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Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prose – Original Art by Maggie Valera

I looked it up on Google Maps and the historic Stonewall Inn is just 7.1 miles from my childhood home. On my 3rd birthday in the summer of ’69, after I was well asleep in my bed the grown folks were enjoying a cold drink on a hot summer night, history was about to be changed forever.   A poorly planned police raid would be the catalyst that changed our world, kicking off the visibility of the LGBTQ civil rights movement.

What started as a 1 a.m. raid, grew exponentially as word got out and continued to grow throughout the day.  By the evening, June 28th, 1969 would be remembered forever as the day that Pride day was born and though the Stonewall riot was credited to transwomen Sylvia Rivera and Martha P. Johnson, it was only recognized as a “gay movement” for a very long time.

We thankfully as things have progressed, our Rainbow Tribe has expanded the recognition of who makes up our family and as being inclusive in Pride and the equality movement.  We are LGBTQIA -Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual. And while yes, the word queer traditionally has been used only in derogatory connotations, the community has retaken the word for our own purpose as a catchall to make an inclusive reference to the community.

 See:  LGBTQ Terms and Definitions

Trans folks are anyone who doesn’t fully identify with their “assigned gender at birth” based on our visible genitalia. I say visible because many intersex children are born appearing as boys, but will, later on, be found to have female sex organs discovered.  Intersex is an umbrella term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.

Sadly, many parents opt to have their children surgically altered so that they don’t have to “explain” to others that their son is “different”.  Ironically it’s medically easier to have their son become their daughter, but of course, that leaves that awkward part for parents to explain that their child is beautiful, loved and a blessing.  Thankfully the trend is changing and parents are allowing their child to grow up, without being forcibly mutilated so they can decide how to proceed as they get older.

See:  What Is Intersex?

I identify as genderqueer/genderfluid. Genderqueer is the word describing someone who doesn’t fully identify as a girl/woman or boy/man. While I was born as a member of the female sex because of my plumbing and sex organs, I have never really identified as a girl. I was called a tomboy growing up and that didn’t sit right with me either and I knew I wasn’t a boy.

Genderfluid becomes even a bit more confusing because sometimes I feel very feminine, usually brought out by someone around me that is very masculine, other times I feel more masculine, I carry myself differently, my demeanor is more forward. Other times I’m just me… no discernible gender, just me.

What It Means When You Don’t Identify as a Girl or a Boy

We’ve all heard of people who feel that they are one gender trapped inside a body with the organs of the opposite sex. However, those of us in that gray area in the middle (and we are the majority in the trans community) have a really hard time figuring ourselves out feeling rather ambiguous and undefinable.

Find out more at It Gets Better.org

These are all new words to me, discovered just a few short years ago at the age of 47. This “label” did not confine me, it freed me. It allowed me to understand parts of myself, my identity, that just didn’t fit anywhere. I now know that I am not alone, and I am not different, I have a community of people who deal with the same things I do. Other people, and probably you know as well, finally have a means of identity.

Gender Variance Around the World Over Time

The best way that I have found to describe being transgender is the body is the sex, and the gender is the soul. And while many argue that “God doesn’t make mistakes”, the fact of the matter is that human bodies do. There is no rule that says that babies are born perfect. They are born with disease, deformities, and various other medical anomalies. That is the human body, it is ruled by science… the science of the genetics passed on to them, the science of their given environment during gestation, etc.

I’m sure that you have seen or met someone with physical issues from birth that leave a child handicapped in one way or another, but that child’s soul is intact. In their head, in their heart, in their smile and personality, you know they are an incredible person, regardless of their issues, or sometimes even in spite of their issue. This is no different.

We’ve all seen variations of the Freaky Friday movies.. It’s always mother and daughter, father and son, and in a favorite of mine starting George Burns, grandfather and grandson. It’s all good for a laugh, when they see their body as different and scream in the mirror, even when Tom Hanks was BIG!   A transgender person sees themselves in the mirror or in the shower the same way, as something very shocking that upsets them greatly, as something possibly deformed and very wrong… like waking up in the wrong body.  An image in the mirror or the shower, that does not match what their perception of how they feel they look.   This is where transgender folks struggle all the time, detesting and disgusted with their physical appearance that no diet or exercise can change.

