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Homoparental families, an Italian book talking about their reality

Last week I had the pleasure to attend the launch of “Due PapĂ  Due Mamme” (Two Fathers Two Mothers), an Italian book about the reality of homoparental families. It was really an interesting chat with the author, Alessandro Taurino, psicologist, researcher and gender orientation and identity expert. He, obviously, had an extended knowledge of the real facts behind parenting in all its forms and he was kind enough to answer to all the questions from the audience.
What has really caught my attention is his obvious intent in pointing up that homoparental families already exist, they have been around for a really long time so there is nothing new to discuss, but a lot of wrong facts to explain and remove from common knowledge. Above all in Italy, just discussing the existence of these families can raise many voices, in fact, some parties are using predjudices as their political flags, fighting teeth and nails against the legal recognition of this big portion of our population. That very evening, some local political groups have even expressed their opposition at the mere launch of this book in my town on their official social networks, not even having the guts to attend it them selves to discuss the matter the right way, face to face. Considering my experience, I am sure they would have left the event with a full new knowledge about families, all of them.
This book presents itself like something everyone can read, from the simple language to the attention to every detail in explaining even clinical researches about families. In fact, many studies have been made about the effect that having homosexual parents can have on a child and, what a surprise!, they all lead to the same exact conclusion: statistic records are the same for heterosexual families and homosexual families. What does it mean? It means that homosexual parents have the same probability heterosexual parents have to screw up, like they have same probability to be great parents. And it has been said for the last 30 years or so, it is no recent news!
Personally, I have gone home after the event with a renewed and strenghtened intent in advocating the rights of the LGBT community and homoparental families, because I have found myself in an environment of knowledge and open mindness that has left me kind of proud to be there. Mostly, and finally, not alone in fighting for those which I believe are fundamental rights.
What I do believe, and I have seen confirmed that evening, is that we can't excuse predjudice like it were an illness people can't help having, ignorance (and homophobia) is a choice in the Social Networks and Internet era. We have all the knowledge at the touch of our fingers so the choice to stay ignorant on the matters of equality is purely ours.

Lusiana @uglylusiana

#DoGood Month: Interview to Bullies Keep Out founder Dana Jacoviello

Interview by Lusiana

BulliesKeep Out founder Dana Jacoviello has decided to share her story and has given me the
honor to discuss its repercussion with her personally. As friend and partner-in-crime, I will do my
best to respect her and the importance of her personal story, as well as the reasons behind her
choice, which are more than honorable. I will keep the questions as far as possible from the private
parts of Dana's story. To understand this interview better, though, you can read it here, penned
directly by her expert hands.

Q: First of all, thank you for sharing your life experience, I am sure it will help giving hope to many
people struggling the way you have in your past.
From what I have read, you have come to certain terms with your past and story. Deciding to share
it must need a big level of confidence in you strength and capacity to deal with going back there,
even just to recount it. How difficult did you find writing about it?

DJ: Well, I am a writer. I freelance for a couple different entertainment magazines and attend events. I do press and media. I write screenplays, and I write motivational articles that have been featured on major online publications, so I am no stranger to writing. In fact, I can write a novel probably in a week [laughs]. I never had an issue in writing, but my writing usually reflected telling my story anonymously or through my eyes, but not letting on it was actually me telling ma piece of my story.

My first finished screenplay ‘Believe’, which I will be working on with a stunt actress in Vancouver in very near future, is partly about myself and my struggles. I use my personal life and experiences to write many times.
So, I would not say that it is hard. I would say it was hard for me to admit it was about myself…besides a few people knowing. I was always afraid due to who would make a big deal, would I get in trouble, would I create conflict based on who saw it, would it affect what I do, and so on and so forth. I recently saw all these people telling their story, even celebrities coming out with some of theirs they struggles with related issues. At that point, I figured that it was about time to walk my own walk. It is not only therapeutic, but I preach for others to speak out and share theirs with my organization, and just in general. I live to help people. That is what I do, among many others things. Activism, philanthropy, advocacy, and being a humanitarian is a big part of my life. It is a major goal of mine, and it has been for years.
I just really never learned to help myself as much as I should. I was always and still am busy taking care of everybody else. Someone finally said to me, you have to take care of you first to take care of others. I can’t be falling apart and help another. We always have to help ourselves first. A healthy you, is a good you.
What I wrote is only scratching the surface, but it provides insight for people to see they are not alone. Even people who seem to have these fabulous lives are just like everybody else in many ways. They have all the same emotions and struggles. We share It does not matter who you are or what you do. It has nothing to do with money or fame or where you come from. We all bleed the same. We are all human beings.

