Tag Archives: sex education

Going Rogue

Here is the piece I performed for BedPost Confessions last month on sex education in Texas and how we can all go a little rogue.

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I was minding my own business, just sitting in a coffee shop having a wonderful latte waiting for my darling 13 year old son to finish his improv class, when I looked at Facebook.

There, in a link, was an article from Think Progress, with this title:

Abstinence Only Course in Teas tells kids that having sex makes them like a chewed up piece of gum.

I had to read that twice to settle into the reality that it was an actual article and not a joke. Which, being Texas and the ongoing purity culture wars, it obviously wasn’t.

I decided to click on the link, and found this quote.

According to Think Progress, “Starting in middle school, students attending the Canyon Independent School District are instructed they should remain a virgin until they get married.
And the teachers that work in those Texas schools are instructed to drive this point home by telling kids that they don’t want to be like a used toothbrush or chewed-up piece of gum.”

As I read through the article, it became clear that a parent in Canyon had heard from her child about this curriculum (because the school didn’t send any of it home to parents) and had gone in and read over what they were teaching her child.

She, an obvious spitfire and candidate for my version of mother of the year, took a photo of the offending text.

gum-555x365

So, according to Texas Sex Ed, you should remain virgins until married but then if you do it, at all prior to that, you are a chewed up piece of gum.

thesun.co.uk

(Pink is for girls, right?)

Now, I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t look anything like sex to me. They also compared non virgins to old nasty tooth brushes no one would want to use.

I think (if I can interpret this next slide clearly enough) that those pretty and clean toothbrushes in the back are straight, virginal and monogamous. Unused and pure, unlike that promiscuous SINGLE and unwanted toothbrush in the foreground.

myblackbeloved

Or something like that. All I’ve ever used my toothbrush for is oral hygiene and I have never thought much about sex when I brush (other than perhaps my breath will be minty fresh).

That toothbrush is not a person, I hate to tell you. That toothbrush is a piece of plastic. Do you think the people writing up that curriculum understand that? That people aren’t toothbrushes?

I mean, if we are used up after sexual relations, what’s a thrice married father of 5? An glass of sour and curdled milk left out to spoil?

That grandmother who is enjoying dating in her 70’s? Is she like a moldy old piece of bread?

What’s a survivor of sexual violence? What might they be?

Please. We are none of those things. We are human beings.

So, at this point, my latte is cold and congealing in my cup, and my fingers are frenzidly typing out some kind of obligatory political rant-post in my Facebook, when my darling son comes down the stairs from his class and says, “Oh no, mom, why do you have that face?” He already knows that “mom is on the internet getting outraged” look.

And I looked at him and I said, “Because there are people in this state who think you should teach kids abstinence only by telling kids if they have sex, they are no better than chewed up gum or used up toothbrushes.

And he looked at me and he said, “Chewed up gum? Used toothbrushes? Shouldn’t those people be fired??”

Which, if you think about, is a very good question.

It was at this point we had a mother son talk about sex, sex ed, what he’d been told in school (mostly DON’T DO IT), and how he already had heard that girls weren’t supposed to do it, but he kept hearing that boys were supposed to have sex in order to be cool and how that was, in his words, hypocritical and plus the math didn’t work out on that particular equation.

We said all the words (lots of words, so many words, words that whoaaaa!) that scare the pants off of most of us parents including the words YOU CAN ALWAYS TALK TO US ABOUT THINGS AND THERE ARE BOOKS ON THAT SHELF YOU CAN READ.

At which point he wisely said, “I think more parents should talk to their kids since they really aren’t getting adequate info. Most of my friends’ parents don’t talk to them. I think they should.”

And life went on and no one died from having yet another version of “the talk.” That’s what feels so important to me you all because….look…Who out there has kids, knows kids they like, was a kid needing information and support as you grew up?

Right, that pretty much covers all of us.

There are 1028 school districts in Texas and HALF of them don’t teach sex ed at all! the rest mostly only teach Abstinence Only, with a few exceptions for abstinence plus.
That’s a whole lot of kids not getting even the basics on how to take care of themselves.
Meanwhile, there are politicians and groups fighting hard against letting any accurate information in text books and getting in the way of teachers who want to teach and during all this time, kids are being told they are chewed up and unworthy, and it just feels like the damn wild wild west.

This is real stuff-STDs, rape culture, slut shaming and victim blaming, gender dynamics causing boys and girls harm, teen pregnancy. The less access to education and resources kids have the more problems we’ll have. The less resources young folks have around how to love, learn, consent, respect? The harder things will be for them as adults.

Look, I KNOW deep in my heart that every parent is going to have some differing opinions on how this all works. How their kids should learn or not, about sex, should it be in the schools or at home or both, I understand how fearful parents can be. Even me having to handle my children’s questions is daunting!

I mean come on! It’s terrifying and I’ve got some basic training, but even this week he was asking me ALL kinds of questions. Like, I can’t believe the things we are discussing. And he has every right to get those questions answered honestly and with respect and compassion.

Still, no matter your politics and beliefs, I can’t imagine anyone wants their child, or a kid they know, to feel like a used up piece of gum? A nasty toothbrush? For having normal wonderful sexually developmentally appropriate feelings? For loving a partner? That’s just hard to comprehend, how people might let that happen.

It’s just heartbreaking to think that kids are growing up with that much shame, when as we know, all of us here, sex is gorgeous and beautiful and amazing. And powerful. And yeah, sometimes scary, but don’t we owe it to them to be honest about all of it? I think, me personally anyway, that our kids deserve our honesty at the very, very least.

