Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Running the Gauntlet

There’s the bell for first class. Walk slowly. Time it just right and maybe you ‘ll be the last one to sit down at your desk. Pretend you don’t hear them.

“That’s so gay.”
“No homo.”

At least once during the day, LGBTQIA+ students, a reported estimated 1.3 million high school students identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, will hear an epithet casually and purposefully thrown at them, intending to hurt, belittle, ridicule.  An excellent article in The Seattle Times, Aug 12, 2016,”Heartbreaking” is a survey on abuse of gay students” by Jan Hoffman with additional Federal data, reports:
The first nationwide study to ask high school students about their sexuality found that gay, lesbian and bisexual teenagers were at far greater risk for depression, bullying and many types of violence than their straight peers.
“I found the numbers heartbreaking,” said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, a senior official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which includes a division that administered the survey.

These adolescents were three times more likely than straight students to have been raped. They skipped school far more often because they did not feel safe; at least a third had been bullied on school property. And they were twice as likely as heterosexual students to have been threatened or injured with a weapon on school property.

More than 40 percent of these students reported that they had seriously considered suicide, and 29 percent had made attempts to do so in the year before they took the survey. A conservative estimate is 1,500 LGBTQIA+ commit suicide every year. The percentage of those who used illegal drugs was many times greater than their heterosexual peers. While 1.3 percent of straight students said they had used heroin, for example, 6 percent of the gay, lesbian and bisexual students reported having done so.

Look at these statistics!  They are heartbreaking and horrifying. Understand that 1.3 million people who report to be LGBTQIA+  is roughly the population of Los Angles, California.  Our children are daily engaged in warfare at school without any armor or protection—and for many who come “out” to parents, are kicked out of their home to fend on the street for themselves. Dr. Mermin, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention at the C.D.C., said it better than I:  “Nations are judged by the health and well-being of their children. Many would find these levels of physical and sexual violence unacceptable and something we should act on quickly.”

What we can do as peers, parents, teacher, mentors, and our community is give support through educating our youth in the home and classrooms about basic issues of how to respect one another as human beings and not as ‘others’.  With the ubiquitous internet and social media, it is imperative to teach our youth hard core values; to be very clear what is bullying and not acceptable behavior towards anyone for any reason.  If not in the home, then at school. There are excellent programs, like Green Dot etc., used by the Air Force, that effectively teach strategy for violence prevention, and what to do as a bystander in bullying and violent situations.

As Dr. Mermin stated emphatically “connectedness -- or social bonds -- to peers, teachers, schools, or community organizations is key to protecting the health of these adolescents. Students will succeed if they know they matter, and feel safe and supported socially, emotionally and physically. Solutions may not be simple, but we can take action to build support for lesbian, gay and bisexual youth at multiple levels.”

I have written several articles emphasizing the need, and the rights of our children to be safe from bullies—-and I especially feel we have an imperative to protect the most vulnerable of our children—-those who are harassed for being different, either racially or because of one’s sexual orientation.  We need to have a continuous dialogue with our children, our family members and community, to talk honestly about bully issues.

To gain insight into the reality of a child being LGBTQIA+ in their daily arena, please take some time to explore websites like:
Read an excellent article by Kevin L. Nadal, PhD "Stop Saying “That’s So Gay!”: 6 Types of Microaggressions That Harm LGBTQ People" for an enlightening perspective.

Ask yourself what would this world be like without the diversity, talents and skills that the LGBTQIA+ have given us since the beginning of mankind?  The list I could make of the contributions in arts, sciences, politics and humanity of the LGBTQIA+ would be  awesome in its breadth and sheer numbers of people who have influenced and enriched our lives in spite of the obstacles, the prejudices and hostility they have endured.

It is imperative that we, every one of us, ensure that our children, all our children, thrive in a environment that is safe and respectful, especially for the most vulnerable of children, the ‘others’, who are targeted for being different, for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, intersexual or questioning. Too many of these children are at risk everyday of their lives. Tomorrow will be too late for many of them. Today, not yesterday, not tomorrow, but today, is the time to stop the cycle of abuse.

