CVIndependent

Thu12122019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

In the past decade, California has adopted more than a half-dozen laws intended to prevent bullying, strengthen suicide prevention and cultivate inclusive learning environments for LGBTQ students in the state’s public schools.

But the state’ school districts are implementing these new laws inconsistently, according to a sweeping report-card-style analysis from the Equality California Institute.

As an emotional, hours-long hearing last week on statewide sex-education guidance underscored last week at the state Board of Education, California has been slow in general to fully embrace new laws aimed at deterring discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, along with those questioning their sexual identities.

Public middle and high schools were required to follow the sex-ed laws in the California Healthy Youth Act beginning in 2016, but the state Board of Education just last week approved a new framework for teaching sex education. The state board came up with the framework—teaching recommendations educators are not required to follow—after two years of public deliberation.

Equality California’s analysis, published earlier this week, used a 90-question survey covering school climate, curriculum, teacher training, suicide prevention and transgender students to rate school districts’ LGBTQ policies on a three-tier, color-coded scale.

Of the 130 K-12 school districts that participated in the years-long survey effort, 22 school districts were given “top tier” ratings; 80 were considered “middle tier”; and 28 districts were labeled “priority districts,” the lowest rating.

The two valley school districts that participated—Palm Springs Unified and Desert Sands Unified—were given middle-tier ratings. The Coachella Valley Unified School District is not listed as participating.

Advocates and legislators have heightened their focus on policies that are more inclusive of LGBTQ students, as research generally shows that these students are more likely to drop out. They also experience bullying and attempted suicides at rates higher than the rest of their peers.

“We have worked tirelessly over the last two decades to enact laws and policies that create safer, more supportive learning environments for our LGBTQ students,” said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California, a nonprofit LGBTQ advocacy group. “But our work cannot—and does not—stop in the Capitol. For these laws to be effective, they must be implemented.”

Among the survey’s other highlights:

• All of the 130 school districts that responded to Equality California’s survey said they had anti-bullying policies in place, and most explicitly prohibit bullying based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

• 118 school districts said they require students to take sexual health and HIV prevention classes, and three-fourths of those districts said their curriculum “incorporates discussions of relationships other than cisgender heterosexual relationships.”

• 113 school districts said all of their schools allow kids to use restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity.

• The report identified 45 school districts that don’t give employees training “that even generally covers diversity, anti-bias, cultural competency and/or equity and inclusion.”

• A majority of school districts in the survey do not appear to be including LGBTQ-inclusive textbooks in their social studies curriculum, which goes against a 2011 law mandating that schools include “the role and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans” in their history teachings.

Notably, many of the local school systems identified as “priority” districts are located in rural or conservative-leaning areas that have pushed back against the new requirements, specifically the California Healthy Youth Act, which requires middle and high schools to teach “medically accurate” comprehensive sexual health education.

“We recognize that even the most well-intentioned school districts may feel impeded by a lack of resources, limited staff capacity, difficult local social climates and other barriers, all of which can slow the journey toward a safe and supportive school climate,” Zbur said.

There were 213 K-12 school districts that didn’t respond to the survey, a participation rate that Zbur called “deeply disappointing.”

The Independent’s Jimmy Boegle contributed to this story. CALmatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.

Published in Local Issues

Is it even possible for a couple that stopped having sex to start back up again?

My girlfriend and I (we’re both women) have been together for four years, and we haven’t had sex for two. I thought the sex was good before it stopped, but apparently she was going through the motions. She’s a sex worker, and it took her a while to figure out she was not being present, and she wanted to stop having sex with me until she could figure out how to change that. I get that and respect it. We have an open relationship, so I started having more sex with other people. And while it’s fun, I do find myself wishing I could have sex with someone I actually care about—and I only care about her.

She says she wants to start having sex with me again, but we don’t really know how to do that. Everything is kind of terrifying and awkward. She said it’s hard to go from sex with zero intimacy into sex with the intimacy turned up to 11. We’re very romantic with each other, and there are other forms of physical affection like kisses and snuggling, but no making out or humping. I love her more than I knew I could love a person, and if we never do figure out how to have sex together, I’ll still stay with her. But for two people who are both highly sexual and want to have sex with each other, we sure are perplexed at how to make this work.

Sex Or Romance Dilemma

“Let’s cut to the chase: Yes, it is possible for a couple that has stopped having sex to start having it again,” said Dr. Lori Brotto, a clinical psychologist and a sex researcher at the University of British Columbia.

You ended on a note of despair, SORD, but Brotto sees two good reasons for hope: You and your girlfriend are completely open and honest with each other, and you’re committed to staying together whether or not the sex resumes. Your communication skills and that rock-solid commitment—neither of you are going anywhere—are the bedrock on which you can rebuild your sex life.

