She

She is the source of the air I breathe, the sun that lights my days.
She is the moonlight that lulls me to sleep each night.
She is my life.

The trees that adorn this earth are truly green only because she exists.                            The sky is blue because her spirit gives it its perfect hue.                                                 She is my world.

She is the reason that each star shines through infinite darkness.
She is the energy that moves it all in perfect unison.
She is my universe.

She is my love eternal-

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My Latest Article for Curve Magazine #2

A Girl Named Lucy

 

I met a girl named Lucy a few weeks ago. She is the middle child of a conservative family. Lucy is a 14 year-old Hispanic girl who identifies as bisexual. Lucy is also what some would refer to as a “cutter.” Being a middle child can be difficult enough. Being a bisexual one makes things all the more difficult. To be a young teenage bisexual middle child in a conservative family is more than Lucy can bear sometimes. And so, to deal with the pressures that come from all of the cards that Lucy feels are stacked so firmly against her, she cuts.

 

It started by accident really. Sitting in her room one afternoon, reeling in the words of her parents’ last tirade about how her Facebook profession of love to another female was bringing shame to the family, she scratched herself in a fit of anger and frustration. The scratch did something for her. Lucy said that it was as if a release valve was opened and all of the emotions that were overwhelming her from the inside escaped and set her free. Free from the pile of disdain and loathing that her family had just dumped on her. Lucy figured out rather quickly that she could not only make herself feel better by cutting, but she also found that self-mutilation was one thing she could control in her life. Her sexuality was not something that she could change nor could she change how her parents chose to deal with her. For Lucy, ‘cutting’ became that: a sense of control.

 

The freedom that Lucy felt she had gained from ‘cutting’ quickly became something else. Lucy was cutting so regularly as way to deal with life’s difficulties that it just became another thing that slowly took control of her rather than the other way around. What started out as small incidents of self-harm in secret corners of her bedroom quickly turned into a near obsession. By the time I met Lucy she had been hospitalized at least three different times and her cutting had become such a frequent thing that you could barely see a patch of skin on her arms that did not have scars or freshly healing wounds.

 

The first time Lucy opened up about her ‘cutting’ she talked about the loneliness of being different and the helplessness of not being loved by the ones who are supposed to love her, “no matter what.” There was such power in words adorned with so much pain. My job was to “fix” Lucy. Get her to learn better coping skills for dealing with difficult emotions. I did that. I taught her strategies to manage anxiety, cope with sadness, and deal with pain and disappointment. But every time that I left Lucy, I couldn’t help but wonder: was she really the one that needed fixing? Sure, she was using dangerous coping mechanisms to deal with issues that affected her. Certainly she needed help finding other ways to cope. But, all of the strategies in the world can’t help her family change the way they feel about her sexuality. No coping skill I teach her can ever make the pain of being put down by her own family at all bearable. How can any coping skill make her feel loved and accepted by those she loves the most.

 

Cutting is an epidemic that is much more wide spread than any average person could ever imagine. Kids today are doing it much more habitually than ever before and the cutting gets deeper and more widespread. Today it seems more like a team sport as kids are enlisting one another to join in the behavior. The sad part is that the fix is usually much simpler than their worried families may dare to believe.

 

Being a teenager is a difficult part of life. What makes it more difficult is that teens are not yet developed enough biologically to be able to solve life’s difficulties in very productive ways. They need “Us,” the adults in their lives to help them along. Why do we instead provide them with additional baggage to carry in the already heavy backpack of life. Love, accept, validate, embrace, support, acknowledge. These are but the things that they seek. These are the things that they require in order to survive life. It is what they deserve, simply because they are. Loving a child with all that makes him or her different is not a choice. It is a requirement!

 

“To all the Lucy’s in the world; we hear you!”

