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July Is Disability Pride Month

In honor of Disability Pride Month, we explore some best practices for offering solidarity to people with disabilities. This is about accepting and honoring the uniqueness of people and their abilities. There absolutely is pride in who they are, despite the limitations society puts on them and the boxes they’re made to fit into.

Having a disability is an identity like all other groups. There is a culture that people with disabilities share as a whole, and there are subcultures within each disability that someone identifies with. Meaning, they can take pride in their strength as someone with a disability and also participate in that culture along with those who have varying disabilities. They come together in unity, understanding the complexities of the world they have to move around in and how they can be referred to or treated. They can also acknowledge the subculture they participate in as someone who’s deaf or utilizes a wheelchair, for example. These individuals share deeper nuances of their world, how people respond to them, or don’t respond at all. 

Disabilities aren’t always seen. It isn’t that easy to place them into categories, nor should we try. They represent all walks of life and contribute in the most profound ways in their communities. These people are professionals, athletes, educators, first responders, writers, artists, our political officials, etc.  They need to be at the table. They need to be respected; they need to be included and invited into mainstream discussions and decisions.  One of the mottos shared by many with disabilities is, “Nothing about us without us,” i.e. please don’t make decisions for us without our input. 

What can you do this month and beyond to support people with disabilities?   

  • Always interrupt stereotypes and negative statements about people with disabilities. Interrupt comments made to or about someone in your presence.  
  • Ensure people with disabilities are given the same opportunities for employment, inclusion, training, choices, and successes.  
  • If you don’t know, ask. People are open to someone taking an interest in who they are and asking questions, instead of making assumptions or just staring. 
  • Find out the appropriate ways to approach someone who’s blind or hard of hearing.
  • Understand that someone’s wheelchair is an extension of themselves and touching it requires consent. 
  • Use People First Language
  • Learn more about autism or TBI and ask them what will be most beneficial for them at work, or home, at school, and in social situations. Learn more about what TBI is.

Everyone deserves to be proud of who they are. People with disabilities work hard to achieve things others take for granted every day. So learn more about someone you might know. Check out the Disability flag and why it was created that way. Our planet is incredible and diverse and people with disabilities are and always will be a valuable part of our communities.

 


Written by Wendy Ivy, Associate Executive Director

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

Minority Mental Health Awareness Month in Relation to Sexual Assault Survivors

Although we have an understanding of the importance of mental health awareness in the month of May, we need to differentiate minority mental health in July to signify the intricate hardships that minorities may face from stereotypes, sexism, systematic oppression, and classism. The objective is to accentuate the attention that needs to be considered for minorities battling mental health adversities. Mental health disorders do not discriminate against age, gender, race, ethnicity, or identity. The unfortunate reality is that we need to focus on emphasizing mental health for various minority groups. Additionally, individuals who need mental health assistance contributes significantly to sexual assault statistics at staggering numbers. Even more so when investigating minority groups. 

 

The Context of Minority

A person who identifies as a minority is one who does not consider themselves a part of the dominant culture in society. Who might be a minority? Well, it can simply be anyone whose identity does not align with white, higher income, male, heterosexual, Christian, and able-bodied individuals. The word minority also may represent the differential of power between majority and minority groups alike, and can make individuals who identify with such groups feel a sense of inferiority compared to those of the dominant culture (Bryant-Davis et al., 2010). 

 

Why Does Minority Mental Health Matter?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, gay men experience higher levels of risk of adverse health problems such as mood disorders, suicide, substance abuse, and anxiety (Messih, 2018). This can become problematic if individuals who need proper mental health care feel as if barriers are hindering them being able to have access to quality care. Furthermore, there are conceptualizations in unrepresented communities about causes and cures of mental illness as well as the stigma that follows being diagnosed with a disorder. The purpose of minority mental health awareness month is not meant to imply that the dominant culture’s mental health is not a priority, but rather that we need to acknowledge the auxiliary attention that must be presented to promote quality mental health care for people of unrepresented communities. Although there is treatment for those with mental health disorders identifying as a minority, there are many barriers to receiving accessible and proper mental health care.

 

Barriers to Seeking Mental Health Care May Include:

    • Lack of resources
    • Financial burden/lack of insurance
    • Social stigma/ shame of mental illness
    • Location of treatments and offices
    • Bilingual services 
    • Cultural beliefs
    • Mistrust of the mental health system

 

 

psychiatry.org

 

Mental Health and Sexual Assault on Minority Groups

Generally, we see an increase of minority and sexual orientation groups have higher levels of anxiety, depression, suicide ideation, and many other mental health disorders due to societal traumas and factors. According to SAMHSA (2010), over 70% of African American adolescents diagnosed with major depression disorders did not receive treatment for their condition. In relation to sexual assault,  it is evident that the crime can increase the likelihood for developing a mental health disorder. More specifically, survivors of unrepresented communities underutilized treatment and care. Women may not be able to seek out assistance to alleviate the distress caused by sexual assault with possible consequences of victim blaming due to racism, classism, sexism, and other forms of systematic and societal trauma.  

