Danni Askini, the trans activist seeking asylum in Sweden. Photo: John Victory
By:Ruben Dieleman/The Local
Last weekend, the founder and CEO of The Abbey David Cooley, and his partner were told to move seats on an Alaska Airlines flight in order to make room for a straight couple,
The well-known gay businessman took to Facebook to discuss the incident. A flight attendant approached them and told his partner he’d have to move to the main cabin from their premium seats because a straight couple wanted to sit together—even though Cooley explained that they were a couple. Humiliated, they chose to exit the plane altogether.
In a statement to Gay Star News, a representative from Alaska Airlines acknowledged the incident. They are investigating the situation.“
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.
I like to view things with a sense of humor (hence the title of this essay). However, it can be a serious family matter when one parent comes out as LGBTQ. The situation will often result in a divorce, which can be devastating for a child and can result in their conflicting feelings of anger, sadness, confusion, and self-blame.
During the early 1980s, when I was in high school, I remember watching a movie alone with the volume turned low because it was such a controversial subject for that time. The film was called “Making Love,” and it came out (pardon the pun) in 1982, starring Michael Ontkean, Harry Hamlin, and Kate Jackson. Ontkean plays Zach, who is married to Claire (Jackson). Zach is gone so much that Claire believes he is having an affair with another woman. When she confronts him, he admits his affair with his patient, Bart (Hamlin). Back then, many believed that playing a gay role hurt Hamlin’s career for years, whereas today such roles have actually bolstered many careers. In 2005, “Brokeback Mountain” won a number of awards and was nominated for best picture at the Oscars. In 2009, Sean Penn won the best actor Oscar for his performance of controversial gay rights activist Harvey Milk. In 2014, Jared Leto won the Oscar for best supporting actor for his compelling role as a transgender woman in the film “Dallas Buyers Club.”
However, while these movies certainly helped to bring the LGBTQ community into popular culture, they did not portray situations that directly involve kids. In 2011, “The Kids Are All Right” became one of the first movies to do so with its portrayal of a lesbian couple raising two children born from a surrogate father. The film won a Golden Globe for best picture and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for best screenplay. Hopefully, this has opened the door for more film and television portrayals depicting the reality of children with LGBTQ parents and the common situations that result when one parent turns out to be gay.
When a Parent Comes Out
The following is an amusing story told to me by a friend: A man was married many years to a woman and together they had a daughter. When the daughter was almost grown, the man came out to his family, announcing he was gay. He wasn’t sure how the daughter was handling it until one day, as they were both taking a walk along the beach, two very attractive and muscular men were walking toward them, each carrying a surfboard. His daughter said, “Look, Dad, one for you, one for me.”
The father was relieved, seeing how comfortable his daughter was with his sexuality. So he joked, “Okay, I’ll take the blond.”
Embarrassed and turning red, the daughter said, “I was talking about the surfboards.”
I spoke with and surveyed a number of other people who had been married and had children when one spouse came out. Hopefully, some of the following stories will help those who are in similar situations, and they will be comforted to know they are not alone.
Honesty is the Best Policy
After fifteen years of marriage, Anna and her husband sat down together with the kids and told them about her husband’s sexual orientation. The kids were fourteen, twelve, and eight years old. They were sad and surprised, but they were relieved to know there was a valid reason as to why their parents had separated. Prior to that, no one could understand why this had happened because they’d always had a good relationship together.
“My advice to others going through this is to be honest with everyone involved and tell people as soon as you are comfortable,” Anna said. “If you do it too soon, you may wind up hurting yourself and the people around you, especially the children. My kids did not want anyone else to know because they studied in the same schools as their cousins. I couldn’t tell any of our relatives because children can be cruel at school. I would have liked to tell people sooner but my kids would have been hurt.”
Hide That Gay Porn
After a year of being separated from his wife of twenty years, Fred’s sons were visiting him from Texas. At that time, they were thirteen and fifteen years old. He had told his wife he was gay, though he’d never acted on it, and they had decided to separate. However, they had decided not to tell the kids the reason until it came up during his sons’ visit.
