All Aboard the Allyship

By Taylor S., guest youth writer from Outright Vermont

 What is an ally?

An ally is someone who actively and consistently works to unlearn and re-evaluate the systems of oppression within our society, and uses their position of privilege to work with and for a marginalized group of people. Allyship is neither self-assigned nor a form of identity, but rather a continuous process of creating and maintaining relationships based on mutual trust and accountability with marginalized persons or groups of people. The focus of allyship is on the marginalized group or individual because of the lack of needed awareness and recognition within our society, regarding marginalized and subordinated identities.

 But what does that mean…

Allyship can be broken down into three main concepts: Respect, Empathy, and Activism.

Respect

The easiest way to think about respect, is in terms of the Golden Rule: treat others the way that you would like to be treated. Respect is the ability to be wrong. It is accepting people for who they are, in an effort to promote and create a more inclusive community. For example, we all have pronouns that we use on a daily basis, whether they are she/her, he/him, they/them, ze/zir, etc. Respect is asking someone’s pronouns, instead of assuming, and then continuing to use these specified pronouns in future interactions.

 Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. When thinking about allyship, empathy is taking that moment to connect with another person and both recognize and understand what they are feeling. Though you may not be able to connect with their direct experiences, you are able to conceptualize the feelings of loss, sadness, or anger. For example, if a child discloses to you that they lost a friend during their coming out process and are now depressed; you may not know what it’s like to come out, Continue reading

Chicken Soup for the Anti-Cisheteropatriarchal Soul

by Rachel Rudi, Youth & Family Services Coordinator, Circle

For the past few weeks, I’ve trudged home from meetings around eight in the evening, eaten something from a box and fallen asleep by 8:35. Sunlight is scarce. Work has not been easy. My body is achey and aggravated and I am impatient, but a large part of me loves those stretches of time that push your limits and force you to be your own friend. Knowing this is not a permanent schedule, where do our minds go when personal growth and community are put on the back burner? Are we comfortable with that inwardness? 

In order to invigorate and sooth myself, I’ve been turning to the videos of StyleLikeU, a mother-and-daughter team who seek out the stories which inform individuals’ style and fashion choices. Dozens of people, largely women and queer folks, spend ten minutes connecting their body to their pain, resistance, and self-possession, slowly removing articles of clothing and getting deeper into why we present to the world as we do. Not only are these testimonies phenomenal educational tools for young people, and not only are they an interesting presence in the fashion world, but they give me enormous hope. Something about the process is so beautifully transcendent and connecting. I am reminded to spend time learning my story, reminded of the ways our lives weave in and out of cultural and historical narratives, reminded that we are encouraged to classify violences and thus isolate ourselves, and our anti-violence work, from the liberation. That is the inwardness I love about this season: the meditations. 

 

 

I first learned of StyleLikeU from following DarkMatter, a duo of south asian trans poets
Alok Vaid-Menon and Janani Balasubramanian. The two have brilliant politics that cut into the truth of identities, languages, and colonialist cisheteropatriarchy. Do yourself a Continue reading

What is GLAMM?

by Gwendolyn Bunnewith

Original post date:  12/4/15

(Note:  This article is reprinted from the U-32 Chronicle, a student created open platform that showcases the best reporting and media from the Washington Central Supervisory Union Community.  The YATF blog will periodically re-post related articles from the Chronicle to support youth writers and amplify their voices)

Gay, Lesbian and Many More (GLAMM) is a relatively new organization to U-32. The first meeting was held at the end of last school year, but in that time they’ve already accomplished much.bathroombuddy GLAMM

Similar in nature to a QSA (Queer-Straight Alliance), GLAMM’s mission, according to member Dakota Dunham, “is to provide a safe space for LGBTQ+ students and straight allies. It’s a place where people can go to give support to the LGBTQ+ community.”