 

 

Short Bio

 

Liz Diaz is a wife and mother of two teenage kids. She is originally from Ponce, Puerto Rico (Ponce es Ponce…) She is a counselor and coach in the Metro Atlanta area working in the areas of substance abuse, parenting, anger management, self-harm, and LGBTQ issues. Liz works with children, teens, and adults but her specialty is working with teens who consider themselves misunderstood. She serves her community as an advocate, teacher, and mentor. Liz has spent over 14 years working with children and families in the community. She dedicates her life to helping others find their voice when they need it most. Liz hopes that her writing will inspire some and help others. Find her at liztruly@wordpress.com

Check out the actual published article here: http://www.curvemag.com/Culture/A-Girl-Named-Lucy/

 

My First Article for Curve Magazine

Latina girls are trained up not raised. From the moment we can stand on a step stool we are taught to cook and clean. By the time we reach adolescence we have become like a second mother to our younger siblings and once we reach young adulthood, we can run an entire household with one arm tied behind our back to the rhythm of any good salsa beat. Our Hispanic culture has deep traditional roots. Even the most contemporary families still cling on to those core values. One of those most deeply held is the idea of what a ‘woman’s’ job is versus that of their male counterparts. And so, from a young age girls are taught all there is to know about the art of being “a woman.” We are “trained” to do and be the best at every one of those so described ‘female’ jobs.

 

In our culture family is very important. It is quite common to see three, four, and sometimes even five generations of women working together in the same kitchen. When you have so many staunch examples of years of traditions, one is presented with few opportunities to consider that there may be other options to what we have been taught. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t those who manage to challenge the system and vacillate with ideas of those other possibilities. Plenty of us have daydreamed and talked about the things we would accomplish in our future that didn’t necessarily include fulfilling the roles we were taught to conform to. But in the end, there is great comfort in what you know and so for the most part, things just kind of remain status quo for a great many of us. We go on auto pilot blending in to the family roles and expectations without so much as skipping a beat.

As a Hispanic lesbian who came out much later in life, I struggled with understanding why it took me so long to figure myself out. I couldn’t grasp how I could have gone through so much of my life without really knowing who I really was. Eventually I came to realize that I was so caught up in perfecting my role as it was defined for me by generations of tradition that it simply didn’t dawn on me that I could be anything different. I simply took on the static definition I was given from the moment the doctor announced, “It’s a girl!”

 

Today, my traditional Hispanic values continue to run just as deep. I can still cook a mean pot of carne asada while leaving the kitchen looking like it had never been used. Like many of my Latina sisters, I do find some comfort in the traditions and in the role that I was taught to fulfill. The difference however, is that today it is not about female versus male roles but about taking care of my family as I was taught to do. Discovering your own identity in the midst of deeply held cultural traditions can be quite a challenge, but finding the right spot between the two is bliss.

Going Places!

I just published my first article EVER! I am so excited to see that slowly but surely my life is shaping up to be exactly what I dreamed for myself. I hope that others find that they relate to my stories or at least enjoy reading what I have to say.

Follow the link to read my article on being Latina and Lesbian. Curve Magazine Online Edition on Culture: Skin Deep March Issue.

http://www.curvemag.com/Curve-Magazine/Web-Articles-2014/Latina-and-Lesbian-Living-tradition-in-new/

A Cultural Experience

There is so much that I admire about the African American culture. It is an indisputable fact that this is a culture of copious strength and virtue. I have come to know this through my interactions with friends and their families in the past but recently I have had the pleasure of living it for myself. My partner is an African American woman from a deeply rooted family. As our relationship grew so did our connection to each other’s family. Her parents treat me like another daughter and her siblings routinely call me “sis”. It is not lost on me that I am privileged to be welcomed into this tightly knit fold that is The Family.

The African American culture as it is known today has evolved through the years yet much has remained the same for centuries. Family has always been a paramount aspect of who they are and reverence of elders is a very essential part of that. Family reunions are a regular occurrence and big Sunday dinners are quite the routine. Recently I had the honor of taking part in a family reunion. I have to say that it was an unforgettable experience for me. Fish fry on Friday, picnic on Saturday were just some of the things that I had always heard of and just now got to experience. Sounds silly to some perhaps but it was meaningful for me. There were folks who had not seen each other in years and others who had actually never met. The tie that bound them all was family and that was a palpably strong tie felt throughout the entire weekend. The most memorable thing for me, as the outsider welcomed in, was just that; the welcoming. As soon as I was introduced and it was known what my connection was to the family, enough said. To be part of so much love and affection among people who rarely saw one another was humbling.

