In the past year, I have attended symposiums and webinars addressing the dangers of social media. I am also aware of the nuance of continuing to fight for girls’ rights and how we turn a blind eye to boys. Both camps of gender are at risk for different reasons. These reasons have to do with societal pressures to conform to gender rules. In fact, we know without even having to look for this information that boys are discouraged from expressing emotions while girls are told to be “nice.” Despite these differences, the gaming industry calls for vigilance.
Gaming is a risky business, and according to The Spokesman-Review, a 21-year-old Washington man received a 15-year sentence in federal prison after pleading guilty to child sexual abuse material he sought from exploiting two boys ages nine and eleven. The children’s mother alerted federal authorities.
A few weeks ago, I interviewed an adolescent gamer whose parent’s granted me permission to sit down with him to ask about his experience playing online gaming for a class I teach. He was very gracious and eager to talk with me because I mentioned to him a while back that I thought it would be cool to interview him about the dangers of gaming.
He had to stand to talk to me since he needed to move around and not feel confined to a chair. I think it is essential when we interview kids or adults who deviate from traditional interviewing styles to respect their needs. I was thankful that I had the space so he could move about freely to tell me his story. We had some laughs between this moment of me recording him amidst dogs barking, humans calling out, and a distant cawing sound.
He told me that he reports incidences as instructed on Fortnite’s website, but he cautioned me that it takes Fortnite 48 hours to respond. He said this was a bit of a problem, leading him to block anyone who is inappropriate with him or bullies him. I immediately had to check out what protocol Fortnite practices. Their website does have a category for community rules.
I spoke with the parents about what he shared with me. His parents informed me that he plays in the living room in their presence, and when he wears his headset, it is plugged into the controller and plays through the television speakers so that it is audible throughout the living room, and they can hear what is said. I asked them what they recommended parents could do. They emphasized always keeping an eye on your child. Do not allow your child to wear a headset when playing this game unless you are tech-savvy and know how to plug into the controller, so the dialogue plays through speakers. They also said that on PlayStation, you could set time limits. His parents told me he is swift to report and block “offenders.” They did confirm that once a gamer plays Fortnite, the rules are clear and stipulate to report any bullying or inappropriate behavior.
Okay. Well, the 48-hour range is troubling.
Fortnite has a platform referred to as Playground. Reading this section will probably bring back, for those of us who are way older than the hills, memories; some good and others not so good. The years of playing at playgrounds were fun; these were in real-time, unlike gaming playgrounds, but could also be terrifying for those of us who endured bullying by the meanest brutes in the area. Unlike gamers, we had no way to block the meanies in the neighborhood. Instead, the lessons with which our parents armed us were rolled into one sentence, “Walk away when you see them.” We had to learn shortcuts to our streets to get home via back alleys, and thinking back to those years, some of these shortcuts weren’t the safest routes.
Bullying has been “a thing” for years, and as kids, we formed friendships with others equipping us to stand up to the bullies. Power isn’t always in the numbers but in the supportive efforts kids show one another, even if only in twos. It is this message we could teach gamers. When you see someone bullied, please stand up for them.
This adolescent gamer said the same thing. Please stand up for one another, but sometimes the gangs have already formed a league of their own, and he said there is no standing up to them. He told me kids could report issues like cyberbullying to the game moderator. He hopes to be a game moderator someday, as he is for the game Roblox.
Our moderators, for those of us dinosaurs, happened to be our parents, neighbors, or friend’s parent. Usually, our moderators had the same mundane responses. “Walk away.”
Child safety experts at The National Center for Missing Children (NCMEC) provide a free online safety presentation, NetSmartz, that parents, educators, or anyone interested in using NetSmartz may use for presentations.
NCMEC also has a section titled, KidSmartz, which educates families about preventative measures to reduce the chances of abduction, and kids, K-5 can receive lessons at home. This whole notion of Stranger Danger is misleading according to NCMEC because most reports of kidnapping, solicitation, and assault, occur because the child or youth is familiar with the person. So, what does this have to do with gaming? Well, first of all, let’s face it, friends isn’t a word that refers to a camaraderie earned through building trust or in person. Hinging on your age group, today’s interpretation of “friendship” is based on how many “likes” someone gains, and anyone can be your “friend” without ever meeting the person or knowing anything about them. Offenders groom kids and adolescents, which can take place over months via social media and gaming.
Arming children early on is similar to teaching our children what to do when they smell fire. It is essential to differentiate between reporting and tattle. I remember the days when teachers would tell us to stop ratting out students. These teachers did not want to hear about the student who, on the surface, seemed like a good kid but was slicker than sly. Many of us ended up having to do battle on our own.
Parents pay attention here because while kids talk away about an upsetting experience, you may be caught up in your day-to-day stuff. Stop and listen.
NCMEC offers helpful tips, one of which is setting up a safety plan for kids. Walk the paths your kids walk daily and look around to areas where your kids can quickly go for help.
The adolescent’s feedback was eye-opening. He informed me that he has endured gamers telling him to kill himself and that he is fat and ugly. One gamer asked him his age and if he was a girl. The offender told the gamer he sounded like a girl. The adolescent played along. The offender built him a house and a bedroom. He instructed him to get on top of the bed, to which the gamer responded, “I said, ‘Heck, no!’ and I blocked him!” He also reported him, so he never knew the outcome because once anyone blocks offenders, they do not know what happens after that.
What if curiosity took over and this adolescent gamer continued to follow the offender’s instructions? Where would this have led him?
The adolescent gamer said he has friends who will share their faces on facetime when they play using their phones and that Fortnite is one of the games that can track an IP Address.
Now back to the parents of the adolescent. They did not know whom to report incidences outside of Fortnite and felt comfortable relying on Fortnite’s reporting structure. They are not the only ones, so this was troubling but easily circumvented since I could provide them with some of the links I have included. Here is a link to everything parents need to know about Fortnite.
