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The Value of Parent Support Groups 495 400 CJ Bourque

The Value of Parent Support Groups

The Value of Parent Support Groups

By Jess Furrer

If you had access to a time-machine, what period of your life would you revisit? For some adults, maybe revisiting a favorite family memory, when your child was a certain age, or your own childhood. How many adults would like to revisit or re-live your teenage years? For me, the idea of reliving my teenage years is a resounding NO.

Adolescence can be difficult to navigate for a myriad of reasons. Teenagers are often trying to figure out who they are and what they feel, while also wanting to create and keep friendships or relationships. It is a lot to navigate for a teenager on top of going to school, being active on social media, and being encouraged to plan for the future. LGBTQIA+ and autistic teenagers often must navigate more complex situations like coming out, discrimination, being misgendered, managing sensory needs, communication differences, and the list goes on. Parenting a teenager who is going through any or all of these experiences can also be challenging, confusing, or nerve-wracking. But family acceptance and support can make a huge difference in the overall wellbeing of LGBTQ+ and neurodivergent youth.

Joining a parent support group is a wonderful resource for parents of LGBTQIA+ Autistic teens as it can be comforting and empowering to talk with fellow parents who are on the same journey.

Can you explain what a parent education and support group is all about?

A parent education and support group is a safe space where parents and caregivers alike come together to learn about specific topics, and connect, relate, and support one another. Participants are often able to share their stories of parenthood, exchange resources, and build relationships with others who hold similar experiences.

Current Groups:

Due to positive feedback from previous participants, Kaleidoscope is re-offering a six-week, parent education and support group that focuses on the intersection between Autism and LGBTQIA+ identities. The group is designed to provide psychoeducation and support to parents and close family members of LGBTQIA+ Autistic teens aged 12-17. The group is 1.5 hours in length for six weeks. It is guided by a Kaleidoscope psychology doctoral intern who provides psychoeducation and facilitates group conversations. Each week there is a specialized topic including: mental health, friendships and online relationships, dating and sex, and managing difficult moments (meltdowns and pathological (persistent) demand avoidance). If various parents want support on another related topic, we aim to make space to address it.

What would you say to a parent that would like to attend our parent support group but feels a bit nervous about it? What can they expect?

It’s natural and normal to feel nervous about trying something new. Participants can expect to enter a judgment-free zone where they can truly explore their journey in parenthood. Whether it’s by sharing their own story or listening to others, participants often report feeling less alone and/or feeling more empowered after engaging in our parent education and support group. There is no expectation to “have it all figured out.” We just ask that interested participants have the intention of affirming their teen, are open to discussing complex topics, and interact from a place of curiosity and respect.

Sometimes parents are worried about using the correct terminology when speaking about their LGBTQIA+ kids or about LGBTQIA+ issues in general. Do you think a parent support group can help address these concerns?

We are all human, and mistakes (aka opportunities for growth) will happen. Kaleidoscope provides a safe environment with unconditional positive regard to encourage group participants in their understanding of LGBTQIA+ and autistic topics and their ability to engage more inclusively with the community. Remember, we’re in this together!

To join this support group for parents and close family members of LGBTQIA+ Autistic teens aged 12-17, please reach out to Jess Furrer to set up an intake session at [email protected].

Celebrating LGBTQ+ History Month 495 401 CJ Bourque

Celebrating LGBTQ+ History Month

Celebrating LGBTQ+ History Month

LGBTQ+ History Month, a month-long celebration that occurs in October was first celebrated in the United States in 1994, when Rodney Wilson, an openly gay high school teacher from Missouri, passionately advocated for the idea of dedicating a month to honor gay and lesbian history. With the already established National Coming Out Day on October 11th, and the anniversary of the first march on Washington for gay and lesbian rights in 1979, October was chosen not only for its historical significance, but also because it’s a month when students are in school. This allows a wonderful opportunity to educate and engage kids of all ages in meaningful and age-appropriate conversations about LGBTQ history.

Why is it important for students to learn about LGBTQ+ History?