So, I decided to go rogue.

I thought, Bedposts is the kind of place that adults head to for learning how to talk to each other about sex and gender, maybe they’d want to help support the next generation? Since I’m not an actual sex educator I thought, “Who out there could lead us all? Who out there has the badassery required, the skills available and the kickbuttedness in her SOUL to help all us civilians to make a difference for the teens of this state?”

Of course I thought of Ebony Stewart, poet, artist, genius. She went ahead and wrote this wonderful pledge for anyone who might want to join in and stand up for the youth of Texas. She joined me on stage and lead us in this (completely non-binding yet highly symbolic) vow.

The Beast

Quoth the poetic Ebony Stewart:

“My name is Ebony Stewart aka The Gully Princess aka “I’ll eat cho cupcake.”
And as a Sex-Ed teacher in this he’er great state of Texas I believe it takes a village to raise our adolescents.

I’m here to DEPUTIZE YOU!

On this day November 21st and every day forward before my friends, strangers, bartenders, BedPost Confessions, a sex-ed teacher, and all the gods we serve…

I will, if asked and in the most consensual and ethical manner with good boundaries and only if I feel safe in doing so, teach adolescents how to affirm and respect themselves as sexual persons (including their bodies, sexual orientation, feelings and to respect the sexuality of others).

I will increase comfort and skills for discussing and negotiating sexuality issues with peers, romantic partners, and people of other generations.

I will stay current in all the latest music, relationships and sex scandals (such as KimYe because Brangelina is not relevant anymore).

THINGS HAVE CHANGED since “back in my day.”

I will not use the phrase “back in my day” anymore!

I will explore, develop, and articulate values, attitudes, and feelings about my sexuality, their sexuality and the sexuality of others.

I will reject double standards, stereotypes, biases, exploitation, dishonesty and harassment.

I will acquire knowledge and skills for developing and maintaining romantic or sexual relationships that are consensual, mutually pleasurable, safe, and based on respect, mutual expectations, and caring.

I will be honest in talking to adolescents about sex.

I will actually use the word sex.

I will also use the words vulva, clitoris, penis, arousal, erection, and ejaculation.
Instead of whoowhoo, peepee, whoHA, Jimmy, nut, bang, blowpop, or pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey when talking to adolescents about sex.

We DECRY the act of shaming.

Sex is not bad.
If sex was a bad thing none of us would be here.

If I don’t know, I will say I DON’T KNOW!
I will find a way to get the best and most accurate answer by contacting Ebony or any of the BedPost Confessions team and we will Google the answer TO-GETHER!

I, Ebony will always be available to help parents and adults learn how to talk about all this!!!

In closing,

The body is a good thing.
I am a good thing.
Therefore,
I am worthy of good things.

And so too, then are the teens of this great state.
So say you AYE??”

And then everyone in the audience was deputized, if only unofficially, to be awesome and it was good.

From Shutterstock

Because I am an ethical mother, I told my son what I was planning on talking about at the show. I didn’t give away his questions or things he wanted kept private, but I did read him Ebony’s pledge. You know what he said to me? “That’s really really cool, mom.”

And it is cool, that in a state filled with people trying to keep information away from curious, intelligent, maturing teens, there are some grown-ups who want to do the right thing.

I’ll be doing that right thing, and I hope you will too. Let me know if you need any help, cause I know a Sheriff in town.

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We All Matter

There is little to say that could possible add to what Wentworth Miller says here in this video from UpWorthy.

I can’t seem to embed it, but it is here and it’s the story of his first suicide attempt, being gay, coming out, finding the “we” and “us” in a world that had left him feeling so alone.

We all matter and we should all be loved and able to be who we are.

Please stand up for the LGBTQIA community and let them know you are watching and having their back. Especially if they are young. We cannot afford to lose such beautiful souls over who they love, who they are.

Please fight for equality.

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Media And More

I’ve been busy!

I’ve been working on a column for a magazine called Flurt! Giving advice, general musings and things like that.

Here’s a piece of mine from the summer and the Texas Lege on staying political!

BedPost Confessions got a wonderful write up from CultureMapAustin on our show Thursday. Check out the piece which really gives a good overview of what to expect at our show.

“Standing in line to get into BedPost Confessions at the North Door on East Fifth Street is the first indication that things are about to get a little weird. In the alley behind the venue, an eclectic collection of Austinites are gathering to witness Austin’s monthly storytelling event that celebrates all things sexy.

With me in line are a lady in fishnets, a man in pigtails who rode up on a vintage motorcycle, and a collection of couples who have clearly just come from the office. Now in its third year, BedPost Confessions has quickly garnered a reputation for perpetuating frank, honest conversations about sexuality.”

Our latest podcasts are up, here at our site, and also on iTunes.

Speaking of Podcasts, I’m a huge fan of On Being. Last night I listened to Sidling Up To Difference, an interview with Kwame Anthony Appiah on how personal relationships with those who hold different opinions than yours creates intimacy and potential for compassion and change, something that doesn’t always happen in our online world.

How can unimaginable social change happen in a world of strangers? Kwame Anthony Appiah is a philosopher who studies ethics and his parents’ marriage helped inspire the movie Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. In a tense moment in American life, he has refreshing advice on simply living with difference.

Enjoy the day! I’m going to go enjoy my 18th wedding anniversary with my brilliant and wonderful husband today!

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Stories And Sexuality And Star Trek

Last night, under a threatening cloud filled sky on a humid night, many wonderful people gathered to hear courageous storytellers take the stage. Those performers talked, laughed, and even sang about sexuality, relationships, gender and more at BedPost Confessions.

