Keep It Together: Resources and Support for LGBTQ Families

It’s All in the Family

“Keep it together in the family

They’re a reminder of your history

Brothers and sisters they hold the key

To your heart and your soul

Don’t forget that your family is gold.”

– Madonna, from “Keep It Together”

For those who may oppose or who may not understand LGBTQIA culture (which often includes ourselves, those in-community), it can be easy to forget we are individuals who come from families. Who make up families. Who make up families of choice.

As we seek out kin, allies, a tribe, BFFs, support, resources and fellowship, because it is so common for LGBTQIA persons to experience marginalization even for supporting queer culture (as well as of course for being in it), we forget about our extended family. We don’t realize the broad spectrum of resources made available to us for finding connections, assistance, and even family-focused entertainment or advantages (such as social, educational financial or medical help).

We may then perhaps lose hope for reconciliation with our birth family, and/or don’t seek alternatives for creating new and more empowering familial networks.

Partying, playing and freedom of sexual expression is all well and good: it’s a blessing to have an opportunity to fully express all sides of ourselves (and fight for our rights in places where this is not yet a reality).

When it’s time to come down, gather together, find home and hearth, your family/family of choice is your go-to place to touch down, reboot, chillax. Find peace of mind.

But what happens if you don’t have a family, your community doesn’t support your family, or you don’t have a stable family?

Here are a few helpful resources, for finding family support and structure, below:

 

Get Help, Find Fam, Keep It Together

PFLAG / Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays – http://www.pflag.org

In addition to education, outreach and public speaking, PFLAG provides regionally-based support groups for queer and questioning persons (including youth), as well as for people who are trying to understand their LGBTQ family members, or people who do not have family support.

Family Equality Council – http://www.familyequality.org/get_involved/programs

Per their website, “The Family Equality Council is a community of parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren who for 30 years have raised our children and raised our voices toward fairness for all families.” While they do quite a bit of advocacy work, they also sponsor Family Equality Pride events and regionally-based family outreach programs (such as support groups and activities for queer parents and the community).

COLAGE – http://www.colage.org

For people with an LGBTQ parent: focused mostly on kids and teenagers, COLAGE unites peer-based networks and helps youth find support. Their specialty, in their own words is to help: “nurture and empower each other to be skilled, self-confident, and just leaders in our collective communities.”

Transforming Family http://transformingfamily.org/about-us

Championed by Chaz Bono. With a trans* focused outreach in its purview, Transforming Family is a Los Angeles based family support group creating a positive environment for children, adolescents and their families to explore issues of gender identity.

Our Family Coalition http://www.ourfamily.org/programs

This is a community of leaders who provide family-based policy and advocacy for change as well as sponsoring various family functions and social events.

Gay Parent Magazine –http://www.gayparentmag.com

A leader in gay parenting resources – founded in 1998.

API Family Pride http://www.apifamilypride.org

The mission of Asian and Pacific Islander Family Pride is to end the isolation of Asian and Pacific Islander families with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members through support, education, and dialogue.

Soffa Support – http://soffasupport.tumblr.com

An online zine that helps to connect people with support and advice for significant others, family, friends, and allies of the trans* community.

National Clearinghouse on Families & Youth http://ncfy.acf.hhs.gov

The National Clearinghouse on Families & Youth is an information resource of the Family and Youth Services Bureau within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They help to provide various resources of support for many, including LGBTQIA-specific assistance, referrals and education.

Intersex Society of North America

Support Groups and FAQ (For FAQ, Click FAQ Link on this page) http://www.isna.org/support

The Intersex Society of North America (ISNA) was founded in 1993 in an effort to advocate for patients and families who felt they had been harmed by their experiences with the health care system. From these scrappy, brave, and confrontational beginnings, ISNA evolved into an important resource for clinicians, parents, and affected individuals who require basic information about disorders of sex development (DSDs) and for how to improve the health care and overall well-being of people with DSDs.

R Family Vacations – http://www.rfamilyvacations.com

R Family Vacations is an LGBT vacation entertainment company that provides luxury cruise ship trips with a focus on inclusive activities for children and services including same-sex marriage ceremonies.

National Resource Center on LGBT Aging –http://www.lgbtagingcenter.org

Resources include – Caregiving services, Aging in Place Providers, LGBT Organizations, referrals, help for LGBT older adults or caregivers.

