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LGBT Youth Stories
 

Teen Kicked Out of Her Prom for Wearing a Tuxedo

Lesbian Couple Voted First-Ever High School Prom Queen and Queen

Teen Learns to Accept His Sexuality & Gender in Different Ways
Jane Lynch: Growing Up Gay

Trans Student in North Carolina Nominated for Homecoming King

Gay Teens Crowned Homecoming King and Queen

Prom Nightmare for Trans Teen

18 Really Cool LGBT Kids or Allies

Cutest Prom Couple

Gay Students in Alabama

Bullied Gay 11-Year Old Gets Justice

Gay Texas Teen Comes Out in Graduation Speech

How Gen Y Became Cool With the Whole Gay Thing

Outed by My School Counselor

 

 


LGBT Teen Defended by SPLC

 

February 2013

 

Stacy Dawson, an openly gay Missouri high school student, had been told he couldn't attend prom with his boyfriend.  He has now won the right to attend high school prom with his boyfriend after threatening legal action, the district superintendent said.

 

Alesdair Ittelson, a staff attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center, who was one of the keynote speakers at ALGBTICAL's recent Winter Workshop, handled the case.  "Stacy is such a brave and lovely young man," Alesdair Ittelson said. "He encountered this problem, did his research, came to us and said, 'I really want to do something about this,' and we're so proud and honored to be able to fight for his rights in this matter. He has a supportive family and he believes that the other kids at his school want him to be able to attend the prom with his boyfriend."
 

Stacy Dawson, a 17-year-old senior at Scott County Central High School in Sikeston, Mo., had been told last year that he couldn't bring his boyfriend due to a line in the school's handbook that said "students will be permitted to invite one guest, girls invite boys and boys invite girls."
 

 

When Dawson questioned the policy, he was told by a school administrator that the school board would not consider revising it, according to The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights organization representing Dawson. So on Thursday -- Valentine's Day -- Dawson had The Southern Poverty Law Center send a letter to Scott County Central High and the school district threatening legal action.


One day later, the district had good news for Dawson: They were removing the offending line from their handbook, and said the line was never meant to be exclusive in the first place.


"I found out why the stipulation in the student handbook was originally put in there, and it's rather innocent, to be honest," Alvin McFerren, Scott County Central School District superintendent, said. "This was during a time 10-15 years ago that the previous administration was having issues with some of the students trying to come in on either the single rate or the couple rate. They implemented that to make sure they couldn't circumvent the rates that students were supposed to pay as they entered into our dances."
 

McFerren said Dawson will be allowed to go to prom with his boyfriend.  "It was never intended to be a discriminatory thing," he said. "We want an educational environment for all of our kids and we're not ever going to discriminate as to whether or not the board has the policy and we don't do that based on sexual orientation. Period."


McFerren said he felt the community, which has just over 360 students in the entire district, would take the change well.  "We are a family," McFerren said. "We're such a small school that I don't feel as if there will be any negative reactions whatsoever. It was never intended to be a policy that would create any controversy in the first place."


In its letter, the law center alleged that under a 1969 Supreme Court decision -- Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District -- Dawson's school could not legally censor his right to free expression, including the right to express himself by taking a same-sex date. The Tinker ruling declared that students don't “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gates.”


The letter also cited a more recent case out of Mississippi, where a girl sued her high school over a ban on same-sex couples at the prom in 2010. Constance McMillen ultimately won the case against Itawamba County Agricultural High School after a federal judge ruled that the school district violated her constitutional rights to freedom of speech by not allowing her to wear a tuxedo and bring her girlfriend to the prom.
 

Prom is scheduled for April 20. Dawson's lawyer said his family and classmates were supportive of him in his quest to go.

 

(From By Elizabeth Chuck, Staff Writer, NBC News)

 


LGBT Youth at Risk

 

"While many minority groups are the target for prejudice... and discrimination... in our society, few persons face this hostility without the support and acceptance of their family as do many gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth."

