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Monday, March 17, 2014

What My Mother Didn't Know

My mother didn't know many of my life struggles. Primarily because most of them were just not talked about, (pregnancy, drugs, bullying) which made me struggle through school and home with no one to talk too and more importantly, trying to become an adult all alone at a very young age. I had a learning disability (ADD) that didn't have a label yet, so I bounced from learning resource room, to room, to room. My peers called me names, tripped me in the hallways, took my books, and cornered me the bathrooms. My self-worth, confidence, and education suffered. Because I never "fit in," with what society called "normal" kids, I sought out the only clique who would accept me - the "those kids." The "those kids" were square pegs that couldn't fit into round holes and had no one else to turn too but ourselves.

I couldn't talk to my parents because I didn't think they would understand and other subjects I needed to talk about where not covered in school and even worse - considered taboo in our house. I was looking for answers to life, approval of myself and someone who would love me. I found it with my new friends who drank alcohol, smoked pot, had sex with each other and skipped school. As a result, I became pregnant twice and had 2 abortions without my parents knowledge, contracted an STI, and advanced from pot to cocaine. I was still lonely, felt unloved, and confused about the meaning of life, friends, love and boys. 
I managed 6 years of college with no degree (I loved college!) and married a man who had one thing in common - drugs. He came from a dysfunctional, drug, abusive family and my co-dependence rose to challenge to "fix him." Please note **You cannot fix people!** After 12 years of marriage, children and a home the evolved with domestic violence, I finally decided it was time to put my foot down and save my children (oh, and myself as well) and rediscover a life without power and control looming over me.

Today I am a single mother of 3 boys and a survivor of domestic violence. I vowed that communication would always be open and honest in my family. There is nothing that my boys can't come and talk to me about and I believe that all all individuals should be able to have an open conversation about anything that is on their mind.

I don't judge. I believe that we are all created equal, and everyone has their own right to act, dress, talk, and live the way they want. We have to start somewhere to stop the bullying, suicide, rape, and domestic violence. My belief is to educate society that
these behaviors are not acceptable nor tolerated. My hope is that this blog will develop safe conversation that will empower a new generation of people who no longer need power and control over others to feel important because they will already know that they matter just the way they are. Yes! You do matter and everything that constructs yourself is unique and special. I want to know more about you, so please comment, feel free to share, and walk with me in developing open and safe conversation.

Let's Talk!

Do you ever have the need to just talk to someone about topics that you consider private, too embarrassed to talk about, or questions that you just can't ask your peers or parents? Well, this is the place where I will attempt to answer those questions and more.

This blog is a very safe place where there will be no judging, no hating, and most of all no bullying. A safe place that you can ask me any question and have no fears.

This blog will also explore how  our lives and society constructs our gender, whether we are at odds or asserting ourselves in life. I will also define the difference between gender and sexual identity. By discovering the difference, You will see how we are all special and unique. "Why I Must Come Out"  No matter how we identify our gender, we are all human. Although some people may dress, act, talk, or display themselves diff
erently from social norms, we all like ice cream, have friends, and played pretend when we were kids (at least I did).

Being inquisitive of each other results in the knowledge that we are not so different after all. Unfortunately, if those who do not conform to society's heternormative definition (white, male, wealthy, mother and father etc.,) experience bullying (which often results in horrific loss of lives - suicide) in the schools, workplace, and everyday life.

If you agree with my goals, then jump on board, talk, and ask any questions that you may have.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

"Hey, I just met you and this is crazy, but I'm Genderqueer so don't call me Lady."

Let's talk about Gender. Gender norms that are instituted by society. Think about when a child is born, the first question is "Is it a boy or a girl?" Depending on the answer, presents arrive either pink, blue, cars, and dolls. This sets a precedent that girls play with dolls and wear pink, and boys play with trucks and play football. Our culture has normalized what gender each child is based on their sex. What happens when a male child decides to wear dresses and high heel shoes and play mommy? Hurtful name calling ensues, the parents confused seek out counseling for the child  and the rest is history as the child struggles with gender identity. In a Sweden preschool, the administration has implemented the de-emphasizing of gender. Swedish School De-emphasizes Gender   Masculine and feminine references are taboo, and often replaced by the pronoun “hen,” an artificial and genderless word.
Why is this important? Individuals who do not fit in society's box of norms struggle to be who they are as society selfishly denies them their rights. We need to be aware and sensitive to the issues these students face. We cannot turn away from these students who are bullied and struggling. Information about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) youth and their struggles, (bullying, suicide) especially in their pre-college years explores the power dynamics inherent in discussing gender.

