Tag Archives: Suicide

Suicide Needs its own first aid kit

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Many of us have been there or know someone who has.  In the US, the national average for suicide is 1.6%, of that there is 5-10% in the gay community, and in the Trans community it’s 42%.

Suicide Prevention Kit
This is a great article listing 18 items to keep on hand that can keep you from sliding further down to the dark side, until you can climb back up again.

 

We, the LGBTQ community, only make up only 4.5% of the population, yet we account for 50% of the suicides. That should scare the shit out of anyone, in the community or not. Bottom line, it’s got to stop.

We know, sadly, that most of these stem from sources such as those in our environment, bullying, lack of acceptance, being outted, as well as organic issues like gender dysphoria, etc.  We need to be there, for ourselves and for our other Rainbow Tribe members.

If you or someone you know who has struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts, having these items, and knowing how they can help, could make the difference between being here and being gone. Lots of loved ones want to help, but don’t know how to. Here’s a great way to help.

 

{{{hugs}}}
Maggie


No More Invisible Children!

It is with a heavy heart that I offer Safe Passage to 17 year old Skylar Lee, of Madison, WI, who took his own life on this day ~ September 28, 2015.    An active and powerful rising voice in the LGBTQ community, his light will be dearly missed. ~ Adam Lodestone

These words were spoken just yesterday, this time for Skylar Lee, the latest casualty in the silent war on the Transgender citizens of this country.  Trans* people are killed everyday from hatred, disgust, lack of compassion, lack of empathy, violence, bullying, and abuse, by complete strangers or by their own hands.

Transgender youth aren’t just under served, they are virtually invisible on the American media landscape.  There are no ice bucket challenges, no buying a cute little cutout at the grocery or gas station, no races to keep these kids off the streets when families turn their backs and send them out into the world unprepared with nowhere to go and no clue how to survive.

According to a research report issued by UCLA’s Williams Institute, based on the results from the respondents of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS).  The survey was conducted in a joint effort of the National Gay and Lesbian Task force and the National Center for Transgender Equality.  The findings are both staggering and heartbreaking.

Respondents who experienced rejection by family and friends, discrimination, victimization, or violence had elevated prevalence of suicide attempts, such as those who experienced the following:

  • Family chose not to speak/spend time with them: 57%
  • Discrimination, victimization, or violence at school, at work, and when accessing health care
    • Harassed or bullied at school (any level): 50-54%
    • Experienced discrimination or harassment at work: 50-59%
    • Doctor or health care provider refused to treat them: 60%  
  • Suffered physical or sexual violence:
    • At work: 64-65%
    • At school (any level): 63-78%
  • Discrimination, victimization, or violence by law enforcement
    • Disrespected or harassed by law enforcement officers: 57-61% 
    • Suffered physical or sexual violence: By law enforcement officers: 60-70%
  • Experienced homelessness: 69%

Family Transcends is a fledgling nonprofit organization that is being built from the ashes of these staggering statistics of losses of life.  Its senior staff have a set, sole focus to creating sibling-style mentoring partnerships, much like Big Brothers/Big Sisters, specifically aimed at at-risk transgender youth;  understanding their unique and additional need for understanding, which greatly surpasses that of the average youth.  With the intent of saving lives, Family Transcends mentoring and support structure , will be able to immediately impact the current suicide rates. Transgender suicide in this country accounts for over 45% of national deaths while the national average is less than 5%.

For those following me for a while, you’ll notice several changes with my blog.  Starting with the name but especially the content. The things that are dear to my heart that I am passionate about are what I prefer to write as they are labors of love not tasks or obligations.  I am both pleased and proud to announce that I am a contributing writer for their blog site Family Transcends News where this piece will be shared, along with volunteering in other ways to help get their program up and running.

 

Skylar Lee
The photo is from a post dated September 17th, 2015 on the FB page for GSAFE: “Skylar Lee, an influential youth leader at GSAFE has made national news. Skylar addresses why Racial justice and LGBTQ justice need to be apart of the same conversation to truly be successful.”