The show was an amazing compilation of tone, talent and technique with a wide variety of stories. We heard a deeply sensitive piece about the illusions that can arise and be shattered during online dating. The audience enjoyed old fashioned erotica in duet form, and were delighted by an amazing gender bending mini-musical, cello and all. We also had a very powerful, brave, and personal take on marriage, equality and the risks of being out in a world with no protection for LGBTQ people. Finally, we were given a very unique and irreverent look into military culture and how sex and health are managed (or not) by someone who lived it for 6 years.

I’m always struck by how different our stories about sex and gender can be and how real the language is for each piece. I’m a progressive liberal type with enough social justice training and academic influence to write a perfectlyperfect piece about health or consent, but honestly, while that may (or may not be) be an ideal, it’s not how everyone in the world experiences the world. People all over have different voices, different histories, different ways of seeing and experiencing the world, and speak in different “languages” (or frames) even when the language appears to be the very same one you speak.

Sex is hard enough to talk about (and we are taught NOT to talk about any of it; from birth control to stds, to who we long for and why) to always have the talk come out in one particular way. What works on a college campus might not work in the marines, how you talk to a middle school class will be very different then the language you use at say, BedPosts. And while the facts might be the same in all cases (consent is vital, testing is necessary, birth controls are available), the delivery may need to be entirely different. I think that’s valid.

A confession of my own, I’m a fan of science fiction and I’ve watched pretty much every episode of Star Trek. I always loved the fun stories of course, but I learned things and wound up puzzling over the political and moral questions often posed by the show. I suppose it’s one of the inspirations for me when it comes to how I want work produced; pieces and shows that combine entertainment, education, and ethics.

BedPosts holds fast to those tenets and certainly mingles all three. It feels little risky to admit that perhaps Gene Roddenberry’s ideas and values have been inhabiting in my mind for years like some personal alien invasion, but hey, it works for me.

In the Star Trek Universe, it’s clear that different cultures have different needs. What you do on one planet, in terms of diplomacy and change, won’t work on another. I mean, come on, peace treaty negotiations or wedding planning or even DINNER all have to be done differently on the Klingon Homeworld than on Betazed. Right?

How we go about reaching people about sexuality and gender, how we start to shift and negotiate cultural change in terms of consent culture, sexual health and ethics, access and understanding of birth control, gender roles and gender itself…How we work with language and systems and art to move shame away, leading into connection and compassion, that all must be nimbly done and with a variety of techniques and language sets with the understanding that what works in one venue, may not work in another.

I could struggle with whether that’s “right” or not, because it would be easier (and meet my comfort zone) if one talk or one frame fit all. I’m much more interested in the ability to connect, where I hope it counts, to help change happen. Sometimes it means talking to 13 year olds about things in ways I’d prefer not to talk to them, but hey, now they have more of an understanding of how gender works. I may not always feel as comfortable talking consent outside of the progressive Austin bubble, but I bet you a dollar I can find ways to do it in SmallTownRedState in ways that will take root. Or if I can’t? I can find people who can.

People are complicated, systems are complex, and talking about sex is messy. Putting all of that together can be daunting, but I have this feeling more and more of us are finding ways to do just that, finding all the different ways we can reach out using all kinds of language, ideas and frames to make a huge change in the world. We at Bedposts are so proud of the people who have brought complicated, complex, messy beautiful work to the stage, and we can see in real time (and from real emails) how people have been affected by stories and truth, all from different perspectives, all at a bar, all while producing entertaining work.

Thunder clapped loudly during the first half of the night, as a huge rainstorm released itself laughing, dancing onto our show like it was a performer as well. I felt wonder as I stood at the door of the ND during intermission and watched the lightning paint the night sky, watched the water drench the streets, and people too, who ran around it with glee. The storm seemed joyful, and washed away dust, heat, and perhaps even old attitudes about sex, leaving a sweet path forward for all of us to boldly go.

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Birds, Bees, Consent-Archives

I’m happy to report that I’ll be on an extended vacation through the 7th of August, traveling in the Pacific Northwest. I’ll be posting some pieces from my archives over the time I’m away, but if anything inspires me, I might throw in a new post or two.

Ever think about how to talk to your kids about sex and consent?

Originally posted at GoodVibes Magazine.

Kids. I’ve got them. And everything to do with prepping them for sex ed seemed pretty easy when they were very little. I’ve been a strong proponent of sex educations in the schools, which, if you are from Texas you’ll know isn’t always much. And it’s been pretty easy to think, “I know what to tell my boys.”

The technical stuff? The ins and outs, so to speak, that’s not hard to discuss. I figure most of us got a decent education one way or the other about what parts go where and why. But one thing that is usually left out of classical sex ed programs, and oftentimes left out of parental Birds And Bees talks, is the conversation about Communication with your sexual partner.

Think about it. Do we ever tell our kids, “Here’s how you ask your lover what they’d like in bed.” or “Here’s how you read body language.” I don’t recall any such conversations with my highly liberal mother.

But just like learning how the biology of your body works (to avoid STI’s and pregnancies) is important, so too is the education of how to communicate with each other. About when sex happens. About how sex happens. It’s a skill and a necessary one.

Enthusiastic Consent is a huge issue right now in the sex positive and feminist world, and one that is truly underutilized in the education of all of us and sexuality and taking care of each other. I have two sons just getting ready to travel through puberty and I’m wondering if we can come up with ways to introduce the concept of enthusiastic consent to them. How blunt to be? How and when do we teach this?

