Blog Posts by Steven Petrow

  • Q: I want to know about any good organizations that work with young people who are struggling with coming out, especially gay teens who are the victims of bullying and other forms of anti-gay harassment. I feel like with the recent situation-five suicides-things just get worse day-by-day instead of better. I just can't sit back and watch it anymore. As a parent, what can I- no, what can we-do? Grateful for any advice you have. - Cara B., Raleigh, N.C.

    A: You won't be surprised to know that I've received many variations on this question since Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman at Rutgers University, took his own life on September 22 nd , after two other students posted a video online of him having sex with a male classmate. And if that's not horrible enough, it seems that Clementi makes it a total of five teenage boys who have committed suicide in recent weeks as a result of anti-gay bullying and harassment. (At least, these are the ones we know about.) This news comes on top of

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  • User post: Talking family tree with the children of gay parents

    Q: I teach fifth grade, and every fall we study genealogy and create what are called "family trees." I have a new student this year who has two dads, and I think he's adopted. How do I handle this topic appropriately in class?

    A: First of all, kudos to you for being sensitive to this subject-the family tree project can be a tough one for adopted children - actually for anyone whose roots don't match the classic format, whether that means kids with two LGBT parents; single parents of any kind; or grandparents and any other adults serving as their guardians.

    There are lots of options for tweaking this lesson, some quite creative, not to mention educational. Some nontraditional families draw their family trees as bushes, with a tangle of parents, birth families, and sperm or egg donors. Others approach this as a more traditional exploration of genealogy, showing the lineage of the two dads or two moms, begetting the student. Still others add a second tree trunk for the birth

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  • Straight Talk: "Do gay people need their own vacation spots?"

    Q: I'm wondering what you think about the idea of lesbians and gay men going to their own communities for summer vacation For instance, in my Manhattan office, the gay women go to Fire Island's Cherry Grove and the guys - either there -- or to the Pines. It actually feels a little "separatist" to me.


    A: I hear you. And it sounds as though you think this phenomena smacks of potential bias against straight people, but that's not really the case. It's more about simply preferring to spend time, even just for a few days, with others like yourself. Think about it this way: Families with kids often like their own vacation spots. Straight singles often do, too. Even seniors. Sometimes, it just makes sense to be in a more homogeneous group. Families vacationing together can share the babysitting; single straight men and women no doubt find it easier to hook up when that's the focus; and seniors, likewise, have different interests and needs of their own. For gay people, there's also the

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  • Straight Talk: My Gay Sister Won't Take My Advice on Her Cancer Treatment

    Q: My lesbian sister is fighting breast cancer and trying to decide what kind of treatments are right for her. I feel very cut off from this process because she takes her longtime girlfriend's advice and opinions more seriously than mine. I'm her older brother and used to being leaned on. Don't I have the right to ask my sister to listen to me instead?

    A: It sounds like you're feeling left out at an important time in your sister's life. But if your sister has been with her girlfriend for a long time, she may consider her a full-on partner or spouse, so it's probably a good idea if you try and think of her that way as well.

    Even our federal government is beginning to catch up in the area of respecting LGBT partnerships on medical matters: In April, President Obama signed an executive order requiring hospitals to give gay partners hospital visitation rights, a pretty big step forward for a federal government that is nonetheless still behind on recognizing many other

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  • Straight Talk: How to address mail to lesbian and gay couples?

    Q: I'm planning a summer party and intending to send out real invitations to a mix of gay and straight friends. But the gay couples I know seem to have a range of different kinds of relationships and I'm not sure how to address these couples. What do I need to know when the invitation is going to a gay couple?

    The most important thing is to get the exact spelling of names and the correct address - as with any invitation. Then you can move on to each addressee's title and other details. You're not the only one who finds that part just as challenging, however. With so many LGBT couples formalizing their relationships, whether through marriage or other ceremony or simply by cohabitation, there is ever greater confusion about how same-sex couples should be addressed. Certainly the traditional heterosexual model of listing the man first doesn't apply (although plenty of straight couples eschew that by now as well).

    Allow the following tips to be your guide, but remember that it's up to

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  • Straight Talk: Don’t kids who have two dads feel left out of Mother’s Day?

