Category Archives: Transgender

The Make it Better Project

Make it Better Project

http://www.makeitbetterproject.org/

About

Make It Better Project

What is the Make It Better Project?

GSA Network launched the Make It Better Project on October 1st, 2010 to give youth and adults the concrete tools they need to make schools safer for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students right now.

Through our YouTube channel, social media, and the campaigns, initiatives, and resources available on this website, the Make It Better Project aims to educate, motivate, and unite students and adults to effectively take action to stop bullying and harassment in schools based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.  Our goal is to create safe, welcoming school environments that actively support LGBT youth and prevent suicide.

GSA NetworkContact Us

The Make It Better Project is sponsored by Gay-Straight Alliance NetworkGSA Network empowers youth to fight homophobia and transphobia in schools by training youth activists and supporting student-led Gay-Straight Alliance clubs in California and throughout the country.

How does the Make It Better Project differ from the It Gets Better Project?

Columnist Dan Savage started the “It Gets Better” video campaign to send a message of hope to LGBT youth who are experiencing bullying and contemplating suicide.  His project, along with a swell in media coverage of youth deaths by suicide in the fall of 2010, ignited dialogue across the country about the epidemic of bullying in our schools. But it left an important question unaddressed: what can we do to make it better?

GSA Network launched the Make It Better Project to let students, parents, teachers, school administrators, and adult allies know that there are concrete actions they can take right now to make schools safer for all students.

Is bullying is a widespread problem?

Yes. The federal government estimates that 2 out of 10 high school students experience bullying each year, and the problem is typically worse for middle school students.  For lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students, this rate is 9 out of 10.   Bullying, particularly bullying based on bias or discrimination, is an epidemic in our country.

“The Make It Better Project is a chance to do something about injustices in our schools. It’s an opportunity to have a voice, to be known, to be understood, and to be accepted. It will NOT get better until we MAKE IT BETTER!  I participated because I know what it’s like to be discriminated against, not only because of my gender identity, but by my skin color as well. It hurts to know that someone will not be accepted and it is devastating to feel so unwanted and hated that you get pushed to the brink of self-harm. I’ve participated in Make It Better because it gives me a chance to help the ones I wouldn’t be able to reach otherwise.” - Buddie Sims, student, Pomona, California

One Town’s War on Gay Teens

This article… this hate is why we started this project.

One Town’s War on Gay Teens – Rolling Stone Magazine (online)

One Town’s War on Gay Teens

In Michele Bachmann’s home district, evangelicals have created an extreme anti-gay climate. After a rash of suicides, the kids are fighting back.

by: Sabrina Rubin Erdely

A candlelight vigil in Minneapolis for the victims of gay bullying.

A candlelight vigil in Minneapolis for the victims of gay bullying.
© Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Minneapolis Star Tribune/ZUMApress.com

Every morning, Brittany Geldert stepped off the bus and bolted through the double doors of Fred Moore Middle School, her nerves already on high alert, bracing for the inevitable.

“Dyke.”

Pretending not to hear, Brittany would walk briskly to her locker, past the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders who loitered in menacing packs.

“Whore.”

Full text after the cut.

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Open Discussion: Glee and Intersectionality

There’s something hard not to love about Ryan Murphy’s Glee.  Glee has been praised for its portrayal of underdog high school heroes, especially Kurt Hummel, a gay teenager.   Nevertheless, Glee has broken its hearts along the way.  Here are a few of criticisms of Glee:

- In “When will Glee stop Ignoring Race?” Racialious examines the character  Merceades.  Racialious writes that Glee treats “black female characters in the way they are always treated–as hook singers, as comic relief, as funny sidekicks, as advice givers, as checks on the inclusiveness scorecard, but never as fully-actualized human beings.”

