Life Lessons, Parenting, Ranting, Social Media

The Bullies Have Arrived. And I’m Ready To Use My Words.

My daughter was bullied for the first time two weeks ago.

Unfortunately , I’m not surprised. But that doesn’t mean it hurts any less as a mom.

When you’re a little girl that appears to be a boy, when you don’t fit into a perfect little societal norm box in this hateful world, bullies will find you.

She was on a play date in a different neighborhood. Her and her friends went to the community’s playground and met two boys around the ages of 10-12.

All started out well and fine, they all played together, until they didn’t.

The two boys began picking on my daughter, before even knowing she was a girl, making fun of her clothes, her shoes, her hair. When she corrected one of them for calling her an “ugly boy”, telling them she was a girl, they then called her a “tranny”, a freak, a fag, and gay. None of such terms were even understood by my child. Because she’s 8 and ignorant to such slurs and hatred.

She handled it well enough. She talked it out with me when I picked her up. She asked a lot of questions about the words they used and just seemed overall confused, but not overly sad.

She is the type to stuff emotions a little bit so I’m not sure the validity to her dismissive attitude but I was proud of her strength. We keep open communication about the incident and I made sure to tell her that these boys were just mean because they didn’t understand her and that they must have felt bad and ugly inside to do that to someone else, to which she responded well.

As for me? I didn’t handle it quite as gracefully.

I was so sad. I am so sad.

This is a tough pill to swallow for a parent. This bullying epidemic is some scary shit, especially when you bring the notion of social media into the conversation. It’s fucking terrifying.

I analyzed the incident for days. And by analyzed , I mean obsessed over it. And by obsessed over it, I mean I lost sleep, I cried and I thought about running away with my child somewhere it feels safer than this. Anywhere that posed promise for more open mindedness.

Because I know this won’t be the last bullying incident. I knew this was coming and it was the day I dreaded for years.

When my daughter’s gender identity adventures began at a very young age, of course I was hoping it was a phase. Of course I was.

Who would want their child to have a more difficult life? Who would want their child to be different, to stand out, to struggle? No one. Absolutely not one parent on the face of the earth.

But alas, she continued to express herself in the same patterns: “boy” toys, “boy” clothes, “boy” haircut, all with a bit of a masculine nuance to her mannerisms since age 4.

I’ve never labeled her transgender, as I’ve written and talked about publicly. Let me be clear here and interject- I would label her transgender, and let her socially transition, if she asserted herself that way, if she affirmed that in her heart she feels like a boy, if she ever went into depression or anxiety over it, or if she attempted suicide over it as many young children do when they’re trans. Because I now know that being trans a science based fact, because I’ve done my research, because I know families that have had a suicidal 7 year old because their brain doesn’t match their genitalia.

But thus far, that hasn’t been the case. We keep an open dialogue and yes, she sees someone that specializes in gender issues. Because it’s confusing as fuck, for her and more so for me. This is not a made up thing.

So, for now, she’s a girl with a very feminine name who looks like a boy and confuses so many strangers.

Which is where the bullies will continue to dive in. Because they’re afraid. Because whether you’re a child, a teen, a young adult, or full grown, fear breeds ignorance and ignorance breeds terrible behavior, as we have all been privileged to witnessing.

People are afraid of things and issues and other people that they don’t understand. They’re afraid and they react out of that fear. And the bullies aren’t taught to filter that out by their parents. Ignorance is perpetuated in their homes, it’s learned behavior. And that behavior translates into hatefulness. Just look around social media. Adults are the absolute worst offenders.

People ask me all of the time. “why do you write about this? Why do you put this information out to the universe to get scrutinized?”.

And all of this analysis of this first bullying incident solidified my answer- to preach the word of kindness. To maybe, just maybe, educate one person on what it is that makes my child different. To advocate for all differences.

I posted a little blurb about this incident on my personal Facebook page, trying to spread a message of kindness and teaching children to not say anything if they don’t have anything nice to say.

I received a private message from a person I knew from high school who stated that I set my child up for this bullying, that this is my fault, because I “let her dress like a boy”. To which I replied, I simply will not shove my child’s wants and needs aside, force her into a box, for the comfort of everyone else. No way. That would certainly make it better for everyone else wouldn’t it? But that is not allowing my child room to be who she is. That is not setting her up on a solid foundation.

She is who she is.

And that’s why I write.

For her.

To create a better world for her the only way I know how.

And to those that believe writing about this topic is over exposing her- that’s a fair concern but listen, she will grow up knowing her mother is a fighter for equality. And I hope that makes her proud. I will absolutely stop writing about this the moment she asks me to.

But in the meantime, I will fight for a better place for her to exist just how she is. Her authentic self. I will use my writing as a super power of education and plea for kindness.

And hope for a day where acceptance is commonplace and bullies have no place in the world.

A mama can hope. A mama will fight.

Life Lessons, Parenting, Ranting, Uncategorized

The Great Bathroom Debate is Bullshit. Here’s Proof.