    Q: I live next door to a two-dad family, and with Mother's Day coming up I've been wondering what that means for them. Don't their kids feel left out since they don't have a mom? And how do the dads feel? I'm wondering if there's something I can do to help them celebrate the holiday?

    Q: I live next door to a two-dad family, and with Mother's Day coming up I've been wondering what that means for them. Don't their kids feel left out since they don't have a mom? And how do the dads feel? I'm wondering if there's something I can do to help them celebrate the holiday?

    A: It's true that certain holidays make certain kids feel left out, especially when it's one as loudly - and commercially-- celebrated as Mother's Day. Of course this is not just a gay thing-Mother's Day can be a hard one for the kids of a single straight dad too or for any kid who's lost a mother. And then there's Father's Day, next month, for all the children of single, widowed or lesbian moms to fret over. I think

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  • Straight Talk: What do you say when a friend comes out to you?

    Q: I'm straight but I have some gay friends, and twice now people I'm close to have chosen me to be the one they tell first. I get tongue tied, not sure how to be helpful or what they want me to say. Any suggestions?

    A: Well, I'm going to guess that you're a trustworthy and supportive sort of person if friends are singling you out to be the recipient of this news. Not to mention the fact that you're so concerned about your response. I still remember the first straight friend I came out to. I fretted, stammered and finally blurted out those two little words, "I'm gay." My friend, who hardly seemed surprised by this revelation, just gave me a big hug and thanked me for trusting her and told me I could talk as much or as little as I wanted about my sexuality in the days to come. I was fortunate in having made a smart choice in my coming out plan. I was not so lucky the next time around. When I told "B," my best straight male friend. We never really spoke again and even decades

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  • Straight Talk: Are seating arrangements different for same-sex couples?

    Q: I'm having a big dinner party and not sure quite how to seat the gay couples. I'm used to alternating men and women but don't want to make anyone uncomfortable. What do you suggest?

    A: Surprise, there's nothing different about seating gay versus straight couples. In fact, most hosts actually try to avoid putting couples (of any orientation) next to each other, under the assumption that they get plenty of face time at home. And forcing your seating chart into a man-woman-man-woman arrangement is usually just too challenging, if not unnatural.

    What's more important is that you choose your guests with care. Be mindful of inviting too many clever, boisterous guests (since these types need as many listeners - not rivals - as they can get). Similarly, too many shy or quiet guests can quickly deaden any attempt at spirited conversation. Instead, try to seat people next to those you think they will enjoy getting to know. Perhaps they have something in common, such as a line

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  • Straight Talk: How do I introduce my gay and lesbian friends?

    Q: I'm not quite clear when to mention in a social situation that someone is gay. When I'm introducing straight friends to gay or lesbian friends, should I announce it then? And what exactly should I say?

    A: There's really no need to bring up someone's sexuality when you're making a basic introduction. Present an LGBT friend to others just as you would a straight friend. No secret gay handshake, no winking, no nothing.

    Try this, for instance: "Julie, I'd like you to meet my good friend Rick. Rick, this is Julie." It always helps to give some additional information - especially if it's something they have in common to help jump start their conversation. Things like: "You're both served in the military" or "Haven't you each rented at the shore?" But, it's neither "my good gay friend, Rick" nor "Rick, who is gay." That's just too much information too soon. Also, it's really not for you to out a friend to others. Perhaps "Rick" is only out in certain circumstances, say with his

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  • Q: Why does my co-worker in the cubicle next to mine have to display so many things that say "gay"? He's got a gay rainbow flag, several photos of himself and his partner, and even a poster from the movie "Milk." It's a gay-friendly office, so I'm not sure why he has to be so "loud" about it.

    A: Here's what I'm wondering: Why do you need to display so many things that say "straight"? Okay that was rude, sorry, but do you see what I mean? Don't you or your straight colleagues put up art or knick-knacks that in one way or another show people "being" heterosexual? Pictures of girlfriends or boyfriends perhaps? What about a movie poster with, say, Robert Pattison, George Clooney or Beyonce? And then, what about that plaque on your office wall that commends you for your years of service to the Boy Scouts of America? In case you've forgotten, the Boy Scouts prohibit gays from joining. (That's not only shouting "straight," it's also a call out to homophobia.)

    My point is that

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