JQY / JQYouth – http://www.jqyouth.org

JQY is a nonprofit organization supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Jews and their families in the Orthodox community.

 

A Word About Finding Local Resources

If you find these suggestions aren’t close to you, don’t be afraid to shout them out on social media, email or call them, and ask for help finding resources that are local for you. Should they be unable to, they’ll be able to provide other alternatives for you. Never give up.

There are many more resources where these came from. Have you got a good recommendation? Please let us know.

When times get tough or you’re looking for support, who do you call your “family?”

 

Hey Hey Hey, It’s Disney’s Gay Days! – LGBT Weekend Travel Getaways

Know Your LGBT (Disney) History

 “’While Disney does not sponsor the event, the company accommodates any large group,’ said Suzi Brown, a Disneyland Resort spokeswoman. Disney quietly cooperates with Gay Days, such as by selling meal packages with rainbow Mickey cookies. Gay Days started in 1998 with 2,500 people unofficially gathering in Disneyland. Groups had protested and boycotted Disneyland, saying the event was not family-friendly. But large-scale, organized protests have been absent for several years.”

– Sarah Tully, for The Orange County Register

In spite of marked recent controversies,the years-long “unofficially official” tradition of Disney’s Gay Days continues to thrive.

In Anaheim, California, home to Disneyland, Gay Days attracts tens of thousands of people each year (well over 30,000 in 2013), while in Orlando, Florida, Gay Days attracts hundreds of thousands.

Ever quietly and unofficially gay-friendly, the Disney franchise enjoyed a “coming out” of sorts this year as the Walt Disney World resort ushered in George Kalogridis as its first openly gay president. The California and Florida Disney’s have always been somewhat distinguished from one another (hence California’s Disney parks didn’t receive much flak from protesters), but with the welcoming in of Kalogridis (prior president of California’s Disneyland) changes are in motion.

Too, the new president is planning more gay-inclusive luxury vacation bundles, trips and soirees for the discerning Mousekateers in the building.

What that means for you, dear sun-seekers and vacation lovers, is more LGBT-inclusive play, perks, and parks! CA to FL vacation packages for Gay Days vaycays? That’s just gotta be in the works, dontcha think?

Gay Days continues to book the best entertainers, so mark your calendars now: planned performers and festivities for Anaheim alone include drag diva extraordinaire Miss Coco Peru, “Glee’s” Alex Newell (Unique), DJ Kimberly S., and An Intimate Conversation with Tabatha Coffee.

Gay Days aren’t all just fun and games—there’s chill time scheduled with each itinerary as well. Event planners will hook you up with luxuriant brunches, exclusive concierge service and affiliated spa deals, because unwinding is a must. January Disney Resort sea cruises are also in the works. Loving that.

The newly-launched Gay Days Las Vegas (held in September)  speaks to the continued success of and ongoing demand for more LGBT-inclusive and family-friendly events at Disney and beyond.

Of course, Orlando events are better than ever, virtually unaffected by recent attempts at inciting controversy.

Gay Days aren’t just for boys. Tours and parties are always planned exclusively for women, men, and of course “Bears only,” in addition to the main events.

Yes, We Are Still Family.

 “Evan, Alix and Jamie had a great time with their moms at Disney World on June 5. They loved Disney’s afternoon Celebrate a Dream Come True parade, which they watched right up front, by the castle. Thousands of gays and lesbians and their families surrounded them. ‘That was really awesome and empowering,’  [An attendee said.] ‘The kids really felt part of the bigger picture.’ For the Couchman-Spencer family, the only controversy about Gay Days was how long to stay. The kids got tired. By the time Disney’s big nighttime electrical parade was over, the family had been at the park for 12 hours.”

– John Cloud, for Time Magazine

No, “One Million Moms:” Gay Days events are not Greco-Roman orgies (on what planet would that happen during “Disney time?”). Kids get to meet Mickey and Minnie accompanied and supervised by LGBTQ parents and families without encountering homophobic scrutiny, and that’s a beautiful thing.

So pick a city and book your trip. True: you’ll encounter the obligatory rainbow-sprinkled souvenirs, have your corny and kitsch quotient filled up to the brim for the year, and most of all you’ll have a lot of whole-hearted, “Goofy” fun.