- Glee writers have avoided mentioning trans issues or developing a trans character.  In fact, they miss go out of their way to avoid trans people.  In Glee’s tribute to Rocky Horror, they change the lyrics of “Sweet Transvestite” to “fabulous Transylvania”. When preforming Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way,” the Glee kids didn’t perform the line that mentioned in trangender people.  Instead, they perform what is probably Gaga’s most offensive line of all time: “No matter black, white, or beige, chola, or Orient-made, I’m on the right track baby, I was born to be brave.”  Orient-made?  Really?  Why edit out trans people but focus on such questionable lyrics?  Unfortunately, when  The Bilerco Project blogged about this incident, they too overlook the racism of Gaga’s lyrics and focus on “lgbtq exclusion.”  Curiouser and curiouser.

The Born this Way incident may illustrate the heart of Glee’s problem: Glee likes to keep things simple.  Glee writers have been reluctant to really explore the intersection of oppressions.  As a result, Glee’s characters can be one dimensional at best and stereotypes at worse.

What do you think?  Where has Glee succeeded?  Where has it fallen short?  What could it do to improve?

Milestones In May

As queer people I know finding media that includes us (and actually respects us) can be challenging to say the least. Which is why I wanted to boost the signal for the following for those of you who may be interested; particularly my fellow comic book geeks.

For the month of May, Prism Comics has done a spotlight on Milestone Comics, which was founded by the late Dwayne McDuffie. Not only did McDuffie fight for better representation of blacks, but other POCs as well as women and LGBTQs.

What’s more is that the founder of Milestone Comics was doing this during the early 90s and was decades ahead of many comic book publishers. Donner and Blitzen, a lesbian couple and prominent members of the superhero team the Shadow Cabinet.

There’s an excellent review on the gritty critically acclaimed miniseries Deathwish: one of the first comics to feature a trans person as the main character. I highly recommend you give it a read.

Today my analysis on the impact of Gear, Static Shock’s best friend and crime fighting partner, is up as well. Check it out.

Also check out the other excellent articles on the site. There might be some titles that interest you.

The Force is With You, Katie, ‘Cause We Got Your Back

You may have heard about Katie.  She’s that adorable little girl who was teased at school because she likes Star Wars – and Star Wars “isn’t for girls.”  When I read Katie’s story, I teared up just a little bit.   I’ll admit, I got a little miffed on behalf of Princess Leia and my man Yoda.   But that’s not what upset me. I think I have a pretty good idea of what Katie must have felt when her classmates told her that Star Wars isn’t for girls.  My entire life people have been telling me what’s for girls and what’s for boys.  The clothes I wear, the way I cut my hair, the people I love, and the movies I watch have been judged for their appropriateness for someone of my assigned gender.  As a queer person, what happened to Katie has happened me too.  And I can’t help but cry a little when I think of one more kid going through that.

But when I read the article “The ‘Force’ is With You, Katie!”, I started crying for a whole different reason.  This article tells the story of Star Wars fans who rallied around Katie.  They sent her encouraging messages and Star Wars clothes that fit girls and donated Star Wars toys to other kids in her honor.  Thanks to these geeks, Katie’s awesome mom, and a school that’s taking bullying more seriously, Katie is getting the message that it’s okay to be who she is and that there are a lot of people  standing with her.

Of the Star Wars fans who supported Katie, Katie’s mom writes: “What strikes me is how these individuals who were once so isolated are now part of a very tight community.  They have found each other; they are plugged into each other, and they have each other’s backs. Now they have Katie’s back, too.”

That, my friends, is what we’ve got to do. This story is a wonderful example of the sort of movement we have to build – a movement against bullying and oppression that goes beyond words into action

My fellow star Wars fans, I’ve never been more proud.

New Video from Sally Goldner in Australia

Sally Goldner is trans, bi and poly woman who began breaking down different closet doors 15 years ago. She is an active participant in the queer and allied community in Melbourne, Australia, a stand-up comic (in hiatus),  community radio presenter and occasional drummer. Outside of the community, she has is a mild-mannered accountant specialising in the not-for-profit sector.