As I mentioned earlier, the elders are revered in this culture and that was certainly the case in this experience. There was always a place of veneration for them whether it was the head table at the main functions or the comfy couches prominently placed near the activities. Whatever the location, the sovereignty was there. Recognizing this makes me all the more humbled by the connection that I have come to build with my partner’s Family, especially her grandmother. I met her years ago when my partner took me back to her hometown. I remember feeling nervous about meeting her family for the first time. During that trip, I sat and listened to her grandmother talk about days gone by and tell stories about the family. I loved listening to her. I loved watching how her grown children still behaved as that, her children. This is something that I have found to be quite characteristic of the African American culture. A continued respect regardless of the age or status in life. That experience allowed me to see first hand how deeply held are the values of African American families. And now here we were, family reunion time and having vicariously developed the same values, I eagerly looked forward to seeing grandma again. The best part of it is, it seems she was just as excited to see me. As my partner walked up to her grandmother and gently kissed her cheek ‘hello’ grandma’s first words were, “where’s Liz?” My heart was full I saw her face light as up as she saw me come to her. Now I understood what it felt like to have the most respected family member acknowledge you. Just another dimension of the family values of African American families.

I have come to experience the closeness that African American families are known for. I have come to learn first hand what makes a family strong and deeply connected. I am very aware that my own lineage is not what allows me the privilege of this knowledge but the warm and open-heartedness of a people who haven’t always experienced the same unconditional regard from others. Despite the painful history, African Americans have continued to be strong, loving, tight knit, family oriented folks unwavering in their ways.  I am blessed to now consider myself a part of that.

Sincerely,

The honorary Inductee J

Not Far Enough

I’m currently taking a multi-cultural class in my master’s program and a classmate made a recent comment that made me pause and reflect. The topic: White Privilege. The comment: among many other great points, a seemingly innocuous enough statement, “Great strides have been made in terms of racism…” (loosely quoted).  Funny thing is, that moment of pause for reflective thinking lasted a cool few seconds before my feelings on the subject just poured out. “I hate to be the nay sayer…” I replied, but I don’t believe it has. Women still clutch their purse when a black man walks too close and people are still surprised when a black woman is well-spoken. No, we haven’t gotten very far in this world when it comes to racism but the fact that some can say that we have is a greater cause for concern. As people, we are so vastly different. Different enough to be marveled by each other’s  own unique individuality, and yet. We choose to use those differences to alienate ourselves from others who differ from us. Others who perhaps strike fear or jealousy in our hearts because we don’t understand those differences and don’t care to make an attempt to change that.

This issue is not exclusive to our racial differences. Multi-culturalism is so much more than skin color or place of origin. To me it seems that with each stride that is made in one area of prejudice another issue of cultural difference takes its place. Homosexuality is one such replacement. Gone are the days of publicly designated segregation with signs telling us where we can enter and where we can sit based on where we fall in the melanin spectrum. Replaced are they now by the government sanctioned stipulations that dictate who someone can choose to commit themselves to for the rest of their lives depending on what the all knowing majority deems is appropriate. Homosexuality remains today as the ONE issue for which religion is used to justify its social injustice. As a Christian AND a lesbian woman, that is not ok! I have been in a committed relationship for what will be three years next month. My partner is to me what any woman would be for any man she is committed to. She is my love, my best friend, my one main source of emotional support and mother to my children. We work, we go to PTA meetings, we go on vacations both alone and as a family. How is that any different than a heterosexual relationship? How does our commitment to one another take away from our society in any way?

No, we have not come very far at all in this world of prejudice. Not far at all. I hear through the grape vine that a proposal of marriage is in my very near future and as elated as I am about the opportunity to get to look her in her eyes and accept this ultimate sign commitment, I feel resentful. Resentful that our decision to commit to one another will require some creativity if it is to come true for us. Our home state does not recognize our right to marry and as such, we will have to find a place that is humane enough to realize that we are human beings just like the next heterosexual couple and are therefore entitled to same right to love and marry. Be that as it may, if and when she asks, the answer will be a resounding yes and we when the day comes, we will find the right place to celebrate our commitment to one another.

This world has a long way to go before we as a human race can truly say that prejudice has come a long way. I for one will settle for nothing less than a world where we appreciate and respect each others differences unconditionally. When that happens, then and only then not only will I say that prejudice has come a long way but that we as a human race have finally evolved into what we were meant to be, what we were created for.  To Love One Another.

“… ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31