A few weeks ago, to honor Trans Visibility Day, GLAMM members set up a table in the atrium and handed out buttons reading “I’ll Go With You,” along with information on how to be an ally. “I’ll Go With You” is a movement to encourage U-32 students to be bathroom buddies for their transgender classmates, accompanying them to use Continue reading

Book review: Sex is a Funny Word

By Brittany Lafirira, Youth Advocate, HOPE Works

One thing I will always be thankful for is my love of reading. This is something that my parents have encouraged from a very young age and something that follows me today. I read a variety of different things and enjoy when I can share my love of books with other people. One book that I have read recently and enjoyed is the book called Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg and Fiona Smyth.

sex is a funny word

The very first page of the book is a letter to the grown up reader. It talks about how this book is meant to be read over time and that it is meant to be inclusive and non judgmental.  Each section starts with a comic that Continue reading

Staying Positive

 

by Matt Renaud Youth Advocate and Prevention Educator, AWARE

 

Earlier today, I saw a news story titled, As pressure mounts, ISIS militants hide behind kids.  The title really says it all – ISIS militants are now literally using children as shields to avoid being targeted by U.S. military forces.  This story was kind of the proverbial icing on the cake for me after the recent events in Paris, Colorado, and California.  Even though all of these events seem to be terrorism-related at this point, it’s not even the terrorism that has me feeling down, it’s the amount of violence in general in our world that seems to be increasing as of late (or maybe the media is just paying more attention to it) and how there seem to be more and more innocent people (including many children) getting caught in the crossfire either literally or indirectly.

After seeing this news story and reflecting on recent events, I thought I’d look for some positive news stories involving youth to share in my post because it seems to me that one way to effectively “combat” this ongoing violence is to promote positivity.  Sorry for a short post this time around – I just wanted to share some uplifting stuff (more for my own self-care than anything), so I hope you enjoy the following links!  By the way, I read more news sources than just CBS, that’s just the site I happened to be searching on.  I’m usually more of a Fox News person (just kidding!).

I hope everyone has a great holiday season and let’s keep in mind how much we all have to be truly thankful for, even in the face of such senseless violence.

Twin Boys Reunited with their WWII Hero

On The Road:  Explaining Terrorist Attacks to Children

7 Year Old Donates Money in Piggy Bank to Vandalized Mosque

No More Hugging Grandma (without consent)!!!!!  

by Laura Young, Youth Advocate, Umbrella

About a month ago, I had the awesome opportunity to visit a local school to talk with some 7th and 8th graders about supporting survivors of sexual violence. It was a heavy topic that I was supposed to help “teach”, but I ended up being taught a lesson or two myself while in class. The lesson that stuck with me the most is on the importance of modeling consent to kids and teens.

Consent isn’t a new topic by any means. Most people think of consent as a term that expresses the importance of receiving a clear and uninhibited “yes” before engaging with an action that is sexual. Coming into class, sex is what I automatically associated the word consent with. However, while engaging with the class, the teacher of the class demonstrated a valuable lesson to me that helped me realized consent is about so much more.

As part of the class, the students were given assigned readings for the activity. One 7th Continue reading

On Naming Patriarchy, and an Advocacy of Trusting Children’s Leadership

by Rachel Rudi, Youth and Family Coordinator, Circle, Washington County

“Within white supremacist capitalist patriarchy children do not have rights. Feminist movement was the first movement for social justice in this society to call attention to the fact that ours is a culture that does not love children, that continues to see children as the property of parents to do as they will. […] Simply calling attention to male sexual abuse of children has not created the climate where masses of people understand that this abuse is linked to male domination, that it will end only when patriarchy is eliminated.”

                                                                        – bell hooks, Feminism is for Everybody

Six weeks ago, as I stepped into Circle’s Youth Advocate position, a longtime anti-domestic violence worker said to me, “Just to be clear, we don’t think of ourselves as a social service. We think of ourselves as a social justice movement.”

I’ve been chewing on this clarification, this seemingly clear delineation, as I try to see how I’ll wear the role. I have no social work degree, little formal schooling in education or psychology, no firsthand experience with intimate partner violence. I’ve been both panicked and calm about the learning curve: lessons in childhood development, statistics on violence, Vermont law and its shortcomings, endless acronyms, fear of saying the wrong thing to a person in pain. As I meet with survivors, children, medical professionals, family members, social workers, local politicians, law enforcement, advocates and counselors, I scrutinize my own credibility and question my ability to advocate for youth.