Every school district, public and private schools, could use continual training on trauma-informed care, not just for gun violence and deadly school shootings but also for the reasons described throughout this essay. What are school systems doing to address these areas directly involving adoptees and foster children?
What about adoption agencies turning a blind eye when red flags are noted, potentially engaging in what may be perceived as child trafficking or adoptions rushed to meet adoptive parents’ requests?
Organizations become complacent when these values are overdriven and misguided by competitive practices. Opportunities are missed when assuming that addressing the un-populace would mean a loss of funding.
Years ago, I sat and spoke with one of the EDs in a nonprofit organization who lost sight of why they did their work. It all filtered back into the fear of losing funding. This fear is real, but at what point do we step away to serve as leaders setting examples for others to follow?
Complacency is one of those descriptive words that pull forth comfort, satisfaction, and feelings of familiarity – trusting the good, the bad, and the ugly because it is predictable. However, it is also a state of mind that disconnects from the rest of the world. Complacency takes care of the “ego” and “self” and is familiar with the “issues” but ignores what falls outside of this perimeter, dismissing what others face because of harboring a false sense of security that settles into permanence, ignoring the social issues fought and overcame. It also means that complacent people could potentially miss the danger that harms them and others. Read more about the definition of complacency.
Complacency discards any nuance that might get in the way of feeling comfortable, satisfied, and safe. The minute classism infiltrates these boundaries, marginalized communities face obstacles that the privileged do not. Complacent communities may have fought for rights but disregarded equality because they reconstructed their narratives and are tired. They are tired of the so-called allies who were nothing but pomp and circumstance, capitalizing on their rights to seek a right to passage, rights to healthcare, housing, adoption, education, workforce, and a place to belong. Unfortunately, their tiredness stops short of helping others attain equal rights. Not all alleys are pomp and circumstance. Many have helped us get where we are today. However, in the adoption industry, might there be a concern for pomp and circumstance? Who benefits from transactions between buyer and seller? Have some adoptees been fortunate and ended up with wonderful adoptive parents? Of course. There are those stories as well. However, why are adoptions ranging in costs from $70,000 to $150,000?
Embracing diversity and addressing transracial issues, including disability, sexual violence, incest, and trauma, are necessary discussions since infants grow up, form identities, and eventually attend school. How are adoptees and foster children treated in school systems? Several adoptees will attest that they came from trauma. Some experienced trauma due to separation at birth or negative statements about the birth parent, rejection, secrecy, alcoholism, and drug use in the family.
Stories about kidnapping and transnational adoption involve parents coerced into giving up their infant and finding out later in life that their child was rehomed. They never were contacted to be given the option to reunite with their birth child.
United Nations’ definition of human trafficking balances the following words: Prevent, Suppress, and Punish, Trafficking in Persons. Adoptions without the biological parent’s consent have been a global problem. Also, a problem in the US. Human Trafficking Adoption Scheme
Another area of adoption practice that needs ethical reconsideration is placing a child with adoptive parents prior to all birth parents’ full consent. Here is an article whose authors, Daniel Pollack and Steven M. Baranowski, discuss this issue. Ethical Challenges Remain in the World of Private Adoptions
Rehoming is a buzzword for trafficking. Stories of adopted parents using social media to advertise rehoming a child using grooming language, such as describing the child as “Willing to wash dishes,” “Enjoys housework,” and “Loves to garden,” need to be investigated. How do we get the attention of Homeland Security or Internet Crimes Against Children to recognize that these types of advertisements place a child at risk? One advertisement read the State pays $2,000 a day.
Unfortunately, no one wants to address the elephant in the room because of the political issues. Such as the organization risking the loss of votes, rights, funding, or reputation when taking a position. What about companies taking a stand against human rights violations? Ten brand campaigns that took a stand on social issues
Is there any reason why adoption agencies should not take an oath against human trafficking?
Is it time to regulate private adoption agencies and stipulate the need to score agencies for performance and committing to take a stand against human trafficking?
An estimated 24.9 million people worldwide are victims of forced labor, generating $150 billion in illegal profits in the private economy.
So, how do we talk about the elephant in the room?
State why you are exposing the elephant in favorable terms. “I am concerned …” statement. When the ostrich sticks its head in the sand, it does not see any more than we would if we ignored these uncomfortable discussions. The conversation is predictable when people turn a blind eye or when the elephant stays hidden. Predictable because the message is “Turn off this conversation!” Instead, try forming committees of interest whose members can work together to address changes and challenges. Invite people with experience in these subjects, and even more importantly, either serve as experts or have lived experiences.
Lift the veil and put complacency into action. Take the leap of faith. Embrace differences no one else wants to address.
“There is a lot of brokenness in the Gay community” once said a friend of mine during a conversation we were having on his porch about what life is like inside our borders. Eventually, I would have to agree with him.
There are many individuals who, as children, did not have their emotional process affirmed or accepted, because of parents and caregivers being dismissive of their gender identity/expression or fluidity during their growth and development; a painful journey for many and certainly one, in which anyone who has gone through it in their childhood, leaves residual, emotional scars.
Brokenness within our borders is with the use of drugs and alcohol; measures to self-medicate are not all that unusual. Brokenness witnessed among those who are religious addicts have swapped out chemicals for religion. Then there are those who are unable to stop the G-d talk or giving lectures to the point of saturating and driving everyone away; compromising friendships.
Another friend once said “We have allies who try to convince us that they are our best friends and have our best interests at heart. Don’t believe all of them.” She was referring to outside of our borders and in particular, referencing straights who claim to be allies, because they happened to like gays. What does it take to be an ally for any cause? Isn’t it good enough to like gays?