“There are two aspects of SORD’s question that jump out at me: One, the reference to wanting to be present for sex, and two, the description of the situation as terrifying and awkward,” said Brotto. “SORD’s girlfriend likely perfected the practice of ‘going elsewhere’ during sex while at work, which meant that it became almost automatic for her to do this while having sex in her relationship. This is classic mindlessness, and it is why mindfulness—the state of full awareness to the present moment in a kind and compassionate way—may be a tool for her to consider implementing.”

Mindfulness is the subject of Brotto’s new book, Better Sex Through Mindfulness: How Women Can Cultivate Desire.

“Mindfulness has a long history in Buddhist meditation, and it allowed monks to sit with their present experience, including pain and suffering, for hours or days—or sometimes weeks and months,” said Dr. Brotto. “In more recent years, mindfulness has been reconceptualized as a tool that anyone can use and benefit from. It doesn’t rely on having a Buddhist orientation or a cave to retreat to.”

So how does this ancient mindfulness stuff work where modern girl-on-girl sex is concerned?

“The practice is simple,” said Brotto. “It involves deliberately paying attention to sensations, sounds and thoughts in the present moment—and noticing when the mind gets pulled elsewhere and then gently but firmly guiding it back. Mindfulness is also about not berating yourself for finding it challenging or judging yourself for the thoughts you have.”

In her practice, Dr. Brotto has seen research subjects successfully use mindfulness to cultivate and/or reignite sexual desire, calm anxiety, and relieve the awkwardness and fear that some people experience with sex.

“Suffice it to say,” she said, “there is an impressive body of research that supports the practice of mindful sex, and people who otherwise may believe that their minds are incapable of staying still can effectively learn to fully engage their attention to sex and the person(s) with whom they are having sex. It doesn’t matter if you are skeptical about whether mindfulness works or not—if you are willing to learn the skills and apply it to sex, you’re likely to benefit.”

If you’re nervous or scared that it won’t work or that you’ll never reconnect sexually with your girlfriend, SORD, Brotto wants you to know that those feelings are perfectly normal.

“The uncertainty surrounding what will happen when they try to reintegrate sex can be terrifying for some couples,” said Brotto. “What if it doesn’t work? What if neither of them has desire? What if the sex is just plain bad? If SORD and her partner are worrying about the anticipated sex, or even catastrophizing over it—a jargony term meaning they imagine it ending in disaster—that can make it damn near impossible to remain in the present. The good news is that mindfulness can help with the tendency to get lost on the thought train.”

So here’s what you’re going to do, SORD: Order a copy of Dr. Brotto’s new book, and read it with your girlfriend. And while you wait for the book to arrive, you’re going to try a mindful touching exercise called “sensate focus.”

“She will invite her girlfriend to touch her from head to toe, minus the genitals, for 15 minutes—without the goal of triggering arousal or desire,” said Brotto. “SORD’s role is to pay attention to the sensations emerging, and curtail any thoughts by redirecting attention to the here and now. And relax. After 15 minutes, they switch roles so SORD becomes the giver, and her girlfriend is the receiver. This is not foreplay. It is not manual sexual stimulation. It is a mindfulness exercise designed to teach a person to remain in the present while receiving sensual touch.”

There are solo mindfulness exercises, SORD, and some good, commercially available apps out there that can walk you through them. But if your goal is reconnecting with your girlfriend, Brotto strongly recommends that you two work on mindfulness together.

“My view is that a couple-based mindfulness exercise like sensate focus will get them to their goal of mind-blowing, mind-knowing sex,” said Brotto.

Follow Dr. Brotto on Twitter @DrLoriBrotto.


CONFIDENTIAL TO AMERICAN CITIZENS EVERYWHERE

Furious about Brett Kavanaugh? Me, too. That’s why I donated to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Our only hope of protecting a woman’s right to choose, voting rights, LGBTQ rights, the environment and organized labor—our only hope for blocking Trump’s anti-everyone-and-everything agenda—is to take back the U.S. House and Senate this November. If the Democrats control the House come January (which looks likely), they can impeach Kavanaugh; if they control the Senate come January (a longer shot but within reach), they can put Kavanaugh on trial—and that means a full investigation into all the allegations against him, including the numerous ways in which he perjured himself during his confirmation hearings. It would take a two-thirds majority in the Senate to convict and remove Kavanaugh, and Dems likely won’t take that many seats—but if a trial uncovers proof that Kavanaugh committed the crimes he’s been accused of and lied to Congress, perhaps enough Republicans can be shamed into voting to remove him. (Republicans feeling shame? That may be the longest of long shots.) Go to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee website (dscc.org); click “contribute”; and give what you can.

CONFIDENTIAL TO CANADIAN STUDENTS IN ONTARIO

Thank you for walking out of your classrooms to protest the scrapping of Ontario’s sex-ed curriculum by Doug Ford, your newish (and thuggish) premier. Every student deserves an up-to-date sexual education that covers reproduction, pleasure, consent, tech, sexting, sexual abuse and LGBTQ issues. Watching students stand up against Ford’s reactionary, bigoted, sex-negative assholery has been truly inspiring. Keep it up!