L - Lesbian. Lesbian is a term used to refer to homosexual females.

G - Gay. Gay is a term used to refer to homosexuality, a homosexual person, or a homosexual male.

B - Bisexual. Bisexual is when a person is attracted to two sexes/genders.

T - Trans. Trans is an umbrella term for transgender and transsexual people.

Q - Queer/Questioning. Queer is an umbrella term for all of those who are not heterosexual and/or cisgender. Questioning is when a person isn't 100% sure of their sexual orientation and/or gender, and are trying to find their true identity.

I - Intersex. Intersex is when a person has an indeterminate mix of primary and secondary sex characteristics.

A - Asexuality. Asexuality is when a person experiences no (or little, if referring to demisexuality or grey-asexuality) sexual attraction to people.

+ - The "+" symbol simply stands for all of the other sexualities, sexes, and genders that aren't included in these few letters.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Inside the Secret World of Teens

If you missed the CNN Special Report Special Report, "#Being13: Inside the Secret World of Teens," from October, 2015, I highly advise you to watch it soon. And, be sure to read these articles with additional information.

Being 13: Perils of lurking on social media“Most adolescents with access to smart phones are living their social lives online as much as they do face-to-face. Adults worry that teens are hooked on social media, but most have no idea what teens are actually doing online.

In this study, we examined the content of what teens actually say and do on social media, not simply what they say they do — and what it means to them. Not only are 13-year-olds using social media to post, tweet, share, friend, block, and unfriend, adolescents are spending vast amounts of time just "lurking," reading the never-ending stream of their peers' activities without posting anything themselves.

More than one third of them said they check social media without posting 25 times or more per day on weekends, and our heaviest users said they use social media over 100 times daily, including during classes at school.”
Read the entire article>>

Are you raising an Internet bully? Here’s how to end that behavior.
By Monica Leftwich, The Washington Post
“Faris dispells the notion that most kids directly model behaviors online that they witness at home, dismissing the idea that many kids cyberbully because their parents engage in similar actions. However, he does suspect that parents’ priorities could affect how their kids behave online.

Faris uses the example of “status games.” In short, some parents who get overly involved with their kids’ popularity or social status, or who themselves try to “keep up with the Joneses,” could be creating a sense of social competition in their children. If the parents put a high value on social climbing, Faris says, their children may do the same. This could create an unhealthy sense of rivalry in teens who prioritize popularity over true friendship.

That can spawn online aggression. For example, kids who value popularity will start vicious rumors online about other kids in order to tear them down while increasing their own “likes” and followers on social-media platforms.”
Read the entire article>>

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A Penny in Time Chapter 7: Changin' Addi-Paddi (part 1)

I could not settle down, so I got up and wandered around the house.  Normally, I'm not a worrywart, but I was upset that there wasn't anymore food for Yugo, and worried what little he had had to eat would only make him hungrier when he woke up.  To distract myself, I thumbed through a history book in Mr. D's library and read the two page-history of the Perpetual City while Yugo and Mr. D slept.  Their whispery snores were in sync with one another, which made me laugh out loud as I came back into the room.

I scrunched down on the couch. Yugo curled up beside me, still sound asleep, but sending warm vibes that coated me inside out.  He purred and I read.

Although their civilization was thousands of years old, the history book only recounted the last thousand of years:  from 999 to 2000, the city, the people, the society, everything was exactly like it had been, was and would be.  The rest of the book was pictures, and I had the creepy feeling I could walk outside and find those very landmarks still in existence.  Maybe, I looked over at Mr. D sleeping, the very same people.  I had heard that history repeats itself, but I had never thought about it literally.

