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Op-Ed

Exhibiting a crisis of faith…

An open letter to the United Methodist Church on the rejection of amendments on gender equality and inclusion to the Book of Discipline by Lizette G. Tapia- Raquel, ordained deacon of UMC.

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USED WITH PERMISSION FROM LIZETTE TAPIA-RAQUEL

On May 7, 2018, the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church (UMC) announced the results on the voting on five possible amendments to the constitution. For each to be ratified, it required a two-thirds vote from the annual conferences around the world which were done in 2017 and early 2018.
Two amendments were not ratified. One was on gender equality which declares, “men and women are of equal value in the eyes of God.”  The other was pertaining to inclusion which declares that no member will be “denied access to an equal place in the life, worship and governance of the Church because of race, color, gender, national origin, ability, age, marital status or economic condition.”
The Council of Bishops expressed disappointment over the results.

On April 18, 1968, my mother and father, Lydia Galima and Jose Tapia, along with an entire community of family and friends, mostly from the United Methodist Church, celebrated my birth as the first child of the union. On 23 April, 1968, the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church likewise celebrated their union to become the United Methodist Church. Thus, our Church and I are both celebrating fifty years this year.

The United Methodist Church has a long tradition of conferencing, ‘holy conferencing.’ We value our connectionalism and our global character despite our diversity as a people of faith. Thus, we gather, time and again, to be in conversation, to intentionally understand and deliberate on issues affecting the Church and our society, to define who we are as a community of faith and to raise our prophetic voice to transform our broken world. This we do because we believe “there is no holiness other than social holiness,” in the words of John Wesley.

The recent rejection of two amendments to the Book Discipline pertaining to gender equality and inclusion exhibits a crisis of faith for many of us called United Methodists, as well as our sisters and brothers in other denominations and faiths. Thus, I feel a need to ask these questions:

How do we understand our Christian identity? Who is this God we believe in and the Jesus we follow? How does it define us as communities of faith and as a Church?

What are we communicating to the women, our daughters and granddaughters, wives and sisters, our women bishops, pastors and deaconesses of our church? What are we teaching the men, our sons and grandsons, our husbands and brothers, our male bishops, pastors and lay? When we refuse equality between women and men, can we honor the women and girls in our churches and value their contributions and participation in our corporate lives?

How will our rejection of equality affect relationships between male and female clergy and bishops, female deaconesses and male pastors, between husbands and wives, sisters and brothers, male and female youth leaders in our churches and societies? How can we give testimony to a just and loving God when we cannot be just and love equally ourselves?

Who is truly welcome in our churches when we vote against inclusion? Can we truly live out our message, “Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors?” How do we authentically advocate for the migrant, the refugee, the suffering and oppressed when we exclude those we have nurtured in and belonged to our own churches because of tradition and rules? By whose standards do we deny others inclusion into our faith community, God’s?

Are we saying that women are not equal to men? Are we saying that not everyone is welcome in our churches? Are we saying that we do not believe that we are all created in the image of God? Are we saying that we cannot live out Jesus’ greatest commandment of loving our neighbors?

I have been raised in a family of United Methodists and have always been affirmed as a female. I grew up with the Church as my second home and learned of love, equality, inclusivity and justice in its Sunday School rooms and big sanctuary. Now, I am fifty years old and on Sunday we celebrate Mother’s Day in churches in different parts of the world. But can we truly celebrate as women and as mothers in our churches?

If we cannot affirm the equality of women and men, and cannot commit to the inclusion of all into the United Methodist Church on its 50th year, what is there to celebrate?

From the Editor

Stop humanizing a killer

Being jailed is supposed to punish AND rehabilitate a person. In Pemberton’s case… this is arguable. So stop humanizing him. When so many of you can’t even treat the victim – Jennifer – as a human being.

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By now, we all know that when Joseph Scott Pemberton – the American serviceman who murdered Filipino transgender woman Jennifer Laude in 2014 – returns to the US, he will go back to school. Oh, he plans to take up Philosophy. And while studying, he also wants to do sports – e.g. swimming.

These info were provided to us by news outlets; courtesy of the Filipino lawyer who’s been pushing for the convicted American killer, Pemberton, to be freed for his “good conduct”.

