Because my baby deserves it too.
This report was released today:
“All Children Matter: How Legal and Social Inequalities Hurt LGBT Families”
“All Children Matter” was released by the Center for American Progress, the Family Equality Council, and the Movement Advancement Project, in partnership with COLAGE, The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, and the National Association of Social Workers (with a foreword by the Child Welfare League of America).
Do check out the All Children Matter website, download the report, and share it with others.
Interestingly, in terms of the most LGBT headed households per capita (where more than 1 in 4 same-sex couples are raising kids): Mississippi tops the list, and Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma hold the 4th-8th spots.
Seven of the 12 states with the greatest number of LGBT headed households are in the South.
While the information in this report doesn’t surprise me – reading it gave me chills. Such frightening realities presented in black and white. This is a very important read.
Please visit the Facebook page for lots of articles, links, and resources!
This morning like every Wednesday morning, I perused the contents of my daughter’s “Tuesday Folder.” Its a manila envelope sent home on Tuesday afternoon full of fliers, completed school work, and promotional materials for activities like basketball clinics and youth softball leagues.
Red Ribbon Week
Today I came upon a bright red flier describing the school’s activities for Red Ribbon Week. If you are not familiar with Red Ribbon Week, it is dedicated to substance abuse awareness, particularly in the public schools:
Today, the Red Ribbon Week brings millions of people together to raise awareness regarding the need for alcohol, tobacco and other drug and violence prevention, early intervention, and treatment services. It is the largest, most visible prevention awareness campaign observed annually in the United States.
Red Ribbon Week established in 1988 by Ronald and Nancy Reagan recognizes the torture and death of Enrique Camarena in 1985 and to set aside time for drug use prevention education and drug abuse awareness. Many of us grew up with Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign of the late 1980s. Red Ribbon Week was part of the administration’s overall commitment to the War on Drugs.
- I believe Red Ribbon Week is important. Recognizing the sacrifices of the law enforcement and Department of Justice, and Drug Enforcement Administration agents is an obligation and honor. Many brave people have risked, and lost, their lives making our communities safer for us and for our children.
- I acknowledge Red Ribbon Week and support it.
- I do not want my daughter to abuse drugs and I am happy that the school is helping me educate her about the dangers of drugs.
- I put our Red Ribbon Week flier on the front of the refrigerator so next week we can take part in all the activities, including wearing red clothes in recognition of everything Red Ribbon Week observes and stands for.
- I am fine that the children at my daughter’s school will miss class time for assemblies about drugs and will complete lessons about it while in class.
BUT . . .
The irony of this was striking. During Ally Week, the week after National Coming Out Day and the anniversary of the death of Matthew Shepard, our school didn’t mention one word about the sacrifices of LGBT individuals or try to raise awareness of LGBT issues. THIS is the week that the Red Ribbon Week flier came home.
Just so you know:
October is LGBT History Month.
October 11th is National Coming Out Day.
October 12th is the anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death.
October 17th – 21st is Ally Week.
My daughter’s school recognizes none of this, but my daughter does. Tomorrow, October 20th is Spirit Day and my daughter has her head-to-toe purple outfit picked out to wear tomorrow in celebration and recognition.
Millions of Americans wear purple on Spirit Day as a sign of support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth and to speak out against bullying. (. . .) Observed annually on October 20, individuals, schools, organizations, corporations, media professionals and celebrities wear purple, which symbolizes spirit on the rainbow flag.
Probably her outfit will go unappreciated by her classmates and teachers, since there have been no discussions, bulletin boards, posters, or assemblies acknowledging LGBT history, awareness, bullying, activism, accomplishments, lives lost to make communities safer for LGBT people, or deaths just at the hands of violent bigots.
Black Ribbon Day*
So, I would like to recognize today as Black Ribbon Day at our local school. A Day when we blatantly ignore the contributions and sacrifices of LGBT people.
Couldn’t we just have an Anti-Bullying Day?** Is that so much to ask?
*Notes on Awareness Ribbon colors:
All the possible colors already stand for other issues. Black ribbons commemorate September 11th, the Virgina Tech shooting, and represent melanoma awareness. Red ribbons stand for substance abuse awareness and even more commonly for AIDS awareness. In reality the power of the symbolism is already diluted since every color of ribbon stands for many things. My choice of the black ribbon is in no way intended to belittle the loss suffered from the attacks of September 11th or from melanoma.
**Notes on Violence Against LGBT Students:
In case you’d like statistics and facts about what life is like for LGBT kids, especially in school, please peruse the following sites. The the GLSEN site and tell you far better than I can.
Dealing with Gay Students, Bullying in Different Ways from CNN – Listen to what Minneapolis Public Schools do – intervention and education can work.
Violence Against Gays and Lesbians from The National Centers for Victims of Crime – Gives a sense of the kind of violence endured by LGBT people in general.
One last note in defense of October:
October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Autism Awareness Month, Dwarfism Awareness Month, National Pork Month, and National Cyber Security Awareness Month and they’ve gotten no coverage in school either. I hope somewhere someone is writing angry blogs about how these other issues have been ignored by the public schools! (Well, maybe pork doesn’t need a special day in the schools – we celebrate pork awareness every month in our house.)
Last week and this week CNN and Anderson Cooper AC360° is featuring An Anderson Cooper Special Report – “Bullying: It Stops Here.”