Creating an environment of inclusion promotes engagement for all students and provides them with opportunities to explore the many experiences of LGBTQIA+ people. Research indicates that when LGBTQIA+ people and events are excluded from history curricula, it perpetuates negative stereotypes about the LGBTQIA+ community and increases bullying of LGBTQIA+ young people. Curriculum that includes positive representations, however, helps promote respect for LGBTQIA+ students and improve all students’ overall school experience by promoting diversity and teaching them about the variety of identities in their communities.

How can you celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month with your students?

1.Use LGBTQ+ Primary Sources Into your Lessons

From the American Revolution to Early 20th Century Immigration to World War II, the California History Social Science Project has created amazing lesson plans featuring a collection of LGBTQ+ primary sources designed for use in the K-12 classroom. Each set includes context, focus questions, further readings, and a plethora of primary sources to help teachers infuse their curriculum with LGBTQ voices. Check out the project here!

2. Build an LGBTQ+ Inclusive Classroom Library or Request One

Do you want to incorporate more LGBTQ+ themed books into your library classroom but don’t know where to start? Check out the links below for age-appropriate reading material for K-12.

LGBTQ+ Children’s Books
LGBTQ+ Middle Grade Books
LGBTQ+ Young Adult Books

You can also check out the Rainbow Library Project through GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network). The Rainbow Library Project is a program that sends LGBTQ+ affirming K-12 to select states for free!

Kaleidoscope acknowledges that in many parts of the country, having LGBTQ+ inclusive literature in the classroom may not be possible. If you do not feel able or safe to incorporate books into the classroom but would still like your students to have access, individuals ages 13-21 residing anywhere in the United States can apply for a free BPL eCard, providing access to Brooklyn Library’s full eBook collection as well as their learning databases. To apply, have your students’ email [email protected].

3. Feature LGBTQ+ Classroom Decorations

Inclusive lessons can also include classroom décor! There are many ways to visually represent the many contributions of the LGBTQIA+ community. For example, in elementary schools, a family tree wall could include images of families featuring two moms or two dads to show the many different ways families are made. In history or social studies classrooms, teachers and other staff can feature photos of LGBTQIA+ political leaders or images of demonstrations for equality. In secondary learning spaces, the rainbow flag could be displayed with information about its origin and significance.

This month, Kaleidoscope is proud to be celebrating by providing LGBTQ+ History Resources to our local GSA, where they will learn about LGBTQ+ trailblazers throughout history through LGBTQ+ History Flashcards. We will also be showing our support for National Coming Out Day by offering our new counseling staff LGBTQ+ regalia to hang in their offices to signal that they are affirming providers for clients and they are safe to be their authentic selves.

Want to find out more ways to bring LGBTQ+ history to your classroom or other educational settings for youth? Email us at [email protected] for fun ideas and lesson plans to bring LGBTQ+ activists and leaders to life. From all of us, wishing you a joyous LGBTQ+ History Month.

How to Create a Safe and Inclusive Atmosphere for your LGBTQ+ Students 495 401 CJ Bourque

How to Create a Safe and Inclusive Atmosphere for your LGBTQ+ Students

How to Create a Safe and Inclusive Atmosphere for your LGBTQ+ Students

Going back to school can cause a variety of emotions for students, and LGBTQ+ students are no exception. Many queer and transgender young people have a particular set of challenges to navigate in school settings. With Anti-LGBTQ+ Legislation at an all time high,  the mental health impact of our LGBTQ+ students is even greater.

The Trevor Projects’ National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health reports:

  • 6 in 10 LGBT students report feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation.
  • LGBTQ youth are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers

It is important to emphasize that LGBTQ youth are not inherently prone to suicide risk and mental health issues because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, but are at higher risk because of how they are mistreated and stigmatized in society. (Trevor Project, 2022)

As a teacher, staff or other student support individual, here is the statistic that is most important to remember:

LGBTQ youth who report having at least one accepting adult in their lives are 40% less likely to report a suicide attempt in the past year. Teachers and school staff can make a profound difference in their LGBTQ+ students’ lives by showing them support, affirmation and acceptance. Being an accepting adult could save one of your students’ lives.