-Virginia Uribe and Karen Harbeck

 

Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender young people are increasingly visible in our schools. Why? Probably partly because young people in general are reaching puberty at younger ages than they did in generations past. And probably partly because sexual minority young people are growing up in the midst of a civil rights movement, feeling both an urgency and an increasing sense of community in their normal adolescent quests for identity and integrity.

Recent studies have shown that, on average, lesbian and gay youth first become aware of their same-gender attractions at an average of 9-10 years old and first identify as lesbian or gay at an average of 14-16 years old.

LINKS:

Alabama Safe Schools Coalition Website
National Safe Schools Coalition
Respect for All Project
Teaching Tolerance
The Trevor Project
It Gets Better Project

Gay People Are Coming Out Younger

Note To My Kid

 

   


LGBT Youth Notes


Nine out of 10 LGBT students (86.2%) experienced harassment at school; three-fifths (60.8%) felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation; and about one-third (32.7%) skipped a day of school in the past month because of feeling unsafe (GLSEN National School Climate Survey 2009).

 

LGBT students are three times as likely as non-LGBT students to say that they do not feel safe at school (22% vs. 7%) and 90% of LGBT students (vs. 62% of non-LGBT teens) have been harassed or assaulted during the past year. (GLSEN From Teasing to Torment 2006)

 

Sexual minority youth, or teens that identify themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual, are bullied two to three times more than heterosexuals. (Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, OH 2010)

 

Almost all transgender students had been verbally harassed (e.g., called names or threatened in the past year at school because of their sexual orientation (89%) and gender expression (89%) (GLSEN: Harsh Realities, The Experiences of Transgender Youth In Our Nation’s Schools 2009).

 

LGBT youth in rural communities and those with lower adult educational attainment face particularly hostile school climates (JG, Greytak EA, Diaz EM – Journal of Youth & Adolescence 2009)

 

Lesbian, gay, and bisexual adolescents are 190 percent more likely to use drugs and alcohol than are heterosexual teens (Marshal MP, Friedman MS, et al – Addiction 2008).

 

It is estimated that between 20 and 40 percent of all homeless youth identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender (2006 National Gay & Lesbian Task Force: An Epidemic of Homelessness). 62% of homeless LGB youth will attempt suicide at least once—more than two times as many as their heterosexual peers (Van Leeuwen JMm et al – Child Welfare 2005).

 


LGBT Youth Resources

LGBT Youth Resources
Safe Schools
Parents of LGBT Youth
Encouragement for LGBT Youth
LGBT Suicide
Bullying
Curious and Questioning

Young Heroes

 


LGBT Youth Support Group


BAGSLY
Meetings Every 1st & 3rd Thursday
6:30-8:00 PM
UU Church Bham




The Birmingham Alliance of Gay, Straight, & Lesbian Youth, known by the acronym, BAGSLY, was recently formed and held its first meeting on November 19. BAGSLY is a support and advocacy group for high school and college aged gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, questioning, and straight allied youth.

GLBTQ youth are invited to come to the BAGSLY meetings to make friends with other like-minded youth and to help build a supportive community.  BAGSLY meetings are held every first and third Thursday of the month, 6:30-8:00 PM, at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 4300 Hampton Heights Drive, in Birmingham.

LINKS:

Read the BAGSLY Promotional Flyer
Contact BAGSLY via E-Mail
Access LGBTQ Youth Resources

 


LGBT Youth Concerns

 

QUESTION:
I would like to know how to help my neighbor's sixteen year old son. I am a good friend of the family yet have been sworn to secrecy by my children NOT to breathe a word about his disclosure to the parents about being gay. My kids only told me because they are worried about his safety as he is meeting people via the internet then meeting much older (19-24) men at their homes -- at times getting into unsafe situations -- already, at least one assault. He doesn't want anyone to know at school so he goes farther away (creating more home strife). I know the family life is somewhat difficult (normal teen angst) in general but the Mom would be more supportive than he thinks. His Dad could be a problem. Is there a 'safe' phone number or local group that can help him develop a happy healthy gay life? How can his friends encourage safer behavior to avoid violence? How do nice gay kids meet other nice gay kids when they have straight friends? I can pass the information through my kids. Any help or direction would be appreciated.


