Tuesday, September 8, 2015

"A Change is Gonna Come," one way or another

How in the world did we Americans become a gun-toting nation? Because of fear about our safety, or because some have decided to take control of what little we can control? After all, for most Americans, the American Dream is not all that it’s cracked up to be.

Are all police really as belligerent and aggressive as some we have sometimes witness? No, some are highly compassionate and honest, but some individual police and police departments have severe issues. Prejudice and bias reign, and some police react too quickly in response to their fears - or quotas.

We have more depressed, anxious people in our nation than ever before, whether we have better systems of diagnosing and reporting, or whether it is true. The past 50 years of our American economy, the myths about freedom, democracy, and equality along with guns and mental health problems, have all created our current crisis.

We need more nurturing, beloved communities where people care about their neighbors and watch out for each other and their kids. The extended family has gone by the wayside with our continued high mobility, and many people are often lonely and stressed by financial, physical, emotional and spiritual issues. Excellent, new technologies may separate more than connect us.

The disappointment, disillusionment and rage that grows out of poverty, racial divides, economic insecurities, and fear about the future of the planet, all churn within us. We feel helpless so often that we sometimes develop compulsive behaviors and act out against each other and ourselves while trying to manage these enormous stresses. Many experience shame and harsh judgement.

This is a recipe for disaster. Some votes rarely make a difference given our antiquated, American electoral system. The rich run this oligarchy and elections go to those who follow the rules outlined by their benefactors, until they, too, realize they are no longer public servants but puppets, controlled by money. And,  we and our ancestors are all complicit in the way things are. 

Some cry out for a revolution.  What can we do to change the tide, to improve our health and create new, more effective ways of dealing with each other and our world?

Take the money out of politics. Develop gun/weapon regulations and enforce them for all people. Take care of the homeless, the elderly, the sick, the poor, and children, providing mental health services to all who need them. Deinstitutionalize our prisons full of people who have been violated by law enforcement and judicial sentencing. Rehabilitate people. Decrease the huge gap between the incomes of everyone. Bring hope that “ a change is gonna come (song by Sam Cooke)".  Easy to say and very hard to do.

I certainly don’t have all the answers about how to change each of these systems to create a better life for all people. But, I do know that if we band together and work toward some common goals, we have the power to make healthy changes, one person/system at a time. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Occupy Gender Neutral Pronouns

The Basics
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Office for Diversity and Inclusion asked in a post that students, professors and the administration welcome all of the students to campus this year, including those who are gender non-conforming. They suggested that the college community ask students what name they would like to be called and what pronouns to use when they are addressed. Then, all hell broke loose.

What happened
The media got involved locally and nationally, the beginning of a perfect storm. Some thought the university was requiring the campus to speak in new ways, using unfamiliar terms to many on campus. All sorts of people, including newscasters, began sarcastic snickering and hostile joking about this request. These responses are not funny.

Chris Sanders, Executive Director of the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) sent out a 9/1/2015 email with the subject line: Fight back! Family Action trying to get Legislature to stop UT-K's trans welcoming program. He added: “Now Family Action of Tennessee is urging its members to contact state legislators to get them to "neuter" UT's program. Offensive doesn't quite capture it!” Chris also suggested that we sign a “...petition to generate emails to the State Senate Education Committee and to the State House Education Administration and Planning Committee .... so that they know you want UT to make its own decisions about programming to make transgender and gender non-conforming people welcome!: The petition link: https://www.change.org/p/tennessee-senate- education-committee-provide-legislature-with-accurate-information-about-ut-k-s-gender- neutral-pronoun-program

Some state leaders began frothing at the mouth, outraged, sounding like one national radio host, Tom Starnes who wrote, “Across the fruited plain, institutions of higher education are turning their taxpayer-funded fiefdoms into gender neutral zones where free thought is outlawed,” in Back to School: Let the left-wing indoctrination begin (http:// www.foxnews.com/opinion/2015/09/01/universities-are-becoming-gender-neutral- zones-where-free-thought-is-outlawed.html ). Mr. Starnes’ comments were inflammatory and inaccurate. UT-K’s request was in no way outlawing free thought.
In the 1970’s some women decided that they wanted to use the term “Ms.” instead of “Miss” or “Mrs.,” the latter two describing a woman’s relationship only to a man. Ms. magazine prompted our now common usage of this term but a similar backlash had also occurred. Some thought women were getting too uppity, they called out the feminists, labelling them extremists, femi-nazis, and even lesbians!

Why don’t most people line up to support the change in pronoun usage?

Using a variety of pronouns may be confusing at first. Some want simplicity, hate change, and wish for clear dualities: ie. man or woman, black or white. However, we are a melting pot of colors and there are unique mixtures of genders as well. Why can’t everyone welcome the transgender community with open arms, just like Jesus would do?

Most children go through a time of exploring their bodies, their identities, and their personalities. By not allowing children to freely explore, we are telling them both biologically and emotionally that it is not OK to be who they are. That there is something, in fact, wrong with them, that they need to be different. “Be like Mary or Joe, just don’t be you.”

Such shame, rejection, and distortion can make any child confused, angry, insecure, highly anxious, and/or depressed. Why would any parent or any society want to inflict that horror upon any child?

Those who rant against UT-K’s post separate people, preaching that there is a right and a wrong way to live, to be, to exist. Not acknowledging who a person really is, especially regarding gender or sexuality, can lead to trauma through violence, bullying, and possibly premature death. Why would anyone act so hostile and demeaning toward those they perceive as different?
First of all, some people are extremely insecure even if they display strong, macho characteristics. The most insecure people can be the loudest and the most rigid. They may also feel like their way of life (a rigid construct seeing life as black and white, not gray or brown) is being devalued by the “other,” threatening their very foundation, a strong, unmoving rock on which they depend for their very existence. If this foundation crumbles like sand, life can seem like a cascading, chaotic disaster over which they have no control. So, they yell and scream guarding their highly fragile egos.

If we challenge their rules, then we are asking them to examine everything that they believe to be true. No small matter. Thankfully, some will evolve away from their age-old opinions and open themselves up to discussion, maybe even changing their minds. But, many people gather their community members even closer together, circling the wagons, ready to fight and defend.

What happened next?
Top lawmakers in TN ramped up. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said that UT-K’s welcoming request was "the clearest example of political correctness run amok that I have seen in quite some time,” even though Margie Nichols, UT's vice chancellor for communications, explained that this was not a UT-K policy, just a recommendation (The Tennessean, http:// www.tennessean.com/story/news/education/2015/09/01/lawmaker-senate-should- investigate-ut-pronouns-post/71529306/)

After several days of state and national attention, UT-K decided to pull the post that began all this controversy: “In a letter to the Board of Trustees, UT system President Joe DiPietro said he was ‘deeply concerned about the attention this matter continues to receive and the harm it has had on the reputation of the University of
Tennessee.’” (http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/education/2015/09/04/ut- removes-web-post-gender-neutral-pronouns/71726984/) I am deeply concerned that the university has made this decision, evoking harm yet again to the LGBTQIA community.

This storm makes for a very difficult discussion about how to create a better society where all people are not only equal but treasured. It is a debate we will continue to have until a larger majority of people support this issue. Look what happened with marriage equality!

I agree with Marisa Richmond with the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition who said: “Anytime we challenge our notions of conformity and we find ourselves accepting different forms of diversity, I think society benefits” (http://fox17.com/m/news/ features/top-stories/stories/UT-Encourages-Gender-Neutral-Pronouns---Eric- Alvarez-192212.shtml#.VeYJCXi0OXl). Instead, our whole society suffers.