38, were found dead inside the SUV, while three of their children — Markis Hart, 19, Jeremiah Hart, 14, and Abigail Hart, 14 — were discovered outside the vehicle. Searchers were looking for Hannah Hart, 16; Sierra Hart, 12; and Devonte Hart, 15."
Investigators have "reason to believe ... that the crash was intentional," Greg Baarts, acting assistant chief of the California Highway Patrol's northern division, told KGW.

This aerial image from Alameda County Sheriff's Office drone video, courtesy of Mendocino County, shows the pullout where the SUV of Jennifer and Sarah Hart was recovered off the Pacific Coast Highway 1, near Westport, Calif.
It is unclear when the crash occurred, but Baarts said the smashed vehicle was found by a passing motorist on Monday, March 26, "three days after social services authorities in Washington opened an investigation that was apparently prompted by a neighbor's complaint that the children were being deprived of food," according to the AP.
"It is safe to report that a felony may have been committed in this case," Baarts said.
KGW reports: "Baarts said items were retrieved from the home during the search, including computers, credit cards, and bank statements. On Sunday morning, [Baarts] said CHP could not confirm that a suicide note was retrieved from the home. But during Sunday night's teleconference with media, CHP said there was no note left behind and no obvious indicator in Hart's home to explain what happened."
In 2011, Sarah Hart pleaded guilty to domestic assault in Douglas County, Minn., after she told authorities "she let her anger get out of control" while spanking her 6-year-old adopted daughter, court records show, according to AP.

In 2014, Portland police Sgt. Bret Barnum and Devonte Hart, 12, hug at a rally in Portland, Ore., where people had gathered in support of the protests in Ferguson, Mo.
Johnny Huu Nguyen/AP

The family "often took spontaneous road trips to camp and hike and traveled to festivals and other events, offering hugs and promoting unity," AP says.
Devonte, who is African-American, was photographed in 2014 in Portland, Ore., hugging a white police officer during protests over the police shooting of a black man in Ferguson, Mo. The photo was widely circulated by the AP.
National Public Radio

It is adamfoxie's 10th🦊Anniversay. 10 years witnessing the world and bringing you a pieace whcih is ussually not getting its due coverage. 4.9 Million Reads

September 3, 2016

The Bond of Gay Sons to their Accepting Fathers

IF fathers are the heroes in every man’s life, they are the superheroes for gay men who have feared losing their love and support just for being themselves.
When former St Kilda footballer Nicky Winmar announced recently that he regretted not always being supportive of his son, Tynan, after he came out many years ago, he also revealed he is now unrestrained in his praise and pride in his son’s achievements.
The head of beyondblue, Georgie Harman, says there can be a stigma around coming out and fear of negative consequences can make it particularly stressful.
“Research shows that most young men know they are attracted to the same sex at the age of 13.7,” she says. “This is also an incredibly risky time in a young man’s life when he is feeling vulnerable and forming an identity anyway so it’s a really crucial time.”
But Harman also says a study from 2010 shows half of all people came out to their fathers first and half of those reported a supportive response.
“It’s moving in the right direction because support from fathers is incredibly important to young men who are grappling with their sexuality,” she says. “Coming out is a really complex issue because it’s very personal and depends on the environment in which they are disclosing and how ready they are to potentially lose their family. That’s how serious it is for some people.”
The head of young gay support group Minus 18, Micah Scott, says negativity around coming out is based on fear of rejection. It can take time for fathers to educate themselves and accept that it can be a process of discovery or that acceptance can be instantaneous.
“It’s reformatting a relationship, rediscovering what that means for the dad and learning that just because their son is gay, it doesn’t change the fundamental things,” Scott says. “We’re noting a lot more dads getting in touch with us and years ago it was only mums or no one at all, so there is a much higher level of acceptance from parents now and dads in particular. It’s also more common for boys to come out younger.”
Weekend has spoken to a group of gay men who all say the love that is the basis of their relationships with their fathers is crucial to their wellbeing, stability and successful relationships.
Their fathers are their role models, advisers and definitely their heroes.