ANSWER: 

Your neighbor and your children are lucky to have an adult like you in their lives. I have a few suggestions.


First, it’s perfectly OK to let him know that you’re afraid for him and to tell him that he needs to start being safer or that you WILL have to get his mom, at least, involved. In the meantime, tell him that you will consider yourself as sort of a surrogate mom. And together, you will negotiate dating rules with him.


Talk to him about the fact that, in many places, guys over 18 could go to jail for having sex – or even talking about having sex – with somebody his age. And it’s not a homophobic thing; those laws apply to heterosexual relationships, too. Explain that we have laws like that for a reason: that it’s so easy for a younger person to get hurt in these relationships. Sometimes physically, as happened to him once already, but almost always emotionally. They may want different things than their older partner out of the relationship. They may go along with things they think are wrong – or just aren’t enjoying – because it’s hard to say “no” to someone who seems older and wiser. They may invest their hearts in a relationship that means more to them than it does to the older person and then get their hearts broken when it ends. In the meantime, they may give up their same-age friends and interests and regret that later. Even a few years can make a huge difference in how much life experience you each have. That doesn’t mean an older guy’s necessarily mature, mind you. There are even 50-year-olds who act like they’re in junior high. But it does put his younger partner at a disadvantage if he thinks one thing and they think another, because he may seem to know better whether he does or not.

 

You and your young neighbor can find some advice about Internet safety here:
http://www.elight.org/e/computer-safety.shtml


The next issue is how to find gay guys his own age. You don’t say where you live, but most U.S. cities and some outside the U.S. have support groups for teens who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning. To find one, you might start by checking out this page on our web site:
http://www.safeschoolscoalition.org/blackboard-organizations.html

If that doesn’t find you a group, try going to Google and typing in “[your town] +gay +youth” and see what you get. Or check with a local lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender (LGBT) community center if there is one in your town. However, if there’s no group within driving distance, or if your young friend doesn’t drive or have public transportation, there are other alternatives. Youth

 

Guardian Services has an email list for LGBT and Questioning YOUTH13-17:
http://www.youth-guard.org/projects/ 

He’d find a webring and message boards at this trustworthy site:
http://www.youthresource.com/community/gay/index.cfm

There’s a toll-free hotline called The Peer Listening Line where he can talk with other gay youth under the supervision of counseling professionals, staffed (Pacific Standard Time): Monday-Friday, 9:00 p.m.-1:00 a.m. [6-10 Eastern]:
http://www.fenwayhealth.org/services/helpline.htm
Phone: 1-800-399-PEER.


Then there’s the issue of the wisdom and way to come out to his parents. There's no easy answer. Some young people who come out to their families end up -- usually after some angst -- being cherished and supported in their quest for healthy adulthood. Others get kicked out or beaten up or forced into the kind of "counseling" that purports to change people's sexual orientations. Together, you and your young friend might want to check out the advice on this web page:
http://www.hrc.org/ncop/guide/index.asp

Also, your local chapter of PFLAG, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays may be able to give you both a helpful listening ear and a copy of a pamphlet entitled “Read This Before Coming Out to Your Parents.” You can probably find a nearby PFLAG chapter at:
http://www.pflag.org/chapters/find.html.


Finally, we can recommend a great book for the two of you (and your children, as his friends): Free Your Mind: The Book For Gay, Lesbian, And Bisexual Youth And Their Allies, Ellen Bass, 1996. (ISBN: 0060951044).


Hope that helps a little. Congratulations for being the kind of mom your kids would trust with something this important and for raising the kind of kids who know how to be there for their friend.

(From Safe Schools Coalition)

 


Growing Up Gay
 

Youth Video OUT Reach was founded in 2005 to teach a group of gay and lesbian youth the production skills to create a documentary about their experiences being gay and out in high school. Eighteen months later, the group of 9 youth, in conjunction with several teaching artists, completed a touching and heartfelt film entitled, "20 Straws: Growing Up Gay," which has screened to thousands of audiences worldwide.


