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is getting beat up at home because his mom thinks he’s gay.
Tonya Green’s belly grows daily, due to a few encounters with
the thirty year old homeless guy who sleeps on her stoop and sometimes
in her bed. Maria is
sporting a gash down the side of her face, the result of an encounter
with a broken bottle wielded by another girl bitter over Maria’s
alleged behavior with her man. Brandi is trying to find a place to live
because she can’t stay at home anymore with a grandfather who keeps
touching her. And me?
Me, I’m standing in front of these kids, plastic package in one
hand, banana in the other looking for volunteers to demonstrate the
proper way to put on a condom.
teach sex ed. in the
homo. It applies to a lot of things. The fact that I told them they
couldn’t call each other fag
or gay as an insult, for
example, is mad homo. So is
the fact that I kick them out if the guys call the girls bitches or if
the girls punch each other in the arms and say, “Shut the fuck up!”
when they disagree. “Miss,”
they explain when I intervene. “Miss, that’s just how we talk
together. We’re just playin’. You don’t understand.”
I tell them fine, you’re right, I don’t. But, I still make
them do an exercise where they have to compliment the person sitting to
their left and wait patiently as they mumble though: Maria,
I like your shirt; Anton,
you’re a good basketball player; Philip
you’re a nice friend.
compliments out of these kids has its merit but it doesn’t immediately
change the social and sexual interaction of the group. I come into class
one day as the kids are hearing about the blow job Manny recently
received. Manny is a huge, towering kid who’s 16 but looks 25.
He’s explaining how he needs head but would never reciprocate
on a girl. “Dick ain’t nasty like pussy,” he concludes. All the
guys agree noisily, with commentary.
I debate jumping in. It’s not the language. The kids know my
rule. Use slang as long as
you can show me you know the real word.
You want to say dick? First prove you know penis, scrotum, and
testicle. You want to say
pussy? Only if you explain the different parts of the vulva without
forgetting the clitoris. I don’t feel like making Manny run through
the drill again, but I decide the conversation warrants at least a
perfunctory interjection. So I tell them, “Nobody’s genitals are
nasty and there definitely isn’t anything gross about the vulva. Oral
sex is just a matter of personal preference.”
ensues. The boys practically
jump on top of each other trying to tell me just how wrong I am, just
how homo it is to go down on a girl, just under how much duress they
would need to be to ever consider doing that.
But they want me to understand, if a girl ever refused them head,
that’s it, they’re through. I know some of it is posturing.
But I also know a lot isn’t. As
I hand out worksheets and announce that today’s session is on values
and morals. The kids prefer classes that involve condom demos and
pictures of sexually transmitted infections and games where they have to
scramble to answer questions like: how many hours after unprotected sex can a woman take emergency
sometimes I like to make them actually talk to each other. So, now they
must debate the merits and drawbacks of sex without commitment and
whether a girl is a slut if she carries condoms and should gay teens be
allowed to take same sex partners to school dances.
“Miss we don’t even get art class, you think we’re going to
get a dance?” says Tina. It’s a good point, so I tell her, “In
theory then, just in theory.”
course most things for these kids aren’t theoretical. Like Amelia
Gonzales’ pregnancy. That
is pretty real. “Amelia,”
I say when she tells me, “You came to all my classes. What
14-year-old Amelia who is heavy and wears baggy overalls and whom I have
heard the boys refer to as Austin Powers’ “Fat Bastard,” just
mumbles through her braces, “I dunno.”
But eventually it comes out. Amelia
is in foster care. She lives
with a woman she calls her grandmother and two of her seven siblings.
Her mom has drug problems and is not allowed to see her.
The grandmother hates her. She
calls her ugly. And she
hasn’t done Amelia’s hair since she was seven. The boy is older, 16.
He’s from down the block. “So,”
I say trying hard not to come off as the condescending teacher I am
pretty sure I sound like, “You kind of wanted this baby?
You think a baby will love you and be cute and cuddle with you
when you’re sad?” Amelia
looks at me and says, “No, I don’t. My doctor just says I can’t
have an abortion.”
she tells me how her doctor has explained abortion. According to him the
procedure is physically excruciating and often results in fully grown
babies descending into the toilet piece by bloody piece after the
inevitable botched operation. And even if this does not occur, the
screams of infants being ripped limb from limb will echo in the head of
the forever damaged mother. I
tell Amelia this is not the way abortions work and ask her why she
thinks her doctor would give her such misinformation. Amelia explains
that the doctor is mad at her for getting pregnant.
He thinks she should have the baby and has told her if she has an
abortion she will feel such guilt that she will no doubt end up on drugs
like her mother. I tell Amelia that if she wants to have an abortion she
can do so and explain that she won’t be expelling bloody chunks of
baby. That abortion is confidential for teens in
the end of the year we get a grant.
I can train ten kids to become HIV peer educators and pay them to
do so. I pick Manny and
Brandi and Tina and