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Posts Tagged ‘teenagers’

I just can’t help myself. I know this has been said many times by writers much more eloquent than I, but I must reiterate: Roman Polanski DRUGGED and RAPED a 13 -year-old girl. I’m watching this documentary about him, which conveniently excerpts pieces of the trial transcripts and tries to make it seem like the girl was some sexually experienced, drugged out, alcoholic. I don’t care what she had or had not experienced, SHE WAS 13!!!! I don’t care about cultural differences, I don’t care how good his films are, I don’t care how much tragedy he had experienced in his life, and I don’t care how long it has been – he should not be able to evade punishment by fleeing the country and be exonerated for raping a 13 year old. It infuriates me that because he is a celebrity there are actually people who are defending him.

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My love for the NY Times magazine just seems to grow with time. This weekend’s issue includes a story by Benoit Denizet-Lewis (who wrote a fabulous piece last year about young, gay married couples) called “Coming Out in Middle School.” The article documents the struggles as well as the triumphs that young gay adolescents have experienced as they try to navigate their way through the terrifying world of middle school.

 

What is clear is that for many gay youth, middle school is more survival than learning — one parent of a gay teenager I spent time with likened her child’s middle school to a “war zone.” In a 2007 survey of 626 gay, bisexual and transgender middle-schoolers from across the country by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Educators Network (Glsen), 81 percent reported being regularly harassed on campus because of their sexual orientation. Another 39 percent reported physical assaults. Of the students who told teachers or administrators about the bullying, only 29 percent said it resulted in effective intervention.

I think this article does a great job in describing both the progress that has been made in schools (formation and protection of Gay Straight Alliances) while also explaining how far we have to go before gay adolescents truly feel safe coming out to all of their peers and teachers rather than just a handful of close friends.

What always shocks me the most about accounts of discrimination and harassment of gay adolescents is how frequently their teachers ignore the discrimination and even participate in it. It’s one thing for schools to put anti-bullying measures in place that prevent bullying among students, but I personally would like to see more towns and states taking action to prevent teachers from being complicit in the discrimination and harassment. Every student, whether gay or straight, should be able to view his or her teachers as role models and people that he or she can trust – I know I wouldn’t have made it through high school without the support of a few fabulous teachers. For schools to not take action against teachers who are not providing this kind of support is appalling.

This article is also lacking a discussion of transgender adolescents and the different kinds of discrimination and harassment they face at school. These children are often misunderstood, and their gender identity is not taken seriously. Any school that seeks to address LGBT discrimination must make sure that it is specifically addressing the “T” in addition to the “LGB.”

It gives me some hope when articles like this are published in the NY Times (although I do realize that it has quite a liberal reader base), because I like to think that it will make readers more aware of these issues than they have been before and incite some people to action.

For further research and reading here are some organizations with great information about LGBT Youth:

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VeryYoungGirlsPosterLast night I watched the movie “Very Young Girls,” which aired on Showtime last year. This documentary (which you can watch on your computer on Netflix instant) details the lives of teenage girls who are coerced in prostitution in NYC.  The documentary focuses on the organization GEMS, which provides safe housing and counseling for many of these girls. The documentary is incredibly sad, powerful, and informative, and it demonstrates exactly why these girls need to be rehabilitated instead of incarcerated.  Until the recent passage of the New York Safe Harbor Act, teenage girls who were arrested for prostitution were treated as adults and faced imprisonment. This is despite the fact that girls under the age of 16 cannot legally consent to sex in the state of New York. The Safe Harbor Act creates a presumption that girls who are arrested for prostitution should be treated as the victims of coercion and sent to safe houses and rehabilitation facilities. What is especially sad about this documentary, however, is that despite the help that many of the girls receive, they often return to a life on the streets, not able to resist the coercive power of their pimps.  We spend a lot of time worrying about trafficked and exploited women in other countries, but this documentary really drives home the point that we need not look farther than a few blocks to find women desperately in need of help right here in the US.

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Just had to take a minute to share this new blog: The F-Bomb. It’s a new blog/community for “teenage girls who care about their rights as women and want to be heard. Young feminists who are just a little bit pissed off and very outspoken are more than welcome here.”

Very cool.

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