Tag Archives: Outreach

Congratulations, But We’re Not There Yet

(Republished from Sept 2015)

Over the years, we’ve seen a lot of progressive changes here in America. While some show us just how far we’ve come, others let us know just how far we still need to go.  I was reading the latest piece here on The Kinfolk Kollective (brilliant writer btw, check her out) about Viola Davis and the nonsense (read bullshit) that ensued.

While I did not watch the awards, I saw the immediate spreading the joyous news of Viola Davis’ well deserved win on social media.  I think she’s an incredibly talented actor and I was very happy that she received her due in this well earned recognition.

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 20:  Actress Viola Davis accepts Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series award for 'How to Get Away with Murder' onstage during the 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA – SEPTEMBER 20: Actress Viola Davis accepts Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series award for ‘How to Get Away with Murder’ onstage during the 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Later I saw her speech, along with the very short and spread out list of other firsts and I was saddened to realize how little progress we’ve made in this area. To be honest, since I’m not a fan of the awards shows or their history I had no idea until this moment how far behind we were in this arena.

I remember seeing Halle Berry’s acceptance speech in my younger years thinking “cool, we’re there” and being completely oblivious to the fact that we are so far from it in this vein. Viola really hit the nail on the head when she pointed out you can’t win awards for parts not written. It’s a simple problem with a seemingly simple solution.  Right?

But of course no one can have their 15 seconds forget 15 minutes, in the sun before critics and assholes feel the need to tear people down with their own Ignorance.  This phenomenon was never more apparent than when a Tweet by an unnamed white actress (only because I refuse to offer any publicity with her name attached) who felt that Viola should have allowed someone else to write her speech for her. Are you kidding me?

So here we finally have the first African-American woman in this country to win an Emmy for Best Actress in a Drama, and this person felt, either out of jealousy of the win or personal discomfort because it didn’t align with her life of privilege, that it should have been censored or desensitized for those who prefer to speak out of their asses because their heads are buried deeply in the sand.

If I can offer a brief but meaningful segue  – One of my favorite movies is A Time to Kill starring Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock and the ever powerful Samuel L. Jackson. The 1996 movie is based on the book of the same name by John Grisham, and is a story told from the defence attorney’s perspective as he digs deep to defend his client (Samuel L. Jackson) accused of murder after killing the men who repeatedly and brutally assaulted his young daughter.  McConaughey’s closing speech as Southern defense attorney Jake Brigance is one that will stop your heart and give you the deepest understanding of racial divide that you never saw coming. If you haven’t seen it, I urge you to watch it here.

After you regain your composure, feel free to join in the singing “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” from the Broadway musical Avenue Q and be sure to invite and include almost everyone you’ve ever known to join you in the chorus. There’s no shame in realizing that down deep you have some racially disparaging leanings at your core.  Of course you couldn’t.  You didn’t realized that you’ve been groomed this way from birth and while you may wash away some of it, there’s a couple of places you didn’t know were even there.

American society historically has been very racist and it didn’t stop with the end of the Civil War. In fact, slavery didn’t even end with the war. If you’re not familiar with Juneteenth look it up.  Don’t be surprised if you’re not familiar with it. It’s an event that is not taught in schools.  Why?  I don’t know.

I didn’t learn about the racially motivated Internment Camps to restrict the freedoms of Japanese-Americans during World War II either.  We learned a fraction of the relocation and atrocities committed against Native Americans by white settlers and Americans, too grievous a list to reference here.  Then again until the casinos opened, most folks thought that Native Americans were more historical figures than living peoples.  Out of sight, out of mind.  I guess that’s what that actress was hoping for with her tweets.

American History books would have us believe that this country was settled in harmony with only a few gunfights, a really cool railroad, the creation of the pony express and some really funny clothes and mustaches, then a few battles as part of the Civil War and once the war was over, we all continued living together happily until the 1950’s when we became a society divided again (for some unknown reason that nobody remembers I’m sure…) leading to Rosa Parks being the catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement with the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Every generation does a little bit better, but we have to strive for it to keep progressing as parents, as industry, as a society, as a country.  Dr King said it best in his historic I Have A Dream speech “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”.  While I have always been moved by, believed in and agreed with that sentiment, we need to remember it just as much now as on that historic day in August 1963 on the the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

I am constantly judged by those who see me as a caucasian woman, when the reality is that I am a genderfluid individual who only racially identifies as human, formerly married to an Afro-Cuban man for 10 years (which was illegal within my own lifetime btw) and is someone who has family and friends in every color of the rainbow and every position along the gender spectrum.   That’s not to say I’m not free of prejudice, not even close.  What it means that race and gender are not my identity nor is it my sole scope of experience for viewing the world around me; and as I recognize these flaws within myself, that awareness allows me to target it for removal like radiation directed toward cancer cells.. but only if I choose to do so.

Hate is a cancer of the human soul and prejudice is only one of its symptoms.  As we’ve seen in the past year racially motivated crime at an all-time visibility.  Understand that because of our changes in technology, these injustices are more visible than ever before, and with it comes the demand for accountability and change.

