Saturday, December 12, 2015

ADA's STORY / LA HISTORIA de ADA

Name: Ada
Years in Girl Scouting: 13 years
Roles in Girl Scouting: Member, volunteer facilitator for older youth
Location: Costa Rica


En ingl
és


Costa Rica Map.gif
My name is Ada and I am 31 years old. I have been part of Guides and Scouts of Costa Rica for 13 years, first as a member and now as a facilitator (right now I am volunteering with youth ages 17-20 years old). I started in Guides and Scouts without knowing much about it. The only thing I knew was that this experience would mark a significant time in my life...and that is how it has been. I have seen new places and people, and I have learned 1001 activities. I give this movement a lot of credit for my character, my ideals, and for not caring if others are in accordance with my decisions.

Being a sexually diverse individual in Costa Rica involves living in a country that is very conservative due to the Catholic traditions and the power that the church has in the government. This creates a society that is very misogynistic, patriarchal, and phobic of diversity.

This does not mean everything is lost. Over the years, activists and civil society have fought to transform these ideals. LGBTQ issues are part of political agendas and are now positioned strategically in diverse spaces.

Even though many private and public organizations declare themselves free of discrimination against sexual orientation (and progress has been made on the issue of access to rights for different couples), a lot of change still needs to occur. Things are changing slowly.

Though many different people are part of the Association of Guides and Scouts of Costa Rica, LGBTQ issues are not particularly spoken about, nor are certain actions taken. In various instances, I have found that LGBTQ issues arise for facilitators when they have boys and girls that may be different and they do not know what to do.
Screen Shot 2015-12-12 at 5.40.21 PM.png
One of the main problems is the lack of awareness and information. Many people do not understand that diversity is part of life and not a problem. Things are complicated by people who do not understand that romantic and sexual relationships are simply that -- even if the couples are not heterosexual.

Well, this is my country and my Association from my personal opinion, influenced by who I am in this diverse world.

I am a young adult that never questioned the male/female duality during my childhood or adolescence. This was partly because I was more interested in other things and also because I didn’t consider questioning such things, even as a teenager. 


When I started attending university, I began to ask myself many questions and one of those questions was about my sexuality. Things then simply fell in place. I went from being a girl with a closed-off perspective (primarily due to religious practices) to an activist for the rights of LGBTQ people.


I was a committee member and an organizer for marches, rallies, forums, fairs, etc., and I even come out in national newspapers. Those several years were a fun time in my life and involved great personal satisfaction. Today, some people within the Association of Guides and Scouts of Costa Rica do look at me and treat me differently.


LGBT Costa Rica.jpg
But that’s life. I only did what I thought was just and correct. None of these acts were premeditated and of course falling in love with a female was not part of my plan...but it happened. A classmate became a friend, and then a very important friend with whom I shared not just academic activities but also my likes, dislikes, fears, and joys. She became part of me and I realized things were different by her side. Essentially, I had my first lesbian relationship. I learned a lot from this relationship. It was an intense and impetuous first love.

When the relationship ended, it broke my heart. After a while, though, you can take away the lessons. And so, I wouldn’t change the past and now fondly remember this time.

After this relationship ended, I began thinking a lot about my life and what I wanted for my future. I began to question if I was truly a lesbian, I questioned monogamy and many other things. After not questioning my sexuality previously, many concerns arose.

I determined that I personally do not like to label others or to be labelled. Thus, my identity and sexual orientation does not define me or limit me in my relationships. Arriving at this understanding broadened my thoughts and practices.

Since embracing this type of self-determination, I am more authentic and I care less about what others think of me. My clothing, my hobbies, my way of behaving, and the things I do allow others to assume I'm a lesbian. This happened for many years before I even had a lesbian relationship. They assume that I am “macho,” when it’s actually always been the other way around. I believe in horizontal relations and prefer to have a lower profile in my relationships.

The funny thing is that ever since a girl gave me my first kiss, I knew I wouldn’t be the “alpha.” Picture this: me, a girl, and an elevator...perfect ingredients that led to the girl in question approaching me (without me noticing) and planting a kiss on me that almost made my heart explode. I had asthma for a few days afterward. It was nothing serious, I just almost died from the impression.