 

Sexual assault on minorities with those of mental health disorders has become an epidemic due to the lack of knowledge of resources and cultural barriers for individuals seeking help. In addition, the prevalence of negative outcomes following from sexual assault demonstrates that it is common for women to develop serious mental health challenges after being sexually assaulted. Research suggests that there is a disproportionate amount of sexual assault among underrepresented people, and with lack of proper mental health care can be detrimental for their wellbeing. Ethnic minorities experience more symptoms of PTSD and anxiety such as Latina women having significantly more psychiatric hospitalizations and anxiety following a rape than white women (Jacques-Tiura et al., 2010). Comparing the Caucasian group to African American, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, and American Indian groups exhibits a significant increase in mental health disparities because of societal hardships. Individuals across all ethnic minorities who do not receive professional help, often search for other ways to heal such as self-medicating. Cultural and societal oppression may lead to feeling shame, isolation, or a lack of safety that can negatively impact a person’s well-being and deplete their coping mechanisms in a crucial moment of crisis. 

 

You Are Not Alone

The structure of the mental health services demonstrates insufficient resources of culturally appropriate services that may help to serve the minority populations regarding sexual assault. By recognizing the need for awareness for ethnic and cultural differences of rape survivors, society will be able to adequately prepare to respond to the needs of sexually abused women identifying as a minority with a mental illness. By standing together, we can envision a nation where any individual affected by a mental health disorder or a sexual assault have access to the appropriate support and quality of care to live healthy and fulfilling lives. ZCenter strives to offer a place where no one feels alone in their struggles.

 


Written by Adella Moss, Intern, Northern Illinois University

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

 

References

Bryant-Davis, T., Ullman, S. E., Tsong, Y., Tillman, S., & Smith, K. (2010). Struggling to survive: sexual assault, poverty, and mental health outcomes of African American women. The American journal of orthopsychiatry. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3870142/ https://wp.nyu.edu/steinhardt-appsych_opus/ethnic-differences-in-the-experiences-of-sexual-assault-victims/.

Campbell, B. (2005). Learn About Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. NAMI. https://www.nami.org/Get-Involved/Awareness-Events/Bebe-Moore-Campbell-National-Minority-Mental-Health-Awareness-Month/Learn-About-Bebe-Moore-Campbell-National-Minority-Mental-Health-Awareness-Month.

Jacques-Tiura, A. (2010). Disclosure of sexual assault: characteristics and implications for posttraumatic stress symptoms among African American and caucasian survivors. Journal of trauma & dissociation : the official journal of the International Society for the Study of Dissociation (ISSD). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20373205/.

Messih, M. (2018). Mental Health Disparities: Diverse Populations. https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/cultural-competency/education/mental-health-facts. 

SAMHSA. (2010). Results from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Mental Health Findings. Results from the 2010 NSDUH: Mental Health Findings, SAMHSA, CBHSQ. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUHmhfr2010/NSDUHmhfr2010.htm. 

Security in the LGBTQIA Community

Security is a term that evokes a sense of safety, more specifically in your home and the community surrounding you. As an individual, in a large complex world, wanting and needing this security is essential to survive. But how about if it is difficult to obtain? It may be hard to envision a form of freedom from danger if security threats to adolescents are presented by the government and local community. On the other hand, we do know that the feeling of safety is a crucial aspect in a child’s emotional and social development. The more abundant the safety feeling is, the easier it is for them to be able to explore and experience the world around them. It creates a safe space for one to learn and grasp what is encompassing them in the world.

 

Bill HB1570

On April 6, the citizens of the United States were informed of the first bill to outlaw gender- affirming treatment to minors in Arkansas. The Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act limits youth in receiving gender-changing services as it prohibits insurance from covering hospital bills, prevents medical professionals from seeing transitioning youth, and puts a restriction on all medications and surgeries until the age of 18. Any physician providing health services to a transitioning minor is seen as breaking the law and will face legal consequences in the state of Arkansas. Priya Krishnakumar, while presenting information from the Human Rights Campaign, states that approximately 33 states in America have introduced more than 117 bills to hinder transgender rights (Krishnakumar, 2021). We see spiraling restrictions on individual rights, which can become messy and a concern for the transgender community as well as their mental health. 

 

 

Looking into the future instead of the present

What does this mean for transgender Americans? The new legislation signifies a reverse effect as we lose the decades of fighting for equality with the new statutes devised. A majority of the legislation bills will unfortunately affect the transgender youth in America. The Trevor Project’s National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health 2020 confirms the concerns of high risk of suicide and ideation. “Nearly 15% of LGBTQ respondents attempted suicide in the past twelve months, including more than 1 in 5 transgender and nonbinary youth” (The Trevor Project, 2021). With the alarming statistics present, this brings us back to the original question. What does that mean for transgender youth? As we are presented with the numbers, we as a society need to take a step back and ponder the concerns that may arise for the trans youth community. 