Jr high and high school are hard enough with peer pressure looming over you, and it becomes even more tragic when name calling, bullying and hazing causes the question of life and being. We have all seen the newspaper articles and news of young adults who commit suicide  Salem Teen Committed Suicide    Gay Oregon Teen, Takes Life. I ask myself, what can I do to stop the bullying, stop the suicides, and have everyone just love everyone the way they are?

I attended a class at Oregon State University that discussed Queer Public Policy; basically what is wrong public policy in society and the norms that are inflicted upon individuals. We are not all square pegs waiting to be placed in square holes. Some are round, triangle, oblonge, etc. I wondered what would happen if the school system began an education program of how do individuals do gender and what is gender? I imagine open discussion between students, and the teachers as facilitators. Parents would be required to attend sessions to explore definitions of gender: transgender, transsexual, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, and gender-variant people.One of my peers from my Queer Public Policy class made a video that illustrates how we are all made differently and yet we all embrace the same need to be loved, cherished, and valued.  Cakes of different colors, sizes and shapes

Schools should create safe places where students can discuss gender norms and how some individuals have moved outside the center in order to be themselves. Not conforming to society's gender norms doesn't make us any less human; it makes that person more of who they are and how they identify with their body.  I encourage you to watch Geena Rocero, a famous model, in her Ted Talk  Geena Rocero: Why I Must Come Out  .  Education encompassing these topics will result in less bullying, less suicide, and an environment of acceptance for who each person is - unique and special. Paulo Freire in his book "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" illustrates how we as humans are curious. It is through this curiosity that we can learn from each other causing a oneness that transcends boundaries set upon us by society. We should all venture outside the center and join those in the margins to learn and understand that we are all human and we all like ice cream. Maybe some like ice cream on sugar cones and others in bowls, but we all like ice cream!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Step Up and Be the Parent!

There all kinds of families, families with several parents, families that are separated, and families that have kids from other families that come and go! There are also young people who have no family. For whatever reason, these young people have no mother, no father, no food, no bed, and no place to call home. They often become prey for pedophiles, pimps, drug pushers, or sex traffickers. To me, this is inexcusable of our society. No matter the sacrifice, Our society is responsible and needs to step up and give them love, a family, and most important, acceptance. No matter the reason why they left, why they are homeless, it is our job to make room for them and love them.
Homeless Teens 

My mother was one of those individuals who always had room for one more at the table, a spare bed, couch, extra clothes, a warm bath and even some guidance if it was needed. We weren't "rich" but we managed to share what we had. I remember one young man who wanted help getting off of drugs and alcohol and she walked with him to the rehab center. I watched as she treated each one as if they were her own child. Sure, I was jealous sometimes, but I knew that she was making a difference in someone's life. It was my job, as a member of our family, to give that person the acceptance and love that they needed. 

According to the National Coalition for the Homeless
  1. There are approximately 1.7 million homeless teens in the U.S.
  2. 39 percent of the homeless population is young people under 18.
  3. About 75 percent of homeless teens use drugs or alcohol as a means to self-medicate to deal with the traumatic experiences and abuse they face.
  4. 5,000 young people die every year because of assault, illness, or suicide while on the street.
  5. A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study found that 46 percent of homeless youth left their home because of physical abuse. 17 percent left because of sexual abuse.
  6. Approximately 40 percent of homeless teens identify as LGBT.
  7. Over 50 percent of young people in shelters and on the streets report that their parents told them to leave or knew they were leaving and didn’t care.
  8. The average age a teen becomes homeless is 14.7 years.
  9. 1 in 7 young people between the ages of 10 and 18 will run away.
  10. Teens age 12 to 17 are more likely to become homeless than adults.
  11. HIV rates for homeless young people are 2 to 10 times higher than reported rates for other samples of adolescents in the U.S.
Positive family dynamics foster social, emotional, and cultural growth in individuals. Having a family to support you, someone you can communicate with, and will always be there for you, can often be the link between life and death. Parents, you need to remember how important it is to remain open and accepting  while providing a stable and structured atmosphere. Children will be more willing to communicated with you, if you are honest and open with them. Homeless youth don't choose to be homeless. They begin to fall through the cracks in school with poor grades, bad choices, and with no guidance, become lost. All children need late night hugs, reassurance that they are loved and treasured, and lots of hugs, lots of love, (I can't stress that enough) and a parent who is involved with them forever and always. 

There are homeless youth everywhere. It isn't somebody else's problem, it is our problem. Take charge and make a difference because every life is precious.

Share your advice, experience, and thought!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not. . .