Screen Shot 2015-12-12 at 6.02.24 PM.png
Well, this story has followed the life of a single woman who adores the “life of fresh air” that it gives you to be part of the Guides and Scouts of Costa Rica. Being part of Guides and Scouts of Costa Rica empowers me to build my existence one day at a time.


En español


Mi nombre es Ada, tengo 31 años y 13 de ser parte de Guías y Scouts de Costa Rica primero como miembro juvenil y ahora como facilitadora, en este momento trabajo voluntariamente con jóvenes entre los 17 y 20 años. Ingrese a Guías y Scouts sin saber exactamente a que iba, lo único de lo que estaba segura es que sería una experiencia que marcaría mi vida y así ha sido, he conocido lugares, personas y realizado mil y una actividad que me han enseñado parte de las cosas más importantes que sé. Atribuyo en gran medida a este movimiento la fortaleza de mi carácter y el seguir mis ideales sin importar el qué dirán o el sí estarán de acuerdo con mis decisiones.



Ya que ser una persona sexualmente diversa en Costa Rica implica vivir en un país sumamente conservador por su tradición católica y el poder que esta iglesia tiene en el gobierno, ya que nuestro estado se declara confesional y no laico. Aunado a esto es una sociedad sumamente misógina, patriarcal y fóbica de las diversidades

Aunque esto no significa que todo este perdido ni mucho menos, desde hace muchos años la sociedad civil y activistas han luchado para que las cosas se transformen. Y es de esta forma que la temática LGBTQ es parte de agendas políticas y se ha posicionado estratégicamente en diversos espacios.

Por lo que hoy en día muchas instituciones públicas y privadas se declaran libres de discriminación por orientación sexual y se ha avanzado en el tema de acceso a diversos derechos para las parejas diversas, falta mucho pero la transformación va de a poco.

Y bueno la Asociación de Guías y Scouts de Costa Rica es parte de esta sociedad por lo que si bien es sabido que muchas personas diversas formamos parte de ella, no es un tema del que especialmente se hable o se tome alguna determinación. En diversas actividades en que me he encontrado el tema sale por parte de facilitadores, ya que tienen chicos y chicas diversas y no saben qué hacer.


Screen Shot 2015-12-12 at 6.23.22 PM.pngPor lo que uno de los principales problemas es la falta de sensibilización y de información para que se comprenda que la diversidad es parte de la vida y no un problema por sí solo. Ya que las complicaciones las hacen las personas que no logran comprender que las relaciones romántico/sexuales solo son eso, aunque se trate de parejas no heterosexuales.

Bueno, ese es mi país y esa es mi Asociación desde mi óptica, y quien soy yo en este mundo diverso. Soy una adulta joven que en su niñez y adolescencia jamás se había cuestionado la dualidad hombre/mujer, la razón, en parte porque me interesaba más por otras cosas y también porque hace quince años ni siquiera pasaba por mi cabeza el cuestionarme ese tipo de cosas.

Al ingresar a la universidad empecé a preguntarme muchas cosas y parte de esas preguntas referían a mi sexualidad. Por lo que las cosas simplemente cayeron por su peso, pase de ser una chica con un panorama bastante cerrado y estructurado principalmente por las prácticas religiosas a una activista por los derechos de las personas sexualmente diversas. Siendo parte de comités y organizadores de marchas, mítines, foros, ferias, entre otros, incluso saliendo en periódicos de circulación nacional. Fue una época divertida de mi vida en la que participe por varios años, que implicó gran satisfacción personal y además que hoy algunas personas de la Asociación de Guías y Scouts de Costa Rica me miren y me traten de una forma diferente.

Pero bueno así es la vida, yo solo he hecho lo que considere justo y correcto. Ninguna de estas cosas fue premeditada y claro el enamorarme de una chica nunca fue parte de mis planes, no obstante simplemente sucedió. Una compañera se convirtió en amiga, luego en una amiga muy importante con la que compartía además de mis actividades académicas, mis gustos, disgustos, miedos, alegrías.


Heartbreak.jpgSe fue colando en lo más adentro de mí ser hasta que mis ojos la miraban diferente, hasta que me di cuenta que a su lado las cosas eran distintas y bueno en resumen tuve mi primer relación lésbica, aprendí mucho de esa relación ya que fue un primer amor intenso e impetuoso. Cuando se terminó se rompió mi corazón y al término de un tiempo pude canalizar muchos aprendizajes por lo que no cambio lo vivido y hoy recuerdo con mucho cariño ese tiempo.