And – SERIOUSLY – this has to stop.

Fact: Pemberton killed Jennifer. In cold blood.

Fact: Pemberton considered Jennifer as less of a human, repeatedly referring to her as “it”.

Fact: When he was found guilty, Pemberton was jailed in the custodial facility of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Not in Muntinlupa, but in an air-conditioned “jail”.

Fact: Whether Pemberton exhibited good conduct or not is hard to ascertain EXACTLY because of the special treatment he’s been getting. (Heck, his supposed handlers should all be fired for not documenting Pemberton’s movements!)

Fact: Pemberton’s camp only recently paid what the court told him to pay the Laudes.

Fact: As mentioned in the news, Pemberton doesn’t “mind” apologizing to the family of Jennifer… though only via a statement/press release.

Being jailed is supposed to punish AND rehabilitate a person.

In Pemberton’s case… this is arguable.

So stop humanizing him.

When so many of you can’t even treat the victim – Jennifer – as a human being.
In case you’ve (conveniently) forgotten, her life was cut short.
Pemberton shoved her head in the toilet bowl until she died by asphyxiation by drowning. He then escaped after committing the crime.
She was only 26 when Pemberton killed her.
She was a breadwinner of her family.

But she is now gone.

She won’t be able to go to college.
Or study Philosophy.
Or choose any sport to have fun.

She’s dead.

And the person who killed her will live freely, even comfortably… and unapologetically.

Stop humanizing him; push to make him accountable for his crime.

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Op-Ed

Murderer Pemberton’s ‘absolute pardon’ unacceptable, ludicrous – LGBTQIA Filipinos

Unity statement of LGBTQI organizations against Pemberton’s presidential pardon, with the move said to send out a loud and clear message that a Filipino trans woman’s life does not matter and that it is open season for discrimination and violence against trans people.

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We strongly condemn the absolute pardon granted by President Rodrigo Duterte to Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton, the US marine convicted for killing Filipino trans woman Jennifer Laude in Olongapo City in 2014. 

President Duterte’s claim that Pemberton has suffered injustice when he served time in a special holding cell in Camp Aguinaldo for just 5 years and 10 months out of a 10-year jail sentence is unacceptable and ludicrous. Pemberton should have served time in the National Bilibid Prison, and the President could have granted presidential pardon to a Filipino instead of an American.

Such acts done by the President at this time confirm how his government has been using the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to promote and kowtow to foreign interests which have caused profound suffering, indignity, and injustice to the Filipino people. 

In spite of earlier pronouncements from Malacañang calling the Olongapo court’s order to release Pemberton earlier as “judicial overreach,” the President’s pardon shows that his so-called support for the LGBTQI community is just mere posturing and exposes the truth about Duterte and his legacy—that as a leader, he is nothing but unjust, misogynistic, and transphobic. 

President Duterte’s pardon of Pemberton sends out a loud and clear message that a Filipino trans woman’s life does not matter, that it is open season for discrimination and violence against transgender people, and that American soldiers will continue to get away with murder in Philippine soil. 

We urge the entire LGBTQI community and our allies to unite in our opposition against Duterte’s anti-transgender, anti-LGBTQI, anti-women, and anti-people policies. Contrary to propagandists’ claims that Duterte is the president who has done the most for the LGBTQI community, all he has done is to use the LGBTQI community to further his popularity. His government never served our interests nor protected our rights and lives, and today proves that only a murderer can empathize with another murderer.

Signatories:
Call Her Ganda Documentary
Gender and Development Advocates (GANDA) Filipinas
Pioneer Filipino Transgender Men Movement 
Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP Kababaihan, Inc.)
Transman Equality and Awareness Movement (TEAM)
Lagablab LGBT Network
Metro Manila Pride
Philippine Anti-Discrimination Alliance of Youth Leaders (PANTAY)
UP Babaylan
Rainbow Rights Philippines
Babaylanes, Inc. 
PUP Kasarianlan
BulSU Bahaghari
Benilde Hive
TUP DUGONG BUGHAW
Gayon Albay LGBT Org., Inc.
True Colors Coalition (TCC)
Bicol University – MAGENTA
KAIBA Academic Collective
UP Babaylan – Baguio Chapter
APC Bahaghari
Queer Quezon
GALANG Philippines, Inc.
Camp Queer
UP Babaylan – Clark Chapter
Tribu Duag
LGBTQ+ Partylist
Migrante Europe
Pinay sa Holland
GABRIELA Germany

