An overview of our current and pending projects.
Launching a National Council on Gender
Several decades of research have found the strongest possible links between rigid, narrow codes of masculinity and femininity, poorer reproductive health outcomes, and gender-based violence. To improve life outcomes among at-risk populations, there has been an increased focus on "gender transformative” interventions which question, challenge and change rigid gender norms and inequities. International agencies–like PEPFAR, UNAIDS, UNFPA, USAID and WHO–have already endorsed gender transformative interventions.
While a few domestic organizations like EngenderHealth and Population Council have done likewise, as Dr. Hortensia Amaro–a leading authority on youth of color–first observed in 1995,the US still pursues such issues"in a gender vacuum."
Through a grant from the Ittleson Foundation
, TrueChild is working with 47 leading researchers, policy-makers, advocacy organizations and funders to launch a national council focused on promoting gender transformative policies, programs and funding priorities. A convening was held at the Ford Foundation in 2011, and the public launch is planned for 2012. The Council will not only promote policy and systems change, but help bring researchers and practitioners together; identify, evaluate, and promote model programs; and coordinate action in ways that leverage individual efforts.
Improving Diversity Among Civic Engagement Organizations
Through support provided by The Atlantic Philanthropies, TrueChild will be providing training and assistance to US civic engagement organizations. Our activities will include providing training and workshops, as well as capacity building and other ongoing support that helps them increase diversity around issues related to organizational diversity.
This project includes important core support for TrueChild's work as well.
Young Latinas in under-resourced communities have among the highest rates of unplanned and teen pregnancy of any demographic. Research from the early 1990s onward has found the strongest possible links between high rates of unplanned teen pregnancy and narrow codes of machista femininity that discourage young Latinas from learning or talking about sex, and from carrying or negotiating condom use, while simultaneously encouraging them to be submissive, reverential towards motherhood, deferential to male sexuality, and tolerant of infidelity and sexual coercion.
Through support provided by The California Endowment, and in partnership with the Watsonville YWCA--TrueChild is developing a model curriculum with strong focus on challenging young high-risk Latinas age 12-15 to think critically about cultural gender norms. The curriculum is an adaptation of ¡Cuídate!–a CDC program for Hispanics–and Program M–developed by Promundo.
TrueChild and the YWCA are developing refining, piloting, implementing and evaluating the adapted curricula, and then disseminating it to health care systems, neighborhood service organizations, and school-based safer sex programs serving young, high-risk Hispanics in Central California. The project is being guided by a team of expert researchers that includes ¡Cuídate! author Dr. Antonia Villarruel, Promundo/US Executive Director Dr. Gary Barker, Dr. Hortensia Amaro (Northeastern), Dr. Debra Kalmuss (Columbia), and Dr. Dharma Cortes (Harvard). Deliverables include the curriculum plus process, fidelity and outcome measures, dissemination to community organizations, and a series of educational workshops.
Combating Gender-based Bullying & School Harassment
Research has found that harsh gender codes of masculinity and femininity and gender role intolerance are prime motivators of middle-school sexual harassment and homophobic bullying. Boys who internalize narrow ideals of masculinity (as defined by strength, aggression, and dominance) are much more likely to harass girls and bully other boys. Homophobic taunting in middle-school is more about policing gender and masculinity than actual sexual activity or orientation. Moreover, the three groups most often targeted as victims-- boys who are not perceived as manly enough, girls who are not perceived as feminine enough, and girls whose bodies develop earlier than their peers--are all linked by issues of gender conformity.
Yet most middle-school anti-bullying programs either address homosexuality per se, or stress messages of general tolerance. Both fail to specifically address the gender intolerance that motivates harmful behavior. This omission is especially crucial with online bullying, because zero-tolerance and other punishment-based policies don't work in the anonymity of cyberspace; addressing root causes becomes paramount. Studies show that online harassment has surged almost ten-fold – from just 1% in 2000 to 9% in 2005--and cyberspace is becoming the new playground.
• Through a grant from the B. W. Bastian Foundation, TrueChild is conducting focus groups with LGBTQ youth in Utah (which has one of the nation's highest rates of teen suicide) to pinpoint the roots of intolerance and document the problem. • We are conducting the literature review and research for the American Association of University Women (AAUW) to update their landmark 1991 report on middle-school sexual harassment--Hostile Hallways--with a focus on the role of gender intolerance in middle-school bullying. The publication of this new report -- Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at School -- has been widely covered by the New York Times, CNN, and other prominent media outlets.
Convening a California Council on Gender
Several decades of research have found the strongest possible links between rigid, narrow codes of masculinity and femininity, poorer reproductive health outcomes, and gender-based violence. To improve life outcomes among at-risk populations, there has been an increased focus on "gender transformative” interventions which question, challenge and change rigid gender norms and inequities. International agencies–like PEPFAR, UNAIDS, UNFPA, USAID and WHO–have already endorsed gender transformative interventions. While a few domestic organizations have done so, as Dr. Hortensia Amaro–a leading authority on youth of color–first observed in 1995, the US still pursues such issues "in a gender vacuum."
Through support provided by The California Endowment, Blue Shield of California Foundation, and The California Wellness Foundation, TrueChild is recruiting leading California researchers, policy-makers, advocacy organizations and funders to promote gender transformative policies in Sacramento. A convening at the Endowment is planned for mid 2012. The Council will not only promote policy and systems change, but help bring researchers and practitioners together; identify, evaluate, and promote model programs; and coordinate action in ways that leverage individual efforts.