Al terminar esa relación pensé mucho sobre mi vida y lo que quería para mi futuro, así que empecé a cuestionarme sobre si necesariamente era lesbiana, sobre la monogamia y muchas otras cosas, en fin luego de no preguntarme nada respecto a mi sexualidad surgieron muchas inquietudes. Al final mis disertaciones se concretaron en que personalmente no me gusta etiquetar ni etiquetarme por lo que mi identidad y orientación sexual no me definen ni me limitan en mis relaciones, aunque llegar a estas determinaciones implico en su momento pasar de considerarme heterosexual a lesbiana y luego ampliar mis pensamientos y prácticas.

Desde que tome este tipo de determinaciones en mi vida he podido ser más auténtica y me importa muy poco lo que las demás personas piensen de mí. Ya que por mi forma de vestir, mis hobbies, mi forma de comportarme y las cosas que hago, asumen que soy lesbiana (desde muchos años antes de tener relaciones lésbicas) y que soy una “macho” (cuando siempre ha sido al revés, porque creo en las relaciones horizontales y prefiero tener un perfil más bajo en mis relaciones).


Costa Rica License Plate.jpgY lo gracioso es que desde que una chica me dio el primer beso supe que jamás sería la “alfa”, imaginen el cuadro, yo una chica y un ascensor, ingredientes perfectos que llevaron a que la chica en cuestión se acercara a mi sin que yo me diera cuenta y me plantara un beso que casi me explota el corazón y por el que tuve asma un par de días. No fue nada grave, solo casi muero de la impresión.

Pero bueno así ha seguido la vida de esta soltera que adora entre otras cosas la vida al aire libre que le brinda ser parte de Guías y Scouts de Costa Rica y el poder construir mi existencia un día a la vez.

Friday, November 27, 2015

EMBER's STORY

Name: Julia “Ember” Ricciardi
Years in Girl Scouting: 15 years
Roles in Girl Scouting: Girl member, camp staff, troop leader, volunteer facilitator/trainer, Program/Girl Experience council staff
Location: Seattle, Washington


One of my earliest Girl Scout memories involves a green tent and a red sleeping bag. I was a Brownie (in second grade) and my troop had planned our first overnight -- including s’mores and sleeping in a tent in my neighbor’s backyard. We spent a lot of time setting up our sleeping bags and pillows and stuffed animals and flashlight lanterns in just the right way. We ate way too many s’mores and our pajamas soaked up the smell of smoke from the fire we made in the middle of a driveway. As the sun went down, one of my troop members went home because she was feeling too homesick. The rest of us piled into the tent and giggled for what seemed like hours. Another tent mate left soon after we nestled in -- her stomach hurt. My friend who lived at the house woke up in the middle of the night and decided to go sleep in her own comfy bed. I’m told that at this point my troop leader picked me up -- the lone tent occupant -- and laid me down on the couch inside.

When I woke up in the morning, smelling like fire and soggy leaves, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed. I felt like I had something left to prove, I wanted to show the world the tough-forest-girl that I knew I was! A few months later, I tore open my largest birthday present to find a green tent of my own. That portable shelter carried me through many adventures over the next few years.


Fast forward to my tween years and things were just a little bit different. You could say that my sense of independence developed into full-blown pre-pubescent angst. Between second and fifth grade, I had moved with my family from New Jersey to Hawai’i to Seattle. On a spring afternoon, my mom picked me up from elementary school and on the drive home she said, “I’m signing you up for Girl Scout camp.”

Without missing a beat, I retorted, “NO WAY! Who are the lame girls that want to spend their summer at Girl Scout camp earning badges and doing kapers? Not me, not I! I will be spending my summer going on cool adventures. My mom chuckled a bit in response. For the rest of the car ride home, she didn’t do much to convince me of the merits of Girl Scout camp. Unbenounced to me, and in spite of my pleas for a summer activity that wouldn’t relegate me to the nerd category, she sent in the registration. (At the time I had no clue, but the stamp she used to mail in that registration form is undoubtedly the best thirty-two cents she’s ever spent.)
The second Sunday in August arrived and my mom drove me to the Girl Scout office. I dragged my needlessly heavy suitcase out of her trunk, waved goodbye, and piled into a van with a gaggle of other Girl Scouts. We journeyed for hours -- on a ferry crossing the Puget Sound and on winding roads in the foothills of the Olympics. Before I arrived at camp, I had already been crowned with a new nickname -- Purple Haze -- for the bright purple hair and spunky personality I had at the time.


I shared a cabin with Catalina and Rachel and Megan. We were from completely different homes, we were different ages and our bodies had almost no similarities. Catalina had lanky legs that the rest of her body hadn’t grown into yet. Rachel had the frizziest ball of hair. Though I was the youngest in the group, I had the most developed breasts. This was something I had been self-conscious about constantly for my final year of elementary school. None of this, absolutely none of this mattered at camp. At camp, we each had permission to be exactly the way we wanted to be. There was no one there to tell my cabinmates I completely sucked at reading aloud. There were no rude comments from boys. There were no mirrors. And no one told us we had to stop after eating a third grilled cheese sandwich. It was the first place each of us experienced true freedom.

Together, our feet pounded on the soggy earth as we hiked every trail at camp, our arms sliced through the salty water as we swam to the rocks, and our singing voices slipped between the branches of the tall evergreens. We stayed up late every single night -- playing MASH and telling our life stories. One night Orion, after telling us to be quiet six times, invited us out of our cabin for a secret midnight run along the bulkhead. She ran with us for nearly a mile, fed us hot cocoa and sent us back to our cabin with memories we’d never forget. That week, my heart grew as deep as the Hood Canal. (The canal’s so deep that it is home to the giant Pacific octopus.)


On Saturday, my mom arrived early to pick me up. I wanted the magic of camp to linger unbroken for as long as possible, so I took her by the hand and showed her the vistas, the trees, the water lapping against the rocks. I introduced her to counselors who had changed my life: Orion and Olive and Trillium and Flash and Gibraltar and many more. After my mom loaded my suitcase into her trunk and I said my final goodbyes, we pulled out of the driveway.

My mom turned to me and said, “Do you think she is gay?,” referring to one of the counselors who was waving goodbye in our rearview mirror. I had the privilege of being raised in a progressive and inclusive family. But, I still didn’t really know what my mom was saying or why she was asking about my counselor’s orientation. To me, it made no difference. I knew my counselors by their camp names and the lessons they taught me. Trillium taught me how to eat salal. Flash showed me the tricks to lighting a one match fire. Shad sang to me about rivers and tree roots. Olive taught me proper techniques for peeing in the woods and she demonstrated the best velociraptor impression I’ve ever seen. These were the characteristics that constituted their identities in my eyes and not much else about them mattered to me at the time.

When I was away from Robbinswold, enduring long school days seated at a rigid desk, I realized that Girl Scout camp was the only place I had the freedom to truly express everything that was important to me. I could be all of the parts of myself. And because of that, I literally wanted to do every camp session that was offered. Over the course of a single summer, I participated in arts programs, backpacking trips, and canoe adventures. By the end of the summer, every staff person knew my name (though, they more frequently referred to me as serial camper). I learned all the lyrics to “On the Loose.” I knew every tree root that crossed a walking path. I discovered how to rig a sailboat and how to haul up a windsurf sail. I discovered that my mom was correct in asserting that at least some of my counselors were gay. And I discovered that I had a mad crush on one of the lifeguards.
In September of ninth grade, I came out to my friends and teachers at school. See, I wasn’t afraid to share that because I knew that it was just one piece of me. Hi, my name is Ember. I can light one match fires, I am an expert at the Human Knot Game, and I like to kiss girls.


I feel really lucky to have discovered and named my queerness when I was so young. I have a lot of older gay friends who didn’t have the chance to explore their attraction until much later in life. I can only begin to imagine how stifling it is to live for decades without really knowing or really expressing one’s sexual orientation. I will be forever grateful to the women at Girl Scout camp who showed me that any way I wanted to be and express myself was welcomed.


It is a surprise to no one that, nearly fifteen years later, I have joined the staff of Girl Scouts of Western Washington. Serving as the Program Manager for Highest Awards is truly my honor and privilege. Each and every day, I am given the opportunity to listen and accept young women -- exactly the way they are and exactly the way they are not. It is the least I can do to show my thanks and gratitude to the camp staff who shaped my life.


