Survey Says: We Need to Educate Educators About Rights of LGBTQ Students

(This post can also be read at HuffingtonPost.com)

During the last two weeks, I’ve read and heard a lot of misinformation about the rescission of federal guidance previously given to schools regarding the use of restrooms and single sex spaces by transgender students.

I am the mother of a gender nonconforming child who has been bullied at school — with the most severe case occurring in the bathroom. I’m also a person who thinks everyone should be treated equally and with kindness and empathy. So, understandably, the confusion surrounding the rescission causes me great concern, especially when it is evident in educators and administrators – the people who spend the most waking hours with transgender and gender nonconforming students.

Title IX is still in effect and it protects students from bullying, harassment and victimization based on presumed or confirmed sexuality, gender identity and gender expression.

Over the summer, I surveyed educators and administrators about the federal (Title IX) and state laws in place to protect students based on their presumed and/or confirmed sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

More than 500 credentialed educators and administrators from 43 states participated in the survey. Of participants, 41 percent work at the elementary schools, 25 percent at middle schools and 34 percent at high schools. I asked for participation from people with all types of feelings about the LGBTQ community.

The results of the survey are troublesome because they show just how little (if anything) educators know about Title IX and state laws that protect students who are perceived or confirmed to be LGBTQ.

More than 50 percent of educators don’t know that there are federal laws (Title IX) in place that protect students from bullying, harassment and victimization based on confirmed or presumed sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

About 50 percent of educators don’t know if their state has laws in place to protect LGBTQ students. It’s important to clarify that the majority of the other 50 percent think that their state has laws protecting LGBTQ students, but they don’t know the type of laws (there are two types of Safe School Laws and there are No Promo Homo laws).

If educators don’t know the federal and state laws, they can’t enforce them or spot a violation. LGBTQ students in their charge aren’t being protected and cared for as legally required and educators could be acting illegally and culpably.

What types of information are schools/districts providing educators with regarding Title IX and state laws? Not much.

According to 61 percent of educators, schools/districts provide no information about LGBTQ laws.

“Literally nothing. I work in the largest county/public school system in the state of North Carolina and although our state is in the midst of horrific actions by our governor, who put HB2 into law (which requires all people to use the bathroom that corresponds to the sex on their birth certificate and not their gender), there has been no communication from the top down on this subject. Many teachers are not even aware that HB2 has anything to do with us as educators.”     — Elementary School Educator, North Carolina

“None. I heard about a bathroom controversy with one of our students through the news and not from my own administration.”     — High School Educator, North Carolina

“Little to none; bullying of any type is not a priority for administrators.”     — High School Educator, Louisiana

“None. The district I work for is a hotbed for anyone who is not a True Christian. Our principal has sent out emails saying that Catholics, Jews, Muslims should not be allowed to teach. Secular or LGBTQ people don’t exist in his world.”     — Elementary School Educator, Texas

Eleven percent of educators report that their school/district treats the negative and unlawful treatment of LGBTQ students as general bullying – even though the laws are different and the effects can be more severe.

“We get the ‘normal’ don’t bully/harass training each year that most adults sort of ignore as part of the going through the motions of starting a school year.”     — High School Educator, Missouri

“We received a book. We are just handed it and basically told to read it if we want. NO additional education or discussion.”     — Elementary School Educator, California

“We got a big pamphlet about several issues around transgender issues; I’m guessing there’s more but I honestly didn’t go through the whole thing.”     — Middle School Educator, California

Two percent of educators learn about the rights of LGBTQ students from the students themselves (not their school/district).

“There is a Safe Zone training program created by members of student life. However, nothing that I can recall has come from administration regarding anti-bullying laws.”     — High School Educator, North Carolina

If districts aren’t educating their educators about Title IX and state laws, should it be the responsibility of degree and/or teacher credentialing programs?  That would be a good place to start, but 88 percent of educators learned nothing about the laws while in college. Only five percent of educators have taken a college-level course on discrimination in the classroom and equity on campus. The course was not LGBTQ-specific, but covered all types of discrimination including: disability, learning differences, national origin, race, color, religion, sex, gender and sexuality.