In his own words from the Power In Partnerships publication:

WE CANNOT SEPARATE THE CONVERSATION BETWEEN RACIAL
JUSTICE AND LGBTQ JUSTICE when our oppression and liberation are interconnected with one another. Our identities are intersectional simply because we exist; to say that they are separate enforces White supremacy, creating a culture where it is acceptable for queer and trans POC to be invisible and pushed out of society. We must understand intersectionality to truly be a united force in the fight to dismantle these systems of oppression.

Being East-Asian, specifically Korean, with light skin, able-bodied, and being born a citizen of the U.S., I experience a huge privilege within our education system. I understand that if I was not queer and trans, I would not have been impacted by the pipeline. I also understand that I have still not been as severely impacted by the pipeline as those whom I share community with.

In my activism in racial justice and queer justice, I work with queer youth of color every day who have experienced push out or are actively being pushed out of school. The direct and indirect ways the School-to-Prison Pipeline have impacted me gives me greater awareness to the urgency of creating programs to combat the pipeline.

It is not justice if we leave behind members of our communities. It is not justice if we ignore the interconnected oppression of those we share community with. It is compliance to the systems that tell us we must fight against each other to uplift our own identity. To dismantle systems of oppression, we must be more creative than our oppressors. We are all socialized to protect these systems, a thought pattern we must actively fight against every moment. One cannot dismantle a system by working within it; rather, one must break outside the limitations of the system itself.

To begin the journey to unification, we must actively and loudly address our own privilege, power, and prejudice. No one can do this perfectly, including myself. We make mistakes, and it is never easy. However, we must never shy away from talking about intersectionality in our activism, for that is exactly what the systems have socialized us all to do. If we do not actively have these hard conversations around racial and queer identities, they will never be addressed nor recognized, and the systems will only maintain their power. I challenge everyone to start their own journey to self-awareness and actively participate in these conversations revolving around racial justice and queer justice.
~ Skylar Lee

This country has lost too many people to the hands of inflicted sorrow, anguish and torture.  These victims are our kids.

I will not feel remorse for expressing my own personal commentary that if you can turn your child away for the way he was born due to your own genetics, you shouldn’t have been a parent in the first place;  You are an unfit parent and I pity any remaining children in the home.

Demand that this news is news, that we recognize it for the national epidemic that it is and work our hardest to eradicate these staggering statistics.  If you are interested in donating time, talent or funds to Family Transcends to help get them up and running, please click on the link here, or connect with another organization locally or nationally; all of whom would be grateful for your caring just as much as your efforts.  We can handle this problem, but we need to be aware of it and we need to want to.  Please help to keep another Skylar Lee or Leelah Alcorn from becoming an invisible statistic.

The One That Affects Us All

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Today I am immensely saddened by the loss of an amazing man – Robin Williams.  Not only a man of immeasurable talent but immeasurable heart as well.  As a co-founder of Comic Relief, he, Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal brought the topic of homelessness into everyone’s consciousness as well as their living rooms.  He was a donor and spokesman for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and spent countless hours with American troops.

Robin Williams crossed many lines in his comedy and his acting, the biggest one to me was the line making stars untouchable.  Robin was the first celebrity that you could picture being at the parent-teacher conferences, at the grocery store or even in your home.  He was the guy that no matter if you agreed with his politics, you would love the opportunity to sit down and have a beer or a cup of coffee with him and just talk.  He was an anybody and an everybody and everything in between.

He not only appealed to our children but to the children in all of  us, letting us know it was okay to just have fun every once in a while. His movies made me cry like no other… The Fisher King was the first one to really put its hooks into me and not let go.  While I’ve been a fan of his ever since his walk on role on Happy Days and his subsequent spin-off of Mork & Mindy making him a household name, The Fisher King was the one that showed me not only the depth of his acting but forced me to see the depth of my own feelings as well.

I don’t think that there’s a single person who watched Dead Poet’s Society who didn’t wish they’d had a teacher like his Mr. Keating or reminded us of our own Mr. Keating.  More importantly he inspired us to be Mr Keating.  That’s really what it’s about isn’t it.  Touching someone with your passion?  That’s what he did, both as himself and as the many characters he portrayed on-screen.