Please recognize that these are far from the only injustices that are occurring.  Young vets coming back are dealing with having to fight not only for their earned benefits but the continuing the fight they’d thought they’d left being as it haunts them constantly, creating an unprecedented veteran suicide reaching record numbers that this country has never seen before.

Transgender individuals, both adult and youths are assaulted and murdered daily, make up a majority of the homeless population as backs are turned on them at every turn and maintain a suicide rate of over 40%.  These two things in particular you don’t see on mainstream news because they don’t feed the fires of racial tensions and controversy, instead they breed empathy and compassion.  That doesn’t sell advertising.

The honest truth of the matter is that it’s going to take many more generations of Americans to water down and weed out experiences known as daily reality for many, many people in this nation both past and present, but it takes work, and a lot of it.  There is no room for complacency, the old adage is true “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”.

We as a nation and a society need to be proactive in repairing the current wounds and old scars of injustice for ALL of our citizens, not just the majority and the underserved need to be sought out.  Trust needs to be built, that’s the hardest part, and the nightly news makes sure to work against that because that’s how they get viewers and sell advertising.

So please look to the disparity around you and know that you can be the catalyst for change.  Compassion and empathy can make the difference in whether someone continues living or chooses dying.  Never forget that Rosa Parks wasn’t some visionary radical, she was a woman tired from a long day at work whose feet hurt.  Even the smallest pebbles can create the biggest ripples, you can be a superhero, all you have to do is use your powers for good.

{{{hugs}}}

Maggie

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

Save A Number, Save A Life

February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.

Think about that for a moment and let it sink in.  Violence in relationships is now not only so prevalent that we have a month dedicated to it, but one dedicated to teens.  To me at least, it would seem that would be an indicator that domestic violence is getting worse, not better and that would directly tie in with the bullying epidemic that this country has been dealing with.
148522_460347500487_4657907_nAll children (before they ever become teens) need to be educated and empowered to understand that no one EVER deserves to be hit or intimidated.  Forget the old cliche that a man shouldn’t hit a woman because that one goes right out the window when it’s a same sex relationship or a school bully.  It’s about teaching self worth.  Period.

It’s not only teaching the little girl that if “he” hits you, you should leave, but also teaching the little boy that if “she” keeps pushing you to the point where you want to hit, you need to go.  In both cases, those individuals have issues that need to be dealt with and another victim doesn’t need to be created in the process.

In all cases, children should be taught self love.  They should not be victimized or be a witness to victimization and be made to think that this behavior is normal.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline responds to calls 24/7, 365 days/year, toll free, translations in 170 languages, providing crisis intervention, options for next steps, and direct connect to sources for immediate safety. www.thehotline.org
 

The Hotline is the vital link to safety for women, men, children and families affected by domestic violence. Callers are met with a live voice of a caring Advocate who can help the caller develop a safety plan, see options for hope and can quickly direct-connect callers with sources of help in communities across the U.S. The Hotline is an excellent source of help for concerned friends, family, co-workers and others seeking information and guidance on how to help someone they know. 1 in 4 women is abused, and friends and family are some of the first places they turn for help.

 

A national service, the Hotline receives about 22,000 calls each month and provides a database of more than 5000 agencies and sources of help in communities around the U.S. and its Territories. 

The Hotline provides bilingual advocates (Spanish) when possible and a Language Line with 170 translations. 

The Hotline accepts donations online and in writing to NDVH, PO Box 161810, Austin TX 78716 (phone 512-794-1133). For information about corporate partnerships, creating campaigns or events, contact kcampbell@ndvh.org.

Please empower your children with the knowledge they need to stay healthy and safe.  Set the example, your home is what they know as being “normal”.

If you need to get out of your environment – please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 to find local assistance.

Teen Abuse Card
Print this out and hand it out as needed. You may save a life.

What to do if you’re not abused

Confusing header I know, but just because you’re blessed to be in a healthy relationship doesn’t mean others are to.   What if a friend or relative came to you tomorrow and asked for help because they are in a violent relationship and need assistance to save themselves and possibly their children?  What do you do?

  1. Bookmark this page so  you can reference it or send it to someone else.
  2. Open the link for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, bookmark it too.
  3. Let your fingers do the walking – Find out what is available in your area for victims of domestic violence should you need to refer someone.  Find out about local homeless shelters and food pantries as well.
  4. Write down this information twice and keep them handy.  Keep a copy for you and a copy to be handed to someone at a moment’s notice.  You never know when you’re going to run into someone that needs help or how much time you’ll have to spend with them.

Find out what you can do to help.

All organizations need help by way of donations and volunteers.  Ask what they need the most.  Here’s a link for setting up your own used cell phone drive!  We all have these lying around.

Talk to your church, youth groups and anyone who will listen about setting up workshops to teach about domestic violence and bullying.   If there’s nothing organized currently, help set it up if you can and get donation drives going.

We all need to make the world a better place and be proactive in this endeavor.  Outreach should not just be conducted by former victims or children of victims but everyone who knows that this behavior needs to be stopped.

Remember that bullying doesn’t stop on the playground, it grows into something far more damaging if it’s not stopped in its tracks.  Thanks for listening.

{{hugs}}
Maggie