Category Archives: Public Support

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Mama Bears

You’ve probably seen us lately. We’re the moms holding pink, white, and blue signs that talk about peeing in bathrooms. We show up to Town Hall meetings and spend our days calling our representatives. We flood our Facebook pages with political posts, op-eds about bathroom bills, and the need to stand up for human rights.

Many of us probably had dreams of living a simple life. A family, a career, Friday night pizza night, PTO meetings, and after school activities. But, life took a decided turn when we discovered that our child was transgender because that changed everything.

We suddenly found ourselves as unexpected advocates in a war that we didn’t know was waging. You’d think we’d get used to the ugly comments, the thinly-veiled innuendos, the intrusive questions about our child’s anatomy, or their surgical status.

And, to some extent we do. We pick our battles, educate, share our stories, and try to determine if someone is asking out of a genuine desire to learn, or to arm themselves for a future battle. We do it willingly because we are Mama Bears and we will always protect our children.

We have been called a lot of terrible things by people who don’t agree with the choices our families have made. We’ve been accused of child abuse, of displaying weak parenting skills and creating no boundaries for our children. We’ve dealt with innuendos that inappropriate things were done to our children to “make them that way.”

But, I actually laughed tonight when someone accused Mama Bears like me of using our children as political pawns. Advocating for our children’s rights by talking to our representatives is our job as parents. But, we’ve been given no choice because the federal government has decided to take away the only road map schools had for navigating a civil rights issue that directly impacts our children. We didn’t make our children political pawns. We found ourselves unwilling subjects in a political storm that was already raging before we showed up.

Transgender children face incredible challenges. The attempted suicide rate for the transgender community is greater than 40%. The risk is over 50% for those who face discrimination and bullying in school. The risk is also higher for transgender youth of color who face significantly more violence than their white counterparts.

This is a time when being a white transgender person is extremely hard. Try to imagine how much more difficult it is to be brown, Muslim, or an immigrant in addition to being transgender. Too frequently, I get word about another child who fell victim to the challenges of their existence and another parent whose heart was ripped to pieces, their life forever changed.

I cannot understand why anyone would want to make life harder for this group of children. It baffles me that the federal government is taking the position to let states decide if it is okay to discriminate against transgender youth. Why are they adding themselves to the list of bullies instead of becoming their biggest protector?

How can a child learn to become a functioning member of society if they aren’t even allowed to do the most basic of human functions without discrimination? How can they focus on reading and math when their bathroom options are to get yelled at or to get beat up? Or just as bad, to “out” them to the rest of the school by forcing them into a unisex bathroom. Unisex bathrooms are not the answer when it tells a child that their existence poses a danger to the rest of their friends.

You will continue to see Mama Bears showing up at your Town Halls. We will flood your Twitter feeds, your Facebook pages, your op-eds, and your phone lines. We will continue to invite you to meet with us, meet our amazing children, and learn about the challenges we face as a family. You’ve given us no choice by attacking our children. We are your constituents and we will keep shouting louder and louder until you hear the cries of our dying offspring.

We will keep fighting because we are Mama Bears. And we are angry.

 

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Governor McCrory is a Bully

On Wednesday, March 23, the North Carolina Republican lawmakers held a special off-session meeting (at the tune of $42,000) to introduce a piece of anti-LGBT legislature under the guise of protection for women and girls. The bill was rushed through the House and the Senate (with the Democratic Senators walking out in protest) while Governor McCrory sat in his office, pen poised, to sign the bill into law late on Wednesday night. The whole process took less than 12 hours.

In a “Meet the Press” interview on Friday, I watched in disgust as Republican Representative Dan Bishop sat with his smug grin and called the bill a “return to common sense” because Charlotte had put the protection and safety of women at risk by their new LGBT-friendly ordinance.

Once again, we hear from Republican lawmakers that a sexual predator has been waiting for the moment when putting on a dress and some lipstick will give him the access he needs to assault women and girls in bathrooms. Yes, because that’s all that’s been stopping him.

Let’s be honest. This bill has nothing to do with the protection of women and girls in bathrooms and everything to do with how transgender individuals make the members of the North Carolina General Assembly uncomfortable. If this were really about the protection of women and girls then we should be hearing about tougher crackdowns on catcalling and men grabbing at women on subways, buses, and bars. We’d be hearing a lot more about victim shaming, the misogynistic treatment of women from the Republican front runner for President, and sexual assault in universities.

But we don’t hear any of that. No, the North Carolina Republicans are only worried about women and girls in the bathrooms. They’re on their own once they leave the safety of four walls and some porcelain.