Unfortunately, depression does not discriminate.  It doesn’t matter race, creed, color, age, size of your bank account or the number of accolades on your shelf.  It leaves you alone and in pain.  For those of us who have wrestled those demons, we know what he was going through.. yet something else that he has managed to share with us as well.  Like I said, he was an anybody and an everybody… and anybody can suffer depression and everyone knows someone who has… whether they realize it or not.

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So please, if you’re struggling with depression.. tell people.  Let them know.  Don’t worry that they’ll judge you, what matters is that they know you deal with this horrible burden and that you might need help.  We all need help in that wrestling match and its okay to seek help.  Remember, if you’ve made it this far you’ve got a 100% success rate in battling depression.

To Robin Williams’ family, I wish to offer you my sincerest condolences.  Your loss and pain is the greatest of all.  Suicide not only leaves a trail of grief, but a trail of guilt in its wake as well.   Please know that there was nothing that you could have done.  This was a battle that only he could fight and unfortunately he lost to a formidable foe.  I hope he has found the peace he was so desperately needing and I hope you find it as well.

{{{hugs}}}
Maggie

 

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
The arm beneath your head!
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
But I with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

The Uncomfortable Conversation (long)

Death.  Dying.  Funerals.  It happens to everyone but very few are comfortable talking about it.

(Trigger Warning: Death, Suicide, Cancer, Death of a Child)

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I think it becomes more comfortable as you get older, not because you’re getting closer to the inevitable but you’ve had more experience with it.  My great-Grandmother and great Uncle both passed in the early 70’s and I was young and mostly oblivious.  I don’t remember taking issue with it or having a problem with it.  Infact I remember nothing about it at all.  Odd.  I remember both of them, but not their deaths.

My Mom’s mom (aka the good Grandma) passed away in 1980 (I was 13).  Freaked me out.   She had a long battle with cancer that we mostly didn’t witness due to living out of state.  We made a trip back to see her for the last Christmas and then she passed 2-1/2 months later.  I only got to go with my Mom because she had recently had surgery and couldn’t travel well by herself and the airline ran a special allowing kids to fly free with a paid adult.

The rituals of funerals were overwhelming and confusing, only to be made worse with my oddball family.  Someone greeted me at the funeral home telling me they were sorry for my loss then in a sullen gesture with both hands out offered me something to take telling me “give this to you mother with my sympathies”.  I felt like I was involved in some deep family ritual that no one warned me about.  Being raised Catholic, you learn that there are appropriate and proper responses to everything and I was at a complete loss at what I was supposed to say.  Only to look down and see myself holding… a pair of socks?  As it turns out, that was my cousin (known to be a bit of a drama queen) and my mom had left the socks at her house on the last visit back East.  Sheesh.

I was adamant about not wanting to see my grandmother in the casket, preferring to remember her living… which my mom was completely supportive of  …. and along comes a cousin who decides that my decision is disrespectful and takes it upon himself to try and (literally) drag me into the room with the casket.  I should mention I was a tomboy, strong and always ready for a fight.  No problem for fighting off the rogue cousin.  Well, until I broke free and my split second of victory was shattered by winding up in the room next door seeing some complete stranger in a casket.  Well, it was creepy, but at least it wasn’t Grandma.

Needless to say there’s a reason that most family functions on that side of the family… weddings, funerals, etc have designated bouncers.  Too many, um, “forceful” opinions.  We were later kicked out of the funeral home because someone brought coffee and donuts and apparently that’s against health regulations in Brooklyn (or was at the time at least).

It wasn’t all bad though, we got our much needed comic relief at the cemetery.  We were approaching the gravesite when my very superstitious great-Aunt began saying how she hated walking through civilian cemeteries because she always felt like she was stepping on someone.  Military cemeteries have those nice uniform rows and civilian cemeteries are every which way.  We left the graveside only for the same great-Aunt to step into a rabbit hole and begin SHRIEKING “Help! They’re pulling me in!!!”  My great Uncle was frantically trying to help her while we were all laughing uncontrollably.  To date this is still one of the funniest memories I have.

Next came the dad of my best friend and (unofficially adopted) family when I was 20.  I focused on her, her mom, brothers and sisters and kept my eyes away from the front as much as possible.  I was working really hard at being a grown up although I wasn’t feeling rather successful at it.

