October 1, 2010

It gets better, and help is out there

Posted in Children and adolescents, GLBT issues, Poetry at 4:22 pm by The Lizard Queen

A couple of things I wanted to point to, apropos of my previous post:

First, I want to point to the Trevor Project, which offers a crisis and suicide prevention helpline for LGBT and questioning youth, along with other great resources.  The nationwide, round-the-clock helpline is 1-866-4-U-TREVOR (1-866-488-7386).

Dan Savage recently kicked off a YouTube campaign, the It Gets Better Project.  Here’s what he said when he started it:

Billy Lucas was just 15 when he hanged himself in a barn on his grandmother’s property. He reportedly endured intense bullying at the hands of his classmates—classmates who called him a fag and told him to kill himself. His mother found his body…. I wish I could have talked to this kid for five minutes. I wish I could have told Billy that it gets better. I wish I could have told him that, however bad things were, however isolated and alone he was, it gets better.

But gay adults aren’t allowed to talk to these kids. Schools and churches don’t bring us in to talk to teenagers who are being bullied. Many of these kids have homophobic parents who believe that they can prevent their gay children from growing up to be gay—or from ever coming out—by depriving them of information, resources, and positive role models.

Why are we waiting for permission to talk to these kids? We have the ability to talk directly to them right now. We don’t have to wait for permission to let them know that it gets better. We can reach these kids.

Go check out the videos, and spread the word!

Finally, today, via Good As You, I came across God Loves Poetry, a site that is “challenging the Westboro Baptist Church one blackout poem at a time.”  Basically, folks take WBC press releases and whatnot, and black out most of the words until what’s left is lovely, and loving.  (You can see a photo of the process here.)


September 30, 2010

Musings about bullying and suicide

Posted in Children and adolescents, Civil rights, GLBT issues, Musings at 12:27 pm by The Lizard Queen

Tyler Clementi played the violin.  He won a scholarship for his playing, and as of this fall he was a member of the Ridgewood (New Jersey) Symphony Orchestra—pretty impressive for an 18-year-old college freshman, and he’d been playing in the RSO since high school.  A friend recently said this* about his talent: “When you picked up the violin and began to play, it was as if everything just paused until you put it down again.”  Here is a photograph of Clementi playing, courtesy of the New York Times**:

Tyler Clementi

That picture reminds me so much of one of my friends from high school; I like to think that if I’d met Tyler when I was his age, we would have been friends.

Perhaps that’s part of why I’m so thoroughly heartsick that Tyler Clementi appears to have killed himself last week.  (The phrasing “appears to have killed himself” is a pretty heavy dose of denial on my part, but since today’s ABC News article—linked below—states that “Officials are still trying to determine today whether a body pulled from the Hudson River Wednesday is Clementi”… I guess I just want to believe that he might not actually be dead, that this was all some elaborate scheme for revenge.  I’m not sure what that says about me, exactly.)

Here’s what happened, via the New York Times (linked below): Read the rest of this entry »

October 16, 2009

13-year-olds are fair game, according to William Saletan

Posted in Children and adolescents, Current events, Feminism, Language, Law, Rape culture, Sex at 6:29 pm by The Lizard Queen

I haven’t spoken in this particular venue on the subject of Roman Polanski, largely because others have said what I think so well already.  Furthermore, I find myself wondering, partly, what’s left to discuss?  A 44-year-old man in a position of power drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl.  There was a shitty plea bargain and some legal shenanigans, and the man served a little time, but fled the country to avoid serving any more, and has lived in Europe ever since.  The fact remains, though, that he raped a 13-year-old girl, and justice was arguably not served on that point.  Now he’s been re-apprehended, and what I’ve simply been dumbfounded by is the pundits and celebrities who want to discuss not whether the re-apprehension itself was shady, not the aforementioned legal shenanigans and/or the problematic nature of plea bargains, not whether California’s limited resources might be better spent on other things—but whether or not what Polanski did was really rape and/or was justifiable.

This week, William Saletan made a foray into the rape apologism surrounding the Polanski case.  Now, I know that Saletan has given feminists every reason to ignore what he says outright, but I stumbled upon this round of garbage via a Think Progress e-mail and it incensed me enough that I had to write about it.  Read the rest of this entry »

August 28, 2009

Et tu, PBS?

