About 40% of homeless youth are LGBT and nearly all homeless youth service providers in the U.S. now serve LGBT youth, according to a comprehensive report on LGBT youth homelessness released Thursday.
Nearly seven in 10 (68%) respondents indicated that family rejection was a major factor contributing to LGBT youth homelessness, making it the most cited factor. More than half (54%) of respondents indicated that abuse in their family was another important factor contributing to LGBT homelessness.
This past winter school-break my daughters, Sam and Maddie, spent time making outdoor care kitsfor the youth living outdoors in our community. They delivered these kits in secondhand backpacks and book-bags to youth living outdoors downtown before opening their own gifts at home.
Maddie has decided she wants to do this again for her birthday. I have told her I would share this on this page and she can write about it here too. Both Sam and Maddie were weary of seeing kids just like them living outdoors. They wanted something they could do. This is a step. I will let Maddie tell the story from here once she has made her next move.
“Tonight, somewhere in America, a young person, let’s say a young man, will struggle to fall to sleep, wrestling alone with a secret he’s held as long as he can remember. Soon, perhaps, he will decide it’s time to let that secret out. What happens next depends on him, his family, as well as his friends and his teachers and his community. But it also depends on us — on the kind of society we engender, the kind of future we build.” – President Barak Obama 4/8/15
Read the whole story on the White House bold and unprecedented stance against conversion therapy at Identities.mic
The same day Obama was speaking these words the media announced the bullycide death of Taylor Alesena. Her story of verbal harassment, abuse, and a silent school system ended last week.
And just a week ago I was reading about the death of 18 year old Blake Brockington, His was a story of parental rejection and loss ended last month. There is much work to be done.
Obama’s words are unprecedented from the White House. His reference to the struggles of each child living in this intolerant world brought tears to my eyes. But really those tears were for Taylor and for Blake.
The Little White Hearse
By Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Somebody’s baby was buried to-day–
The empty white hearse from the grave rumbled back,
And the morning somehow seemed less smiling and gay
As I paused on the walk while it crossed on its way,
And a shadow seemed drawn o’er the sun’s golden track.
Somebody’s baby was laid out to rest,
White as a snowdrop, and fair to behold,
And the soft little hands were crossed over the breast,
And those hands and the lips and the eyelids were pressed
With kisses as hot as the eyelids were cold.
Somebody saw it go out of her sight,
Under the coffin lid–out through the door;
Somebody finds only darkness and blight
All through the glory of summer-sun light;
Somebody’s baby will waken no more.
Somebody’s sorrow is making me weep:
I know not her name, but I echo her cry,
For the dearly bought baby she longed so to keep,
The baby that rode to its long-lasting sleep
In the little white hearse that went rumbling by.
I know not her name, but her sorrow I know;
While I paused on the crossing I lived it once more,
And back to my heart surged that river of woe
That but in the breast of a mother can flow;
For the little white hearse has been, too, at my door.
“I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.” Thomas Jefferson
Below is a text of the talk I gave in November at an anti-oppression workshop for white people who wish to work against racism. In the days following the conference police officer Darren Wilson was acquitted in the murder of Mike Brown. The resulting protests forced schools to close and the children of Ferguson to again stare injustice in the face and call her America. At that time I posted this talk to my personal blog Schooling Inequality.
Three months later as I think about the children of Ferguson, Mo. I have decided to repost the talk here. I can help but continue to think of the small children of Ferguson and pray that there has been some cultural shift or awakening from all that they already lived with and all that they have lost.
Ally Praxis: The being is in the doing Presented at a Anti-Racism / White Privilege conference for the ASUO Women’s Center on November 22, 2014
To put myself on the line to do what had to be done at any place and time was so difficult, yet absolutely crucial, and not to do so was the most awful death. And putting yourself on the line is like killing a piece of yourself, in the sense that you have to kill, end, destroy something familiar and dependable, so that something new can come, in ourselves, in our world. Audre Lorde
When asked to offer some opening remarks on a day of anti-racism workshops for white people looking to develop an ally praxis in the face of racism I was humbled. My first thought was of the erased anti-oppression work of so many women of color activists who have spoken to these topics of social justice over the years. I was also deeply aware of those whose lives and voices are erased because of disability, because of citizenship status, because they are religious minorities and because of so many other marginalized identity markers that intersect with their biologic sex and gender identity.
As I thought of these people, I knew I needed to begin any talk by naming the spaces of privilege I arbitrarily embody which allow me ongoing unearned opportunities to be heard, to be seen, to be mobile in my anti-racist work in ways that my fellow activists living on the minority side of these ideological identity spaces are not. I am a middle class, educated, white, cis-gender, temporarily able, U.S. citizen with Christian heritage. And I benefit from greater visibility, mobility, authority, and safety because of these identities.
