The color of your graduation robe– Does it define you? It does in Greenwich, CT

WARNING: THERE WILL BE CURSING. If you’re easily offended you can leave, I’ll wait. Okay, last chance. Here we go-

I don’t blog often because quite frankly I’m busy as all hell. And when I do blog, it’s usually about something going on in the writing community but I have to address this local issue.

This past week there has been an absolute, all-out-shit-storm over the color of the graduation robes at Greenwich High School.

Greenwich Free Press

Greenwich Free Press

 

In the past, “Traditionally”,  boys have worn red robes and girls have worn white robes.

This is me the day I graduated from GHS and I can honestly say the last thing on my mind that day was the color of my robe. Any one who knows me, or knew me in high school, knows that I was just glad, and mildly shocked, to have graduated.

Class of '87

Class of ’87

It’s a different world now, as you can clearly see by my choice of hair style in 1987, which I totally and freely admit is hilarious. I wish this post was also going to be funny because that’s what I like to write, but it’s quite the opposite.

On Tuesday, Feb. 23rd, Head Master Christopher Winters sent out an email stating:

“In a break from previous GHS graduations, this year all graduates will wear the same color gown, Cardinal red with a white stripe on the sleeve. Why the change?” I’m going to paraphrase most of what he said to spare you from having to read for an hour.

“First, at Graduation, except for class officers and Valedictorian/Salutatorian, all students come in together and sit together as one unified class. It’s a day when we honor all for graduation.”

His second point for the change, and I think (just my opinion) this is the one that freaked people out, “Second, we are increasingly aware of student choices with gender orientation. In an effort to respect all students, we will cease using separate-colored gowns for males and females. We strive for GHS to provide a safe, inclusive, and welcoming environment for all. This small change of tradition demonstrates our commitment to those principals.  It is very common for colleges and high schools to have all graduates wear the same color.”

And by God, he was right…I found photos to prove it!

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I thought Dr. Wintters explained it all perfectly. I was very proud to be part of such a forward thinking school. Dr. Winters also said, in keeping with tradition, students would still be able to decorate their caps any way they liked to express their individuality. Brilliant! We are trying to get these young men and women to move to the next level and as a bonus we are all-inclusive.

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THEN THE SHIT-STORM.

I saw petitions about keeping our “traditions” and parents asking the question why do we have to change? I read people bashing Dr. Winters and his decision. In general–people freaked-the-fuck out.

So, on Thursday, Feb. 25th, Head Master Winters reversed his decision. You can read the entire story at http://greenwichfreepress.com/schools/gender-neutral-graduation-gown-policy-at-greenwich-high-school-graduation-stirs-controversy-59615/

Greenwich Free Press

Greenwich Free Press

I asked him via email how the change came about. Dr. Winters responded that he sent a poll/survey to the students with three choices: All red gowns, all white gowns  or a choice to wear red or white. Headmaster Winters said that 89% responded (in about 20 minutes) to the third choice.

Now this seems reasonable. But is it? We should be shouting, hooray, the majority wins!

Let’s talk about who loses; the 11%.

I can’t help but think about the fabulous words of Dr. Seuss, “A person’s a person no matter how small.” So I went to the small community that Dr. Winters was trying to be inclusive of… which I applaud you’re efforts, sir!

I interviewed several people from the transgender and nonbinary community. I explained I have two children, one girl, the other a boy, both heterosexual and have no gender issues, so I do not know any of the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer) struggles, or the struggles of their families personally. I wanted to represent them properly for this piece. This is what they had to say to me.

#1: “It’s not fair to any of the students, because they’re being forced to conform to traditional notions of gender just by being told what they can and cannot wear. Being fair and inclusive of trans-kids gives everyone more freedom to be themselves. There’s already so much pressure to conform in high school, and so much ridicule if you don’t.”

#2: “I feel like having all students wear the same color would be more trans-friendly as a means of not forcing people out of the closet before they’re ready. I feel like if students could choose red or white, many transgender males will stick with red and transgender females will stick with white, which would kinda out us back to square 1.”

#3: “Having one robe color is the absolute best possible thing the school could have done. ‘Allowing’ students to choose, isn’t really a choice at all unless the young person has come out about how they feel about themselves. Having one color robe doesn’t impact cisgender (people who identify with the gender they were born into) at all, but it does worlds of good for the trans-people. But that’s some how wrong.”

So, what we’ve done by keeping our precious “tradition” is we’ve made everyone who is part of this transgender/nonbinary community feel ostracized. Yay us!

I went on to research how exactly these young people feel at http://www.yspp.org/about_suicide/statistics.htm.

*At least 50% of transgender youth will have had at least one suicide attempt by their 20th birthday.

*More than 1 in every 10 high school students reported having attempted suicide; nearly 1 in 6 students between the ages of 12-17 have seriously considered it.

*More than 30% of LGBTQ youth report at least one suicide attempt within the last year.

So, you see for some it’s just upholding tradition. But, for others it may be the last straw, the icing on the cake, the final “you don’t belong.”

I also interviewed a PsyD (child psychologist) from another district who said, “Students should all wear the same color. Graduation should be a time of celebration as a group with your peers. This shouldn’t be a time to point out individual differences or to be put in a position in which you have to make a choice whether or not to expose your gender choice.”

Diversity means, variety, many different types. Aren’t we striving to be a diverse community? A diverse nation? Maybe that’s just me. But whether you agree with or understand or support the transgender community, ignoring them isn’t going to make them go away and could contribute to the sad suicidal statistics.

