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

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.


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 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

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

Eye of the Beholder

by guest youth writer Kyrsta Patnoe, intern/volunteer, Clarina Howard Nichols Center

Picture this; the cool summers wind blowing through your hair, your hands wrapped around their neck, and in that moment, everything is perfect. The moon shining down onto your bodies, the stars twinkling in the night, and the only sound to be heard is the soft music the two of you dance to. If you were to see two shadows dancing in the night, you wouldn’t think anything of it. Just two people madly in love, making some beautiful memories. You’d think the guy was being a romantic, but what if the porch light shined out, and you saw the two girls swaying to the beat of the music. Everything you felt before, gone?

It shouldn’t matter who you date, no matter the gender. Love is love, and when you feel 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.