I mean, my husband and I already have a lot of conversations about consent with kids while they are young. Don’t take your brother’s toys without asking. Return them when he asks. You’ll hear about it from me or your dad if you don’t. If you are roughhousing, pay attention to the point when the laughing stops and the panic begins. Then STOP. Don’t ever be afraid to tell someone to leave you alone. Your body belongs to you.

But when actual sex is involved, when they are in that stage when they are starting to date and things are getting fraught, how do we talk about sexual and enthusiastic consent with them?

First of all, I realize as the mother, I may not be the right person to deliver this lesson. Perhaps an uncle or an older family friend should be the messenger of something I think all boys, and all girls and everyone in between should hear. Consent matters a whole hell of a lot, and empathy and awareness of the other person in any relationship matters. The other person is, well, a person. And I want my kids to really know that. I’d like all people to know this.

So here is a draft of a speech I’m preparing, for them, from me or someone well placed to deliver it when the time is right, which is not now, not yet, but will come, sooner than I am likely ready for:

“Dear boys. There will come a moment in your life when you will have a partner and you will start to fool around and eventually you’ll have sex. Orgasms are powerful amazing things. There will often be times when they will be so powerful and amazing that the idea of stopping before one happens will seem impossible or like the worst thing happening to you ever in life. Worse than the dentist or PE class.

And I know how bad you think those things are.

But the thing is, barring any unforeseen medical issues, you will probably have approximately 20,000 orgasms between the ages of 15 and 75, so if for some reason the partner you are having sex with needs or wants to stop (maybe their back hurts, or they get scared, or they just don’t like what’s going on) you can stop, knowing that you will have another orgasm. Maybe even ten minutes later if things settle down and your partner feels better. So you can wait. You can learn to wait, even though the feeling can seem overpowering. You can learn to wait, so that your partner can catch up.

You should place your partner’s safety and comfort ahead of your pleasure, and frankly they should do the same for you. If YOU want to stop, you should stop even if your partner gets irritated with you, for they also will be able (generally) to have another orgasm later.

Sometimes your partner won’t say stop with words. Sometimes it might be a change in their body language or breathing. Ask. Pause. Check in. Also? Have those conversations about communication, about body language, about not being able to read each other’s minds with your clothes on, so you don’t need to worry quite so much when things get more intense.

At some point you are going to think you are grown up enough to have sex. Good. If you really are that grown up? Then you need to be grown up enough to talk about sex with the person you are going to have it with. To listen to their words and their body. And to have them do the same for you.

Because both of you should be doing nothing other than really enjoying each other with a big old YES between the two of you. Yes is important. No means No. Pause the action if there is any question about which word is which.
Now go clean your room.”

It’s a start and a beginning of a conversation with my kids. I just hope I’m grown up enough to have it.

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Burn

It has been a very long and tumultuous summer. My mother passed away, my job has been relentless, and of course, there has been The Legislature. The intensity I’ve experienced, in addition to my daily life and work, has been extreme even for me and I’m well aware that I need a break. Burning your candle at both ends and through the middle isn’t good!

My family and I are going on a long vacation to spend time with friends and family in the Pacific Northwest, and I’ve been looking forward to the trip for so very long. Having a time to retreat, think, reflect, and recover will be very valuable to me. Everyone should get some kind of time off, even if it’s at home.

As such, I’ve been preparing and packing and part of that is to provide some blog posts from my archives, as I may not be writing much (but who knows, right?). As I was selecting posts I was struck with my recurrent theme of building community, spirituality, connection.

I suppose that’s my root, yes? How I frame my experience in the world, through a spiritual lens. It’s still strange to me to admit that, to name it, especially since I don’t really go to church, don’t trust religion, don’t believe in some kind of sky god ticking off my good and my bad moments.

But I do experience the world, social justice, human rights, food, and yes, sex, through a spiritual (and political for to me they are intertwined) lens, even if what I believe in is nothing familiar, nothing religious.

And that’s ok, if not the most popular choice. Earnestness isn’t cool and finding the spaces outside the poles, dialogue, and the work of peace is damn hard to do, especially when fighting is so much easier. It’s easy to dismiss earnestness. I get it.

Still, I was struck by this article by a Reverend, who writes for a site called Cabaret Church. His post was about Amanda Palmer and her music. He said this:

You see, I didn’t go into ministry because I wanted to reenact dusty rituals, all the while keeping my hair neat and my overcoat buttoned. I didn’t go into ministry to write twenty-minute essays more conducive to checking one’s watch than to checking in with the state of one’s soul. I didn’t go into ministry to be considered an employee with a three word job description: keep people happy.

I went into ministry because I long for transformation. I long for revolution. I am called to make this world better and to heal what brokenness I can. I am called to help create communities that empower all of us to encounter and respond to the All that is bigger than any of us, bigger than all of us, and bigger even than anything we can imagine. I am called to look for and help create communities that are engaged in the work of the spirit together. Communities that are a lot like the crowds at Amanda Palmer concerts or the people telling their truths and tweeting love and support for one another on a Friday night, tagging Amanda in every post.

I imagine a church where every sweaty, glitter-drenched, dancing body is welcome. I imagine a church that can be loud and bold and angry when necessary. I imagine a church where we notice the many who say, “No one sees me,” and take time to stop, look them in the eye and say, “We see you.” I imagine a church where everyone is invited to not only attend the show, but to be part of it—to engage soul-deep in the art of living an authentic, embodied, meaningful life.

That’s the church I imagine, thanks to Amanda Palmer. That’s Cabaret Church.

