Archive for the ‘ Youth ’ Category

Speaking of Sex Education

When I turned on my computer this morning and opened my internet browser, the first thing that popped up was a news article entitled “DA’s sex ed warning befuddles Wisc. teachers, kids.”

So, what’s going on?

The District Attorney for Juneau County, Scott Southworth, sent a letter last month to area school districts warning that “health teachers who tell students how to put on a condom or take birth-control pills could face criminal charges.” What sort of criminal charges? Well, they could be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, facing up to nine months in jail and a $10,000 fine.

I looked it up. The age of consent in Wisconsin is 18. According to the linked news article, children under age 17 who have sex with each other can be prosecuted as juveniles, while seventeen-year-olds who have sex with one another can be convicted as adults of a misdemeanor.

While, as the article states, Wisconsin schools are not required to teach sex ed, under a new law passed in February and backed by Planned Parenthood, schools that do must teach sex ed must adopt a comprehensive approach. They are to include “the benefits of abstinence, the proper use of contraceptives, how to make responsible decisions and the criminal penalties for underage sex.”

This puts Health teachers in sticky situation. If they teach sex ed, they legally need to include information on contraceptives, but, they are being told by the DA that including such information could result in criminal charges. Now Scott Southworth sounds like a bit of  nutjob, and I can hardly imagine that a teacher following state law and recent legislation would actually get jail time or a fine. Still, the implications are broader. Don’t our kids need accurate information? Aren’t most of us left sorely lacking, trying to figure it out on our own, for better or for worse?

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A Good Example of a Bad Idea

The Yuma Sun, an Arizona newspaper, reports that Arizonan Senators have approved a bill that will require the consent of all least one parent for minors to obtain birth control prescriptions or treatment for STDs/STIs (as well as any prescription). Additionally, the bill imposes similar restrictions on mental health screening or treatment and articulates that parental consent is required for student to attend sex education courses.

The Yuma Sun article references SB 1305, but indeed, it is SB 1309, passed on March 22, 16-13.

Let’s consider the good that this bill will do.

First of all, some young people will not be able to attend sexual education classes due to their parents’ beliefs. That will result in a less sexually educated teen population.

Then, those young people who are trying to take responsibility for their own health, will be unable to do so.

As is often the case, exceptions can be made for “emergency situations.” However, why must teens wait until a crisis to receive medical care?

Let’s just say I am seventeen and sexually active. I want to go on birth control so I don’t get pregnant. However, my parents must be contacted for permission. They don’t believe I should be sexually active. They beat the shit out of me. Alternatively, I don’t tell my parents, I don’t get the prescription, and I get pregnant.

Or, let’s just say I was raped by my father and exposed to an STI. It’s a horrible scenario, but it happens. I need treatment as a result, both medical and psychological. A parent must consent. My mom is dead. Dad’s not going to consent to something that is his own fault, risking getting himself in legal trouble. I’m screwed, unless it’s ruled an “emergency situation” defined “for the treatment of a serious disease of injury or drug abuse, or to save the life of the patient.”

Yes, these are horrible examples. Yes, we should encourage young people to wait until they are mature and responsible to have sex. Yes, it would be fantastic if all children can have an open and loving relationship with their parents.

However, things happen. Teenagers have sex. Not all parents are good. Can’t we at least let teenagers take some responsibility for their own health when they decide it is necessary? Isn’t that an adult behavior we should encourage?

Men and Girls

While trying to find my gymnasts’ scores, I came across this goody on the website of a Florida gym.

Since this gym is hosting the state championships, it makes sense for them to also host the meet results. However, if you will note, the first headline says “Men’s State” and the second says “Girl’s State.” Inconsistent, huh?

To confirm the official names, I went to the USA Gymnastics website. State championships are held for the “Men’s Junior Olympic Program” and the “Women’s Junior Olympic Program.” Technically, both programs are for gymnasts eighteen years of age and under, so “boys” and “girls” could have been used. However, per the governing body, the correct terminology is “men” and “women.” The website writer probably made an unknowing mistake, but these mistakes are what reinforce that gymnastics is a “girls” sport.

End feminist ranting.

On a related note, I will share this quote from a class I taught a while back. Always nice to finish with a laugh.

Me (to Beginner 1 class): Okay, girlies, follow me to beam.
6 year old student: Don’t call us girlies. Women get called girls their whole lives and that isn’t right! (pumps fist in air) You shouldn’t do that.
Me: I’m sorry. How about I call you beautiful young ladies? Is that better?
6 year old student: Yes, I think so.
Other kid: Well, it doesn’t matter. Our coach will be dead by the time we are grown up anyways.
Me: I sure hope I won’t be dead. How old do you think I am anyways?
Yet another kid: 32?

Update on the Prom Madness

In yesterday’s post, I shared how a Mississippi school had canceled prom after a lesbian student asked to attend wearing a tuxedo with her female date.

Anyways, backed by the ACLU, she is now suing the school, asking for a court order that will force the school to hold prom (via AP). I’m thinking the school will give in. While plenty of people agree that homosexuality is wrong, this is just too much bad publicity, even for Mississippi.

One of the things I love about the interwebs is how quickly information can spread. The other thing I love is how quickly this information can lead to activism.

