I'm reading Brené Brown's "Daring Greatly" book, so... in a vulnerable/sharing mood.
when I think about the experience our children (Logan, 14... Annie, 11) are having in middle-school I am so profoundly grateful. I'm not oblivious to the reality that there are still all kinds of awful things going on "in the halls," but, when I compare the experience they're having to the one I had in the same district thirty years ago, it makes me so happy.
specifically, when it comes to bullying. and, again, I don't think for a minute that bullying is non-existent at our school, but, the district has been able to name it and call attention to it over the past 10-20 years (probably "Columbine"'ish timing) in a way that appears to have had incredible impact. it's as though a light has been shone directly on it, and like a cockroach, it has to scatter and hide. as a result, it doesn't appear to manifest the way it did when I was growing up.
the kids at school can be who they are in ways that weren't accessible in middle-school when I was attending. perhaps it was just me (entirely possible), but, I think it's bigger than that. perhaps nothing has changed and my perception of our kids is that they are just able to be who they are in ways I wasn't able to access personally as an adolescent. so, could just be me, but, I hope not.
the kids at our school produce a weekly "TV" series (published on YouTube), and the very existence of it speaks volumes to how kids today are willing to be vulnerable in ways my generation couldn't imagine. in a million years my middle school experience couldn't have produced something like this. only a tiny subset of the students would have had the vulnerability to put themselves out there like this, and then they would've been subject to ridicule. very few people back then could be so vulnerable and brave at the same time. when I try and explore the reasons for this new level of vulnerability on a deeper level, I think it comes down to acceptance, empathy, and tolerance of each other as humans. even more specifically, there's an acknowledgment and understanding of how detrimental bullying/shaming is, and so it is actively managed against, and, sexual orientation/preferences, gender identification, are more readily accepted and the various forms are better accepted.
this all means that the mechanics for being who you want to be as a kid today are in better condition (the "adults" have put formal frameworks in place to better support kids and their identities), and masculine and feminine energies have more room to collide, intertwine, co-exist, explore each other, etc, than they did when I was growing up. "faggot" is not ok as a word or a concept. Being a "pussy," has different connotation now.
if your child is having a different experience and is in bullying dynamics, I'm sorry. if I'm simply in the dark as a parent, and you know of either/both of my kids on the contrary, are involved in bullying dynamics (on either side), I beg you to reach out to me and let me know. I played both roles growing up. I'm ashamed of the times I was bullied, and I'm disgusted with the moments in which I was the aggressor.
it is with all of this said that one of the reasons I'm most sad about the 45th President is that it is a major setback. we have in our highest office, a bully. this thing we've held on-high as a culture, the Presidency, has finally been reduced to this thing we've spent so much energy abolishing, and that gives license to a new wave of bullying and shaming. sad.
I hope that our school district can maintain, and grow, the energy and programs it has put in place to make school a safe place (as safe as possible... these are kids after all).