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Coming Out As the Parent of An LGBTQ+ Child
Coming Out as the Parent of an LGBTQ+ Child 495 401 Jay Baldwin

Coming Out as the Parent of an LGBTQ+ Child

Coming Out As the Parent of An LGBTQ+ Child

Coming Out as the Parent of an LGBTQ+ Child

By Jay Baldwin

Every week, I meet parents who tell me the story about their child or young adult coming out to them as LGBTQ+. For some parents, their child came out to them at an early age and they are a few years into their journey. For other parents, their children only just came out in the past few weeks or months and they are just starting to navigate what it all means. Whatever the case may be, just as a LGBTQ+ youth has their own coming out process, parents and caregivers of LGBTQ+ youth will have their own coming out process too.

Some parents may find it easy to accept their child as LGBTQ+, while others may express hesitation or uncertainty about their child’s identity. While the journey to understand, accept and affirm an LGBTQ+ child throughout their life is not linear by any means, there are often common themes, themes and emotions that I see expressed by parents who are raising an LGBTQ+ child, regardless of their level of acceptance. Often, this starts with a lot of questions that come from a place of uncertainty, confusion and fear. Depending on one’s cultural and religious beliefs, many parents may wonder things like:

Is my child just going through a phase? Will my child ever get married or have children? Did my parenting style cause my child to be this way? How will people treat my child? How and when do I share my child’s identity with others? 

At Kaleidoscope, we want parents to know that these are all normal and understandable questions and reactions to a child’s LGBTQ+ identity. We also want parents to know that we offer several support groups for parents of LGBTQ+ youth to share their experiences, give and receive support, and learn about valuable resources. Here are a few commonly asked questions:

I’m nervous about attending a support group. What can I expect?

The purpose of our groups is to support you wherever you are in your journey. You are welcome here, and you will not be judged or shamed in any way.

I love my child, and I am also grieving the life I thought my child may have had. Can a support group help me with these kinds of feelings?

Parent support groups can help parents realize that grieving is a process. It is not linear and it takes time to adjust. It can be comforting to talk with other parents who may have similar feelings or initial reactions. Sharing these emotions in a safe space can provide an opportunity for self-exploration of one’s own biases and fears. It can often provide parents with a sense of hope to hear from other parents who have moved from a place of grief to acceptance.

There are groups for parents of neurotypical children and neurodivergent LGBTQ+ children. Is parenting an LGBTQ+ child similar for both cohorts?

Although each child with autism has a unique experience, LGBTQIA+ young people that are also on the autism spectrum may face more complex challenges than their neurotypical peers. It’s important to listen to these young people and consider the potential influence of certain factors, such as theory of mind deficits, social challenges, sensory sensitivity, and more, while also recognizing that autistic youth have as much of a right to identify and express who they are as neurotypical young people.

I’m interested! Where do I sign up? 

If you are interested in joining our Parent/Caregivers Support Group in English or in Spanish, please contact Dr. Joselyn Valle at [email protected]

To inquire about our new Parent Education Group for Parents of LGBTQ+ Autistic Youth that begins in September, contact Dr. Sarah Bruce at [email protected]

Kaleidoscope's Pride Month Recap
Pride Month 2022 Recap 495 400 CJ Bourque

Pride Month 2022 Recap

Kaleidoscope's Pride Month Recap

Pride Month 2022 Recap

All of us at Kaleidoscope so enjoyed Pride Month 2022. June was a busy month for us and we thoroughly enjoyed participating in so many joyful Pride events.

We kicked off our month with Pasadena’s DCFS LGBTQIA+ Resource Fair on June 1st. It was a true pleasure to share information about our program with the many wonderful DCFS staff who attended the Resource Fair, and we appreciated their interest in our program.

Our next event was the fabulous WeHo Pride Street Festival and Parade on June 4th and 5th. The atmosphere during this weekend was positive, upbeat, and inclusive. The LGBTQIA+ community and their allies brought the fun and everyone was in a great mood. We gave rainbow striped notepads, erasers and lanyards to the folks visiting our booth and we were told our unique pronoun pins were the most popular give-away at the event.

The celebration continued at LA Pride on June 11th. We were truly honored to be a beneficiary of Cheer LA’s fundraising. Cheer LA is an active group of volunteers seeking to promote awareness, spirit, and diversity in the LGBTQIA+ community through dynamic cheer, dance, and stunt performances. Kaleidoscope is thrilled and grateful to receive over $1000 from Cheer LA.

We wrapped up June with one last event, the San Fernando Valley Pride Party on June 25. This family event, held at the Van Nuys Civic Center, was filled with joy, pride, and lots of karaoke!

In addition to attending Pride events, we provided two training sessions for the staff at Muskingum Health Center in Zanesville, Ohio. Muskingum Behavioral Health offers compassionate and effective counseling, prevention and recovery services along with recovery housing. Our Kaleidoscope team members provided a “LGBTQIA+ 101” training to the staff and a “Best LGBTQIA+ Practices for Clinicians” for their clinical staff.