This is how I feel about Bedpost Confessions, about storytelling, about spaces of rallies and protests, of organizing and meeting, about places of dialogue and seeking. I assume that there are so many people out there who, while secular, long for connection and community and ways to mark important and nodal points in their lives. In my very unstudied opinion, spirituality is NOT religion.

Spirituality is a moving river and often, what is considered religion (at least to me) is a dusty rocky bed where the river once was. And people wonder why they are still thirsty.

This is true not just for “church” but for things like pleasure, food, entertainment, sex. We are sold processed foods and told they are things to crave, when freshness and true sensual delights are right there in a garden. We ignore spaces like swimming holes for water parks, we suck up reality television rather than creating our own stories. We think irony and sardonic humor will keep our hearts protected, when it’s often vulnerability and compassion that do the trick. We expect porn to provide connection or education when often it does neither, but the opposite.

Dusty beds where rivers once ran, and we return to them in search of refreshment. So where is the water that will quench that burning? I’m not sure. I’m really not. But I do think it happens during nodal times like birth, death, passages. In friendships, in subtle moments we’ve trained ourselves to ignore, and in places where we live, in person, with each other.

The calling towards transformation, revolution, to heal what brokenness, and create communities is real. So many of us feel it and we shouldn’t play it down just because it isn’t “cool.” It’s about the coolest thing we could possibly do, like sparkling water, in my opinion, coolness that perhaps might start salving that burn.

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SB1 into HB2

I know you are tired. Tired of all of it, tired of fighting. Possibly tired of orange, depending on your skin tone.

I spent the better part of the day at the Capitol, in orange, listening to testimony. There was a relatively even mix of people wearing blue and varying shades of tangerine and for the most part, people got along pretty well, even comforting each other after difficult testimonies. There were some reports of Anti-Abortion men following people, (and I certainly enjoyed some Twitter snark from the choices) and there were a few moments (I hear) of Anti’s yelling epithets at Orange folk during the rally, but no fisticuffs, no battles, just mutual protesting and storytelling.

Things went quite late, and as I had to work an overnight shift, I turned to the live feed of the Tribune and continued listening into the night. Some 3,200 witness cards were filled out and the latter hours of testimony were pro-choice people telling pretty colorful passionate stories.

One, Victorian Prude, even got hauled out by troopers when she refused to quiet her voice. Her testimony was righteous and rageful.

My understanding is that organizers will only know things about 24 hours in advance. Jessica Luther is the best source of that news, so I’m reblogging her post about today, here.

I do know this: We need a continuous showing of people in orange. There are busloads of people here from out of state who have nothing else to do but show up early and fill up the chamber.

I know you are tired. I am too. I’m exhausted and I can only imagine how the folks from Naral, Whole Women’s Health, and Planned Parenthood must be feeling since they’ve been going full bore for weeks now. I know it’s exhausting to be present, emotionally and physically, watching rule of law get overturned. I know it’s hard to see how much of a game this seems to be for the right, and how physically taxing it can be waiting for your turn to tell your story. I know how exhausting it can be to listen to the trauma and pain and to feel the heavy energy. But what you have done is so important. What you are doing is so important and in all this, there is also joy and pride.

Please consider coming each day or part of a day or trading out days with your friends. I’ll be there this afternoon, likely tomorrow morning and possibly whenever I need to be when I’m not on shift.

What we have been doing is so powerful. I cannot express to you enough the meaning and energy in the groups of people in orange down at the capitol. The food that has come in from across the nation and even other countries. The volunteers. The people covering it on the news. The powerful and fiercely smart, logical, and vulnerable stories you are telling, facts you are sharing.

There is a spark that is catching fire and hard, hot, and blazing and that’s you.

Help us be a part of that to make it known that we will not tolerate a theocracy, a chess game of the rich over the poor using sex as a weapon, that our bodies matter.

Thank you for all that you have done, and will continue to do.

notover-348x348

Written by Jessica Luther
on July 9, 2013
Filed under Feminism, Politics, Texas

At this point, we basically only know what is going to happen next about 24 hours before it happens. So, here is what is going on tomorrow.

Stand with Texas Women Bus Tour in Austin

9:30AM

East grounds of the Texas Capitol (Brazos Street between 12th Street and 13th Street)

It’s the kick off of the Stand with Texas Women bus tour here in Austin (deep in the heart of Texas)!

The list of tomorrow’s speakers:

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund
Senator Wendy Davis
Senator Kirk Watson
Dr. Christina Sebestyen, OBGYN, MD
Amy Kamp, uninsured Texas woman who relies on Planned Parenthood for care
Lesli Simms, student who recently graduated from St. Edwards University
You can RSVP for this event at the Facebook event page.

House Floor Debate and Vote on House Bill 2 (#HB2)

House reconvenes at 10AM but if you want to get into the gallery come at least by 9am (capitol opens at 7am)

Capitol, House Gallery (3rd floor)

You can RSVP for the hearing at the Facebook event page.

The doors to the Capitol will open at 7AM, and the house will be debating and voting on HB2, the anti-abortion omnibus bill. The House Gallery will be accessible at 9:30AM, but we anticipate that lines will form rather early.

This is a wonderful opportunity to engage in the democratic process, wear orange and provide Representatives with a strong visual which reminds them that we’re still here and we’ll continue to stand with Texas women.

We would really love to have a strong presence in the Capitol at tomorrow’s hearing.

Wear orange!