Posted in Books, Children and adolescents, Education, Television at 3:43 pm by The Lizard Queen

If you listen to NPR’s Morning Edition or read Shakesville faithfully, then you’ve already heard the news that Reading Rainbow is going off the air after a 26-year run.  It’s not happening because LeVar Burton wants to retire (though who knows; maybe he does) or because every child in the US is so excited about reading that it’s no longer necessary.  Here’s why it’s happening: Read the rest of this entry »

April 17, 2009

Day of Silence 2009

Posted in Activism, Children and adolescents, GLBT issues at 1:29 pm by The Lizard Queen

Today marks the 13th annual Day of Silence, a day during which LGBTQ students and their allies refuse to speak (at least traditionally; as the event has grown, so have the ways to observe the day expanded — check out the list here), in order to call attention to bullying and harassment of LGBTQ youth in schools.  Here’s the text from the GLSEN’s speaking cards:

Please understand my reasons for not speaking today. I am participating in the Day of Silence (DOS), a national youth movement bringing attention to the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies. My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by anti-LGBT bullying, name-calling and harassment. I believe that ending the silence is the first step toward building awareness and making a commitment to address these injustices. Think about the voices you are not hearing today.

This is important not only because no one should have to endure bullying and harrassment, but also because bullying and harrassment can lead to violence, to murder, to suicide.

Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover would have turned 12 today.  Earlier this month he hanged himself, after being subjected to anti-gay bullying since the start of the school year.  His case is an indicator of the extent to which anti-LGBTQ bullying can affect students beyond those who openly identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or trans:

[Carl’s mother, Sirdeaner] Walker said her son had been the victim of bullying since the beginning of the school year, and that she had been calling the school since September, complaining that her son was mercilessly teased. He played football, baseball, and was a boy scout, but a group of classmates called him gay and teased him about the way he dressed. They ridiculed him for going to church with his mother and for volunteering locally.

“It’s not just a gay issue,” Walker said. “It’s bigger. He was 11 years old, and he wasn’t aware of his sexuality. These homophobic people attach derogatory terms to a child who’s 11 years old, who goes to church, school, and the library, and he becomes confused. He thinks, Maybe I’m like this. Maybe I’m not. What do I do?

Today my heart goes out to Carl, his family, and to everyone else affected by anti-LGBTQ bullying, harrassment, and violence.

October 3, 2008

Banned/Challenged Book Profile: Speak

Posted in Books, Censorship, Children and adolescents, Literature at 6:08 pm by The Lizard Queen

The publisher’s blurb for Laurie Halse Anderson’s novel Speak reads as follows:

Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that’s not safe. Because there’s something she’s trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth. This extraordinary first novel has captured the imaginations of teenagers and adults across the country.

The “something” Melinda is trying not to think about is the fact that she was raped at that end-of-summer party, which is also the real reason she called the police.*  The rape, the way Melinda is treated by her classmates (including the rapist), and her reactions to both are a big part of why the book is assigned so widely in schools — for example, one summer (2002) when I was working at a bookstore the book was assigned as summer reading to a large number of local high school students.  Of course, that content is also why the book is frequently objected to (a line from a one-star review on Amazon.com (the last review on the page): “This book should be for mature readers because of offensive language and adult subject matter”) and challenged (one such challenge is discussed by the author here). Read the rest of this entry »

August 21, 2008

It’s okay if you’re a homophobe… ?

Posted in Children and adolescents, Civil rights, GLBT issues at 10:23 am by The Lizard Queen

(Title is a variation on the classic IOKIYAR: it’s okay if you’re a Republican.)

Via Pam’s House Blend I came across this MSNBC article that discusses some of the fallout from the homophobic actions of David Davis, erstwhile Principal of Ponce de Leon High School, and the ensuing ACLU lawsuit. In the article I found an interesting contrast. First, the incident that got the ball rolling:

When a high school senior told her principal that students were taunting her for being a lesbian, he told her homosexuality is wrong, outed her to her parents and ordered her to stay away from children.