Good ally-ship requires training and education on the culture the ally supports. Allies, who don’t seek proper training and education, fail to understand the dynamics and the history of how critical issues played a force in the human rights movement. They don’t know how to hold a conversation so in seeking information, it is equally important to speak with individuals who can translate the language of the gay culture. Speaking on issues which affect the rights of a human population requires having the conversations, being able to participate in dialogue and agreeing to remove all caution and stop signs and signals to keep the discussion flowing and moving forward. Once censoring is employed traffic jams occur and the conversation ends; imploding the process. We welcome schooled allies, but we run from those when we see the damage that done because they failed to understand their position on issues affecting the oppressed group.
“Straights who think they can speak for the LGBT and who claim they give LGBT a voice is somewhat insulting,” said another friend of mine. “We have a voice. They don’t want to hear what we have to say. Big difference!” We hear the expression of Giving Voice, a lot.
Do people realize how this is perceived by those never heard? That it is because they either are not invited to the table or are overshadowed by the greater force? Do people realize that when they speak out on behalf of the marginalized group that this is still not giving the individuals of the oppressed group an opportunity to be heard? Do they not realize that the more they speak out, swapping places and swapping expressions, which originated with the oppressed group, are partaking in silencing the very group to whom they should be giving the stage?
Another friend of mine said this “They don’t respect us; if they did, then they would ask for our insights and knowledge on the subject.” We see LGBT human rights groups send in straights to serve as leaders and role models for LGBT organized action as if the LGBT movement for decades has never had any experts in this realm.
LGBT see B.S. a mile away. We recognize mixed messages in a heartbeat. We see patronizing behavior coming before the person finishes delivering. This behavior stems from years of marginalization, having to identify sublimable behaviors and messages. When we witness this within organized groups for action, we see the writing on the wall.
My accounting, living as a gender fluid queer, has been agonizingly difficult – while at other times – liberating when I surround myself with other queers who understand the language and the power in words to help raise awareness of a subculture within a culture. When we are prevented or reminded of who we are through messages from well-meaning straights that sound something along these lines, “Why do you have to talk the gay stuff all the time?”; we realize we don’t have the same rights to joke or have access to conversations unless they are heteronormative. These conversations are a one-way street. The traffic only flows in one direction. To cross over into other lanes of identities and discussions becomes a hazardous endeavor.
I talk, walk, live and breath as the person I am, but only if I am with gays. This privilege is not extended to me once I cross into the hetero world of those who practice living heteronormative lives as cisgenders in a binary world. I have watched the gay community agree to the limit setting imposed on them by cisgenders.
Even in our gay community, we have people who don’t want to move away from heteronormative roles. It is perplexing to me how someone can be gay and be so closed off to the rest of the gay culture. These individuals are equally as guilty as those who refuse to listen and learn about the gay cultural movement.
My friend was correct. We are a broken community inside our borders, but we are also witnessing the brokenness outside of our borders from the cisgender allies who insert themselves, uninvited. They challenge our gender non-conforming behaviors, swapping the language and describing those who are gender benders and non-conformists as aggressive and angry, while they would herald these qualities in cisgender men, challenge these qualities in women and the LGBT.
Privilege is a lovely thing to have, but only when you recognize it and appreciate having it. It is an ugly thing when it becomes a power struggle, leads to entitlement and superiority.
If we could stand up for each other, be kinder and forget what it will do for our popularity, we would get somewhere to civil, and the world might be a better place for all of us. It must start with language and not just a few words as this would abandon the rest of the gay culture. A lesson which could easily apply to any oppressed group.
Bring out the dictionary and let the lesson begin with words.
For more information on good ally-ship, please select the link below.
It is time to recognize another part of history, June as National Pride Month
Indian-born Canadian Rupi Kaur quote, “How you love yourself is how you teach others to love you.” Many of us can relate to this quote and especially in the upcoming month of June. The decision of the Saint John’s County Board of Commissioners to decline to recognize June as Pride month is a massive disappointment to many of us in the community.
There are many reasons individuals visit or relocate to Saint Augustine. Some of these reasons are not just because of the beach. Ponte Vedra, Neptune, Jacksonville, and Atlantic Beach exist among many of the other beautiful coastal beaches that run North in one direction and South in the other along A1A. Most people would agree they experience a shift in their metabolism as they draw nearer to the coastal line.
We live such busy and hurried lives that we avoid connecting most of the time, and we forget how to connect when we have the time. Saint Augustine is about connecting people to its’ city’s rich history, dating back 800 years or so ago. The city holds series of special events that locals, visitors, and tourists look forward to attending.
Saint John’s County Board of Commissioners has taken a pledge to keep the city’s history alive, interactive, and engaging. In their own words, “to provide memorable experiences for visitors, foster international economic development, and enrich the quality of life in our community.” Proceeds from the festivals and events go to charitable organizations; one of these is Flagler College’s Hospitality and Tourism Management Program.
Michael Gonchara, deputy editor and journalist for the New York Times Learning Network in a 2018 article, invited students to participate in a contest linking a topic they learned in class to a current news event. Gonchar wrote about the influential role connecting to history has in bringing current events into the classroom. In much of the same way, Saint Augustine connects people to its’ history.
It is difficult for anyone to appreciate or understand why we recognize Black Lives Matter or Constitution Day and Citizenship Day without learning about the history that led up to these events. Gonchar supports the study of history. He writes that it promotes critical thinking and connects people to share about their culture with others. He refers to this as a shared cultural literacy.
June is National Pride month, an essential part of Gay history and culture. What does this have to do with St. John’s county history? Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Ally, and others (LGBTQIA+) from this community didn’t just come about recently. We have been around for centuries. Learning about National Pride month connects us to the narratives of others, the history and issues affecting people today, and most importantly, sends a strong positive message showing support to the children, youth, families, and friends of the LGBTQIA+ community who live in and visit Saint Augustine.
Family and community acceptance builds healthy children, and families feel supported; ambivalent inter-generational biases burden children and youth. Worse yet, the inter-generational biases keep feeding the pipeline of negative messages and only amplify history repeating itself. It is time to revisit another part of history, recognizing June as Pride month.
