Category Archives: Organizations I support

No Name Calling Week

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I first heard about No Name Calling Week over at Lesbian Family. I thought the idea was great.

I have been thinking about bullying and what I want to say about it. This is a hard topic for me. I was bullied. But I was lucky– I have the personality and a strong support system that allowed me to walk away only slightly damaged. I certainly see how it affected and affects some others deeply. I worry about how my daughter will be treated and seen. So, this week, I am going to try and talk about bullying. Wish me luck!

About No Name-Calling Week

Coordinated by GLSEN in collaboration with over 60 national education organizational partners, No Name-Calling Week is an annual week of educational activities aimed at ending name-calling of all kinds and providing schools with the tools and inspiration to launch an on-going dialogue about ways to eliminate bullying in their communities.

***This is part of a series on bullying.  Check out the other posts: Friends vs. Bullies, Physical Violence, They reached their peak, and researching LGBT teen suicide..

Human Trafficking Awareness Day

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Being that I work overseas, you might expect that I would use today to talk about Trafficking in Persons in the country I live in currently (Albania). Or, the country I just came from (Kazakhstan). Or, the country where I did research on human trafficking (Chile). Or, the country where I knew children who were trafficked (Moldova). But, today I won’t do that. I want to talk about human trafficking int he country I call home (USA).

The sad truth is that human trafficking continues to be a problem in the US.  Yes, in large cities: New York, LA, Boston.  But also in rural areas of the country, small towns, suburbia.

A few jobs ago, I worked with some victims of human trafficking.  Men who were lured to the US with promises of jobs and money to send home and instead ended up working in slave like conditions in Middle America with their passports confiscated and the door to the house they lived in padlocked from the outside.  After several months, someone put in a tip and they were freed.  They were freed, but they weren’t compensated for their losses.  They were free, but they still had to explain to wives and children what happened to them.  They have been free for years now, but I am sure their experience still haunts them.  Honestly, their stories still haunt me.

An estimated 14,500 to 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States each year. The number of U.S. citizens trafficked within the country is even higher, with an estimated 200,000 American children at risk for trafficking into the sex industry. (U.S. Department of Justice Report to Congress from Attorney General John Ashcroft on U.S. Government Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons)

These numbers are staggering and the realities are bleak. However, in the US, there are places you can report suspected cases of trafficking.  Polaris Project suggests:

If you see any of these red flags, contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 1-888-3737-888 to report the situation. Click here to learn more about reporting potential human trafficking situations. This list is not exhaustive and represents only a selection of possible indicators. Also, the red flags in this list may not be present in all trafficking cases and are not cumulative.

Common Work and Living Conditions: The Individual(s) in Question

  • Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
  • Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts
  • Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp / manager
  • Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
  • Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
  • Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
  • Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
  • Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
  • High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)

Poor Mental Health or Abnormal Behavior

  • Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
  • Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement
  • Avoids eye contact

Poor Physical Health

  • Lacks health care
  • Appears malnourished
  • Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture

Lack of Control

  • Has few or no personal possessions
  • Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account
  • Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
  • Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)

Other

  • Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where he/she is staying/address
  • Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or do not know what city he/she is in
  • Loss of sense of time
  • Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story
To request assessment tools and for more information about reporting trafficking click here. For resource packs on human trafficking and how to recognize the signs click here.

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!

To pimp or not to be pimped?

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This is from the Polaris Project Blog.  I think it is worth a read (and since I know that most people will not click over even with the scads of other interesting posts– and a thought so I am posting this one here.

An End to R-E-S-P-E-C-T for P-I-M-P-S

playersballmay16front_shirt

At the Karma Nightclub in Minneapolis a few days ago, April 5, there was a Players Ball.

Let’s stop for a minute.  That’s a publicly-advertised wild bash at a nightclub, celebrating pimps’ business… What’s wrong with this picture?

It’s bad enough that we look at the record of arrests related to prostitution and we find that manifold more prostituted females are arrested and punished than pimping males.  That is one reason the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2008 aptly requires statistics on those arrested in prostitution to separate the numbers of arrests for prostituted people from the johns and pimps.