Here are some simple but meaningful ways that you can be an affirming adult for your students:

Ask Your Students at the Beginning of the School Year How You Should Refer to Them

Some students may use a different name or pronouns than you may first assume. Some students are in the process of changing their pronouns or names. One helpful tool is creating a “getting to know you” form that includes asking students what pronouns and name they would like you to use for them at the beginning of the school year. Because some students live in homes that do not affirm their identity, make sure to ask whether or not it’s okay to use these pronouns and name when speaking with their parents or caregivers. This form is a great tool for any educator getting started.

Re-Think Your Use of Gendered Language

Most of us have been raised to think of gender as a binary (something consisting of just two parts). In this case, it is the idea that there are only two genders: male/female, boy/girl. Expanding your vocabulary and using non gendered language is one of the simplest but most affirming ways to create an inclusive atmosphere for all students,  and to also avoid misgendering students. Instead of saying “boys and girls” or “ladies and gentlemen,” try “folks”, “everyone” or “friends” when addressing your classroom or groups of students. Use your students’ names as opposed to referring to them with “Mr. or Ms.”

Be Visible

Many people in the LGBTQ+ community, youth and adults alike, rely on non-verbal cues to know whether someone or somewhere is safe and accepting. Small items like a rainbow flag, a safe space sticker, a rainbow lanyard to hold your ID badge, or a pronoun pin that says your own pronouns can be a visible signal to your students that you are going to affirm and support their identity.  To make your classroom or office as welcoming as possible, here’s an amazing and free Safe Space Kit from an organization called GLSEN that offers free downloadable safe space posters  and other LGBTQ+ affirming items.

Be Vocal

Part of being visible also means being vocal and standing up to anti-LGBTQ language and behaviors.  If anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination happens at school and is not addressed by adults, this sends a message to your students that this behavior is acceptable. The Human Rights Campaign offers a variety of helpful tools to help you stop harassment as opposed to ignoring it, be proactive, and educate your students.

Keep an Open Mind & Remember It’s Okay to Make Mistakes

Do you have a student whose identity you don’t completely understand? Maybe you keep slipping up on pronouns, or feel like you don’t know the right terminology? It’s okay to make mistakes or not understand everything right away. The most important part is to keep an open mind, apologize when you make a mistake, and be committed to continually getting to know your students. Need a few more definitions, or a refresher on some LGBTQ+ terminology? Here’s a helpful glossary that can help shed light on the subject!

Consider Starting a GSA or Other LGBTQ+ Club at Your School

Being the adult advisor or leader of your school’s GSA can go a long way toward creating a safer and more welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ students. If you need help getting started, the GSA Network’s 10 Steps to Creating a GSA is an amazing resource! Need more help? Kaleidoscope is happy to provide you with even more resources to help kick start your GSA or other LGBTQ+ space. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us at [email protected].

Kaleidoscope is so deeply appreciative of all our teachers and educators around the world who are working to make schools a safer and more inclusive place for LGBTQ+ youth. Wishing you a wonderful back to school season!

Gains and Losses in our LGBTQ+ Community: Reflecting Back and Looking Ahead
Gains and Losses in our LGBTQ+ Community 495 401 CJ Bourque

Gains and Losses in our LGBTQ+ Community

Gains and Losses in our LGBTQ+ Community: Reflecting Back and Looking Ahead

Gains and Losses in our LGBTQ+ Community

By Leo Kirkham

The New Year is a time for reflection and renewal. For the LGBTQ community, the New Year can be a time to remember the past year’s accomplishments and losses for queer and trans people.

There is no denying that 2022 was a difficult year for the LGBTQ community. From the Club Q mass shooting that left 5 dead, 19 injured, and an entire community grieving and destabilized, to armed far right Proud Boy protesters shutting down drag queen story times, our right to gather and express ourselves freely is being threatened by violence, intimidation, and hate.

2022 was a record year for anti-LGBTQ legislation: over 162 bills restricting LGBTQ rights were introduced in state legislatures. 58 were related to youth athletics, 44 had restrictions on curriculum, 30 had restrictions on adolescent healthcare, and 17 were related to religious and First Amendment exemptions.

But things are not all bad for the LGBTQ community. We are continuing to live and thrive as our authentic selves despite the hostility in the world.