Society might be at a questionable standstill, debating on whether we will be helping these children or harming their development. As a community, let’s pay special attention to our blossoming children by reaffirming their thoughts, feelings, and autonomy. Let’s share a moment of togetherness to show collective understanding and support for our youth at this confusing time. By doing so, we are choosing as one to put the child’s needs and emotions on the front line rather than the rules and bills. The transgender youth in Arkansas are already facing concerning outcries; transgender youth feel depressed and demoralized that society does not allow them to be their true self.  As Nelson Mandela articulates, “Safety and security don’t just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear” (World Vision International, 2016). Similarly, we owe it to the youth to be emotionally available by hearing their concerns and protests. Join us as we come together as allies, support our youth, and build a safer world for them.

 


Written by Adella Moss, Intern, Northern Illinois University

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

 

References:

Cole, D. (2021, April 6). Arkansas becomes first state to outlaw gender-affirming treatment for trans youth. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2021/04/06/politics/arkansas-transgender-health-care-veto-override/index.html.

Jenco, M. (2019). Studies: Suicide attempts high among transgender teens, increasing among black teens. The Official NewMagazine of the American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.aappublications.org/news/aapnewsmag/2019/10/14/suicide101419.full.pdf.

Krishnakumar, P. (2021, April 15). This record-breaking year for anti-transgender legislation would affect minors the most. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2021/04/15/politics/anti-transgender-legislation-2021/index.html.

Paley, A. (2020). The Trevor Project National Survey 2020. The Trevor Project – Saving Young LGBTQ Lives. https://www.thetrevorproject.org/survey-2020/?section=Suicide-Mental-Health.

Paley, A. (2021). The Trevor Project National Survey. The Trevor Project – Saving Young LGBTQ Lives. https://www.thetrevorproject.org/survey-2021/.

World Vision International. (2016). Partnership Key to Ending Violence Against Children. https://www.wvi.org/development/blogpost/partnership-key-ending-violence-against-children

 

LGBTQ+ Community and Coming Out: Information for Parents & Guardians

Oftentimes, parents and guardians can feel unsure of what to do and how to respond when their child expresses to them or “comes out” as someone who identifies within the LGBTQ+ community. This list of options is meant to serve as a guide for enabling conversation and growth to those findings themselves in this situation.

Prepare to do the work and educate yourself. Perhaps you are fortunate enough to be in a situation where you fully understand what your child is experiencing and know just how to respond and support them. Perhaps you feel as though you know nothing. It is okay to acknowledge to yourself and them that you are not sure what is going to happen next, but now is the time for you to put in the work and educate yourself to the best of your ability. This may include utilizing the internet, seeking support services through a network such as PFLAG, or even seeking advice from a friend who has experienced the same thing if your child is comfortable with you doing so. The important thing is that you are doing this work on behalf of them, and making sure they feel comfortable, safe, and respected is essential as they express this aspect of their identity to you. 

Actively listen. Your child is likely more nervous than you are as they initiate this conversation with you. Make sure you give them the space and support to express whatever they may be feeling by coming out. This may be something your child has rehearsed and given plenty of thought to, or it might not be at all. In this moment, as they are sharing things with you, practice active listening so that you are taking in what they are saying to you. This may or may not be the right time for you to ask them questions about this, but you can soak in the information they are giving you so that you hear their needs and can understand what can be done in your position to support them rather than interjecting over them with whatever it is you desire to respond with at that moment. There will be the time to express your own feelings, but make sure you are giving them the floor in this crucial moment first.

Respond intuitively. Your child coming out to you is likely something that is a big deal to them. Make sure you are in check with your body language, facial expressions, thoughts, emotions, and words. Altogether, those can impact your child whether you realize it or not. So stay in tune with these feelings so that you can provide the most welcoming environment for your kid and that they leave the conversation feeling supported.

Don’t focus on yourself. You may want to tell your child about a friend or family member within the LGBTQ+ community that you know, or you may even be in a position where you identify within the LGBTQ+ community and are ready to talk all about your own experiences and give advice. Take a breath and remember: baby steps. Unless your child is actively asking to hear this information, don’t turn the conversation towards yourself because that will only take away from the experience for your child.

Acknowledge that you are there as a resource. Your child might not feel comfortable following up with you consistently on this, and as hard as it is to hear- you are not entitled to updates either. However, what you can do is make sure your child knows you are there to confide in, talk with, and to provide support. After this, the ball is in their court and they can decide what to do. It will not help your child if you pressure them and pester for more details. Instead, that can hurt your relationship in such a crucial moment as your child has just opened up to you.