 

Beyond Gay Marriage and Queer Separatists: The Call for a Working-Class Queer Movement

What we need is to build an issue-focused working-class movement that centers queer analysis.  Our demands should cut across sexuality and gender lines, while fore-fronting and popularizing queer needs. We should demand universal health care that includes access to hormones, gender reassignment surgeries, and an anti-heterosexist health system that does not attempt to pathologize our queer bodies and erase the traumas we face in a violent homophobic society.  We should demand asylum for all immigrants and not solely rely on the liberal, imperialist reform agenda such as the DREAM Act that attempts to draft the youth from our communities into the oppressive military system. These need to be our demands because we know that our fate as workers are bound up with the exploitation of the undocumented workers and the exploitation of youth of color. Today, anti-queer violence erodes our sense of community and leaves us feeling raw, vulnerable, and fearful for ours and our friends’ safety. This is a crucial time for queers and allies who distrust the state and the police to come together and mobilize from the grassroots to defend ourselves from homophobic violence. We should take the lesson from the initial domestic violence movement which set up grassroots phone trees, patrols, and shelters to challenge patriarchal violence in the households and in the streets. Today, we need to resurrect this sense of grassroots unity that links our struggles together and not to rely on the compromised liberals and non-profits, or the homophobic, racist state institutions that divide and assault our communities.

Read more of this excellent, thoughtful article

 

“Trans-nationality”

I am multiethnic and transgendered. I am the human label-breaker.

I grew up hearing that I’m half Japanese and half Jewish. For the
observer, this genetic algebra equated to a whole person. I wasn’t put
in a box- I was sliced in half; subdivided and subjugated. In truth I
carry twice the heritage and just as much angst.

In life, I check the box marked [other].

I am a gender-ninja, hiding in plain-sight. The Japanese American
community isn’t one that is particularly open to talking about…
anything. Because of this, I have never come out in public. It’s not
that everyone in the community is closed-minded. Culturally, it is
seen as intrusive to either ask or tell something so personal about
yourself. Though frustrating, it afforded me the room to grow.

My cultural heritage taught me the importance of community and the
bravery to stand up in the face of ignorance and hate. It is a comfort
to know that wherever my journey takes me or how dark it becomes, I
belong to something bigger. My ethnic identity helped to build a
foundation upon which to discover myself. What I developed was the
resolve to self-advocate; to believe that a world without me, my
perspective and my voice, would result in even more generations of
We,the lost children of a Black and White, Male and Female, straight
and narrow world.

Be you. Be us. Be free. I’ve got your back.

-Anonymous

A message from our President

Yes, it was posted to the It Gets Better Project, but hearing a positive message from our POTUS transcends the original intent. Thank you Mr. President for speaking up on this issue.

Queer and Loathing: Does the Foster System Bully Gay, I mean Trans Kids?

Mother Jones has published a heart-breaking article about the bullying of LGBTQIA kids in the foster system. The article tells the story of a teenager named Kenneth and the struggle to find an accepting foster family. Kenneth has good grades, no criminal record, and is coping with the challenges in his life well. But when he brought home his first date, here’s what happened.

James, Kenneth’s foster father, returned to the apartment one night to find the boys talking and laughing in the front room. The introductions immediately turned into what Kenneth calls a “life-or-death situation.”

James wasn’t blind to his foster son’s sexuality. The young man was decidedly out—preaching tolerance at school assemblies, appearing on teen panels, and advocating gay pride in rainbow pamphlets. He even showed up to court hearings wearing lipstick. Privately, though, James dismissed all of it as a phase. And Kenneth, to avoid rocking the boat, had downplayed his sexuality at home—until now.

When James—a retired demolition worker with missing front teeth and a heavyweight’s body—saw Kenneth with his date, he grew livid. “What are you doing bringing a boy into my house?” he screamed, according to Kenneth. He ordered them out, but the boy stood his ground. James got up in his face. “I’ll kick your asses,” he threatened. Taking him at his word, the couple fled, with James chasing them down the stairs and out the door. The boyfriend called 911.

