Thursday, May 24, 2012

UM Undergrads Connect With YES Institute

By Caro Hernandez, Project Facilitator, YES Institute

Joseph Zolobczuk presenting to UM students

Joseph Zolobczuk and Jowharah Sanders addressed Laura Kohn-Wood’s Community Psychology class at University of Miami this Spring. Community Psychology is a branch of social science that analyses challenges in social environments and works to bring about meaningful change in partnership with people in communities.

YES Institute’s dialogue allowed students to uncover how misinformation on gender and orientation contributes to bullying and harassment of all young people. One student said, “I learned about the importance of dialogue and education, not just policy, in changing people’s lives and views.” Another student added, “I’m never going to use anti-gay slurs again.”

Monday, May 21, 2012

Deciphering the Matrix of Orientation

By Caro Hernandez, Project Facilitator,  YES Institute

This past Saturday YES Institute held Deciphering the Matrix of Orientation, the second part of our three-part Gender and Orientation™ series. This was the first time many participants had an informed conversation about orientation. One participant said “The most interesting thing I learned today is the meaning of orientation and what it is not.”

Brittney McCabe leading Deciphering the Matrix of Orientation

Other participants began to understand how language shapes our understanding of gender and orientation. One of the many Miami-Dade County Public School employees in the room said, “I will be more sensitive to not put labels on people inadvertently through the use of language.”

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Students Inspire Me

By Caro Hernandez, Project Facilitator, YES Institute

Students from Mater Academy Lakes Middle School understand the impact of gender and orientation bullying on a visceral level. During our community dialogue, I was astonished to hear the questions and responses these students were giving us.  When asked about the gender expectations for boys they yelled “Boys don’t cry!” and for girls they yelled “Look pretty!” Their insights about gender expectations were unfiltered and honest.

Immediately they understood that orientation slurs are about gender. They also understood that when we use slurs like “That’s so gay,” they can make others depressed, and even commit suicide. When asked how often they hear anti-gay slurs, most of the students raised their hands and said, “Everyday.”

It reminded me of when I was in middle school. I couldn’t conceive of going one day without hearing an anti-gay slur in school.  What if all the students at my middle school had this education presented to us? I can only imagine we would have grown up less fearful and with a new way to talk about gender and orientation that doesn’t put others down.

One student wrote, "I used to be homophobic so I never liked gay or transgender people, but after the dialogue I have changed the way I think of gay and transgender people."    - 13 year old male student

Friday, May 11, 2012

Linking Forces and Strengthening Communities

We thank ICFH for inviting YES Institute to present today at Linking Forces 2012, Miami’s foremost children’s mental health conference. Rachel Sottile and staff led a groundbreaking discussion about gender and orientation topics for parents, therapists and school liaisons.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Gender on a Continuum

by Caro Hernandez, Project Facilitator, YES Institute

Teachers, doctors, parents, therapists, youth and many others came together this past Saturday for Gender Continuum, the first part of our three-part Gender & Orientation Series™. For many participants this was a new conversation about gender that would prove life changing.

Brian, a high school speaker, and Joseph Zolobczuk, Director of Education.

My mom was in the course this weekend and had new insights about gender that effect her everyday; from negotiations at work to family dinners, gender plays a role in her relationships and interactions. For example, she often complains that I don’t wear bright enough colors, and she now sees that this was her gender expectation for me (thanks YES Institute!!). She can distinguish between my sense of style and her expectations of how a woman should dress. Now, if she asks me to go shopping, I can expect authentic communication rather than arguments and misunderstandings. Because gender is pervasive throughout all of our lives, my mom’s new understanding of gender has already helped our relationship.

It was inspiring for me to see so many teachers and students in the room. Jhan, a Miami-Dade County Public School student, shared that she was grateful to see so many teachers in the room who cared to learn more about gender, a topic that affected her in school. Arlene, a teacher with Miami-Dade County said, “the course made me aware that there is a great need for education on gender so young people can be safe and succeed.” Another teacher, Kay, said “I see myself as a part of the gender continuum and not just as ‘female.’ I realize that as individuals we are too complex to fit into two labels, male or female.”

Brittney McCabe, Program Manager leading the Gender Continuum.