Learn more about Gender Dysphoria

Hell, think of the kid in A Christmas Story, (“you’ll shoot your eye out!”) when he had to try on that humiliating bunny suit. An odd comparison I know, but surely one we all can identify with, having some moment in our past where we’ve been under the spotlight and bubbling over with anxiety, and feeling uncomfortably self-conscious. Now imagine what it would feel like to be born feeling that way about your body and appearance, without people getting to see or know you for who you are instead of how you look.

And when you try to shed some of those layers, to break free of the prison that confined and tortured you, then you deal with people spewing hate, vitriol, and even violence because you had the audacity to show your true self to them. And not just strangers and acquaintances, people who have been close friends, family members, living in a situation of constant bullying. People who should be supportive and mentoring turn into tormentors.  Parents should never be their child’s first bully, and should not emotional abuse or abandon their child. EVER.

The trans community has a 42% suicide rate, the numbers for self harm are staggering and transgender TEENS make up the make up a lion’s share of this country’s homeless population, left in abject poverty, drugs and both physical and sexual abuse.

It’s time to stop this. You can make a difference. Citizens shouldn’t just be celebrating pride of self and community for only one month a year, and they shouldn’t have to shed any signs of that celebration before traveling home to keep them from deal with harassment, assault, and possibly lose their life.

This country is supposed to be where “all men are created equal”, The Great Melting Pot, yet trans women are beaten and killed every day. We are Americans, we are one and we should all be recognizing that all citizens have the right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, not just in the area of marriage equality, but in employment, housing, and just being living from day to day. We’re worried from day to day about what can happen to us from outside forces, so we need to band together and not target our own citizens.

Trans Lifeline   US: (877) 565-8860                       Canada: (877) 330-6366

The Trans Lifeline, they are a 24/7 hotline for transgender people in crisis, along with just learning more about about transgender people and related political issues.  And by all means check out some of the other top organizations that work tirelessly to support the queer community.  Consider a donation, a purchase or volunteering in your area!

10 Amazing LGBT Organizations 

Thanks for taking the time to read this and show you care.  Just learning more about the topic enables you to be a strong ally for friends, family and coworkers who are LGBTQIA.  I encourage you to share this with others.   No one can have too many friends or allies.

And to my family members of the LGBTQIA Rainbow Tribe, I love you and we’re going to do this, together.  Let me hear your voices below!

Namaste ~ Maggie ॐ

Before Pride: 13 People Talk About Being LGBTQ In The 1960s

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Spread the Word, Lend a Hand

** Update**  Christion Isaac-Alexander Shaw  6/20/09 – 12/18/14   Please consider helping with this fundraiser to help with the arrangements and passing on this story of Christion and his life.  Thank you – Maggie **

 

Sorry that I haven’t posted in a while.  I have been experiencing many life changes, most positive… a new relationship, new additions to the family with more on the way, a little travelling with a whole lot of visiting, etc.

Today’s post unfortunately is not so upbeat.

Today we’re stepping up to a window into the life of an incredible single mother and her two sons… a one seven-week old named Cameron and the other a five-year old named Christion who has muscular dystrophy.

 

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This is my friend KaShonda and her boys.  Christion is 5 years old and has Nemaline myopathy Muscular Dystrophy.  He’s a great kid.  He laughs and plays and watches TV… loves Handy Manny and was completely enamored with being able to watch PBS Kids on my iPad and snuggling with me while Mom and I got to spend time together.  In many ways Christion is just like any other 5-year-old.

 

 

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Then there’s all the special extras that do not surround a typical 5-year-old… oxygen, suction to clear his lungs, a belt that provides air pressure that simulates pounding on his back to loosen the mucus in his lungs, wheelchairs, monitors, pulse oximeters, etc.

While as a country we’re trying to get kids away from the happy meals, Christion has never had one and probably never will.  Christion doesn’t eat, he has a feeding tube directly into his stomach with nutrition that comes in a pouch.