LINKS:

Trailer for Film: 20 Straws
Video Out Reach
 



 

Out With Dad
 

Check out the adventures of Rose and Vanessa, two teenagers with lots of questions about being gay and being young.  View highlights of episodes from season one of the on-line series for LGBT youth, "Out With Dad."


LINKS:

Episode 1: Rose With Vanessa
Episode 2: Out to Lunch
Episode 3: Movie Night With Dad
Episode 4: Party Out
Episode 5: Blind Date With Nathan
Episode 6: Tea With Dad
Episode 7: Chemistry With Vanessa
Episode 8: Out With Kenny
 


Anyone But Me
 

Season 2, Episode 3: Identity Crisis
Season 2, Episode 4: Girl Talk
 


Prayer for Bobby
 

In 1989, Leroy Aarons read a newspaper story about a young man's suicide. Particularly striking to him was the mother, Mary Griffith, who had tried throughout her son's adolescence to "pray away" his "gay nature". Bobby Griffith suffered enormously from his family’s lack of support and the condemnation of his church. At age 20, he jumped to his death from a freeway bridge in Portland, Oregon. Mary was transformed by her loss and eventually renounced the rigid religious beliefs that had kept her from fully accepting Bobby during his lifetime.
 



The Griffiths' story resonated with Aarons' own transformation as an openly gay journalist and activist. After Bobby’s death, his mother became an iconic activist for the national association Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), urging parents to understand and accept their children's homosexuality. "This extraordinary conversion touched me as deeply as the tale of Bobby’s tragic death," Aarons wrote. "What enabled her to transcend her background and perform what could only be described as acts of courage."

After leaving daily journalism in 1991, Aarons began to explore the Griffiths' stories in depth. Prayers for Bobby: A Mother’s Coming to Terms With the Suicide of Her Gay Son—Aarons' first book—was published by HarperCollins in 1996. A film adaptation, Prayers for Bobby, debuted on January 24, 2009, on Lifetime TV.
 

LINKS:
 

Amazon Book: Prayers for Bobby (Mother’s Coming to Terms with the Suicide of Her Gay Son)

Prayers for Bobby (TV Movie)

Lifetime TV: Prayers for Bobby (TV Movie)

 


 

Report on Gay Teens

Kate Haigh, 18, a high school senior in St. Paul, recalls attending her first meeting at the school's Gay-Straight Alliance club when she was in the ninth grade. "I said, 'My name is Kate, and I'm a lesbian.' It was so liberating. I felt like something huge had been lifted off my shoulders, and finally I had people to talk to."

 

Zach Lundin, 16, has brought boyfriends to several dances at his high school in suburban Seattle.

 

Vance Smith wanted to start a club to support gay students at his rural Colorado school but says administrators balked. At age 15, Vance contacted a New York advocacy group that sent school officials a letter about students' legal rights. Now 17, Smith has his club.

 

Gay teenagers are "coming out" earlier than ever, and many feel better about themselves than earlier generations of gays, youth leaders and researchers say. The change is happening in the wake of opinion polls that show growing acceptance of gays, more supportive adults and positive gay role models in popular media.

 

"In my generation, you definitely didn't come out in high school. You had to move away from home to be gay," says Kevin Jennings, 43, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, a national group that promotes a positive school climate for gay children. "Now so many are out while they're still at home. They're more vocal than we were."

 

Still, many continue to have a tough time. The worst off, experts say, are young people in conservative rural regions and children whose parents cannot abide having gay offspring. Taunting at school is still common. Cyber-bullying is "the new big thing," says Laura Sorensen of Affirmations Lesbian and Gay Community Center in Ferndale, Mich. "Kids are getting hate mail and taunts on MySpace or Facebook."

 

But as young gays become more visible targets, they also have more sources of help, experts say. In the 11 years since Jennings founded the education network, parents have become more supportive of gay teens, he says. Also, the network has trained thousands of school officials on how to reduce gay bashing.

 

Schools are more likely than in the past to have openly gay staff members who can help young people, says Anthony D'Augelli, an associate dean at Pennsylvania State University. In a recent national survey, one-third of school psychologists said they had counseled students or parents about sexual orientation.