One fact snagged my attention, about the race itself.  Mr. D's genus was Mono, of the family sapiens, and reproduction was "homogenesis", which I found in the glossary meant "reproduction in which successive generations are alike".  I folded the book shut, wondering if 'they' were all of like minds, too.  Maybe I stood a chance against a committee that shared genes with Mr. D.  Then again, maybe I didn't, if Mr. D had mutated from the rest of 'them'.  Back and forth, back and forth went my thoughts, always leaving me flooded with doubts.  I wish the whole process had started, therefore, had been decided, and was already over.

I heard rustling outside, then a thump against the door and nearly knocked Yugo off the couch when I jumped to my feet.  Mr. D bolted from his chair and with his massive hand upraised, blocked me from the front door.

"No, childling, stay!"

Any other time, I might have been offended at being ordered like a dog, but Mr. D, obviously unnerved, only meant to protect me.  And Yugo, I think.

"Mr. D, I don't think anyone is trying to break in."  I pointed to the billowing curtains.  "It would have been easier to come through the open window." 

He patted his chest, where I imagined his heart beat.  "I have never witnessed so many strange events."  He appeared thoughtful, looking from the window to the door.  "I've never left that window open before now.  And there's never been any disturbance at my front door."

"Mr. D," I took a step forward, "let's look outside and maybe we can figure out what's going on."
He nodded to me.  "But you must stay here."  He took purposeful strides to the door and whipped it open.

There was a brown package on the welcome mat.  Mr. D stooped and gingerly peeked inside.  "Oh, my!" he gasped, as I bumped into his back.

"What is it?"  I knelt beside Mr. D, nudging his leg to get a closer look, trying to send reassuring vibes to Yugo so he would stop his frightened mewing.

"It's..." Mr. D plucked the bag up and smiled at me, a rather pained smile I thought, "a care package.  For Yugo."

Mr. D stepped over me, back inside.  "Well, Dusty, I dare say that Yugo will have something good to eat, real food for the nuzzling.  I'll fix it and you feed him."

After I dusted off my knees, though I really didn't have to because there wasn't any dirt on my jeans, I followed Mr. D into the kitchen.  Yugo had slipped off the couch and was waddling behind me.  "Look at him, Mr. D!  Isn't he cute?"

Mr. D kept his back to me.  "Who would do such a thing, leave this for a misbegotten?" he mused, fussing over the large nursing bottle.

I hadn't forgotten that Mr. D called Yugo 'nuzzling', which I thought might be an affectionate term.  "Maybe his mother did.  Or someone else who doesn't think it's right for babies to be left out in the desert to die."  I took the bottle from Mr. D, who frowned like my old principal did the time he caught me swearing when I slammed my locker shut on my left hand.

Yugo pawed at my legs until I picked him up.  He snatched at the bottle, giving short 'yurps' as he suckled and I tried to balance both him and the bottle with my hands.  Mr. D marched out of the kitchen, leaving me alone and wondering what I had said to upset him.

Yugo must have sensed my confusion, for he stopped sucking long enough to peer at me intently, and suddenly a lot of unfriendly faces flashed through my head.  Mr. D must be as anxious as I was about this upcoming confrontation.  Maybe he had mixed emotions about which side he was going to be on, or what the outcome would be for Yugo and me.  I had only begun to appreciate how hard it must be for him to accept changes, let alone campaign for them.  But there was someone else out there who wanted to help us, too.

"Mr. D," I walked over to his chair and he looked up at me, "if there are two of you that feel the way I do about Yugo, then maybe there's a lot more.  We might stand a good chance of convincing the Perfect Council yet."

Yugo started hiccupping.  Mr. D's nostril flared and he sighed, impatiently waving his hand at Yugo.  "He needs to be patted on the back."

I flipped Yugo over my shoulder and burped him.  "There's something you're not telling me, Mr. D, something that's troubling you.  And it's not Yugo, is it?"  I put him down on the couch.
Yugo was content to settle between the cushions and go back to sleep.  He seemed to have grown another six inches since I had fed him.  Yugo gave back to me the love I felt for him as I scratched his head and I was reluctant to let go of the good feelings that flowed between us.  But I had to get some things clear.  I went over and sat on a footstool in front of Mr. D and waited for him to speak.
He cleared his throat a couple of times.  "You're right, Dusty.  Something is wrong, very wrong."  He startled me by reaching over and touching my cheek lightly, then continued.  "You have read," he gestured to the closed history book on the arm of the couch, "about our history.  Was it not extraordinary?"

