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

February 26, 2015

NYC Youth Sell Their Bodies in Order to Survive

 1971 The more things change the more they stay the same for gay youth
Grey Villet—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Image
 Youth in New York share experiences selling their bodies in order to survive in new Urban Institute report 
A new report paints a grim picture of homeless youths selling their bodies in order to survive on the streets. 
In partnership with the New York-based Streetwise and Safe, the Urban Institute interviewed 283 youths who had engaged in sex work or so-called “survival sex” with people of the same gender, mostly while homeless, for its latest study.

The research built on several studies on homeless youth, including a survey out of New York that found that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth were seven times more likely to have traded sex for food or a place to stay.

Meredith Dank, a senior research associate at the Urban Institute and lead author of the study, said she realized during earlier research on sex work that there was not enough good information about why LGBT youths made these decisions, so the study focused on letting them tell their own stories.

“I realized at that point that there was so much that we didn’t know about this population,” she tells TIME. “And if we were really going to be able to serve the needs of these young people we needed to know exactly what their experiences were and the large breadth of their experiences.”

Many of the stories detailed in the report are telling; and a great deal of those who engaged in the work didn’t identify as gay—but they found themselves selling their bodies to people of the same sex in order to survive. 
One 20-year-old straight male described his experience: “He asked me like do you really need the money? At that moment I thought I did. I felt I did and . . . like it was just like he grabbed me by like my waist and he just started doing it. And it was like . . . and I just like, try to close my eyes. Just try to think about something else.”

Another 19-year-old gay Latino said he felt he had no choice: “If you have no food in your stomach, if you have no transportation, but you have a man in your face willing to give you money for a half hour. You put your pride to the side, you throw everything out the window and you forget who you are and you forget what you’re doing and you learn to be someone else.”

The exact number of homeless youth is hard to pin down. In 2014, the Department of Education reported that 1.3 million school children are homeless. The Department of Housing and Urban Development estimated that a total of 578,424 people were homeless on a given night in 2014—about 10% were between the ages of 18 and 24. According to some estimates, as many as 40% of homeless youths are LGBT.

Even though the report focuses on New York City, Dank stressed that it is not “the place where all gay kids go to engage in survival sex.”

“Having had many conversations with people who work with this population in California, Florida, the Midwest, the Northwest,” she says. “They’re seeing the same things amongst the young people that they are working with, particularly with LGBT youth.”

Fifty-eight percent of the young people interviewed in the study lived either in a shelter or on the streets. About 30% lived in either a friend or family member’s home or in their own apartment, often giving the money they made in the sex trade to families members in need. Almost half of the participants were male, and the report includes insight into the experiences of trans males, which according to Dank is unprecedented.

The report comes as Congress is looking at human trafficking as a rare issue of bipartisan agreement. Already the House of Representatives has sent a number of bills on the issue to the Senate, although the legislation tends not to address the needs of homeless and LGBT youths. Dank says that’s a missed opportunity.

“If you’re going to be pouring resources and passing bills around this I think [it’s] important to know that this is another part of the population that needs to have their needs met and served,” she says.