We provided one training session and facilitated three candid conversations for the Segal Benz corporation. We received feedback that these sessions were transformative for the attendees and Segal Benz said they were so thrilled with the Kaleidoscope presenters that they booked their 2023 with us!

And to round out the month, Kaleidoscope provided a webcast on June 7th titled, “Providing Affirming Therapeutic Support to LGBTQIA+ Youth and Young Adults.” This free webcast offered practical strategies and suggestions for mental health professionals, educators, parents, allies, and the community at large. If you missed it or would like to re-watch it, please click here for the recording.

All in all, it was a fun and productive month. If you would like to lend your support to The Help Group’s Kaleidoscope program, please donate here.

Happy Pride everybody!

Our Bodies Are Already Ready by Jay Baldwin
Our Bodies are Already Ready 495 401 CJ Bourque

Our Bodies are Already Ready

Our Bodies Are Already Ready by Jay Baldwin

Our Bodies are Already Ready

By Jay Baldwin

Summer is upon us, which for many of us brings up images of splashing in the ocean, relaxing by the pool, and soaking up the sun. But every year right before summer, the inevitable shadow is cast upon this otherwise bright season. “Are you beach body ready?” the ads ask us. “Get yourself ready for bikini season!” From magazines, to diet ads, to many other kinds of media, the message is clear: Only certain kinds of bodies are acceptable, desirable, and appropriate for summer, and if we don’t have one of those kinds of bodies, we need to get them “ready”

The Ideal Body Type?

The “ideal” body type in our culture is typically one that is white, cisgender, thin, and able bodied. Messages like this are rooted in patriarchy, misogyny and racism, and have perpetuated a great deal of harm toward people of all genders. Queer and trans bodies, which have been historically othered and positioned as less than compared to their straight and cisgender peers, are impacted by these messages in very specific ways. Not only is there pressure to “get one’s body ready” from an aesthetic standpoint, there is the actual process of moving through the world and buying a swimsuit that can be very challenging for many LGBTQ+ folks, particularly transgender, non binary and any individual – trans or cisgender – who is gender non conforming.

Swimwear can perpetuate the Gender Binary

Swimwear and bathing suits are almost always gendered pieces of clothing that perpetuate the gender binary – the idea that there are only two genders (men and women) and that there are “acceptable” or assumed ways that boys/men and girls/women will dress. They also emphasize certain body parts that can cause trans, non binary and gender non conforming individuals to experience gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is term that describes unease, discomfort or anxiety – sometimes severe –  that a person may have because of a mismatch between their biological sex characteristics and their gender identity. A day at the beach or the pool, one that we associate with fun, carefree times, can be a deeply uncomfortable experience, or one that is avoided altogether, for anyone who cannot find swim wear that is comfortable, affordable and affirms their gender identity and expression.

For trans, non binary and gender non conforming youth who are just coming into their identities and their bodies, this can be a particularly vulnerable time as we head into summer. These youth may be in various stages of coming out and/or in gender transition. They may wonder “Is it safe to present as my chosen gender in a swimsuit? Will I be able to use the correct changing room without being harassed? Will I be misgendered if I wear one kind of bathing suit versus another?”

Affirming Support can make all the difference

If an LGBTQ+ child or teen needs support and help finding a bathing suit, an affirming adult can make all the difference. Let the LGBTQ+ youth in your life know that you know this is not an easy experience, and that they deserve to feel comfortable and happy in their bodies, no matter what they are wearing. It is also important to emphasize that you understand that clothing has no gender, and that they are not obligated to wear anything that gender norms dictate they “should”.

Fortunately, there are now many gender inclusive companies that make swimsuits for LGBTQ+ youth and adults that are comfortable, high quality and gender affirming.

10 Best Places To Buy Gender Inclusive Swimwear has wonderful reviews of many companies that make swimwear for all bodies, genders and gender expressions, and is a refreshing departure from companies that only sell outdated “men and women” swimwear.

This summer, I want to say to the LGBTQ+ community, we’re already ready! We were ready long before anyone told us that we should look, think and act according to harmful and quite frankly ridiculous standards, and we’re waiting for everyone else to catch up. The time is now. May we celebrate our queer and trans bodies, in all their uniqueness, strength and diversity, and shine just as bright as the summer sun.

What Pride Means to Me 495 401 CJ Bourque

What Pride Means to Me

What Pride Means to Me

What Pride Means to Me

By Jay Baldwin

First Time Seeing Myself Represented In A Movie

I remember the first movie I ever saw that featured two queer characters. I was 19 years old, away at college for the first time, and not yet out except to a couple of high school friends back home. I went to the local video store in my small college town, a popular place at the time when the world was years away from streaming services. In a small corner towards the back, I saw a display with a small sign that said “Gay and Lesbian Films”, featuring about 20 movies, mostly VHS, and a couple of DVDs. I was secretly elated, but also afraid. I looked around my shoulder several times, wondering if anyone was going to see me looking at the “gay” movies, worried they would know my secret. But somehow, I mustered up my courage, scrounged up $1.50 from my wallet, and rented “The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love.”