Compassion and empathy are not just politically correct words to use at parties, they are ways of life.

I’d like to point out the things I saw bouncing around on social media were not being said by bad people. They are people I know, people who may at this very moment be un-friending me, and that’s okay, but they’re good people. Maybe they’re just not considering how the other people involved in this are feeling.

Some of you know me as a CCD teacher. Isn’t this the “Holy Year of Mercy”, per Pope Francis? Past my being a Christian, I’m a human being, and I can certainly feel for those struggling with things I couldn’t possibly understand. And for me personally, I don’t ever want to be part of the statistics above. “Love everyone as I have loved you”.

I think the “choice” for this year is a done deal, but I certainly hope Headmaster Winters revisits and reconsiders for next year and the years to come.

I welcome respectful conversation on this blog, but please know, if there is any bashing or attacking of anyone I will remove/block you from everything I am on. I have diverse followers who I am grateful for, and I will not have them disrespected on my site.

We are all wonderfully and beautifully different. Let’s embrace our differences. We all lose when we don’t.

 

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PEACE & ACCEPTANCE

 

 

 

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JUDGMENT AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

There is a ton; I’m talkin’ a mother-cluckin’ boat-load of judgment out there. And when I say out there, I mean on the Web, on the TV, on the street, at your job, your school, your neighborhood, in your own house, among your family. EVERYWHERE. We’re so quick to judge celebrities, authorities, teachers, parents, other people’s kids, our own kids, races of people, enemies, strangers, and even friends.

Why?

Is it because it makes us feel better? Not me. I’ve instantly regretted saying something negative about someone else the moment it left my lips. But I’m certainly guilty of it. I’ll admit sometimes my lips move faster than my brain and I speak with out thinking. SORRY if I’ve ever said something that has hurt your feelings! I am not a mean-spirited person and meant no harm. I’m also guilty of going up to complete strangers and telling them I like their shoes, haircut or fabulous outfit. My daughter says “it’s creepy”. Whatever.

So, is it because we’re stupid? Okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh. Is it because we’re ignorant to the effect our words will have? You say, well the person, be it online or on the street that you pass in a car, can’t hear what you say. What about the person we are saying it to? Does that encourage them to do the same thing or worse? Or does the negativity swirl and fester and carry on to other things throughout the day? I think it does.

How about self-judgment? Sometimes that’s worse than how we judge others. I know it is for me. My skin’s too pale, my hair’s too frizzy, I have ugly feet. Now don’t be checkin’ out my ugly feet the next time you see me in flip-flops!

So why are we so apt to tear someone up rather than build someone up, including ourselves?

Because it’s easier.

Anger comes quick and easy. I have a hot temper. I know right, who’d a thunk it! Anger is an easier emotion to handle. Anger keeps you from accessing a situation properly. I have found, with things that really matter that are out of my control, anger keeps pain from getting too close. But it has its downfall too. Anger keeps out love, peace and happiness.

It takes work to be happy. It’s a choice. Even when life sucks it’s still a choice.

I was recently accused of having a happy life. It’s crazy but I felt like I needed to defend myself. It’s true; I have an amazing husband that after 22 years of marriage I’m still stupid-ga-ga in love with. I have two teenagers who are not only NOT strung out on drugs but are A-students, healthy, beautiful loving people who I truly love to be around. My husband and I both have jobs, we own a house, cars, clothes and we can put food on our table. We usually get to take a vacation once a year. Is there room for improvement? Hell yeah! After three years we’re still renovating the damn house! LOL. I also have a crazy French Bulldog who had to see a psychiatrist recently—don’t ask—and there’s never enough time in the day to get everything done.

I am blessed and I am grateful but no one gave me this life. I’m not a trust fund-kid. It has been hard work. It’s still hard work. And I have skeletons in my closet just like everyone else. What’s that saying, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence until you get there and they have the same overgrown weeds you do and big holes that need filling and snakes in the Pachysandra and a deck that’s not done and huge puddles when it rains.” I actually may have just made that up, but just go with it.

There is, however, a real quote that a lot of people post: “Don’t judge me. You have no idea what I’ve been through or where I come from.” Isn’t this true of all of us? I’m partial to the other version: “Don’t judge me. You have no idea what I’ve been through or where I come from and I have no problem punching you in the face.” LOL!

When you look at someone, before the judgmental words tumble out of your mouth, think about this:

Are they struggling with an eating disorder? Do they go home to a mother that’s high on drugs? Are they being physically abused? Mentally abused? Do they have scars that you can’t see? Are they an alcoholic struggling to stay sober?

The kid that’s being a pain in the ass in your kid’s class… Is his mother working two jobs because she’s a single parent trying to provide for her children?

The check out person at the grocery store who’s a nasty bitch…Is her father a drunk? Is her boyfriend beating the crap out of her?

The neighbor that won’t talk to you or is just flat-out rude… Is he/she suffering from a mental illness?

The person that just cut you off…Are they rushing to the hospital or a job interview because they’ve been out of work for a year? Now, if they’re texting, and you friggin’ texter-drivers know who you are, by all means show them your finger. What? I meant thumbs down. HAHA!

We all face challenges in our lives. Trust me, I’m no saint, but I know from my own life; you have no idea what I’ve been through or where I come from. Don’t judge me. Happiness and the pursuit of it is a choice.

PEACE