Stella Young died unexpectedly last weekend at age 32. She was a comedian, journalist and advocate for rights for disabled. Here is her TED talk from Sydney in April this year. Her speech provides much food for thought, enjoy.
On freshly pressed right now is a post that is close to my heart. It is from the blog Raising My Rainbow. The woman who writes this blog, Lori, shares with her readers experiences of her family, especially around her “gender creative” son C.J.
What has gone down recently, and what has featured on freshly pressed, is that some parents at Lori’s son’s school have spoken up both at a PTA meeting and after the meeting, with some discriminatory, homophobic and transphobic statements around the rights of children to express their gender identity.
One particular issue revolves around children’s right to use the toilets of the gender they identify with, not necessarily the gender they were assigned at birth. Apparently C.J. has not been using girls toilets, this is a rumour. But, he has been bullied in the boys toilets by other boys who demand to see whether he has a penis or a vagina. Bullied in the toilets. And these parents speak like this at the PTA meeting. Perhaps the apples don’t fall far from the trees. What a battle this family and this school have with these parents.
There are a lot of poorly informed, under-empathetic and under-caring people in this world. For starters, these are children we are talking about. How messed up do we want our future generation to be? Let them just be children. Without all the adult negativity and prejudice, I bet these children would all play happily together, going to whatever toilet they choose. At my school, right next to my art room there are two toilets used by boys, girls, women, men. No, stop it, please. The world is going to end because we share toilets. There’s no intention there, it’s just how it ended up in the design of a new building, we have two unisex toilets at that end of the building. Children have an amazing ability to be flexible of mind and accepting of others. We shouldn’t kill this.
As a teacher in a primary school, I see children who show different degrees of gender identity. We have not had an experience like Lori is going through at our school yet, but I would like to think my school would be very accepting and work through the issues, with the child and all the children’s welfare in mind. I know that I, as a parent of a gay son and one more informed than the average person, will be there to share information and encourage understanding. However, I know parents can be extremely single minded when discussing issues, and that is a problem.
There is a lot to be gained from informing oneself before opening one’s mouth. This article from an Australian TV program called Four Corners is a perfect way to share stories of the children who struggle with their gender identity and acceptance in the world.
It is through these stories that people can access information, information that they do not necessarily access otherwise in their lives. Not yet anyway. Society, in varying degrees throughout, is just beginning to learn about LGBTI acceptance and equality. There are places where LGBTI issues are open and understood greatly, but I would not think that many suburban or rural primary or secondary schools (elementary or high schools) are there yet.
At the end of the day, these are our children, they are born with promise and a bright future, let’s look after them and keep it that way.
Open eyes. Turn off alarm.
Shuffle limp to toilet. Use.
Shuffle limp to bathroom. Wash. Brush teeth.
Find medication in medication box.
Now know what day it is. Take meds.
Shuffle limp to kitchen.
Fill kettle with water. Kettle on.
Find a cup.
Look for sugar. Need to refill sugar canister.
Concentrate hard so as to not spill sugar everywhere. Good clean pour.
Fill cup with sugar by mistake.
Fill canister with sugar.
Prepare cup for tea, teabag and sugar.
Nearly fill tea cup with cornflakes.
Fill bowl with cornflakes.
Spill cornflakes on bench and floor.
Clean up spill.
Put rice bubbles on top of cornflakes to overfill bowl.
Clean up spilled rice bubbles.
Find a spoon.
Put Milo on top of pile of rice bubbles and corn flakes.
Clean up Milo that missed the target.
Fill tea cup with boiled water.
Don’t worry about spilled water, it landed on the pre-prepared tea towel under cup.
Count myself lucky boiled water didn’t hit hand.
Put soy milk into bowl until lower cornflakes float.
Remove tea bag from cup.
Slowly lift cup and bowl, balance carefully and shuffle limp back to bed.
Balance bowl on lap while shovelling in breakfast sugar fix.
Start to actually wake up.
I have this fear:
Looking at my watch I realise I have taken too long straightening my hair. At least two minutes too long, maybe five. I slap on my makeup, it doesn’t really matter how even it is, crazy people can’t put make up on straight and right now I’m feeling crazy coming on. I shuffle down to the kitchen grab my handbag, lunch and bag of random work stuff, swiftly say goodbye and head out to my car.
The three minute trip goes smoothly. I sail through my neighbourhood to join the line that is heading towards school (work). The lollipop lady is poised but doesn’t stop traffic in front of me. Great luck. The news hasn’t come on the radio yet. I’m winning.
I turn out of the line to take the side entrance to work. A short delay driving into the parking area, but not too bad. Driving past the electronic sign saying ‘Welcome’, I see it says 8.32. Rubbish. No wonder parents have come in to say the sign has the wrong time, it does. Two minutes is crucial. If it said the correct time I would look up and think “I am on time”. But because of that sign having the wrong time, I doubt my car clock, my watch and the radio station’s ability to put the news on, on time.
The news just starts. I slowly crawl through the back of parked cars to find a spare spot.