Tonight, Friday, October 14 at 8 and 10 p.m. ET, Cooper hosts a town hall: “Bullying: It Stops Here”.
For as long at it is available on YouTube I highly recommend watching the October 5th episode. There is astounding video of what one child endures on the bus (in part 3 of 4) and a sickening video of a principal intervening in a active incident of bullying (in part 4). They are must-see videos (links below).
Be warned this show will likely make you sad and furious.
I have spent a lot of time discussing and role-playing with my daughter how to defuse the hostile situations that she encounters and may encounter in the future. It is important defuse them so they don’t escalate, but it is also absolutely essential that she feel that she can defend herself too. She has a series of responses that she uses to answer back to ignorant and hateful statements. She has crafted arguments on her own and with us to answer comments which come from a variety of loathsome discriminatory origins: religiously motivated bigotry, misogyny, physical disgust direct at LGBT individuals, etc.
Sometimes she quasi-jokingly says she will sock the perpetrator in the nose. Of course I make it clear that a violent response to a hostile situation is not okay, but truthfully after watching the videos of what these kids endure, I find myself thinking that she would be justified if she socked a bully in the nose.
At this point I do not trust that if she went to anyone at the school that they would be able to effectively deal with the situation. If schools cannot figure out how to productively address issues of diversity and bigotry before there is a incident on the playground, in the cafeteria, or on the bus, I have NO FAITH that they will be able to deal with it once it is happening.
One thing that becomes crystal clear from this program is that principals, teachers, all school staff need to be trained how to deal with this. They are clearly at a loss about how to respond.
How would school personnel know how to handle LGBT bullying if the school district, the school, and the principal have never made crystal clear what will and will not be tolerated? If there are no institutionally prescribed consequences for homo-prejudice before there are incidences of violence, how is a teacher supposed to have any power to do anything?
And how can we trust our schools to protect our kids when teachers like Viki Knox in New Jersey makes public statements about her own personal homo-prejudice? How many other Viki Knoxes are teaching in our school classrooms, but are smart enough not to out themselves as bigots on Facebook and Twitter? We are yet to see what will happen to her, but America would not tolerate a public school teacher in 2011 making racist statements on Twitter and Facebook because they were offended by Black History Month being honored in their school.
I now see that my daughter and I have to role-play and problem solve what she should do in a situation where an adult is as ill-equipped to handle LGBT bullying as the principal in the video in the AC360° October 5th episode. I need to make her aware that some teachers are bigots who cannot separate their prejudices from their obligations as educators bound by a duty to all students.
Her teachers say they love having her in class; they praise her polite and respectful demeanor. Yesterday at I even overheard my daughter thank the maintenance man for taking such great care of the school. I am happy that she is that kind of child, but I will not have her politely subject herself to ill-prepared, perhaps ill-intentioned, school personnel and their potentially destructive “interventions.”
I hope that Anderson Cooper AC360° and CNN will continue to make this episode available to the public. Allowing continued access to this material would be a real contribution to raising awareness about the lives of LGBT youth and the need to end bullying.
Here are the links:
Listening to my daughter’s call for more LGBT education and awareness in the schools, I thought I’d find some resources that I could share with her principal and teachers. These websites offer practical strategies and concrete resources that can be implemented in the schools.
First, the Human Rights Campaign has a program called Welcoming Schools which helps create educational communities that embrace family diversity of all kinds. This program is designed for the K-5 population. Resources which provide solutions to the what, why, who, when, and how questions address the issues at hand without requiring lots of research can be invaluable.
Secondly, there is the GSA Network which fosters Gay Straight Alliances with information about how a GSA can be established, as well as material about the rights of students to receive a safe and appropriate education.
How serendipitous for my family that October is LGBT History month!
Tonight my daughter suggested that we start a book for queer kids:
I want to write this because I want other people who are in my situation to know. I have my mother, but my mother had nobody, so I understand how hard it is to be understood.
If you’re my age and are reading this you probably already know you are gay or lesbian or transgendered or bisexual. It’s not one of those things you learn early on – I was 7 when I learned. But some kids learn at 5 because they have a crush on an older person.
I might not be the most perfect and you might not think I am stating the truth, but you should come out.
Here’s the way I do it:
I say, “do you believe in gay rights?” If they say “yes,” then it’s a step and you say, “I’m gay” or “I’m lesbian.”
If they say “no,” then you just drop the subject because you don’t want to tell haters.
I think that it’s important to let everybody know. But I’ve learned from experience that not everyone is open minded enough to see that we’re still people.
We deserve rights.
We want to be taught who we are. In sex ed we want to be taught what to do with our lives. I don’t want to learn about something I’m not. If they’re not going to give me a proper education, what’s the point?
Why do we learn about Martin Luther King and not Billie Jean King or Harvey Milk? It’s not fair. They’re not giving us the education we need. These people did great things. They are right up there on The Famous People List and they should be taught. They did something for our world. They didn’t just bring equality, but something new. They brought me. I don’t have to just be fighting alone. I am fighting with them.
I know I’m not fighting alone and for all of you who are reading this YOU AREN’T EITHER!
You should be learning about gay culture and who you are and we should get the right education. We don’t need to only learn about straight people. We want to learn about us. We want to learn about who we are!
I just want to stress to you how much we need to learn. I feel like we are alienated out, but we’re still part of this world. We aren’t aliens.
– daughter, age 10
In her own words.