In hopeful news, the House and the Senate just passed the Respect for Marriage Act, protecting same-sex and interracial marriages. Reception from the LGBTQ community has been mixed: on the one hand, the law passed and will protect same-sex marriages if the Supreme Court overturns Obergefell v. Hodges. On the other hand, it does not require states to legalize same-sex marriage, only to recognize legal marriages from other states.

Earlier this year, clinical trials began for three different HIV vaccines.

The Biden Administration began paying survivor’s benefits to LGBTQ elders.

Brittney Griner, a WNBA basketball star and Black lesbian, was just released from a Russian penal colony where she was held for ten months for possession of a vape containing hashish oil. She was returned to the U.S. during a prisoner exchange negotiated by the Biden administration.

This year, the “X” gender marker (an alternative to “F” and “M”) became available on U.S. passports. The Social Security Administration also no longer requires a doctor’s note to confirm a change of gender.

A new California bill will protect trans kids and their families fleeing states like Texas, Florida, Alabama, and Idaho which are criminalizing gender affirming healthcare for trans youth. SB 107 in California, proposed by Scott Wiener, will go into effect on January 1, 2023.

So what can we expect next year? We can only expect to see the progress that we fight for. The successes that we see in our public sphere and private lives must be celebrated as we continue to work toward justice and equality.

What are you doing next year for queer and trans kids? Some ways to give back are to donate to organizations like Equality Texas, Equality Florida, Trans Lifeline, Sylvia Rivera Law Project, and the Marsha P. Johnson Institute. You can also give a gift to a transgender youth this holiday season through Trans Santa. Consider joining your school board and advocating for LGBTQ students in your school district. Looking for more resources to support your child or trans youth in general? Check out

Next year, we can expect to see queer and trans resilience, excellence, love, and joy. We’re here, we’re queer, and it’s a new year.

Embracing Chosen Family Durning the Holidays and All Year Round
Embracing Chosen Family During the Holidays and All Year Round 495 401 CJ Bourque

Embracing Chosen Family During the Holidays and All Year Round

Embracing Chosen Family Durning the Holidays and All Year Round

Embracing Chosen Family During the Holidays and All Year Round

By Jay Baldwin

“It’s the most wonderful time….of the year.”

This time of year is typically associated with family gatherings full of celebrations, joy and togetherness. We are inundated by Hallmark movies, TV commercials, and social media posts that would have us believe that everyone should be sitting around a fireplace with their loved ones having the most wonderful holiday celebrations. Not everyone, however, has a family of origin they can or even want to be with for a variety of reasons. An increasing number of people, especially folks in the LGBTQ+ community, opt to surround themselves with their chosen family instead of their family of origin, not just during the holiday season but all year round.

Chosen families are the people we surround ourselves with who love us, support us and embrace us for exactly who we are. For many, they are far more loving and nurturing than the families they were born into. But it’s also important to note that a chosen family does *not* require the absence of a family of origin. Chosen family can exist as a powerful source of community in and of itself, or as an additional source of joy and support in addition to one’s family of origin.

Chosen families in the LGBTQ+ community have existed for decades. For centuries, the queer community has found a way to connect with each other and build systems of support when the heteronormative world was not a safe place to be seen and known. For many LGBTQ+ people who are seeking acceptance and understanding of their full selves, surrounding themselves with likeminded and like-identified folks can transform and even save their lives.

This holiday season, I invite you to think about our LGBTQ+ young people who are still navigating how to come out in their own families, facing rejection, or struggling to find their chosen family. I am proud to be donating to an organization called Transanta that helps deliver gifts to transgender youth in need, safely and anonymously. Transsanta was created because “right now, young trans people, particularly Black and Brown trans youth, are under attack across the country and around the world. The pandemic has exacerbated unsafe conditions for trans youth who are houseless, in foster care, in detention, and in abusive or otherwise unsafe housing situations. Transanta was created to show young people that they are loved, supported, and have a family of people around the world who care about them and want them to succeed.”