Tristan and his dad Finlay. Picture: Norm Oorloff


WHEN Tristan Sinclair told his parents he was gay, their relationship immediately improved. While it might have been an anticlimax for Tristan, 28, it was the clarification his father Finlay, 64, needed.

“I remember thinking that at least now we can just get on with life and he can get back to his studies,” Finlay says. “He was struggling at school and I was a bit frustrated with him not progressing because I’m an electrician and I wanted more for him than to be a tradesman, but once he came out it was like we cleared a hurdle. He started to do better at school and we fully supported his more arty direction at school.”

Tristan, who is a dancer and runs a dance school, clearly remembers coming out. He knew he was gay at 16 and his mother, who had been raised a Mormon, found out before he had a chance to tell her.

His father had been raised in a strict Protestant household with a Scottish father who was a disciplinarian, adding to Tristan’s concern he may not understand that the younger of his two sons was gay.

“My mother held the knowledge as a terrible burden for four months without telling my father because she was worried he wouldn’t deal with it and maybe thought it was a phase I was going through or just experimenting,” Tristan says. “It was weighing on her mind so it got to the point where I decided to tell him but even then I kept putting it off until it got to the time when I thought he was going to bed.

“He was having a bath so I stood behind the bathroom door and told him I was gay. His response was, ‘Oh, I think your (great) uncle might have been, too.’ He wasn’t shocked or disappointed at all and it’s quite funny looking back on it now.

“I remember him driving me to see my first boyfriend and he was so great. I only had heterosexual sex education at school and no one ever talked to me about all that stuff. He said, ‘I don’t want you to say anything and I don’t need to know about it Tris but I hope you know you should use condoms if anything develops tonight’.

“He has just always been so supportive and I couldn’t ever say anything negative about him.”

Finlay often visits his son and partner Ash in their Coburg North home. He has helped plant their fernery in the large garden and is always on hand for a chat or to mend something in the house.

The family is looking forward to travelling to New Zealand next year to attend Tristan and Ash’s wedding.

“They are great together and we’re very happy about it,” Finlay says. “I just want Tristan to be successful in life and happy. You’ll never be happy if you’re not yourself and parents who have trouble accepting they have a gay child need to remember they’re there to support their kid’s aims in life and they should just get on and live their own lives.”


WHEN Nathan Miller realised it was time to tell the world he was gay, there was only one reaction he feared.

“My dad is ex-navy and a real man’s man so I was worried,” Nathan says.

“But the day I told him, he said, ‘And your problem is?’ When I told him, I almost regretted not telling him sooner, knowing the support I have with my dad and stepmum and the immediate family, which has just been amazing.”

Nathan, 40, works as a chef on the oil rigs in Bass Strait and his father, Bob Miller, 64, used to be a chef in the navy as well as working as a publican. He now works as a part-time swimming teacher.

Nathan has two children, Llewellyn, 20, and Summar, 9.

He came out just as his wife announced she was pregnant, adding to the complexities, but also freeing everyone from the knowledge something was troubling Nathan.

His father has been a constant support, but Nathan says their relationship is stronger since he

came out.

“It’s stronger because I’m being honest about who I am, I’m not trying to hide anything and I’m more open to my dad than I was before,” he says.

Bob agrees and has nothing but admiration for his son.

“It’s been such a good journey for me to see him develop into the man he is today, which I would describe as more stable, sure of himself and happy, which is all any parent should want for their children,” Bob says.

“It must have been very hard for him to lock it up all those years because when you lock things up, you’re fighting against yourself. He was trying to please too many people other than himself.”

When Bob’s wife, Kerry, announced one day 10 years ago that Nathan had something to tell him, Bob thought it would be that Nathan’s marriage was in trouble.

“I knew there were problems and I knew his marriage wasn’t good but I didn’t have any idea he was gay,” he says. “It didn’t change anything for me.

“He’s still my son and you can’t tell your kids what to be. It’s no use arguing or alienating them, just give them full support. Nathan had to be true to himself.

“The only thing I’ve ever insisted on with my kids is that they support Melbourne Football Club.”