June 18, 2014

Gay Families afraid to send their kids to school in Russia

 Bill to remove children from same-sex families still being reworked
Yana and her five-year-old son march down St Petersburg’s central promenade, Nevsky, hand-in-hand behind a sea of rainbow flags. It is May 1 and Nevsky Street, usually packed with cars, public transport, cyclists and tourists, is blocked off for the democracy march in honour of May Day. Union members, activists and other groups have come out to demonstrate their views.
“My partner was against us coming here,” Yana says. “But I felt it was important for our son to be part of the rainbow delegation. He needs to grow up understanding that our family is part of the LGBT community.”
Yana and her son march, unflinching, past religious-right activists taunting the LGBT procession from the sidelines. An older lady screams, “Shame! Shame! Shame!” A younger woman in a turquoise hoodie photographs the mother and child, threatening to alert authorities to what she deems a violation of Russia’s infamous gay-propaganda law.
For Yana, bringing her son to an LGBT rally is a risk. Legislation banning children’s exposure to “gay propaganda” already means same-sex families have to be cautious about publicly declaring their orientation. Now, a proposed amendment to the Russian Federation’s Family Code that would allow government to revoke parental rights of individuals suspected of engaging in homosexual behaviour looms over the LGBT community as well.
Same-sex families are no strangers to risk — simple actions in their daily lives, such as going out as a family in a public space or posting photographs on social media, pose a threat. Even sending children to school can be nerve-wracking.
“We are afraid to send our son to a public school,” says Sasha, a 30-year-old mother and LGBT rights activist who works for Coming Out in St Petersburg. After spending a long day at work and rushing to bring her son home from school before meeting for this interview, the slim woman with closely cropped blonde curls has dark circles under her eyes.
“There is a lot of control over parents right now. Children are constantly asked about their family, and same-sex families are not considered legitimate. We would have had to lie to our child or be ready for constant conflict,” she explains.
Instead, the couple’s son attends an alternative school where the small, seven-children classes are composed of children from other minorities or with special needs. Although they have to work hard to cover tuition, Sasha says she and her partner feel it is the safest solution.
Same-sex families living in other parts of the country, or lacking resources for private schooling, are not so fortunate. Children from these families are also forced into a closeted lifestyle. “This is how most other families we know live,” Sasha explains. “As soon as their child becomes old enough to discuss the makeup of their family with peers, they have to explain that there are some private things that the child can never speak about.”
According to Sasha, the outlook for same-sex families was more promising earlier this decade. During the times of the Soviet Union, when homosexuality was a crime, LGBT people were forced to live closeted lives. Glasnost, in the late 1980s, brought more liberal laws and attitudes to Russia. By the early 2000s, life for gays and lesbians living in big cities had changed.
“We were able to create several strong LGBT rights organizations in St Petersburg,” Sasha says. “On a private level, people began to live openly and to feel comfortable starting a family. There was a short moment when we felt very strong, and we felt that equal rights were possible here.”
At that time, Sasha’s son attended a public nursery, and the couple was open about their orientation, even bringing their son to LGBT events.
“We took part in a rainbow flashmob as a family,” Sasha says. “Now, people shoot at the LGBT at these events, so of course, we would no longer take our child there.”
Today, Sasha and her partner continue to do their best to help their son understand the truth about their family and about the current political situation. “We discuss it in a language he can understand,” she explains. “Our child knows that I work at a human rights organization. He knows that in Russia bad laws, which are making people suffer, are being adopted. He knows that at my organization we do not want these laws to exist, so we try to explain to people that these laws are bad.”
In 2009, Sasha and a group of other same-sex parents came together to work on a research project through Coming Out. When their work started there were two goals: to help same-sex families find a community and to educate the general public.
Changes in the political climate have halted the project. “The idea of increasing visibility is no longer an option at all,” Sasha says. “Our first priority is simply safety.” Instead, Coming Out conducted research to learn about same-sex parents’ situations and to find out how the organization could help.
Findings from the survey, which polled 98 families in November 2013, revealed that 49 percent of same-sex families had changed their coming-out strategy after the gay-propaganda law was passed and now tend to be much more cautious about revealing their orientation.
When the first draft of the amendment that would allow children to be removed from same-sex families made it to the Duma in September 2013, Sasha says, Coming Out was flooded with requests from families looking to flee the country.
Now the panic has abated because actions around the law have stopped, and same-sex families are less anxious to leave. After the bill was returned to its author, Deputy Alexey Zhuravlev, for reworking — he was asked to explain how same-sex families would be identified — more pressing issues, such as dealing with the situation in Ukraine, took precedence for government.
Sasha believes that as soon as the more pressing issues are resolved, the law will resurface. “At this time, the best solution seems to be to close the door behind yourself and to pretend that you do not exist,” she says. “Then, maybe, you will not be noticed and you will be able to live in peace.”
Sasha speaks to members of same-sex families through her work at Coming Out, and she reports that the mood is heavy. “Many express suicidal thoughts because they cannot see any escape,” she says. “They do not see how their child can be happy in a country which has declared their family to be one of the greatest evils.”
While immigration, and perhaps political asylum, are options, they are far from ideal solutions. These families, who have survived discrimination and oppression, are hesitant to embark on yet another challenging journey. “Immigration is not about improving their situation, but about giving their children at least some kind of hope for happiness,” Sasha says.
Sasha says she hopes to stay in St Petersburg and to continue her work fighting for LGBT rights, but a current law project may force her to immigrate. Her son is HIV-positive and relies on medication from Canada. A proposed law to ban foreign medications in Russia means he would not be able to maintain his health. “If these drugs are changed to what is available in Russia, he will experience a lot of side effects,” Sasha says. “We did not have any desire to leave until this law was proposed. If it goes through, we may have to.”
Some same-sex families remain hopeful that the situation will stabilize. Valentina and Masha, who took in a second child after the amendment to remove children from same-sex families was proposed, do not believe the law will be enforced if families keep a low profile.
