If you haven’t read the latest Boston Globe article about a family that supports and advocates for their transgender child, and her identical twin brother. The power of love!
“Check in with your chaperone… Know where your medicine bag is… Talk with them before you leave… Before you leave, Hope!”
I felt myself go over the edge as I quizzed Hope this morning, yet I couldn’t bring myself to stop. Her life literally depends on this information and yet the more I pound in the who-what-where she peacefully glances out the window daydreaming about fairies and princesses and the next Judy Moody book. My panic is all mine.
Once the field trip form popped into my inbox, the gravity of the situation came into clear focus as though never before; she could potentially be in danger and not have anyone know how to help her. Like many children these days, Hope has a peanut allergy and carries a medicine bag with her 24/7. Allergies, and so much more.
Waking up from a hazy savasana, I sat up to notice the dozens of teachers and students sprawled out on the benches around me. It dawned on me that moments before I’d been giving a talk on gender identity, expression and diversity at a local grammar school. I’d forgotten completely.
A wash of relief spread from the crown of my head and covered me like hot fudge melting down a cold scoop as I recalled the acceptance I felt as I talked about girls who feel like boys and boys who felt like girls. The supportive nods from teachers and the thoughtful questions produced by curious minds. But tell me again how we ended up laying down?
How many times did I hear this when I was little? After a while I didn’t need it whispered into my ear anymore, I embodied it. I knew there were things I was never expected to say, at home or out in public, like they never happened. Off limits for good, like a dangerous abandoned mine.
One of my loyal readers sent me this & I wanted to share…
NEW YORK, November 16, 2011 - The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) today jointly announced the launch of their groundbreaking Model District Policy for Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students. The first-ever national policy resource co-authored by GLSEN and NCTE offers solutions for school districts to incorporate into existing policies and procedures that create safer and respectful school environments for all students regardless of their gender identity or gender expression.
I found myself walking bus stop after bus stop, grasping one child’s hand while glimpsing every so often behind me to watch her boots gliding against the dirty city sidewalk. She tends to drag her steps a bit in her new Ugg boots so I always knew how many steps she was behind me. What a safety… knowing where she was.
Instead of jumping on the first bus we saw, I felt the need to walk it out, as if each step could somehow iron out the wrinkles of the day. Each time we crossed another street I could feel the adrenaline still pulsing within me, the energy surge I felt when I went to pick up my child from school and she wasn’t there. No one could find her.
Every parent’s worst nightmare. Running from room to room my mind kept chanting that she was there, she must be there. But no Hope. Nowhere. Panic dripped like a hot fudge sundae. Starting at my temples then slipping down my sides, the warm fear pooled at my feet with nowhere else to go. Soaked in the knowledge she was not in the building, I stiffened as if arming myself for battle when unexpectedly a face popped in the front door and said she took her.
Before I could ask why she removed my daughter from the school without my knowledge or why the school let her leave with someone who wasn’t allowed to take her, I flew down the sidewalk looking for my sweet child. There she was innocently playing as if nothing happened. I plopped down on a nearby stoop and just stared at her. Conversations swirled around me as I lost myself in the what-ifs and could-have-beens. I simply couldn’t catch my breath. Then I snapped back into the present.
In the past my immediate reaction would have been 100% fear - screaming, yelling, crying, accusing… you name it. This time I found myself breathing and trying to be aware. Not lost, aware. Feeling everything that was with me at that very moment. Before launching into 20 questions I tried to think. Instead of launching a full attack I tried to look at the situation from as many perspectives as possible. Less about who I could point the finger at and more about what can we take away from this gamut of mistakes.
At last we did hop the bus and make the last leg of our journey home. When the kids nestled into their beds for some reading, I meandered a bit outside our front door to let the late afternoon air cool me, just feeling the weight. My eyes kept watching their bedroom window for signs of life. My heart kept expressing gratitude for my babies safe at home. Crisis averted. Lesson learned.
After a friend told me to consider this a Ctrl+Alt+Delete situation, I enjoyed my first big smile of the day and even chuckled. A mulligan. A do-over. Go to bed and completely reboot. Tempting, but I have to admit I’ll take it just the way it happened. Destiny works that way, I believe it. This was divinely right. The ripple effect is at work. Quite possibly Hope needed that conversation so she made a different choice at a later date. Maybe the school needed to toughen security procedures before a child was harmed. Perhaps I needed to experience this just the way I did.
Bullied is a documentary film that chronicles one student’s ordeal at the hands of anti-gay bullies and offers an inspiring message of hope to those fighting harassment today. It can become a cornerstone of anti-bullying efforts in middle and high schools.