While his sons were visiting, his fifteen-year-old left the room to take a shower when his thirteen-year-old asked him, “Are you gay?” Taken aback, Fred asked, “Why do you ask?” His son said, “Well, you used to watch both straight porn and gay porn on the internet and now you only watch gay porn.”
The fact that his thirteen-year-old knew how to find the porn that he thought he had hidden so well was a little scary. (Kids today are very computer savvy, if you haven’t noticed.)
“My son was actually okay with it,” Fred said. “I told my other son a couple weeks later and he laughed at first—he thought it was a big joke. Once he knew it wasn’t, he was okay with it, too, until they got back to Texas and their religious school. Then they told me I was an embarrassment because everyone gave them a hard time about it. Today they are both adults and fine with it.”
Dealing with a Bitter Spouse
Sometimes when one parent comes out, their spouse resents it and causes a rift or even sabotages the relationship between the gay parent and child. This may make it difficult for the child to understand and accept their gay parent, but it doesn’t make it impossible. Take Waylon’s experience, for example.
Waylon was divorced, and his ex-wife did not take his being gay very well at all. Waylon’s daughter lived with his ex-wife and her new husband while Waylon provided financial support for his daughter but lived in another state. The relationship was strained for a long time because of the negative things his ex-wife would say about him and his sexual orientation. The daughter also didn’t know that other family members had accepted her father for who he was. When Waylon’s daughter was sixteen, she finally visited her dad and his partner, Willie. Not surprisingly, it was a little awkward at first, but he assured her that their relationship wouldn’t change. He asked her if she’d get to know Willie, since he was important to him.
She asked questions about their relationship—how long they’d been together, how the relationship was going in general—and she also had her own private conversation with Willie and asked him questions as well. She was able to see that her father’s relationship with Willie was no different from other relationships, and by the end of the day, she had even given Willie a hug.
However, once she returned home to her mom and stepdad, the situation became more difficult. Waylon soon got a call from his furious ex-wife, Maybelle. “How dare you introduce my daughter to this lifestyle!” She continued to flood him with homophobic voice mails, emails, and even threats. Maybelle never did come around; in fact, she tried to poison her daughter against her ex-husband with lies about him and used parental alienation to prevent her daughter from seeing her father. The daughter was finally told the truth, and the relationship between Waylon and his daughter (who recently came out as gay herself) is now healthy and strong.
I think it’s good that Waylon showed his daughter that he and Willie have a nice, loving relationship that offset the negative things his ex had said. Setting a good example is important. I think when one spouse (in this case, the mother) has resentment toward a divorced spouse, it causes a lot of harm to a child, and if any adult finds themselves pitting the child against the other parent in situations like these, they should, of course, do their best to stop.
When the Kids Don’t Take the News So Well
Pablo’s son was ten and his daughter was seven when he came out to them. Pablo had decided to tell them because he thought his ex-wife was about to out him. He later told his kids that he needed to tell them because he didn’t want them to find out from a third person. He started by saying to them, “I’ve got something important to tell you.” But then he couldn’t continue.
The three of them sat in awkward silence until his son finally said, “What are you going to tell us? That you’re gay?” Pablo was surprised but relieved. “Yes, that’s why your mom and I separated.” He then told them, “I am still your father, nothing changes, and I still love you the same way.”
Then, both kids started crying. The boy seemed to take it harder than his sister, throwing a puzzle across the room in apparent anger. The crying lasted about fifteen minutes or so, and then later the son suddenly said to him, “Daddy, I’m sorry for those comments and jokes I’ve said about fags before. Don’t take them personally, but I am still going to make them.” It was the boy’s way of trying to use a little humor to break the tension.
Pablo said this didn’t bother him too much because if his son felt free enough to make a joke at this time, he felt his son was partly okay with it. Pablo said he also understood the “macho thing” boys have and his reaction was fairly normal.
His son asked, “Did you ever love Mommy?”
He said, “Of course.” But although the conversation seemed to have resolved things at the time, Pablo told me that his kids didn’t believe that he was born gay for quite a while, and today his son is still not 100 percent okay with it, but their relationship is okay. The daughter is much better with it.
