Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Just Starting: Drinking from a firehose

So in the beginning of this process, I did tons of research and started looking into groups for support.   I wanted TN to know that he wasn't alone and perhaps forge some friendships with like teens that may not even go to his school (it's always good to have friends in various areas of your life).

We began going to a monthly PFLAG meeting in our area where the teens spent 2 hours with an adult facilitator and many of the parents would hang out separately.   It was there that I began to drink from the fire hose. Meeting people dealing with variety of issues and teens with a variety of identities - many that I just didn't understand.

All of a sudden, I was learning it's not simply LGBT. There's a "Q" on the end for Questioning or Queer. Oh and I grew up thinking "queer" was a gay person but it's really "...anything that exists outside of the dominant narrative," according to Cleo Anderson, a 26-year-old intern at GLAAD, a prominent gay rights group,

And I met a pansexual mom and I'm thinking "Uhhh, is that sex with cookware?" :-0  I quickly learned it wasn't - it's someone who is not limited in sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender, or gender identity.

And then there were the gender fluid kids - to hear the mom stress over calling her kid "they" or "them" since he/her didn't work.  In some countries, they're working on gender neutral pronouns. Talk about major cultural confusion!  Haha. But I'm sure it'll happen sometime. 

So back to the group...

 The adult group was actually initially supposed to be adult LGBT individuals, but none showed up so the parents would essentially make up that group.  There was a PFLAG facilitator there - and he was ready to facilitate a group of LGBT adults; he admitted that being a part of the discussion of parents of LGBT kids was incredibly fascinating to him.  He was a gay adult man - he didn't have kids and he would ask some great questions. 

I met a variety of parents. Some were well versed in LGBT / gender fluid / transgender and some were clueless. I met parents of teens who recently spent weeks in mental hospitals due to suicide attempts and parents of teens who were totally comfortable being activists!  

One mom was such a strong advocate - she was currently fighting the state's high school sports league so her son (FtM son) could play boys high school basketball on the boys team. She knew so much, was very vocal and also considered herself "polyamorous" (and I had never heard of that!). I didn't feel totally comfortable around her, probably because she was so outgoing with her LGBT opinions and I just wasn't there (yet).  Plus, even when I'm in activist mode, I am not an "in your face" type of activist. I find befriending people works way better than yelling or holding up signs. But I think history has proven that both methods are needed. 

I met parents of gay teens who were navigating how to "come out" to friends and family. Parents of teens who were gender fluid and wanted to be referred to as "they/them" vs he/she which, to me, is a whole other concept. It made me appreciate the fact that my kid at least chose one of the binary genders. To me, that was way easier than explaining a non-gender or fluid kid to friends and family.   

I took it all in - it felt like I was drinking from a fire hose since it was so much and so fast.  I began to realize that I was so damn fortunate that my own TN didn't have any of the bullying, identify struggles, depression or suicide issues that all these other kids had. I can't even imagine being those parents. And it made me almost feel badly for even remotely feeling confused or struggling. 

There was also so much value in talking with the PFLAG facilitator who was an adult gay man.  He shared some of his experiences from being younger compared to now. He grew up in the 70's when it just wasn't acceptable in school.  I took many of his stories to heart with a goal of helping ensure our teens don't have to even wonder if they'll be accepted. 

So all of there PFLAG meetings have been incredibly insightful and helped me grow in my walk.