Dad Answers: A Parent Steps Up as an Ally and a Resource
When Greg’s son came out to him as transgender, Greg made a commitment to show up for him as an ally. That was over a year ago, and since then he has advocated for change at his son’s school and started volunteering at GLAD Answers, our free volunteer-run legal infoline.
Greg’s child is now in middle school, just played his first season of football, and has friends that he met through NAGLY (North Shore Alliance of GLBTQ+ Youth). The family lives in a suburban, coastal town in Massachusetts. “Connecting with other youth is huge,” Greg says. “My son had to try to find friends when he first started transitioning, and it was hard at first.” For LGBTQ youth that feel alone, reaching out to youth organizations is a great first step. “We’re very fortunate in this state to have the programs that we have, though we definitely do need more. There’s a really big need for youth organizations in rural settings. Most of these [groups] are going to be in a metropolitan area which some kids can’t get to.”
“Somebody from GLAD Answers called me back, and I realized that they were a volunteer and I said, ‘I can do that!'”
Greg’s commitment to helping his child led him to research LGBTQ advocacy and youth organizations. When his kid was first coming out, his elementary school was at a loss on how to affirm a transgender student, and when he graduated to middle school he was denied access to the locker room. In both situations, it was clear that faculty needed LGBTQ cultural competency training and intervention, so Greg reached out to Jeff Perrotti from Safe Schools. “Jeff came down and he gave everybody the language that they needed and gave me resources… it really hasn’t been too much of an issue since then.”
Though navigating all this at his son’s school was difficult, that’s how Greg found out about GLAD. “I was running around trying to figure out what to do, I was taking him to NAGLY and BAGLY and then I asked somebody who I should call, and they recommended GLAD. Somebody from GLAD Answers called me back, and I realized that they were a volunteer and I said, “I can do that!”
“People need help. Without organizations like GLAD, how are callers supposed to know which attorneys are LGBTQ friendly, and who is not?”
And yes he can! Every week, before GLAD’s office went remote due to COVID-19, there would be joyful greetings in the hallway. His favorite part of helping at GLAD Answers? “Meeting the other volunteers, and the GLAD Answers staff, of course. There are a lot of calls that are really sad, so it can wear on you a bit. But there are other times you get to call people back with good stuff, especially with the [Transgender] ID Project when you get to call somebody and say, ‘We got your message and we’re connecting you with an attorney.’ People really get excited when they hear that.”
Working on the frontlines of LGBTQ discrimination, Greg is painfully aware of how much work there is to be done, despite all the progress our movement has made so far. “People need help. Without organizations like GLAD, how are callers supposed to know which attorneys are LGBTQ-friendly, and who is not? Organizations on the other side with deep pockets are taking this time right now to slide [legislation] through,” he says. “People are having trouble getting access to medical treatment, and the Trump administration is trying to say it’s okay to discriminate against us.” GLAD is working to challenge these policies “But it takes money to do this. So people need to do what they can and give what they can to stop this.”
COVID-19 disrupted all of our lives and showed the world just how unequal the access to resources is in our communities. The last few months have looked very different for Greg and his family, as it has for most of us. GLAD Answers is open and running, but without the aid of volunteers temporarily. While that’s out of concern for everyone’s health and safety, still, Greg says, “it’s tough because [volunteering] has become a big part of my life, so now I feel disconnected.” Hopefully, Greg will be able to get back to answering calls soon, as GLAD Answers prepares to establish a remote volunteer program and eventually safely open our office when the time is right.
In the meantime, Greg has hope for our community, especially when we look out for each other. “Stay strong. Reach out to each other. Your story might be the story that somebody else needs to hear. A lot of people are really struggling, working or stuck at home with families who don’t support them. A lot of people are afraid to ask for help. So do what you can.”