Don’t pressure them for a backstory or details. To elaborate upon the previous point, know that there are certain things that as a parent or guardian you don’t actually need to know. Perhaps your child feels like they want you to know about how they realized they identified within the LGBTQ+ community, but if they don’t want to share that information that is okay. You should never utilize the power dynamic over your child to force them into giving you information because that can set up extremely unhealthy situations for them in the future. In fact, your child may not even have an answer to the questions you want to ask them- that’s okay and you need to accept that as you care for your child, having all of the information possible does not make you automatically supportive and does not make them feel automatically loved. Rather, the continuous work you do to educate yourself and support them will be what makes your relationship positive.

Acknowledge the feelings and bravery needed to invite others to learn about your identity. This very well could be one of the hardest things your child is facing by coming out to you. Far too often those within the LGBTQ+ community are persecuted for their identity and even kicked out of their homes after coming out to loved ones. Your child may not know how you will react and may be aware of the negative consequences potentially facing them, yet they trust you enough to invite you into this aspect of their life. Respect them for that and know they are so brave to do so. This is not the moment to question your child, but to see how brave they are and to remind them of that.

Approach this as a learning process for your relationship. As mentioned above, prior to this moment you may feel as though you have no knowledge, all of the knowledge, or somewhere in between when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community. It is completely acceptable to let your child know this. Let them know this will be a learning process for you, but that you are determined to do what it takes to learn specifically how to support them.

Know that you cannot compare yourself to other parents and guardians. It is worth mentioning that you may have seen the experiences other parents and guardians have had as they experienced similar situations. There is no one right way to go about this just as there is no one right way to go about parenting in general. Being honest with yourself and your child is what will make the difference for upholding a healthy relationship, so don’t compare yourself to others doing it “perfectly” because at the end of the day what needs to matter to you is your child’s health and safety, which fortunately you can enhance through your love and support.

Know what this means. This is a defining moment in your relationship. Your child may want you to be hands on or not, but as you educate yourself on the terminology and backstory of the LGBTQ+ community, educate yourself on the statistics as well. Acknowledge higher levels of sexual assault, increased suicide rates, and how the likelihood of being a victim of a crime increases for those within the LGBTQ+ community. This information is not meant to be something that scares you, but is meant as something to show how needed your support is. Places like ZCenter are doing the work for outreach and prevention education to end sexual violence, but the battle is ongoing, and in your role as a parent you can be there as a knowledgeable support system for your child to help them be aware of other support systems as well.

This guide is not necessarily foolproof in that you are guaranteed a perfect relationship with your child by following these tips. As any parent knows by now, there is no such thing as a perfect relationship with our children because of so many things that are out of our control. What you can do in this moment however, is control your response and give support so your child feels safe and sees you as the ally you are for them.


Written by Haley Wold, Intern, Lake Forest College

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

Agridulce: The Bitter and The Sweet of (Pride) Activism

I remember the first time I saw the agridulce crayon, the bittersweet. As my kids colored in a coloring book, I paused and reflected on this odd word that combined such opposite sensations. Perhaps it was because I was reading the Spanish, looking at language as a learner. Perhaps it was just that I loved the color and wanted to connect to this new word I had learned, as I soaked in the comfort of this interesting brown-orange-red shade.

 

Linguists have found that red and brown were once the same color in many languages. In fact, red is one of the first colors that languages use; other colors come much later as the language evolves (Deutscher, 2011). There is something primeval about red-brown. Was the biblical red heifer really brown, and ancient Hebrew just did not have that word yet? Did other cultures look around them and see red soil, red cows, and red tree trunks? Or did they just not have the word brown

 

I ponder these types of questions because it brings me joy to think about linguistics. But language was also a struggle for me as a child, even requiring school intervention for speech therapy. It’s a bittersweet topic; it’s agridulce.  

As we enter Pride Month, I feel the same sense of agridulce, the bitter and sweet, as we think about Pride activism. ZCenter is participating in three pride events this month to celebrate the LGBTQIA community. We share in the joy of colorful decorations, music, parades that are drives during a pandemic, and youth who are taking the initiative to organize and facilitate. But we also bring with us the reality that so many youth in the LGBTQIA community are vulnerable. 

  •  1.8 million LGBTQ youth between the ages of 13 and 24 in the U.S. seriously consider suicide each year. (The Trevor Project)
  • 21% of TGQN (transgender, genderqueer, nonconforming) college students have been sexually assaulted, compared to 18% of non-TGQN females, and 4% of non-TGQN males.(RAINN)
  • The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects (NCAVP) estimates that nearly one in ten LGBTQ survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV) has experienced sexual assault from those partners. Studies suggest that around half of transgender people and bisexual women will experience sexual violence at some point in their lifetimes. (HRC)

 

As we hold up our rainbow flags, sing along to the parade playlist, and post our allyship memes, may we carry this feeling of agridulce as inspiration. We have so much to celebrate, so much joy to embrace. We have visions of equity, dreams of diversity. May that be what we are fighting to preserve.