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From the Editor

Call a spade a spade: Deadnaming Jennifer Laude makes you a small-minded bigot

To simplify this argument: You all refer to – among others – Dolphy, Fernando Poe Jr., Nora Aunor, Gary V., Lorna Tolentino, Ogie Alcasid, Zsa Zsa Padilla, Aga Muhlach and Julia Montes with the names they chose for themselves. But when a trans person chooses a name for him or herself, you… refuse? It really just makes you a hater; and one who refuses to learn.

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Photo by Brielle French from Unsplash.com

Jennifer Laude is, again, in the news. No thanks to the court-issued order to release her murderer, US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton, after staying in a special jail for only six years.

As FYI: Pemberton was initially sentenced to six to 12 years imprisonment by the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 74, in December 2015. He was found guilty of murdering transgender woman Jennifer Laude.

Jennifer – who was only 26 years old at that time of her demise – was found with her head inside a toilet bowl in a room in Celzone Lodge in Olongapo City on October 11, 2014.

Pemberton himself admitted that he killed a “he-she.”

On September 1, the RTC said Pemberton already served a total accumulated time of 10 years, one month, and 10 days. This is including his Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA).

With the surfacing of this news is the deadnaming of Jennifer – e.g. by select media practitioners, haters of LGBTQIA people, and those claiming that they’re not haters/bigots but are only doing this because they’re using the “legal name” of the person.

As FYI: Deadnaming is when someone – whether intentionally or not – refers a transgender person with the name given them at birth.

And as another FYI: It’s wrong.

Let’s get this out there once and for all.

And enough already.

That this has to stop not just because it’s “PC” (politically correct). Deadnaming degrades and even erases a person – his or her life, agency, etc. At its very core is the individual’s right to determine who he/she is. And when you deadname, you basically refuse to respect this; you decide for the person because it’s what “comfortable” for you and your warped way of thinking.

This doesn’t make you “respectful” of the law (for those who say they’re “just” sticking to “legal names”).

This doesn’t make you “not hateful of the LGBTQIA community” (for those who may use this excuse, usually added with: “I can’t be anti-LGBTQIA because I know someone who’s LGBTQIA”).

This doesn’t make you “right” either.

It really just makes you a hater.

And for those who are well-read or actually know about this, it also makes you a hater who just refuses to learn.

To simplify this argument: You all refer to – among others – Dolphy, Fernando Poe Jr., Nora Aunor, Gary V., Lorna Tolentino, Ogie Alcasid, Zsa Zsa Padilla, Aga Muhlach and Julia Montes with the names they chose for themselves.

You all refer to Pope Francis as such; and you all know that’s not the name given him at birth.

You all call Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Madonna, P!nk, Bruno Mars, Gigi Hadid, Natalie Portman, Demi Moore, Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone, Prince Harry, Brad Pitt, Lorde, Miley Cyrus, Nicky Minaj, John Legend and Ludacris with the names they chose for themselves.

But when a trans person chooses a name for him or herself, you… refuse?

So let’s call a spade a spade: Deadnaming makes you a small-minded bigot.

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Lifestyle & Culture

How to raise a child as an LGBTQ parent

Even though the LGBTQ community is achieving significant recognition and representation in society, members still have a long way to go before being fully embraced as part of the current era. One essential but inadequately serviced aspect is recognizing LGBTQ households and providing a welcoming and supportive environment for such families to prosper.

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Even though the LGBTQ community is achieving significant recognition and representation in society, members still have a long way to go before being fully embraced as part of the current era.

One essential but inadequately serviced aspect is recognizing LGBTQ households and providing a welcoming and supportive environment for such families to prosper. There aren’t enough resources and professionals to provide the guidance needed for this community to grow mentally and emotionally as members of a family. 

This article provides an informative guide on how to go about raising a baby in such a family.

How do LGBTQ parents affect their children?

It is important to understand that children who have been raised by LGBTQ parents will probably need more emotional support and guidance to adjust well to the external environment and the challenges that may be posed put there. For instance, we have to see that LGBTQ has not been entirely accepted and embraced in society. 