I remember my first boyfriend, Gary. I was 12 and he was going to be mine forever. I would go home and write my name over and over with his last name, draw a house with a white picket fence with 2 children (boy and girl - of course) playing on the swings and I was busy in the kitchen cooking. What is so wrong with this picture? I was swept up by media's portrayal of how women should dress, how they should act, and that the  man was in charge of the house, finances, and my future. By the time I was 15, Gary was gone and I found another boy to take his place. This time I was "all grown up" (rightttt) and ready to show him how much I loved him by having sex. I gave him all of me physically and mentally. I lived, breathed, ate, and slept with him always
on my mind. I thought that he loved me too because he was always willing to have sex. I wasn't wined and dined, I was a "drive-through date" and had sex in the back seat, in the public bathrooms, or in empty buildings. It wasn't romantic, there was no love-making, it was "slam, bam, thank you Mam." I found out that he had other females so I showed him by having other males. It went from a fantasy of love to revenge and the only thing I caught was an STI. Yuck!!

It never occurred to me that as a female I could demand respect, show my creativity, leadership qualities, and sexuality that was precious and not there to be used for the disposal of others. Music videos show that females can be smacked around, expected to "Shake It" "Twerk it" and perform with multiple partners while always coming back for more.  Lyrics that portray females who "like the way it hurts," "like the way you lie," males demand - "where are you going? I'm leaving you, No you ain't" "Next time I'm pissed, I'll aim my fist, At the dry wall, Next time, There will be no next time," "If she ever tries to fucking leave again, I'mma tie her to the bed, And set the house on fire." Eminem and Rihanna "Love the Way You Lie" . Relationships are transformed from flowers, dinners, and respect to using, and demanding with power and control. Verbal and physical abuse, the "If I can't have her, nobody will" syndrome becomes Domestic Violence. This is just Wrong!

The images encourage society to normalize individual and cultural attitudes about male and female sexuality. Society portrays males as dominate, powerful, and demanding, females as submissive, helpless, and wanting. But I think that young adults can protest media of today by rejecting the influence of music videos, advertisements. Don't get me wrong,, I like a nice beat thumping in  my car just as much as the teen next to me with his 20" woofer. But wouldn't you agree that debunking the myths that boys play with power tools, pound with hammers, and play the role of the leader and that girls cook, have babies, and submit to the man/men is more important? If we don't start now, then these narrow minded myths will continue to form the identities of young men and women's sexuality and gender through a dangerously narrow mind set as is shown in the video by the Ying Yang Twins and Pitt Bull "Shake".

Watch carefully in this clip of "Dreamworlds 3" by Sut Jhally where he asserts just how wrong situations become because media displays these type of normalized roles. Individual females are sexually harassed by groups of men and men suggestively make sexual advances to unwanting females.  "Desire, Sex, and Power in Music Videos

I am leaving all of you with a challenge. Try every day to demand respect of your body, soul, and self-image. Males don't need to have power and control and Females are not submissive, weak, and present in this world to be taken advantage of free of charge. I know I have given you a lot to digest, so take your time. Watch the clips and think to yourself as you walk amongst society "How can I make change?" Then Do It! Be demanding, assertive, and when you find your friends following the myths of society - Debunk Them! There is nothing wrong with questioning your friends when a situation looks wrong, because if it does, it probably IS!

Let me know what you think and how you will make change for the future!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Life is a Roller Coaster! Sit down, buckle up and enjoy the Ride!

You know the sayings: "Life hands you lemons make lemonade," or "Life is too short, eat dessert first." Sometimes life seems so unbearable, hopeless, and confusing that I just want to crawl back in bed, pull the covers over my head and hide. What I didn't realize while I was "drowning" in my big black hole, is that there were people within an arms reach who wanted to help me! Yes, me! I think that God was probably just sitting and patiently waiting and wondering when I would open my eyes! When I did, I saw that the tunnel of darkness had a light at the end. All I had to do was to reach out and put one foot in front of the other. I discovered that my teachers didn't want me fail and my counselor was there for me whenever I needed her. I could drop in and bend her ear a little and she always had a positive word which seemed to brighten my day.

I always had my ups and downs, I still do, but now I know that between my family, my friends, teachers, and counselors, I know that life is not hopeless or dark forever. I just have to remember to ask. Sure, sometimes they will say "no" but more times than not, I usually get a "yes." I always try to "pass it on" with kindness to someone else because karma will come around. (What is Karma? watch this - Karma: Our Bond to Past and PresentThink about how positive this world would be if we all passed out kindness, caring, love, to one another? Positive Karma would fill the world for everyone.

Try to do something nice for someone and see what happens to your Karma.