 

Sources:

 

Deutscher, G. (2011). Through the Looking Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Different Languages. Picador.

HRC: The Human Rights Campaign 

RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) Statistics

The Trevor Project National Estimate of LGBTQ Youth Seriously Considering Suicide

 


Written by Kristin Jones, PhD, EdM, Outreach Supervisor.

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

Sex Positive Language

A rape crisis center focuses primarily on supporting survivors of sexual assault, but we also strive to further systemic change around sexual violence through prevention and education. What does a culture without sexual violence look like? It values consensual sex; it honors the joy and pleasure that humans find in their sexuality. As we work to end sexual violence in our culture, part of that work is to promote sex positive narratives. For the month of May, the ZCenter blog is looking at sex positive culture and our role in it. We start here by exploring language (American English) and how language and sexuality shape each other. 

Language is constantly changing; it evolves with the living community. Just within the last week, an Alabama bill was signed that removes anti-gay language from sex education. We know that language changes as our understanding of sexuality becomes more complex and we also know that our choices in language help to shape the changes that we want to see in society. We offer a brief overview of sexuality and language by looking into semantics, morphology, and discourse analysis.

Semantics

 

“‘Vagina’ is itself an insult. In Latin the word means ‘scabbard’, that is, ‘sword sheath’” (Greer, 2020, p.2); a female’s sexual anatomy is defined only by what a man can store there. A puritanical view of sex has been built into our language, ingrained into our very vocabulary. Our own bodies are turned against us as insults. “By refusing to use words like slut and pussy as terms of abuse, you’re rejecting the imbalanced standards that have been set for women’s sexuality and men’s machismo. It’s a form of protest against the condemnation of women’s sexual independence and men’s refusal to act like chauvinist bruisers” (Montell, 2020, p.48). Montell adds other terms that are too often used as abuse: bitch, old maid, spinster, queer, dyke, nasty woman, cunt, and ho. Some folks are reclaiming these words, as a way to reject old standards of femininity (p.39). Do we want to reclaim all of these insults? Do we want slut, a word that punishes women for enjoying sex, to be used at all? Modern women grapple with this issue and still find no clear answer.

We need to recognize that intermingling gendered and sexual language into verbal abuse is a harm the cuts deeply: “(H)aving someone accuse you of doing your gender badly often feels like the worst insult of all, because it tells you that you’ve failed at a fundamental part of who you are” (p. 38). Also, as children grow up and hear sexual terms used as insults, it automatically places sexuality into a negative light, particularly women’s sexuality. When we see that a man being called a women’s sexuality term (pussy, e.g.) as one of the lowest insults in the culture, we know something is wrong. It’s time to intervene when we hear our own body parts used as insults.

Cursing is too often a contributing factor in a sex negative culture. In fact it is one of three categories of cursing: sex, scatology, and religion. Cursing in the sex category includes terms like fuck, dick, and cunt (Montell, 2020, p. 196). Any sexual act or descriptor can become a curse word in the right context. Once again, we relegate sexual acts to that which is insulting and/or intending to cause harm. However, Montell reminds us that “you can curse without insulting” (p.196). Is there a difference between Fuck the patriarchy and Uhg, the fucking patriarchy? In a world where we want to end sexual violence, we need to be more conscious of our word choice, particularly of how our language perpetuates a rape culture. But we also want to be sex positive and affirm healthy, consensual sex in our language. Similarly, with the word gay, we as a culture are moving away from using the word as an insult and honoring the word as a self-identifier that promotes a healthy sexual identity. Gone are the days when Michael Scott can get away with calling coworkers gay as an insult.

Morphology

 

Morphology is the study of parts of words, including how affixes, conjugations, and other word parts function. For example, a linguist notices that angriness is a misuse of morphemes; we already have a noun, anger, that expresses the same meaning. Adding -ness to angry is unnecessary. 

We can be conscious of how morphemes help or hinder a sex positive culture. We know that suffixes -ette and -ess distinguish words to describe women, and usually in a way that delineated an insult or an assumption that this new word is less than the original. Suffragette was first coined as a way to delegitimize female suffragists; similarly, actress, waitress, and stewardess all refer to women only, distinguishing them from the norm (Eckert & McConnell-Ginet, 2013, pp. 85-86). We have a flood of terminology emerging, words that take away the male normalization: waitstaff/server, actors, folks, service worker, postal worker, flight attendant, etc.