Combating HIV/AIDS among Young, Black Women
Research has shown that internalized feminine norms are strongly linked to unsafe sex, especially in at-risk communities where girls learn womanhood means having a man, being attractive, becoming a mother, deferring to males sexually, and tolerating infidelity or coercion. In addition, girls are also inundated with popular culture messages promoting hyper-feminine ideals of sexual prowess, docility, and preoccupation with bodies.
In partnership with Iris House, this project will refine, pilot and evaluate an adaptation of SiHLE, a small group CDC Evidence-Based Program, and test its efficacy against the original. The new adapted content will focus specifically on challenging young Black women to think critically about codes of femininity and popular cultural norms in order to increase their skills, self-efficacy, and ability to make healthier choices.
The CDC has found that the likelihood of a Black woman being diagnosed with HIV is almost 1500% that of a white woman, for Latinas 400%. Moreover, the socio-demographics of Harlem are indicative of a neighborhood at risk. According to the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the New York City HIV/AIDS Annual Surveillance Statistics 2008, rates of HIV diagnoses and the rates of people living with HIV/AIDS in the communities of Central and East Harlem are more than twice the rates for New York City overall. Among youth specifically, Harlem has the highest number of teen HIV diagnoses and the highest HIV prevalence and diagnoses rates among teens in NYC – and almost 800% the national average.
To build awareness and community buy-in, TrueChild has convened two dozen of New York's leading authorities, policy-makers, and non-profits. These individuals and organizations will be recruited to serve as the project's Community Roundtable. In year two, Iris House and the Roundtable help disseminate the completed curriculum to other groups serving women of color. We will also identify and engage New York's top 25 reproductive health policy-makers, funders, and legislators, as the foundation for policy change efforts in Albany and around the state.
Model Curriculum for Assaults on LGBTQ Youth of Color
Our 2006 human rights report--50 Under 30: Masculinity & the War on America's Youth--documented an under-reported tide of violence that had claimed the lives of 50+ youth age 30 and under who were attacked because of their gender identity or gender expression. 82% were Black or Latina/o, 90+% were biological males presenting as femininely or actually female, and they overwhelming lived in impoverished communities. Most were attacked by male assailants--often in groups--within 5-10 years of their own age. DC, with seven victims, led all cities and states. The need to enforce codes of masculinity - and punish transgression -- were apparent in many attacks and comments made afterwards by perpetrators.
Through a grant from the Ted S. Fund for DC, TrueChild is researching, developing and disseminating a model intervention to combat this kind of fatal violence against youth of color who are seen as transgressing gender norms. Additional support has also been provided by the Mayor's Office of GLBT Affairs. Partnering organizations include the SMYAL, Community Education Group, DC Trans Coalition, and Men Can Stop Rape. Deliverables include a 2-hour intervention focused on masculinity and gender violence; training materials, process, fidelity and outcome measures; and dissemination to local groups for integration into their existing anti-violence programs.
Lowering HIV/AIDS Rates Among BYMSM
Research shows that unsafe behavior among young, Black men who have sex with men (BYMSM) are strongly linked to ideals of masculinity that push them to stay on the "down low" and keep female partners in the dark, engage in promiscuity and risky "barebacking," postpone getting tested for HIV, and eschew safer behaviors like kissing and caressing that are not prioritize penetration (but involve emotional vulnerability). Rates of HIV among DC's BYMSM population in distressed Wards 6-8 are among the highest in the nation, yet more needs to be known about them to create a specific intervention. In partnership with Community Education Group, which does much of the HIV testing and counseling for those Wards, TrueChild will conduct the formative research for a 2-hour intervention tailored to young Black MSM in DC, modeled on the successful Los Hermanos del Luna y Sol, including focus groups, a Community Needs Assessment survey, and developing a Curriculum Design plan.
Improving STEM Achievement for Black & Latina Girls
Young girls who are good at, and take a strong interest in, science, technology, engineering and math ("STEM") lose interest as they age. By the end of high school or beginning of college drop out all together. Research strongly suggests that this phenomenon (the "leaky pipeline") is connected to gender ideals that girls internalize as they mature, which make being good at STEM and being feminine mutually exclusive. With support from the Motorola Solutions Foundation, guidance from Sally Ride Science, and in partnership with the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE) and the National Girls Collaborative Project, TrueChild is conducting focus groups and other formative research to gain a better understanding and eventually develop a model intervention. We've also published a STEM white paper report based on our findings which documents the problem and reviews the relevant research.
School Drop-outs/Push-Outs and Young Men of Color
Boys of color do as well or better than their white peers until age 9 or 10, when drop- and stop-out rates suddenly begin to climb, grade points begin to slide, and the frequency of school disciplinary issues accelerates. This is consistent with the "gender intensification" period of late adolescence/early teens, when young boys are pressured to "man up" and the behaviors mostly likely to establish public masculinity -- risk-taking, defying adult authority figures, suffering punishment silently, and being strong and aggressive -- are also most likely to bring them in contact with school disciplinary regimes or even the Juvenile Justice System. Young men of color who are simply displaying urban masculinity are often singled out for "defiant behavior."
Moreover, studies have shown that Zero Tolerance and other punishment policies which aim to eliminate troublemakers actually punish young Black and Latino men more often and more harshly than their peers for the same offenses -- so much so that some researchers now refer to them as "push-out" policies. In partnership with America's Promise, TrueChild will develop a model intervention for both students and educators with a strong, specific focus on challenging narrow codes of manhood as well as administrators perceptions and misconceptions about them.