Mean Girls: A True Story

This post might overlap a little with some of the other topics already discussed, but I really wanted to share one of my recent experiences.

As an extra-curricular, I volunteer for about an hour every Thursday at one of the local elementary schools in a grade 6/7 split-class. It’s in an area where most of the children come from lower income families. Needless to say, so of the kids don’t have the luxuries of someone of middle-upper class. Not only does this include brand name clothes, but unfortunately confidence as well.

My story is from one afternoon’s volunteering session. As I walk into the classroom, I notice that one of the girls had her head down on her desk and was disengaged from the lesson. Once the teacher was done explaining the exercise, she came over to me and asked if I could partner with Ashley* for the activity and keep her company. Of course, I did what I was told without question.

Walking up to Ashley, I could tell she wasn’t having the best of days. I asked her if she wanted to be my partner. She responded with resistance. After a few minutes talking with her and building that trust, she eventually complied.

We left the classroom to work without the distraction of others and to have a little privacy. I figured she probably didn’t want to do the activity right away, so I tried to spark conversation. Initially, she was shy and didn’t share much. By the end of the afternoon, we were talking as if we were best friends.

I learned that she was a lot like me. Her parents divorced at an early age. Her dad spoils her rotten even if it’s giving up everything he has. She has younger siblings that annoy her.  She’s a “tomboy.” And her best friend is a boy.

She finds it frustrating how other girls in her class give her a hard time about the last two points. Ashley, admittedly, hates participating in the drama and gossip like the other girls. She’d rather play sports. As a result, she is bullied because she does not fit the norms of what society deems to be appropriate activities for girls.

Similarly, her best friend, Jake*, receives the same criticism from his other guy friends. The other boys pressure him by saying, “Why do you hang out with her? Come play with us!” Sometimes he gives in, sometimes he doesn’t. The other boys tease him for being a compassionate and caring friend to Ashley. After all, boys aren’t supposed to show emotion, right?

The dynamics on the playground support society’s pressures to conform to socialized gender roles. What I witnessed that afternoon was shockingly similar to scenes from Mean Girls. There are defined groups within the class, which are organized into an unspoken social hierarchy. Ashley and Jake remind me of the characters Janis and Damian from the movie. They are confident in their own skin, but are ridiculed by those with greater social influence.

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Similar to the creation of the hierarchy in Mean Girls, those with “power” were girls and boys who fit hegemonic masculine and emphasized feminine roles. In addition, these groups were also white and of upper class (relative to those at the school). These invisible privileges have been used to exert power over those with less social influence. Those who deviate from what is perceived to be normal are bullied and put down by others. It is disheartening to see that Mean Girls, a movie that exaggerates every high school stereotype, is influencing and reinforcing power differences at a young age.

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However, there is hope in the younger generations. Those like Ashley and Jake are comfortable expressing themselves and are not afraid to speak up. Although one might be pressured to conform to social expectations, like Kady from Mean Girls, happiness is found when one is confident enough to be comfortable in their own skin.

* Names changed to keep identities confidential. 

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Gay Discrimination right in our Backyards

Previously, I had posted on the unfolding homosexual controversy of the Pope’s resignation. The Catholic faith has many strict ideals, one of those being that homosexuality is an evil sin, and something that is not believed in. This is all occurring at the highest level of the Catholic religion in the Vatican, and very distant from us and our media. Something I found quite interesting and a little closer to home is a Catholic school in the Yukon, Canada that has a prohibition against gays. This is not only a rule of admittance to the school and posted on the school’s homepage, but ALSO a rule that is being enforced and taught by the teachers throughout the entire school. This public funded school has been ordered to discontinue this role immediately.

 All of this commotion first started when a grade 11 student of the school was claiming that the Bishop of the school was being hard on him, and he did not deserve to be discriminated against. These issues surrounding homosexuality in the Catholic religion are of great concern as children are being discriminated against, while presumably dealing with all of the other obstacles society places on the gay community. All people, especially children should not be burdened with being discriminated against at school (which is supposed to be a safe place).