For more information, visit the links below.

Gay Days Las Vegas –  September 3-9, 2013

Gay Days at Disneyland Anaheim October 4–6, 2013

Gay Days Orlando June 3-9 2014

Queens in the Kingdom: The Ultimate Gay and Lesbian Guide to the Disney Theme Parks

Gay Days & Girls Gay Days are a time-honored queer tradition. Therefore, we are ordering you, “fam” and friends to go forth and party. Do not refuse us—this is an order!

 

Success Fit For a Queen: Queen Latifah’s New Talk Show & LGBT-Ally Strides

RT ‏@FlavorUnitEnt | Are you ready?? “@IAMQUEENLATIFAH-“I really think there’s space in daytime TV for a whole bunch of fun, some amazing music, and some heart.”

– A recent tweet from Queen Latifah’s promotions crew

When Queen Latifah walks, she’s always walking on the red carpet. Cheerful, elegant and reflective, she can also turn on a Hip Hop Head “mean mug” glance in a heartbeat. She’s a strong, gorgeous, proud—and many say Same Gender Loving—woman of color making great moves in this world.

Queen Latifah’s been spotted out and about over time with  rumored girlfriends (http://www.eurweb.com/2012/05/queen-latifah-lesbian-girlfriend-photo-galler), is often noticed partying in lesbian clubs, and made her first high-profile public appearance at last year’s  Long Beach Pride (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/04/queen-latifah-did-not-come-out-pride_n_1529566.html).

She’s making the press rounds to share fantastic professional news: “The Queen’s” new daytime TV talk show will begin airing on Sept. 16 and is co-produced by Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, who recently made headlines yet again for their frankness regarding open relationships.

In this world, when you’re an entertainer, news bytes such as these make front page news hand-in-hand. Still, unlike Will and Jada, Queen Latifah isn’t fazed: she’s keeping her personal life out of the spotlight, no matter what we think we know about it.

During a recent press junket, Latifah told THR, “I don’t feel the need to discuss my private life on this show or on any show. There’s the part of my life that the public and I share together. And there’s the part that’s mine to keep for myself. And that’s mine. For me.”

Encouraging self-love, self-acceptance, optimal nutrition (with her Jenny Craig low-pressure “Ideal Size” campaigns), and self-care with a stylish flair, Latifah’s less of a guru and more of a “Can-Do.” (“She did it, I can too.”

One thing’s for sure: her private life is private, and to know there’s an ally in our midst who got her start in Hip Hop (whatever her sexual orientation and preference) and builds a bridge across many cultures in such a way is definitely a good thing.

Find out more about Queen Latifah’s new show how at http://queenlatifah.com, and click here to watch her chat with THR at YouTube. ()

All hail the Queen! Send your congrats and big-ups to Queen Latifah @IAMQUEENLATIFAH.

Why Are You Trippin’? Choosing LGBT-Friendly and Inclusive Travel Options

Where In The World Is…

Summer’s still in full bloom, and there’s still plenty of time for carving out some sweet getaways, whether or not you hook up with a sweet travel agent. Where do you want to play today?

And… are you sure about that?

Choose Your Own Adventure

You’ve seen all the advertising hoopla before: “Come fly with us.” “Queers welcome here!”

Rainbow flags go up, and you trust you’ll be well cared for on your “gaycay,” so all you’ll need to worry about is, perhaps, simply having the best “vaycay” ever.

Queer travelers’ tales can be a hit-and-miss kind of deal. We’re not here to share horror stories, but to provide better, more affirming options for you.

The last thing you want on a honeymoon voyage, a BFF’s night out, or a romantic weekend rendezvous is to see scowling waiters, resentful concierges, easily-offended hotel managers, or even B&B owners who “don’t dig your friends’ vibes,” especially when you have an honest to goodness question, need or desire as a paying customer.

So, are LGBT-owned companies best? Or, is “gay-friendly” acceptable enough for you?

The truth of the matter is, you should always follow your gut.

Just because a lesbian friend of a friend owns a business, they may or may not be ethical, or they may be gay-friendly in theory but not in practice. Or, maybe they’re open to gay travelers, but not trans* travelers. And just because your Yahoo search unearths a keyword-friendly link to a major airline or travel planner doesn’t mean “gay-friendliness begins here.”