Acceptance is not a new experience for Bob, who lives near Maffra in Gippsland.

Bob says he has five children. He is keen to not distinguish between his wife’s children and his own three.

He was happy to attend the commitment ceremony of Nathan and his partner Peter last year.

“Pete is a great bloke,” he says. “He has provided a great, stable environment for Nathan and my grandchildren. I met all Pete’s brothers and sisters at the ceremony and they’re all wags.

“His friends are lovely, terrific people. It was a very happy day and I’d happily vote for gay rights and let everyone get married.” 

Three out of four of the Ivanov siblings are gay. Picture: Jay Town


SIMON Ivanov has four children and three of them are gay.

“That is God’s gift,” Simon says. “Whether you have one, two, three or four children who are gay, it is a great gift to have children.”

Born in Macedonia, Simon says he lives for his family and they mean everything to him, which is a message that has been clearly communicated to his children.

Sebastian, 33, came out when he was 23, soon followed by twin sister Rebecca. Their brother Chris, 36, was the first to tell his parents he was gay. Brother Julian, 40, is straight, soon to be married to his partner, and they have three children.

“Coming out really wasn’t difficult because we just knew he would stick by us,” Sebastian says.

“We weren’t sure how Dad would take it when Chris came out because he is very European but it’s just never been an issue.”

Simon believes the sexual choices of his children are their private matters and he has only ever wanted them to pursue their own path.

He took great pride in the success of Sebastian and Bec on season two of The Voice, reaching

the Battle Rounds, and Sebastian says he is a regular in their studio to listen to their music.

“He’s so passionate about wanting the world to hear what we are doing and he inspires me a lot,” Sebastian says.

“I’ve written at least one song about him. My family put me on a path of self-discovery, especially my dad. We’re all just friends really.”

Sebastian takes delight in the family meals that take place twice a month at his parents’ Bulleen home. The entire family attends to enjoy their mother’s adventurous, much-appreciated, cooking. Problems are raised, positive developments are shared and it is an openly communicative environment.

That could never be changed by the children’s sexuality.

“Sexuality would never push me away from my kids and actually it brought me closer to them,” Simon says. “I live for my family.

“The most important thing to me is that my kids are doing the right things in life. They

are well-educated, good people and their sexuality is private. It’s not been a matter of me adjusting, it’s just accepting.

“We’re not very conservative people and though we probably wanted our own children to have the pleasure of having their own children, life has taken us in a different direction and we accept that. We taught them the right things in life and they are paying us back now with their own success and happiness.”

Catherine Lambert, Weekend, Herald Sun

May 26, 2015

Gays in Russia:> Victimization,Repression and with a Version of Pflag: Hope

LGBT in Russia
 The Vykhod activist group’s offices in St Petersburg, where parents’ club meets each month. Photograph: Aleksei Tikhonov/Meduza
The parents’ club has a few rules: you can only speak if you’re holding the navy dragon, a soft toy that has grown shabby in the club’s four-year existence; no interrupting is allowed; and phones must be switched off.
In an unassuming building in the centre of St Petersburg, families of Russian gay men and women gather each month, hoping for understanding and reconciliation. 
Although the group is ostensibly for parents, they are far outnumbered by sons and daughters who have faced the difficulties of coming out in a homophobic country. Not one father is present.
“Mum fell seriously ill recently and she allowed me to care for her,” says Sergei. “At least she didn’t yell at me, like before: ‘Stop that, [you] gay, get away from me, don’t touch my things!’”
Seventeen people sit in the circle listening to him, wearing badges with handwritten names. “Now that mum is no longer rejecting me, it means that she [has started to] care again,” Sergei continues. For now though, he doesn’t speak to his mother often. 
Nina, a club veteran, asks for the dragon. She believes that, whatever the circumstances, talking helps: “You have to explain to [your parents] that homosexuals are not the people they [are made out to be] on television. It will take them a long time to grasp what is going on. Everyone loves their kids, they will all understand.”
Others immediately pipe up, recounting stories of parents who drove their children out of the house and sent them to be “cured” of their sexuality. “Ok, not all, most,” Nina corrects herself. 
At these meetings, parents are encouraged to ask questions. A few people recommend films on LGBT themes, others yet to come out to their families ask the mothers in the group how best to go about it, and whether, in fact, it is worth it. 
Only towards the end of the meeting does the toy dragon arrive in the hands of Sasha, a new arrival in St Petersburg. 
“I lived for a long time in a small village. There, the word ‘gay’ is horrific, you can be grabbed on the street and killed for it,” he said. “All my relatives are old-fashioned types. I fear that if I tell my mum, she will blame herself. Did you go through this?”The group tells him that coming out in a small town is often more difficult.Homosexuality was decriminalised in 1993 after the fall of the Soviet Union, but rights groups say the situation for Russia’s gay population has become more dangerous. In 2014 Human Rights Watch released a report documenting a rise in homophobic rhetoric and violence in Russia. It blamed a law passed in 2013 banning the promotion of “non-traditional lifestyles” among minors.
It’s in this climate of fear that the mothers and their children meet. After two-and-a-half hours, they wrap up. One woman looks out of the window onto the street and says quietly: “I don’t want to go back out there.”