Last year the HRO passed LGBT rights in Jacksonville. Last month I was invited to the Women’s Center’s Open Door celebration and given a personal tour of the facilities by one of the board members, who pointed out to me that they were supportive and all-inclusive of both LGBTQIA men and women despite the gendered bathrooms. She showed me two identical single-stall restrooms. One was for men, and the other was for women. To meet the city’s code, the single-stall New Human Rights Ordinance bathrooms could not be gender-neutral. It seemed odd given the fact that the HRO had passed. I took note to think about this at a later time. This afternoon, I went and reviewed the ordinances online which, by the way, was an incredibly tedious process. It seems some businesses including one I visited in downtown Jacksonville, Chamblin Bookmine, have gender-neutral single stall bathrooms. I decided to search the web instead. I came across this article.
“The law does not have any new requirements regarding bathroom usage.”
“Earlier this month, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration released a set of guidelines regarding bathroom access for transgender workers. The guidelines recommend providing better access to options for transgender individuals with gender-neutral facilities.”
I’m not sure why the Women’s Center could not have single stall restrooms, but maybe this is one of those situations where the inspector was misinformed? I don’t know, but it all seems ridiculous to me. Can you imagine if we were required to have gendered single stall bathrooms at home? What about the campgrounds or art’s market? We seem to accept these gender-neutral bathrooms just fine, but we can’t or won’t allow the ones inside a building.
When we look at what other cities report throughout the U.S.A., we will see a disparity with data for LGBT murders – if it is disclosed at all.
LGBT people are often targets of organized abuse from religious extremists, paramilitary groups, neo-Nazis, extreme nationalists, and others, as well as family and community violence, with lesbians and transgender women at particular risk (United Nations, 2011, December 15).
The United Nations first began collecting data – Worldwide – on trans and homicides in 2011. The United Nations gets involved when death rates of a class and subclass of people meet the definition of genocide.
In 2013, the FBI began recording hate crimes motivated by gender and gender identification biases — such as attacks on transgender people. Crimes motivated by gender identification rose from 31 in 2013 to 114 in 2015, according to FBI reports (CNN.com, 2017, January 12).
Genocide: the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation.New Oxford American Dictionary.
“the discrepancies of de jure versus de facto practices underline the need for systematic training, especially of police, correctional personnel, teachers, healthcare workers, and the judiciary, to understand the rights and the situation of transgender people.” transrespect-transphobia.org
So far, we have a current count of 27 trans females of color reported murdered in 2016. This number does not account for all the other transcides. We have barriers that skew the data. (1) The media misgendering trans-identified victims (2) Misgendering by police in homicide, coroners , and health care professionals when names on the birth certificates and or driver’s licenses do not match the outer appearances of the victim (3) Family request that the person is not identified by their preferred identity.” Dani Castro, M.A., M.F.T., Project Director, Center of Excellence for Transgender Health, UCSF.
The way we use language matters a great deal when discussing the transgender and gender variant population. More importantly, the LGBT community does not exist on the JSO site, while many classes do, these demographics do not include same-sex households or LGBT standing in socioeconomics.
In a 2013 report, put out by the National Coalition of Anti Violence Programs, 72% of homicide victims in LGBT related hate crimes were transgender women of color. This risk increases with intersectionalities; race, religion, and gender. People of color, especially those, who are trans female, run the highest risk for homicide.
Remarks made by some allies that we do not include the LGBT population because they do not fall under the umbrella for hate crimes is misleading. Since when does a demographic, such as some single households, need the subordinate class to qualify for protection against hate crimes before including this class in demographics?
The focus of courts remains on isolating individual racists, determining their racist intent and punishing them, while disregarding mani-festations of systemic racial subordination such as substandard housing, education, and employment and the widespread incarceration of people of color. Chicano – Latino Law Review page 46 Volume 21:38
Dean Spade points out that Mathew Shepherd’s murder in Wyoming drew media and national attention “while historical specificities of geography, nationality, race and class were obscured.” Chicano – Latino Law Review page 48 Volume 21:38
Spade reminds us that months before Shepard’s murder, a black trans woman who was murdered in Baltimore never “garnered” the attention of media or nationally. Spade writes “The newsworthiness of “Matthew Shepherd” is testament to value placed on white life-even gay white life-and the disposability of people of color in the United States.” Chicano – Latino Law Review page 49 Volume 21:38
One of the reasons some of us have struggled with the ally campaigns is because as a class we are left in the shadows and listen to the erasure and silencing of the subordinate class censored when seeking protection. The reasons range from Not looking presentable and convincingly enough to pass as male or female. Insisting on forcing the binary presentations as a standing rule. Those in privileged classes are more likely to persuade the political agendas of those who serve our communities. The disparities affecting the intersectionalities of the LGBT class won’t disappear when institutions fail to discuss the issues within their own contexts.
In “A Critique of ‘Our Constitution is Color-Blind’ Neil Gotanda” Spade includes much of Gotanda’s writings. When women do not have access to birth control or abortion, their autonomy is erased, especially when they are women of color. The systemic regulations of gender, race, and sexuality determine social constructs and protections of various classes.
We are dealing with differences in classism. Historically we have failed to see it unfold when we have privilege as white people, but even more so, we fail to recognize this privilege as cisgender heterosexual or gay and lesbian people.
Classism determines who gets to use the bathroom.
The bathroom is a huge issue for anyone who perceives transgender people as threats.
We must change the way society immediately wants to “fix” what they perceive as a “problem” by voting against our better interests.
We are not looking for a fix. We are looking for protection. Worldwide, the trans community is most at risk for homicides and in particularly with trans females of color. What does this mean for the way society views male roles? Does society punish those who are fluid in their maleness? Do we punish the male child for being effeminate? Do we blame the parent? What do we do with blame? Where do we put the blame? Do we displace the blame back on society? Can we say that classism is at the root of these issues? What about Colonialism? Before Colonialism, indigenous groups expressed and lived with gender fluid identities in peace and harmony.