Pimps regularly engage in the force, fraud, and coercion that under the law qualify them as sex traffickers – whether or not the females they victimize are foreign nationals or U.S. citizens. But what’s worse is a culture which lionizes pimps.  Pimps are celebrated as hip – in film, in television, in music lyrics.  They are treated like they are admirable iconoclasts rebelling against the Establishment.  They are seen as cool for “sticking it to the man.”

But just think about how their true specialty is abuse of the woman.  To the woman from whom they take every cent received from johns, upon threat of punishment — to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.  To the woman they allegedly protect but regularly intimidate and beat.   The regular violence pimps employ is far from the glamorized image in popular music, videos, TV, and films.  Take it from Rachel Lloyd, a survivor of sex trafficking who leads Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS), “So what’s it really like for us? They never tell us that we’ll never see any of the money we make…the beatings, the physical torture we’ll receive.”

Filmmaker Spike Lee said it all:As African-Americans we let artists slide,” he observed to an audience in Toronto four years ago this spring.  “I think that we have to start to hold people accountable.”  Of gangsta rappers he noted, “These artists talk about ‘ho this, bitch this, skank this’ and all the other stuff. They’re talking about all our mothers, all our sisters. ” Looking at the big picture, he commented, “[W]e’re in a time when young black boys and girls want to be pimps and strippers, because that is what they see. . . .Something is definitely wrong.”

Later that year in Tennessee, Spike Lee said most trenchantly, “We’ve put pimps on a pedestal.”  Exactly.

But lest you think this a moralistic sermon aimed at failings of the African-American culture, don’t.  We should be most concerned about the businesses serving as enablers of this cultural symbolism.

We are rightly hearing more about the need for corporate social responsibility—indeed accountability – for supply chains of products made on the backs of victims of human trafficking.   Yet that worthy agenda is typically aimed at human trafficking for labor exploitation – rather than for sexual exploitation.  It is aimed at the girls found two years ago in sweatshops embroidering blouses for the Gap in India; the children and college students forcibly mobilized into harvesting cotton in Uzbekistan; and the slaves clearing fields for cattle or chopping sugar cane plantationsto produce biofuel in Brazil.

Business fuels sex trafficking too.  Entertainment companies that make money celebrating pimps on TV and what’s on your family member’s iPod are partly responsible for a culture of impunity for pimps.   Take the movie “Hustle and Flow” whose main protagonist is a pimp or the HBO series “Hookers at the Point” which glamorizes pimp-controlled prostitution in Brooklyn.

This kind of glamorization of the degradation of women by men is why as State Department Ambassador to fight human trafficking, I picketed HBO in New York with feminist colleagues for its egregious series “Cathouse” last fall.

Players balls like that at the Karma Nightclub – gathering gross exploiters for an orgy to celebrate what they do– are only the most flagrant example of a perverse respect for pimps.  It’s time for some healthy disrespect.  They deserve to be “dissed.”  And punishment with significant jail time when a player is dehumanizing his fellow human being.  Not a party.

I have mentioned in the past my aversion to how we have glamorized pimping and pimping things(human and non human). It desensitizes people to the violence that is often a part of prostitution. 

If you want more of my views on prostitution and how it is intertwined with human trafficking, check out my 5 part series (with intro): Why Men Suck, A quick intro,  Legalization, As a form of violence, Human trafficking and prostitution, and The Swedish example.

Got needs?

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My blog-friend Emily works for an online company called Needish. I think she enjoys her job as she talks about it and encourages anyone who will listen to join. I did join, but mostly just to appease her. (Sorry Emily!)

Basically, needish is a place where you publish what you need. People need all kinds of things. You can post and ask for an apartment in NY; or a friend; or a recipe like creme brulee; or, like this couple, you can try and trade work for a honeymoon.  Then, you can search for what others need and help them out. If you are an independent photographer like Kyle, you can search for people in your area who need photographers and land yourself some jobs.