It has already been demonstrated that laws that allow transgender individuals to use the bathroom of their affirmed gender have not resulted in an increase in sexual assault of women and girls. There are already laws in place that make assault (in any location) illegal. So why these bills?

Because transgender individuals make the North Carolina Republicans uncomfortable. And like any schoolyard bully, they will target who they perceive to be weaker. Governor McCrory and Dan Bishop, you are bullies and bigots.

In a misguided attempt to protect women and girls, they have likely contributed to the assault and bullying of numerous LGBT youth in the North Carolina school system. By not allowing transgender kids the protection of using the bathroom of their affirmed gender, they are outing countless children who will now be forced into bathrooms that don’t fit their gender identity and likely don’t fit their outward appearance. Many of these kids have been using their affirmed bathroom for years, and this law will identify them as being transgender when schools are forced to deny them access to the bathroom they’ve been using.

Clearly, protection of women and girls only extends as far as those with the proper anatomy. If you’re intersex or transgender, like my child, then the North Carolina Republicans don’t care what happens to you. They don’t care. It has been demonstrated that discrimination contributes to the high levels of depression and suicide in transgender youth and this bill just encouraged it. And if you read this article, that’s probably what these people want.

By not allowing Charlotte to add the LGBT community to the class of individuals who are protected from discrimination they have openly declared that it is okay to discriminate against them. Their law now puts every public school in the state at risk of losing federal funds because they’ve made it illegal for public schools to adhere to the Title IX protection for transgender students. So now, instead of protecting women and girls, they are at risk of losing $4.5 billion dollars of federal funds meant to ensure girls and boys an education.

Every LGBT child who is bullied, every transgender individual who is assaulted, every business that loses money because of the backlash of this bill is their responsibility. Not because they are trying to protect women and girls. Because of their open discomfort with the LGBT community.

When you are more focused on the genitals of my child and children just like her, YOU are the pervert, Governor McCrory and Senator Dan Bishop. So, let’s be clear and get this out in the open. You are not worried about the safety of the women and girls in your state. You are worried about sharing a bathroom with someone who is transgender. You are disgusted by the LGBT community. You have no desire to protect their rights and their safety. You will use women and girls to move your bigoted ideas forward showing once again that females are objects to be used when convenient but not important enough to protect with real policies.

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The Purple Transgender Binder of Awesomeness

The Twinadoes started fifth grade yesterday! It was with a 60/40 blend of trepidation and joy that I dropped them off at the door of another new school. While homeschooling was easier than I expected, I was pretty excited to have the house to myself for the first time in 6 months. The kids were both really pumped to spend the day making friends, having recess, checking out a new school, and oh yeah, maybe learning some stuff.

As it has been in every school, the Little Miss was the first transgender student they’d interacted with. Mike and I met with the principal almost two weeks prior to the start of school to share our story and meet with someone who would become an important part of our lives. We shared our journey and some of the concerns we had for the upcoming year. Our principal is a wonderful person and I’m really relieved to be with yet another understanding educator who is eager to learn and create a safe space for all children.

Unfortunately, for the first time in her school history, our daughter will have to use the unisex bathroom. The school system has a policy in place that dictates that all transgender kids will use a unisex bathroom. My heart sank when I was given this information, but it was paired with the statement that we would work together to get the right people the information they needed to make positive changes for this population of children.

I watched as Conner’s little shoulders, so high with expectation, slumped in shock when she heard that she wouldn’t be able to use the girl’s bathroom. For her, being forced to use the unisex bathroom indicated that the school didn’t believe her. It told her that the school thought she wasn’t really a girl as she would be denied the very basic right to use the bathroom with all the rest of the girls. By telling her to use a unisex bathroom, it set her up for questions from her peers, it put focus on an area of her body that already caused her distress, highlighted her difference from her peers, and set up the school as her largest source of stress instead of a safe haven for learning.

For a child who has always identified as female, this was both confusing and embarrassing. We explained how her hero, Jazz Jennings, went through similar struggles and helped pave the way for Conner to use the girl’s bathroom at her previous school in Florida. Though it will be hard, Conner now has the opportunity to help create change in her current school system.

I want to be positive and see the tremendous potential that Conner has to help create change here in our town. It was with mixed feelings that I gave her the positive spin of, “Go, be a trailblazer, young one.”

But, my heart hurts that the responsibility falls on her shoulders. It would have been wonderful to show up to a school system that was ready for a child like ours. I will say this, the hearts of the teachers in our school seem to be ready for Conner. It would be the expectation I guess, for the next line to say, “And the rest is just paperwork.”

But, it isn’t that simple. I foolishly thought that we’d be able to share our story, everyone would see how silly it is to keep Conner (and kids like her) out of the bathroom of their affirmed gender, that I might have to point out the Department of Justice’s opinion on the matter, and that would be the end of it. But, no. There will be meetings, and education, and calling in reinforcements to help with the education, and making ourselves available to answer questions, and these things take time.