No matter what community we are a part of, we all desire and deserve meaningful and supportive connections throughout every stage of life. Whether you identify as LGBTQ+, or as a member of a different community entirely, I invite you to think about the concept of chosen family if you haven’t before, or what it means to be part of someone else’s chosen family. Who have you invited into your life who you consider family, even though you didn’t necessarily grow up with them? What kind of family do you want to surround yourself with and be a part of that you perhaps haven’t before? Whether you are with your family of origin, your chosen family, both, or neither, whether you are celebrating a lot, a little, or not at all, I see each and every one of you, and I wish you all a safe and healthy holiday season.

Strategies for Supporting LGBTQ+ 495 400 CJ Bourque

Strategies for Supporting LGBTQ+

Strategies for Supporting

LGBTQ+ Young People During A Summer in Quarantine

It is understandable to struggle with feelings of fear and anxiety surrounding the  COVID-19 pandemic, but our LGBTQ+ young people may be especially vulnerable to the impact on their mental health. The emotions that may be expressed include grief, sadness, disappointment and anger – all so relatable!

In addition, while we hope that our LGBTQ+ young people are in loving family homes, the reality is that there are some youth who are in unsupportive environments this summer and experiencing a deep loss of connection with the LGBTQ+ community.

All kids, teens, and young adults deserve trusted and supportive adults in their lives. Whether you are a parent, grandparent, sibling, caregiver, teacher, coach, ally, or friend of an LGBTQ+ young person, you can help! Here are three strategies that can offer support to LGBTQ+ youth this summer.

1. Encourage kids, teens, and young adults to find community online

Just because we are keeping our physical distance from other people doesn’t mean we have to be socially isolated. There is a whole world online where friendships can flourish.

And if a LGBTQ+ young person is living with people who are unable or unwilling to offer support, they can reach out to other family members, allies, friends, teachers, clubs and support groups on-line via Zoom or Skype. Young people can also use Tik Tok and Instagram to connect and build community.

Encourage the LGBTQ+ young people in your life to stay connected online. The Kaleidoscope Program offers free, virtual, weekly programs such as the Pride Club and Creative Expressions Group for 12-17 year olds, as well as a Coffee Chat Group for 18-24 years olds.

If possible, offer a young person a space where they can use their phone or laptop to access safe online groups. Let them know that it shows strength to reach out to others and that you are proud of them for extending their friendship to other young people.

2. Enjoy the great OUTdoors!

Health experts say that it is safe to go outside and it’s completely worth doing so that you can get out of the house, get some exercise, and have some fun.

Invite the LGBTQ+ young person in your life to go on a morning hike when the temperature is lower, or spend the day in the sun at the beach, if it is safe in your area to do so. Spending time with a supportive adult can give a young person the safe space to relax and be themselves. You can discuss LGBTQ current events and allow the young person to process how they feel about what is going on in the world. Or you can just go in the ocean and splash around to your heart’s content. Remember to wear a mask and practice social distancing!

3. Celebrate Pride Month all summer long!

June is the official Pride month but Pride can be celebrated all summer long! Because many Pride celebrations all over the world were cancelled this year, the LGBTQ+ young people in your life may be feeling a deep sense of disappointment. But let them know that you are a safe and supportive ally in their life and that they are deserving of celebrating Pride all summer long.

You can help them order Pride decorations for both inside or outside their home. A google search will result in lots of ideas for fun rainbow craft projects. And if you like to cook, share your interest and teach the young person you care about how to make delicious and fun rainbow themed recipes.

So even though life may feel overwhelming for all of us, the good news is there are ways you can bring joy, fun and pride this summer into the lives of the kids, teens, and young adults who brighten up your life. Best wishes for a great summer from all of us at The Help Group’s Kaleidoscope Program!


For more information

Pride With No Parade 495 400 CJ Bourque

Pride With No Parade

Pride With No Parade

In its 50th year, the LA Pride Parade has been postponed indefinitely.  How can this be?  With all of the oppression that the LGBTQ+ community has faced, it’s hard to comprehend that something is preventing us from participating in a cultural tradition that is based on defiant freedom.  How do we stay in to celebrate Pride, when what we’re celebrating is synonymous with Coming Out?

