Telling children the truth

By Andrea Sand, Affirmative Action Chair

After watching the immoral flood the capitol to protest equality, I feel it entirely appropriate to co-opt one of their signs:

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Don’t lie to children.

Really.  DON’T LIE TO CHILDREN.  Stop the hypocrisy now.

If we were truly concerned with children not having two parents of opposing genders, single mothers and single fathers would not be left in charge of their children. If we were truly concerned with the sanctity of marriage, we would not even entertain the idea of divorce being legal.

We are not talking of currency that will lose value from inflation and being over-printed–we are talking about the quality of life for our fellow Americans.

This is to the little girl who testified that same-sex marriage would take one of her parents away:

I’m so, so sorry your parents have brainwashed you. We are not trying to say your family is any less valid because it’s one man, one woman, and one precious little life, and we are not trying to remove any of your parents from your life; what we are asking is that we have the right to form our own families. I hope you never grow up to feel left out, that you never feel alone. I hope your days are long and full of joy; truly, I do. However, there are people out there, men who love men and women who love women, and in between that is a whole broad, beautiful spectrum of adults who love one another. THAT IS THE TRUTH.  All we want is the chance to commit to one another for the rest of their lives in the same manner your parents did.

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The need of the majority to discriminate should not be allowed to trump the rights of the minority who simply want to be given the same chance at having that white picket fence, three car garage, and two and a half kids. There are enough children waiting to find homes, literally starving with the hope that one day, someone or a pair of someones will love them just for existing. These children are tired of looking in through the windows at the happy family sitting down to dinner by the fire; they deserve the right to be welcomed in out of the cold. How dare these falsely pious call themselves followers of God or Christ if they are comfortable allowing innocent children to suffer needlessly because they as adults cannot accept people who are different from them.

Marriage is not just the act of having a ceremony presided over by a holy man, it is the union of two individuals in the eyes of a greater, more earthly power: a court of law. We do not live by the holy code of Leviticus, and we do not live under Sharia law. We live under the Constitution and Bill of Rights. We live under the Declaration o f Independence, independent of religious law and in  the good graces of secularism. Nobody is going to force any religious institution to do something that violates their beliefs; just as no religion should be allowed to violate the rights of a person not of their belief. You can keep us away from the altar of the falsely pious, but you cannot keep us away from the altar of love.

We have come so far in nearly 400 years, and yet we seem to still be right where we were when we came here. Howdare we call ourselves a civilized nation when we treat our own so barbarically. How dare we.

 

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TAKE ACTION TODAY!  Tell your legislators, your governor, and everyone in your community that the time for marriage equality is NOW!

 Do it for the children!

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A New Year’s resolution to protect ALL children

By Andrea Persephone Sand
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After the Sandy Hook tragedy, the NRA proposed armed guards and teachers in the school to prevent violence.  Really?  America would consider this, but we wouldn’t even entertain the thought of an inclusive bullying-protection policy?

We are more comfortable turning our schools in to something more akin to legitimate prisons where students are going to see guns and people looking at them suspiciously on a daily basis than we are with all students being protected from harassment and assault at the hands of their peers and authority figures?

Protecting children means creating a culture of tolerance, understanding and compassion, not arming everyone to the teeth.  In 2013, let’s resolve to do just that.

To adapt a phrase from the great leader for peace, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King: a threat to children anywhere is a threat to children everywhere.

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I wrote in late October that the East Aurora school board were cowardly and flopping about back and forth on the issue of protection for all of its queer students, not just the LG ones. A policy that was supposed to protect the safety of gender outlaw kids was vigorously opposed by the Illinois Family Institute, an organization deemed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center–and the bigots won.

The East Aurora School Board formed a committee to better assess the situation and try to find a good solution–but in the face of constant harassment from the IFI, it has now been dissolved.

I attended a Catholic high school. I have read the Old Testament and New Testament, and studied it in depth. Jesus never spoke out against the queer community, but had plenty of things to say about hypocrites and the falsely pious. In his own words, “What you do unto the least of my brothers, you do unto me.”

According to the Transgender Discrimination Survey by The Taskforce, in the K-12 setting alone, 78% of students who expressed a “transgender identity or gender non-conformity” were harassed, 35% were physically assaulted, and 12% were victims of sexual violence. This harassment and these assaults come not only from our peers, but from our teachers and principals. Six percent are expelled just for being themselves, or 1:17. Harassment is so awful that 15% will drop out, or about a sixth. Suicide attempt rates are nauseatingly high, somewhere around 1:2 or 1:3.