What’s a roaming soul to do? Take some extra time, if you can make some of it.

 LGBT-Inclusive Travel Options

Where to begin? First, ask questions.  Make a call or post a question on a timeline in a forum.

Scroll and stroll through a few of the options here, and if time permits, be sure to do at least a little sleuthing before making plans. Visit not only an official homepage, but find Yelp, Yahoo and Google reviews, see if you kind find some blog posts about the business, and you might even check out Twitter or Facebook timelines (not just posts, but visitors’ and customers’ feedback).

A quick click tip: check out amenity offerings in advance: if you find a hotel isn’t hooking you up, make sure you “fight for your right to party” (mini-bars aren’t just for straight folks).

A Word About Transgender and Intersex Travel

Because there are less folks (so far!) who proactively hang out Transgender Pride pink-blue-white flags alongside those rainbows, a bit of creativity is required should you want to plan before hitting the road, and if you want that extra vote of trans-inclusive confidence.

We’re preaching to the choir here, but trans folks are most concerned while traveling at home or abroad when it comes to medical care. Trans vacation-goers: be sure to have copies of all documentation you feel comfortable bringing, especially when traveling abroad.

Take extra supplies, supplements or items you need for personal and medical care, and get situated with the paperwork ASAP, so you can relax into the pleasure of traveling.

Though lived experience for trans folks changes exponentially by the day, finding trans-friendly or trans-owned companies with trans-exclusive or best interests in mind is harder. You can check out some of the LGB resources below, too.

But for more trans-inclusive options, it’s best to ask around, and consult folks and/or online destinations that have a history of solid trans advocacy and helpful advice, along with LGBT places such as:

* TS RoadMap Int’l

* Laura’s Playground Forums (FTM and MTF)

* Sparta (Military folks are often experienced travelers

* ISNA

* The Brown Boi Project

* Ask local (or closest, or in-state/country) LGBT or PFLAG center/groups

* Gender.org US State-by-State

* Search LGBT Housing resources in the area (by default, you’ll get a better feel for environments)

* Find trans-friendly or LGBT-friendly advice that comes directly from a governmental source (e.g. this one from the UK)

* Surf Twitter, Tumblr and YouTube, and ask questions – tons of indie trans groups and bloggers pop up all the time.

Also again, like with all else, follow your instincts.

Though the sites above don’t specifically have to do with travel, trans* folks share many empowering resources, and connecting with folks online or in trans-specific support groups or health-care focused groups is invaluable for all kinds of referrals, including travel spots, the most trans-inclusive travel agencies, or places, what’s most cool, amazing or best avoided, and how keep safety in mind.

LGBTQ-Friendly Travel Alternatives

For Bi Folks

If you desire bi-specific travel experiences, you can review some more general resources below (such as centers and the like), or inquire with bi-affirming support groups or forums, as it’s not yet common for folks to hang out an “Open” sign for bi-only travel experiences. You can find that information with a bit of investigation, or by approaching an out, bi travel agent or bisexual travel-related business owner (check your local or state-based LGBT chamber of commerce or business directory).

The Random Factor: Pick A Pride, Any Pride

If you’re not sure exactly where you want to go and have a hankering to explore, you might just want to plan a trip to a Pride event in a new city or country. Interpride’s got you covered.

If you’d rather have a walkabout, look for destinations in larger metro areas (preferably ones that hold yearly pride events and/or are near colleges, which tend to attract more diversity-aware business owners, for financial reasons, at least).

Got a little extra cash? Then search for LGBT-only and LGBT-specific travel groups, agencies, and travel agents (not just travel packages, which may or may not diversity-minded).

A couple of recommendations: Olivia,  IGLTA or Out-Adventures.com. (Al and Chuck Travel, for example, is a gay-owned branch of another company, and often has to negotiate LGBT travelers’ experience around a main travel group’s preferences—you don’t just have the cruise ships to yourself or your group).

Also check out:

* Airbnb (search for “gay,” “lesbian,” “bisexual,” and more—don’t just click go but read and talk to the owner(s) first

* Craigslist (yes, you can still find more than just bootie calls there.)