 

In the mid-1990s, a few dozen Gay-Straight Alliance clubs were in U.S. high schools; now 3,200 are registered with the education network, Jennings says.

 

The Internet also has eased isolation for gay teens, offering a place for socializing and support, says Stephanie Sanders of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction in Bloomington, Ind.

 

Cultural diversity is prevalent

 

Teens are coming out in an era when more Americans than ever consider homosexuality acceptable. In 2006, 54% found homosexuality acceptable, compared with 38% in 1992, Gallup polls show.

 

Youths also swim in a cultural sea that's far more pro-gay than ever, says Ritch Savin-Williams, a psychologist at Cornell University and author of The New Gay Teenager. From MTV's The Real World to Will & Grace and Ellen DeGeneres hosting the Oscars, "kids can see gays in a positive light," he says.

 

The news in December that Vice President Cheney's daughter Mary is expecting a baby with her female partner has even brought gay parenthood into the Bush administration family.

 

By the time parenthood becomes an option, many homosexuals have known their preferences for a long time. Gay males and lesbians often feel "different" as early as grade school, Sanders says.

 

Vance Smith, who grew up amid cornfields in LaSalle, Colo., recalls being made fun of and called "gay" as early as first grade. "I didn't even know what it was," he says. "I didn't know why I didn't like 'guy-type' stuff like sports or why I was always more comfortable hanging out with girls. And I didn't know why I should be punished for it." By middle school, "I always had a girlfriend, hoping people wouldn't know." But he couldn't make himself feel heterosexual, Smith says. And nobody was fooled, anyway.

 

Zach Lundin had been taught in church that homosexuality was wrong. "I spent a lot of time trying to convince myself I was straight," says Lundin, 17, of Kenmore, Wash. At age 14 he told his parents he was attracted to boys. "I said, 'I'm not going to lie to you anymore. This is what I'm really feeling.' "

 

His father, Roy Lundin, wasn't thrilled to hear the news. "Any parent who says his first reaction isn't 'Oh, no!' probably isn't telling the truth," he says.

 

"We felt some sadness. We just assumed we'd have a daughter-in-law someday and grandchildren. It becomes your disappointment, but it's a selfish disappointment. Now we've gotten past that.

 

"There are some parts of it that I'll never be comfortable with," he concedes, "but that doesn't mean I can't support Zach. I love him and I will support him."

 

A struggle for the parents

 

How parents deal with such news has a huge effect on their kids' lives, says Caitlin Ryan, a social-work researcher at San Francisco State University who is studying the families of gay young people. Families can move gradually from rejection to warm acceptance once the shock wears off, she says. Parents with strong convictions that homosexuality is always wrong find it hardest to accept their gay teens, she says.

 

At its most extreme, that means throwing a child out. Nobody knows exactly how many gay teens meet that fate, but a disproportionate share of homeless young people in the USA are homosexuals, a new report from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force says. Family conflict, including conflict over sexual orientation, is a key reason they're homeless, the report says. Several cities have shelters for gay kids, but there's less help than needed, says Carl Siciliano of the Ali Forney Center, which offers limited housing for New York youths.

 

Sorensen, who coordinates a drop-in program in suburban Detroit, sees teens from all kinds of families. "Kids from the suburbs drive up in new SUVs their parents bought them. But sometimes they're afraid to come out to parents because of talk against gays they've heard at home. Other kids have to scrounge together bus fare to get here. They all would like to tell their parents and be accepted, but not all of them can."

 

Not everyone applauds the soaring number of school-based gay/straight alliances and adult-led programs for gay teens. "Homosexuality is harmful to society, and young people have no business committing to a sexual identity until they're adults," says Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council, a conservative policy group. The council backs a new Georgia law, first in the nation, that requires schools to tell parents about clubs and allows them to forbid their children to participate in gay/straight alliances.

 

Lobbying is underway to pass similar laws in North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama and Texas, says Joe Glover of the Family Policy Network, a Christian family advocacy group. "Parents shouldn't have to check their rights at the school room door," he says.

