Support Donald Trump? Here’s What Else You’re Supporting

American-flagEvery election season, it seems we find out more about our friends than we ever cared to know. We find out who is passionate and who crosses the line into bullying. We find out who stays up to date on current events and who simply spouts off one talking point that they heard while flipping channels.

It can be illuminating and educational. This year it’s all of that and more. It’s downright depressing.

According to a Facebook app that combs through your friends to tell you how many “like” Donald Trump, 24 people I know have given a thumbs up to the candidate who turned a presidential debate into a discussion about his private parts.

The app is like Pandora’s box. Once you’ve clicked, you’ll wish you hadn’t. [Read more…]

They’re Same Sex Wedding Photos; Get Over It

same-sex-weddingI started Sunday morning with 1,849 fans on the Facebook page for my blog, Inside Out Motherhood. Nothing compared to many of the “big” blogs, but nothing to sneeze at either.

Then the number began to dip. One thousand eight hundred forty eight. One thousand eight hundred forty seven. One thousand eight hundred forty six…

I knew instantly why it was dropping. I had anticipated it even. As a photographer, I often post photos to the page, and Sunday morning I posted one of my favorite photos of all time: A dear friend, his eyes closed as he cried quiet tears while another dear friend leaned over to plant a gentle kiss on his cheek.

Sounds pretty sweet, doesn’t it?

It was.

Even better for me, the photographer behind the photo? I’d been lucky enough to capture the moment just a day before. [Read more…]

‘Gay’ Is a Label My Kid Didn’t Need to Learn But She Did Anyway

I used to have a “straight but not narrow” magnet on my car. It fell off (or was stolen) a long time ago, but it summed up my family well. We are pro-marriage equality, pro-LGBT rights, anti-hate.

My husband and I are heterosexual parents raising our little girl to believe that love is love. Period.

But I have to admit I was shocked when my 8-year-old daughter used the word “gay” the other day.

Shocked because I realized I’d never explained to her what it meant. Shocked because when I pressed her to see if she knew what she was saying, she looked me in the eye and said “Uncle D. and Uncle W., they’re gay, right?”

Right. Her beloved uncles are gay, and although the Supreme Court finally declared unconstitutional a key portion of the Defense Against Marriage Act that denies them the rights afforded my own nuclear family, the fact is my daughter still can’t dance at their wedding. They live in one of the more than 30 states in our nation that still deny gay couples the right to marry.

She hates that. In the way that only an 8-year-old can be angry at an entire state, she has bunched up her little fists and glared at me and pronounced the entire state of Pennsylvania “mean.”

But she’s never used the word “gay.” Until now.

I’m not upset that she knows the word, not angry.

The fearmongers clutching their pearls earlier this week when the New Yorker released a cover featuring the backs of creatures with a marked similarity to Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie to celebrate the repeal of DOMA’s section three worry that allowing kids to acknowledge sexuality means forcing them to think about sex.

I know better. My daughter knows about sexuality. She knows that her mother and father love each other, that her uncles love each other. And not once in her 8 years on earth has she mentioned sex.

She’s a normal kid. She sees love and only love.

Kids don’t equate sexuality with sex. Adults do.

So yes, I’m fine with my daughter knowing that gay people exist.

But I’ve put off this day for years, put off using the word “gay” because I didn’t want to put a label on love. I didn’t want her to think of her uncles as other, as different from Mommy and Daddy. They aren’t. They put their pants on the same way. They get up and go to jobs and buy groceries and watch TV and eat cheese and pledge the flag.

They are Americans.

They are people.

Who just happen to be gay.

Do your kids know the word “gay” yet? How have you discussed it in your house?

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Gay Bashing: It Gets Worse Edition

What’s worse than general homophobia? No, this isn’t a trick question. Think about it.

What could be worse than getting it from inside your own family? It’s a common enough occurrence. We wouldn’t live in a nation full of self-loathing, suicidal gay teenagers if kids could guarantee that at the very least they’d get support from within the walls of their homes. If families would accept that Lady Gaga is right, kids are “born this way.”

It’s been one of those weeks. First I read that Mel Gibson’s brother, Andrew, had come out in support of his ranting, racist brother. Or rather, the gay Gibson claims it that isn’t the “real” Mel. Because even though Andrew admits the actor really did make homophobic comments about how gay men “take it up the ass,” well, he accepted him when he came out. Sorry Andrew, but just because you got the family pass doesn’t mean your brother doesn’t have a problem with the rest of the world.

It’s a problem I have come face-to-face with all too often. A family member of a gay person in my life makes a show of loving their relative but continues their old ways outside of the house. Seriously? Y’all? If you’re making gay jokes on Facebook, you haven’t “come to terms with” or “accepted” your loved one’s decision. You’re an ass.