This is an issue currently taking place in the Yukon. Native territory for the most part. Do you think this plays a role on the gay policy carried out in this school? I have little knowledge of Native faith, but I do believe that same sex love is allowed and accepted. Could this possibly be a rouse to keep Native children who are gay from entering into this school? As this is happening in the Yukon, I can’t imagine that it would be the same as a busy suburban area with many schools in the area. There is probably only a select few, and a student would not want to switch schools on account homosexuality bullying, that is happening from the authority level.

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This is a source of prejudice against the gay community, however, could it also be viewed as a source of racism, and discrimination against Native people whom have the religious freedom to love whoever they may choose. I think that this gay policy would be enforced on either gender had this happened, however I think that a male acting in more feminine ways is probably less accepted in the school than a female acting in more masculine ways. I think that areas which are significantly less populated in Canada, such as the Yukon, are the only areas where such discrimination like this could go unnoticed for so long. This would never have happened with a Catholic high school in a suburban area like Toronto.

This is a boy, who is my brother’s age, and is being chastised at school for being himself. Not by other students, but by the faculty… This is both shocking and disheartening to all of those with homosexual loved ones.

Would things have been different had this been a gay female instead of a male individual? How would this school treat those of intersex or transgendered people? Although this school is acting in accordance to faith, aren’t these policies promoting the discrimination against the gay community and counteracting all the progress they’ve made through the years? Any thoughts?

You can see the video here:

http://video.ca.msn.com/?mkt=en-ca&vid=cbcc2013-2003-2209-0027-235256580900&from=sharepermalink&src=v5:share:sharepermalink:&from=dest_en-ca

And this is the article that started it all:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/story/2013/03/04/vanier-catholic-gay-finnegan-gordon-school.html

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Live Blogging Experience: “I Am Jazz”

–       Close family, worried about each other.

  • Dad explains they are all “proud of each other”

–       Jazz seems happy, optimistic, adorable

–       Loving family from all perspectives: mother adores her children

  • When speaking about Jazz she mistakenly refers to her incorrectly
  • So glad “he came” corrects herself to “she came”

–       “Gender identify disorder”: I personally feel this term is wrong: not a disorder

–       “How many families have a little girl born as a boy”… sad to think that families and other people are not accepting of Jazz’s situation

–       “I thought that I was made wrong but now I know I was not” : so nice to see that her family is able to support her

–       She wanted to change her penis into a vagina as a young child

  • Since she was a baby, she was attracted to girly girl things…
  • Pink, babies, dress up clothes. The older she got the stronger she got.

–       Dad admits he was in denial that his child could be transgender

  • In the end he explains that of course he just wants to support her

–       Transgender specialist spent an hour with her at age 3 and stated she clearly had transgender disorder

–       5th birthday: Jazz wore a girl bathing suit.

  • “Who cares, we don’t care. Its your birthday.” – Mom
  • “We were going to allow Jazz to be Jazz”
  • Such a supportive family

–       “Kindergarten was the happiest time for me. I was a girl.”

–       “We wont ever stop fighting for her” They explain they want their children to be happy, and every parent should love their child unconditionally.

  • They are constantly communicating with her, and not pushing her in either direction which I think is very important and Im sure this has helped to benefit her

–       Their talk about Puberty made me realize that Ive Never thought about puberty and how that could create such a hard situation

  • Puberty would make her begin to look like a boy, and she doesn’t want the characteristics

–       Kids in the family are adorable – the way Jazz talks about her brothers is amazing. She’s eleven and speaks so highly of them. Says her sister is her role model. Has an amazing sense of humor.

–       Administration has been changed to her records as a female at school and is permitted to use the girls bathroom

  • This is amazing progression and fantastic news for her life

–       Kids talk to highly of the family: “He is my hero” talk about the family as “the best parents I can ask for.”

–       The concept that she loves mermaids is so fascinating and beautiful to me.

  • “They have nothing down there”

–       She was not permitted to play with the girls travel soccer team any longer. As she is a biological male she cannot play with the all girls teams. The organization fears she might “hurt someone”.

  • What about other players who do not fit into this category?

–       The interviews of her friends are so sweet that they didn’t think anything of it. “She’s still our best friend”. Such a nice ending to know there are so many accepting people in the world and that she has so many friends and family surrounding her.

–       Her family just hopes she is happy.

 

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“I am Jazz” Reflection

What a cute little girl. Feeling a lot of happiness from her.

 

–          Tight knit family, always going out and spending time together.

–          Gender identity disorder? Since when did being different become a difference.

–          She’s very confident and positive, it’s impressive.

–          Father had a harder time moving on.

–          Family took a big step in society by introducing Jazz to the community.

–          She was so happy she was a girl. She got ridiculed for being her true self.

–          If this child wasn’t Caucasian, this might be different.

–          She was afraid to start looking like a man.

–          She looks up to her little sister most very evidently. Don’t spend that much time together, she gets ridiculed at school.

–          She got in trouble for wearing a bra. Parents weren’t condoning in the extreme behaviour of being a female,

–          Many people get confused, she doesn’t have any chromosomes problems.

–          Many people think she’s wrong. What a poor little girl!!

–          She got the law fixed for the bathroom problem of  not being able to use the girls bathroom

–          The boys are really supportive while they’re all eating dinner, they show a lot of support. So does everyone in the family.

–          They’re middle class, they seem to have money to see specialists in order to deal with this

–          She’s not allowed to play soccer in the girl’s team? What’s that all about?

  • Commonality of transgender children loving mermaids?

–          Puberty is really hard

–          Only 2 teams for soccer. What about the children who don’t fit into that category?

  • How could she inflict anymore hurt on the bigger kids?
  • Would this be different for a girl being able to play in a boy’s league?

–          She loves talking about her daily problems and good things in her life

–          She admits to being a lucky girl. Falling with white privilege and blessed family.

–          They are not trying to be controversial, just to what’s best for Jazz.

–          She has to take drugs to supress puberty, which has no long term effects and is completely reversible. Some people think they’re wrong to be doing it, but what is the harm if it will make her happy and it isn’t permanent.

–          Best part of being her is how she in transgender. It’s part of her unique experience and she embraces it.

–          She will not be able to have her own children. Although she could find treatments or others out there that battle the same

–          Her friend group is accepting, they don’t treat her differently.

  • By a child stepping out it is liberating because she still has the opportunity not to grow into a man, she could influence many people 
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A Live Blogging Experience of “I Am Jazz: A Family in Transition”

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  • At the beginning when they introduce Jazz, she looks very happy and carefree, like your average 11 year-old girl
  • Jazz’s mother (Jeanette) uses an incorrect pronoun (‘he’ came), but corrects herself
  • Text states that Jazz is born with gender identity disorder- this seems like a form of medicalization, which I thought was quite politically incorrect
  • Jazz’s ‘good fairy dream’, where she has the chance to change her penis into a vagina, marks the moment when she became aware of being transgender
  • Regarding her parents’ initial feelings towards Jazz’s gender identity: Jeanette talks about how she knew from an early age, from the clothes she wanted to wear to the toys she wanted to play with- she knew it was “more than a phase”; her father (Greg) states that he was initially “in denial” about his child being transgendered- an essentialist opinion
  • Jazz talks about ‘girl being better than boy’- I thought this was strange, because it showed binary thinking in regards to gender
  • The parents discuss allowing Jazz to be herself by wearing the bathing suit at her birthday party- the point they stopped caring about what others were thinking
  • As puberty approaches, Jazz and her parents have to decide if they stop it from happening or let nature take its course
      • The opportunity to go to a paediatric endocrinologist and have this option is likely due to financial means associated with being of middle or high class
      • Would this whole case be seen differently if the family were of a different race, and would Jazz be marginalized if she were a visible minority living in the same largely white community?
      • If they lived in a country with universal healthcare, would the process be even more accessible to them?
      • Note: Jazz is able to go to this doctor without judgment from the institution- may not be the case if she was a different race or class
      • Questions: would the process be any different if she were FTM rather than MTF? would it be an ‘easier’ or ‘harder’ medical transition? would she be treated differently within society if this were the case?
  • The scene where the Jazz talks about the confusion in the community between intersex and transgender: “I have a girl brain and a boy body, and I’m just like you”
  • Jazz is allowed to use the girls bathroom; her records state that she is female
      • This was portrayed as being fairly easy, but she may have had a tougher time if the school was located in a lower class area, if the family was less wealthy, or if they were a racial minority
  • In the scene where the family is eating dinner before a football game, a lot of gender stereotypes are thrown around- Ari texting on the sidelines, one of the brothers as an athletic quarterback, etc
  • Mermaids don’t have ‘anything below’; why many transgender kids relate to them
      • Jazz actually has tails that she swims in- if she wasn’t of this class, she likely would not have the means to sew her own tails and swim around in the privacy of her own swimming pool
  • A soccer parent, talks about how Jazz is ‘dainty’ like the other girls- once again, reinforcing constructed gender roles; Jeanette also does this- “she runs like a girl”
  • Jazz and Jeanette are going to sit on a panel at a university, and share Jazz’s story, as well as answer any questions the audience may have- did their positionality within society make this opportunity easier to receive?
  • When Jazz is on the panel, she realizes her privilege that she has support and hasn’t had to live with the hardships that others have dealt with
  • Jazz’s preschool friends seem to be accepting, probably because they were exposed to and taught to understand the situation at a young age
  • The story has a happy ending: Jeanette states that Jazz being transgender has made them better people
      • Jazz- “For anyone out there who is transgender and is scared to step out of their shadows, it’s okay to be different and be who you are. Just know that you are special and love yourself. I love saying “I am Jazz”.”
      • The happy ending is a touching way to close the documentary, but it is important to realize that not all transgender individuals follow this path, and many of Jazz’s opportunities are directly linked to her race, gender, and class

Image thanks to http://charlesasher.blogspot.ca/

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“I Am Jazz” Live Blog

The following are my thoughts and reactions after watching “I Am Jazz” in yesterday’s tutorial:

  • It’s good that the video focuses on it being a FAMILY in transition as opposed to it being an INDIVIDUAL transition.
  • Despite (admitted) initial resistance from Jazz’s dad, it’s comforting to know that he now supports his daughter and her decisions. 
  • Jazz’s family is able to (financially) afford the treatment to support her transition. I can imagine not everyone is this lucky.
  • Why do doctors and other medical professionals keep referring to Jazz as having “gender identity DISORDER?” It’s not a disorder, it’s who she is.
  • She identified as a girl VERY early in her life. Can gender roles and identity really be socialized?
  • [Reference to Jazz having to use the nurses room to go to the bathroom] School systems advocate education and awareness. Ironic how institutions are the first to segregate and discriminate any differences. Practice what you preach: work through the discomfort! 
  • [Reference to the fascination with mermaids] Never thought of it that way: “there’s nothing down there.” Don’t know how I feel about this. Mermaids are mystical creatures, that aren’t human: is this really a safe comparison to use in explaining transgender?
  • And people worry about kids as the bullies… Ironic how it’s Jazz’s peers who accept her transition and see her as a girl, while the institutions [her soccer club] are the ones who won’t let her participate. Who’s being immature now?
  • I understand that her parents want to take the time to talk about the treatments with Jazz and not make an irrational decision. But really, she’s been living as a girl for as long as possible. You’ve supported her transition before she began puberty. The hormone treatments are reversible. What’s stopping you?
  • People in general need to have the same, positive attitude, as Jazz. Such a great example of extraordinary circumstances and still being comfortable expressing who you truly are. Personality, not positionality, is what counts. 
  • This aired on OWN Network: a network that typically airs shows that challenges different perspectives and issues in society. Race, gender, health – all topics discussed. Kudos to Oprah for recognizing the need to share stories like Jazz’s.    
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“I Am Jazz”: Thoughts from Watching, Live Blog and Reflection