Because all gay people have designs on children. Um, not. (Where does this idea that gay=pedophile even come from? Isn’t it safe to assume that the average straight person doesn’t lust after children of the opposite sex? Why, then, do so many people assume that the average gay person lusts after children of the same sex? Or, I guess, children in general. I know, I know, it’s bigotry, it’s illogical by its very nature — but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t piss me the fuck off.)

After that initial incident, other students spoke and acted out in support of the original student, and Davis took it upon himself to crack down on them, because, you know, “a student with a rainbow flag on his or her notebook may be an indication that the particular student is in a ‘secret/illegal organization.'” Or something. In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak stated that Davis “went so far as to lift the shirts of female students to insure the letters ‘GP’ or the words ‘Gay Pride’ were not written on their bodies.”

Hold up, now. These are high school students, so the majority of them are minors, right? Children, technically? And those who are 18 or over, did they consent to having their shirts lifted? As a general rule, a teacher or administrator lifting a student’s shirt is a pretty big no-no, isn’t it?

But he was on a quest, so that makes it okay, apparently. Under other circumstances, Davis would have had the book thrown at him, but in this case, “Davis was demoted, and school employees must now go through sensitivity training.”

So, in short, if you’re gay, you should stay away from children, but if you’re straight, you can go around lifting up girls’ shirts and get away with just a demotion. FanTAStic.

April 22, 2008

Earth day poetry: River of Words

Posted in Children and adolescents, Environment, Poetry at 5:48 pm by The Lizard Queen

In honor of Earth Day, I decided to post a couple of poems from River of Words:

River of Words is a California-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. We’ve been conducting training workshops for teachers, park naturalists, grassroots groups, state resource agencies, librarians and others since 1995, helping them to incorporate observation-based nature exploration and the arts into their work with young people. In addition to helping improve children’s literacy—and cognitive skills like investigation and critical thinking—River of Words’ multidisciplinary, hands-on approach to education nurtures students’ creative voices as well, through instruction and practice in art and poetry.

Furthermore, they have an annual poetry competition for children and adolescents. I was really impressed by the following poem, which won the 2008 Grand Prize in Category III (Grades 7-9):

Stories Told With Sand Whipping in Our Faces

I was three years old.
My father pulled a map
out of his backpack,
roads spilling across it
like languages I did not understand.

Later, seagulls scampered
through the dunes
as we climbed to a place
where roots laced like fingers over the earth
and Lake Michigan lay before us,
as if it were a guardian.
We stood looking out over the place where
he was born, the hospital
where doctors waited in white shoes
while his throat burned
from tonsillitis. I could see him

a young boy darting through the streets
on his way to the dunes,
the closest thing to heaven
that we have while we live below the stars.

The driveway his father paved
by hand, bruised
from days of bricks
pulling him towards the earth.

His memories fell from his mouth
and I remember them all well
as if it was that morning
and I was standing tall
with his childhood looking back at me.

—Patty Schlutt, age 13

I also thought this one, which won the Shasta Biorregion Prize (Honoring a San Francisco Bay Area Student), was sweet:

The Singing Solar System

I am the ragged obsidian solar flare
that flies in the bright red sky.
I am the steaming hot spiky crimson
seaweed that soars by my
glowing star hands.
I am the atom floating
in the DNA strip
giggling in the brown nucleus,
shining bright smiles the plant cell,
floating in red orange fluid,
dancing happily in the narrow
parallel segment vein,
sprinting across the American seaweed,
opening a door to the earth,
spinning in the singing solar system,
twisting in silky ways,
jogging by the Milky Way,
and trying to circle the dark red universe.

—Robert Chan, age 10

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

March 27, 2008

Thursday YouTubein’: 12!

Posted in Children and adolescents, Music at 8:31 am by The Lizard Queen

A bit of nostalgia for a dreary (here, anyway) Thursday: the counting-to-12 song from Sesame Street:

December 10, 2007

“WTF?” roundup

Posted in Children and adolescents, Feminism, News, Racial issues at 4:27 pm by The Lizard Queen

I read the news today, oh boy…

I’ve little doubt that I could find more to add, but that’s all I have the heart for at the moment.  And before anyone asks, I’m linking to these stories not to depress anyone, but to raise awareness — which, as Liss points out, is rather like trying to empty the sea with a teaspoon, but I find that preferable to not saying anything.

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