Homophobic parents will almost always raise their children to be homophobic, so their interaction with your children may not always be smooth. It is important to talk to your children about this, prepare them to anticipate attacks and show them how to deal with them.

The first thing you should do is create a supportive environment at home. You want to make it a good and friendly place where the child can ask questions and get clear and accurate answers.

Do LGBTQ parents affect their children’s emotional development?

No. Research has already been done, and it proves that children raised by LGBTQ parents are not emotionally different from those brought up in heterosexual homes. They are not more likely to transform into LGBTQ members than children raised by straight parents and are neither more likely to be sexually abused. They also don’t show different gender identity and gender role behavior when compared to their peers raised in heterosexual households. 

It is essential to understand that the actions, relationship and emotional health of any child will be primarily determined by the way they interact and relate with their parents rather than the parents’ sexual identity.

What are same-sex parents options for having babies?

In a shallow perspective, it may seem like such couples don’t have many options when it comes to getting babies. On the contrary, however, they have just as many options as heterosexual parents. They will also face the same procedures and may have to deal with similar problems that occur regardless of sexual orientation, such as infertility and sterility. 

Some of the most common options include:

  1. Adoption – Just as in heterosexual families, gay couples can also apply for adoption and qualify if they meet all the terms and requirements.
  2. Insemination – This applies to lesbian couples. One or both members may be inseminated with a donor sperm which, if procedures are correctly followed, should fertilize and grow to a baby. You only need a confirmation that the process is successful and you can be on your merry way to buy baby clothes and whatnot.
  3. A gestational carrier – This is where the couples choose to have the fertilized egg grow to maturity inside a surrogate.
  4. Reciprocal IVF – in a lesbian couple, one partner provides the egg which is then fertilized and implanted in the other partner.
  5. Co-parenting – this is where the couple gets into planned parenthood with another party in a purely platonic relationship.

These are just some of the most common ways that LGBTQ parents can raise children. The list is not exhaustive though. Solutions can be tailormade depending on the needs, sexual identity and health of the partners. There is nothing to get in the way of LGBTQ members to stop them from getting children and raising them.

Your children’s behavior is affected more by your relationship with them and the environment at home than your sexual orientation.

How can LGBTQ parents prepare their children to deal with challenges stemming from discrimination?

Even though research shows that children from LGBTQ families and those with heterosexual parents adjust the same way, the former is more likely to be bullied and discriminated against based on their parent’s sexual orientation. Here are a few ways to prepare your children for this:

  1. Help them understand what the LGBTQ community is and what it is all about. Help them understand the meaning of sexual freedom (if you think that they are too young and this seems too complicated for them, explain that love has no sexual orientation)
  2. Gather some of the questions and comments they will most likely face and help them answer them truthfully with no fear
  3. Keep an open and friendly environment at home where they can ask questions and get appropriate responses with proper regard to their age.
  4. Use more LGBTQ-rich resources around them such as books with LGBTQ families and reasoning
  5. Listen to any teasing or inappropriate comments they may have come across and help them find appropriate responses to them. Have them practice answering these at home so they can say it with more confidence when you are not around to defend them.

Solutions can be tailormade depending on the needs, sexual identity and health of the partners. There is nothing to get in the way of LGBTQ members to stop them from getting children and raising them.

How can I build a support network for my family as an LGBTQ household?

The first thing you should do is create a supportive environment at home. You want to make it a good and friendly place where the child can ask questions and get clear and accurate answers. Educate them as well as you can about the LGBTQ community and include more resources for them to dig deeper when they want to.

You could also consider moving to a more supportive environment where the child is less likely to be discriminated. Enrol them in a supportive school where they use LGBTQ-friendly material to teach them and discourage bullying on this account.

Consider having your children interact more with others who have LGBTQ parents. This will help them build a support network with other children who they will consider the same as them.

In conclusion, your children’s behavior is affected more by your relationship with them and the environment at home than your sexual orientation. Raise them to appreciate who you are, and you will be allowing them to enjoy who they are. Above all, respect your children’s gender stand and get them appropriate footwear and clothes to go with it – things will become clear to them as they get older.