“During the section on ‘special students’ (where we covered a whole bunch of different topics, like homeless students, students with mental illnesses, students with minor disabilities that don’t require special ed.) We talked for about three hours about LGBTQ students, and student who have LGBTQ parents. It was pretty cringe-worthy, and it was obvious the teacher didn’t really have any clue what they were talking about.”     — Elementary School Educator, Montana

I know that day in and day out educators are being told the myriad ways they are failing their students. I’m not here to do that. I acknowledge that educators, in general, want to help; after all, most got into education because they have a soft spot for children. Schools/districts, credentialing programs and professional development programs are failing educators by not teaching them about the special needs of LGBTQ students, the risks they face, the laws that protect them and the consequences of not following the laws.

How do we make it easy for educators to learn these lessons if their employer and credentialing programs aren’t teaching them? Is it reasonable to expect educators to seek out the information and learn on their own?

I don’t have the answers to those questions, but I do know that until we find and implement the answers, school will feel unsafe for LGBTQ students. Some kids will pee their pants (like my son did) because bullies live in the bathroom; some will drop out of because their future doesn’t seem as important as their present; and some will end their life because they have no hope that things will get better.

If you are an educator, please learn more about Title IX and state laws that protect students from bullying, harassment and victimization based on presumed or confirmed sexuality, gender identity and gender expression. Following are some helpful links:

ACLU

Gender Spectrum

GLSEN

Human Rights Campaign (HRC)

PFLAG

Welcoming Schools

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My Son Reviews Looks From 2017 Oscars

(All photo creds go to: E! Entertainment)

screen-shot-2017-02-28-at-12-59-01-pmEmma Stone: LOVE. The end of it is the best part because it is fringe-y. I really liked La La Land. The music was the best. If I talked to the person who made that mistake at the end of the Oscars, I would say “Get it right, girlfriend.” Emma Stone looked the best out of everyone.

Raphaela Neihausen: That is a toddler’s dress.

Karlie Kloss: I like the cape. Capes always look cool. I would enjoy using my markers and coloring on that dress.

Jessica Biel: No, no, no, no, no. That didn’t look right to me. That dress reminds me of a video game that won’t load all the way. That necklace is too much for that dress.

screen-shot-2017-02-28-at-12-59-36-pmOctavia Spencer: The bottom of her dress is like feathers waving at me and I say “Hey, gurl, hey” to those feathers.

Brie Larson: I like it because the bottom looks like a mysterious top hat.

Dakota Johnson: Ugh. I don’t event want to talk about that one.

Janelle Monae: That top. Everyone can see her nipples. Then there is the bottom. The bottom is like two dresses at the same time and she only needed one.

Halle Berry: The top is like Halloween and the bottom is like the water in Hawaii. She needs to get her hair under control. But sometimes I need to get my hair under control, so you can’t blame her that it’s like that. Trust me.

screen-shot-2017-02-28-at-1-05-47-pmRyan Gosling: He’s my favorite boy. I like the ruffles on his shirt a lot. Most boys don’t have that. The boys have the easy way in life. They just pick a tuxedo and go to the party.

Ginnifer Goodwin: No dress should ever have a turtleneck.

Alicia Vikander: Her hair and makeup look like maybe she didn’t know she was going to the Oscars. But the rest of her knew. Obvi.

Blanca Blanco: It looks like she is wearing a duct tape dress. Someone help her now.

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Raising My Rainbow on Instagram

img_6883“Why did you start your blog?”

That’s the blog-related question I’m asked most often.

“Because I wanted to give people a glimpse into our lives raising a differently gendered child to show that we aren’t weird, we’re just different. I wanted to slowly educate people in a non-threatening way.”

That’s my standard answer.

I’ve been thinking for a while now that I’m not blogging as much, so I’m not educating people as much as I could and should be. That bums me out.

screen-shot-2017-02-27-at-6-31-16-pmSo, I very quietly started a public Instagram account (@RaisingMyRainbow) to see if it felt like a good (read: easy) way to share a little more of our journey.

Then I read this in an email from Gender Spectrum regarding the Trump administration’s recension of important support for transgender students.

“If you want to take action regarding the administration’s decision, make a commitment today to do what you can to increase understandings of gender in your world. Your story may be just what someone needs to hear. Your story can make a difference.”