We saw we heard, we felt every word cast against us in the form of accusations at the 2012 hearings on the HRO. Pedophilia …, bestiality …
The bathroom issue has included these horrific accusations and has caused harm to people. Our fate hinges on writing public policy to include language critical to human rights, or we give up our rights to gender identity, expression, and sexual orientation. We need to stand by and address hate spewed speeches and practices or they go unfettered: and call for consequences. But, even if these rights go into law, we still have much work ahead. We will continue to receive incoming reports on trans suicides and homicides.
We heard from the Florida Family Policy Council at the hearings during the 2012 HRO.
They are against the Florida Competitive Workforce Act which would offer protections.
We must stand in solidarity and continue to educate on cultural competency and talk openly about classism and colonialism. We look at efforts put forth by others as an improvement, which can give us a false sense of security, such as, failing to recognize pinkwashing at the cost of our community. Where were these entities yesterday when we needed them? As soon as there is an opportunity to make money, there is an opportunity to get in on the action. Is it then really about our rights? Politicians and anyone with business acumen would be hard pressed to pass up bills that could potentially increase profits; hinging on through whose lens we are looking. Some would say that it is a start in the direction towards inclusivity. How inclusive is it when some of these not-for-profit organizations taut they care about LGBT people fail to put into practice what they preach?
In Jacksonville, FL downtown’s First Baptist church has influenced many of its congregants, some of whom were city council members during the 2012 Human Rights Ordinance and who flat-out voted against it. Who benefits from the economic decisions that support conservative climates vs. liberal climates? We continue to fight for rights despite the victory in 2017. We fight over if we get rights then others will lose rights in agreeing to our freedoms. Activists uncover truths, take incredible risks and sometimes at the cost of incarceration or deportation. The list of fighting for rights is endless. We are paving the way for the future to improve the lives of all generations and some of us have a different sense of how this landscape looks. The fight for fairness will always be lifelong for many people while opportunistic for others.
‘Society’ in the New Oxford dictionary lists people living in a particular country or region and having shared customs, laws, and organizations. We have biblical interpretations manipulated by those to suit their biases – stigmatizing populations. Stigma drives fear. Fear drives people to behave in irrational ways, sometimes fully supported by mainstream society or those serving in civic and corporate leadership positions, who have very little understanding outside of their own biased narratives. The passing of laws to protect LGBT people hinges on enforcing them. We know that in some parts of the country psychologists continue treatment modalities to reverse a child’s “sexual orientation” or “gender identity/expression” known as Reparative Therapy. We now know that Reparative Therapy is damaging to the psyche of people: hard to argue the statistics that include reports of suicide. California was the first State to outlaw Reparative Therapy. According to HRC, “California, New Jersey, Oregon, and the District of Columbia have passed laws to prevent licensed providers from offering conversion therapy to minors, and at least 18 states have introduced similar legislation” (http://www.equalityfederation.org/2016/02/3506/).
CNN.com (2015) published an op-ed piece titled The fascinating if unreliable, history of hate crime tracking in the US. “Since the data collection began, the FBI has published hate crime statistics from 1996 to, most recently, 2015. In 2015, there were 5,818 hate crime incidents reported, the majority of which were biased toward race and ethnicity. There were about 340 more hate crimes in 2015 than in 2014.”
Even within our own LGBT borders, we experience stigma as trans people: soundtracks familiar to anyone experiencing any type of shame. Our goal is to affect change so that individuals do not have to live in fear or seek protection. Our children and youth need opportunities to share their lived experiences without shame; live authentically as who they are in life. We need to talk about gender and sex-rearing assignments tied into the binary models of male vs. female, limiting the role models we offer young children. We also risk displacing intersex children. We need to talk about more than just male and female gender and move beyond the binary rules for gender assignments. We have a disconnect between communities of people who are different from us. We share commonalities within our communities until it is about our sexual orientation and identities and expressions outside of binary roles.
The standards by which our children live doesn’t always match our ideologies, and we freak out without clearly understanding what drives our fears.
Is it any wonder why we are hesitant to Come Out when there is a risk in doing so? It is understandable that individuals Coming Out may need specialized care and protections to spare a life.
According to the WILLIAMS INSTITUTE report, (2019) 57% of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals experience isolation from their families.
Statistics on transgender and gender non-conforming people are directly taken from the FINDINGS OF THE NATIONAL TRANSGENDER SURVEY:
50-54% are bullied at school, 63-78% encounter physical or sexual violence in school; 50-59% encounter harassment at work and discrimination; 64-65% face physical or sexual violence in the workplace while, 60% are refused care in the healthcare system; 57-61% are disrespected and harassed by law enforcement officers while 60-70% encountered physical or sexual violence, 69% are homeless.
We cannot underrate the person’s Coming Out journey, and we cannot afford to stay insensitive and closed off to information, data and research if we are ever to live in a civil society. We cannot hope to see crime rates drop in homicides until we are open to other cultures.
Children need space to figure out who they are without shame – so not one gay, trans or intersex person should have to fight for having a human right. Anything less is dehumanizing.
The type of information in getting the human rights ordinance pass at city council is critical.
Are we presenting packaged language in getting whatever we can to pass to worry about the rest later? Black Lives Matter is a compelling title. In an article by Rose Hackman, (2015, June 26) http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/26/how-white-americans-can-fight-racism “‘I am not interested in white allies. What we need are co-conspirators’, Feminista Jones, a 36-year-old social worker, and writer shouted into a bullhorn” during a rally and protest on behalf of Black Lives Matter among a group of 100 mourners who gathered in solidarity over the massacre that took place in Charleston in June of 2015. Jones supports solidarity and does not advocate placing the focus of these issues on the privileged group. She is clear that co-conspirators need to stand up for the black community as much as we are clear that we need co-conspirators to stand with us and speak our language, use our preferred pronouns and break down the language, so it understood by those who must cast a vote; not tightly packaged as fully inclusive without breaking this down. As Dean Spade said in an interview “The seduction of legal equality appears to be very significant in certain strains of LGBT politics, regardless of the availability of critical understanding of its limits.”