I did publish some needs; now I am a huge convert. The needs I have published have been really random and, frankly, I thought I wouldn’t ever get a response. First I posted that I needed an English teacher in Rancagua for S. Got some leads. Didn’t come to much, but that is mostly a time issue. I have also requested help appraising stamps and finding a certain collectable item for christmas present of someone who reads this blog– got responses on both. Currently, the need I have is to know how to get glitter glue out of a wool suit. Not sure if I will get a response, but how cool is it that I can ask? (also, if you know the answer, please leave a comment).

Anyways, without pressure from Emily who has a stake in the business, I am going to plug it. Do you have needs? Get on needish!

Giving thanks for A Prairie Home Companion

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I was driving out to REI the other night to get my nephew his b-day present and an assortment of other Christmas and birthday presents when A Prairie Home Companion came on the radio. It’s funny, I know that this is not the show that the cool kids listen to and yet I totally don’t mind outing myself as a nerd by saying that I really like Garrison Keillor’s show.

When I was little, my parents would listen to this and the Sunday crossword puzzle before and after church.  It was a morning ritual to figure out the puzzle and laugh along at the stories of Lake Wobegon.  In college I would turn NPR on hoping to find the show some weekends.  I think it is the only show that makes me understand why radio was so popular back in the day.  Not that I would give up TV– but I get it.

In Moldova, where we sometimes had nothing to do, there were several of us who would trade tapes.  We were all midwesterners and it was our version of baseball cards. I could have recited some of those episodes.  While I am not a fan of every piece or all the music and sometimes the religious references turn me off, the show always has something that makes me laugh.  The Catchup bit is always a favorite. The sound effects guy, featured in the above video, never fails either.  What a great job that must be!  Not to mention very little competition.

On Saturday, the last thing I heard from this show was the following piece.  It seems like a good way to go into this year’s thanksgiving holiday season.

Thanks poem

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Listen (MP3)
Listen (RealAudio)

I am thankful for ATM machines
For the smell of coffee beans
For the dishwasher and for the GPS
Thought up by the Pentagon, a great success
That makes it unnecessary for us men
To ever need to ask for directions again.

Thank you thank you thank you thanks a lot
For what we have and for some things that we do not

I am thankful for macaroni and cheese,
Of mac and cheese I have only good memories
Boil water. Put the macaroni in. It’s
A very nice meal in about ten minutes.

And speaking of food of low status,
Thank you for instant mashed potatoes
Which is simply dehydrated potato flakes.
Mashed potatoes in one-tenth the time it takes
To boil one and whip it up nice and smooth.
And if you want to know the absolute truth
That dry organic peanut butter — I hate it.
I like the kind with sugar and fat, saturated.

Thank you thank you thank you and merci
Peanut butter has always been merciful to me.

And for the U.S. Postal Service I say thanks
Delivering mail from Florida to Fairbanks,

I am grateful for blogs and other new media
And of course for the miraculous Wikipedia
Which puts information at your fingertips
An innovation as great as sailing ships,
Or putting a steam engine on the rails,
So thank you Larry Sanger and Jimmy Wales.
And thank you Larry Page and Sergey Brin
Who in 1997 launched a search engine
Google, which simply is superb
A noun that quickly became a verb.

Milwaukee stands for LGBT rights

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In 2006 WI voters choose to change WI marriage law to define marriage between one man and one woman and also has wording that outlaws civil unions for gay and straight couples. This past election several other states have taken away gay people’s right to marry and to adopt children. Yesterday, all across this country, people stood up and protested.  Protests were held in every state and 10 countries.  Totals of Join the Impact protest numbers from cities around the US can be found here.

This was the Milwaukee protest:

Milwaukee Join the Impact

Milwaukee Join the Impact

Milwaukee Join the Impact

Milwaukee Join the Impact

Milwaukee Join the Impact

Milwaukee Join the Impact

Milwaukee Join the Impact

Milwaukee Join the Impact

Milwaukee Join the Impact

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And, the news coverage by Channel 58, CBS Milwaukee’s TDJT