Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Kate bornstein Introduction Speech



So, I think I have something in common with you all, I think Kate Bornstein is the bee's knees. I have been working on bring Kate to Portland since last fall. I loved her response to it gets better. And her advocacy around bullying was irresistible. I asked Kate to come speak on bullying because the truth is I barely survived bullying. I STILL barely survive the bullying. The thing is we, as a community, don't have the skills to support each other, much less the youth of today. Recently I have been asking people what does support mean. You know what it feels like when you don't feel supported and when you feel confident and good about yourselves. But we never talk about it. We don't teach the youth language to thrive nor support each other. We need to find tools to support not only each other but also the youth as they navigate a hostile world where many have forgotten what compassion is. Where many have forgotten how to be empathetic.
I had a teacher Mr.J, the only teacher that would stop the other kids from picking on me. He let me stay inside during recess and play computer games instead of sending me out to the hyenas. It is probably why I have such an affinity towards computers. On the days I did go out, I would try to hide from the other kids and play by myself. They would come find me and surround me shouting insults; hiding this abuse from whomever was suppose to be watching. The recent study by trans Equality and the Task Force it says that “those who expressed a transgender identity or gender non-conformity while in grades k-12 reported an alarming rate (of) 78% (reported) harassment”, 35% physical assult and 12% sexual violence.
I learned in those early days that I was not wanted, that I was and always would be an outsider. When I moved to the “big city” I thought it would be different, some picture perfect MTV real world. But it wasn't. Even in our Portlandia, we are cruel towards one another. Arbitrary lines are drawn between people in our community. People are alienated. So instead of “community”; we have bullying in other words, an abuse of power which is shown through putting down another person or alienating them in order to make yourself appear bigger and better. The survey goes on to say 1/6th leave school because the harassment is so severe and that of those nearly half (48%) reported having experienced homelessness
I have been self sufficient since I was 15. Less than two years later, have GED will travel. I made it out because of my best friend. She was the first person to tell me I was wanted; to show me unconditional love; to stand beside me and tell the bullies to stop or she would make them. She saved my life. Some of you in the audience probably already know what this means because you have been suicidal before. Others probably can't ever truly understand why someone would want to hurt or kill themselves. But you don't have to understand, just empathize. Our survey goes on to say, “a staggering 42% of respondents reported attempting suicide compared to 1.6% of the general population with rates rising for those who... were harassed/bullied in school at 51%... and of the 8% that were physically or sexually assaulted by teachers, 76% attempted suicide. Of those who left school, 5.14% were HIV positive compared to 0.6% rate of the general population.
But bullies don't stop when they grow up. Queers can also be bullies and violent, even domestically. Doesn't make us much different than everyone else. Victims can be re-traumatized when they are alienated and heckled public. The thing is... we as a community, as individuals, we can do something about it. We can learn violence intervention. We can learn technics to stand up for other people in our communities when they are being bullied. We can go to anti-oppression, deescalation and other trainings. We can go to sensitivity trainings. We can learn to listen better. We can volunteer at community and resource centers. We can have discussions and talk about what an inclusive community really looks like. We can trade in our egos at the door for compassion and empathy. We can learn facilitation technics to help hear those who are less privileged than us and are afraid of speaking up. We can use technics like WAIT: Why Am I Talking? And Step Up, Step Down.
These are all things I know we can do because I have done them all myself. And as I stand here on stage in front of all of you. I am going to admit a bold thing. I am a human. I make mistakes. That is part of what makes a community, mistakes. But community also mean responsibility. Taking responsible for mistakes. We, as a community, need to honor the wealth of culture we have. As queers, we have many different identities: abilities, skin tones, languages, backgrounds, class backgrounds and we share this one thing that we are all discriminated for. We as a community could be held together by this similarity, not torn apart by our differences. We have great examples, great leaders. Please give a hand and welcome one of them: Kate Bornstein.

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