On the Lovecast, are sugar babies sex workers?: savagelovecast.com.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; @fakedansavage on Twitter; ITFMA.org.

Published in Savage Love

There are some things we don’t readily share with friends and neighbors—like having paid one’s way through college by dancing around a pole. Or that romance with the golf pro. Or the nip/tuck during a “vacation” last summer.

Or that my grandmother once performed an abortion on herself using knitting needles.

With restrictions increasing on the rights granted by Roe v. Wade, women are being encouraged to talk about their experiences so that young women know what it was like—and what it could be like again.

It wasn’t until 1960 that “the pill” was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for contraceptive use. In 1965, Griswold v. Connecticut struck down a state law that prohibited the use of contraceptives, because the law violated the “right to marital privacy.” Prior to that, even married women could not get doctors to prescribe contraception.

And if you were single? Forget about it.

June Pariano of La Quinta remembers well what those times were like.

“It was around 1969 in Racine, Wisc., and I was 23 or 24 years old.

“At that time, insurance did not pay for the pill, but broke as we were, I found the money and chose a doctor whose office was close to our apartment. When I went in and asked about a birth-control prescription, he gave me a sermon about how women were put on this earth to bear children, and it was ‘against nature.’ He finally agreed to give me a 6-month prescription and said he would not renew it.

“Six months later, I went to another doctor who asked me, ‘Don't you want to have children?’ I was so angry that I was being questioned about such a personal decision.

“I joined NOW (the National Organization for Women). We organized, wrote letters, drove to the state capital and fought like hell to get the politicians and the churches out of our bedrooms. Now it seems the politicians want to expand government to bedrooms again!”

Although abortions have always been a last resort for women (witness my grandmother), who have used everything from bleach douches to wire coat-hangers, it wasn’t until 1973 that the Supreme Court said the “right to privacy” protected a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy prior to “viability.” Before that, other options for American women were to go to another country, if they could afford to, or to seek out illegal abortionists—therefore risking their very lives to terminate unwanted pregnancies.

I did just that, in 1967, and would not wish the experience on anyone. It was sleazy, unprofessional and frightening—but not as frightening to me as continuing the pregnancy. I had given up a child for adoption when I was 17, and did not want to go through the daily agony of wondering whether I had done the right thing yet again.

I’ve never regretted that abortion, and react strongly to those who blithely say, “You can always give the baby up.” They’ve obviously never gone through it.

Dori Smith is a retired public-relations professional living in Palm Desert.

“In 1984, I helped my best friend’s daughter get a legal abortion when she was 18, and I realized how hard it is for any woman to even make the decision. She was so grateful. She went on to college, has two children and a great marriage, and even works with children now. She wouldn’t have been able to if we hadn’t helped her.

“Back in 1965, I got pregnant at 15 in my first sexual relationship, the one time we didn’t use any protection. I was so afraid. When I told him, he was scared. We didn’t know what to do.

“Abortion was illegal, so I asked him to find someone to do an illegal abortion. We never could find anyone. I finally told my mom after four months, and my parents gave permission to get married. I thought I was in love. What do you know at 15?

“We shouldn’t have been parents at that point in our lives. I was such a young mother; it was difficult for me to give my son as much as I could later with my daughter. I was so young and immature.”

Would Dori have made a different decision if she had been able? “Of course, it’s difficult to separate a living human being from what I wish I could have had as a choice back then. Because I was married, I couldn’t attend my senior prom, and I didn’t finish college until I was 32.

“I’m mentoring a young woman right now who’s 15. I think about myself dealing with those huge issues at that age. If my mom had just talked to me about sex and birth control. That’s what bothers me about those against abortion—they’re also against sex education. It’s as if they want us to be punished for having sex.”

Priscilla Scheldt Richardson of Cathedral City was married with two sons, 9 and 12, when she got pregnant in 1981 at the age of 38.

“Babies were being born with severe conditions to women my age. I’m so grateful I had a doctor who believed in my freedom to decide whether to continue a compromised pregnancy.

“He said there was no point to an amniocentesis unless I knew I would terminate the pregnancy if the fetus was damaged. Otherwise, he wouldn’t risk my health or the fetus with the test itself.

“My then husband and I talked carefully and decided what was most important was to protect the quality of life for our existing sons.

“As it turned out, the fetus was normal—and we went ahead with the pregnancy. My children know this story; they understand that was our thinking at the time, and they respect that.

“Some might call our decision selfish, but having that choice is so important to protect. Without that choice, our lives might have been entirely different.”

Women who have gone through these decisions are married, divorced, widowed. They teach your children, play tennis with you at the club, volunteer at local charities, participate in your organizations. They’re your friends and neighbors.

Share your stories.

Anita Rufus is also known as "The Lovable Liberal," and her radio show airs every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on KNews Radio 94.3 FM.

Published in Know Your Neighbors