And so today I wish to begin with the words of Audre Lorde, and hope to evoke into this space many other women of color who have given their lives to anti-racists and anti-oppressive work. I want you to think of them and the centuries of work they offered in fighting so fiercely to be heard. In Lorde’s words these women put themselves on the line to do what had to be done.
I want to make visible their leadership in this work which is all too often erased by the white activists and scholars who are often given undue credit for anti-racists work. Lorde’s words and the work of many women of color deeply influenced my thinking and actions in resistance to white supremacy as well as to other systems of oppression. I will work to keep these voices present in these remarks.
The remainder of my framing remarks offer what I consider a pragmatic framework for what I call an ally praxis for being in the world in resistance to oppression and domination.
I will share with you how I attempt to be in the world in moments of alliance with marginalized communities and simultaneously attempt to keep track of the ways in which my own privilege is in operation on my body, my experience, and my identity.
I will use the rhetorical device of a list of steps simply because we need frameworks to organize our actions. We need concrete ways of thinking of how to be anti-oppressive. This framework is not closed, it is not all inclusive, I would not venture to call it finished. It is simply a developing framework that may be of use to you in thinking of how to be of use from spaces of privilege when fight against white supremacy, ablism, or any form of oppression that does not befall you.
STEP 1: REFLECT How do I think about being an ally? First I need to be l clear with myself about what I believe it means to be in alliance against racism. I choose to reject the identity of ally and instead think of this term as a working verb and mode of thinking directed toward enacting moments of alliance. This way of being in opposition to oppression from places of privilege is what I call an ally praxis.
Ally praxis in my definition assumes the acts of alliance are coming from people who live outside of a targeted identity category. Majority identity members develop an ally praxis for acting against the targeted oppression of people living in identity categories where the would-be “ally” identity is socially held as superior. To enact ally praxis starts when a person living within a privileged category develops a theoretical understanding of oppression and then from that theory develops a praxis for anti-oppressive work against oppression.
In other words white people can have an ally praxis for working against white supremacy. Cisgender people can have an ally praxis regarding transphobia. I do not believe anyone can simply “be” an ally as a personal identity. One can however act in moments of alliance from a commitment to resist oppression.
And in those moments it is always important to remember that those who take up the work of being an ally will always simultaneously benefit from the oppressive discourse they are fighting. This paradox is at the center of your relative safety as an ally in comparison to the danger people in the margins experience when fighting the same fight.
During this moment of reflection it is good to consider that as a privileged person within a particular alliance you have not personally been oppressed as a member of this community. Ask yourself, where does my life and my experience sit in relation to the system of oppression? What are the privileges in my life I have been comfortably unaware of? How much do I know about how privilege operates within the given context? And how have I connected that with my own life?
Be honest: Ask yourself, what is my motivation in this work? Am I a white savior? Am I a missionary? Do I really see all oppression as linked?
Be committed: What is my capacity for discomfort in places where I have always gotten to feel comfortable. Do I feel entitled to safety? Comfort?
STEP 2: COMMIT Am I ready to stay when the going gets very difficult or tedious or uncertain?
If you believe any form of oppression is destroying lives and rotting the social fabric of society – you commit to learning about and acting against oppression. Ally praxis is not here to examine “both sides” of white supremacy or any other form of oppression. Ally praxis does not consider the “reverse racism” or any other relativist framework around the practice of making some groups subhuman. Anti-oppression praxis says racism is everywhere as part of the social fabric of society, patriarchy is fundamental to the gender structure of all social interaction
STEP 3: LEARN What makes me think I already know everything?
Learn about the history of oppression for different identity categories. These unique histories matter and are pervasively erased by schools, media, and the governing forces within society. The history of oppression toward people with disabilities is different from that toward people of color. Gay civil rights history and black civil rights history are entirely different. While marginalized identities share general political, economic, and ideological oppression, the different stories and forms of oppression matter and comparing two forms of marginalization as if they are all “pretty much the same” is not an act of alliance, it is an act of historic erasure and oppression.
Is this research and intentional learning “extra work” for you? Yes, but only because you did not need to know this history in order to survive and thrive within a marginalized space. An act of alliance would be to push for a more a more inclusive history of any topic you are studying from the professors you’re your courses. Could you sustain your attention and advocacy for including a marginalized identity that was not central to your identity? Could you push week after week, push yourself, push your professor, to think about and learn about those not included in the framing of our learning?
STEP 4: DO YOUR OWN WORK Where do I go for my learning and information?
Don’t look to those close at hand to relive their personal history of oppression to offer you a window into “Othering.” There are anti-racist blogs, disability tumbler sites, documentaries, movies, college courses, etc written about the experiences and lives of people living in the margins. Read, discover, read some more, network your learning, take a class, etc.