Whether we are LGBTQ+ or not, we are in an incredibly challenging chapter in our lives.  One with loss, uncertainty, confusion, and fear.  Many of our usual methods of coping are currently unavailable to us.  Communities of support aren’t accessible to us in person.  Our means of financial support may be in jeopardy or even gone.   We’re living in fear of losing our loved ones.  Many lives have tragically been lost.

Of course, this is not the first time that the LGBTQ+ community has faced a devastating challenge such as this.  For many, this current experience is bringing back tragic memories of the horrific AIDS epidemic.  There was fear, unimaginable suffering and heartbreaking loss.  The disease seemed to be targeting the LGBTQ+ community specifically and that only fanned the flames of anti-gay and anti-transgender sentiment in society, expressed through policies from administrations and violence in the streets.  Along with grieving this past, though, we can also learn from it – and have an awareness of positive aspects that emerged from it, to give us the hope that we need now.

In a recent press conference regarding the impact of COVID-19, Dr. Anthony Fauci also drew a parallel to the AIDS epidemic and the resilience of what is now known as the LGBTQ+ community.  He recalled that, “During that time, there was extraordinary stigma, particularly against the gay community.  And it was only when the world realized how the gay community responded to this outbreak with incredible courage and dignity and strength and activism — I think that really changed some of the stigma against the gay community, very much so.”  As head of the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases, Dr. Fauci was responsible for developing medications to treat HIV/AIDS at the height of the epidemic.

Thankfully, the devastating hardships connected to the AIDS epidemic also inspired qualities of strength in the LGBTQ+ community that became embedded in our conception and expression of pride.  Compassion.  Love.  Unity.  Resilience.  These are only some of the principles that are now weaved into the very meaning of LGBTQ+ pride, similar to the colors that comprise the rainbows of our flags –  and the spectrums of kaleidoscopes!

So, are we able to have pride without a parade?  Absolutely!  The principles of pride are internal ones that we carry with us, always.

Let’s draw upon those principles now.   We may not be able to meet in the street to march and celebrate, but we are able to connect virtually until we may once more do so in person.  At Kaleidoscope, we support the revision of the term “Social Distancing” to “Physical Distancing,” because we are able to connect socially while remaining safely physically distanced.

We invite you to join us in this social connection and pride celebration!   Meet us in one (or more) of Kaleidoscope’s free online LGBTQ+ social support groups!  There are many such groups to choose from.  Simply choose one or more that interest you and represent your age group.  Then, click on the link to register.  We look forward to seeing you soon!

Pride Club for Ages 11 – 13

Connect virtually with other LGBTQIA+ youth ages 11 – 13 and their allies through creative activities, games, discussions, & hanging out.

Varsity Pride Club for Ages 14 – 17

Connect virtually with other LGBTQIA+ teens ages 14 – 17 and their allies through creative activities, games, discussions, & hanging out.

Young Adult Coffee Chat & Support

Young adults (ages 18-24) of the LGBTQIA+ community are invited to join Kaleidoscope online for an afternoon of meeting peers, getting resources, and feeling connected.

Creative Expressions

LGBTQIA+ youth (ages 11-17) and their allies are encouraged to bring an original creation, whether it be something written, a song, a dance or a piece of art – that is appropriate to share with others.

Movie Night for Young Adults!

Grab a snack and join our movie watch party featuring LGBTQIA+ representation and storylines. Ages 18 – 24.

Movie Night for Teens

Grab a snack and join our movie watch party featuring LGBTQIA+ representation and storylines. Ages 12-17.

Becoming Part of the Solution 495 400 CJ Bourque

Becoming Part of the Solution

Becoming Part of the Solution

Maya Angelou wrote, “Do the best you can until you know better.  Then when you know better, do better.”  I find these words to be powerful for two reasons.  First, they help us have self-compassion for our past mistakes with an understanding that we may not have been able to do better at the time.  Secondly, they are a directive to take accountability in the responsibility of actively becoming part of a solution.  As a therapist, I use this quote by Ms. Angelou to both encourage clients to forgive themselves for poor choices made in the past while also inspiring them to take action to “do better” in the present.  These words have also helped me personally, as I reflect upon my history of making changes to stop perpetuating anti-gay and anti-transgender messages and instead become part of the solution.