Plain and simple.

Here’s the thing. If you love someone, REALLY, 100 percent LOVE the living shit out of someone, who THEY love doesn’t matter. One of things my dad has always said about my husband is that it doesn’t matter if HE likes him. I’m the one that has to like him. It’s something I’ve loved about him from the “awww, Daaaaad” perspective, but it applies all around. Love is love.

It doesn’t matter what YOU think about Adam loving Steve or whatever. The fact is, he loves him. He’s fallen. Hook. Line. Sinker. Whatever.

If he can do that, he’s braver than you.

Image via -marlith-/Flickr

Why the New York Marriage Equality Law is ‘Silly’

As if you needed another reminder that creating marriage equality in New York was the right thing to do for our future, here’s another one.

On such a momentous day, when her mom was wandering the house on a natural high, it was hard not to include my 6-year-old in the celebrations. “Guess what,” I said. OK, maybe I shrieked it? With glee? “Today is a very, very important day. Today we are proud to be New Yorkers because today people can finally marry the people they love.”

Call it a lesson in picking your moment. She said “huh” and continued to let me brush her hair. And then it came out. “Like you and Daddy?”

“Yes, like me and Daddy, but like your uncles who love each other. Boys can marry boys now. And girls can marry girls now! Isn’t that wonderful?”

She grinned, stuck, I confess on the idea of her uncles getting married. I could almost see my little fashionista’s brain forming the word “flower girl,” but it didn’t come out. Instead, she waited out my elation, aware that I had a brush caught up in the mass of blond curls, before making her move.

“That’s silly,” she said.

Silly. Yes. It was a commentary on me, not the situation. Silly that Mommy was so out-of-this-world, over-the-top excited about something that shouldn’t be a big deal. Silly because to her, when she found out her “uncles” slept in the same bed, her only reaction was to say “OK, now show me the bathroom.”

This is our future, America, and it makes me proud to be one.

Although I’ll confess the follow up half an hour later may have made the New Yorker in me grin hardest.
“Can boys marry boys in Philly?” she asked.

I confess I was confused, but I went with it. “No, honey, sadly, Pennsylvania isn’t there yet. One day soon we hope.”

“But Philly, they can’t get married in Philly, right?”

“Right.”

“Good, because the Phillies stink. The Yankees rule!”

Ah, I’m proud to be a New Yorker.

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Image via Guillaume Paumier/Flickr

Beyond Spirit Day: LGBT Kids Live in Our Town Too


It was one of those days when I wished I once again worked in an office. I pawed through my closet for a purple something, anything on the 20th.
But sitting at my dining room table on my balance ball chair – good for bouncing when the writer’s block strikes – my laptop in front of me, I was completely unsettled.

Was taking part in Spirit Day to remind the world that lesbian, gay, bi and transgender (LGBT) teens need our support really doing anything if no one could see me show my spirit?

 I threw a few minutes into turning my Facebook profile picture purple and putting up a status update reminding the world that we could all use a little more love out there.

And then I sat there.

Wondering.

Waiting.

It felt like high school all over again.

High school in rural little Sullivan County. Where in the nineties, no one talked about being gay. Where there were no LGBT support groups. Where there was no assurance to kids that it’s OK to be whoever you are, as long as you’re kind, honorable, loyal.

I am not in high school anymore.

You couldn’t pay me to go back.

Because everything I’ve found out in the past few weeks proves Sullivan County high schools haven’t changed.

After the media began reporting on suicide spikes among gay teens, a few weeks ago, I reached out to some counselors I know in Sullivan County schools.

“Is there help out there for gay teens?” I asked. “Are the kids taught specifically that it doesn’t matter who they are, that we’re all human?”

“No,” came the answers. And “not really.”

There’s some general “let’s all play nice kids” talk at some schools, but Sullivan County is still a place where being gay and young is like walking to school with a target on your back because there’s no sign that the opposite is true.

There are no support groups. No tolerance classes.

No sign that gay even exists in Sullivan County.

Child development experts will tell you children are, by their nature, narcissistic. When they see nothing out there affirming that people with similarities exist, they internalize it. Brought up in small towns with no evidence of the true number of gay teens (anywhere from 3 to 10 percent of the population according to statistics), they question themselves instead of their environment. They’re too young, too immature, too sheltered, to look beyond our borders.

In a country where more than a quarter of gay teens are kicked out of their own homes when they come out, where one out of every six gay teens is beaten badly enough to require medical attention, where 28 percent of gay teens are forced to drop out of school because of their sexuality, it can’t just be the kids.

Because kids learn from adults. And so called decent American adults last week called Spirit Day making too much out of nothing. They dared to pin the problem on the media, to pretend that it’s just some crazy kids out there somewhere.