Stand With Texas Women Voter Registration Drive in Austin

11AM-1PM

2300 Guadalupe (in front of Jamba Juice)

Join Cecile Richards and get registered to vote! And if you’re a voter deputy, feel free to come on out and help us register voters!

Stand With Texas Bus Tour in Houston

6PM

Discovery Green (1500 Mckinney St) at the Anheuser-Busch Stage

Houston is the first stop of the Stand With Texas Women Bus Tour.

List of speakers has not yet been confirmed but you can find up-to-date information and RSVP for the event on the Facebook page.

The orange “Stand with Texas women” T-shirts will be sale for $15

You can bring lawn chairs, blankets, etc.

The event will happen rain or shine.

As always, you can continue to call and write your Reps and Sens, look them up here and tell them how you feel!

The Texas Tribune has been having live feeds here, or here so you can follow along at work or home. You can also follow me on Twitter at @julesabouttown and I’ll keep you updated with everything I see and hear!

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Social Change and Systems, Incremental And Intentional

Special Session 2. I’ll be out and about but here are some thoughts about systems.

You know systems? All the underlying and undergirding dynamics that are the big part of the iceberg when the tip of it seems simple?

For systems, I often go to this snippet of Good Will Hunting.

Overused maybe, but it sums up how hooked together things are and how nothing is really all that simple. We live in a culture that loves simple. It loves PR and slogans and pills to fix things. But systems are ridiculously complicated, complexly tied into other systems.

During the Texas Stand, I’ve seen pro-choice and anti-abortion folks arguing like mad with each other launching iceberg tip solutions at each other for how to stop the problems all together.

Bearing in mind that the two positions may not be reconcilable, there are also people are trying to talk to each other. I’m seeing these arguments from the pro-choice side:

1) Increase Comprehensive Sex Education
2) Provide More Access To Birth Control
3) Protect Economic Rights For Families and Workers

Those three points are part of a system of access though, a system of cultural beliefs, and a system of economic policies which are not currently in place.

“Get better sex education”-You must work through schools and their policies, affected by school boards and people on them which may have been elected and supported by the Right who doesn’t want sex ed. You have to negotiate with parents who may oppose. You have to find time for it in a system where teachers are forced to use more teaching time towards STAAR testing rather than teaching critical thinking. Or art.

“Get more birth control”-You need to figure out funding, push back against insurance administrators that may hold attitudes that sex isn’t a good thing to encourage, and religious influences that are claiming any BC option causes abortion, which try to defund women’s centers like Planned Parenthood.

“Get more workers rights, fair pay”-Who am I kidding? It’s not simple in the current system. You know that.

On the anti side, I often see the suggestions of:

1) Don’t Kill Babies
2) Don’t Have Sex
3) Adoption

Starting with 1) Abortion itself-I disagree that most people terminate pregnancies because they don’t know what it means, or are heartless, but because they are looking at a system in which they, their familes, their children live NOW. They look at their jobs, income, economic situation, and more are in play NOW and they are fiercely lovingly protective of those living children, their family, the complex system in which they are part of currently.

2) Sex-I’ve already said I believe the reproductive rights issue is part of a larger war of economics. Sex, and the control of it, is a pawn in the Right’s desire for a permanent poverty class. These sex laws disproportionately affect the poor and people of color. The Right is building a system in which average citizens, will have less economic control over their lives.

3) Adoption-I get frustrated hearing the anti-abortion side talk about reducing abortions through adoption because I see roadblocks to accomplishing those very goals:

  • Resistance to let gay and lesbian couples, single parents, interracial couples adopt children.
  • Bank practices that erode citizen’s abilities to make money enough to support more children.
  • Lack of worker’s rights which also impedes the ability of families to truly take care of their children or take adequate time off to integrate new children into the family.
  • Decreased funding to Health And Human Services branches which means agencies like CPS, designed to keep kids safe while in foster situations, are left hobbled and unable to manage overwhelming case loads.
  • Universal health insurance at least for kids up until 18, but also for families
  • Lack of support for families with children to take care of adopted kids who may have issues like failure to thrive or bond, due to abuses in foster.
  • Cultural, class, and race issues that keep older foster children in the system while many white families are seeking white babies instead of children of color in their tweens, and creating limits for families of color to adopt.

It’s not just “Adopt!” It’s just not that simple in the current system. I think they know that too.

We do live in a world where simple solutions reign. We think about our problems in straight lines, when perhaps we should start seeing problems more like a sphere with nodes all connecting through those lines.

Kids love these Hoberman Spheres. Maybe we should start playing with them more.

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Systems, despite their complexity, give me hope. While social change can seem hard to move save for some radical wild force (and indeed that is a way things change), the joy of looking at systems is that you can start to be incredibly intentional about where your piece of incremental social, cultural, and policy change comes in.

These incremental pieces come in the form of sex educators working in schools and privately to help students learn how their bodies work, help them learn esteem and personal power.

I also have peers that work in politics and activism. Just look at what Jessica Luther, Andrea Grimes, Dan Soloman, Too Twisted and the folks from Planned Parenthood and Naral did last week!

There are community and spiritual leaders focused on social and racial justice; business owners using their platforms to support workplace polices of fairness and equity.

I’m friends with teachers who teach real critical thinking skills. I know amazing parents who model empathy, compassion, altruism to their children.

And I work with some lovely ladies creating a space for stories about sexuality which provides a culture shift in how we talk about sex, release shame about it, and open up to each other in person and in real time.

All of us have social media to signal boost what we are doing to keep that hope going.