I’m following Gender Spectrum’s orders and asking all of you to follow me on Instagram, share my posts and tag people when the mood strikes.

img_6828I envision still writing a few blog posts a month. Sharing news and things I find important on Facebook and Twitter. And, chronicling our daily lives and thoughts on Instagram.

Let’s see how that plan works. I’m open to comments, thoughts, suggestions, etc. Do you want me to share the same exact thing across all three social media platforms? Do you want me to compile Instagram posts and share them on my blog, Facebook and Twitter routinely? I just don’t want you to get sick of me.

Leave a comment below or shoot me an email (raisingmyrainbow@gmail.com) with your thoughts.

xoxo,

Lori

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Our Bathroom Bullying Story, Actions to Take and FAQs to Know

tumblr_nj4n6trpbq1u3e2mjo1_500I’ve been an unhealthy mix of sad, disappointed, pissed, worried and ready to take action since learning that the Trump administration would rescind the federal guidance support for transgender student’s use of restrooms and other single sex spaces.

Being differently gendered, C.J. has been bullied at school – with the worst incident occurring in the bathroom.

He was in first grade when he peed his pants in class and sat in his own urine for hours after boys in the bathroom tried to forcefully see if he had a penis or vagina. Because his gender expression is feminine leaning, the kids at school had been debating which genitals he possessed. The boys in the bathroom wanted to settle the debate once and for all.

Read more about the incident here: When The Boys’ Room Isn’t Safe For A Boy

There are specific actions that you can take to support trans students. Here’s what I shared on my Facebook page after seeing it on a friend’s page:

faq-on-the-withdrawal-of-federal-guidance-on-transgender-students-coverPrepare) Know the facts about the withdrawal of federal guidance on transgender students. These FAQs are the best I’ve found.

0) Call your elected officials. This is Step 0 because you should already be doing this.

1) Write letters to the editor. Write your local paper(s) about why you support trans rights. Reference whatever recent news story catches your eye; right now this would be Title IX

2) Contact your local school board(s). Ask if they have trans-supportive policies. If they do, thank them. If they don’t, ask how those policies could be implemented.

2a) Work to implement those policies in your community.

3) Donate to orgs like the National Center for Transgender Equality, the ACLU, the Transgender Law Center, or other orgs that are Doing The Work.

4) Make sure your friends are doing all this, too.

Finally and most importantly:

If a transgender or non-binary identified student experiences discrimination at school, there is legal assistance to help. Please contact any of these legal organizations for assistance:
National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) – nclrights.org
Transgender Law Center – transgenderlawcenter.org
GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) – glad.org
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – aclu.org
Lambda Legal – lambdalegal.org

 

 

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My Son’s 10th Birthday Was A Drag

In some ways, C.J.’s recent birthday party was like your average 10-year-old’s birthday party. The birthday boy sat at the head of a long table eating something made mostly of sugar. Presents were stuffed around him. The crowded room was a loud mixture of music and happiness.

Then four drag queens took the stage and performed Peggy Lee’s hit “I’m A Woman” while my son cheered and threw dollar bills at them.

Walking to drag brunch. Hand-in-hand with his dad -- as always.

Walking to drag brunch. Hand-in-hand with his dad — as always.

“What do you want to do for your birthday?” I asked C.J. weeks before he entered the realm of double digits.

“I want to see my first drag show,” he said with a smile, squeal and fluttering hands.

I’d been to a drag brunch before at VLVT Lounge in Orange County. I emailed them to see if children were allowed to attend. Turns out, they were thrilled to host C.J.’s birthday party.

Finding a place to have C.J.’s drag birthday party was easy. Finding guests to attend was not. Not every fourth grader’s parents feel comfortable dropping their child off at a gay club on a Saturday for a party. I get it.

The night before drag brunch we had a cake for C.J. at home. He made a wish and blew out the candles.

“Do you want to know what I wished for?”

He always wants to tell everybody what he wished for. He does not at all believe that keeps the wish from coming true.

“I wished that RuPaul would be at my drag brunch birthday party!”

The next morning he put on his LED sneakers, jeggings, striped moto jacket, choker and cat ear headband. Then he sat and carefully applied makeup. His favorite eye shadow shades are Warning, Seize and Goldmine by Urban Decay.