 

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Christion doesn’t have babysitters or daycare, but has home nurses.  In fact KaShonda even went to nursing school just so she could not only be better prepared to take care of her son but so that she would be able to work at home with him.  It doesn’t get anymore incredible than that, truly a devoted mother.

Sadly just a few short weeks ago, Christion’s health once again took a down turn when he developed pneumonia and wound up in the ICU.  Finally improving enough to be moved out of ICU, you can see that spirits were high.

 

Tickle time!
Tickle time!

 

Later this very same day, November 28th, Christion coded.  Medical personnel worked on him extensively to revive him but he was down for 12-13 minutes.    This is Christion right now…

 

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Heartbreaking is the only word that applies and yet that word doesn’t go deep enough.  He is 5 years old and should be writing letters to Santa, not hooked to monitors unresponsive.  His Mom should be trying to sneak in presents to surprise him with, not crying bedside in a hospital room, praying for her son.

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Then there’s Cameron.  For those who would say that thank God the 7 week-old is “normal”, they are incorrect.  While Cameron is quite healthy he is in no way normal.

Seven week-old babies should be in their mothers arms, not bounced around to relatives so his mom can keep her vigil at Children’s Hospital.  Cameron should have a big brother that can teach him to throw a football, intimidate kids who try to bully him, teach him how to date, how to drive and be his best friend.

UPDATE:   While the CT scan and EEG’s looked promising, an MRI has shown that Christion has suffered massive trauma on his whole brain and the prognosis is not positive and family is preparing for the inevitable.   Prayers are still needed for this family, for strength and courage to help them along their difficult journey.  Any donations would help considerably.  Please consider sharing this post or the fundraiser page to help.

Donations for Christion

Donations for research can be made to:

Muscular Dystrophy Association
National Office
222 S. Riverside Plaza, Suite 1500
Chicago, Illinois 60606
888-HELP-MDA
(888-435-7632)

 

If your children are healthy, give thanks.  Not just once, but every day.  Life is fragile and it can be short.  Please take the time if you can to help a friend or neighbor who may need that extra hand.  Consider donating to research to continue the fight for a cure for this and other diseases and disabilities that hurt children and torment parents.  Even a few dollars a month can do a lot of good.

Have a safe, happy and healthy with your family and please join me in #PrayersforChristion.  Please share this story and allow his story to open hearts and maybe a wallet or two.  We can’t have too many people praying for him or sending positive energy their way.
{{{hugs}}}

Maggie

Our Future Needs Help

Homeless child at soup kitchen, Her family was living out of a car.
Homeless child at soup kitchen, Her family was living out of a car. Taken June 2008

I was reading an article entitled  “The 10 Worst States for Student Homelessness“.  It is a very well written and enlightening piece that encourage you to take the time to read.  In it, it offers a link to the Dept of Ed’s report citing the actual statistics per state for the 2009-2010, 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 school years.  Numbers are not complete for the current school year since it has not completed.

California tops out at 21.3% of their students are homeless!  New York comes in 2nd at 8.3% and Texas at 8.1%. This is positively horrifying!  These numbers are a representation of the total students statewide.  The majority of the homeless are in urban areas.  So what are the percentages in those inner city classrooms?

How can we expect children to succeed with so much working against them?  How can teachers teach effectively when children are worried about where their next meal is coming from, do they have a safe place to go after school and where they will sleep tonight?

It’s hard enough to maintain employment when you are homeless,  I know first hand.  If you haven’t read my post “Insights Into the Dark” please check it out.

Personally I’d really love to see the statistics of absenteeism rates for homeless vs housed students.  I know how hard it was for kids in the shelter that I stayed at to attend school, but at least they had somewhere to be picked up and dropped off from.  Unfortunately it was in the middle of the bus route so everyone knew exactly where they lived.

Imagine the family that is rotating between friends and relatives, a night or two in each place; or the family who is staying in their car or worse yet outdoors.