It wasn’t until nine years later when my own father was diagnosed with cancer that the subject of death and dying now became a major point of discussion.

My dad had mesothelioma, a fast growing tumor that usually is found on the lower lobe of the lung, but his was wedged between his heart and lungs.  By the time they finally found it, it had rooted into his heart and nothing could be done.  He was sent home and hospice was contacted.

I don’t know why, but I became almost obsessed with knowing what he wanted and paranoid that we wouldn’t do the right thing.  I’m still really glad I asked because we all would have gotten it wrong.  Rather than the family plot back in New York City, he opted for cremation.  Pop had left the church years before (only attended if his parents were in town, to minimize drama) but in light of his diagnosis he wanted a priest and I was the one given the task.

Father Dave was an amazing man.  We had quite a few long conversations.  It was thanks to Father Dave that I finally felt like a grown up, confessing that I was not Catholic despite my upbringing and later lighting up a cigarette (due to the length of the conversation and stress of it all – don’t worry, I quit 15 years ago).  It was rather profound for me; no lightning strike and I didn’t burst into flame.  And then the oddest thing happened.  Father Dave thanked me.  I was so confused.  What could he possibly have to thank me for?  He said it was my honesty.  He appreciated that I didn’t put on a show for him, I didn’t pretend to be of the faith because I thought it was what he would want to hear. He also appreciated that I was willing to ask his opinions as another person rather than demanding answers and challenging his position and profession.

My daughter has always been the type of person that doesn’t like surprises and deals exceptionally well with things if she’s informed along the way.  She was very precocious 4-year old at the time.  I explained to her what was going on, detailing that some cancer is like rust (her other grandfather died of lung cancer when she was 2) and that other cancers are like water balloons that just keep getting bigger.  It made perfect sense to her and infact later she took it upon herself to explain it to her great Grandmother who was suffering more from denial than dementia at that point.

Kid was out playing when it was determined that Pop had slipped into a coma and the end was near.  I explained that it was “time” and that he would be leaving us soon.  She grabbed the chunky book that she always made him read to her and climbed in the hospital bed with him.  She proceeded to “read” the book and then sang a song to him.  Finally she gave him a kiss and then let him know that she had to go because it was bedtime.

Pop passed in the middle of the night and the funeral home came to pick up his body.  Frankly I always thought they kept bankers hours till then.  The next morning I met my daughter in her bedroom so we could talk and discuss what she would be seeing (or rather not seeing) since he was gone.  She informed me that she already knew that he was gone.  When I asked how she knew she told me that he had come up to see her before he left.  Kid when on to say that he had woken her up, let her know that he was leaving, told her to be good and that he’d see her later and that he loved her, then tucked her in and told her to go back to sleep.  I still get overwhelmed just thinking about that conversation 19 years later.

Father Dave had recommended the funeral home, noting that a lot of people complained that it looked more like an antique store rather than a funeral home.  Perfect choice.  I hate funeral homes.  On the day of the viewing, we were getting ready to leave the house when my daughter told me she had to get something and ran up to the bedroom returning with the same chunky book that she had read to him just a few nights before.  When I asked about it, she told me that she wanted to give it to him now since he wouldn’t be around for his birthday and she wouldn’t be able to give him a present then.

I learned a lot watching her.  No fear, just acceptance.  It was amazing to see someone, anyone, deal with this so matter of factly.  Not cold like a doctor, but just from a “this is okay, it happens” standpoint.  At the funeral home she greeted visitors at the door, showed them to the guest book and then walked them to the casket and left them here. No one instructed her to and no one had to tell her to give them time to themselves once they got to the casket. Somehow she just knew what to do.

Because of my dad, death became a topic of conversation for all of us.  Infact Kid informed me one day that she would prefer to have me “creamerated” so that if I died before she had kids then she could keep me around to meet them, she would do something with my ashes later “when she was done with me”.  Pretty deep for a 4 year old I thought.  When preschool started that fall she was asked to draw her family, we had to explain the box (of ashes) to her teacher who was quite confused.