“We wanted a second child for a long time,” Masha says. “When we read about the law we felt very uneasy, but we decided to do it anyway because we do not want our lives to depend on these types of initiatives.”
“This law is meant to scare activists who are fighting for equal rights,” Valentina says. “It will probably not be enforced in situations like ours. But even if it is not, it is very difficult for families like ours from a psychological perspective.”
The psychological pressure is palpable in the shabby, yet warm and sunny, apartment the two women share with their two children, six-year-old Kirill and three-year-old Davy. As the landlords are in the process of selling the property, frequent visitors infiltrate their home, and the women must be careful to keep their space from betraying their orientation.   
The care exercised during these visits is just one of many ruses the couple must incorporate into their daily lives. As same-sex couples are not allowed to adopt children, the women have legal guardianship of one child each. Officially, Masha is Davy’s legal guardian, and the two reside at her parents’ home.
“When the authorities come to check on her, I have to take our things and go to my parents’ place,” she explains. Although Masha’s parents are very supportive, living a double life is difficult. “Aside from the practical inconvenience of having to pack up at a moment’s notice, having to lie creates the sensation that our life only exists within our own consciousness,” Masha says.
Masha and Valentina choose to live a partially closed life in order to keep their family safe. Masha has not come out at work, and some of their friends are not aware of their orientation. Although the women have told Kirill that families can be composed of two mothers or two fathers, they have not discussed the implications of being a same-sex family.
“When it comes to talking to him about the fact that our family may face some kind of threat, I really do not know how to approach it,” Valentina says. “He thinks very linearly at this age, so it could be like a punch in the face.”
When Kirill brings home controversial ideas, the women do their best to set him straight and to teach him about equality. “He brought some idea home that [Slavic] Russian people are the best. I told him that neither of us are quite Russian,” Valentina explains.
The couple’s daughter, Davy, is Roma, so she belongs to another minority that is oppressed in Russia. “This is a more open issue, and it is easier to discuss with Kirill,” Valentina says. “We explain to him that not everyone likes people who look different, so someone might try to insult Davy. He says he will protect her.”
The couple also struggles with more practical obstacles to child-rearing that result from the current regime. When Kirill, who is often ill, was hospitalized, Masha was not allowed to visit. Once, when Masha took Kirill to a private clinic, she was scolded for coming in place of his mother. Due to Kirill’s poor health, and Masha’s inability to provide support in managing the situation, Valentina was forced to switch her full-time role as a psychologist on a crisis line to part-time work.
“There are a lot of little problems, but they add up, and you realize that they are not little problems but serious problems,” says Yury, a 33-year-old veterinarian who adopted Yaroslav with his partner two years ago and is the four-year-old’s legal guardian. “For example, when our child is sick, I am the only one who can take a sick day. Sometimes I cannot afford to do that because I make more money.”
As a male couple, Yury and his partner face more difficulties. “There are a lot of bureaucratic issues we face,” he says. It took two months to get Yaroslav a permit to leave the country — a process that normally takes two weeks. “It is because I have to come in as a single father, and the officials look at me differently,” Yury explains. 
The adoption process was especially challenging for his family. When the couple made the decision to adopt, eight years into their relationship, friends and family did not believe that they would succeed in passing the rigorous screening process. 
Yury had to pose as a single father. Even so, he faced discrimination. “I had to go through two training courses and three psychiatrists to prove that I was not a pedophile,” he says. While, according to Yury, an adoption typically takes three to four months, it took him a year to complete the process.
After Yury completed a month-long government parenting class that everyone interested in adopting is encouraged to take, he had to go see a psychologist. “It was a lot of psychological pressure,” he says. “There was a lot of focus on my past relationships with women. To keep my story straight, I substituted names of my female friends for names of my past lovers. When I got home from the first meeting, I vomited as soon as I got out of the car. Then I slept for 24 hours.”
Still, officials were not satisfied and referred Yury to a two-month private parenting course. “We all had to speak to psychologists and discuss various parenting scenarios,” he recalls. “One time I brought a female friend in to pose as my fiancĂ©. We pulled it off, and shockingly, the psychologists did not guess anything was off.”
When Yury arrived at the orphanage to select a child for adoption, he did not receive a warm reception from staff. “The director of the orphanage had looked me up on social media and had photographs of my partner and me on his desk,” he says. “When I assured him that my partner was just a close relative he seemed all right.”
Yury first met Yaroslav on April 12, the boy’s birthday, when he arrived at the orphanage with a toy car as a gift. “I was sitting on this worn out couch, and he was carried out in the shabby orphanage uniform — a nightgown and white leggings,” he recalls. “When he looked at me and smiled, I knew that he was the right choice.”
He had to wait six months before his case for adoption could be heard in court, then sit through three hearings. “There were all kinds of bureaucratic issues, but I think that they just set them up to watch me,” Yury says.
Two years later, the family has settled into a comfortable routine. Since Yury is the official guardian, Yaroslav is told to call him father and his partner godfather. “At first my partner was hurt, but he realizes that this is the way it has to be and has adjusted,” Yury says.
As for Yaroslav, he appears perfectly content. He is happy to be spending a Sunday with his father. Clad in matching cozy sweaters, the two cuddle up on a bench at a café, while Yaroslav slurps down a milkshake and Yury sips on fruit tea. Yaroslav says his godfather is at work but will join them later.
The couple plan to reveal the truth about their family to Yaroslav just before he hits his teens. “Psychologists say that the best time for these conversations is around 10 or 11,” Yury explains.
By then, the couple hope to be living in a friendlier place. “The government is creating an increasingly homophobic society, and I think that it will become more dangerous every year,” Yury says. “When kids are small they have a simpler relation to non-traditional families. But by 10 or 11, they develop an awareness of family roles. That is when the problems will start.”
Despite the challenges Yury and his partner have faced, they are certain that they made the right decision. “I hope that more LGBT people will consider adopting children,” he says. “It is a very big step in a relationship, and it is a really great step. It is much better than being on our own.”