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There are, quite literally, children’s lives on the line with this debate–and these children can be saved not with a weapon of violence (like the Bushmaster .223 rifle that Adam Lanza used to murder 26 people), but with words of peace and inclusion.

Words like these:

It is the District’s goal to ensure the safety, comfort, and healthy development of the transgender or gender nonconforming student while maximizing the student’s social integration and minimizing stigmatization of the student.

The above is what the Illinois Family Institute objected to.

Someone’s little girl has to go to school every day and use the wrong everything and hear all sorts of awful names thrown at her by her peers and potentially her teachers. She has to face the risk of her teachers and authority figures turning blind eyes to her suffering. She has to face the risk of growing up to be a drug dealer or prostitute (16%) to make ends meet, and she faces the risk of she herself being a drinker or drug user to cope with the harassment (32%). Someone’s little girl isn’t getting the same opportunity as everyone else’s little girl.

There are other gender non-conformists in the school district, but I remember when this all started over a little girl wanting some pee-ce.  She is the visible, un-seen face of the gender outlaws of East Aurora. Her plight, and her victory, will bring attention and a much larger victory to all her classmates just like her. It will be a hopeful, reassuring whisper of “You will overcome this” that has been long over-due and been much needed.

Please sign and pass on this Change.org petition asking the board to reinstate its commitment to protecting ALL children:

http://www.change.org/petitions/east-aurora-school-district-131-stop-district-131-from-reversing-their-new-transgender-policy

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And please contact East Aurora School Board (boardofeducation@d131.org) members:

Ignacio Cervantes: icervantes@d131.org

Mary Anne Turza:  turza.mary@sbcglobal.net

Raymond Hull: raymondhull@comcast.net

Annette Johnson (President): ajohnson@ciprianispasta.com

Richard Leonard: rleonard@d131.org

Stella Gonzalez (Vice-President) slg081404@sbcglobal.net

Anita Lewis (Secretary) alewis4244@msn.com

What a “family man” looks like

Cross-posted at Shannon’s blog  The Radical Housewife.

 

Dear New York Times,

I would like to introduce you to a family man who loves football.  His name is Matt, and he is my husband and my kids’ father.

 

New York Times, I know that you will hide behind the fact that your source, Ruben Marshall, is the one who called a man who just committed a domestic homicide  “a good man. A good, loving father, a family man.”  You will say that you are merely repeating the, er,  “facts” of the case.

Hmm.

Let’s take a moment and look at the adorable little girl in this photograph, my daughter.  Isn’t she cute?

Back to you, New York Times.  If we move forward with the idea that you presenting the story of a murder-suicide in all its complexity, then why didn’t you interview Becky Gonzalez?  You could have asked what she thought about the man who killed her daughter, Kasandra Perkins.  Though Jovan Belcher was the father of Gonzalez’s three-month-old granddaughter, Zoey, I HIGHLY DOUBT she would call Belcher a family man.  She might call him a sick fuck. A perpetrator of domestic violence and terror.  A murderer.

But you didn’t ask her, did you?

I quote my friend, the fab freelance feminist Erin Matson“Imagine your sister, mom or friend being murdered by her boyfriend with their child in the next room and the newspaper story ending by calling him ‘a family man.'”

Once again, New York Times, I must ask that you look into the eyes of my cute daughter.  Perhaps your perception of any act of violence against her would be colored (pun very much intended) by the fact that she is very young, very blue-eyed blonde, and very much a football fan, not a football girlfriend.

Football girlfriends must subsume their cuteness and vulnerability to the service of their lovers.  Football players are HEROES, amirite?  Which is part of why you used heroic apologetics to describe the football player’s sudden and shocking death as if it were a bizarrely random tragedy, rather than what it really was: part and parcel of the seemingly intractable culture of violence that happens every day, to daughters, mothers and wives from all walks of life.

New York Times, you know that journalism does not occur in a vacuum.  Each writer and editor brings his (YES, HIS) perspective to his writing.  When you trot out “family man” tropes like these about men like Jovan Belcher, you trivialize the seriousness of domestic violence–and worst of all, you erase the stories and voices of women like Kasandra Perkins.  You contribute to the problem.

As a small act of repentance for your part in this culture of silence, I suggest you interview Perkins’ family and friends for their perspectives, then gather your editorial board to issue a strong statement in support of reauthorizing the 1994 Violence Against Women Act. VAWA has stalled in Congress due to political dithering that reflects the cultural myth that domestic violence is something weird, something “other,” something not worthy of our Congress’s time and energy, when the truth is that domestic violence impacts 24 people in the United States every minute. 

