Marie Claire: I Lost My Virginity to Rape and Didn’t Even Know It

Piously, I was saving myself until marriage. I was always into books instead of boys. I carried no less than a 3.5 GPA. Though I was too tall for most of the guys still dealing with their own issues of pseudo-masculinity, I was waiting until I found the person who would love me and all my quirks forever before sharing myself intimately. It just didn’t happen that way. Instead, a mentor at my school exploited my innocence and preyed on a broken young girl who—at some point—lost her way.

The circumstances which moved me from my mom’s house to my dad and stepmom’s apartment during my senior year left me bitter, angry, and hopeless. My mom had remarried and moved away while I was away at a summer college program at Syracuse University. I was no longer welcome in the home I had grown up in. My life, as I knew it, had ended. I would be living with my dad—whom I had only been visiting on weekends since junior high school.

Having lived away from my father since he and my mother divorced twelve years earlier, I was completely unaccustomed to him and he to me. As we struggled to reconnect with one another, I fell further into feelings of isolation and depression. Sometimes he’d lock me out of the apartment for coming home from school too late. Other times he’d simply come and go without speaking to me at all. When I was there, I spent time in my room, alone. I kept my grades up, but I just wanted to go back home to my mom. We struggled. I was afraid of him. Our disagreements turned into verbal abuse and physical violence.

Read the full post at MarieClaire.com.

 

The Root: Janet Mock Breaks Through the Isolation for Transgender Women of Color

I recently added a new name to my list of inspirational writers: Janet Mock. Her best-selling memoir, Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love and So Much More, is a beautiful—at times bumpy—journey through girlhood. Reminiscent of Zora Neale Hurston’s iconic Their Eyes Were Watching God, it is a touching story of self-realization and self-love.

For many it was Mock’s early 2014 interview on CNN with Piers Morgan that drew attention to this young woman’s story. But she is so much more than one interview. Mock publicly proclaimed her identity as a transgender woman in 2011. She has continued working in her community to advocate for women and girls like herself. She has commanded a social media presence through the #GirlsLikeUs hashtag, encouraging transgender women to live freely.

After her many successful years as a staff editor at People.com, writing and advocacy have continued to be her main motivation. Most important, Mock has challenged us all to question our perceptions of challenges facing transgender girls and women of color. She spoke with The Root about her work and how words empower isolated communities.

Read the full Q&A style interview at The Root.

Clutch Magazine: Tall, Black, Woman: Navigating Intimidation Politics in White Public Spaces

I am six feet and four inches tall. I have been so since I was fourteen years old. I played basketball, volleyball, and ran track in school and wore Jordan’s instead of dress shoes whenever my mother allowed me to. I was called a “tomboy” for not playing dress up. And, although I wore the same super curved acrylic nails all the other girls did – when I could – I didn’t touch a stitch of foundation until I was a month out from my wedding day. My height was always a problem and never an asset for me. And this liability has always been more pronounced in public, predominantly white spaces.

The plight of the big, ominous, black male is not a new one in this country. Caricatures and minstrels are evidence of that. But, tall, black women face both the struggles of intimidating whites and navigating gender politics in public. These two issues in tandem create a completely unique set of difficulties for tall women like me.

When discussing his height on the Melissa Harris-Perry Show in reference to Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman being called a “thug,” Professor Jelani Cobb asserted the following.

“As somebody who stopped growing, who reached the height of 6’3” at fifteen…one of the most important lessons I got was from my sophomore year high school math teacher. Who explained to me – I got up really quick and knocked over a chair – and he explained to me, this was a white teacher in a New York City public school, he said ‘You know, you have to be careful about how you present yourself. He said ‘because white people are afraid of you.’ And it was the first time this ever dawned on me.”

I have had this conversation many times over. But, I had the added dimension of dealing with gender stereotypes at the same time. It wasn’t easy trying to “take up less space”, as a teacher once told me that young ladies were supposed to do. It was virtually impossible to play with kids my age without them fearing I would physically harm them. While other kids got to tussle with one another, I was barred from horseplay for fear I might hurt someone else. My height was often a threat, even to adults.

Read the full article at Clutch Magazine.

Ebony.com: The Politics of Pregnancy and the Workplace

As I sit here gazing at my newborn son, I can’t help but reflect on my experiences in parenting over the years. Having given birth to three beautiful children, I have spent almost three of my seven years in corporate America pregnant. It hasn’t been easy. It has been extremely difficult. But with Congress recently introducing the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act—mandating paid leave insurance for workers— it seems our political leadership may be taking these struggles more seriously.

