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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Let me tell you a story!

A little over fifteen years ago a beautiful raven haired girl was born. Her parents and two older sisters loved her very much.  She had deep brown eyes and chubby cheeks. She was something special, or at least her family thought so.
Compared to her sisters she was the earliest to do just about everything. She started sitting up on her own at a little over 3 months old. Her parents were worried that she might be learning to do things too fast by watching her sisters.

When she was about eleven months old she started talking in two or three word sentences and by the time she was 4 she could read. Her mother loved that she was so smart and encouraged her to learn something new every day.

As she watched her children grow she noticed that there was something special about her youngest daughter. She knew it with all her heart, but never said a word because this was not something that you could just bring up. This was something that her youngest daughter had to realize on her own.

When she was about ten, she finally came to talk to her mother. It was the beginning of a very special talk, and one that most parents do not have with their children until they are much older.

This was when my daughter told me she might be gay. At first she said that she thought she was bisexual because she did not want to be so different from her sisters. I did not make a big deal out of it, I told her to think about it and figure out who she was. I knew that she was discovering herself and it was important that I did not try to lead her. She needed to discover herself all by herself, but she also needed to know that I supported and loved her.

Over the next few years she went through a lot of turmoil and still does go through a lot today. While our country is making strides in the gay community, we still have a long way to go.

She was outed at school by someone that was supposed to be her friend. I was upset nearly as much as she was over this, maybe more so. She was still in the process of learning who she really was and it seemed that she was shoved out of a closet. All of this happened when she was not even big enough to wear the high heeled shoes inside the closet.

When things got bad and inexcusable things were happening to her at school, we knew that we needed to move away. I thought that maybe moving would help her. We could put her in a new environment and she could learn to be who she was without the bullying that she was receiving. I was wrong and I know this now but back then, all I wanted to do was protect my child.

Unfortunately the damage was already done. There were several incidents that come to mind that made me want to take my child and run far away. I will name just a couple so that you can understand this was so much more than name calling.

One day I got a message from one of her teachers, it read, “XXX is having some issues at school. I feel that this problem could be resolved if you taught your daughter to dress and act more like a girl. Maybe you can teach her to wear make-up or get her some hair accessories that are more girly. She looks too much like a boy in her uniform and this is causing her some discomfort.” The discomfort was on the part of the staff and some of the boy students; although at the time I had no idea what she was talking about. She wore the same uniform as everyone else. She also wore her hair long and it was usually in a ponytail. She was always cute and clean, so I didn’t understand why the teacher felt the need to tell me to make my child “girly”.

A few days later I would find out what the problem really was when my daughter got suspended from school for fighting. A group of boys took it upon themselves to confront my daughter, they rubbed themselves up on her and grabbed their genitals all the while telling her, “Let me show you what a real man is, then you won’t like girls anymore” as well as other things. So my daughter fought with them.

It was clear during my conversation with my daughter and the counselor at school that this had been going on for quite some time now.  She had been doing what we had always told her, “When someone picks on you, report them.” She was reporting them, but because there was a rule to discourage and basically ignore a student’s sexuality in school, they ignored the abuse. When I spoke to the counselor I was told that “this problem would not be an issue if XXX had not come out at school.

I was shocked at first that this person cared more about what my daughter did, when should have been protecting my child from bullies. This was not the first incident, there were many others; everything was swept under the rug. A few days later, after discussing the issue with others, we removed her from school and decided that online school would probably benefit her more anyway.

By the time we got her out of school, she was already angry. She was angry because she felt like everyone failed her. No one protected her the way she needed to be protected and my sweet little girl was replaced with an angry and depressed teenager.

We moved and she started school near our new home. At first things were fine, until we realized that this school district had the same unwritten rule.  Summer came quickly thankfully and it flew by. It was not long before we were preparing for school again. This is when we noticed that she was withdrawing from everything that had to do with school and was having panic attacks.

The closer it got to the beginning of the school year the worse she became. She begged to go to public school, so we allowed it. Shortly after school began she attempted suicide and started cutting again. (A problem that we thought had stopped)  She went into treatment and was there for three days. They sent her home to us, saying that she would be fine. They recommended a therapist.

We forced her to see this therapist.  We thought we were doing the right thing. He spoke down to her and often she was more  angry and depressed when leaving his office than she had been entering it. We saw a decline in her school work and attitude. I had no idea what do. She started talking to a psychiatrist who medicated her. The medication turned her into a walking zombie and gave her serious headaches.

Because of her missed time in school, they failed her. She was going to have to take summer school. I was discouraged from putting her in it. I was told that she would not pass the eighth grade even if she took the classes. So we did not sign her up. About two weeks before school started and we were preparing her for the eighth grade again, I got a phone call.

It was a school staff member asking me why I had not put her in summer classes. I said that I would if it meant that she had enough time and would get to go to the ninth grade. I was lied to. Shortly after she began the classes online, she attempted suicide again.  She went back to the hospital and spent four days there. 
Again they assured us that she was fine and that she should continue taking the medication that did not work and in some cases made matters worse. When she came home she had ten days to complete one semester of work for three classes. She tried but there was just not enough time. We begged for an extension and we were told no. She had to back to public school and do the eighth grade all over again.

The counselor that I had issues with was no longer going to be working with the school, thankfully. She was rude and had told me things like, “are you sure that XXX’s panic attacks are not a way of seeking attention?” and other such rude comments.  With her gone, I was hopeful that my daughter could go back to school and try again.

A few months ago, I had it with the school and the system and I pulled her out. She is in online school again to finish three classes that she could have continued in, in the first place. This is what they lied to me about. They told me she could not continue the classes that she was in and that she had to do the whole year over. This was a lie, she could have continued the three classes she was in and went onto the ninth grade.

So she is doing her work at home now and much happier. I know that when she switches to the ninth grade she is going to want to go back to public school. I am terrified. If she goes back the bullying that has not really stopped could continue and maybe even get worse. 

I know that a lot of what happened to her is from hatred and homophobia.  Social media has kept the bullying going in some ways as her attackers that are children can still get to her online, but part of me hopes that one day she will be able to attend public school in peace.  We have thought about moving again but I think that we would have this problem everywhere we went. I do not think there is a school district in our country that can protect children from homophobia, or at least my faith in their ability to do so completely is just not as strong as it used to be.

She is a beautiful intelligent child and I am honored to call her my daughter. Some of the facts in this timeline have been reorganized and some things have been completely omitted because they are embarrassing but the reasoning behind this post is the same. School districts and school employees need to put away their personal beliefs and protect the children. All of the children, no matter if they are black, white, rich, poor, Catholic, Wiccan, straight or gay and parents should be able to feel comfortable sending their children to learn in a safe environment.
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