May 20, 2014

Wall Streets Big Cats open up about their gay sons the reason they back the Gay movement

john stephen mack
"I had one question: 'Are you happy?'" John Mack said when his son, Stephen, came out as gay. 

In the "boy's club" of Wall Street, some top executives' views on gay rights changed entirely when the issue became personal.

That is, when their own adult children came out of the closet. 
When he was CEO of Morgan Stanley (MS,Fortune 500) and Credit Suisse First Boston (CS), John Mack was known for his progressive views on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality.
But that wasn't always the case.
"I had strong views of being anti-gay," Mack said this month at a conference hosted by Out on the Street, an organization that helps firms recruit and retain LGBT talent. Growing up and playing football in a small town in North Carolina, Mack said he "was unfair, and in some cases downright cruel."
Those opinions began to shift after he got married and had children. But it wasn't until his son, Stephen, came out in 1997 that his views were completely transformed.
Throughout high school, Stephen said he didn't know he was gay. When he figured it out, at the age of 22 or 23, he called his mom to tell her -- but asked her not to tell his dad.
A month later, Stephen flew home to tell Mack in person. He was waiting for the right moment. His father was telling him something private, so he jumped on the opportunity:
"I said, 'while we're on the topic of sharing things ... I'm gay,'" said Stephen.
Mack said he had an "inkling" his son was gay. Despite his prior views, it was an easy conversation.
"I had one question: 'Are you happy?' That's all I cared about," said Mack.
Compared to the rest of the corporate world, Wall Street has been at the forefront of providing LGBT-friendly benefits and policies. But it's still not always an easy place for people to be open about their sexuality.
"I believe the boys' club has got to change," said Mack. "I deeply believe that we need to have a level playing field and we're not there yet."
Across all industries, more than half of U.S. workers are still closeted on the job, according to a new study from the Human Rights Campaign.
Companies with bosses who take the lead can instill a culture of acceptance that trickles down, says Todd Sears, founder of Out on the Street. And the views of the people at the top are often shaped by simply knowing someone who is gay.
paul andrew singer
"[I reacted] with fear and nervousness, I worried about the health aspects ... grandfatherhood," hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer said about his son Andrew when he first realized he was gay.
Hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer, CEO of Elliott Management Corp., said that before his son Andrew came out of the closet he would have rated himself "a solid 2.1" out of 10 when it came to accepting LGBT issues.
One night in 1998, when he and Andrew were at dinner, Andrew started asking Singer about his "views on homosexuality." The questions were asked in such a way that Singer began to wonder whether his son could be gay.
"[I reacted] with fear and nervousness, I worried about the health aspects ... grandfatherhood," Singer said.
He was determined to handle the issue carefully, but he wasted no time getting to the bottom of it.
The next day, "[Andrew] was walking in the door, and right there, [I said], 'Are you gay?'" Singer recalled. "He basically said 'yes.'"
Over the next couple months, Singer said his conversations with Andrew brought him to a 5.5 or 6 out of 10 on the acceptance scale. He eventually became a steadfast supporter of gay rights.
In 2012, he launched the American Unity PAC, which aims to persuade fellow conservatives to support same-sex marriage. He has actively supported same-sex marriage campaigns and makes large donations to LGBT groups.
dan jared oconnell
"I thought about what we did in our family to make it so he didn't come out sooner," said Dan O'Connell about his son Jared.
Dan O'Connell, CEO of Vestar Capital Partners and his son Jared didn't have quite as seamless a transition.
Jared stayed in the closet for a number of years before revealing his sexual orientation to his parents in 2011.
"My reaction was: 'Why did it take so long for you to come to grips with this and tell us?'" said O'Connell. "I thought about the angst and psychological turmoil. I thought about what we did in our family to make it so he didn't come out sooner."
O'Connell felt especially bad because he hadn't exactly been a champion of LGBT rights in the past.
"At best I was indifferent to ambivalent, at worst probably insensitive," he said. "My son coming out has caused me to be more sensitive [to these issues]. Maybe it should have happened earlier, but better late than never." To top of page

