This morning, I hiked. I was at the foot of Piestawa Peak by 9am and Maria and I made the steep trek up to my perch on the top. Good exercise, beautiful morning, incredibly deep blue sky, nice to spend time with dear Maria - all are truly gifts. Without going into too many premature details - my short-term future here in the Valley may be down to a precious few number of days so I'm enjoying some of the things that make it such a special place for me. Including the mountain, the weather, and dear friends.
I spent time working on the new version of my website. I've made some changes in recent days and I'm providing a "beta" version before officially publishing it (whatever that means). If you want to see it, here's the link. I've already incorporated some of the suggestions and tried to address some of the formatting issues that people have identified. It's hard for me to get a sense of problems that might arise with various browsers or connection speeds but I'm thinking it's almost ready for Prime Time. Anyway, feel free to visit and let me know what you think.
Yesterday I spent time unpacking all my stuff from this past trip, doing laundry, and getting ready for the next trip. I leave tomorrow for New Orleans. The good news is that I've been upgraded to First Class on both of my flights so I'm pretty happy about that. This is a short trip but filled with important "stuff".
I was watching Jimmy Kimmel last night before heading off to bed and there was a funny segment about how Sarah Palin often seems to say things in threes. Here's a video of it - that particular part of it starts about two minutes into it. It's interesting, and funny.
Every year there are a couple of things that are bound to put "transgender" into the spotlight. One is when a high school student expresses an interest is chosen as homecoming/prom king or queen. This invariably makes the news, and that's happening now. Here's a recent example from Michigan. Here's another one, in Texas .
It's a shame - no, it's a tragedy - that these kinds of things happen. And, I'd argue that there's a direct connection between these kinds of dehumanizing, mean-spirited things and the bullying and the harassment that students who may not look or act appropriately "manly" or "womanly" enough face in schools around this country, day after day after day. Now that we're facing an epidemic of youth suicides and, as this particular article indicates, this is only the tip of the iceberg (read article here).
On Sept. 9, 15-year-old Billy Lucas of Greenburg, Ind., hanged himself after enduring constant taunts from bullies at school.
Two weeks later, 13-year-old Asher Brown from suburban Houston shot himself soon after revealing he was gay.
And on Sept. 27, another 13-year-old, Seth Walsh of Techachapi, Calif., died after injuries sustained from hanging himself. He too, had endured "relentless" bullying from other kids, according to The New York Times.
One more death -- the Sept. 22 suicide of 18-year-old Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi -- catapulted these and other suicides of young gay teens into the media spotlight. Clementi's roommate, Dharun Ravi, allegedly broadcast surreptitious video footage over the Internet of Clementi in an intimate encounter with a young man. Last week, Clementi left a message on his Facebook page: "Jumping off [George Washington] bridge sorry," and then did just that.
Cases like these are far from rare, and "this may be the tip of the iceberg," said Dr. David Reitman, chair of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Transgender and Questioning Special Interest Group, part of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. In a statement, he said "the tragic outcome in these cases underscores the profound consequences that bullying and harassment can have on a young person."
This stuff makes me crazy. I'll have more to say on this in the coming weeks, but more than that I think events that are likely about to unfold will transcend words. This is personal, and this kind of stuff needs to be addressed head on. And that's what I'm going to do.
I feel fortunate to have been able to hide my unique "gift" when I was in school so I didn't have to deal with any of this crap. But schools need to have resources. Parents need to have resources. Kids need to have resources. The community needs to have champions willing to step up for those who can't. There needs to be a whole new level of awareness and support around this and as with so many things it's a shame that tragedy simply highlights something that happens all too often but goes unnoticed.
I realize that the Day of Remembrance specifically honors those who lost their lives due to hate violence but I'd argue that these kinds of things are indirectly due to those same factors. Wherever I speak this year on DOR I'll have a moment of silence dedicated to those whose lives became so intolerable that they did the dirty work of ending their own lives. It's the exact same thing. And it needs to be treated as such.
One friend recently approached me to ask for advice on where to spend their annual community support $$$. Non-profit organizations needs funding to survive and in these difficult economic times it's even more important than ever to support organizations that do critical work. Each of us has our own opinions on what organizations that is but I've got three specifically in mind and I recommended that she support all three.
One is NCTE. It's amazing what they do on the limited budget that they've got. Check this out, and pay close attention to the numbers. They're horrifying:
Another is PFLAG.
And the third, for admittedly selfish reasons, is for a community center. It's the LGBT Center of Central PA. I'll be speaking at their annual dinner next weekend, and there are some really exciting things happening there that are going to change the landscape of some things. Mark my words....
Tomorrow at this time I'll be in New Orleans. The good news is that I've been upgraded to First Class on both of my flights, but the bad news is that I probably won't be able to sleep through them as I usually do. What's the point of being in First Class if you can't enjoy at least a Mimosa or two on a Sunday morning? If I'm going to have to travel back and forth across the country every week, at least I can help to make it a little more civilized. :)