We can also be more conscious of the suffix –y. Crazy, slutty, dirty, and bitchy are all terms that anyone can use to insult a woman, specifically if she shows an interest in sexual pleasure and/or assertiveness. Do we use these words often? Do we intervene when we hear them? Do we talk within our social circles about how or if we want to reclaim these terms?

 

Discourse Analysis

 

Analyzing larger chunks of language and how we make choices about language is discourse analysis. Sexuality is discursively constructed, meaning our sexual identity is closely tied to the language we use. In fact, one’s ideology can support feminist values but their discourse might reveal more traditional roles (Kendall & Tannen, 2018). 

What are some ways that discourse analysis helps us recognize more sex positive language?

1.Politeness. We don’t talk about sex in polite company, not even with our children. Also, the “kinds of ‘politeness’ used by and of and to women do not arise by accident; that they are, indeed, stifling, exclusive, and oppressive” (Lakoff, 2004, p. 102). In the workplace, women often “assume a warm manner; use humor, and allow themselves to be the objects of humor; and otherwise attend to the face needs of subordinates by using ‘mitigated commands, forms of politeness, and indirect engagement’” (Kendall & Tannen, 2018, p. 652). Sex positive language means that we stop valuing politeness above justice and equity. Our children deserve to learn about sex properly and our society deserves to talk openly about something we all do.

2. Euphemisms. We use euphemisms to talk about sex positively, because our society still does not accept overt talk of sex in polite conversation. We can say hooking up, Netflix and chill, or gettin’ some; but to openly discuss our happiness about our own sex lives is still considered taboo. Even on one of television’s most openly sexual series, Sex and the City, Charlotte still preferred See You Next Tuesday to cunt (IMDB, 2021).

3. Hedging. We soften our language with phrases like “kind of, sort of, maybe, I think and others” (Parker & Mahlstedt, 2010, p. 144). “I kind of feel horny” communicates that the speaker’s sexuality is not very important. In a sex positive culture, we would openly and directly communicate our needs and desires, because they matter.

4. Normalizing Heterosexuality. “The purpose of a man is to love a woman, and the purpose of a woman is to love a man” (Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, 1965). The lyrics to the song The Game of Love illustrate just how pervasive the heterosexual norm was many years ago. Has the narrative changed since 1965? We certainly see more representation of the LGBTQIA community in pop culture, but we also have the same normalization of heterosexuality in our language. Consider the following interactions that are commonplace:

A: “My junior bought their prom outfit.”

B: “Oh, tell me all about her dress! Which boy asked her?” 

In this example, we see speaker B immediately jump into heteronormative assumptions about clothing, dating, and pronoun usage, and this is a very typical interaction among many parents. 

A: “My boss invited us to a company lunch this weekend.”

B: “Oh, and is his wife the hostess? I wonder if she is catering or cooking it all herself?”

Again, we see speaker B slip into heteronormative language with assumptions about the gender of a boss, their spouse being a woman, and the woman’s significant contribution being a domestic task.

As we go about our day-to-day lives, we can be more conscious of how we use language to either support the heteronormative language around us, or to support the sexuality and identity of all.

5. Online language. In terms of language used online, men use more crude language, including insults, profanity, and adversarial stances toward others (Kendall & Tannen, 2018, p. 652-3). We know that cyber aggression enforces social norms and also establishes social hierarchies (Felmlee et al, 2020). Women are insulted and harassed online if they ever step outside of the social norm for female behavior; women are told to be submissive, quiet, polite, and caring. When we assert ourselves, even worse, our sexuality, we are harassed and bullied (See more at Felmlee et al, 2020).  But we can create safe online spaces and we can be active bystanders who intervene when we see this language behavior online. 

 

Societal Change

 

Can changing our language change societal norms? This was a question Robin Tolmach Lakoff asked in 1975. She found that word choice, tone, politeness, even cursing are approached differently by men and women (Lakoff, 2004). As we look into next steps for sex positive language, let’s keep these thoughts in mind:

  • Use your words. “If there’s no name for it, it’s as if the phenomenon does not exist” (Parker & Mahlstedt, 2010, p. 142). Just as we have added terms like date rape, acquaintance rape, and affirmative consent to our lexicon, we can add more ways to describe sex in a positive light. We can continue to move toward a more sex positive discourse with terms like consent, kink, and body acceptance.
  • Keep the euphemisms flourishing. We need to start with small steps toward positive sex talk, even if it’s just Netflix and chill. In situations where it feels inappropriate to use overt sexual language, let’s at least keep the euphemisms alive!
  • Stop hedging. Stop being polite. Let’s be direct in our communication when it comes to our own sexuality. Let’s not be afraid to assert our needs and desires.
  • Family talk when children are young is how we are socialized into how we view sex (Kiesling, 2019, p.115). Check back in next week as explore this topic of parent and caregiver language on the topic of sex positivity.

 

References

Eckert, P. & S. McConnell-Ginet. (2013). Language and Gender, Second Edition. Cambridge University Press.

Felmlee,D., P.I. Rodis, & A. Zhang. (2020). Sexist Slurs: Reinforcing Feminine Sterotypes Online. Sex Roles. 83:16–28 https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s11199-019-01095-z.pdf

Greer, G. (2020). On Rape. Hachette Australia.

Internet Movie Database (IMDB). (2021). Sex and the City Quotes. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0159206/quotes/?tab=qt&ref_=tt_trv_qu

Kendall, S. & D. Tannen. (2018). Discourse and Gender, in The Handbook of Discourse Analysis, 2nd Ed. (Ed. D. Tannen, H. Hamilton, D. Schiffrin). Willey Blackwell.

Kiesling, S.F. (2019). Language, Gender, and Sexuality: An Introduction. Routledge. 

Lakoff, R.T. (2004). Language and Woman’s Place: Text and Commentaires, Revised and Expanded Edition. Mary Bucholtz (Ed.). Oxford University Press.

Montell, A. (2020). Wordslut: A feminist guide to taking back the English language. Harper Wave.

Parker, J.A. & D. Mahlstedt. (2010).Language, Power, ane Sexual Assault: Women’s Voices on Rape and Social Change. Language in the real world. Behrens, S. J., & Parker, J. A. (Eds.). Routledge. 139-163.

Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders. (1965). The Game of Love. https://www.oldielyrics.com/lyrics/wayne_fontana_and_the_mindbenders/game_of_love.html (accessed 2021).


Written by Kristin D. Jones, Ph.D., Ed.M., Outreach Supervisor

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

Meet Our Teams

This week, in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), we highlight the amazing work of our teams at ZCenter. Each team plays a crucial role in supporting survivors and ending sexual violence.


Counseling 

Saira Khan, Clinical Supervisor

ZCenter’s mission is to validate, believe and empower all survivors of sexual violence. We believe healing from sexual trauma is possible. Our trained counselors create a safe space for our clients, where they can share their experience, build resiliency, and regain control over their lives. ZCenter offers free counseling in Lake County and Northern Cook County.

 

 

 


Outreach & Advocacy

Every single day, every 73 seconds, an American is subjected to sexual violence. Part of our mission is to work with those that have been violated, but the role of the Outreach and Advocacy Team is to promote awareness and educate the community around sexual health, safety, and rights. Through prevention education, professional development, volunteerism, and social justice 

Christine Berry, Director of Services

activism, the Outreach Team reaches thousands of people annually to spread information and awareness. During this difficult time, ZCenter’s community outreach has evolved to include a broad digital presence, beginning a podcast (73 Seconds) and a blog, showcasing how important it is to end sexual violence and dismantle the systems responsible for sustaining it. 

 

 


Development

Development means different things in various industries. For ZCenter, it means fundraising. But more than that it means bringing awareness to all of the needs at 

Anna Lehner, Director of Development

ZCenter, to ensure we have the financial resources available to keep our services strong, necessary supplies, and support for our growing Outreach Programs. Fundraising comes from corporate donations, individual contributions, monthly giving (check out our Superhero Campaign!), and foundations through grant applications. 

 

 

 


Administration

Hi, my name is JoEllen and I am part of the Amazing Administration Team at ZCenter! Our team plays an important behind the scenes role in contributing to the comprehensive services provided to survivors of sexual violence by the ZCenter Staff, Interns and Volunteers.

JoEllen Erdman, Compliance Manager

Office management, budget and finance, data entry and stats management, government reporting and compliance, payroll and record keeping are all successfully orchestrated by the team of Helen Williamson-Administrative Specialist, Jessica Gonzalez-Financial & Facilities Assistant, JoEllen Erdman-Compliance Manager, and our fearless leader, Cindy Harris-Director of Administration. We take great pride in making sure that the office runs smoothly and the employees get paid so they can put all of their energies into providing the best trauma-informed care to the survivors we work with every day!

 


All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

Forgotten Voices in STEM: Rosalind Franklin

The month of March is Women’s History Month and so we are focusing on forgotten voices of women throughout history. This week, we’re highlighting the work of an incredibly influential woman who is only spoken of briefly in biology courses despite her huge accomplishments. Seventy years ago, a young Rosalind Franklin looked over an X-Ray photograph and discovered something that would go on to change how we understand life. This discovery eventually led to a university here in Lake County, IL being named after her. Unfortunately, even though her legacy lives on locally, she also got the very raw end of the deal when it comes to her own discovery.

Franklin was born in Notting Hill, London in 1920. At the beginning of her life, her family noticed how quickly she had picked up a love and understanding of maths and sciences, her intelligence even surpassing those subjects and eventually mastering the French, Italian, and German languages. It was only at the age of 16 that Franklin began to dedicate her time to science entirely. Majoring in physical chemistry at one of the only women’s colleges, Newnham College at Cambridge University, Franklin immediately went on to work as a research assistant with the British Coal Utilisation Research Association (BCURA) after her bachelor’s degree. At BCURA, she studied the absorption of coal and the research she did eventually led her into her dissertation for her doctorate degree in 1945.

After earning her doctorate, Franklin was accepted into a position at Paris’ Laboratoire Central des Services Chimiques de l’Etat, where she worked on X-Ray imagery, leading her to her primal discovery just a short few years later in 1951. While studying DNA structure with assistant Raymond Gosling, Franklin discovered that DNA had a double helix structure in a photo now branded Photograph 51, serving as the evidence for the new understanding of DNA. Unfortunately, a colleague showed this photograph to James Watson, who took the evidence to further prove his and Francis Crick’s own research on the structure without Franklin’s permission. They went on to publish a paper on the structure of DNA with no credit given to Franklin, despite her photograph being a prominent factor of evidence.

Franklin continued on to new areas of research, publishing a number of papers on viruses in the five years after her discovery. The impact of her work helped build many foundations of understanding viral structure, which was incredibly important to physiological research. Still, Watson and Crick went on to receive a Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine years after Franklin’s death from ovarian cancer in 1958, giving no credit to Franklin.

Rosalind Franklin is only one account of women’s voices being lost within the larger influence of men, having not been acknowledged for this contribution until after her death, and while it may not be the last, there is power in recognizing those lost voices. This month we have highlighted multiple women that paved the way for so many others in history. Join ZCenter as we strive to keep these voices alive while raising up the voices of women today. 

Works Referenced:

Maisel, M., & Smart, L. (1997). Rosalind Elsie Franklin: Pioneer molecular biologist. Retrieved 

March 22, 2021, from https://www.sdsc.edu/ScienceWomen/franklin.html

Rosalind Franklin: A Crucial Contribution. (2014). Retrieved March 22, 2021, from 

https://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/rosalind-franklin-a-crucial-contribution-6538012/

Rosalind Franklin: Biographical Overview. (n.d.). Retrieved March 19, 2021, from 

https://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/spotlight/kr/feature/biographical


Written by Haley Olson, Outreach Intern

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

Stormé DeLarverie: Stonewall and Beyond

It was a rebellion, it was an uprising, it was a civil rights disobedience – it wasn’t no damn riot.

— Stormé DeLarverie

This Women’s History Month, we celebrate the life of Stormé DeLarverie, and although recounts of Stonewall are uncertain of whether Stormé threw the first punch, she was extremely influential in fighting for LGBTQIA+ rights throughout her life. Stormé was born in the 1920s; at the time, her mother was a Black servant in the home of her white father; the two eventually married and moved to California.

Stormé was the Master of Ceremonies for Jewel Box Revenue, a group of 25 men and Stormé which entailed a gender-bending performance where Stormé presented as a cisgender man in the first integrated drag show in the U.S. in the 1940s. Stormé was a butch lesbian who fought fiercely for the rights of all individuals. While living in New York City, Stormé became a motherly figure within the LGBTQIA+ community, being sure to handle any “ugly” she saw. She used the term ugly to define bullying, abuse, or intolerance of people within the LGBTQIA+ community. This fearlessness afforded Stormé the nickname of being the “Rosa Parks of the gay community” (Windy City Times, 2014). Throughout her life, Stormé was also a bouncer at Cubby Hole’s bar in New York, where she worked until she was 85. For Stormé, this was not a movement but fighting for a lifestyle where everyone could live their life freely as they wanted to.

In the New York Times obituary remembering Stormé, one of her legal guardians, Mrs. Cannistraci exclaimed, “She literally walked the streets of downtown Manhattan like a gay superhero; she was not to be messed with by any stretch of the imagination.” We hope to emulate the same fierceness that Stormé had throughout her lifetime in our work supporting survivors and ending sexual violence against all individuals.

 

Works Referenced: 

Brownworth, V. (2015). The Herstory Pride Archives: why recording our lesbian history is important. Curve (San Francisco, Calif.), 25(3), 16–.

HELLER, M. (2020). The “First Punch” at Stonewall: Counteridentification Butch Acts. In Queering Drag: Redefining the Discourse of Gender-Bending (pp. 115-151). Bloomington, Indiana, USA: Indiana University Press. doi:10.2307/j.ctvtv93wm.8

Iconic activist storme DeLaverie passes away. (2014, Jun 04). Windy City Times Retrieved from http://flagship.luc.edu/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/newspapers/iconic-activist-storme-delaverie-passes-away/docview/1538315297/se-2?accountid=12163

https://theriveter.co/voice/it-wasnt-no-damn-riot-celebrating-stonewall-uprising-activist-storme-delarverie/


Written by Sarah Brennan, Activism and Volunteer Coordinator

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

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