January 12, 2014

Mental Health and Gay kids

LGBT Youth, School Bullies, Youth Violence, homosexuality

More than half of young gay people have suffered mental health issues, and 40 per cent have considered suicide, according to a major report, to be published tomorrow.
It warns that a generation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people face a mental health crisis and that the neglect of LGBT issues by schools contributes to a climate of hostility and fear.
The findings from the Youth Chances project – the biggest social research study into young LGBT people undertaken in England – also shows that 50 per cent have self-harmed and 42 per cent had sought medical help for anxiety or depression. The project, led by the charity Metro, involved interviews with more than 7,000 16- to 25-year-olds that asked about their experiences of education, employment and health services, as well as relationships.

Dr Greg Ussher, Metro's acting chief executive, said: "We are failing LGBTQ [Q refers to people questioning their sexuality] young people. The clear message is that they are badly served. What they want most is emotional support and they are not getting it.
"By the age of 13 most are already sure or are questioning their sexuality or gender identity, so we need to ensure all families and schools are equipped to give that support."
One in five LGBT pupils reported being the victim of physical attacks at school, but the majority did not report them and only a small proportion of those who did felt that their concerns were resolved. And only a quarter said they had learnt anything at school about safer sex with a same-sex partner.
Dr Ussher warned that if schools failed to act it would lead to a “hugely increased risk of bullying and abuse; isolation and rejection – all leading to significantly increased levels of depression, self-harm and suicide".

He added, "We must acknowledge we are facing a crisis. Schools have a key role to play in providing inclusive environments for all young people with zero tolerance of bullying and discrimination and by eliminating the fear of it through education and support."
When Taz Gibbins-Klein came out aged 14 she was the only openly gay student in her London school. Soon the target of bullying, she sought out specific mental health services and says she has been "receiving different forms of treatment for low mood and anxiety" ever since.
She added: “Dealing with homophobic bullying and putting actions in place means you have to admit it exists and I think that's something that school don't want to do."

The Lottery-funded project plans to survey 15,000 young adults by 2015. Its early findings echo the recent Stonewall Schools report which found that 55 per cent of LGBT pupils have experienced bullying. Stonewall's Luke Tryl said the culture of homophobic bullying could "in a large part" be blamed on Section 28 of the Local Government Act, which was introduced in 1988 and repealed in 2003. It banned teachers from "intentionally promoting homosexuality".
"Many schools are improving, but teacher training on dealing with homophobia needs to improve before the legacy is eliminated," said Mr Tryl.
LGBT campaigner Peter Tatchell said the project's findings "should be a wake-up call for the Education Secretary, Michael Gove". “Every school should be required to teach sex and relationship education that addresses LGBT issues."

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