Our small but fierce celebratory group met in front of the club. The final guest list included C.J., Matt, Uncle Michael, Uncle Michael’s friend Martin and two of my best friend’s daughters. We walked the red carpet and took pictures. C.J. felt like a star. He thought that everybody at VLVT that day was there for his birthday (even though they were there for their own birthdays, bachelorette parties, etc.)

VLVT gave C.J. a special necklace to indicate that he was celebrating something big. A decade of life!

VLVT gave C.J. a special necklace to indicate that he was celebrating something big. A decade of life!

The show got underway and much to C.J.’s delight one of the queens — Venus D’Lite — had appeared on RuPaul’s Drag Race, season 3. If you are in any way remotely affiliated with RuPaul’s Drag Race, C.J. thinks you are the coolest and holds you in very high esteem. The other queens were Trinna Modele, Dani Kay and Big Dee.

VLVT spoiled C.J. with the best view in the house.

VLVT spoiled C.J. with the best view in the house.

C.J. opened his presents. Uncle Michael happened to give him 50, crisp one dollar bills in a nice stack to use to tip the performers. To a 10-year-old, few things are better than throwing money at people.

"I've always wanted a huge stack of money like this," C.J. said. Then he had me take several pictures as he fanned himself with it.

“I’ve always wanted a huge stack of money like this,” C.J. said. Then he had me take several pictures as he fanned himself with it.

The queens put on an amazing show. Bless their glittery hearts for trying to keep it as kid-friendly as possible.

C.J. was pulled on stage twice to perform with the queens. Here he is with his favorite queen of the day, Miss Dani Kay.

Meeting and greeting with the queens after the show.

Meeting and greeting with the queens after the show. Who knows what he is telling them.

C.J. at Starbucks after brunch, checking out pictures on Uncle Michael's phone and wearing the wig his best friends gave him.

C.J. at Starbucks after brunch, checking out pictures on Uncle Michael’s phone and wearing the wig his best friends gave him.

“Going to drag brunch is exhausting, but we should go back. We should go every weekend,” C.J. said as I was tucking him in that night.  “Can you make reservations?”

I closed his door and thought about how far we have come in accepting and supporting his gender nonconformity. When he was turning three, we were uneasy and anxious when he wanted to have a Disney Princess-themed party and invite his whole class. Seven years later Matt and I both got emotional and beamed with pride when he was given the chance to dance onstage with drag queens.

We wouldn’t change our child or this parenting journey for anything. Happy birthday, C.J. Thanks for letting us grow with you.

 

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BOOK GIVEAWAY: One Of A Kind Like Me/ Único Como Yo

screen-shot-2016-06-24-at-9-28-34-am-270x300It’s time to add another book to your library!

One of a Kind Like Me/Único Como Yo is a bilingual children’s book based on the true story of a child named Danny who wanted to be a princess in the school parade. He and his mom embark on a venture to find a purple princess dress.

The book’s author is Laurin Mayeno, is the founder of Out Proud Families and the proud mixed-race mother of a multiracial gay son who was gender nonconforming as a child.

When my son Danny told me he wanted to be a princess for Halloween, I was worried that he would be teased and I would be judged. I suggested another costume, but Danny knew what he wanted. I decided to support him and we created a beautiful purple princess dress. He wore it happily in the school parade and kept it for years. Although I didn’t know it then, I later came to realize that having a gender-creative child was a beautiful gift.

Being Danny’s mom, I have learned to appreciate children who don’t follow expectations based on gender. I also have seen how pressure to fit gender expectations can make life hard for any child. We can help all children feel safe and accepted by allowing them to explore a full range of activities without restricting or criticizing what they do based on gender. We can also make a difference by encouraging children to be respectful and kind to their peers, and by letting them know that teasing and bullying hurt. If you have a child who doesn’t follow society’s gender norms, rest assured that you are not alone. It is perfectly healthy to explore different ways of expressing gender. If you have concerns and fears, as I did, learning about gender diversity and connecting with other families like yours can give you confidence and peace of mind.

Enter to win a copy of One of a Kind Like Me/Único Como Yo by leaving a comment below. A winner will be announced here, on Facebook and on Twitter on Friday (January 20, 2017).