My Principal strides out the front door of the building to go to parking duty. She sees my car sliding along at a snail’s pace. There are children walking on the paths in front of the parking bays. Crap. She looks at her watch, double crap. I slither into a park in her peripheral vision. Hopefully she remembers how I told her how hard it is getting ready of a morning, with these health issues I have. She isn’t a Miss Trunchbull but sometimes I imagine her that way. I’d like to be earlier, like everyone else. It’s not like I just got up out of bed. I have been up since six twenty.
It is only a minute or two, I arrived didn’t I? That’s better than not arriving at all.
I stop the car and plan my sneak into the side door of the staff room. Grabbing my bags quickly, I turn to open the car door, and realise…
I’m wearing slippers. Pink fluffy ones. Triple crap.
Dear people who do not have a chronic illness,
I have three things I wish you to know:
1. You don’t want to know what it feels like to be chronically ill, but it’s bad
When you ask me “How are you?”, I have no answer. I could say, thanks for asking, but I am, as usual, feeling like a piece of shit that is stuck on someone’s shoe and it keeps getting dragged out of the house and trodden on again and again, even though it would just like to get scraped off the shoe and thrown back into the bed of shit from whence it came. But I actually say something like “I’m here” because that is true, I am here, and for that I am grateful and happy, as every day out is a success.
I cheer in my head when I make it to work, every day. Please be happy that I am there too. I have so many symptoms I might seem vague or ditzy or short with others, but I am still me inside, trying to subsist with this (these) awful illnesses.
2. Take your cue from me how to act
Yes, I am limping. Yes, I am in pain. No, don’t give me sympathy. This is normal for me. I’d love a drink though, if you’re up, because you have no idea how hard, how much pain and stiffness I have to beat, in order to get up from my seat and walk a few steps to get a drink. Small things please me, a drink that I did not have to get myself, it’s a winner.
If I’m pretending to be ok then pretend along with me, just act normal. Even if you know more than most about me. Let’s just get on with life hey, chronic illness or no chronic illness. But if I’m looking beat, if I’m propping myself against a door frame and rubbing my head or my eyes or my arms or stretching my feet, please ask if I’m ok. That’s nice to hear sometimes, especially if only to give me an opportunity to vent my frustration. I may need something and you might be there just at the right time.
3. I am happy with the small stuff
As mentioned earlier, small gestures mean a lot to me. Because I struggle with so many ordinary tasks and because my life is filled with uncontrolled pain and fatigue, I have learnt to slow down to notice the small details of life, the natural wonders around us, and I love them. You might even feel jealous that a heightened level of appreciation and happiness has opened up to me because if my illness. There is something good at least possible from the arrival of this unwanted invader into my life.
We with chronic illnesses know how precious every day and every special event is because it takes us so much effort to attend, but we still do, because we want to live our lives. We want to live and enjoy life regardless of the obstacles and challenges we have to face.
Try to slow down too and enjoy your life. Or it will be gone in front of your eyes so fast.
Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts.
Some days I have a crazy frustrating circular fight going on in my head and I am sick of all the to-ing and fro-ing. A lot of these thoughts aren’t even that accurate, they are somehow twisted according to my mood or how stressed I feel or how fatigued I am or how much pain I am in. It might go like this:
There’s all these things to do.
I have to do something, now!
But, it’s such a lovely day to relax.
I need to relax for my health.
And there’s nice things to do like drawing.
But I have other things I should be doing.
Oh, I just noticed something else that needs doing.
So many things are being neglected.
I don’t like the way the things look.
I don’t have time to do them all.
Because I have to rest all the time so little gets done.
I hate that I feel like lead and that my body hurts as soon as I move to do something.
I shouldn’t do the lovely things I have waiting to do like drawing and reading and writing and art.
Because of all the things I have waiting to do that have to be done.
And I’m just sitting here debating what to do.
And doing nothing.
But I must have got some things done.
Because they are done and I have moved on to new things.
I ‘d better just decide what to do and start doing it.
I know, I’ll get a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit.
Then I’ll start something.
I feel like life runs in episodes and series, like a TV show. Right now in my life there is tying together of the events of this series of my life. This series is coming to an end. In today’s episode:
I just finished my uni assignment, the last one for a long time. It’s for a postgrad certificate in teaching Religion that I needed for work. Having already done my Masters, I need to stop studying now.
I have reached the point of second diagnosis, new medication and hopefully a new level of lesser pain. New medication starts tomorrow, today’s job is to go and get it.
My son finished his last postgrad uni exam two days ago. He is moving onto something new and I am excited to see what this is.
My life is becoming a lot more simplified with less commitments and stressors.
I am anticipating the end of the school year and my assignment to children and classes and roles for next year.
I am preparing for solo overseas travel for the first time. This is the teaser for what will come in the next series.
I think the defining factor as to where you are in a series can be found in the feeling you have about your life, does it feel like a beginning, a complication, a resolution, a conclusion?
Think reflectively and see, where are you currently at?
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