“Want to be an activist?  Start with your toys.”

By Judy Szeg, Educator, Safeline

All too often, adults seem to think that youth should be followers, not leaders.  That they should not challenge the status quo, if for no other reasons than that challenging the status quo is difficult and we adults feel that those efforts are not likely to be successful.

Thirteen year old McKenna Pope proved us wrong several years ago when she took on an issue, gender stereotype toys, which was important to her.  Her younger brother was interested in cooking but the conventional cooking toy, the Easy-Bake Oven, was designed in “girly” colors and only featured girls in its advertisements.  So, McKenna began a Change.org petition to request that toy giant Hasbro change the design of the oven and the way it is advertised.  She raised over 45,000 signatures and Hasbro agreed to make the changes she suggested.

Hear what she has to say about her endeavor in the following TED talk and, adults, take note!

Students and Gender Norms

By Megan Fariel, Hartford High School Alum

Guest Youth Writer and former Intern at WISE

In high school, I have noticed more gender-based traditions than in elementary and middle school. Prom, football culture, and dating in high school all seem to have some pretty clear gender expectations: The guy has to ask the girl to prom, girls wear their boyfriend’s jerseys, and so on.

Why doesn’t this happen before middle school?  While there surely is a biological change associated with puberty and development, I think a lot if it must be due to environment. Students may not realize that media consumption, role models, and exposure to new ideas can shape how they think. For example, a younger student might be more inclined to the views of his or her parents than an older student, because the younger student has not been exposed to new ideas yet.

Last fall, I decided to test this idea out with a survey of students in my school district to see how gender norms may affect us differently as we get older. I surveyed fourth, seventh, and tenth graders, for a total of ninety-five usable surveys. I asked questions that Continue reading

Much Doo-Doo About Nothing

By Amanda Rohdenburg – she/her, Director of Advocacy, Outright Vermont

There has been a lot of talk about bathrooms lately.  In the Outright office, in our state, and across the country.  If you haven’t been following: North Carolina—along with some other states—have proposed or passed legislation that forbids transgender people from using public restrooms that correspond to their gender identity.  On a local level, a similar conversation has been going on at Green Mountain Union High School.  Then the federal Departments of Justice and Education published a statement of support for transgender youth to use facilities that correspond to their gender identity in accordance with Title IX.

With transgender rights and bathroom debates gaining such broad attention, a lot of questions have been coming up for folks.  So let’s have a bit of a Q&A!

Q: What does transgender even mean?

A: Transgender describes a person who does not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth.  If a person still identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth, that person is called cisgender.  It’s okay to shorten those words to ‘trans’ and ‘cis,’ so I’ll do that from here on out.

Q: So someone with a different body than mine could be using the same bathroom??

A: Yes! And they do, all the time! All bodies are different, encompass such a huge variety—in size, shape, color, and genitalia.  In fact, the reasons for gender segregated bathrooms Continue reading

Clarina Happenings!


Part I  

WINGS – We Inspire Girls to Succeed!!

By Ana Cimino, Albert Schweitzer Follow, Clarina Howard Nichols Center

Through the sponsorship of the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship and Clarina Howard Nichols Center, Ana Cimino has spent the year hosting a youth empowerment group that focused on breaking the cycle of gender-based violence. The kids who participate in the group entitled it WINGS – We Inspire Girls to Succeed.

Working with the Clarina Howard Nichols Center, a Vermont agency that serves survivors of domestic violence and their children, Cimino has implemented a program that fosters an empowering and safe environment for kids to heal and grow. The program delivers its curriculum through various modalities, including art, dance, and writing. This program is not a support group, but rather an advocacy program empowering local youth to find their own space to heal, and to open the dialogue on healthy relationships and body image.

Cimino divided the year into two focus areas: defining and developing healthy 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

It Takes a Village: Understanding Gender Bias and Shifting Masculine Culture

by Matt Renaud, Youth Advocate and Prevention Educator, AWARE

Over the past couple of months, the work I’ve been doing in some of the area schools has begun overlapping with some of the work I’ve been doing in other aspects of my job as  Youth Advocate & Prevention Educator.  In Hazen Union School in Hardwick, which is the combined middle and high school for Hardwick and surrounding towns, I’ve been collaborating with the school counselors to deliver a curriculum that we pieced together from a number of different sources.  We’re calling it “Understanding Gender Bias” and the goal is both prevention-oriented and also response-oriented, as the eighth grade in particular has been experiencing some gender stereotyping and sexual harassment issues.  A number of 8th grade boys have been wearing t-shirts that say either “Cool story babe, now go make me a sandwich” or “If you can read this, you should get back in the kitchen.”  Both of these shirts have been referenced in a previous blog post by Tori Nevel from Wise.  In addition to wearing these t-shirts, some of the same boys have started identifying as “meninists,” arguing that boys and men are oppressed in this society just as much as girls and women are.  As of yet, I have not been able to locate any empirically validated research supporting this argument.

The “Understanding Gender Bias” curriculum recently came to an end, as we had reached every 8th grade student and we are in the process of tailoring it more specifically to other grade levels for future use.  At the same time, I’ve been working closely with a group of students from Hazen Union who attended a UMatter Conference at the beginning of the school year.  The students were awarded a mini-grant of $500 to use in helping to educate their peers about suicide prevention and the students were asked to choose a specific type of harassment to focus their peer education on.  The Hazen students chose to explore the areas of gender equality, gender bias/stereotypes, gender identity, and sexual identity.  The group of students that attended the UMatter conference plan to ultimately work with Outright VT to host a school-wide assembly focusing on education around these topics.

Simultaneously, AWARE has been hosting a monthly meeting of our Community Allies, which is a group of people from all walks of life in the community that essentially volunteer their time to help make the community more aware of domestic and sexual violence and how people can get involved in both prevention and support efforts.  This group has specifically been addressing the question of how to get more men involved in this work over the past few months.  As someone who identifies as male, I’ve been working closely with the Community Allies on this effort.  It’s a great opportunity to get input from people from all different backgrounds, whether they are survivors, therapists, doctors, law enforcement officers, nurses, representatives of various faith communities, or parents.  The consensus that the group has gradually come to over the past couple of months is that the best way we can engage men in this work or, at least to prevent abusive behavior, is to connect with them at a young age and to be nothing more than a positive role model and a source of emotional support.  I say “nothing more than” with the complete understanding that this is no small task.  However, for people of good will, it doesn’t require you to do anything more than what you already do every day.  It’s becoming increasingly clear that many boys and young men who have abusive tendencies at an early age are lacking a positive male role model who can teach healthy emotional regulation techniques simply by being themselves.  Many times, it’s a positive male role model that these young men are lacking – a “guide for their masculine souls,” to borrow a term from Joe Ehrmann (retired NFL player and creator of Coach for America).

Whether it’s in school, at home, in the grocery store, or on the street, our words and actions are impacting and influencing every child, teen, and young adult we encounter –whether it’s a positive or a negative impact.  In this sense, the old adage “it takes a village to raise a child” really does ring true.  The community of Hardwick really seems to be taking that idea to heart by engaging young people in discussions around gender stereotypes and sexual harassment.  This is one of the biggest rewards of living in a rural community like Hardwick and I know it’s the same for many of you reading this in other rural communities – when we really put our minds (and our hearts) to it, we can truly make a lasting positive impact.