 

Researchers traditionally have emphasized that gay teens have worse mental health and higher suicide rates than straight teens. But Cornell's Savin-Williams says these conclusions are primarily based on small, older studies skewed to troubled youths. A few newer studies suggest teens who are attracted to both sexes may have the worst problems. But most research has grouped them with homosexuals.

 

Gay kids are more likely than straight teens to think about or try suicide, but there's no evidence they're more likely to kill themselves, says sociologist Stephen Russell of the University of Arizona. He has analyzed findings from a study of 12,000 teens followed up to a decade so far. Those with same-sex attractions are more depressed and anxious, Russell says, but there's also evidence that many who say they're attracted to others of their sex grow up to be heterosexual. He says stigma and prejudice still prompt undue stress for gay kids.

 

Studies on gay boys predominate, so young lesbians are more of a mystery. Pioneering findings suggest lesbian teens may be different from gay boys in key ways. There's more variability in the age when they realize they're not straight, says Lisa Diamond, a University of Utah psychologist. Unlike boys, most girls also have opposite-sex attractions. And strong emotional bonds are more key in sparking girls' sexual attractions, Diamond says.

 

She also has ventured into territory rarely trod in studies on gay youths: friendships and romances. "They're adolescents first, and adolescents are obsessed with their friendship networks," she says.

 

Diamond has kids weigh in on the statement: "I sometimes worry that I'll never be able to find the kind of romantic partner I want." Gay teens worry about this more than straight teens because best friends are usually the same sex, she says. Gays are unique in agonizing over whether to turn friendships into romances, often fearing they'll lose a friend.

 

Worry about finding a partner was strongly linked to anxiety and depression. When Diamond subtracted this worry, gay teens were no more anxious or depressed than straight teens. "We have to start looking at their whole lives, not just sexual orientation. By focusing on stigma, we may be missing the bigger picture: that they're painfully normal teenagers."

 

D'Augelli, who studies homosexuality among the young, says many adults might be surprised at the secret that really lurks in the psyches of gay teens: "The remarkable fact is, most are quite conventional. They want long-term relationships. They want children."

 

(From By Marilyn Elias, USA Today)

 


 

Youth Revolution

 

Yes, even today, it still takes courage to speak out and counter the stereotypes, the scapegoating, the fear, and the ignorance surrounding our lives. Yet, throughout the world, on university and grade school campuses, in communities and homes, and in the media, issues of sexuality, gender identity, and expression are increasingly coming out of the closet.

 

Fortunately, we see young people developing positive identities at earlier ages than ever before. Activists of all ages are gaining selective electoral, legislative, and judicial victories.

 

Young people have been integral in the development and success of social movements from the very beginning. And today they are shaking up traditionally dichotomous notions of male/female, gay/straight, and masculine/feminine.

 

They are transforming and revolutionizing the society and its institutions by challenging overall power inequities related not only to sexuality and gender identity, categorizations and hierarchies, but also making links to the various types of oppression, and forming coalitions with other marginalized groups.

 

They are dreaming their dreams, sharing their ideas and visions, and organizing to ensure a world free from all the deadly forms of oppression. Along their journey they are inventing new ways of relating and being in the world.

 

Their stories, experiences, and activism have great potential to bring us to a future where people all across the gender and sexuality spectrums will live freely, unencumbered by constraining, outmoded, and oppressive social taboos and cultural norms of gender and sexuality.


(From Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld / Iowa State University)

 


LGBT Youth Links

Alabama Safe Schools Coalition
Respect for All Project
Teaching Tolerance
The Trevor Project
It Gets Better Project

Rainbow Rumpus
Advocates for Youth
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians & Gays
National Youth Advocacy
Campus Pride Net
We Are Family
Lambda 10 Project
Youth Resource

Queer Theory: Parenting Resources
Safe Schools Coalition
APA Report: Gay & Lesbian Parenting
Prevention Researcher
GLAAD: Is Your Child Gay?
Queer Theory: Queer Kids
Parenting Info for Gays & Lesbians
Colage: Children of Lesbians And Gays Everywhere
Suicide Risk and Prevention for LGBT Youth

 

 


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ALGBTICAL

Association for Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender Issues in Counseling of Alabama