There’s another reason, though, that I am infinitely proud to work for Girl Scouts of Western Washington. Earlier this year, my council received a donation of $100,000. Shortly thereafter, the donor contacted our CEO and said that not a single penny of the money could be spent on trans* girls. Without skipping a beat, our leadership returned the check. We took a bold and public stance against bigotry. We stood up ForEVERYGirl. We said that every girl has something valuable to contribute. Every girl has something to gain from the life altering experiences Girl Scouts provides. Every girl can change the world. And she’s welcome here.

If you are committed to creating a world ForEVERYGirl, I encourage you to get involved with the Girl Scouts or Girl Guides near you! And if you have a few extra dollars, it never hurts to donate. Your contribution -- whether it be time, talents or treasure -- could help the next teen discover who she truly is.

 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

C's STORY

Name: C.
Years in Girl Scouting: 17 years
Roles in Girl Scouting: Pax Lodge Assistant, Our Chalet Assistant, Unit Leader, Regional Assistant, National Leadership Trainer
Location: Europe


I identify as a lesbian in terms of sexual orientation, but really, I think of myself as just being with my partner, M.  That is what’s normal for me. When I first met M., it was more a feeling of just liking her and enjoying being with her...the significance of her being a girl wasn’t so important.  I didn’t think so much about my sexual orientation beforehand but when I reflect, I admit that I hadn’t been very attracted to guys.

M. and I met in 2008 at a training course for Girl Guides.  She was someone I could connect to and someone that I could trust instantly.  She lived in the countryside on an island about four hours away.  We had different lives but we were similar in age so we had a lot of things in common.  We were both very engaged in Girl Guides and volunteered a lot of our spare time with the organization.  She was a Unit Leader in her local area and we both worked on the national level.  

We started dating around November 2009.  In the beginning, we weren’t official.  It was a necessary part of my personal development but it was difficult for our relationship.  I didn’t identify as single but everyone else thought I was.  A lot of the time, I referred to what we had as friendship rather than a relationship, or I would refer to M. as “my friend” so that it wasn’t obvious.

I fell in love.  What is it to fall in love, though?  In some ways, I was overwhelmed by how good she was for me.
It took about a year for me to tell my parents that I was with M.  My parents and I are close.  When I told them, my mom was quite cool about it.  They’ve both grown into the fact that M. and I are together.  My sister was initially disappointed that I didn’t “trust her” to come out to her earlier, but that’s not it...I didn’t know any gay people personally and I thought it was “strange”. It was natural for me to be with M. but how could I ask the people in my life to understand that, when I myself was “unfamiliar” with people being gay?

There hasn’t really been any rejection after coming out, but it’s been a fear for both of us that people would see us differently.


(M.: I think that we would be more active in the gay community if we did not have Girl Guides as part of our lives.  It seems tough to say that we don’t need the gay community, but since we have Girl Guides, we have a place where we can just be.)


I feel that we share the Guiding world and like different paths in the movement.  We try to do things together occasionally but do lots of work separately.  It’s really important for us each to have our own units -- a space for each of us.  


Our Girl Guiding community has known for a long time that we are together.  It’s important that Guiding is one of the places where our relationship can be natural.  There are more female couples in Girl Guides than maybe you would think.  For us, though, it’s important that people don’t think that “Girl Guides turns people gay.”  That’s just not true and it’s dangerous to think that people “turn gay.”


Sometimes I thought that my parents would accept M. as part of the family but not always think of her specifically as my partner.  Now, with our wedding, they have accepted it more.  My sister recently got a boyfriend and that was a relief for my parents -- now my dad has someone to drink beer and watch football with and M. can have space to be herself in the relationship with my parents.  


I didn’t know I was gay before. M. knew she was gay for a few years before we started dating, but I was her first girlfriend. M. was also my first kiss.  Sometimes, it’s been difficult for me to figure out my relationship thoughts: Should I marry my first girlfriend?  That’s just a regular relationship question since I hadn’t dated anyone else.