A few short years later we had a rough couple of months.  From January to May there were 13 funerals between friends and family.  The hardest were in the first month.  My father’s mother who had been suffering from severe dementia passed from a ruptured aneurism, my Grandfather was completely lost.  They had been married 63 years and retired for the last 20, then in the last five years due to the dementia he was her world and she his.  My sister stayed with him to help him out and kept my daughter with her to give him another focus.

Mom & I came back to Columbus to return to work, only to get a call the following morning that a friend’s 8 month old baby had passed the night before.  Meningococcal meningitis. It usually hits college aged kids, but it got her instead.  From the time she was symptomatic to the time she passed it was 20 minutes.  Losing a baby… anyones baby, rocks your world.  Especially if you have kids.  All I could do was think of all the times my daughter had been sick.  It was also gut wrenching to watch the young single mother with her heart and purpose ripped from her as she sat next to the casket.

Two weeks later, the world as I knew it ended.  My best friend (and ex-fiancee) committed suicide.  I’m still reeling from this one all these years later.  There are no answers.  I suffered a nervous breakdown from the two events back to back. To make matters worse, due to a backlog at the coroner’s office and the required autopsy due to the nature of his death, there was a memorial service held in his honor but “he” was not in attendance.  There was no funeral. To this day I can’t picture Michael this way.  I used to have dreams that he would call me and tell me that he joined the witness protection program.  I guess Hollywood and my subconscious found a way to rationalize what I could not.

Mom passed at home like Pop did, with hospice care in 2002.  We only had a one day viewing before her cremation. My daughter, my sister, brother-in-law and I, were all much too drained emotionally to do much else.  Others felt cheated (?) if you will, that there wasn’t more time to visit and say good bye.  Something we had not considered because we were there through it all.

Grandpa went downhill rather quickly after Mom died.  He’d buried his parents, his baby brother, countless friends, his son and now his daughter-in-law.  The only ones left were his two granddaughters and his great granddaughter and he wasn’t sticking around for that.  It was agonizing for all involved to watch him as he deteriorated.  Of all the death “experience” we’d had, none of it was from old age.  To see him in a constant state of mourning and feeling punished by God, reasoning why else could he have outlived all these people only to linger and watch?  He passed a week before his 97th birthday.  This now left me as the oldest of the family at the age of 37.

What I have realized from all of this is that funerals are for the living.  They help us process what has happened and accept the transition that this person has made from life to death.  It’s important for us to see this in some manner. In as much as I didn’t want to see my Grandmother in her casket all those years ago, we still had the funeral, the entire family mourning and the cemetery. The pieces were together.

While it’s noble to say that when you die you don’t want a funeral, please consider that others need it or some form of one to help them process what has happened and deal with their loss.


Here’s where my conversation takes a little bit of a left turn if you will.  When my father’s mother passed in January 1997, it was too cold for the plot to be prepared in a timely manner due to the ground being frozen.  We had a second smaller service in the cemetery chapel rather than at the graveside.  Before leaving I expressed my wishes to go to the gravesite anyway.  It’s a family plot, my great Grandparents and great Aunt and Uncle are all buried there.  I was also trying to do a bit of family genealogy and there was a discrepancy regarding my great Grandmother’s date of birth.  I was hoping that I would find the date I was looking for on the headstone.

The headstone at that site is one larger piece of marble with the last name on it, then the first names and dates are on a second base slab below it.  As I mentioned, the gravesite was not ready for burial, but it was dug and there were large boards covering it.  I visited for a few minutes, realizing that I hadn’t been there since the last time it had been opened in 1971.  The board that was laid across the plot was blocking the information on the bottom of the stone and I attempted to move it just a couple of inches so I could see the dates.  Instead, the board fell in the hole, everyone started yelling because they thought I fell in and I scared myself and screamed anticipating to see a similar scene to the pool scene in Poltergeist (the one with the pool).  Instead, what I saw were caskets that looked “showroom new” 26 years after burial.  How is that possible?

Medgar Evers, the famous civil rights activist, was assassinated in 1963.  The person responsible for his death wasn’t finally convicted until 1994.  As part of the pretrial process, Evers’ body was exhumed to gather evidence.  His son was told to leave the room, as no loved one should see remains like that, but was soon invited back in.  It looked as though his father had only been recently buried with the casket and his body intact, not at all looking as it “should have” having being buried for 31 years.