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Lifestyle & Culture

To come out or not to come out? That is the question

For a “conservative culture” like in the Philippines, where the influence of religion and the opinion of the elders are greatly valued, should the idea of coming out be on the table whenever possible?

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Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels.com

Gone are the days when hiding or staying inside the closet is the “ideal thing to do” — or is it?

Many members of the LGBT community are saying that coming out and being proud of one’s true self may be the best way to fully enjoy everything. There are others who are claiming that it can even help transform one’s life.

But for a “conservative culture” like in the Philippines, where the influence of religion and the opinion of the elders are greatly valued, should the idea of coming out be on the table whenever possible?

ONLINE DISCUSSIONS

On Facebook, discussions about this topic had attracted many users – where people from different walks of life share their reactions and thoughts about it.

One person said that the process of coming out is lifelong.

Another user posted a message saying that there is no right time or right way to do it.

And there were those who asked why some people express hate towards someone who chooses to stay in the closet.

MEDIA PORTRAYALS

At least in the recent months, the issue of coming out had also been one of the subjects of some of the non-fiction stories in the Philippine media.

For instance, on iWant’s “Beauty Queens” the topic was discussed in almost all six episodes.

Rica, the youngest child of Dahlia, came out as a transgender woman. It blindsided the entire family. Dahlia disowned her daughter after leaning it. While the oldest sibling, for the longest time, refused to call her “Rica”.

The plot thickened when it was revealed that Dahlia was in a relationship with another woman. And that she was just waiting for the right time to tell it to her family.

Isa lang ibig sabihin nito, Mommy (This only means one thing, Mommy): You have been a practicing lesbian. But you rejected me when I came out. How could you?” Rica asked her mother.

In the Pinoy BL (boys love) web series “Gameboys”, the topic of coming out was also tackled in some episodes.

Cairo, one of the main characters, was partly blamed by his brother London for the health condition of their father.

Dahil sa selfishness mo, nandito tayo sa ganitong sitwasyon. Hindi ko nga alam kung ano ang pumasok sa isip mo at ginawa mo ‘yun (Because of your selfishness, we are in this situation. I do not know what you were thinking when you did that),” London said.

Alam ko naman na kasalanan ko ito lahat. Araw-araw ko sinisisi ang sarili ko. Ako nga, ako nga ang may kasalanan. Hindi ko dapat ginawa ‘yun eh. Sana ako na lang. Alam ko, mali nga ako, kuya. Kuya alam ko mali ako, pero hindi ko ginusto ‘yung kay Papa. Hindi ko ginusto na magkasakit siya (I know that everything was my fault. I blame myself everyday. It was me, it was my fault. I should not have done that. I wish it was me. I know that what I did was wrong, but I did not want that to happen to Papa. I did not want him to get sick),” Cairo responded.

The story took a turn when he had a conversation with his mother after his father passed.

“Ma, I am sorry,” Cairo said.

“Why are you apologizing?” his mom asked.

“I am sorry I am gay,” Cairo answered.

“Cairo, do not be sorry. You do not need to apologize for being who you are. Kung dapat may mag-sorry dito, ako ‘yun. Anak, walang mali sa iyo. Ako ‘yung nagkulang (If there is anyone who needs to say sorry, it should be me. There is nothing wrong with you, son. I was the one who had shortcomings). I knew all along. I did not make an effort to gain your trust para maramdaman mo na puwede ka magsabi sa akin (I did not make an effort to gain your trust so you can feel that you can tell me), his mom said.

Coming out is one of the biggest and most important decisions any person will make. Finding the right moment can be as crucial as the decision itself.

READING THROUGH

Studies show that there are benefits in revealing one’s identity, including feeling good by the person coming out (i.e. he/she will experience less anger, less depression, and higher self-esteem).

“In general, research shows that coming out is a good thing. Decades of studies have found that openness allows gay people to develop an authentic sense of themselves and to cultivate a positive minority sexual identity,” said Richard Ryan, co-author of one such study.

It is also believed that when a person comes out, it will allow him/her to develop as a whole individual, have greater empowerment, and makes it easier to develop a positive self-image.

Another study also noted that when a person accepts his/her true self, it will not only bring happiness but can also be good for the health. 

