Category Archives: Get involved

The Great Return: Lesbian Family dot com

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In 2006, Liza was pregnant and in search of other mothers to answer her questions.  She yearned for a one stop shop for lesbian moms to gather.  Not finding quite what she wanted, she created it. Thus, lesbianfamily.com was born.

In 2007, I started writing for Lesbian Family.  At the time I was living in Chile and trying to find other LGBT friendly-folk.  The blogging helped me find a whole tiny world of lesbian bloggeras (that would be the Spanish for blogging women).  I helped add a Spanish speaking section to the original page and am so proud to say that Julieta has agreed to be part of the reincarnation of LesbianFamily.com.

As a bisexual woman, married to a man, mother to a daughter (little elephant), and sole bread winner— I haven’t yet rejoined the ranks of Lesbian Family.  I am, nonetheless, so excited for the new content and new voices.  Check it out.  Lesbian family is not just for lesbians.  It is a great place for allies and gay dads and trans parents and anyone else who is interested.  It is a wonderful space for parents who want to discuss raising allies, feminist parenting, and getting toddlers to eat broccoli.

Happy internet-ing.

 

Also, in case you haven’t voted yet— go do it!

Because my niece stopped pretending to be a doctor

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My sister is an outspoken, strong, independent woman who I know has worked to empower her daughter in every way possible to move beyond gender stereotypes. And, in some ways, she is winning that uphill battle; however, a visit to Milwaukee’s Discovery World, a museum for children, 7 years ago still haunts me.

My niece must have been about 5. The museum has lots of hands on toys and activities. In one section, about how the body works, there are lab coats for children to wear while they pretend and while they learn. Little Niece happily donned hers. I cheerfully told her she looked great and could be a real doctor like our friend Dr. Die (this is a nickname that has to do with our friends real name and not anything that has happened in her professional life). She grinned back at me and said, “No, I am a nurse”. I argued. She was steadfast. She was a nurse. Well…. she was a nurse until she was a Doctor’s Assistant.

From another child, I would have been convinced that she was getting poor messaging from her parents about her gender’s role in this world. Only, I knew the parents and I knew that this is not what they were teaching or advocating. In fact, they actively pushed back against these stereotypes. Where was she getting it from?

With my own daughter, I am hyper-aware of all the negative messages she gets and all the gender specific roles she is silently (and not so silently) asked to perform. How can I, just one person, be louder than all those other voices around her?

Today a friend posted an article in The Atlantic called “Can a Kids’ Toy Bring More Women into Engineering“. It basically was talking about the idea that in the toy store, the boys aisle, all bedazzled in blue, is filled with chemistry sets, engineering games, and robotics; while the girls toy aisle, drenched in pink, is all about beauty and princesses.  In response, Goldie Blox has been created.  Or rather, it will be if they get enough financial backers through kick stock.

The product takes the approach of “meeting girls where they are at”.  In other words, incorporating all the gender messaging they have received (pink, that they are caregivers, using materials that are warm colors and soft to touch) but encourages them to build, thus supporting nascent engineering skills.

As a social worker, I have been indoctrinated in the importance of meeting the client where he or she is at.  This helps him or her grow. It makes intervention and success more possible.  It recognizes that all of us as individuals are shaped by the world around us and our personal experiences.

But coupling this with acceptance of gender messages in society aimed at children makes my stomach turn a little.

The Atlantic article explains:

Does it somehow undermine the goals of gender equality and girls’ empowerment to engage them in engineering by buying into and relying on so many stereotypes about girls in the first place? Cunningham says we need to keep in mind, by the time they’ve reached the age of five (the youngest age GoldieBlox is recommended for), many girls will already have well developed gender identities, and oftentimes that identity will be quite, for lack of a better word, girly. “How can we take the places that girls are and develop the same kinds of innovative problem-solving skills? … We’re very much based in, ‘what is the reality of the now?’ And how do you work with that? Are there small ways you can push the meter to bring in these kinds of skills?”

I get the argument.  And, frankly, I support the product.  I can’t just wish away a world of messaging because I don’t agree.  I can’t protect my daughter from all the things the world will teach her despite my efforts.  And, while I will continue to refuse to adhere to gender normity in choosing toys for her, in buying clothes for her, and in crafting activities; I want her to be able to find a social group that equally accepts that— mainstreaming engineering toys for girls, even if the toys are specifically pink to target girls, may not a bad first step.

What do you think?

Because of a little piece of paper

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You probably didn’t notice, as I believe most of my readers don’t fall into the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) family blogging circles, that yesterday LGBT families and allies around the world blogged about their families.  Some of them blogged personal stories of struggle in creating a family or protecting their families, some blogged about love and what it means to be a family (hint, just the same as being any other family only with a little more legal struggles), some were activists, many were mothers and fathers talking about the children who became the center of their world.

This year, although late, (again, blame the Russian classes), I want to talk about privilege.  As my readers know, a little over a year ago I accepted a new job in international work.  I also married a man.  We are finally reaching that point in my job, where the Russian classes are dying down and my departure to Kazakhstan feels imminent.  This is exciting! Really! It is!