But in even the most clinical of these meetings something is invariably said that knocks the wind out of everyone and we sit in an unscripted moment of grief. There’s that communal sigh, a bewilderment at such a normalized culture of terror, a grasping for a Continue reading

Supporting Queer, Trans, and Questioning Youth

by Amanda Rohdenburg, Director of Advocacy, Outright Vermont
So a youth in your life has come out to you.  Congratulations! This is a huge step for them, and the perfect time for you to show up as an ally in their lives. 
According to the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are four times more likely than their hetero peers to experience sexual assault, four times more likely to skip school because they feel unsafe, and six times more likely to attempt suicide.  The survey doesn’t ask about the experience of trans or gender-nonconforming youth,but increased marginalization often puts youth at further risk.  According to the Trevor Project, “Two key suicide risk factors for LGBT people are individual-level factors such as depression and experiences of sigma and discrimination, including anti-LGBT hostility, harassment, bullying and family rejection. There is growing evidence that the two factors are linked.”   
It is so important that queer, trans, and questioning youth have adults in their lives who are validating and supportive of their identities:  A teenager isn’t going to bring their problems Continue reading

Trauma, the Brain, and Why the Positive Impact We Can Have on Kids Is so Important!

~ by Allyson Scanlon, Family & Youth Advocacy Specialist, Clarina Howard Nichols Center

Existing within all of us, no matter our age, are instinctual protective modes that kick in when our bodies and minds perceive us to be in some type of danger. These instinctive reactions can make daily functioning difficult for anyone, but can be especially damaging for children as crucial development is interrupted. Children also have less life experience to allow for self-regulation or the ability to recognize how significant a threat any given situation actually is to their safety and well-being. Thus, in homes where there is on-going intimate partner or sexual violence, children are actually being exposed to chronic trauma. Chronic trauma can cause children to develop many instinctual survival skills. Unfortunately, these skills meant to protect often interfere with healthy brain development, and can even have a lasting impact on how they will live their lives as adults.

Our brains develop 80-90% during ages 0-5. This time period is extremely critical – adverse experiences can literally stunt brain development in kids as chaotic environments cause our amygdala (also thought of as our “reptilian” brain) to overcompensate signaling our “fight/flight/freeze” response. In turn, children are constantly in a toxic state of stress, or sensing they are in danger. The hippocampus, another more primitive part of our brain, cannot function properly when the amygdala is signaling constant alarm. What all of this looks like in terms of behaviors in kids we may work with is an inability to focus, difficulties with speech and memory, behaviors often resulting in our labeling kids as “trouble” or a “problem child” such as outbursts, aggression, high anxiety/overactive startle response, and/or a child may be perceived to have attention deficits. These children may also revert to behaviors they have outgrown such as trouble Continue reading

Breathe deeply!  Taking Care of the Caregiver

~by Judy Szeg, Educator, Office & Volunteer Coordinator, Safeline, Inc.

 “You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe                                          deserve your love and affection.”  – Buddha

Watch a lit candle.  Do yoga.  Walk your dog.  Smell your favorite scent.  Listen to music.   Dance.  These are small things but, oh, so important when done mindfully.

The readers of this blog have very diverse roles – teachers, other school staff, parents, counselors, therapists, faith leaders, youth group or community leaders, the list goes on and on.  One thing that we may experience in common is that we may sometimes feel overwhelmed as we do our best to support the children and youth in our lives.

Unfortunately, many of the children and youth that we know experience very serious challenges in their young lives, whether due to domestic or sexual violence, alcohol or substance abuse, bullying, poverty, homelessness or many other issues.  When we interact with them on a regular basis, become aware of their situation and witness their pain, fear or sadness, we may find that we are impacted more than we realize.

Have you found yourself having difficulty sleeping and worrying about a youth you know?  Continue reading