Unfortunately, just because our rights got voted in, doesn’t mean we don’t have work ahead of us in addressing the need for an all-inclusive language.
A human rights ordinance bill with language “fully inclusive” does not guarantee protection for LGBT people. Back in 2014, during a PFLAG meeting with local candidates in Jacksonville, we learned that the language fully inclusive altered the vote once the candidates understood what this meant; They changed their vote once they realized that it meant passing rights for gender identity and expression. It was clear that they had very little understanding about gender identities and expression. We know they have very little statistical data from which they base their biased views. They are not looking at transgender and gender non-variant murder rates any more than they are paying attention to the suicide rates and attempted suicide by youth. We know that our city does not extrapolate data reports of the LGBTQIA population for homicides and death by suicides. We must expect better data collecting practices and do something with this information to reduce crime and address deaths by suicide.
Our work is to replace presumptions that stigmatize people, to continue educating on cultural competency to help people understand and respect differences so we can live in truth. We want to expand roles and move away from insisting that binary identities must match the sex assignments at birth. In closing; We need trans-inclusive spaces.
THE NEUROSCIENCE BEHIND
WHEN WE LOSE CONTROL
While some of us have expressed how we feel over the outcome of this election, others have offered support to their community, taking an active role in joining groups in solidarity. Others lash out at anyone who disagrees with their statements and actions. We have the right to feel upset, angry, and downright concerned over the welfare of many people. This election has served as a trigger for riots, gatherings for support, and rallies.
A loss of hope that feels like death can bring out the ugliness in people. This election has brought out the worst in people from both sides of the spectrum.
Our brains go haywire when we meet a loss of this magnitude. The neurotransmitters that operate logic misfire rapidly once stress sets in. The release of large amounts of corticosteroids (the army that fights to get us to feel better) serves as mediators to balance the stress response to grief. In the meantime, we respond with emotion and a lot of impulses, until the balance sets in overtime with the help and support of others or sometimes as the stress abates. We say things we ordinarily would never say when our hearts are well, and our heads are clear.
We have seen, heard, and read how people behave across the country, some with a sense of entitlement, others scared and uncertain of what their future holds.
Those with a sense of entitlement, feel empowered to lash out without fear of reprisal. Those who fear the worst, react because of past negative experiences. Everyone is at war. An invisible wall exists.
During grief, many things happen within us when we lose control. The loss of power causes some of us to lash out and ‘let go” as in “letting go” of all those pent-up emotions. We will resort to whatever weaponry is available to take back this loss of power and in this case, hate speech or as reported by media, physical violence against others. Our ability to reason is frozen, while our emotional warfare, such as fear, hate, and resentment, override our logic and our ability to stay grounded. Effective communication is essential if we are to remain civil during this discourse. In the world of good grief, when working with dying patients, families and friends are collectively anchored by one pivotal point, to stay rooted. This one crucial point is caring enough to stay close at hand to those dealing with loss. This means standing by to bear witness to all types of behavior as we remain connected to that person. This isn’t always possible, hinging on many kinds of circumstances, and this is when we see people disconnect and break away, while others seek support. There isn’t any right or wrong way to grieve, except when we cannot take back what we said, did or didn’t do. In the world of grief, we see some people, including the person who is dying, fall apart. We have heard the parties say some awful things to one another and about one another, we see people who are a master of stealth, wrapped in a blanket of anger, act untouched by the words and actions of others. I just hope at the end of all of this that some of us can stay friends.
Grief can bring out the ugliness in people, and sometimes we have to recognize this. I am not excusing violence, hateful speech, attacks on another human being, putting up with condescending behavior, lies, or displays of a lack of concern for our welfare. I am talking about what is occurring among ourselves, those of us in line with one another on the outcome of this election. As a post-WWII baby, who grew up in Europe, I too, as many of you, am very concerned for our welfare. I hear the slut-shaming and see the posts of Melania Trump’s modeling photos by those from within my community. They justify their outrage at the outcome of this election. Slut-shaming sends a strong message to all female-bodied people, young and mature alike, about women who pose nude for a living are of little value and non-deserving of respect. It is denigrating to girls and women and tears away at the very core of a women’s right to choose what she does with her body. Spewing this kind of hateful speech directed at Melania Trump by those from the LGBT community isn’t any better than those who attack us with statements that we practice necrophilia and bestiality. Many of us in the trans community or the LGBT community have been referred to perjoratively just for who we are. Those of us who have fought for human rights, continue to uphold the importance of human rights. I am taken back by some of the reactions of those from my community who stood up for human rights, their rights, only to turn around to behave as badly as those who denied their rights.
Grief can bring out the ugliness in people. I hope that in the end, we can stay focused and civil.
We are so bent on role assignments. Who exactly doles out these roles? Well, usually, it is the doctor.
Dr. Stephen Rosenthal, a Pediatric Endocrinologist at Children’s UCSF Benioff in San Francisco, stated,
“We are basically given one of two sex rearing assignments when we are born. Male or female.”
Parents don’t stop to think about the fact that they choose their child’s gender based on their infant’s genitalia. Parents don’t realize that there is a difference between the gender of a child versus the sex of a child. They think of these as one and the same. Parents raise them as boys or girls as opposed to just raising children. Most of the time, parents are proud to know the sex-rearing roles given to them, hence, boy vs. girl, without knowing that this has taken place. They often are excited, have already known for months in advance, prepared the nursery, and primarily written a script for their child’s gender role. They feel relatively competent in understanding the differences between a boy and a girl and do not require any additional study or test-taking, that is until their child turns out to be trans. The child whose brain is genuinely different. Not warped. Not sick. Not weird. Just different from the cisgender child. Parents now look for textbooks, help, and support. Parents who have raised trans kids can attest to this. The child is a child and not much different except in their identity and expression.