This night began Kenneth’s struggle to find a new foster family.  I hope that you’ll read the rest of the article.  If you do, you may notice something that I noticed.  Through out the article, Kenneth’s gender expression is mentioned – Kenneth paints his nails and wears lipstick.  Kenneth’s mannerisms are described as feminine.  My ears perked up.  Is Kenneth just a femme gay boy or is this an example of a transkid being assumed to be gay because too few people think that a teenager could be transgender?   Of course, only Kenneth can clear up this question.  But then I read the last line of the article:  “After the New Year,[Kenneth]  settled on the solution [for the state's inability to find an appropriate foster family]—a sex change. He’d been considering it for a year and had enrolled in the required counseling sessions at a local clinic, but only now could he articulate his reason for wanting to reboot his identity: He would be safer as a woman. “I’m getting really tired,” Kenneth explains. “I don’t have no other options left.”

I’m not going to draw conclusions about someone else’s gender identity. But this article left me feeling sad for more than one reason.   It’s clear that trans issues need to be in the consciousness of LGBTQIA folks advocating for teenagers in the foster system, journalists writing about queer issues, and everyone involved in the foster care system.   The lives of young people like Kenneth depend on it.  And making that change can start with us at the We Got Your Back Project.

When a youth-services nonprofit surveyed its 246 foster families, it found only 21 who were willing to accept a gay teenager.  Imagine what the numbers might have been for trans-teenagers.  I hope you’ll share your thoughts about this article and the larger issue here or on our facebook page.

Yours,

Joy

A few points need to be made -A Letter to the at-risk LGBTQ Teens out there, from Neo Prodigy

My friend blogger Neo Prodigy wrote the following letter to LGBTQ Youth, with some very good tips, advice and resources.I’m going to sticky it as a page, but this needs to be out there, reposted and co-signed unto infinity.

Link to the original post is here

With that being said, the following is advice I would give to at risk LGBTQ teens out there. It’s also a letter I would’ve written to myself as a teen. Much of what I say may shock you, much of what I say may disturb you. But this is the real talk that manifested from my experience and the experience of countless others. So I make no apologies. For those of you reading this. Your mileage may vary. Take what you can utilize and disregard the rest.

1. Stay In The Closet.

If you think for one second that your family is going to flip their shit, if you think for one second that your life is about to be made a living hell, then don’t tell anyone. This isn’t about pride. This is about survival. You know who you are and you have nothing to prove. You are not under any obligation to disclose who you are. No, you are not lying or being deceitful. It’s not lying if people only force you to see their truths.You do what you have to do to stay alive. Bide your time until you can be out and open and free to be you.

But what if I’m out? Or people think I’m out? I’ll get to that.

2. There Is Nothing Wrong With You

You’re not a deviant, a pervert, a sinner, a child molester, or die of AIDS, or whatever the hell else you’ve been told. You’re as who God intended you to be. You’re not the one that needs to be fixed. It’s those who are uncomfortable and psychotic about the fact that your orientation doesn’t fall within their purview who needs to be corrected. Don’t ever let anyone convince you otherwise.

3. Talk To Someone

It’s okay to ask for help. There are hotline numbers and I know firsthand that it’s often easier to open up to a stranger than it is someone you know.

4. Resources Are Available

http://www.thetrevorproject.org/
http://www.matthewshepard.org/
http://cypheroftyr.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/868/

Media You Should Also Check Out:

Bang Bang You’re Dead
Save Me
The Sensei
Hero

5. You Are Not Weak

You live in a world that hates your very existence. Surviving each day is an accomplishment in itself. Don’t ever think that you’re less than anyone else for having to endure homophobia or because it wears on you. You keep your head up and no you’re stronger than you think.

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