A storytelling series might affect someone who is on a school board and opens up more to having sex ed in her school. A student learning social justice in high school might major in political science focused on policies supporting adoptions and foster care. A new writer may inspire others to volunteer at a non profit where they fundraise for change.

And there is YOU, and you are awesome. We are these nodes, connected to each other, and we are making a difference.

Our intentional incremental change will have impact. So what are you doing? Tell us.

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Hope In Action

“The only recognizable feature of hope is action.”
― Grace Paley

I’ll admit it, and freely, that I am both physically and emotionally exhausted from the past two and half weeks. And yet I can hardly sleep, cannot relax, am focused on what comes after this,  thinking about what is next.

My mother died, 14 days ago today, in a nursing home bed that we were lucky enough to have covered by Medicaid. An only child, I spent the last ten years carrying her, and her disease, along with having two children and trying to keep a job together to support our family. My husband too, worked hard on sometimes several odd jobs, while he obtained a higher ed degree at a time when federal support for education has been failing, tenure jobs disappearing, loan rates raising.

I’ve tried to stay political in whatever ways I could over the past few years but it’s been a challenge, even for someone like myself with a lot of energy. I didn’t always have time to get to the groups in town, Capitol Area Democratic Women, Texas Dems and others. I voted and worked on campaigns when I could and even helped host rallies at the Capitol.

Theater has been a lifelong passion, so I put a lot of my energy into making theater that said something. Human systems and group development, another deep love of mine and the subject of my Masters, was more where I drew my paycheck, often implementing theatrical event skills on top of strategies working between (sometimes oppositional) divisions at work to promote giving programs at a time when giving programs were hard to sell.

I find myself newly released from a situation that was hard, harder than I ever allowed myself to acknowledge. I feel grief over her death but also complicated and confused emotions over that release, over that 10 year period of anxiety, anger, fear oh the fear, and of the slogged witness of watching someone I loved literally disappear while I could do nothing to stop it.

Odd how that release coincided with the happenings here in Texas, barely a week had gone by before I was wrapped up in the fight of our lives, energy and anger and passion surging through me out of me from somewhere I didn’t really understand. I didn’t sleep, I wrote and tweeted and did my part to organize people, a task that seemed natural and easy to do all. The clarity with which I saw the systems in place, from Republican long game to activist missions, was shocking, and I just went with it stepping in and up as needed and hopefully I did some small good in a situation that had bad written all over it.

Perhaps it’s part of that release, that a part of me, long held back by responsibilities and daily life just got opened up into action, action I believe my mother would have been proud of. It could have been just another way of avoiding the inevitable pain of loss, but I’m not sure that’s it. I like to think that a part of me is free, just as all of her is free now-freed from her body, freed from her pain, freed from a wretched and terrible disease that eats away at mind and spirit.

Perhaps the release was mutual.

I watch the news and media with eyes much wider open. There are horrifying things going on in our country from the Texas bills, to attacks on reproductive health in Iowa and Ohio, to a gutting of unemployment benefits (and things like Medicaid) in North Carolina, to trying to outlaw types of sex between consenting adults in Virginia. There are people getting paid for the low wage jobs in debit cards (with fees), and there are thousands of workers being treated like slaves in warehouse jobs with no real rights.

And the country watches The Zimmerman trial, and the Zimmerman Attorney’s daughters eat ice cream and tweet about it. White people refuse to get that they are part of a racist system, and decide that “Cracker” is as big an insult as “the N word.Martin’s friend was laughed at and mocked for her size, her color, her class. Meanwhile there are divisions between white liberals and people of color, people of varied economic needs, liberal religious folk, and the LGBT communities. That has to stop, somehow.

There’s more of course-Monsanto and GMO’s Gitmo not closing, corporations having more and more and more power over people. I read the Hunger Games, and it’s right here in America. And that’s just US news. Brazil and Turkey and Greece are exploding. Just google for links. I’m sure there are so many more.

It’s hard to know how to move forward with so much swirling about. Do I focus on writing? Keep producing work that helps people learn about sex and gender and how to let go of shame? Serve on boards or look for work in the political world? Riot?

My therapist says I’d be a great counselor if I wanted to be. I think she’s right, but it’s a different kind of energy and focus. She notes that people usually have to choose between serving the aggregate or the individual, which seems a hard choice.

I have some requests in all this. I want to catch up for the ten years devoted to my mother, now ready to do what it takes to get people moving, get things coordinated, to write, speak and shout from the rooftops about our rights and our power and our pride.

I want people to have hope, and not the stupid pablum kind, but the kind that inspires because our systems WORK for the people as designed.

I want my children, my sweet, smart, loving, gentle children to see what’s happening. My eldest said, “I mean, not even looking at this from a Democrat status, how can they be so mean?” How do I answer that? How do explain power and people and systems? How do I answer so many questions about what exactly is going on here in Texas in our lege, about how actual democracy is supposed to work and how it doesn’t? How do I assure them that they can have trust in our process.

That everything they are learning in school isn’t bullshit, but real.

I am afraid that I can’t, though. That I’ll have to admit the game is rigged. And yeah, that it is all a game to those at a certain level of power and greed, that no matter how we rail and vote and organize, there are systems and structures in places to keep the power elite happily ensconced in their castles and bunkers, away from us rabble.

I suppose most of all I want it recognized that we aren’t rabble, not any of us. We are people, precious people with stories and hopes. We aren’t tools or pawns, we are citizens and I want our government to acknowledge that. That our stories count, that we have rights, that we can find ways through this besides this bizarre economic warfare that is hurting SO many people.