The way he said it, gave me the impression he meant it in a negative way.  "Yeah," I replied, "I thought it was a bit odd."

"In what way?" he asked kindly, leaning closer to me.

"Two pages about a perfect society.  I mean, I guess I thought history told about wars, conflicts, changes, you know, all that happens over years and years.  Like evolution."

"Exactly."  He smacked his hands and smiled like I had answered the winning quiz question.

"Exactly what?" I retorted, baffled by his smug expression.

"Our recorded history begins with the perfected society."  He massaged his knees.  "From the time of our recorded history, there are no wars, no unresolved conflicts amongst us.  That is why we can exist in the Perpetual City in harmony, a totally homogeneous society.  There is no poverty here, for here everything is in balance with our resources.  Even our arts and sciences have reached the state of perfection, where all needs are satisfied, for each and everyone of us.  Everyone is alike, and there is always agreement.  Every action is carefully considered, every consideration balanced.  Our marriage contracts are forever and each couple rears two offspring until the age of twenty-one, one quarter of a life span.  We are a self-perpetuating society."

He paused and took a breath.  I let all this information sink in, trying to pinpoint what it was that disturbed me.  After all, it sounded just fine to me.  "Families stay together, right?"

"Yes."  Mr. D locked eyes with me.

"I don't see the problem."  I held his gaze for a long minute.

"Couples partner for a lifetime; there is no such thing as separation.  Each misbegotten comes from an unlawful union, and threatens the balance.  Ergo, there cannot be misbegottens."

Mr. D stroked his chin, and I was hypnotized by the long, silken strands undulating along his arm.  I knew his reasoning was wrong.  "What about love?" I blurted out, startling both of us.

"There are many forms of love, Dusty," he answered quietly, and I detected a note of sadness, too.  "The good of all is the highest form of love, is it not?"

But before I could answer him, there came a resounding knock on the door.  This time Mr. D seemed neither surprised nor unprepared as he opened the door.

"It's a summons for us to go to the courthouse immediately."

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

What makes a child become a bully?

How A Child Becomes A Bully
by Dr. Gail Gross,
“While there is no one single profile of a child bully, in my years as a researcher and educator, I have witnessed a few different situations that describe the majority of child bullies.

Like Parent, Like Child. Children model what they see. If a child is bullied by his/her parent, or is being abused or treated in a disrespectful way at home, that child is likely to imitate this behavior at school. They are learning from their parent that this type of behavior is acceptable.

The Powerless Child. Sometimes, the child that bullies is the child who feels completely powerless at home. Perhaps this child is abused, or watches one of his parents abuse another parent, and he/she is left feeling scared and powerless at home. This child may attempt to gain back power by bullying others at school.”

Read the entire article>>

Your child might be a bully. Here are 7 ways to stop that behavior.
by Lev Novak, The Washington Post
"As a former after-school teacher, I’ve spent three years working with kids in a more relaxed environment than the classroom. And, in those hours with kids as their less-guarded selves, I’ve seen the bullying, teasing, whispers and shoves that scarcely get reported home to parents.

There are no one-size-fits-all approaches to preventing or stopping bullying, and zero-tolerance policies are often a blur of good intentions poorly applied. But below are some strategies I’ve found effective for various children.

Avoid cliches. Generalizations sound like static to kids, who don’t apply morals and have heard the “don’t bully” screed delivered in the same monotones by the same authority figures all their lives. But specifics help, and authenticity matters. Names, events and situations anchor vague morality tales in practical terms. Sincerity can bring real empathy to a subject that all too often is artificial."
Read the entire article>>