What I do, I do for people out there and myself, so I need to not show fear in letting people in or just seeing me through a looking glass. It only makes sense considering what I do. I also feel, I can’t keep hiding behind a curtain when I write. I have to actually say, hey, this is me and my story, rather than this is a story about me, but nobody will ever know that.
It just needs to be written with grace, I am a perfectionist [laughs], so it also needs to be exactly how I want it to be told from my perspective. I want it to reach people and touch people. I do not want it to just be me babbling.
Q: A thing that really fascinates me is the choice to step from being a “survivor” to being a “savior”,
i.e. putting yourself out there to help people in need, advocating and publicly talking about big
issues. Can you pinpoint the exact moment it happened for you? When did it come to you that you
and your story could help other people save themselves?

DJ: I always wanted to help others, give back, and do social good. I felt it was almost innate, and as if I was meant to do that type of work. It is one of the reasons I chose psychology as my degree. That and they get to talk a lot. I talk a lot both with my hands and mouth. [laughs]. Blame it on being Italian from NYC. [laughs]. Everybody kept telling me I was their therapist anyway.
I think it was just second nature to me. There was no specific moment in my life. I always was like that from the time I can remember. I know I have the hearts my grandmothers had. They were my world, and a solid rock for me. I was always told I had a huge heart. People would hug me and say they could feel love and that it was big. I always found that to be weird in my youth. I used to just shake my head and go ok yea…uh huh. I never understood it.

This is what happens with the world when we do not understand something. This is where judgement, hate, and discrimination come in. People do not understand something, so they lash out in negative ways. Although, that was never my issue. I was more being a jokester, as I am always making people laugh, but think about it for a second. We cannot understand something and still accept it or we cannot understand something and go down the opposite path.

As I got older, I felt the love and big hearts when I hugged certain people in my life, such as my grandmothers. That is when I had my AHA moment. I was like, how can you tell someone is full of love and has a big heart just from hugging them? BUT…it is a very real and true thing.
As far as taking it a step further than helping others, doing good deeds, giving back, donating, volunteering, sharing, RT’ing, and all those ways of helping, I decided to start an organization of my own. It happened when my last grandmother died. I was so lost and broken. It was as if someone took my heart and broke it into a millions pieces. The pain was indescribable. I was numb for a long time. Watching someone that such a fixture in your world pass away in front of you and be so sick is an experience in itself, besides just losing them.
I would have to say that is when I truly realized how strong I was. They had the strength of 100 strong men. They also hid emotions often to be strong for everybody else. I think I do that too. In fact, I know I do.
So when this idea came to me, I just went for it. I wanted it to be HUGE, which it is very much on its way to becoming. I am so proud of myself, which I never heard that much from anybody I wanted to hear it from. I heard it from people in my life, which was nice. The people you EXPECT to always hear it from, never told me. It was always you can do even better. It was beating around the bush, but never saying those words, which is probably why I beat myself up mentally, emotionally, and physically. I basically self-bullied myself and would get very defensive over small things. It was my way of protecting and shielding myself and my heart.
I think that is so important to tell people how you feel, especially family members. It is something we all need and should hear from loved ones. It is not just words. We say words hurt and are strong. They are, but they are also strong for good. They can change everything for a person. That is what I look to do. Change the world and as many lives as I can. Even if it starts with one and goes from there. Knowing I have saved lives is something you never forget.

Thinking about that statement, I changed my mind. I am not saving them. They are actually saving themselves. I might have been a part of it, but they actually have to do the hardest work. Their job is much harder than mine in doing so. When we say this or that saved us, it usually a collection of things rather than just ONE specific thing or person. It can be one thing, one instance, one person, but I find it is rare that it is not intertwined with other entities when looking at the picture as a whole.