And yet, at the same time, it is sad.  So often I feel this unearned privilege of having married a man thrown in my face.  What if S had been a woman? My life partner very easily could have been a woman.  And what protections would she have been given?  The unfairness of it all burns.  And, you think I exaggerate, but writing this, my eyes are welling with tears.

S got two months of Russian classes—if we had the same genitalia, he wouldn’t have.  My office is working on getting him a visa—I don’t know how this would have worked without that little pesky marriage license.  They are buying him a plane ticket.  He has preference for other jobs in the agency.  He can take classes on security, getting a job overseas, using the internet to maintain work or continue to study.  So… much… all because we have opposite body parts.

But… the love we share is no different than that I would feel if I had ended up with a woman. And that is my point.  If the love is the same. And the family is the same. And the fears are the same.  Why aren’t the protections the same?

Please take a moment, even if this isn’t your fight, and read some of the posts.  Educate yourself. (I know I learned a lot by reading the pieces) Maybe it should be your struggle too.

Hate is NOT a family (or American) value

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When I was 17, I got involved with lesbian, gay, bisexual rights as my high school was forming its gay-straight alliance. In the 90s, this was still considered progressive and controversial. I have taken part in marches and other moves for equality, including blogging about them, ever since.

Yesterday, I went to the National March for Equality in Washington DC. For me, the march was special for two reasons, one unlike the DC pride parade, this one passed both the white house and the capitol. Two, I spent sometime talking to someone who has been out of the closet for quite a while, but who had never done anything like this. He was a proud member of the US military and, therefore, barred from participation. Having left the military officially the day before, this was our celebration. For him, this was a second step out of the closet; one where he could allow himself to be overwhelmed by the number of people marching, the PFLAG (Parents and Family of Lesbian and Gays) mothers screaming “we love you”, and feeling of celebration that the march gave him.

I have heard the argument that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) doesn’t harm anyone, because it doesn’t actually forbid service members from being gay. Silence is harmful. Silence teaches to internalize a sense of self that is less worthy. Silence says that we, as a country, support discrimination. And, silence, and the internalized homophobia that accompanies it, is hard and painful to unlearn. Support our troops– repeal DADT.

DADT**This photo by RandalM– check out his page for more great photos**

Great Resources for this year’s Banned Book Week

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We are at the beginning of banned book week (Sept 26-October 3). For those of my blog readers (and those who read on facebook and don’t even know this is connected to a blog) who don’t know what banned book week is, I encourage you to check out the 2009 BBW website. There you will learn:

Banned Books Week is the only national celebration of the freedom to read. It was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than a thousand books have been challenged since 1982. The challenges have occurred in every state and in hundreds of communities. Click here to see a map of book bans and challenges in the US from 2007 to 2009. People challenge books that they say are too sexual or too violent. They object to profanity and slang, and protest against offensive portrayals of racial or religious groups–or positive portrayals of homosexuals. Their targets range from books that explore the latest problems to classic and beloved works of American literature.

Here is what Katie Couric had to say on the topic:

And an advertisement with muppets that hopes to education children and adults alike about why books should never be banned:


***Thanks to Mombian for bringing this commercial to my attention.

According to the American Library Association, out of 513 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2008. 

The 10 most challenged titles were:

And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Reasons: anti-ethnic, anti-family, homosexuality, religious viewpoint,
and unsuited to age group

His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman
Reasons: political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, and violence


TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R
(series), by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age
group

Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
Reasons: occult/satanism, religious viewpoint, and violence

Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
Reasons: occult/satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint,
sexually explicit, and violence

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: drugs, homosexuality, nudity, offensive language, sexually
explicit, suicide, and unsuited to age group


Gossip Girl
(series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age
group


Uncle Bobby’s Wedding
, by Sarah S. Brannen
Reasons: homosexuality and unsuited to age group

The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group


Flashcards of My Life, by Charise Mericle Harper
Reasons: sexually explicit and unsuited to age group

What I learned from Lucy Liu

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While I lived in Cambodia, I heard that MTV was starting a counter-trafficking campaign. I was intrigued by the idea. So much of the program, in so many parts of the world, is victims not realizing their vulnerabilities and others not knowing the warning signs to spot and report trafficking. Still, I never concretely see any of the productions, nor did I seek them out.

Recently I heard Lucy Liu speak and saw a trailer to one of the rights-free short documentaries that MTV had produced. I also learned a bit more about their production methods, their impact via independent research, and how they are making the films accessible to a section of society that does not have cable.

Here is the video (split into three parts).  Overall, I was pretty impressed– I hope you take the time to watch.

Find out more at MTV Exit.

Not just sweatshops anymore

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From Tanzanian tobacco to Thai shrimp; from Argentine grapes to Tajik cotton, products all over the world are made from child labor and forced labor. The Department of Labor has been compiling a list of goods around the world that are made with child labor and forced labor; they also defined these and how they did their study. For several years, the DOL has made this list but not released it. Earlier this week, they finally released the list in a publication entitled: The Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor.