Thursday, April 9, 2020


In Monday’s post I took a look at the timeline of local LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations. Today I’ll focus on CARY and their BOE Candidate Survey.  Since CARY was founded specifically to address the needs of LGBTQ+ students, it makes sense that they would place a high value on finding out the knowledge and commitment of potential board members on issues that directly impact those students.

I invite you to read all of the responses, or, at the very least, the ones that apply to the candidates you will be choosing from.

I’ll be blunt here. Issues that impact LGBTQ+ students are life and death issues. Bullying, the experience of minority stress in school situations, and elevated risk for homelessness due to parental rejection all contribute to an increased risk for suicide. Incidents of suicide and attempted suicide for Transgender students are linked with whether or not young people are supported by the use of their correct name and pronouns. Numerous scientific studies bear all of this out.

The twenty-nine members of CARY who read and assessed each candidate’s answers decided on a letter grade for each.  An explanation accompanies their evaluation. I noticed that one of the words used multiple times in CARY’s description of how they assessed candidates’ answers is “non-affirming”.  That led me to ponder just what the term “affirming” means in this context.

I found a thorough and explicit description in a public document from the New York City Foster Care System about Identifying LGBTQ Affirming Homes. As I read though the many ways in which foster parents can affirm their LGBTQ+ foster children, it became clear to me that affirming means “life-affirming”.  In a sense, the NYC Foster Care System is saying: these are the expectations we set forth for ourselves because we value the lives of these children and are committed to taking the actions necessary for them to stay alive.

Shouldn’t that be the expectation we have for every member of the Board of Education?  If one is not life-affirming, what then? Life-negating? Life-neutral?

If your child’s life hung in the balance, would life-neutral be enough? If any child’s life hangs in the balance, is anything less than life-affirming acceptable?

For those whose lives are not connected to LGBTQ + family members and/or friends, views on this particular set of issues may seem like ’just a matter of opinion.’ They may assess those opinions on some kind of an internal sliding scale, perhaps comparing them to their own or those held by members of the dominant culture. To those people, CARY’s assessments may seem harsh, because to them it’s just a personal viewpoint and not a matter of life and death.

Take the time to read the candidates’ responses and take note of those who chose not to participate at all. Your own internal grading system may not be the same as that of the members of CARY. Keep in mind, however, that the core mission of this group is to support LGBTQ+ young people in schools. The questions they ask are aligned with best practices in keeping these students alive, helping them grow, and eventually, take flight into the world beyond our school system.

As a youth advocacy organization new to the Howard County scene, CARY has chosen shine a light on issues in our schools that have often been ignored or avoided. For candidates to hedge, equivocate, or demur shows an inability to face head-on the responsibility to lift up all students.  And if they can’t - or won’t - lift up all students, they shouldn’t expect our vote.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020


On Saturday a local organization called CARY (Community Allies of Rainbow Youth) released responses to a set of questions they had posed to candidates for the Board of Education. The reaction from the public has been, shall we say, varied. In addition, many people aren’t familiar with the group itself. Before I write about the BOE Survey I want to address what CARY is and where it comes from: a genealogy of sorts.

In the beginning there was PFLAG, whose roots trace back to 1972 and whose first meeting was held in 1973. From their website:

In the next years, through word of mouth and community need, similar groups sprang up around the country, offering "safe havens" and mutual support for parents with gay and lesbian children. 

In Howard County, the first meetings of a group with similar goals were held in 1995. The resultant group became a local chapter of the national PFLAG organization:  PFLAG Howard County. Here is the PFLAG Columbia-Howard County Mission Statement:

To support parents and caregivers of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer children. We welcome all people — gay, straight, bisexual, transgender and queer — as well as their families and friends. Together, we support each other, educate the broader community and advocate for equality.

One of the support groups provided by PFLAG Howard County is Rainbow Youth and Allies.

Rainbow Youth and Allies — a social group for LGBTQ+ youth and their friends, ages 12-22, in a safe space.

The term “Rainbow Youth” clearly connects to international use of the Rainbow Flag which celebrates the LGBTQ+ movement.

Over in the Howard County Schools, all high schools and some middle schools have student-led organizations called GSA’s. GSA used to stand for Gay-Straight Alliance, but, in recent years has come to be Gender Sexuality Alliance or some similar variant, in order to more explicitly welcome trans and gender non-binary students. I was unable to find a link on the HCPSS website which addresses these groups. (Still looking.)

In 2015 the school system created a partnership with PFLAG Howard County. To be honest I have no idea what, if anything, resulted from this, other than a press release.

HoCo Pride is a local 501(c)(3) nonprofit whose mission is to provide:

...a collection of events and programs that are geared toward the support of, advocacy for and education about the LGBTQ+ community in Howard County.

The inaugural HoCo Pride was held in Centennial Park in the Summer of 2019. I am guessing that the group’s founding was at least a year before this, as they formulated a core group to plan and fundraise for the event itself.

Onto this scene comes the newest LGBTQ+ advocacy group: CARY. (Community Allies of Rainbow Youth) CARY is a grass-roots, volunteer-based organization, whose first meeting was in March of 2019. Their Facebook page appeared in January of 2020. While their goals are wholly compatible with those of PFLAG Howard County, they are a completely independent entity. From their website:

We advocate for LGBTQ+ youth, raise awareness of LGBTQ+ issues in the community, with a focus on the schools, increase understanding of youth experiences across the LGBTQ+ community, and support each other!

Now we come to the political part. PGLAG Howard County holds candidate forums for a number of local raises but they do not endorse.

CARY, a group whose focus is most especially on students, formulated a set of pertinent questions which they posed to this year’s Board of Education candidates. The questions are listed below.

1. Would you support a policy that requires all HCPSS schools to allow transgender students to use restrooms and changing facilities based on their identified gender? Please explain your answer.

2. Would you support a policy that requires HCPSS staff and non-official documents to use the name and pronouns that a student requests? Please explain your answer.

3. To what age groups (if any) is it appropriate for teachers and other staff members to disclose to students that they have LGBTQ family members or are involved in a same-sex relationship?

4. Should curriculum be revised to include reference to LGBTQ individuals, including the fact or possibility that the individuals were LGBTQ identified. If yes, what (if any) is the minimum grade level at which these changes should be made? Please explain your answer.

5. Would you like to see LGBTQ themed works of literature, art, and media be introduced into the curriculum, and if yes, what (if any) is the minimum grade level at which this should be done? Please explain your answer.

6. How should the school system provide more education to parents/guardians with regard to understanding and supporting LGBTQ youth? How should HCPSS reach out to parents/guardians who are unsupportive of their children’s LGBTQ identities?

7. What accommodations should be made for transgender students participating in athletics organized by the school system? Which policies should be revised to reflect these accommodations?

8. Should HCPSS make sure schools offer access to LGBTQ student clubs like GSAs to their students? At what levels (High? Middle? Elementary?) should this happen? Please explain your answer.

9. What changes would you like to see made to the way HCPSS handles identification, reporting, interventions, and prevention of bullying?

10. What measures should the school system take to prevent suicide among the student body?

How would you answer these questions? We’ll talk about the candidate’s responses tomorrow.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Lanes and Leadership

I’ve been thinking a lot about the times when then-Council Member and now County Executive Calvin Ball took flak for addressing ways that the current president of the United States could impact our lives here in Howard County. He got a lot of the “stay in your lane” criticism, along with suggestions that his concerns were nothing more than political grandstanding.

It’s pretty clear to me that everything coming out of the White House daily has a direct connection to Dr. Ball’s ability to do his job protecting and supporting the people of Howard County. We can see how that’s an issue not just for the County Executive but also for the Governor Of the State of Maryland. When citizens don’t believe there is a serious health crisis, their subsequent behavior is a risk to themselves and others, and puts an unnecessary strain on an overworked healthcare system. When hospitals can’t get the medical supplies they need to provide adequate care, people die.

I don’t know how anyone could look at the situation we are in right now and say that what the President says and does has nothing to do with our lives in Howard County.

There’s a well known quote from author Maya Angelou:

When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.

If Ball was weighing the plentiful evidence of what a Donald Trump presidency would look like, that’s not political grandstanding. That’s just good common sense. It’s also a sign of good leadership. You don’t just think about what’s happening right now. You also have to keep your eye on things that might be headed your way.

The current national Covid-19 crisis is a huge example of how what happens in Washington does not stay in Washington. It’s not in a different lane. The lane runs right to us and thousands of other communities all over the country.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Quarantine Cookery

I see you, budding gourmets. I see your photographs of spectacular yeast breads, succulent slow-cooked masterpieces. I don’t know how you happened to enter quarantine with a supply of marinated figs or phyllo pastry.  I felt fortunate that our quarantine found us with with adequate supplies of ketchup and Ranch.

I don’t judge you. But neither can I emulate you.

I have found myself applying the kind of weird creativity to my cooking that was common when I was young and broke: things like adding that last sliced up hot dog to a bowl of ramen noodles. I counted myself quite the chef when I mixed one container of McDonald’s honey mustard with one packet of hot mustard leftover from Chinese takeout. Perfect with chicken tenders or as a dip for hard pretzels!

Last night a friend posted that the leftover bits at the bottom of a bag of kale chips make a great topping for pizza. Another friend is refilling her soy sauce bottle with her stash of soy sauce packets. None of us is down to our last meal. But there’s a kind of frugal ingenuity that kicks in when your trips to the grocery are limited and you are trying to be a good steward of your financial resources during an uncertain time.

My husband brought me an iced coffee but it had been prepared with sugar by mistake. I’m a cream, no sugar sort of person. Did I throw it away? No. I froze it, then threw it in the blender with a scoop of chocolate ice cream I had on hand and enjoyed a fancy frozen coffee drink. I don’t normally have the time or energy to fool with things like that.

Right now time is the biggest asset I’ve got going for me.

How about you? Do you have any quirky Quarantine recipes to share? Any unlikely cupboard combinations you’d like to recommend? What’s your go-to ingredient? Is there one item you wish you had purchased before we all hunkered down that you really miss?

For me that’s got to be hot sauce. We are out and I can’t bring myself to buy it because it isn’t really “essential”.

You hereby invited to share your current gourmet adventures of any variety. If I get enough responses  I will do a follow up post. Here’s where to submit your delicious examples:

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Looking Around

I’m feeling a bit house-bound this morning. Here are some views from a 2017 walk I took around Lake Kittamaqundi.

Far better than this, I recommend anything from Ellicott City Pix @ECPix, who has branched out from still photography into video. Here’s a recent visit to the Patapsco River:

If you like horses you can feast your eyes on daily pix over at the Columbia Horse Center Twitter account. (@ColumbiaHorseC

For those of us yearning for some compassionate human connection, I recommend videos made by staff for students from Oakland Mills High School and Homewood. This is love in action.

Cable TV and Netflix choices make it possible to see the sights around the world and even in magical worlds and galaxies unknown. But sometimes you want to be connected to home.


Friday, April 3, 2020

High and Dry

David Tufaro would like you to keep his dry cleaner in business.

Here is his letter to the Baltimore Sun this week:

Who would even have thought that your neighborhood dry cleaner would be suffering? Mine is down 70% in business. My advice: While working from home, please dress as though you were going to work.
And remember, you never know when your child, grandchild, or grandparent might be calling on FaceTime. So by all means, wear clothes.

If you don’t know who David Tufaro is, certainly Baltimore readers do. He is a highly successful developer who ran for mayor once. Unsuccessfully. As an extremely well-to-do member of Baltimore’s business elite, his concern about dry cleaners somehow rings a little Marie Antoinette to me. Or maybe more along the lines of Frasier and Niles.

On the other hand, dry cleaners are real people who run small businesses that are probably devastated by this crisis, so perhaps I would do well to focus on them and try to tune out Mr. Tufaro. At the time he wrote the letter, dry cleaners were still operating. Have they been shut down now as non-essential?

I wonder if Mr. Tufaro has a plan to support them.

Before I get too convoluted in my analysis of this letter, there is one last clue available: the date of publication. It ran in the April 1st edition of the Baltimore Sun. Perhaps Mr. Tufaro is just having a good laugh about it all? Hard to say.

How about you? If you are working from home, are you getting dressed in business attire each day? If you are not working, are you getting dressed? No need to send photos. I’ll take your word for it.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Just Breathe

There’s a letter to the editor in today’s Columbia Flier that I hope everyone reads.

State Should Recognize Respiratory Therapists

Written by a local respiratory therapist, the letter explains how crucial this particular specialty is right now during the Covid-19 pandemic. She doesn’t want recognition for herself, but for her colleagues-in-arms, whose work she is championing. It’s true that we read a lot about ventilators but we don’t read about the specifics. There are people behind the machines.

We tend to think of generic medical workers:  doctors and nurses. If we’ve watched hospital shows we might know about cardiologists, pediatric specialists, whoever is featured in a disease of the week episode. Respiratory therapists? Maybe not.

The letter closes:

Most will not know what a respiratory therapist does — until they need one.

Although the author of the letter will very likely never see this, I wish I could tell her (and her husband, also a respiratory therapist) that I already know. My father had COPD, also known as emphysema. In every one of his multiple hospitalizations he was cared for by a team that included respiratory therapists. He was on a ventilator at the end of his life. I am keenly aware of what that entails.

Years ago I had elective surgery and the other person in my hospital room was there because of an auto collision. She hadn’t worn a seat belt and threw herself low so as not to go through the windshield. The impact placed the steering column into her ribcage. I remember the care she received from respiratory therapists to make sure her lungs were functioning appropriately and she was getting a healthy amount of oxygen.

PSA: Always wear your seatbelt.

When my youngest daughter was eighteen months old she was hospitalized for pneumonia at Howard County General. Her oxygen levels were dangerously low and they weren’t able to bring them up sufficiently in the pediatric ER. She spent the second Easter Sunday of her little life in a big oxygen tent. All throughout her stay respiratory therapists were in and out, checking on her, administering and fine-tuning treatments.

Respiratory therapists are amazing, friends.

If, as the author of the letter hopes, Governor Hogan makes a point of recognizing Respiratory Therapists for their work in this crisis, it would be well deserved. Do you know the Governor? Know someone who does? Perhaps you could pass her letter along.