* Dinah In Color

* Gaydays.com, Gaydaysanaheim.com

* Spiritjourneys.com

* Damron.com

* Rfamilyvacations.com

* Kimpton LGBT Guest Loyalty Perks

* Sweet

* PurpleRoofs.com

All told, if someone’s going to be n “LGBT-unfriendly” jerk—or worse—you can’t control it.

But you can, with a little forethought, try to better the odds, and you can always control your actions and reactions in the face of discrimination.

The point of traveling (beyond that kind you need to or have to do) is all about the frolic, comfort and joy. So, “go and get you some o’ that!”

Happy Travels.

Would you rather know for sure that your travel agent is family? Does that even matter to you?

Straight Allies Spotlight: Why We Love Chris Kluwe

“Society’s trending towards more equality, and you see that in the locker room.”

– Chris Kluwe (to Larry King, on “Larry King Now” broadcast)

 

Oh, Chris: how do we love thee? Let us count the ways.

First off, few people can bring themselves to hate him.

As the Oakland Raiders’ American NFL football punter, Chris Kluwe comes off as a fresh-faced, cheery, potty-mouthed and an unabashedly proud “gamer geek.” Kluwe’s spoken up—loudly—about everything from NFL labor disputes to honesty in the media. Now, he’s championing gay rights and marriage equality—and it’s not his first time rocking the mic for LGBTQ inclusivity.

The UCLA alum combines dashing good looks and dorky gamer references (he owns a fantasy gaming store for goodness’ sake), and let’s just say his wife Isabel isn’t the only one who finds him easy on the eyes.

Hm…male model? Athletic cover boy? What? Okay, losing track of the numbers here.

Still, there are so many reasons to adore him.

As articulate as he is awkward, Chris recently appeared on “Larry King Now”  to promote his  book, “Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies: On Myths, Morons, Free Speech, Football and Assorted Absurdities.”

On the show, he briefly mentioned his personal protest of the Minnesota Marriage Amendment and his ever-expanding record of LGBT advocacy, which started hitting its stride last year.

Sharing a viewpoint with Larry King that’s rarely been shared by celebs publicly, Chris went on to express a bittersweet regret about the Prop 8 decision, saying  we could have pressed even harder to get more mileage from the opportunity to make permanent changes.

“I liked the DOMA decision,” said Kluwe, “Because obviously it extended federal benefits to married couples. Not a big fan of the Prop 8 decision, because while it allowed gays to be married in California as soon as they vacate the stay, the problem is, the Supreme Court had a chance to extend those rights across the entire country…whereas they could’ve made a statement.”

“They have a precedent,” he continued. “They have Loving v. Virginia—that says

marriage is a human right. They could’ve extended that out to say, ‘Same sex marriage, that is a human right, and you can’t discriminate against that.’”

Trying to keep realistic, he tied things up by saying, “So now we’ve just got to go to all the other states that—right now—gay marriage is illegal in, and get that passed.”

Earlier this month, in what could have been a media disaster, Kluwe shared a stinging truth (citing ex-New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez’s murder charges) in the following exchange with Conan O’Brien on the “Conan” show:

“Now what about the NFL? Where’s the NFL in all of this?” Conan O’Brien asked.

“They pretty much just left me alone,” Kluwe answered, “As long as you’re not out shooting people…”

Here’s the deal: straight allies often put their foot in their mouths, no matter how good their intentions may be. Chris Kluwe’s using his “big-mouthed” persona to our advantage. You just can’t hate on somebody for that.

Chris Kluwe loves World of Warcraft, loves the game of football, loves to raise consciousness and awareness, and is all about a message of transparency, fairness and equality.

In his “Larry King Now” appearance and his Out of Bounds blog, Kluwe rants on with this through line: if we are not honest with ourselves and protecting our own, our civilization is doomed. He simply won’t back down from the idea, and his new book likely puts that sentiment on full blast.

Well-played Chris Kluwe—and play on.

What’s your take on Chris’ mouthy antics? Do you think he’s trying to co-opt Gay Rights to get attention? Does that matter, either way? Wait…you’re too busy looking at his “Out” magazine cover spread, aren’t you?

Don’t leave us hanging, y’all—what’s the T? Let us know what’s on your mind, and you can holler at your boy Chris Kluwe @ChrisWarcraft on Twitter.