Unless a shark is about to bite your ass and someone jumps into to save you, then one person can get all the credit [laughs]. Sorry, I have to throw jokes here and there to lighten it up. [laughs]
I am going to be 37 years old. You think you do not need certain things as you become an older adult. It does not matter how old you are, you are somebody. You came from somewhere. You still need hugs, love, kisses, compassion, understanding, and support. That never goes away. There are times in my life I wish I had certain relationships, which I never had. What can I do? I made my own family no matter how big or small, it isn’t about blood. If it was, I would be in trouble. [laughs].
I think it is important that everybody hears certain things coming from people that matter in their life. I love you, I am proud of you, you are brave, you are strong, you are courageous, I am here for you, I support you, I understand, or whatever it may be that is needed. We know what people need to hear. I think we should acknowledge these things for people in our life…and even those not in our life. This is what I do all the time.
I do not know every single person I speak to or that comes to me. Some have become friends or I know very well from mentoring/coaching them; however, I tell people what I believe at that moment they need. Maybe they are like me where they did not have that around them.
Being an athlete I heard it from everybody. I was a star when it came to that, but it was outside of that in my life I needed to have the encouragement and relationship I longed for that I saw my friends have. Even now. I see it and it stings. Do not get me wrong, I had amazing people surrounding me, but the ones that should have been, I had my moments of wishing I was never born. I had those thoughts I my head. I would never act on them, but they were present. It was a hard. I fought for myself. My faith kept me strong in that arena.
I have always had a hole in my heart. I fill it with the passion and love I have for others. Being a humanitarian/activist is something I have aimed for all my life, among other goals that I mentioned before probably ten times [laughs]. I am a very ambitious individual, especially when it comes to causes. I advocate for many. BKO is all forms of bullying, hate, LGBT, equality, domestic violence, addiction, mental illness, and anything that can relate back to bullying or hate for ALL ages. We do so many things, and we can’t wait to do more public speaking, traveling, and big things that I have planned.

That being said, I am an activist, so I have other areas such as climate control, the environment, ANIMALS is huge with me (they get bullied/abused too). We tweet about all types of causes. A cause, charity…it is all the same to me. If I can spread the word or help, than I do it. So I also use BKO to fight for what I believe in as well.
That is how I believe I make it stand out, among other things I do or provide. This happens to be a part of my soul. I think it also helps me, and I need it to sometimes keep going when things come back to haunt me from my past.

Did I even answer the original question? I think I did…yeah. [laughs]
Q: In your story, you say that we can't blame those who have hurt us, what do you mean exactly? Is it
like we are allowing them to hurt us?
DJ: I say we can’t blame those that hurt us as adults, yes. I grew up blaming people who hurt me. I also blamed them as an adult. Everything that went wrong in my life, every mistake, and anything else I could think of to use it for. Yes, it does affect you. It does scar you. It does hold you back from living, but at some point you have to heal and move forward. I was not doing that. I was in quick sand. I used my past as an excuse for literally everything. Until you own up to what you are doing to yourself, which is giving them control when they no longer have it…you will never be free. That is what I was doing.
A line in Bridesmaids also really clinched it for me. Melissa McCarthy said something along the lines of, not blaming the world for your problems, because you are your own problem. That really resonated with me.
You allow someone to continue hurting you even when they are no longer hurting you. We give them power by letting it consume us and cause us to go into turmoil and be destructive to ourselves. We become our own worst bully/enemy. I was not only bullied by the unexpected, but I also did it to myself. I was popular, an athlete, and was friends with everybody. That was never an issue. It was outside of that, and outside of school and outside of extracurricular activities that my circumstances took place.
Someone once told me that I cannot continue to be a victim or feel sorry for myself. I was depressed, full of anxiety, drinking, and doing everything that was not good for me. I was not being healthy at all. I just stopped caring. Meanwhile, I got very sick and actually almost died, more than once in my life, and in and out of hospitals here and there. One would think my anxiety would cause panic to possibly hurting myself health wise. Faking it and numbing yourself took it all away for a while, but then it all came flushing back ten times worse.
I do not recommend going this route to anybody. I struggled for a long time. I prayed sometimes, but there were times I wished it would all end or that I did not care if I lived or died, which in fact, I very much did care. I hurt myself physically plenty. I somehow felt I deserved it. This was loving myself. We accept the love we think we deserve. I was just tired, worn out, stressed, exhausted, and was giving up on everything I had planned for my life. My dreams and goals all fell apart.
The truth is, I do not think I ever knew what love was or affection until certain people came into my life. I kept things from everybody, and kept it all inside until I exploded like a volcano. I still have trust issues and problems talking about my emotions, but I am much better than I was yesterday and the day before that. I am getting there. It takes time. Nothing happens overnight, and I often always felt I was a burden as the support system I needed was never there until I got older. So I dealt with everything myself, along with their problems. I was a kid with grown adults putting on me what you would not even believe if I told you. I was like, really? Is this happening? I never felt in certain aspects that I got to be a kid or teenager like my friends. I felt I had to grow up very fast.