A placement counselor once mentioned to me that the automobile company I was interested in would want “foot soldiers” as opposed to people who were interested in starting families. I then imagined myself wearing Army fatigues in a sea of cubicles tucking and rolling over to the printer station. No, I was not a “foot soldier” if that was the criterion. When that company made me an offer, it was one I definitely could refuse. I was married and I believed I had the right to start a family whenever I wanted. Who were they to tell me I wasn’t “soldier” enough?

After suffering a miscarriage that year, I unexpectedly became pregnant again. I had already interviewed at several companies and not working simply wasn’t an option for me. So, I started my first job in an industry that I thought would be the perfect fit for an expectant mother. I trudged around attempting to look normal for three weeks until I had no choice but to tell them I was three months pregnant. I could sense the disappointment from pretty much everyone.

xoJane; IT HAPPENED TO ME: I Was Punished For My White Co-worker’s Racism

Graduating from USC with a degree in industrial engineering never could have prepared me for the racism I would face living in Orange County, CA. In fact, my education at USC did the exact opposite. I moved in diverse circles, chatted with folks from all over the world on a daily basis, and even though I was born in a predominantly black area in Oakland, CA, I had pretty much become accustomed to racial heterogeneity. There were tons of people like me on campus and in Los Angeles. Then I got my first job at a popular theme park and everything changed.
I was 22. It was my first job. I loved the company and intended to be there until I retired. I had pretty much worshipped the brand since I was a small child. I basically came in both wide-eyed and with my eyes wide shut at the same time.
I was the only person of color on my team, but that didn’t bother me. It actually seemed like an asset at first. Being black with an engineering degree drew people to want to know more about me. No doubt they thought I was some kind of exception -– even though I really wasn’t. I enjoyed it nonetheless. I was more than happy to show my analytical ability in just about every scenario I found myself in. I was confident.
I had an older peer, about 60, who had been at the company for 40 years. He was a pretty nice man. He made jokes about everything and knew the theme park like the back of his hand. Our jobs required that we work in close proximity to one another. He was a white male who, as he got more comfortable with me, frequently used the term “cholo” as an adjective. He found great amusement in the Spanish-speaking staff on campus. I never said anything. It was the combination of a fear of ruffling feathers, desperation to have a paycheck for my growing family, and acquiescence to authority that silenced me.
One day we had some downtime in the office. We were chatting about life at the park. He started,” I have been here a very long time.”
I was eager to hear more.
“You know, when I first got here, you had to be dressed up to go into the park. All the receptionists, hostesses, and food workers were these tall, thin white women.”
He chuckled. I did too.
Then he pointed at me and said, “And, ‘Africans’ -– like yourself –- they would never have been allowed to work front of house. They had to stay in the kitchens.”
I froze. I had no idea where this was going next, but I was already hurt. I just stood there and plastered a smile on my face.
Read the full article at xoJane.

EBONY.com: Black Women Slammed by Unemployment Cuts

On December 30th, 1.3 million Americans saw an end to “long-term” unemployment benefits. The 113th Congress allowed these emergency benefits to expire before taking a holiday recess. And while all Americans collecting long-term – longer than 26 weeks worth – benefits have been impacted by this lack of movement in Washington DC, Black women stand to face distinctly difficult circumstances if those benefits remain suspended.

Most states originally offered no more than 26 weeks of unemployment “insurance” or aid. But after the Great Recession— which began in late 2007–benefits were extended across the country. In some states, benefits could be collected for two years or longer. President George W. Bush ushered in these changes to unemployment insurance as he exited the White House. This infusion of capital into the middle and lower classes was seen as a method to keep the country afloat and stimulate the economy via consumer spending,

Six years later, the very same workers who were so integral to America’s economic recovery have fallen victim to Congress’ “government by crisis” style of legislating. The Republican-led House of Representatives signaled in early December that they would be working to end long-term emergency unemployment aid. Amounting to nothing more than a bargaining chip for congressional Republicans, emergency unemployment insurance benefits contribute to a healthy and thriving economy.

Black women have been were hit hard during the economic recession and continue to struggle even during the country’s recovery. In 2011, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) published a study which found that Black women only made up 12.5 percent of all female workers in June of 2009, yet accounted for over 42 percent of job losses for all women between June 2009 and June 2011. Similarly, Black women’s unemployment rate increased 2.1 percent in the same period— three times the increase of the next highest unemployment rate (Black men).

Read more at EBONY