Elena: ‘It’s not a death sentence’

Elena became an activist out of the belief that the parents of LGBT children can find it helpful to talk to people who have been in the same boat. 
Five years ago her son Dmitry came back from Japan, where he had been living for the past decade. She sensed instantly that he was troubled, but put it down to the difficulties of adapting to life back in Russia.
When Dmitry began his coming out talk with the words “I want you to listen to me but this might frighten you”, she says the possibility that her son might be gay had never occurred to her.
“After our conversation, it was horrible,” recalls Elena. “It seemed that I was the only mother this had happened to. I tried not to show him how upset I was.”
“But I was brought to my senses and comforted by something Dmitry said: ‘Now I feel much happier than when I was pretending’.”
Dmitry took her to a meeting of the parents’ club a year after coming out. She expected her son to lead her into a basement where “gays live”, she says, and “when I saw that no one was dancing in tights, just decent people sitting around, I was quite surprised,” she adds. Elena quickly became a club activist and she now helps other parents to accept their LGBT children.
“They usually come to us with horror in their eyes. They look as if a tragedy has befallen their family. We ask them to relax and take a look at us: do we look downtrodden? Being a parent of an LGBT child – it’s not a death sentence, you can live with it quite happily.”
Acceptance can take months, if not years, she says. But if parents keep coming to the club, they always make progress. “You see mothers picking themselves up, smiling, being prepared to discuss the situation – that is already a good sign.” 
The mothers from the club believe that the problems with acceptance lie not with them, but with Russian society as a whole: if gay people are constantly being abused on television, why should someone suddenly believe a handful of people who take a different view?

Marina: ‘The shock lasted 10 days’

“After the coming out blows your mind, the world as it was crumbles away, together with your plans for your child’s future,” says Marina Melnik, the founder of parents’ club: her son Roman told her he was gay six years ago. Every parent in that position goes through five stages of acceptance, she explains. In her case “the shock lasted 10 days. Then came denial. That’s when you try to change their mind and prove that it’s all in their head.”
She says it was painful process: “I blamed myself for a long time. Did I not love him enough or did I love him too much? When he was a kid, maybe I bought him the wrong toy, an animal, not a car.”
Six months after her son’s admission, Marina became an activist. She founded the club with other mothers she met at an LGBT film festival, Side by Side. Four people came to the first meeting, she remembers, and none of them knew how to deal with their feelings of guilt.
“After talking to other mothers, it finally came to me,” Marina says. That’s when she went through the last stage, acceptance, followed by her own coming out of sorts: “I was scared to tell the people around me [that my son was gay],” she remembers. “It was like that for almost a year.”
LGBT in Russia
 Parents’ club activists Elena Musolina and Marina Melnik hold a sign reading: “Parental love does not depend on a child’s orientation!!!” Photograph: Sergei Chernov/Meduza

Igor: ‘No one talked about gay people’