These seem like simple requests but I know they aren’t. It’s a complex challenge when it comes to people, power, and systems and how power aims to reinforce itself at all costs. I hope I am, and all of us are, up for the challenge, whatever our parts of it may be.

I do know our stories are vital and powerful. We will not stop telling them whether on blogs or tweets, onstage or in person to each other in line at a rally.

Our stories cannot be taken away from us, no way and no how.

They are our hope in action.

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Dissemination Of Information On Texan Protestations

There are many events planned for Monday, July 1 2013 at or around the Capitol at various times, for the special session. I’ve been invited to at least three and I’m trying to compile and disseminate because it’s been so much and there are so many people involved it’s hard to keep up.

I know people have a wide variety of schedules and may not be able to be free for all of the events. I’m not sure which protests are organized by groups or by people, save for the Planned Parenthood one. Pick one or two or three, but come out for at least something! Make your voice heard.

There may be so many people down at the Capitol on Monday. Please be careful. Not only will it be 9 million degrees outside and dry, but tensions will be high and do make sure you take care of yourselves. Bring water, snacks, and chargers for your cell phone. I feel certain there are newly formed citizen media groups that will be there to capture photos and livestream images.

Please do use social media. I’m not currently sure of hashtags for the events, but I’ll update this post when I see them. If you don’t currently have a Twitter account, it’s so easy to set up. Follow me and I’ll follow you back @julesabouttown.

You can also follow groups and activists like Planned Parenthood, Naral, Lilith, Texas Dems, Capitol Area Democratic Women, Whole Women’s Health, Andrea Grimes, Jessica Luther, and Dan Soloman to get more info.

As always, here is the link to Knowing Your Rights from the ACLU.

1) Kill The Bill
This one is at 10:00 am until? At the Capitol.

“It would seem that our fearless leader Rick Perry is determined to shove this piece of legislation down our throats whether we like it or not. We as Texans need to stand up to our government and
let them know that their dirty tricks will not be tolerated. SB5 died on Tuesday night despite much chicanery in the Senate.

We need to send the message that we want it to stay dead.

“Republicans will suspend all the rules, file the same bill, expedite it within hours and bring it to the floor for a vote. Don’t be fooled into believing they will follow the normal course of protocol. They want to finish before the 4th of July and before Legislative conference in Atlanta on July 8th.” – State Rep. Dawnna Dukes District 46

This bill is NOT just about banning abortion after 20 weeks!! The bill will also force many clinics that perform the procedure to upgrade their facilities to be classified as ambulatory surgical centers. Doctors would be required to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles.

THIS MEANS MANY WOMEN WOULD LOSE ACCESS TO STD SCREENINGS, BIRTH CONTROL, TREATMENT FOR UTIs, ETC. In my opinion, if even 100 women lose access, it’s a TRAGEDY. Many parents won’t allow their daughters to access birth control and these clinics are the only way these girls can protect their bodies and prevent the need for an abortion in the first place. Say NO to restricting healthcare for women!”

2) Stand Up Monday
High Noon, Capitol, organized by Planned Parenthood

“Once again Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst are attacking the constitutional rights of women in Texas. On Tuesday, Sen. Wendy Davis and the Senate Democrats stood together to stop harmful legislation from passing in the Texas Senate.

Thanks to your voice and the voices of thousands, women in Texas won!

Now we must stand together again to demand justice for all women in Texas. Join us Monday, July 1st at 12 noon at the Texas Capitol to have your voice heard!”

3) Stand and March With Texas Women
8:00 pm, South Side of the Capitol

“Concerning Rick Perry’s call for a 2nd special session of the Texas Legislature (in attempt to pass Senate Bill 5), I have proposed that we utilize the number of people that plan to protest at the Capitol on July 1st and have a march.

If people still plan to come on Monday, might as well use those numbers to stop traffic and get exposure. This is an opportunity to move the masses, mobilize, and march to bring further awareness to the public. It forces others to pay attention and encourages further dialogue.

I have proposed for this march to be around 8pm in order to give people enough time to get off of work, protest at the Capitol, and congregate. Please gather at the front steps of the Capitol, near the south entrance facing S. Congress Street.

***Please feel free to spread the word and invite others to this march! Be sure to SHOW UP, STAND UP, AND MARCH WITH TEXAS WOMEN!!!!!!!!***”

UPDATE 4) Stand With Texas Women Virtual March
Anywhere and anyone.

Change your profile picture to an orange pic displaying that you stand with Texas women. Here are some images that are available for download:
http://lindsaybraundesign.com/#/stand-with-texas-women/ Please keep this as your profile pic for the week of July 1st – July 7th to show the Texas legislature that the world is paying attention.

Feel free to post other images that people can use for their profile pics in the comments below. Here are other actions that you can take to fight alongside us, regardless of where you live:

1. Use the hashtag #StandWithWendy in all of your tweets, regardless of content, to help the story trend worldwide.

2. Sign the following petitions:

Impeach Rick Perry
Call Resignation David Dewhurst
Texas Att. General
I’ll Vote Against You

3. Donate to the following organizations:
Texas Democratic Party:
Wendy Davis’s Campaign:The Lillith Fund:
Planned Parenthood:

4. Contact your local representatives and let them know that you stand for women’s reproductive rights.

5. Invite your friends to participate!!

I don’t know how long this session will go or if there will be continued events or needs. Please pace yourself and stay with us for the long haul. The Republicans have always played the very long game and we need to stay connected, collaborative, and strong to use this bloom of passion and anger to our best advantage-2014 is around the corner and that means elections.

Much love to you all and I’ll see you (at some point) on Monday!

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