“Coming out might only be beneficial for health when there are tolerant policies that facilitate the disclosure process,” said Robert-Paul Juster, author of yet another study.

While there are countless positive effects of coming out, there are also some disadvantages when someone decides to leave the closet – to a name a few: bullying, harassment, rejection from society, and violence.

In a 2018 survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 65% of the 7,233 15-year-old respondents said that they were bullied at least a few times a month.

In a school setting, it is a known fact that someone who demonstrates a “different” behavior may be susceptible to bullying. 

Coming out is one of the biggest and most important decisions any person will make. Finding the right moment can be as crucial as the decision itself.

DECIDING TO COME OUT

According to The Cass Theory by Vivian Cass, there are six stages that a person will go through when he/she decides to come out.

Stage 1 – Identity Confusion: This is where you begin to ask yourself if you identify differently than what you were assigned at birth.

Stage 2 – Identity Comparison: You start accepting the possibility that you may have a different gender identity and face social isolation that come with it.

Stage 3 – Identity Tolerance: Your acceptance of your new gender identity increases and you begin to tolerate it.

Stage 4 – Identity Acceptance: At this point, you have resolved most of the questions concerning your gender identity and have accepted it.

Stage 5 – Identity Pride: By this stage, you begin to feel proud of being part of the community.

Stage 6 – Identity Synthesis: Finally, you start integrating your gender identity in all aspects of yourself and life.

And in the end, this is what coming out is: A long — and sometimes endless — journey to finding oneself.

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Op-Ed

5 Ways to empower kids to end bullying

For members of Gen Z, bullying was a top concern, with 86% of respondents saying that not being bullied is a daily priority and 30% saying that out of 20-plus societal issues, bullying is the problem they most want solved globally.

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Photo by Timothy Eberly from Unsplash.com

From the classroom to the internet, bullying can lead to children developing a poor self-image or lead to bullying others. In fact, members of Generation Z believe bullying is the biggest issue facing their generation, according to a survey of American youth ages 6-17, commissioned by the Boy Scouts of America*.

The interesting thing, though, as stressed by this study: 84% of those surveyed said they want to be a part of the solution. In fact, the survey similarly found:

  • 97% said being kind to others is important.
  • 79% said improving their community is important.
  • 50% said the reason they focus on some of these issues because their parents are passionate about them.
  • Bullying was a top concern among respondents, with 86% of respondents saying that not being bullied is a daily priority and 30% saying that out of 20-plus societal issues, bullying is the problem they most want solved globally.
  • Other top concerns respondents want to help solve are hunger (28%) and care for elders (27%) at the local level; animal rights (28%) and recycling (28%) at the national level; and poverty (28%) and human rights (26%) at the global level.

Now how to help kids learn how to overcome, avoid and break down the cycle of bullying:

Promote more time unplugged and outdoors. 

It is important for parents to promote healthy, face-to-face social interactions. Outdoor activities allow children to work together, solve problems and bond in a way that typically can’t be achieved through a screen. They also give children a break from the cyber-world, where bullying is often prevalent.

Encourage kindness. 

Ninety-seven percent of Gen Z members surveyed said being kind is important. Encourage kids to act on that feeling and remind them that it doesn’t take any extra energy to be kind. Serve as a role model by making kindness a foundation in your family.

Educate and equip. 

Parents should educate their children about why bullying is never OK, equip them with the knowledge they’ll need to recognize it and encourage them to report and safely respond to all forms of bullying they observe.

Use the buddy system. 

In scouting, the buddy system pairs kids together to help ensure the well-being of one another. This approach is used for practical and safety reasons that can also be applied to everyday life. A pair or group of kids are less likely to get bullied, and buddies can be supportive by being an upstander.

Explore differences. 

As a family, look for ways to get involved in activities that include families from different backgrounds and cultures. Introducing kids to ideas and lifestyles different from their own can be an enlightening experience, and that knowledge can help break down some of the barriers that contribute to bullying, such as fear and misunderstanding.

*Yes, yes, the Boy Scouts of America (and scouting as a whole, for that matter) continues to have issue particularly with openly accepting LGBTQIA people – i.e. it is a “bully” itself. But… here’s hoping it learns its own advise.

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