My Journey Toward Self-Acceptance

I kept returning to that video store that year, and the year after. By the time I graduated college I had rented nearly every movie on that shelf until I had seen some of them twice. I watched the collection grow even bigger, and at some point, I stopped looking over my shoulder when I chose my movie off the shelf and went up to the register to pay. Some of the stories deeply moved me. Some of them were downright bad. But even all these years later, the feeling I experienced is one I believe is universal to all people in the LGBTQIA+ community.  It is powerful to see oneself represented in the media, to have a mirror that reflects back an important and valuable part of one’s identity. Knowing that there were people out there who felt like me, looked like me, and had the same desire to be seen as valued members of the LGBTQIA+ community was an integral part of my journey to accepting myself, and being able to embrace my identity.

Pride Month

As Pride Month approaches, streaming services like Netflix and HULU will begin showing their “Pride Collections”, a diverse array of TV Shows, Movies and Documentaries that show a multitude of stories and characters who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community. There are more stories about the LGBTQIA+ community at our fingertips than ever before. And I also know all across our country, there are so many LGBTQIA+ young people still looking over their shoulder as I once did, wondering if it’s safe to be themselves, looking for stories that represent them.

What Pride Means To Me

To me, Pride means being known for our beautiful, complex, and nuanced LGBTQIA+ identities and where we are in our journeys. Pride means being represented. Pride means sharing our stories so that others may know they are not alone. So, to everyone in our community: Whether you aren’t ready or able to come out yet, you’ve just come out, or you’ve been out and proud for years – I see you, I know you, and I am glad you are here.

The Intersectionality Of The Autism and LGBTQIA+ Spectrums 495 401 CJ Bourque

The Intersectionality Of The Autism and LGBTQIA+ Spectrums

The Intersectionality Of The ASD and LGBTQIA+ Spectrums

April is Autism Acceptance Month, a time to increase understanding of people with autism, and to provide continued support, kindness, and compassion for the autism community. Acceptance is also a big part of Kaleidoscope’s mission to provide services for young people on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum of sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, and gender expression. April is an important month for us as we celebrate our clients who are on both the autism and LGBTQIA+ spectrums.

Several studies now show that there is a distinct intersectionality of the Autism and LGBTQIA+ spectrums. Intersectionality is defined as a crossroads where two seemingly different things overlap. For example, the research shows that a high number of autistic people identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer as compared to the general population. “Most of the data that we are seeing is that the rate for autistic people who identify as LGBTQIA+ is two to three times higher,” says Clinical Psychologist Eileen T. Crehan, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Tufts University. But larger studies need to be conducted before the true rate is known, she says.

We also know that gender, like autism, exists on a spectrum. The two spectrums, gender and autism, are now considered to frequently overlap. A recent study revealed that gender identity (a person’s internal sense of their own gender) and sexuality are more varied among autistic people than in the general population, and autism is more common among people who do not identify as their assigned sex at birth. Research shows that children with autism are 7.6 times more likely to express gender variance. Clinicians and researchers have noted a trend over the last twenty-five years with increasing numbers of children who are seeking professional care related to gender identity who also identify as autistic or having autistic traits.

Overall, autism appears to be more prevalent among gender-diverse people. A larger percentage of autistic people reported their gender as being something other than strictly male or female, as compared to other people. Gender diversity is defined as an Identity beyond the male/female binary framework. A 2018 Australian survey of transgender teens and young adults found that 22.5% had been diagnosed with autism. Research suggests that people who have an autism diagnosis or autism traits are more likely to identify as transgender. One study found the rate to be 2 -3 times higher in people who have autism.

For some autistic LGBTQIA+ young people, there is a sense of isolation and of not belonging. Belonginess, as defined by Dr. Kenneth Pelletier, at the Stanford Center for Research and Disease Prevention, is “a sense of belonging that is a basic human need – as basic as food and shelter.” Dr. Pelleetier continues, “Social support may be one of the critical elements distinguishing those who remain healthy from those who will become ill.”

Our Kaleidoscope team understands that our autistic LGBTQIA+ clients may find some aspects of “belongingness” challenging due to deficits in social communication and difficulty initiating social interactions. Our hope is that our social support groups can be a resource for those who seek to belong in a community. Our online and upcoming in-person LGBTQIA+ social support groups, Pride Club for teens and Coffee Chat for young adults, offer a sense of empowerment and increased self-esteem for young LGBTQIA+ people, due to a kind, inclusive environment with non-judgemental peers.

Research proves that accepting behaviors by peers and adults such as respect, support, and kindness, can positively impact autistic LGBTQIA+ young people as evidenced by higher self-esteem, better overall health, and a belief that they will be healthy, happy adults.

Cheers to a happy Autism Acceptance Month!