I think the takeaway here is even if you fear the kids won’t be okay with this news, it’s still better to be open and honest and give them time to adjust to it.
What the Therapist Says: Divorce + Gay Parent = Added Shame
As part of my research, I also spoke with therapist David Giella. He provided some very straightforward insight into what children of gay parents go through in these situations. “In any divorce where, let’s say, the father has an affair, the child may feel the following: ‘You misled Mommy; you made Mommy cry; you had an affair; you have screwed up my life because of something you did; I’m scared and mad at you.’ When the father has an affair with another man, it’s mostly the same feelings, except now the child has to deal with having a parent who is gay, and there may be some shame with this, whether there should be or not,” Giella said.
I think what Dr. Giella said is important because parents should be aware a divorce may be a little harder for kids to deal with when it’s because one parent is gay. It’s an additional change and something else to adjust to in their lives; it’s not as simple as their parents not being together anymore.
Sudi now lives in California but grew up in Syosset Long Island. He is the cowriter of the feature film “Walk a Mile In My Pradas” (starring Tom Arnold, Dee Wallace, and Bruce Vilanch) and the upcoming “Charlie’s Dream,” an inspirational family film. He also writes songs, sketches, loves writing everything except checks. For more info on the author visit his website at www.rickkaratas.com
MORE FROM SUDI “RICK” KARATAS
Ryan Murphy who pushed the envelope with Glee and American Horror Story, and Nip/Tuck is again taking us on journey.
He is taking us back to the 1980’s New York’s social scene. We revisit the literary scene and for the first time for many, the ball culture world.
In an January an interview, Murphy told reporters “The show is about the search for being authentic, about creating opportunities” We’re past an era of straight men playing these roles. Its time to think differently and offer more opportunities to people who want to work. Many of this cast have never been in front of a camera before.
Pose features the largest cast of transgender and gay actors for a scripted U.S television series. Based on Murphy’s history, don’t expect an introduction, prepare to be fully immersed. Pose premiers Sunday June 3rd 9pm ET.
He was called the conscience of the conservative movement. His wife is the assistant director of an Anti abortion rally called “March of Life”
Earlier this month Westley Goodman was allegeldy discoved having sex with man on the his desk in one of the state offices.
Mr Goodman was elected to represent the 87th District, in north-central Ohio, just last year. Prior to that, he worked as an aide to US Representative Jim Jordan, a highly conservative, anti-LGBT Republican.
The Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT advocacy group in the US, named Mr Jordan in their Hall of Shame in 2014 for attempting to block marriage equality in the District of Columbia
There were rumors about Goodman being gay. Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger heard rumors that Goodman was gay and cheating on his wife as early as May 2016, a House spokesman confirmed Tuesday. But little could be done because Goodman denied those rumors when confronted, and they never involved another lawmaker or House employees.
Cleveland.com first reported Saturday that Goodman, a married man, had sex with men while working in Washington, D.C. and sent unsolicited, sexually inappropriate messages to younger men he met in conservative circles. Goodman, 33, continued sending messages while he was a sitting legislator, men who received the messages say.
Johnny Hadlock, a former congressional staffer, told the AP he engaged in sexual banter by text and had phone sex with Goodman while the two worked in Washington in the early 2010s. He said he was furious when, years later, he saw Goodman campaigning on the issue of “natural marriage” between a man and a woman, “because I knew differently.”
“Wes is a good guy. He’s a nice guy. He’s a gregarious guy. He’s a good networker. But he’s a hypocrite,” said Hadlock, whose story was first reported by cleveland.com. “He’s engaged in things with me and with others that I know are the antithesis of what he’s publicly proclaiming and standing for in his public life.”
The Washington Post reported Friday that another conservative group, the Council for National Policy, handled internally a complaint that Goodman fondled an 18-year-old college student while he was sleeping in a hotel room at its 2015 conference.
The student’s stepfather brought details of the encounter to president Tony Perkins, who also heads the prominent Family Research Council.
“If we endorse these types of individuals, then it would seem our whole weekend together was nothing more than a charade,” the stepfather wrote to Perkins, according to the Post. “Trust me… this will not be ignored nor swept aside,” Perkins replied. “It will be dealt with swiftly, but with prudence.”