Bullied is designed to help administrators, teachers and counselors create a safer school environment for all students, not just those who are gay and lesbian. It is also intended to help all students understand the terrible toll bullying can take on its victims, and to encourage students to stand up for their classmates who are being harassed.
Bullied has been endorsed by the NEA.
Note: Limit of one kit per school.
“This film is powerful, important and extremely realistic. It provides teachers with a rare opportunity to address bullying in a real and meaningful way.” — Lee Cutler, Secretary/Treasurer, New York State United Teachers
As I read through an email this morning urging me to contact high school principals and encourage bullying education, I could only think of my daughter. Hope was bullied on an almost daily basis by one child in kindergarten last year. Kindergarten. The principal didn’t help us. The local safe school alliance didn’t help us when I desperate;y reached out to them. The legal department of the school system didn’t help us when I filed a formal complaint. No one took this bullying seriously.
Hope survived. By leaving our neighbor school she was freed from a child who repeatedly licked, spit, kicked, pushed, sniffed, groped, restrained, kissed, shouted, taunted, grabbed, head butt and threw things at her. Thankfully we had resources to get her help, but did he get help? Did this child get counseling for this behavior or did he just move on to hurt the next child?
After months of his bullying the principal still had the audacity to tell me, “I think he just likes her.” Likes her? He whisper he hates her then pushes her down when no one is looking because he is fond of her? Are you insane? Who will put a stop to this type of behavior? Who is going to get that child the help he needs before he either seriously hurts a child or even worse, his victims are pushed to take their own lives to escape his torment.
We can focus on high school age children all we want and that helps, but aren’t we being a little short-sighted if we forget to start education about bullying when children start school? If kids can recognize that this type of behavior WILL NOT be tolerated, then they can be allies for their friends instead of witnesses to abuse. For this to work the behavior has to be called out and stopped.
School systems, principals and teacher have to unite against this abuse. Get some courage people! Get outraged that the children in your care are being harmed everyday. Do not look away. Do not make excuses. Do not let it continue. Make. It. Stop.
Last year my daughter was a victim of verbal and physical bullying in her own classroom. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do seeing my child come home day after day crying about the abusive behavior of one child. One child who ruined an otherwise really happy first year of school.
I worked tirelessly to prevent any harm from coming to my child, including removing her from the school system who chose to turn a blind eye to the repeated harassment. (My Mama Bear was out!) While I cannot know whether the bullying was due to any knowledge of gender issues, from the outside it didn’t seem to be the case. My daughter attended school stealth so that her birth gender wasn’t the focus of the Kindergarten year and education was. We only wanted a positive experience. What we got was a nightmare of epic proportions ending with my daughter waking up in the middle of the night screaming that the bullying child was hurting her.
Clearly this isn’t anyone’s idea of Kindergarten for their child. Once school was over and my child was freed from her daily stalker, we sat down and wrote a children’s book (the next one in the series) about how Hope sees a friend being bullied on the playground and acts as an ally. Cathartic experience for both of us. (Of course I needed to take that extra step so I went on to write a chapter in my novel about what parents can do before, during and after a bullying incident to protect their children. Don’t get me started on how I filed a formal complaint and had the school investigated!)
As the weeks turned to months it became crystal clear that Hope didn’t only have issues with the child, but with her teacher and the Principal who turned their heads when they knew this child would torture her every day. They failed her. They failed the other child. They didn’t protect her at all. The trust that should have been established in that classroom, her only indication of what school was all about, was irrevocably broken.
Why didn’t anyone stand up? Afterward parents would come to me and tell me that their child would tell them about how Hope was bullied every day and my response was, “Why didn’t you say something?” Deer in the headlights back at me. They didn’t have to take on the whole school system, but they could have come to me or someone in the administration sooner. Perhaps they did and no one listened? Do we really have to live in fear of the people whose jobs are to educate our children? Shouldn’t we expect that someone, anyone, will speak up and advocate if a child is harmed at school and when they do they will be heard and taken seriously? The epidemic of bullying has to be stopped.
All summer we worked on confidence building so that she could begin to trust that not all educators are that negligent. Not everyone will let her down. We talked about seeing the child who bullies as a person with serious problems who needs help to stop their destructive behavior. It’s been slow, but positive. We talk a lot about how we are allies for others, how we believe in the safety of all people and how we have a voice to use when we see something going wrong.
It’s not going to change the world right now, but it has created two little loving advocates in my children. I can’t say I appreciate the experience we had last year. It was brutal. But it did lead us to where we are right now, where we are all more compassionate for others, both for the people getting hurt and for the troubled people who hurt them.