But there are gay teens in Sullivan County. And gay, lesbian and bisexual youth represent 30 percent of all teen suicides in America.

It’s only a matter of time before those two facts collide.

Wearing purple inside my house won’t help. But maybe this will. It’s time for Sullivan County schools to act like it’s 2010. It’s time for Sullivan County to stop pretending. It’s time for Sullivan County to let us raise our kids to be the best they can be – whoever that may be.

To the New York Senate: Let’s Have Some Freedom From Religion This Holiday

They always say the holidays are primed for depression, but with a kid at home I should be able to avoid it.

And then the New York Senate got me down.

I sit here ashamed to live in New York State eight years after I moved back to Sullivan County in part because I was proud to have been raised in a place where race, gender, sexuality mean nothing on a snowy day when your neighbor just needs a hand.

Eight years on, I live in a state where discrimination is just the name of the game, where ignoring the U.S. Constitution is OK as long as it gets you re-elected.

There’s a tricky part of the Constitution. It allows for freedom of religion, and with that comes freedom from religion. And you can’t have one without the other.

Because freedom from religion allows you to decide today that you no longer want to be a Catholic, say, but want to convert to Judaism to marry your true love.

It allows you to practice as a Methodist, even though the Assemblies of God up the street would really love to see you on Sunday morning.

It allows that all religious views are equal under the law. Not better. Just equal.

It allows that a Catholic church does not have to allow a divorced man to marry again. That a pastor in a Presbyterian church can simply decide “no, I don’t want to marry you.”

It’s the law, you see.

And it’s the law that allows for marriage in New York State, not the church. A pastor may oversee a marriage, but it is not legally binding until the license has been signed and sent away to the issuing governmental entity.

And as such, the government can’t force a religious ceremony. You can go to city hall or call the justice of the peace to your house. Nor can they force you out of a religious ceremony. Don’t want a JP? You can call on your minister or your rabbi.

And none of them can uphold the “sanctity of your marriage.” Not legally, anyhow. If Susie and Billy meet tomorrow and decided to get married on Friday, there’s nothing holding them back – provided they’re over 18, not brother and sister and not trying to get Susie a green card.

How’s that for sanctity? Anyone want to lay bets on how long that marriage will last? How screwed up the kids will be?

And what’s the State of New York going to do about it? Nothing – because the U.S. Constitution prevents them from doing so. As the Declaration of Independence states, “all men are created equal.” Created to make our own way in life – regardless of color, of gender, of sexuality.

By voting against gay marriage last week, the New York State Senate put all of that in jeopardy.

It took a stand on behalf of discrimination, not against it. Those Senators who voted against gay marriage decimated the legal standing of New York State.

Because as long as the government issues marriage licenses, it’s a legal term, not a religious one. And as long as New York State allows for religion to take over its legal proceedings, we have lost the battle to protect our own religious freedom.

So if you’re looking toward Christmas with a lighter heart knowing Adam and Steve can’t be married, just think what it would be like to see the state shutter the doors of your church just in time for Christmas services and tell you to switch religions.

If gay men and women aren’t equal, neither are you.

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A new tune for wedding bells

If you’ve been to as many weddings as I have over the years, they start to run together in your mind.
They’re predictable. They’re cozy. They’re one day when the good in the world far outweighs the bad, when happiness rules the roost.
So it’s hard to believe someone can still surprise me with their wedding choices.
But they did.
Saturday, I was rooting in my bag for my second flash, already armed with fresh batteries, when I realized the pastor wasn’t spinning the typical spiel.
A short description of any Christian ceremony usually extols the virtue of joining man and woman. This one didn’t bother. The pastor talked about joining people – people who love each other.
Most people in the pews had their eyes on the beautiful bride and her adoring groom and never even noticed.
But I did. I quickly remembered that I should be taking pictures instead of listening and got back to work, but the small snub of the traditional kept a smile on my face for the rest of the day.
This was the union of a man and a woman, yes, a man and a woman who see no reason why they can’t one day be joined in the state of matrimony by a man and a man or a woman and a woman.
It gave me the same swell in my chest I feel when two little kids from different backgrounds meet on the playground and say, “hey, you wanna play?”
It made a special room for this wedding in my heart, a wedding that made room not only for the love of a bridge and groom but the world outside.
It made me remember why I love weddings, why I get caught up in the moment as a bride takes that first glance in the mirror after she’s donned her gown, why I still tear up as a groom watches his wife-to-be begin the slow walk up the aisle.
It reminded me that every wedding is different after all – because no love is the same.
And when I finally get the chance to take photos at the wedding of a couple of grooms or a couple of brides, I’ll be listening for the spiel about the joining of two people.
It will be a good day. It will be a happy day.
And it might surprise even me.