In early summer, a non-House employee came forward with evidence of computer and cellphone screenshots suggesting Goodman had been unfaithful to his wife in suggestive or explicit photos and messages. The activity involved all appeared consensual, but Goodman was called in and warned that if he ever engaged in acts with House staff or on state property, it would become Rosenberger’s business.
“Representative Goodman denied all of it and said that ‘fake screenshots’ were being circulated,”
When he resigned his House seat, Goodman said in a statement that he hadn’t served his constituents “in a way that reflects the best ideals of public service.” He has not responded to repeated requests for comment on media accounts published since then.
This story isn’t over, men are slowly coming forward saying Goodman either fondled them, had uncomfortable conversations with him. Some of the men have released explict conversations Goodman had with men on Twitter and Craigslist.
When Xiaoxiong and her lesbian lover wanted to hide their relationship from their parents, they decided to find men willing to marry them. They had a specific type in mind: gay.
Searching out suitors for such a marriage of convenience proved difficult, so she created an online matchmaking forum to help others like her conform with family and societal pressures in China, where same-sex marriage is not legal and homosexuality remains taboo.
“I was so relieved that there was a way to please my parents without getting trapped in a marriage with some poor straight man,” said Xiaoxiong, self-described tomboy, who did not want to give her surname to protect her privacy.
“Some of us wish we could trick ourselves, too,” the 35-year-old added.
She lives with her partner, Xiaojing, 36, their dog and two cats in Shenyang, the capital of northeastern Liaoning province, one of China’s more conservative regions.
But during holidays and special occasions, they separate to be with their husbands and families, pretending to be traditional wives.
In China being openly gay is still fraught with difficulties. Dressing a certain way or public displays of affection can draw stares and lead to family turmoil.
Some Chinese parents have even brought gay children to “conversion” clinics for treatment.
Homosexuality was classified as a mental illness in China until 2001 and a crime until 1997, and authorities have arrested gay rights activists.
Around 90 per cent of 20 million gay men in China are married to women who are usually straight and do not initially know their husband’s real sexual orientation, according to a 2012 study from Qingdao University. The study did not look at lesbians’ behavior.
But gay men and women are increasingly marrying each other in so-called cooperative marriages.
There are no estimates on the number of gay-lesbian marriages, but several websites dedicated to them have popped up in recent years.
The largest one, Chinagayles.com, says it has amassed more than 400,000 users and facilitated more than 50,000 cooperative marriages in the past 12 years.
“When I turned 25, my parents started to really pressure me to get married. So I searched the internet for ideas,” Xiaoxiong said.
She started her own forum on the popular QQ social media platform to help gays like herself find the ideal fake spouse in northeast China.
Some of the men she spoke with had unrealistic expectations, such as wanting her to grow out her buzz cut or move to a different city to live in the same house as in-laws.
In 2012, she married a high school maths teacher 10 years her senior whose laid-back demeanour immediately made her feel comfortable.
But she cringes at the wedding photos of herself in a white gown and curly black wig. The video makes her “want to vomit”, she concedes.
Within weeks of the ceremony, Xiaojing, her partner for eight years, had also wed a gay man.
The two women run a traditional Chinese medical practice together, and they dedicate several hours each week to answering questions on the online matchmaking forum.
But Xiaojing warns people interested in cooperative marriages to be prepared for potential complications.
“Some people rush into a marriage with someone they barely know,” she said. “But just like real marriage, it only works between people who agree on important things like where to live and whether to have children, and who genuinely care about each other.”
But some gay rights activists frown upon such arrangements.
“By pretending to be straight and enjoying the social benefits, they are abandoning other LGBT people to face the pressure alone,” said Ah Qiang, a prominent activist who leads China’s PFLAG group – Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
“I think a reason homophobia is still so strong in China is that many straight people don’t know any openly gay people,” he said.
Xiaoxiong and Xiaojing believe their families likely know the truth about their relationship, but nobody wants to acknowledge the obvious.
“We don’t wish for much,” Xiaoxiong said. “When we are home, when we are sitting side by side, we just feel so peaceful and happy.”
South China Morning Post