Here’s a video from an episode of Ellen that is from September 2011.  It’s about an amazing lady named Sherrie Gahn who is the principal of an elementary school in Las Vegas.  Well instead of me telling you, watch it and we’ll talk more…

Gave you chills right?  I know it did for me and a lot of other people.  It’s pretty overwhelming.  Sherrie Gahn is working miracles and thankfully she got some huge help.  In fact, after this show aired, Justin Bieber personally donated $100,000 to the school.  That being said, that’s just one elementary school.

You heard her numbers… 85% on free or reduced lunch, a large portion of them are homeless, even though the statistics for the state of Nevada list the reported homeless students at 0.9 %.   Less than one percent, yet that much poverty.

So what is it like for kids and teachers in LA, living in a state that reports it has approximately 53,000 members of their students are homeless?  Or New York with over eight thousand students that are homeless?  And that’s just homeless.  That doesn’t consider those living in poverty that have managed to retain a roof over their heads.

As a parent, I know how much I was required to provide for my child when she was in school.  I don’t think there’s a school around that doesn’t rely on at least 2 or more fundraisers to help them make ends meet each year.  None of those fundraisers are even designed to cover the out of pocket costs being covered by teachers.  For the schools dealing with this much poverty, where does the fundraising come from?  Certainly not parents.  So the schools do without, putting an added financial burden on already stretched parents.  How many children would you guess have all the tools they need to succeed?  I’m going to guess not enough.

According to the Food Research and Action Center, approximately 19.6 million children received free or reduced lunches in the 2011-2012 school year.  During that same school year there were a total of 952,281 homeless students (reported).  So the homeless only (roughly) represent half of the children living at or below poverty incomes.  As you can see, there many, many children that need help.

While it’s easy to throw up our hands, note that it’s an overwhelming problem or just simply say not my kid/not my problem, the fact is… it is your problem, and mine, and everyone else’s.  You see these kids are going to be adults that need to become teachers, lawyers, doctors, and everything else we need to make our society function.   They will be taking care of you and me as time marches on.  As the song says, our children are our future.  We need to take care of them now so they can take care of us later.

Please consider participating in a local supply drive or even creating one.  Talk to your local schools, churches, community centers or even your employer to find out who they help and when so that you may participate.  My employer does school supply drives twice a year in addition to food drives, clothing drives, etc.

You can also contact one of the following organizations to help as well.  If you are in need please contact the same resources for assistance.

The Kids in Need Foundation
This foundation distributes supplies to 2.4 million students annually. While they do not donate directly, through a national network of Resource Centers, teachers can get free supplies for their students in need.  The foundation also distributed items through community backpack and supplies giveaway programs throughout the country.  For communities without its Resource Centers, community organizations often provide supplies to local students by conducting backpack giveaways through the foundation.  Go to http://www.kinf.org/ for more information on applying to receive support for a school, or to donate.
 Boys & Girls Club of America
Boys & Girls Clubs of America host a national supply drive, called Tools for Back-to-School, through an online play-to-give game and in-store support at retailers across the nation. These supplies, as well as supplies donated by their partners, Disney, Michaels, and Staples, are delivered directly to local Boys & Girls Clubs. Families can contact their local Boys & Girls Club for more information on back-to-school support. To find your local club visit http://www.greatfutures.org and click Find A Club.
 AdoptAClassroom.org
AdoptAClassroom.org is a national, nonprofit organization whose goal is to make sure that all children have access to a quality education. They start by supporting classroom teachers, and since 1998 have raised over $18 million for classrooms across the country. Through this program, teachers are able to make purchases to enrich their classrooms, and students benefit. To support a classroom, visithttp://www.adoptaclassroom.org.
 The Give with Target Program
The retail chain will donate $5 million to schools across the country to help ensure that students and teachers have the supplies they need to start the new year. From now through September 21, guests can cast their vote for a school of their choice by visiting Target’s Facebook page. Once a school has received 25 votes, Target will donate $1 per vote, with a (maximum donation of $10,000 per school). The cash donation will provide schools with undesignated funds to purchase the materials their students and teachers need most. For more info, visit http://givewith.target.com/.

As always friends, thanks for listening and letting me share.

{{{hugs}}}
Maggie