Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"If you build it, they will come."

On December 15, 2010, I posted a letter from a mother who suggested the following.......

Thus, I make a modest proposal that this blog serve as a way for parents to make contact with one another, to establish a buddy system so that no parent feels s/he is alone following the disclosure that a child is gay. Perhaps we can develop a pairing of parents, so to speak, who are willing to communicate with one another.  The questions, the problems, the comforts of a shared experience are ours to offer to one another in a context of sensitivity, religious commitment, empathy and concern for our children.  We need to be supportive of our children, but we too need support and comfort. This can be done with a therapist of course, and that is a good option for many parents and family members.  But less intense help can also come from another parent who has been in our shoes. Perhaps there are parents who are willing to write or speak to someone just beginning the road to acceptance and understanding.  And perhaps parents who feel they would benefit from this kind of anonymous and discreet contact can write into the blog and find that other family who is willing to show them support and help them deal with the challenge of living with the knowledge that they have a gay child.

Well this letter sparked some movement in a positive direction.  I received a comment from Erez, suggesting that a listserve be created.  A few weeks later, I received a call from a New York psychiatrist offering her services if such a group would start to "meet'.  My son relayed a message from a young rabbi in New York who is willing to be a moderator and a few other health professionals and parents have agreed to get involved in setting something up.
The goal is to be up and running in the next few weeks.

Be well.

Saul David

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

"The Torah was not given to the ministering angels." - Me'ilah 14a

There is so much we have learned over the last few years.

In terms of friends, relatives and the support they offer we always felt that it was important to acknowledge and speak about the fact that our son is gay.  There are some people who we told and there are others who heard about it, and we were aware of the fact that they knew about it.  Knowing this, we expected them to say something, anything, to acknowledge this new reality.

One family in particular said nothing to us, yet we knew that they knew.  It was just recently that we asked why they had never mentioned anything to us.  Their response was that there was no need to, since it didn't matter and nothing is any different.

This evening I received a letter from our friend.


I would like to relate a story that illustrates how reading your blog and knowing you and your family has made me a better and more caring physician and human being.

A 15 year old patient, let’s call her Joan, whom I have known for almost 10 years, recently came to see me for a follow up appointment together with her mother. During the appointment Joan revealed that she recently came out to her parents that she was transgendered. Joan also informed me that she was now going by John and preferred to be considered male. From then on I felt completely comfortable calling him John.

He described in detail how he had come out on the internet the previous year and how he was so nervous to confide in his parents. It turns out his mother is very supportive but his father is not. His parents are divorced and his father is not coping well. They are Reform Jews and their Rabbi has been extremely supportive. The one thing his mother is having difficulty with is calling him John. When I asked her why, she told me that she adopted a baby girl and now she no longer has that girl. She explained that she knows that John is happier now that he has come out and she will get used to calling him John and loves him as she always has.

Over the years John was teased and bullied and depressed and I did not really know why. He described to me being very upset when his breasts began to develop and how he went on the internet to learn to tape them flat and ultimately made a video which was posted on the internet and has helped others.

We discussed hormonal therapy which he called “T”, his name for testosterone, and the possibility of surgery down the road. Needless to say the appointment went on a great deal longer than the scheduled 30 minutes. He left having had an opportunity to talk freely and openly with his physician and I felt that I was able to provide them support and guidance.

So how does this relate to the blog and knowing you and your family? I am embarrassed to say that 3 years ago had John and his mother come to see me, my response would have been different and my ability to truly understand what they were going through would have been woefully inadequate. I would have been the typical physician by saying the”right” things but thinking that there was something that could be done to change the situation and make it more “normal”. I would have been supportive but would not have been confident in having a frank and open discussion and giving meaningful advice and counseling.

Reading the blog and knowing your son and your family has made me a more informed, non judgmental and caring physician. I have always known that in Medicine the more you learn, the more you realize you do not know, but the added dimension for me has been to more clearly recognize my deficiencies as a physician in dealing with families and patients whose sexual orientation is not the same as mine. I now truly feel more knowledgeable and I am able to impart that knowledge to my peers and colleagues and most importantly be a better physician to my patients and their families. I have directed a number of my colleagues to your blog. I have made a special point of ensuring that my fellow Jewish Orthodox physicians read the blog and then, in follow up discussions have seen that in most cases they too have learned and hopefully become better physicians to their patients.

You and your family are a great source of strength to many people and you have taught me that we can, and should, all be advocates to the best of our ability in our own unique way.

Be well, my friend.