Nobody listened to me, except for those in my life that helped me become the person I am today. I felt safe around very few people.  
It was only a few years ago, about 8 or so years, that I finally decided to take care of me and get to where I needed to be. Ya know my grandmother used to always tell me to never give up. I told her once that I saw a feather at least once a day. It would be right in front of me out of the blue. She said that it was angels watching over me.

God I loved both those women. I miss them every single day. Not a minute goes by that they do not run through my mind and heart at some point throughout each day. They guide me in everything I do.
See, this is therapeutic for me right now [laughs]. Anyway, after changing the way my mind used to work and thinking positive, amazing things began to happen after that. It is all in how we think and our thought process. You bring in the energy you put out. I began yoga and meditation, which helped more than I can even explain without being here for days [laughs]. Next question…
Q: We can understand, from what you have written, that your personal bullying came from your own
family. Is that right to assume? What do you feel you can tell us about this part of your life?

DJ: See what happens when I write? I answer all your questions probably in one question…this is why I am a writer. I cannot stop. I somewhat answered this above in my long winded response [laughs]. It came from UNEXPECTED places. Let’s just go with that.
All I can tell you about that part of my life is nothing I do not think I have not said. Unless we want to write a book together, than I can go into full details [laughs]. There is so much to say. There are so many things I have been through for only going on 37. BUT, I do not like to make this statement these days. I feel that so many people out there are the same as me and worse. There is always someone worse. That is the way I see things now. I am heartbroken by what I hear and see in today’s world. It is not just about my own trials and tribulations. I used to have this notion that I was one of very few that had been through so much at such a young age. Of course, this was the thinking of a teenager and a very young adult.

Any bump in the road, and it threw me off. Now I pause for a bit, and then I crash through it like a rock star.
As you become an adult you come to these AHA moments. I also want to reiterate a thousand times over that money does not fix anything. I cannot say that enough. Money, power, status, who you are, or what you do has no relevance. I am stating this from personal experience. We all are human and go through life’s curves. I learned to go with those curves, and what is meant to be, will be.
I am not one to say that I did not have amazing moments, and an amazing life in many ways. I absolutely did. I want to make that VERY clear.

I do not believe we can ever say that we are not grateful for something. There are always things to be thankful for. So many out there are in dire straits, and the world is filled with both amazing and magical moments and horrific moments. I am sitting here while writing going, “I do not want my life to sound like this sad story”. I had many sad moments. I had many horrific moments. I had rough moments. I had stressful moments. I had moments of turmoil. They all intertwine.
I see that we all go through things for reasons. They are lessons, they are to make us stronger, they are to get us on the correct path if we are going down the wrong one, and they are to help us grow. There was never a promise of no pain. I truly believe if we do not go through pain, we do not get to appreciate the happiness. I needed to be in those moments to get to my present and future moments. Through every storm, I did find a rainbow. I took a deep breathe, and kept moving forward.

Did I want to be involved, suffer, or witness pretty much every type of abuse in some form. Absolutely not, but it happened. Have I forgiven people? YES! Have I forgotten? NO!
There is no turning back for me anymore. I sometimes peak in the rearview when I need a kick in the ass or reminder. The hardest thing is to let go of anger, resentment, betrayal, and loss. We have to fight to accept change at times, but through fighting there is victory. We will all fail. I did many times. I got back up, dusted myself off, and I tried again. Even when I wanted to give up...I lingered in that dark cave for a while on and off.

Without darkness, there would be no light. Pain is temporary. You do not quite.

Q: As you said, your pain has made you the person you are now. Was there a precise moment when
you looked around yourself and decided it was time to turn your life over or was it a process?

DJ: Yes, I decided it was time to focus on me, and it was ok to be selfish once I moved back to NYC. I was tired of living stuck in the past. I was going around in circles of the same sh*t. It always came up. It was always an issue. You know why that is? Because I never dealt with it. I survived and just left it that way. You can’t just survive. You have to do more than that and actually get through it and LIVE. I made many changes in my life over the last decade. After my divorce from my ex-husband, who remains one of my best friends, I just really meditated on where I was going next. It is somewhat scary to live a life with someone since you are 17 years old and then that is gone. I felt lost and like ok, "what the hell do I do now" [laughs]. I stood still for so long being a wife that I forgot how self-sufficient I once was.