It’s now 2014.  You can’t go a week without the term “green” or the prefix “eco” landing somewhere in your life.. whether you choose to pursue it or not.  And all I can think of is those caskets.  How long will they sit there “showroom new”?  I’ve read about how embalming fluids are toxic in the ground… although you’ve got to get through the casket now don’t you?   I’ve heard and read about how cremation isn’t very “earth friendly” because of the energy used and what is emitted into the atmosphere.

Population on this planet has literally doubled in the course of my lifetime, which means that there are more people dying.  Where are we putting them?  Have you ever seen a new cemetery open for business?  I haven’t.  I know that more are building and entombing above ground.  My grandfather once told me (in reference to the family plot) that each plot should “hold” 3 people, that they bury at 3, 6 & 9 feet and then can add to it every 25 years to allow for decomposition.  Well that’s obviously not the case with what I’ve witnessed first hand.

Frankly I don’t think we were supposed to go past the pine boxes, burial shrouds and pyres of our ancestors. While I don’t pretend to know what the answer is I do think we need to be looking for a solution before it becomes a huge problem.

I did see this video the other day which is what prompted this post (along with another conversation with my daughter).

I think its a very innovative step towards a solution for a growing problem that no one is talking about… yet.  I hope it prompts others to consider the issues being faced and those that will come eventually and it challenges them to work on other solutions as well.


We need to have these conversations with our families, no matter how awkward or uncomfortable.  It’s part of life, it’s part of the process of preparation.  Not just for planning one’s own funeral, but for helping them in dealing with our eventual death.

I considered my parents cancer to be somewhat of a blessing in that we had time to begin the process together.  I could help them be comfortable with their own upcoming death and they could help me begin the grieving process.

While we can never be fully prepared and the loss is always felt, having time to discuss things and wrap your brain around it does seem to lessen the overwhelmingness somewhat.  From where I sit, it seems that those who suffer a sudden loss have so much more to deal with and process and sometimes never quite work their way through it. Having dealt with both, I’d much rather deal with illness rather than something sudden and unexpected.

As for me, my plans are simple.  After my loved ones get to see me in my new state, I will be cremated.  My ashes will be divided between my daughter and all my besties.  They can all deal with the transition and say good bye as they see fit.  One is already planning on planting me with a tree.  I originally heard about Keith Richards (of the Rolling Stones) doing this with his dad and I absolutely love the idea.  As a tree I will be able to breathe well again, continue to live in a new form and continue to add to the quality of life of others as well.  I did some looking around and found this awesome biodegradable urn from Eternitrees.

Of course knowing my love of irony and crafts (along with one bestie in particular), someone could wind up making me into an ashtray…  and that’s okay too.  It’s about their closure, not mine.
{{{hugs}}}

Maggie

Gender Roles and Pigeon Holes

(This one is long… I hope you grabbed a cup of coffee.)

Being female and growing up in the time that I did, I’ve always been very sensitive to the constriction and restrictions of being female in our society… you’ve got to be lady, girls don’t do that, quit being a tomboy (or Jane Tough as my mother used to tell me), complete with the educational and career restrictions that went with it.

When I was little I was told that if I didn’t meet my mate in high school, I would go to college to.. you guessed it, find a mate.  If that was not accomplished or if I chose to bypass college, I would join the workforce to begin a career as a stenographer, secretary, nurse, teacher, stewardess, waitress, coat check girl, etc, ad nauseum… and of course to meet a mate.

In addition, you were expected to quit your job and take care of the home and focus on having babies as soon as you said “I do”.  If your husband allowed, you could continue to work after marriage, but only until you conceived.

If I sound a bit cynical, you’re right.  These were the pigeon holes assigned to me at birth due to my gender.  When I talked of becoming an architect, a welder or an archeologist, people outside of our home scoffed.  I played with “boy toys”… Tonka trucks, hot wheels and even started playing street hockey in my old neighborhood before moving to the midwest.  My resentment for my “station” in life started very early.