And if you need a family man to profile for an upcoming issue of the Sunday magazine, my husband’s schedule is WIDE OPEN.

xoxo,

The Radical Housewife

 

 

Including, supporting, and protecting transgender youth

By Andrea Persephone Sand, Minnesota NOW Affirmative Action Chair

I am a gender-breaking individual, and I feel this is the one time I can speak for my community of all gender-varying peoples without excusing myself for doing so.

Stop abandoning us and leaving us behind. We need protection, and nothing is more irritating or blood-boiling than those who falsely claim to be for “full LGBT rights” yet really mean “just LG rights”. This is where I stop speaking for anyone other than myself, because I am not a voice for the masses unless they say I am. I am only a voice for myself and those who stand behind me. I don’t know who they are, and I claim no following.

That out of the way, I’d like to focus for a moment on one of our most at-risk populations: students. This is to the Aurora County School Board in Illinois first and foremost due to their fish-out-of-water stance on trans- protection: Stop flip-flopping and get back in the right pond and protect students who often cannot protect themselves. Numbers have floated around varying that anywhere between 40 to over 50% of transgender youth attempting suicide before age 20. It is not unheard of for those as young as 7 to make an attempt on their own lives to escape a world that refuses to see them as they are. Worse, there is a total global population suicide rate of 31% to 50% (depending who in the community you speak to, and which surveys you use). These numbers don’t come from nowhere. Nobody has ever woken up one day and said to themselves ‘man I’m bored, let’s try suicide!’. Nobody wants to die, it is hard-wired in to us. When one runs out of coping mechanisms, when they no longer know how to deal with the pain they are facing, it is only then that suicide is the next step. What sickens me to my core is that we allow people to walk that plank by our own cruelty and indifference.

By flip-flopping on issues, by being lazy and half-assed on a stance, we are allowing children to come to harm for no other reason than they dare to be themselves. We all must stand up and say ‘enough is enough and too much is too much,” we must draw a line and say ‘this far, no further.” We seem too content to allow groups that we are not a part of to be pushed to the side, marginalized, and walked upon with cruel disregard to their lives. Worse, this ass-backwards sense of communal isolationism means that groups for whom few stand and fight for are allowed to be persecuted and taunted, humiliated and shamed with almost no rebuttal or swift retribution.

The moment a self-proclaimed ‘loving, tolerant’ monotheist group screams that their rights are being infringed upon, we feel obligated to back down even if it means allowing hate and bigotry to continue to thrive. I am a Religious Humanist and I acknowledge that religion is an intricate part of humanity; it has been since we habitated caves. We cannot deny the aspect of us that yearns to believe in something higher than us tending to the light at the end of the tunnel, but maybe, like Dr. Thompson once said, that was the folly of the acid junkies of the 70’s. At no time should someone’s personal religious views or narrow-minded ideologies be allowed to infringe upon the happiness and lives of another group.

I know it may sound hypocritical to those who don’t understand things like ‘compassion’ and ‘consent,’ but when I speak out against those speaking out against us, I am not trying to silence them. Simply I am saying keep your hateful views, but keep them privately behind closed doors where you say our lives belong. Happiness is also an intricate, intrinsic part of humanity and the human condition and should never, under any circumstances, be abridged for anyone.

(Though I understand where people like that come from. Before I accepted myself, before I fully embraced who I am, while I still ran from the truths I had been taught were undesirable, I too was a hateful bastard. I hated seeing people happy doing what I only wished I could do.)

This bullying comes from us and passed on to the next generation. When we say faggot to each other in public, that’s where kids learn it. They see us hurl it as an insult, they hear us say “that’s so gay” in scorn at a situation we don’t like and correlate “gay” with “undesirable.” When it’s children against children it’s called bullying, when adults do it to each other it’s business as usual. We ourselves are passing on the demons that haunt us to the next generation. 

So to East Aurora School District 131, and by extension the Anoka-Hennepin school district for letting a member of a hate group help (though I think ‘hinder’ is more apt) with an anti-bullying task force: grow a spine and be that voice screaming ‘enough!’  Be the people who knew what was the humane thing to do and draw that line for us. You have powers I only wish I had–in your hands is the ability to safeguard all of your students and give them the chance to thrive. Instead of making school in to more of a brutal prison, restore it to being a place of education and acceptance.

I am sick of those who say they are for us and then actively work against us. Put your heels in the dirt and push back! Our children are the ones suffering!

RESOURCES:

Trans Youth Support Network (based in Minneapolis!)

Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund

National Center for Transgender Equality