Blogger Jesse James of “just like jesse james” has posted the e-mail addresses of the principal, superintendent, and school board members. Let’s give them a piece of our minds, respectfuly and articulately.

Meanwhile, Autostraddle has started a gallery of prom pictures featuring readers who went girl/girl to prom. I’m thinking about submitting my own picture, or two, or three. (What can I say? I went to a few proms.)

Fans of Ellen (yes, the famous talk-show Ellen) are asking her to organize a prom for these Mississippi kids.

Finally, New Orleans hotel owner Sean Cummings has offered to transport the students in buses to the New Orleans and host a free prom at one of his properties (as discussed in prior linked AP article).

It makes me feel a little better to know that people are standing up against this close-mindedness.

Canceled Prom and Second Class Citizens

A school in northern Mississippi has canceled prom after a lesbian student requested permission to attend in a tuxedo with her girlfriend, also a student (as reported by the AP). Rather than directing responding to Constance McMillen’s request, backed by the ACLU, the school simply canceled prom.

Banning same-sex couples from prom is pretty hateful. But canceling prom altogether seems much more dramatic. I’m pretty sure a lot of upperclassman are hating McMillen right about now. Even if I was homophobic, I’d rather go to prom with a gay couple there than not have a prom at all. Itawamba County school board, way to go!

In case anyone forget, here’s a political cartoon to remind us of where gay people stand in America:

Kissing Girls at Age Four

One of my adorable little gymnasts, “Becca,” can’t keep her hands to herself. She also can’t keep her lips to herself.

All she wants to do is stand next to her friend “Lindsey.” When Lindsey isn’t expecting it, Becca leans in and gently kisses her cheek, whispering, “I love you.”

They are both four years old.

We have been working on the “keep your hands to yourself” thing. As Becca pointed out, “my lips aren’t my hands.” Now we have to work on the “respect your teammate’s personal space” thing.

So, Becca is four. She’s learning that it isn’t okay to kiss her friends. Truth be told, it really isn’t appropriate behavior for the middle of gymnastics class, but I still like to kiss my friends. I’d much rather see preschoolers kissing than see them fighting. I’d rather hear them saying “I love you” than calling each other “meanies.”

I suppose it’s a balance between letting kids be kids and teaching them how to behave appropriately in society. I know that by kindergarten, I had figured out I wasn’t allowed to kiss my friends at school. Away from school, however, many smooches were shared, along with showers and sleeping bags.

Aged three, my brother proudly declared that he loved both Natalie and Caleb. “We aren’t going to get married,” he said, “That’s too much. The three of us are just going to live together.” That, and kiss under the stairs at preschool.

By 4th grade, my classmates had suddenly taken an interest in the opposite sex. To combat the rampant “dating” going on during recess, the teachers banned hand-holding. My friend Meagan and I, always rebellions, proudly proclaimed, “We are just kids. We can skip across the playground hand in hand if we want!” And we did. That is, until later in they year when one of my classmates decided Ginger Spice was a lesbian (Really? Ginger Spice? Even young gaydar should have suspected Sporty or Scary). Meagan and I didn’t want to be lesbians. We stopped holding hands. Our protest was over.

My best friend and I bathed and cuddled together well through elementary school and perhaps into middle school. Then, one day, it changed. At one of our many sleepovers she announced, “I’m going to go take my shower now.” It was a fact, not an invitation.

I’ll admit that I kiss friends now. With a few, it’s a greeting. We’ve lived in Europe, we’re so cosmopolitan, we’re affectionate my nature, whatever. With others, it’s sexual in nature. We might be friends first, but sometimes we are also sexual adults who decide to act on that.

Excluding the final example, when did we learn that we shouldn’t kiss our friends? Do you remember? Who said what? How old were you? I only have a female perspective on this, so I’d love to hear from men as well.

Watch It: XXY

Tonight, I had the pleasure of viewing the Argentinian film XXY as part of the Florida State University’s Gay and Lesbian film festival.

Directed by Lucía Puenzo and based on the short story “Cinismo” by Sergio Bizzio (anyone know where I can find this?), this film explores the sexual awakening and life changing decisions of a intersex teenager, Alex, and her parents.

The trailer doesn’t do it justice, but I will share anyways.

The Spanish language trailer is a little more telling, for those who can understand it.

Given that the film is entitled XXY, I pulled out an old textbook, Transformations: Women, Gender, and Psychology, to check the facts. From page 138: “XXY, or Kleinfelter’s syndrome […] causes men to have a less masculine physique and appearance (small penis and testicles, enlarged breasts, little body hair, and a high-pitched voice).” However, those with Kleinfelter’s syndrome are men. In contrast, Alex presents as a woman, taking hormones to prevent masculinization, and posses both male and female genitalia.

Medical inaccuracies aside, XXY is a touching and challenging coming-of-age story. It managed to avoid sensationalism and exploitation, instead presenting a heart-felt human drama. It raises questions, and challenges our ideas of love, romance, identity, sexuality, and all the related definitions. I’ll admit it, this movie left me in tears.

I don’t want to say too much, because I think this is a film that everyone should watch.  Given that I saw this movie alone, I would like to decompress and debrief. How about this, dear readers: Add it to your Netflix cue, watch it, and then get back to me. There are many issues raised, and I’d love to start a conversation.