A few weeks ago, my non-gender conforming daughter (who is 8), and I were in a public restroom. As we were washing our hands, an older lady standing next to me looked at my daughter, (who was out of earshot at the hand dryer at the moment), then turned to me and said, “So, what’s the rule these days? When do parents allow their kids to go to the correct bathroom without a parent?”.

I fell silent for a second, completely confused as to what she was asking me. She took notice of my confusion and filled the silence with “You know what I mean. When will you allow him to go to the boy’s bathroom alone?”.

It took my brain a second to process that she was certain that my daughter was a boy and she was judging me, inferring he should be in his gender assigned bathroom.

“Oh, um. She’s a girl. She’s in the correct bathroom.”

The look on this lady’s face was somewhat indescribable. She could not have been more shocked, stammering and befuddled in that moment. I then saw the look of confusion take over her face, trying to make sense of my child’s gender and what I was saying.

She tried to backpedal and muddled something along the lines of, “Oh, well, well, I, um, just meant that she looks older and, um, I didn’t know…”.

My emotions were somewhere between annoyed, angry, and still confused by the whole conversation. The only thing I could choke out was, “Can’t judge a book by it’s cover, right?”, and she couldn’t manage any words.

First and foremost, stop judging parents, period, lady. Because that’s where she wanted to go with it, I’m certain. She wanted to get on her pedestal about how her generation allowed children to go to the bathroom alone at the age of 2 or whatever higher horse conversation she was encroaching on. I could hear it coming.

But secondly? This is exactly why the transgender bathroom debate makes no sense at all and is utter bullshit. Here it is. A prime example.

Here’s a person that assumed my child was a boy by mere esthetics. Boy clothes, plus boy hair, plus boy mannerisms must equal boy. She certainly could not see her genitalia. And because we were all in the bathroom to do what people do in the bathroom, take a piss, we were not bothering anyone. Why this woman felt the need to say anything at all is beyond me but by doing so, she proved a much larger point.

She proved that had my daughter been in the men’s bathroom, no one would have questioned her at all because she looks like a boy. If my daughter was/is trans, she’s visually acceptable and it would go without notice that she is in the stall next to another little boy. No one would know that she actually has a vagina.

The fact of the matter is, you have taken a squat in the very next stall to a trans person. You absolutely have. You just don’t know it. Because, as my daughter proved to this woman, looks can be very, very deceiving. Guys look like girls, girls look like guys, and trans people look like who they are. But more so- who cares?

Straight, gay, trans, bi- when we go into a bathroom, we all just need to go to the bathroom. That’s it. Pee, or take a shit, wash our hands, and move on. Why everyone is so goddamned concerned with our genitalia is bizarre. There are plenty of hard facts documenting that straight men are usually the perpetrators in any kind of bathroom assault or perversion so what’s with this preoccupation with transgender people or gender in general?

Since this whole bathroom debate began a couple of years ago, it caused me so much confusion about what it is everyone is so afraid of. I know the big bathroom debate is tired. I know it’s been written, it’s been discussed ad-nauseam. So, this is me half venting, half {hopefully} educating in a spill of emotion.

The truth seems to be, people just don’t want to be wrong about this marginalized community and this is why this is even still a topic of discussion. They don’t want to try to understand the biology and how it’s different from their own, or even if it’s different at all. They don’t want to realize that they’re just like everyone else.

Regardless of what your bible might tell you or what “morals and ethics” you hold true, or if you’re just one of those that believe those that challenge gender norms are “freaks”, try to put that all aside for one second. They’re people. Just living. That’s it. They’re just human beings. That’s it. Normal, breathing, thriving humans that need to go to the bathroom. If you don’t want to try to understand anything else about gender issues, fine. But just recognize the simple fact that they need to go to the fucking bathroom, just like you.

It hurts so many people when we move backwards, back towards exclusivity, opposed to inclusiveness. The us-versus-them mentality. The you’re-different-so-you-must-be-wrong mentality. And we are, indeed, slipping backward.

I hope we can do better as a whole with this entire topic. I’m not overly optimistic lately.

But also? Don’t give unsolicited parenting advice. Ever.

And, Stop judging books by their covers. Let my daughter pee and mind your own business.

 

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Life Lessons, Ranting, Uncategorized

My Bond With Ke$ha.

So, Ke$ha’s legal debacle. If you don’t even know who Ke$ha is, don’t be too hard on yourself. I didn’t really know much of her either until the recent media hype. I knew she sang horrible songs, mostly about getting drunk, that became party anthems worldwide, but I’ve never been a fan of hers. The fact that I’m even using a dollar symbol in her name makes me cringe.

Yet, I share a deep bond with her. Her story of sexual harassment/assault from her professional superior is something I am familiar with and I’m here to tell my story, not only in solidarity with her but of the millions of others that have experienced this in their workplace. I’ve been working on writing this for years and Kesha gave me more of a platform to do so. Her situation isn’t unique and I’m so angry about it.

