Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Do Not Stay Silent

Speak up, reach out, check in. 

Please, let your friends and family know that they are not alone, particularly this week when the world may be feeling dark, hurt-filled, and more dangerous than it did a few days ago.

Monday, June 13, 2016


Do what ever you can, what ever it takes, 
to help heal our country 
so that our children, and our adults, 
feel safe and are safe. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Capable Kids

"Nine-year-old Hilde Kate Lysiak is the sole journalist of Orange Street News, 
the only publication devoted exclusively to covering the events of Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania (population 5,000). 
Hilde’s favorite beat to report on is crime, and she’s written extensively about vandalism, drug use, and harassment in Selinsgrove. 
Regular Orange Street News readers know that Hilde often covers serious subject matter that might seem incongruous with her age, 
but when the nine-year-old was the first reporter on the scene of a murder in Selinsgrove last weekend, 
some local residents were scandalized."
Read more Here.

Some kids like to play with dolls and have tea parties, some kids like to play soccer, some kids like to paint pictures, some kids like to play computer games, some kids like to climb trees, some kids like to report the news. Most kids like to do a bunch of different things. They may or may not end up sticking with some things, they may find something they love doing so much that it remains a passion for the rest of their life.
Our job, as parents, as adults, is not to tell kids what they should want to do, what they want to explore, or how they should be doing what they want to do; our role is that of a facilitator, cheerleader, and mentor. We can expose our children to a wide variety of experiences and opportunities, but we must follow their lead when it comes to what and how they want to take advantage of or explore those opportunities. Our job as a community, society, or world, is to support kids in doing what they are capable of doing, while accepting that different children are ready to do things at different times, while understanding that children's interests and abilities are unique and individual. When I was a kid my dad ran a summer camp with a huge swimming pool. Because I was there all summer, and I loved to swim, I was able to take advantage of the swimming lessons offered to campers. I quickly worked my way up through the levels, until I was told that I could go to the next level because I had to be twelve. It was disappointing, and frustrating. I couldn't take lessons and keep moving up. That was it for me. I didn't go back and pick up where I left off when I was old enough, I didn't keep swimming as anything other than something I did with friends and family. I didn't become a swim instructor when I was older, or a life guard. Now I don't even own a swimming suit that fits and the only stroke I can do with any sort of proficiency is the side stroke, though it's been years since I tried, so who knows. How might things have been different if I hadn't been told I was too young? Who would I be today if I had been encouraged to keep swimming? There's no way to know, but I do know that I stopped doing something I enjoyed because I didn't have support from the adults in my life. I hope that you will join me in striving to support kids in following their interests, rather than discouraging them from finding out how much they can accomplish and how capable they are.

"Who am I being that my children's eyes are not shining?"
- Benjamin Zander, from his TED Talk that you can watch HERE.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Project Dawn: The New Barbie Bodies

It’s true, I am one of those moms who never let her kids have Barbies. There were many reasons for that, for example: I’d never had Barbies growing up, I’d had The Sunshine Family, and so my kids didn’t have Barbies, they had The Loving Family. Barbie really wasn’t my style, I’ve always been rather rectangular in shape, no waist to speak of, and wearing high heels has never been my thing. As a parent I rebelled against toys with tiny parts, like the shoes that fit on Barbie’s permanently disfigured feet. And yes, I didn’t want my kids growing up thinking Barbie’s body was humanly possible, because we all know it isn’t. 

Yesterday the earth shifted on its axis. My oldest child posted a link to an article about the new Barbies on facebook and tagged me in the comments. Ever skeptical, I read the article, clicked a link to read another article, clicked on a video, and there I went down the rabbit hole. 

I have a petite child, a curvy child, and one who is still growing toward being a tall child. My kids have had their hair dyed a bright variety of colors. My kids love fashion in a way I never did. What a crazy day when Barbie has dolls that represented my kids! And not just my kids, but all sorts of other kids who look nothing like my kids. I’ll admit it, I thought it was awesome. My nineteen year old daughter asked if I’d buy her her first Barbie. The idea of a doll that resembled her was cool enough that she wanted one. She felt seen and represented. 

Isn’t that what we all want, in the media, in the world around us? To feel seen and represented? 

As it happens, yesterday, I also came across an article about Lego unveiling a figure that uses a wheelchair. I was reminded of how important it is for children to see themselves represented in the world around them, and that includes in the toys they play with. 

If a child who uses a wheelchair has a toy that represents them, it enables them to express and explore their life experience through play. It also helps them feel seen and validated. If a child has a friend, or sibling, who uses a wheelchair having a toy that represents their friend is also meaningful. 

Children want to look at a toy be able to say "It's just like me!" The "it's just like me!" feeling is particularly important to kids who rarely see themselves represented in the media or in available toys. And, as it turns out, there is an organization, Toy Like Me, that is working toward a better cultural representation of disabled kids world wide. 

You may not be a fan of Barbie, and you may hate stepping on Legos when you walk across a room in the dark, but I hope you’ll join me in celebrating the fact that more kids are seeing themselves represented in the world, even as we work toward expanding the options so that every child can have a toy that brings a smile to their face as they say, “It’s just like me!”

Friday, June 12, 2015

I See Gender

When it comes to racism and prejudice, there are many essays and articles that have explained why saying “I don’t see color” is not a particularly helpful way to express that you feel you are an ally, well informed, and accepting of all people. 

In fact, Having A Color Blind Approach to Racism is Actually Racist:
“Instead of being color blind, allow yourself to acknowledge the fact that racism is still a problem that hurts a lot of people in a lot of different ways. Some acts of racism are violent and obvious, others are more subtle and even unintentional. If you want to really be an ally for people who experience racism, listen to them. That’s all you have to do: Listen.”

