Turning Bitterness into Redemption
Inspiring LGBT Youth Through Giving and Education
Dava Weinstein, LCSW, Private Practice, Adjunct Professor, Columbia University School of Social Work
This is a personal story. When my mother pre-deceased my father in 1998 I had been with my partner, Dorothy, for 26 years.
My father changed his will after my mother’s death. He specified that I would inherit 10% of his estate and my two siblings would share 90%. My father carried his demeaning view of us with him to his grave. It was also an eye opener about just how my mother must have insisted that he keep his contempt of us to himself over the years.
Portions of a letter that I sent to my entire family describes our response to this very emotional moment in our lives.
“As you know mom and dad were very different. Both felt strongly about family, although their relationships to their own families were not the same. …Unfortunately dad’s love of family, taken to its extreme after mother’s death, excluded my family life with Dorothy.”
“Dad’s bitterness at the end of his life and his unequal treatment of me through his will got Dorothy and me thinking about young women whose families have withdrawn emotional and/or financial support because of their sexual or gender identity. How were we to transform our own experience of his treatment of us as devalued human beings into something positive and exciting?”
“…We have sought to transform dad’s narrowness by using the inheritance from him to truly pay tribute to mom’s unconditional love. The Bee Winkler Weinstein Fund has been established to provide financial support for young women pursuing vocational or technical education. It is crucial for these lesbian, bisexual or transgender women, ages 18-25, to receive financial grants for education that prepares them to be self sufficient in their lives.”
The Fund is managed by the Stonewall Community Foundation with the intent to build the principal through contributions and reinvestment of a portion of the annual earnings. I have involved social service agencies who serve young people to determine the requirements for eligibility and application process for distribution of grants.
Grant decisions are based on need and include such items as legal name change expenses, college application fees, tuition for vocational or technical training, tools, etc. This Fund promotes the health and well being of young women.
Founded in 2002, Bee’s Fund has distributed over 50 grants to date ranging $35-$1500. A young grant recipient, whose college application fees were underwritten, told us that “Bee’s Fund rocks.” What a compliment!
Another recipient sums up her experience: “I am a young lesbian of color kicked out of my parents’ home due to my sexual identity. As an aspiring artist, I am extremely thankful to the Bee’s Fund for making a fantastical idea into a reality.” Bee’s Fund covered tuition and supplies to further her art career.
I am grateful to Dorothy. It is not every life partner who would agree to give away an inheritance. I am also grateful to the individual social workers and lawyers working with LGBT youth who have supported Bee’s Fund through their volunteer advisory board hours, insuring that it is administered in a most professional way. Easy to complete application forms are available at stonewallfoundation.org .
I often wonder who has been redeemed in this story.