I’ve been in medical supply sales for almost 12 years. I sell devices to orthopedic surgeons. It’s a male dominated field and it’s always been intimating for that reason.I’ve worked so hard to prove my worth in many professional situations. I’ve had physicians say the most inappropriate things to me, hit on me, suggest infidelity, the list goes on. I had one surgeon actually tell me that he masturbated to me. That is a true story. These situations mostly occurred in my first couple of years on the job and I assumed this was part of the deal. If I wanted to make a sale and keep the customer, it was part of the territory. It was a sick, twisted way of thinking but this was a career I wanted so desperately. I wasn’t proud of accepting this behavior but I was exceptional at rationalizing it.

A few years ago, I was a mid-level management employee of a company. My boss, to whom I directly reported, was an attractive guy with a cocky sense about him but likable and charismatic all the same. He was the national sales manager, the highest level management under the president, and someone who I had to spend a lot of time with when he traveled here and even more time on the phone with daily.

The first year remained professional enough between us. My boss and I had our disagreements and I did noticed his lack of decorum in certain situations. I noted his need for control and that he didn’t like to be second guessed. All points taken. He was my boss. I was just so proud to hold this management position that I was willing to endure a lot of questionable comments and conversations. As a female in my industry, or most industries, if you question or complain about almost anything, you’re viewed as the bitch and a trouble maker. So I trudged on.

Heading into my second year, this boss of mine contrived an entire business trip to sexually harass/assault me. After dinner one evening on said trip, in a city full of lights, bars, and drinking, he pulled me into an unmarked store, which happened to be a store full of porn and sex toys. He forcefully dragged me by my arm into the back of the store where they had private porn-viewing rooms, about the size of a dressing room at a retail store, and held me there against my will while I struggled and attempted to get away for approximately 2 minutes. It seemed like an hour, as he was holding me down with one arm and trying to find appropriate pornographic viewing material with his other.

I escaped quick enough from the situation but the next few days, weeks, months, and even years, I would struggle with a ton of fall-out.

It took me weeks to come forward to our company’s legal counsel, who happened to be a female that I trusted. “This was my boss. I had to have done something wrong to cause this. I had to have led him to this situation”, is what I told myself, amongst other things, but I logically knew that I could not see this man again face to face. I was physically ill over the entire situation, playing that evening in my head over and over. I knew I would potentially be helping other females if I spoke up, so I eventually came forward.

Our company clearly did not have appropriate protocol for these situations. I was required to fly out to our headquarters and verbally explain detail by detail what happened to legal counsel, and the president of the company, over breakfast. I had to tell this man, the president of our company, who was a personal friend of my boss, exactly what happened verbatim. This in it of itself was abusive.

That same evening that I flew to headquarters to have this conversation, I received a call that my boss resigned. He was not fired. He was given the option to resign. I later found out that several other women came forward with similar stories and despite that fact, he was allowed to simply resign.

And. It gets worse.

He was then given another position within the company as a contracted employee a few months later. That’s right. After 4 or 5 women came forward with their stories of sexual harassment and/or assault, he was welcomed back into our company’s DNA.

When I heard he was working for our company again, I was livid. I reached back out to legal counsel and at that point was then asked to speak to the CEO and tell him my story over the phone. Yet another man, who I barely knew, had to hear gory details of this disgusting, sexually explicit event. His response? “Everyone deserves a second chance”.

So there it is. A victory for the abuser and a “shut the fuck up” for the victims.

I share this because here’s the issue: like Kesha and many other women that go through this experience, we are automatically speculated upon when we make these accusations. We are either deemed as liars or viewed as women who encourage these sexual advances, we “ask for it”. We are trouble makers, we are whores, we are wanting notoriety. Kesha’s court ruling proves that point. Sony will not let this woman out of her contract after making these accusations of sexual abuse which tells me that the court doesn’t believe her.

Can’t we, once, as a society stop blaming the victim and realize that men in power sometimes use their power for evil? Can’t we speculate on these men that commit this crimes? Can’t we speculate that these stories might actually be true and give the victim the benefit of the doubt? Because the fact of the matter is, no one knows what truly happened to Kesha, or even to me that night in South Beach. It’s our words against these men that reign superior to us. But here’s a thought: we might be telling the truth, society, and you’re putting other women in harm’s way by assuming we aren’t. You are perpetuating the cycle of abuse by assuming we are a bunch of liars.

Could Kesha be lying? Of course. She could be to get out of her contract. Sure. But let’s assume for one second that she’s not. She is now working along side of her abuser, just like I had to, only her case is much more severe than mine. Can you just imagine what this would feel like? It’s like reliving a traumatic event every.single.day. When all that judge had to do, in Kesha’s case, is allow her out of her contract and go elsewhere to make music. Simple as that.

We have not come very far in this realm. Kesha’s situation, my situation, and many others, is a testament to that. Many women aren’t speaking out about this type of issue in the workplace because, really, what’s the point when the abuser has little to no consequence? It’s defeating. When all we want is a safe work place. It’s not too much to ask.

It’s going to require the men of our society to do some work on themselves before we can expect change. Stop assuming we are lying. Stop making us the troublemakers. Stop making us work in a hostile environment.

Solidarity, Kesha. Keep fighting the good fight for what’s right.