If you think that being color blind or “not seeing color” is a good thing then I strongly encourage you to read the above article in its entirety. 

O.K. so now hopefully we’re all on the same page about racism and how it’s a bad thing. Hopefully you get that until the world is actually a safe place for people of all colors we need to keep seeing color so that we can be part of the solution instead of perpetuating the problem. 

Now, using that as a point of reference, we are going to talk about gender identity. 

Lately there has been an uptick in the number of articles and conversations relating to transgender people and issues in my facebook feed. That’s awesome! 

What’s not so awesome is the lack of respect and compassion that creeps into the conversations from people who think they are intelligent, compassionate, respectful, and/or allies. What’s not so awesome is people who make excuses or who try to make light of their snark with statements such as: 

I was just joking
I respect you as a human but….
I’m old
I don’t care what gender people are (as in “I don’t see gender”)

People try to dismiss the importance of discussing gender identity with comments such as “Why can’t we just all be humans and accept each other as we are? We don’t need all these Labels.” 

As long as half of all transgender people are attempting suicide, and as long as transgender children are been abused, teenagers are being kicked out of their homes, people are being assaulted and murdered, and hate crimes are happening - and all of these things are happening because of gender identity and gender expression - then no, we cannot all just be humans without labels. When people are dying because of who they are then it is not o.k. for you to belittle them or make sarcastic comments about them. It is not o.k. for you to say “I respect you as a human but I don’t care about your gender identity.”  As long as there are people in the world who comment on a 15 year old kid’s YouTube channel and tell them they should be shot because they identify as genderfluid, you should care. 

While you are treating gender identity labels as designer tags that are amusing, confusing, or annoying, while you are making comments about people “just wanting to feel special”, while you are hiding behind your facebook persona, using your age as an excuse, and treating gender identity as the latest fad, people are dying. 

Until the world is actually a safe place for people of all genders we need to keep seeing gender so that we can be part of the solution instead of perpetuating the problem. You need to be part of the solution instead of perpetuating the problem. You need to be respectful of people without the “but,” without snark, hashtags, or excuses.


Your Understanding of Gender May Be Wrong. Here’s Why.

Gender Spectrum.org
Gender Spectrum offers resources to empower your relationships, work, and interactions with youth and children. From how-to guides, to respected research, to sample training materials, we provide you with the tools necessary to create gender inclusive environments in your homes, offices, and communities.  

Pronouns are Important
Two years ago I wrote a blog post over at With The Family titled "If It's Important to You, It's Important To Me." That's what I want, I want to know that this topic that is important to me and my family is important to those who say they are my friend, are my relatives, or who say they care about me. And that's really what I'm trying to express about pronoun usage: when talking to or about a non-binary person, when you use the pronouns they have asked you to use it shows them that who they are is important to you. 

Vi Hart’s video on Gender  

Monday, June 8, 2015

What Is Up With All The Labels?

This image has been going around on fb. Some people say that it just confuses or complicates things, others question why we need labels and wonder why we can’t just accept that we’re all human, get over ourselves, and perhaps move on to more important issues.

The above chart is far from perfect. It fails to provide a clear definitions of some terms and it leaves out some identities all together. But then again, there are as many gender identities as there are people; we all define, express, and experience our identities uniquely as individuals. 

So why have words to define different identities? After all, if each person is unique do any of them really mean anything? At what point is it all just a ridiculous mess of micro-labels as each person claims their individual identity?

I don’t see these as labels or categories in a strict sense of “Let’s classify everyone and everyone must fit inside a box.” I see these words as just that, words. We need words if we are to have discussions. We need a common vocabulary if we are to understand what we are talking about. Discussing words, what they mean, and how we use them, helps us expand our understanding of not just those words, but of what those words represent to the people using them. 

Sometimes people use words divisively or hurtfully, to stigmatize and isolate people or groups of people. That’s unfortunate, but it does not decrease the validity of having words. It does not take away the importance of having words to help us explain who we are. Words can also help us reach a greater understanding of those around us and how they experience life. Those words can bring people together and help us find others who get us, who will look at us and see someone who shares some common life experience or existence.

As adults around me struggle with some of these concepts, or perpetuate assumptions that are based on lack of information and understanding, it’s clear that we have a long way to go before many people, often including those who think they are progressive or open minded, are well informed and have reached a place of understanding. From trolls on YouTube to well intentioned allies, it seems people struggle to grasp the value of being able to say “I am this!” and having that validated by the people around you. 

Comments revolving around labels, that pointedly suggest that labels aren’t necessary or that people “just want to feel special” frequently surface: Why do we need to label people’s gender identity beyond male and female? Why do we need to label people’s sexual orientation beyond gay and straight? Why can’t everyone just be who they are and not worry about the labels? 

As I learn more about gender identity and expression, and sexual orientation, I think how different it would have been if this information had been available when I was a teenager. I see adults around me perpetuate the myth that every teenager is obsessed with having sex and will be having sex at a very young age if they are given any opportunity at all. This offends a couple of kids i know who identify as gray-ace. Not all teens are obsessed with having sex, in fact, some people are asexual: they are not interested in having sex. I wish I had known that when I was a teenager. Understanding the terms asexual and grey-ace helped me have a greater understanding of myself at the age of 47. And that’s the power of words. Words can give you that Aha! Moment when you understand something about yourself that you could never quite put your finger on. Words can help you feel more comfortable in your skin because can explain something about yourself in a new way - even if you are only explaining it to yourself. 

Educate yourself! 
Raising Allies has a Resources page where you'll find links that explore many words and labels.