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Recall Dear Abby? Where readers to the newspaper would write in with real life questions from their everyday lives – and have them answered by a spokesperson from the newspaper? Abby Van Buren would go on to pen many noteworthy responses to questions not often spoken about in other publications.

Our own Joe Kerr, an advocate for the community, lives the life of an open gay man who is actively employed by the Roman Catholic Church of the greater Dallas (TX) area. No question too personal, no response too literal.

Dear Joe,
I am going into my fourth year as tour coordinator for a top 12 drum corps. 2021 will be the first time our organization will have a transgender participant. I am finding that some of the adults who support the corps in various capacities (NOT THE TEACHING STAFF) are asking really intolerant questions that I feel are none of their business. They ask about showers, if we should make “TRANS ONLY” blocks of time for this one person to shower. They have even gone so far as to suggest that the corps nurse make it a point to do an emotional wellness check with this person every morning. I feel these are acts of discrimination, are they? How do I go about making sure this young person has the same incredible experience that the other 149 folks will have with OUT the intolerance of those who should do nothing more than support the kids?

–For many youth and young adults, going on tour is an experience of a lifetime and the people serving the members’ top priority is their overall experience! Their expression through their art of music and dance is part of their most inner, primal, raw and exposed selves. They choose to be part of the corps because they know they will be able to hone and enhance their skills and in the deepest part of their being…they know they will be part of a family. From the executive level, down to the volunteer, it is your duty and obligation to protect that member and help them grow in ways they couldn’t before. Along that short summer journey, you as a tour coordinator will be tasked with the ney-sayers, the negatives or ‘just saying’ people, but always know that your number 1 job is getting each and every member (not just he/she/they), but each member of the corps family the experience of a lifetime day-in and day-out. All those on staff are teachers turned counselors, crying shoulders, comfort, solace, and wisdom providers. You will always have someone, somewhere along the way that will want to provide their own unique ‘nugget’ of their thoughts. Anytime a single person is called out based on how they identify is discrimination. Make everyone – the members, the staff, the volunteers – know that they are valued and there is a camaraderie that is so unique and special to drum corps that nothing can really compare to. Ultimately, you are not alone in this journey and you have some of the most loud advocates sitting quietly cheering you and your corps on!

Dear Joe,
My daughter is in 7th grade and identifies as a lesbian. We support our daughter’s lifestyle and will be proud parents for as long as we live. Recently, our daughter was the subject of cyber bullying, that went so far as to suggest that my daughter should kill herself to make the rest of her class happy. Any words of advice for a dad who is at a loss for words?

–Hold her close, tell her over and over that she is loved, tell her you’re going to be right by her side. It’s not only her that is processing what happened by the bullying, but it’s you experiencing it alongside her. You, as her parents, already know the world can be cold, calloused, and mean. At times, you are her only ray of sunshine during the most cloudy of days. Be her advocate – be her encouraging voice of hope and always know that you are not in this alone. There are people who are behind you to support, cheer, encourage, and help both you and her along the journey of life.

Dear Joe,
My 16 year old cousin has expressed a desire to begin his transition by wearing feminine clothes and makeup. My aunt and uncle want to be supportive, but it has been suggested that my cousin “keep his secret” until he has graduated from high school and gone off to college (in New York City). I disagree, I support the idea of beginning the transition NOW while he is at home so that if there is adversity, his parents can love and support him through those experiences. I fear my aunt and uncle might be looking at my cousin’s choices as a negative reflection of how they raised him. What to do? Support him or Silence him?

–Support! Support! Support! Support! If I haven’t mentioned support, enough….one more time! SUPPORT! If you already expressed your support, then make that expression even louder! You’ve already made the decision that you’re fully onboard with his transition so start “shouting from the rooftops” your support! You’re always going to have those along the way that will give their thoughts or opinions and it’s something to always take into consideration, but your are there for your son. If your aunt and uncle are truly supportive, then they need to take your side. Have a talk with them on why you support the transition now knowing that you will need their support as a family for you and your son. It’s not a journey that happens between two people! It’s a journey that spans households, families, friends, acquaintances, and anyone you encounter. Most importantly, it’s not a journey that you and your son, and your family will be taking alone. You have the support of thousands!

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