“I Am Jazz: A Family in Transition” Live Blogging

  • “Extraordinary circumstances” says the father.
  • Parents always knew Jazz was ‘different’.
  • Jazz is such a positive person.
  • Kids watch out for one another, energetic family that enjoys life, is proud of one another.
  • “So glad that he came…SHE, came.” – Jazz’s mother
  • “A girl brain, a boy body, I think like a girl but I have male parts.” – Jazz
  • Jazz thought that she was made wrong, but she feels now that nothing was made ‘wrong’.
  • “Average American family.” Does all the normal, average things every family does, and looking in you wouldn’t know we were different. – Father
  • “Good Fairy” story. Jazz says that’s when her mother knew, but her mother claims to have known before then. At first it was cute, and then mother realized it was ‘more than a phase’.
  • Father admits there was a denial phase, and after he got past that he came to truly believe that her true essence was ‘ she was a girl.’
  • Mother was worried about Jazz’s future. They finally took her to a specialist, who diagnosed her with gender identity disorder.
  • Jazz is happy as a girl. 5th birthday where she is allowed to wear a girl’s bathing suit. She really was happy to ‘be herself.’
  • “Allow Jazz to be Jazz.” The birthday was an opportunity for Jazz to be Jazz.
  • Kindergarten was the happiest time for Jazz.
  • Looks to be an upper class family, large home, kids able to pursue their hobbies, etc. Also, a wealthy society surrounds them.
  • Medically block puberty, don’t want to go through male puberty. Jazz has had nightmare about this since she was little.
  • Older sister never saw Jazz as anything but a little girl.
  • Jazz wasn’t able to use the girl’s washroom, like many other trans people.
  • It seemed really easy for this family to get their school to change their child’s record from male to female. If this were a family from a lower socioeconomic level or of a different race, likely it would not have been this easy.
  • “Mermaids are amazing because they have a tail, they don’t have anything below,” and Jazz has always wanted to be a mermaid.
  • Jazz initially played soccer, but the parents were informed that she was not able to play with the girl team anymore. At practice she’s allowed to do anything, but she cannot compete in games. They’ve presented the medical facts that Jazz is more female than male to the soccer association but there was no change.
  • Many people with sad stories, Jazz gets very emotional, recognizes her privilege of having supportive parents, etc.
  • “I know kids that tried to commit suicide at age 6” – Mother
  • Everyone thinks Jazz is going to be a lot happier than most other trans people who have not had the opportunities that Jazz has available to her.
  • She is thankful for being transgendered.
  • Jazz is able to go to doctor without any problems (that are made known to audience) unlike many other trans individuals.
  • Putting puberty on hold for a couple of years, its reversible for a while, just take off of hormones. Stopping the blockers will cause development. However once you have surgery there’s no turning back.
  • Jazz is more scared about hitting puberty than the effects of the blocker.
  • Happy ending~ “Okay to be different and be who you are. You’re special and love yourself.” – Jazz.

Reflection:

Jazz is a transgendered child, born with male parts but a female’s brain, who is white and raised by a supportive, wealthy family. Throughout the documentary I couldn’t help but feel that Jazz was more privileged than most trans individuals. For example, it appeared that it was relatively easy for Jazz’s school records to be changed so it showed she was female rather than male. Apart from the soccer issues (Jazz could not play on the same team as girls at competition, as she is biologically male) she was still able to use the girl’s washroom at school after talking with the principal. There also doesn’t seem to be much in terms of bullying in Jazz’s life, though this was never touched on too deeply, though Jazz did mention that she only has a few close friends. However, one can’t overlook Jazz’s privilege in being part of a supportive, white family with considerable wealth. Her race has never worked against her, and her family is likely able to pay for her medical bills for the hormonal ‘puberty blockers’ she wants to be on at age 11. The fact that she even has a doctor is something of a privilege for any trans individual, considering many doctors discriminate against transgendered people. Overall, however, this was an excellent documentary that shows what it was like for a little girl to grow up in a male body, and Jazz has struggled as any other trans individual has, there’s no doubt about that.

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