My only “little girl moment” of memory was me relating my fantasy wedding for my future.  I was going to marry a Native American man who had long straight hair like me.  We would get married on horseback and….. wait, stop right there.  At this time we must now introduce the concept of race relations and public views of mixed marriages.   This was around 1969 or 1970.  Interracial marriage had only finally become legal nationwide two or three years prior but that didn’t make it popular or without social ramifications.

Once I became an adult, I worked for a restaurant as a waitress.  I found out that they were hiring for cooks and decided to apply.  I love to cook, however at that time I had no clue what I was getting into in a short order kitchen.  I approached my manager about taking on a new position and was laughed at.  Literally.  He then informed me that “girls” could be waitresses or hostesses only; the kitchen was a man’s world.  In a grossly sarcastic tone I countered his chauvinistic response with the question of “what happened to keeping women barefoot and pregnant?”  He informed me that was at home only and that only men could cook.

In fact my manager went so far as to point out… host/hostess, waiter/waitress, cook/(cookette?), chef/(chefette?)… there’s no female version of those words so obviously “girls” can’t be professional cooks.  In addition, that was the only position in the restaurant that didn’t have a uniform standard for women, only men.  When I brought up the great Julia Child I was told “she must be a lesbian”.  I still cringe at that.

He finally conceded when he was running out of time to hire and train someone and there were limited viable applicants. Since I already knew the menu, ingredients and presentation standards, it would limit the amount of time needed to train me. “Graciously” he also informed me that he “kindly” was paying me an extra dime more per hour than the only other newly hired cook… because I was white.  Yes, disgusting, even then.  This was 1985.

I worked my way up into a management position and never looked back.  I did however realize that I had to work twice as hard to prove that I was half as good.  There were not many women in the field and unfortunately when push came to shove a lot of them validated stereotypes… couldn’t help out on the cooks line because the steam table would make their hair frizz, the heat would make their makeup run or they might chip a nail.  And of course you can’t walk on a mat that is made of rubber rings when you’re wearing heels.

For one Southern based company that I worked for, we received memos addressed to “gentleman”, including one in particular from our district manager informing us of his impending visit and how we should be dressed appropriately – shirts and ties.  I obliged on the day of the visit, wearing a shirt and tie, only to be informed that he would be returning the following week and that I’d “best be wearing girl clothes”.

The following Sunday I came to work in “girl clothes”, a lovely two piece outfit and a pair of flats that had me sliding all over the tile floor.  Not only was he a basket case in regards to the potential workers compensation claim if I were to slip and fall due to the shoes I was wearing, but went completely unhinged when he found that I had to carry everything in my bra.  I had to educate him to the fact that womens dress clothes generally don’t have pockets because you’re expected to carry a purse.  I was the only female manager in the state of Ohio at the time.  It was 1996, not the dark ages.

Luckily again, due to the timing of my birth I’ve gotten to see gender roles in the workplace change tremendously. More female doctors, lawyers, construction workers, and yes, even architects and archaeologists too.  When working with girls in Scouting, I would frequently share the stories of expectations for girls in my childhood.  I let them know where we’ve come from and why it’s important to be anything you want; being a girl shouldn’t hold you back.

I had my daughter in 1990 and have instilled in her the need to understand where women as a group have come from, and why its important to ensure that equality remains.  Knowing the size of the women in my family and the size she was destined to be, I told her how her curves were attractive, pointed out that bones hanging out was a sign of someone in need of a good meal. As a mother I couldn’t control the influences of the outside world 100%, but I could counter it.

Due to my personal experiences, I have focused and sometimes fixated on written and spoken words as well as media and its impact on women emotionally.  I had the privilege to see Christina Haubegger speak at the 2002 National Girl Scout Convention.

She is an amazing woman and an incredibly engaging speaker who happens to be the founder of Latina Magazine.  Christina Haubegger told us how she was compelled to create the magazine because the media images that she saw growing up made her and her friends feel ugly.  When you’re only seeing rail thin, caucasian women plastered on every cover, you learn quickly that curves are taboo and the beauty of color is only marginally seen… and those few that are featured still look a lot like caucasian women.  Light skinned, straightened hair, etc.