The parents of trans kids who choose the happy child over the sad child win. There is nothing more heart wrenching than not feeling as if your child doesn’t belong within this shell and having to perform just for those who cannot accept your child for who they are. What is worse, is not knowing if your child will ever be happy or safe. Parents who accept their trans kids seek out other parents of trans kids, and the discussions are paramount to their family structure and practices.
The families of cisgender children certainly have their struggles, but never have to think about bathroom issues or dress code (except for those with a disability) entirely in the way families of transgender children do.
I am trans and queer. I have beautiful children and grandchildren and a partner who “gets me.” But who are we really? We are not acting. We are these very kids who grew up having to conform to societal social constructs of having to be one of the two binary ideologies and when we no longer could? Well …, everyone has their own story. Their personal experiences. Some not so good. But, when parents support their trans kids, it is the most beautiful expression of love a parent could ever impart to their child. They are not our possessions. They are gifts. There is nothing more fulfilling than to have a child who expresses themselves in the image of love. Why is it we want to shame them? It is so terribly painful. It is wrong to make someone feel less just because they are different. We get too hung up on what others think when we should really focus more on the well-being of our children.
What about our brains?
We have this magnificent organ we seem to know so little about. Most of us don’t give it much thought, and we just assume that this organ is somehow pre-programmed based on our genitalia. We forget that this organ is a muscle, and among many other exciting features, it operates as a message center delivering mail via its neurons. Now for starters, I took this information directly from article.mercola.com.
1. Just know this…, “It weighs approximately 3 lbs or so. It contains a hundred billion neurons: 1000 to 10,000 synopsis for each neuron.”
2. “Our brain is 75% water. Blood vessels cover 100,000 miles in our brain. It is the fattest organ in our bodies and contains at least 60 percent fat.” article.mercola.com
3. “Within the first year, our brains grow three times its size. This means that the developing brain never stops working.” Why? Because we continue to make neurons so long our brains are kept active. Our brains continue developing all the way into middle age. I could go on and on about our brains, but I am going to stop right here with this statement. There is a reliable connection between our brains and bodies when we are cisgender. However, when we are not, there is a disconnect. Much research has been done in this field for many different reasons that I won’t go into for the sake of keeping this related to the issue.
There are children as young as two who insist that they are not the sex they were assigned at birth. Think about this for a moment. We are given roles based on our sex assignment. According to Rosenthal, “…, we are given sex rearing assignments, but how do you assign a role?” when talking about gender variant children and transgender children.
I think most parents raise their children within the binary social structure, while a few may have children who vacillate between the two and some parents might be okay with exceptions to these rules, but may worry when these become more of the norm. Joel Baum, Senior Director of Development and Family Services at Gender Spectrum, stated: “We have too many rules and not enough roles.”
Why is it that we only offer two? We have so many more to offer.
If children turn out to be really great at something, most parents would be proud. So …, does gender dysphoria have anything to do with roles? Does gender dysphoria have more to do with fitting in and being accepted as one or the other and does this affect their gender role? Does gender dysphoria ascribe to other sets of explanations? How do these children know they are different?
4. “Psychobiologist, Antonio Guillamon in Madrid, Spain at the National Distance Education University and neuropsychologist Carme Junqué Plaja of the University of Barcelona—were able to show through MRI’s that the brain structures of the trans individuals were more aligned with respects to their innate gender than from those of their natal gender. The results were published in 2013.”
Much research is needed and remains ongoing to try to solve the many questions parents have. Some even blame themselves or each other, groping for straws in trying to come to terms with their transgender children.
5. “Scientists explain it in simple terms. “Guillamon says. ‘It is simplistic to say that a female-to-male transgender person is a female trapped in a male body. It’s not because they have a male brain but a transsexual brain.’” There are other types of research conducted in the Netherlands with the use of MRI and hormones with pheromone properties and to review this information just select the listed site included in this write-up.
What about intersex children? There are so many variances of intersex. Some overt while others are not identified until much later in life. Sometimes when the couple is unable to get pregnant, for instance. How will we treat these individuals when they don’t quite look the part?
Why do we get so sideways with the transgender issue? We have more information now than we have ever had before. Should we not be thankful for this? We are more educated now on this subject than even a decade ago. Don’t we want our children to be happy? Does it really matter? These are our upcoming stars in life who will turn out to be politicians, doctors, attorneys, brick masons, performers, teachers: the list is infinite. They will make the world a better place. A place where everyone may have a seat at the table without having their gender policed.
In an article titled Where did the phrase ‘Come out of the closet’ come from? By Arika Okrent, Editor-At-Large for The Week, Okrent covers the history of this expression. She writes, “The phrase was borrowed from the world of debutante balls, where young women ‘came out’ in being officially introduced to society. The phrase ‘coming out’ did not refer to coming out of hiding, but to joining into a society of peers.” http://arika okrent the week
I remember being interviewed for Coming Out Day: in reflecting upon the experience, I now know better than to succumb to notions, as the title implied, that I was “hidden” all these years. Coming Out was a term I used; I did not have a clear understanding during those earlier years until I embarked on a documentary of which, for the past four years, included 57 interviews: parents of trans children and trans youth; gender therapists and endocrine specialists, attorneys, and educators. I began photographing LGBT people, allies, and couples back in 2010. I came to a much more meaningful understanding of the Coming Out term over time. It is a term used in many groups, but not necessarily for the reasons we think.