Igor finally managed to bring his mother to the club two years after coming out. Until then, talking to her about anything LGBT-related was difficult, he says.
“No one talked about ‘gay people’ in our family. Mum used the word ‘blues’ (Russian slang for homosexual) and dad, ‘fags’,” Igor recalls. He describes his parents as people with differing views: his dad is an orthodox patriot whose favourite political writer is Gregory Klimov, author of the aphorism: “If all is not right between the legs, all is not right between the ears.” His mother, on the other hand, isuninterested in politics and “more liberal, in a cultural sense”, he says. 
“When I was little, I asked my mum what sexual orientation was. ‘Who’s blue and who’s not’, she replied.” At 11, he picked up from family conversations that “gays were perverts who practise anal sex.”
In September 2007, Igor left his native village in the Pskov region to go and study in St Petersburg and in October, he returned to visit his parents. “You’re nervous about something, have you fallen in love?” his mother asked him. “Yes” Igor answered, truthfully. “With a man or a woman?” she probed. With a man, as it turned out. Both of them cried but they soon calmed down and a week later, Igor went back to St Petersburg. It was not long before his father heard the news.
“Dad was breaking dishes, slamming doors,” Igor says. 
Igor told a priest in confession that he was in love with a young man and was advised to “cure the sickness in his soul” and repent: but Igor argued back. “Officially, he absolved me of my sins but we were both clearly dissatisfied with the outcome. It was after this I lost faith in the church. That was my last communion and confession and I am feeling all right,” he laughs.
Igor is convinced that if his mother watched less television, lived with him in St Petersburg and talked to other parents from the club, she would soon accept him fully. No precise statistics exist, but the club’s activists believe that for every LGBT person accepted by their family, another five are rejected.

Dmitry: ‘Sorry mum, but I’m still gay’ 

Dmitry is one of these five. He first came out when he was 18. Assuming that everything would go smoothly, he didn’t prepare for the conversation. At first, his mother reacted calmly but a few hours later, she started to cry. 
“She shouted about HIV and how I would never have children,” he remembers. From then on, Dmitry decided not to talk to his mother about his personal life. Gradually, she seemed to forget about her son’s sexuality and their relationship improved.
But Dmitry couldn’t rid himself of the feeling that his mother didn’t understand him. So three years later, he decided to try again. He prepared better this time, taking brochures from the LGBT group. But his opening gambit – “Sorry mum, but I’m still gay” – set off another argument.
Unsure of what to do next, he went to the parents’ club, where he was advised to show his mother the film Prayers for Bobby, about a gay man who kills himself because his religious parents refused to accept him. 
“I watched it myself first and cried, it was so painful,” Dmitry says. “Then I watched it with mum but I didn’t understand her reaction. The parents lost their son, she said, because they didn’t believe in God or pray enough.”
LGBT in Russia
 Opponents of gay rights protest on the Field of Mars in St Petersburg in 2013.
Photograph: Artem Sokolov/Trend/TASS
Religious icons soon started appearing in their flat, together with images of the Virgin Mary, Orthodox magazines and brochures about monasteries. They hadn’t spoken to each other for a long time, Dmitry says, and it was clear his mother had decided the Church was the only way to save him. 
“I arrived home one day and could already smell burning incense from the hallway,” he says. “What was the point, I asked her. In reply, she talked of evil influences, clouding of souls and false paths. Our flat started to resemble a church gift shop.” The arguments grew more frequent and after one such bust-up, his mother decided to move to a friend’s. 

 Dmitry will not try his luck a third time. He tells his mother that he has a girlfriend, despite seeing his partner Grigory for over two years now. 
It takes a lot of energy to live a double life: when Dmitry’s mother calls him and asks him about his personal life, he answers truthfully – but substitutes the name Grigory with Irina. 
“Parents’ club don’t approve of stories like mine. They suggested I bring my mother along but I’m scared of what her reaction would be,” says Dmitry. “If she believes that religion helped me, so be it. The main thing is that mum is happy.”
A version of this article first appeared on Meduza. Translation by Cameron Johnston

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