This all being said, I am ashamed to say that not once have I ever considered gender inflicted pigeonholes placed on men… that is, until I saw this video.

Being female, much less with no sons, I solely focused on the advantages that were given to men in our society.  Occasionally I noticed comments with potential emotional effects that it could have on boys, again I hate the girl toy/boy toy issue for example, but I never really looked at it on the much larger scale with the lasting effects and impacts that it has on boys and men in the long term.

In the course of my internal discussion sparked by seeing that movie trailer, I’ve retrospectively looked at this issue in relation to my husband, ex-boyfriends, friends’ husbands, nephews, friends’ kids… and I can now see how these comments shape and impact them.

We complain that our male partners are not in touch with their feelings, can’t communicate feelings, or are distant.  Yet we tell sons to “man up” and use words like sissy, cry baby or worse.  If the man is an emotional being and sensitive?  Well of course he must be gay.  See a pattern here?

I did some, albeit limited, research as my interest grew in this subject.  As I looked at teen suicide rates by gender, I started to cry.  Boys/men ages 10-24 commit suicide 4 times more than girls/women of the same age group!  That’s absolutely horrifying to me!  Where’s the outreach?  Where’s the mentoring and support?

We finally publically recognize that girls have self-esteem and self-worth issues and yet at no time are girls faced with the challenge of “proving” that they’re a woman.  Boys are asked to prove their manhood all the time.  Why is that?  Why is manhood treated like a prize fighters belt that can be taken away at a moments notice if they don’t constantly compete to keep it?

If boys (and eventually men) can’t channel their feelings and learn to properly handle their emotions, where does that leave them?  And us? And their children?  We’ve got to break the cycle of perpetuating the stereotype of the stoic dominant male that feels nothing and needs no one.  Guess what?  We do need them.  We need them as partners, as fathers, as friends and as healthy, happy human beings.

We let the girls play with dolls and “practice” to be a good Mom, yet we call boys names that equate to “less than” if they play with dolls.  We want husbands to to be hands on with parenting… feeding, changing diapers, etc.  but how do we groom and inspire a nurturing father if we’re teaching our boys that learning to handle babies makes them “less than”?

Where is the “I want to be a good Dad” doll? At a time where single parent homes are at their highest ever, shouldn’t we be encouraging and teaching both genders to break the cycle, stick around and be actively involved?  Instead we bombard the tv with images of women who go on talk shows like game show contestants trying to match the DNA, and perpetuate the vision that men have to run because women are just trying to trap them.   Is this really what we want to teach our children?

Gender roles have changed in this country and thankfully continue to do so, but more discussion is desperately needed.  We need to level the playing field and truly do it across the board.  When we complain about how Barbie creates body image issues for young girls, and beg for the need for GI Jane, we must also recognize that Batman, Spider Man and Superman show boys to act one way in public and another in private.  They teach that if they want to be the hero that everyone looks up to, they have to wear the mask.

Those same magazine covers that show us the size 0 supermodels also show us photoshopped, chiselled men, narrow waisted with perfect 6 pack abs.  Of course the icing on the proverbial cake when it comes to male body image rests in the size of a body part that only God and nature can determine.  Talk about setting unattainable goals for a lifetime no-win situation!

Personally I think that guys like Seth Rogan, Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn should be on covers… a lot.  They are the picture of the average guy.  I mean really, who’s look alike are you more likely to meet on the street, David Beckham or (the late) Kurt Cobain (wearing his favorite Mr Rogers sweaters)?  Adam Levine or Drew Carey?

I want to see our children accept and love themselves for who and how they are.  All of them, male or female.  I want them to be happy and to always have someone to share their feelings with.  I want them to become great adults, great parents (if they choose) and great partners.  Most of all I want them to be good to themselves.  To see themselves as a positive, worthy of love, friendship and admiration and not a negative filled with self-loathing and doubts who always sees themselves as not good enough and not worthy of love and respect.

I hope this creates the opportunity for dialog within yourself and with those you know and love.  I look forward to comments and feedback.  With enough discussion, maybe we can create more change for our children and our grandchildren.  Let’s work on this together, please.  As always..

{{hugs}}

Maggie