Dr. Michelle Golland: Chaz Bono's decision to go through the process of becoming a man is one that, as a mental health professional, I know will benefit other people struggling with the same issue: now they have an open and public role model to look toward.
I am a clinical psychologist, so I do not look at the issue of sexual orientation or gender identity through the lens of either politics or religion. I believe these issues are inherently personal, and as a professional working with the GLBT community, I view them as humanitarian issues first and foremost.
Since he came out as a lesbian many years ago, Chaz has been a role model for the gay and lesbian community, fighting for equal rights and to stop prejudice and discrimination against the GLBT community. His decision to undergo gender reassignment surgery takes great courage. It is a courageous decision for anyone, even if one is not doing it publicly.
What should you do if your child comes to you with this deeply personal revelation, whether they are gay, lesbian, or struggling with their gender identity? I believe it is important to explain some clinical terms regarding this topic.
Sexual Orientation: Enduring emotional, romantic, or sexual feelings toward other people.
Gender Identity: A person's own internal sense of being male or female: this results from a combination of genetic and environmental influences.
Transgender: This is a broad term describing the state of a person's gender identity that does not match his/her assigned gender at birth. Chaz Bono would be considered "transgender." He was born biologically a female, but his gender identity is that of a male. The hormone therapy and possible sex change surgery would bring his external world to match his internal experience of himself.
It is reported that one in four families have a close relative that is gay or lesbian. I truly believe it is imperative that we bring these issues to light so that they can be demystified and understood by the general public. Tolerance and understanding must increase so that GLBT individuals do not continue to carry the burden of our society's ignorance.
Whatever your religious or political inclination is, as a mother and a psychologist I hope all of you believe your children are more important than any prejudices you hold against homosexuality. Even if you have strongly held views, it is important that you are loving and supportive of your child if you want to maintain a relationship with them, and rise to the occasion and be the parent your gay or lesbian child needs you to be. This is either going to be a life-shattering experience for you and your child, or a life- and love-affirming experience. It is honestly up to you.
Your son or daughter has been carrying around the enormous burden of trying to deny or hide their sexual orientation. They may have been experiencing tremendous stress and anxiety around this issue for a long time. Coming out of the closet to parents is one of the most intense and important moments that a gay youth can experience. In sharing this revelation, your child has lifted a great burden of guilt and shame, and you need to understand what a huge relief it is to not have to lie about who you are.
Some parents believe they did something "wrong" and that is why their child is now gay. This is simply not true, and it is becoming increasingly clear that gay and lesbian individuals know early in life that they are "different" and attracted to the same sex. Transgendered individuals report the same experience of feeling different and the deep desire to be the opposite sex from an early age.
The most important emotional contribution any parent can make to their children's lives is to love them and not withdraw this love when they reveal they are gay. It will be important to find out if your child is experiencing any harassment or bullying at school. Many gay youth don't tell their parents because they are embarrassed and overwhelmed by the chronic harassment.
Another concern for gay and lesbian youth is the issue of loneliness and depression due to feeling isolated. It will be important to help them find a community or group they can feel connected to so they don't suffer in silence, but can develop a healthy gay identity. As parents, we must love and support our children through this process. It can be challenging, but if navigated with an open mind and heart, you will find yourself much closer to your son or daughter than ever before.
As parents, you may have a lot of questions and concerns, and there are wonderful resources available to you, including Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). Remember, if your child is opening up to you and making themselves vulnerable, you must have done something really right for them to feel safe enough to be honest with you. Respect them and help them honor who they feel they are to be in this world. As parents, we think we are here to guide our kids, but in fact, they can teach us much more if we open ourselves to the possibility of love, tolerance, and mutual respect.
|Dr. Golland is a USC graduate and a licensed Clinical Psychologist (PSY#16974). She works with adults, teens and is an expert in the field of marriage and relationships. Dr. Golland has given her expert advice on CNN, HLN, MSNBC, ABC, and Fox news. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and wonderfully exhausting two children.|
|Chastity Bono||Hollywood's Transgendered|