In the late 1980’s, I was in Middle School in Missouri (or Junior High, as it’s called there.)  In my class, there was a boy brave enough to stand apart from the crowd in his self-expression.  Although boys in our school were expected to be obsessed with the Cardinals baseball team and wear related attire, he chose to wear gender fluid clothing and even eyeliner instead.  He was someone who would be referred to as “emo” today and as “alternative” back then.  Most people assumed that his appearance meant that he was gay.  So, he was bullied for his unique self-expression: called hurtful names, laughed at, and ultimately even physically attacked.  The principal called him and his mother into the office but unfortunately blamed the victim.  The boy was told that, if he dresses in such ways and wears makeup to school, he is inciting violence and “asking” for abuse.  The principal asked that he either conform to a “normal” gender expectation or transfer to a different school.  Not compromising his self-expression, he and his mother chose for him to transfer.

At the time, I was secretly questioning my sexual orientation and was absolutely terrified that peers would learn my secret.  As I heard the horrible things being said to this boy, I did not defend him.  In fact, I joined in the laughter, no matter how awful it felt inside.  It was a way for me to stay hidden – a way to stay safe.  I did not witness the physical attack, but I certainly heard about it and how the boy was assigned blame for it by the administration.  The awful message that I received was that if I honestly expressed myself in my unique differences, I would also be bullied, violently attacked, and maybe even kicked out of school.  I went deep into the metaphorical closet and did not emerge from it for many years.

Ultimately, my personal journey led not only to me coming out as a gay man, but to a career of standing up for other such youth in the Kaleidoscope Program.  As Maya Angelou’s forgiving words attest, I wasn’t able to do it back then, but I am able to do so now.  I’ve often thought of the boy over the years, the regret I felt for being part of the problem rather than the solution back then, and the yearning to somehow apologize to him for it.  Thankfully, I finally got an opportunity to do so this past week.

Classmates posted about a reunion on social media.  In the comments, he responded!  The pain and trauma that he endured was quite evident.  This brave boy had apparently grown into a brave man, and he took this opportunity to call out his bullies.  He informed our classmates that he is happily married to a beautiful woman and that they have children.  His history of being bullied was an example of how not only LGBTQ kids are bullied, but how those who are perceived to be are as well.

I gratefully took the opportunity to commend his strength (then and now,) explain that I was too scared at that age for peers to know that I thought I might be gay, and apologize for being part of the problem rather than the solution by laughing at him along with the others.  I told him about how my professional career is now dedicated to helping other kids who might be going through something similar to what he or I went through.

Then, an amazing thing happened.  One of the guys who bullied him added his apology to the comments, writing that he, too, has thought of the boy who he bullied frequently, with regret.  He asked for forgiveness on behalf of himself and the others.  Like me, others were taking the opportunity to own up to their actions, apologize for them, and strive to do better.  Several people wrote about how they are now teaching their children to celebrate those who are different rather than ridicule them for it.

Perhaps you, too, are interested in learning more about becoming part of the solution by creating safe spaces for LGBTQ teens – and for those who are perceived to be – to have the freedom to express their unique selves?  Please reach out to us at Kaleidoscope.  We would like to assist you in your effort to provide affirming support.  Let’s all be a part of the solution together!

*If you are a youth or young adult who is experiencing bullying related to how others perceive your sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, please contact the Trevor Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386 or visit for 24/7 support through talk, text, or chat.

Four Ways to Have an Uplifting Valentine’s Day 495 400 CJ Bourque

Four Ways to Have an Uplifting Valentine’s Day

Four Ways to Have an Uplifting Valentine's Day

As February begins, Kaleidoscope would like to make a spin on celebrating a month that is typically dedicated to a specific kind of love. Although the love we see in movies and TV shows  may be wonderful, we are looking beyond the association of Valentine’s Day with that type of love in order to celebrate connections of all kinds this month—with family, friends, community, school, hobbies, work, and others that we may even be unaware of.

At Kaleidoscope, our mission is to provide affirming support to LGBTQ+ teens, young adults, and their families. Our events and programming help build community and connection among people who support the LGBTQ+ community.