If you don’t already know  this about me, I’m impatient on a good day. It’s not uncommon for my family to see me fuming at my computer as I wait for the little round spinning rainbow image to do what I’ve asked the computer to do.

I’m even more impatient when it involves a process change which is why my doctoral capstone project was such a trying event for me my family. When the issue causes my daughter to feel shame and makes her feel different, then the slow process of change is likely going to drive me insane.

I know that other families are going through this process too. So, I’m going to share the links to everything I had posted in the Purple Transgender Binder of Awesomeness which I gave to the administration of our school district. I’m also going to be updating my resources link to include this information though that won’t happen for a day or two. And, because I write when I’m agitated, frustrated, happy, and bored, I’m sure I’ll be giving updates along the way. I won’t be sharing the name of our school system or the individuals involved out of respect and privacy for this process. There are some really great people trying to make positive changes and I want this to be as smooth as possible for the school system, our advocates, and the families as we all partner together.

Without further adieu, the contents of the Purple Transgender Binder of Awesomeness: Rainbow-Unicorn-rainbows-37463952-358-358

Department of Justice Statements
Resolution Agreement between the Arcadia School District, the US DOE, and the US DOJ

Tooley vs Van Buren Public Schools Statement

Statements from the American Psychological Association
Fact Sheet: Gender Diversity and Transgender Identity in Adolescents

Fact Sheet: Gender Diversity and Transgender Identity in Children

Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (I just gave a copy of the Executive Summary)

Schools in Transition: A Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 schools (Every school needs this, every parent needs to read it. If you are a parent, print this out and physically hand it to your child’s principal).

Washington DC School District June 2015 Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Policy Guidance

Welcoming Schools Information
Welcoming Schools  Main Page
Research Basis for Safe and Welcoming Schools
Gender and Children: A Place to Begin
Gender Expansive Children: Books to Help Adults Understand
Be Prepared for Questions and Put-Downs about Gender
An Overview of Laws and Policies that Support Safe and Welcoming Schools

 

 

 

 

 

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In case you missed it, it’s been a huge week in gender issues

So, in case they didn’t pop up on your Twitter feed or Facebook page, there were plenty of newsy bits dealing directly with gender issues. From Elinor Burkett’s article “What Makes a Woman” to Miley Cyrus posing naked with her pig, and now Susan Sarandon talking about her excitement over gender fluidity I’ve been busy alternately booing and cheering at my computer screen. In fact, my husband pointed out the Burkett article  with a, “Hey what do you think about this article,” then wisely removed himself to another part of the house to avoid any rage induced fallout.

If you haven’t read “What Makes a Woman” let me encourage you to read it though I’ll warn you that I found it to be an incredibly insulting piece of pseudo-feminism that failed in it’s attempt to hide transgender bigotry. For me, the long and the short of it is that Ms. Burkett fought hard to keep women from being put into boxes, but now feels entitled to put women BACK into the boxes that she’s tried so hard to avoid. She also feels entitled to tell trans women that they aren’t, in fact, women. Ms. Burkett, I define what it means for me to be a woman. My daughter will define it for herself too. Thanks for your hard work, Elinor, but you don’t get to define anyone but yourself. Here’s where you can read a great rebuttal. Here’s another one.

On a completely different note, I can’t help but bring attention (again) to Miley Cyrus who has impressed me (again) about her feelings on gender issues and sexuality. In Paper magazine (while posing naked with her pig) she says:

“I am literally open to every single thing that is consenting and doesn’t involve an animal and everyone is of age. Everything that’s legal, I’m down with. Yo, I’m down with any adult — anyone over the age of 18 who is down to love me,” she says. “I don’t relate to being boy or girl, and I don’t have to have my partner relate to boy or girl.”

We live in a society where girls continue to be shamed about their sexuality, and now Miley is telling the world that she’s open to every single thing. In a culture that pushes people into a gender binary, we have a young role model encouraging people that it’s okay not to fit into a hetero-normative box. And, that it’s okay to celebrate your sexuality. If you haven’t read the article, I recommend it too. It’s way more entertaining than the previous one I mentioned and far less likely to have you yelling at your screen.

And, in a very welcome surprise, this great little video clip of Susan Sarandon popped where she discusses her excitement about gender fluidity.

“I think it’s a more interesting world when people don’t have such narrow ideas about what they can be.”

I’ve always loved Susan Sarandon both for her acting (hello, Thelma and Louise) and her political activism. And, now I love her for this too. It was a happy little present on this Friday afternoon.

Have a great weekend!