Click here to order a copy of the book.

* * *

I posted the following video of C.J. to social media and forgot to share it here. It’s just another glimpse into what life is like raising a fabulous, spirited son.

Me: We’re going to dine alfresco and act like a nice, normal family.
C.J.: You can be normal. I’m going to be Beyonce.
Matt: *films while exchanging smiles with passersby*

# # #

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I No Longer Live Life Ahead Of My Son; I Live Life With My Son

img_5766Six years. It’s been six years since I launched this blog. My gender nonconforming son was three at the time. He was newly potty trained, loved the Disney Princesses and had a limited vocabulary. Now, he’s a nine-year-old fourth grader who loves drag queens, Andy Warhol and who talks nonstop.

If I listed all of the lessons I’ve learned during the last six years, it might take me another six years. The biggest lesson I’ve learned? To stop worrying.

I used to worry so much. As much as you all read my worry, you’ll never know how much worry truly engulfed my heart and mind.

I worried about what other people would think about C.J.’s gender expression and identity. I worried about what they would say to and about him. How they would react to him. How he would be treated at school. What his future would look like. What we would do if he identified as trans. What we would do if he came out as gay. I worried about my obsessive worrying. Sometimes I’d catch myself not worrying and then start worrying about what I was forgetting to worry about.

Then, our gender therapist helped me manage the worry.

Whenever I shared a worry with her, she would say “And then what would happen?”

My answer was always “We’d deal with it.”

For example….

Me: I’m worried the kids at school will make fun of C.J. for wearing girl clothes.

Therapist: And, then what would happen?

Me: We’d deal with it.

More often than not it took many more “And, then what would happens” for me to get to the “We’d deal with it.” But, I always got there. Always.

(If your answer isn’t “We’ll deal with it.” If your answer has something to do with being embarrassed by your child, loving them less, resenting them or wanting them to change, you need help. I don’t say it in a dismissive way. I say it earnestly. Please, seek help. From a supportive friend, a therapist, PFLAG, an online community, books, blogs, anywhere safe and trusted.)

img_6049So, if I’d always deal with a worry when/if it became a reality, then why was I wasting my time and stressing myself out worrying about it prematurely? Worry doesn’t prevent things from happening; it just prevents you from enjoying the good things that are actually happening.

When I stopped worrying, I started enjoying the colorfulness of my unique son. That’s when life got happy.

The beginning of this parenting journey and this blog was fueled by worry, wine and chocolate. My busiest blogging hours were in the dark of night – with the kids in bed, Matt at work and worry as my bedfellow. That’s not my life anymore. Thank God.

I don’t spend my days defensively traveling ahead of C.J. making sure the path is clear, safe and prepared for his rainbow arrival. I’m done with that exhausting rigamaro. I no longer live life ahead of my son; I live life with my son.

I’m no longer hyper vigilant. I’m informative and matter-of-fact. I’m not angry about the way things are, I’m eager to change them for the better.

I’m sure of the things I need to know and do to address the challenges that come our way because of C.J. I’m sure of the resources available to us and how to learn what I don’t know. I’m sure of my son, myself and – most importantly — my parenting. Surety erases worry. Confidence is calming.

My son feels my surety and it’s good for him. In turn, it’s given him confidence and calm. He’s sure of who he is, his style, the village he belongs to and the family that has his back no matter what.

He knows that the answer to “what happens if….” is always “we’ll deal with it.”

While I try to live in a place that is worry-free, it’s a place that’s certainly worry-adjacent. I can cross the city line to worry-ville in no time. I just try not to unless it’s truly justified.

img_5762I don’t worry. I work. So that when something happens and I have to react, I’m prepared. I want to be prepared, not paralyzed with worry and fear. Now, I make the worry propel me into action. I’m worried about 2017. I’m worried about our future under the reign of the president-elect. But, I’m focused on spending more time acting and less time worrying. Action is productive, worrying is not.

The more I let go of worry, the harder it got to write. I don’t see blog posts as we live our lives, like I did six years ago. I don’t see his gender creativity as much. I don’t see his purse entering the room first. I don’t see his runway walk being practiced down the grocery store aisles. I don’t see his French braid and lip-gloss when I drop him off at school.

I don’t see those things, I just see him.

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