The term, as we know, it implies that we have something to hide out of fear for shame and repercussions. We experience policing of our gender identities. The consequences result in frequent incoming reports about homicides and death by suicide. Suicide Report
Every Coming Out scenario is an announcement, anticipatory of how the receiver will react. For many, it is minus the send-off of balloons and parties. It runs the risk that people may do terrible harm to us or anyone privy to our announcement once we declare something about ourselves that falls outside of societal norms. Our sexual orientations or gender expressions and identities are not regarded by mainstream society as part of growth and development and, therefore, a natural part of life. Some cultures view us as ill suitable and of immoral character, and we are even condemned to death in certain parts of the world for not adhering to societal rules.
Every human being encounters growth and development right up through the end of life. Who we are at age ten is not who we are at age 80.
The questions some of us receive are endlessly predictive and too intrusive and often awkwardly posed by those who are curious.
It is the curious, intrusive, and awkward person who develops levels of sensitivities about trans issues and differences in each of us. In turn, their questions tell us much about them – the cisgender people in our world.
The Coming Out process for LGBT people is about our journey across our lifespan and isn’t always about our sexual orientation, while for some of us, it may start this way: it isn’t all of what makes up our fabric. For others, it is about identities and expressions, which define who we are on this journey: a self-examining journey, more about introspection and finding our place in the world as trans people.
Many of us work through a process, unfolding layers that define who we become over time due to exposure, experience, and education. For others, it is self-discovery, vacillating between two solidified points across a bar of identities and sexual orientations. Sexual orientations, gender identities, and expressions – outside of the socially ruled model – determines our struggles ahead.
It isn’t as if we awaken some morning to announce our identities or sexual orientations. It isn’t that we expect a celebratory event. Coming out is eased for some individuals by those who welcome diversities: for others, it results in a neglectful and sometimes harmful set of occurrences, forced under the guise of an invite to a dinner table – shaming us – just as if cornered on the school ground by bullies.
There is something about announcing our Coming Out that is liberating. It is why Coming Out monologues are narratives for the LGBTQIiA. It owns who we are as people as we stand in solidarity, a way of coming together on common ground. Our experiences vary; yet, we fit under this one umbrella of many types of sexual orientations, identities, and expressions.
We want parents educated and not fall under the pressures of the stigma that coerce them to rewrite their children’s scripts in the image of an insufficient binary world where they grew up. We need more role models outside of the binary ones. We need trans and intersex spaces where those who are trans-identified or intersex can politicize our positions from our experiences and perspectives. We need the support of everyone, including those within our LGBTQIiA2S borders, and in turn, we must support one another.
Let us celebrate the expansive landscape of those who make up this beautiful and colorful fabric. It is time we transform who we are in how we react to those who Come Out through narratives that should feel celebratory – not shameful to us, our families, friends, and communities.
To some, colleges and universities are “ivory towers” isolated from the larger society. A closer look shows that this country’s academic institutions are reflections of our broader community, struggling with the same social issues and prejudices. Lorri L. Jean, Executive Director, National Gay, and Lesbian Task Force.
The Spinnaker, a News Source from the University of North Florida, released an article reporting an incident which involved a transgender student who was assaulted and verbally threatened by a male in a campus bathroom. The report red-flagged the failure of the UNFPD to release a Clery report. The incident took place February 6 of this year and was reported to the UNFPD on February 7th.
It isn’t unusual to hear that police are poorly trained in handling cases of LGBT assaults nor rare to hear of agencies, such as Victims Advocacy and LGBT groups reporting the way these types of incidents (as what happened February 6) are often minimized or dismissed. The article stated that Chief Strudel’s response was “it is rare, and therefore, we aren’t going to do anything about it.” However, there were concerns expressed by Strudel that his statements were taken out of context when I spoke with him this afternoon. As someone who works as an advocate, activist and photojournalist on LGBT issues, my first reaction in reading this statement in the Spinnaker, was “Is this an accurately recorded statement?” My second reaction was to seek clarification since any incident involving an assault on campus would warrant a Clery report. If you aren’t aware of what a Clery report is, know that it is a set of federally mandated guidelines for universities. The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (20 USC § 1092(f))is the landmark federal law, originally known as the Campus Security Act, that requires colleges and universities across the United States to disclose information about crime on and around their campuses. The law is tied to an institution’s participation in federal student financial aid programs and it applies to most institutions of higher education both public and private. The Act is enforced by the United States Department of Education. Clerycenter.org
Both Title 9 and the Clery report serve to protect students on campuses, so to have guidelines in place and not follow the protocols would be an act of non-disclosure and not help in the best interest of the population who are most at risk for hate crimes. Strudel denied that he stated that the case was not a hate crime and in fact, insisted that he kept having to correct the reporter. Strudel noted that the reporter took things out of context. A similar complaint by Kaitlin Legg, when I spoke with her earlier this afternoon, was that she had to repeatedly correct the reporter on some statements taken out of context. Legg is acting director of the LGBT Resource Center.
According to the article, the cameras were not checked by the campus PD. Strudel stated that initially when the report came in on February 7, the day after the crime, some of the details were not available, such as where the offense took place nor the name of the victim. Once the PD received this information the Communications sector on campus reviewed the footage. According to Strudel not all the cameras on UNF campus are updated; some are around 7 years old and are analogs and clarity is an issue. Dr. Thomas Serwatka, VP at UNF, emphasized the concerns he and President John Delaney had regarding the delay in releasing the Clery report and investigated the falling out with the campus procedure as soon as they learned of the article in the Spinnaker. Strudel stated that he recognized that he should have released this report immediately, regardless of not having all the information and felt he was protecting the student. Serwatka noted that UNF does not tolerate hate crimes nor non-disclosures of these incidences and are implementing protocols to ensure that procedures are followed regardless of the sexual orientation or gender identity and expression of the individual. The UNFPD is now executing the process for all cases of assaults and had released the crime report later this afternoon. News coverage on First Coast News took place this evening at 11 p.m on the published crime report.