As Gloria Anzaldua explains, “We (women of color) cannot educate white women and take them by the hand. Most of us are willing to help but we can’t do the white woman’s homework for her. That’s an energy drain. More times than she cares to remember, Nellie Wong, Asian American feminist writer, has been called by white women wanting a list of Asian American women who can give readings or workshops. We are in danger of being reduced to purveyors of resource lists.”
STEP 5: LISTEN Shhhhhhhh…
When those close to you do choose to share experiences you need to be with those stories. Hear them, feel them, and sit with them without questioning. When someone is generous enough to speak about their experience with oppression there is a cost. They are reliving that abuse to connect, to be seen and heard, to be respected.
STEP 6: OWN and REFLECT Anti-racist work is not designed to take care of white guilt, white resistance, or my ignorant intentions.
So many times in the face of the pain of dealing with and feeling the sting of racism up close, white folks get defensive, tender, or needy. Dealing with white guilt can take up all the air in the room and force the conversation back to white needs. Own your own complicated feelings about the injustice AND remember race oppression ally praxis is never about taking care of white guilt.
– Debra Leigh explains, “Often white people hear blame whenever the issue of racism is brought up, whether or not blame has been placed on whites. As beneficiaries of racism and white privilege, you sometimes take a defensive posture even when you are not being individually blamed. You may personalize the remarks, not directed personally at you. It is the arrogance of your privilege that drags the focus back to whites. When whites are being blamed or personally accused of racist behavior, this defensiveness and denial further alienate you and may preclude you from examining your possible racist behavior. ”
STEP 7: GET COMPLICATED IN YOUR THINKING You can not isolate racism from sexism from ableism. All oppression is interconnected.
Ah yes, it is always so much more complicated. Our complex identities all exist together in real time. I am both oppressed and oppressor: I am white and I am a woman. I am middle class and a lesbian. Like everyone else, I am experiencing access and privilege and oppression and domination all at the same time. Our social and personal identities do not exist in isolation but are rather blended together. While I have centered my remarks on race today, oppression is always already multiplied by the matrix of identities we all live within.
My ally praxis was to keep race at the center in my remarks today as it is the organizing framework for your conference. It would run against my ally praxis to list off all the ways I too am oppressed even as they are also true. All too often in anti-oppression work the intersectional experiences of activists and the complicated relationships people have to oppression and privilege will push the conversation from one form of ideological violence to another. Oppression Olympics is of course a product of both privilege and oppression.
We all continue to need to get complicated in our thinking about identities and recognize how inter-sectional all of our lives are. We all need to be in dialogue with difference, border crossing and affirming the different experiences people have within and between groups. Opening boundaries and creating room for people to be seen as living in multiple identities is at the heart of ally praxis.
STEP 8: FOLLOW and TAKE RISKS As a white person working against white supremacy my first task is to listen to and follow communities of color.
My praxis it to not speak of or for people of color’s experiences. I can and do however speak of whiteness, white supremacy, race and racism from my experiences and learning as a white person and I most often speak to and lead white people.
This is not a popular activity. Therefore I know I am doing my work when I am uncomfortable and worried about losing the social goodies I like to have in my life.
STEP 9: HONOR THE ERASED Ally praxis is to perpetually turn the spotlight on those doing the work who live in the targeted identity.
You are likely to be more visible than your family living in the margins, that is a basic function of oppression. As a white ally, a cisgender ally, a temporarily able ally you may be quoted, praised, or exalted for your wisdom and your sacrifice regarding a minority group. Name the important leaders and thinkers within the group. Shower attention on the primary sources of anti-racist work – the people of color who have died fighting racism. Be prepared to send people to the sources of queer praxis and queer history. Name the unnamed – raise up their faces and their voices and do not let their ideas be credited to you.
STEP 10: STICK IT OUT It tends to get hot in hell.
Take breaks when necessary, but be committed. You will make mistakes, you will be defeated, you will be heartbroken, and I think most often you will find that mirror of your privilege very very very uncomfortable.
Still, stick it out and come back again and again.
Apologize and learn.
Listen and learn.
Watch and learn.
And come back again and try it different,
Title IX was a part of the 1972 Higher Education Act that prohibited federally funded colleges and universities from discriminating against women. As chair of the Subcommittee on Higher Education of the Education and Labor Committee, Green presided over seven days of hearings in which a wide range of witnesses explained the various ways women faced discrimination in postsecondary education. She set the tone for the proceedings when she exclaimed, “Let us not deceive ourselves. Our educational institutions have proven to be no bastions of democracy.” Green overcame opposition from many university administrators, as well as from conservative Congressmen who feared the proposed bill would force school officials to construct unisex locker rooms and admit an equal number of male and female students. When reflecting upon the passage of Title IX, she stated: “I don’t know when I have ever been so pleased, because I had worked so long and it had been such a tough battle.