M. and I got engaged in fall 2014.  I proposed at home.  It was quite a normal day and also a special day.  It was M.’s grandmother’s birthday.  Although her grandmother died several years ago, she was very important to M.  The proposal was very simple...sometimes I worry it was too simple.  M. gave me a hug as we walked to the living room and then she knew what was about to happen.  I’m a lot taller than her and her ear was pressed against my heart -- she could hear how fast it was beating and knew I was nervous.  I went on one knee and she started crying.  A lot.  I tried to hug her while I was still on my knee.  She didn’t want to see the ring at first because she was so overwhelmed, so I sat next to her and gave it some time.  I counted to 200.  When I reached 200, she had also stopped crying, so I showed her the ring.  She really liked it.


When I picked out the ring, I went to the jeweler, selected a ring, and just bought it.  It was quite weird.  Usually when things are important, I think about them for a really long time before deciding to act.  However, I knew I wanted to do this, so I simply did it.  I bought a ring with quite a big stone on it.  It was very difficult for M. not to break it.  She’s a little bit clumsy.  Maybe it wasn’t the most suitable ring for her, and it was an accomplishment that she didn’t break it.


In my country, it’s been legal to be in a registered partnership as a same-sex couple for about 25 years.  Gay marriage was legalized here three years ago.  It’s now possible to be married in a church without having to go to a city hall first.  The priest still has the choice to marry or not marry the couple, though.  For us, it was important to get married in a Protestant church.  No one in my family has gotten married outside of a church.


We decided to get married on 15/8/15 -- the fifteenth of August, 2015.  8 has always been M.’s favorite number and the number 5 means a lot to me.  We thought that 15/8/15 had a nice rhythm.  


One of the things my sister said when we got engaged was that we couldn’t have a traditional wedding anyway, so we might as well make it exactly as we wanted it. We wanted a small wedding with a lot of guests.  “Perfect” for us was to invite the people we wanted to be with us.  We didn’t need every flower specially grown or fancy transportation.  We wanted something natural, something that was “us.”  


It was important to both of us to wear dresses for the ceremony, and it would be common to be married in white in my country.  Even though M. is not a “dress girl,” she would always wear a dress to a fancy party.  I knew I would wear a red dress. The days are always better if I wear red: half of my closet is red.  I’m just a red girl.  My dress had a lot of flowers on them and M. laced them herself.  These laced flowers were very significant.  The story behind it is that one of the first presents M. made me was a red laced flower.  I used it a lot and put it in my hair often.  Each laced flower is about 7 hours of work and M. made me about 25 flowers.  It meant a lot that she invested the time in creating all of those flowers for me.


The question was M.’s dress: We wanted the colors to complement each other.  We’re not always so good with style.  My sister is in charge of that kind of thing.  M.’s dress was purple and it looked like the dresses were meant for each other.


For our wedding, M. also made me a papier-mache giraffe that's as tall as me. She made it in secret and it’s now in our living room.  I have a skin illness that makes my pigment go away, so people say that I am a giraffe because I have spots and I’m so tall. M. said that it was also because the giraffe has the biggest heart compared to the size of its body.


We invited a lot of Girl Guides to the wedding. We were so blessed, that there was 8 flags in the church. It is an acknowledgement from our present and former Girl Guide units and we were so overwhelmed by it. It was more than we could have dreamt of. It also made our families realize what great impact Guiding has in our lives.


Maybe we should have been more open earlier.  I still feel that wasn’t a possibility.  I want to be true to myself, I want people to be able to trust me, and I want to be able to trust other people.  For me, it was really important that I would be able to easily tell people that M. and I were together.  People will still ask, “What does your husband do?”  And then I have to say, “Well….”  It was important to me that I could counter that question confidently. In my language, the word for boyfriend or girlfriend is the same, so you can say that you are in a relationship without referring to gender.  If I use the word, though, I now clarify that I’m with a woman.


We know we are very lucky to live someplace where it’s accepted to be gay.  We have rights, we can create a family together, we can live regularly.  


I don’t think so much about being gay.  I simply identify as “being with M.” because she’s the one I love.
I’m really happy that there is a gay community that can make sure that we have equal rights but I don’t fight so much for it myself.  Sometimes the gay community feels so colorful that I don’t know where I fit in.   I fall outside the norm because I’m with a girl, but I fall inside the norm in every other perspective. I’m red and M. is purple.  There’s also green due to Girl Guides, but those are all of our colors.  We just need those three colors.