Four Ways to Have an Uplifting Valentine’s Day

In keeping with the theme of celebrating connections, Kaleidoscope would like to share the idea of having an uplifting Valentine’s Day. When we say uplifting, we propose considering the different kinds of people in your life, how you connect to them, and how you can express gratitude for their presence in your life. Oftentimes, we tend to focus on hoping that various forms of love come our way.  Actually, an amazing thing can happen when we shift our focus to the various forms of love that we can send out!  Our experience shows that when we take a moment of our time to contribute to someone else’s day in a positive way, we also feel good about ourselves.

  • A simple and thoughtful way of doing this is by giving a Thank You note or card to a teacher or a coworker for believing in you and being supportive (or in whichever way they have been helpful–the more specific the better!)
  • If you are in an environment with many people, another way to be a light in that context is to share a treat (extra points if you make it yourself) or candy with those in your surroundings.
  • Random acts of kindness can go tremendously far. Take the time to tell that person you see every day, but might not talk to or know well, that you like their shoes.
  • Making a list of at least five things about yourself that you like gives you time to reflect and recognize that you are a person worth love and care. If you have trouble with this, think back in time to something you did that helped someone else.

From all of us at Kaleidoscope, have a great month celebrating all the wonderful connections you have in your life!

Reflections, Resilience, & Resources 495 400 CJ Bourque

Reflections, Resilience, & Resources

Reflections, Resilience, & Resources

Happy New Year!

While we’re engaged in a moment of reflection, let’s take a moment to reflect upon how far the LGBTQ+ community has come on the path to being accepted as equals and acknowledged for the beautiful diversity of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression that are represented.   Let’s also take a moment to acknowledge the brave LGBTQ+ folks who came before us, paving the way for us to live more openly and equally.  While it’s true that we still have a long way to go to achieve equal rights and overcome anti-gay and anti-transgender bias, it’s also true that we have come a long way toward achieving that goal, as this reflection of the following historical event in Los Angeles will demonstrate.

You may have heard of the Stonewall Riots in New York 50 years ago.  It’s a lesser known fact that two years before that, Los Angeles experienced its own uprising from the LGBTQ+ community.   On New Year’s Eve in 1966, a sting operation by undercover police officers targeted patrons of gay bars by arresting same-sex people who kissed at midnight.  As it was illegal at the time to engage in homosexual acts, including giving a New Year’s kiss to a loved one, an estimated 14 people were arrested from the Black Cat Tavern in Silver Lake. They were charged with lewd conduct, and many of them were forced to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives.  Back then, with  arrests like these, pictures and names were often published in newspapers and could lead to LGBTQ+ people being legally fired from their jobs, ostracized by their families, or even placed in mental institutions and subjected to shock therapy.

Following this event, though, many members of the LGBTQ+ community decided to take a brave stand against such biased atrocities.  More than two hundred people ultimately gathered outside of the Black Cat to peacefully protest the police raids, risking losing their jobs, families, and friends by potentially being photographed by the papers.  The community had begun to risk everything to achieve basic rights that so many of us now take for granted.

Today, many of us enjoy the right to live openly, including being able to kiss a loved one on New Year’s Eve, without the fear of being arrested or placed in a mental institution.  We’ve come a long way as a community.  Even so, we could also use some individual support and assistance connecting to peer groups.  Many LGBTQ+ people still live in fear of losing loved ones or even facing violence simply for expressing their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.  Such fear often contributes to mental health symptoms like anxiety and depression, poor self-esteem, suicidality, and alcohol/substance misuse.

At Kaleidoscope, we understand these challenges and the associated impact on one’s mental and emotional health.  We  are here to help.  We offer an array of services, including individual therapy, group therapy, and individual coaching, as well as free social groups and events with peers and allies – all to help LGBTQ+ teens and young adults receive necessary support and improve their sense of well-being.  We also offer support for parents who are struggling with acceptance but want to become stronger allies for a LGBTQ+ loved one.   If you feel that you could benefit from any of these services, groups, or events, please reach out to us!

For more information about The Black Cat protest, we recommend reading this interview with Alexei Romanoff, the last surviving organizer of Personal Rights in Defense and Education (P.R.I.D.E.), one of the groups that helped stage the 1967 protest.