When I got involved with my ex-husband I was 17, and then I got married at 20. I cut myself off from most of my previous life. My friends and everybody were still young and having fun and doing all these things. I was working and living the married life. It was weird, but he was in my life for a reason for the time he was. I have no regrets there. In fact, he was one of the people in my life who taught me to open my heart, love, and show affection without feeling like I did not deserve it. He was there for me in every moment of panic…even after we split and to this day.

I kinda feel like this big ball of love these days [laughs]. I am Italian so we are always hugging and kissing everybody, so it is in me to lunge at people now and just squish them and kiss them hello and goodbye.

When you grow up around very little affection, except from certain people when you see them, it stays with you until you learn it and feel comfortable with it. Everything was just be a strong badass. Just think of holding EVERYTHING inside for years. It is a storm that brews and is beyond what you expect. I still do not feel comfortable crying in front of people. I hold that in too. Very few people have seen that from me, but then you just fall apart after a certain point and it comes out almost anywhere.

Q: Have you solved your conflicts with the certain people in your life that you discussed earlier? Do you have any healthy connections to your past?

DJ: I have many healthy connections to my past. I have my friends that I have known for years. Some of them since I was a wee little one [laughs]. As I already mentioned, my ex-husband is a big part of my past. He is still in my life. We had a hiatus, but true friendships sometimes have ebbs and flows. Just like life. I just go with those flows rather over analyzing and thinking each one out for days or until my mind is spinning. Yes, I would over-think until I was dizzy.

Why worry until you have something to worry about? You have no control, just go with it. It is easy for me to say now. Taking my own advice back in the day..HA! That rarely happened, but I was good at giving it out [lauhgs].

Q: You have mentioned a failed marriage and, from what I know about you, a great friendship has come out of it, something that is usually not easy. I also know you have made very close friendships/connections through social media. Can you explain your case?

DJ: [laughs] See I somewhat answered this one too. Maybe you should have just let me do my own interview. I am so bad [laughs].

Well, all I can say is I married my best friend. He is a good guy with a good heart. I saw that in him right away. I believe hearts attract each other and the people that come into your life, whether you met them yet or not. I have made some incredible long lasting relationships with people over social media that I have yet to meet. We talk all the time, but it also took time to meet some, and some we still have plans to meet. You do not always have to meet someone to have a connection and be friends. I have friends all over the world. Some of them through Bullies Keep Out, but some just from Facebook and Twitter. You know this. You are in Italy [laughs]. Some of these people have been great people to talk to as well. Some of them I feel such a connection to that we do talk about our very personal lives and trust each other.

I think some message me because they want to know if I can reach out to celebrities for them that I am good friends with or work with for BKO. I have to explain to them that is not something I can do. Friends or not. This happens often with BKO. I will get a DM to message someone or tweet, and I have to explain that what we do is advocacy, activism, and charity work. I have a strict policy on not going away from that. It is not because of not wanting to help. If it is something in relation or kind to spread around, I have no problem; however, at times it is not. We will not spam or message, no matter how close I might be with people. I just feel there is a line between my personal relationships in the entertainment business and BKO. People know this or see this, and I get bombarded [laughs]. With what I do, I am around it often. I wear many hats as far as career and what I do outside of that [laughs]. My family worked in the business. I have been around it on and off my whole life in some form or another. So, I am not one to cross those lines. They are separate.

Q: Changing our lives is a lot about us and our choice to do it, but having someone helping us does
make a difference. Was there anyone for you?

DJ: Yes, there were a couple of big ones besides my grandmothers where I looked for strength or guidance. A woman I met when I was 16 years old, a bit before I met my ex-husband, took me under her motherly wing. She has been an important presence and person in my life ever since. She is basically a mother to me. That is how our relationship blossomed. We both needed something, and it was a blessing that was given to both of us. Then there was my good friends who were always there and that I can trust and confide in. Of course, again, my ex-husband is one of those people. When he came into my life he got a full plate [laughs].

He knew going into it, but he was not small plate himself [laughs]. It was just baggage from my past that was still very much with me. He was a champ though. I did not always make it easy being so angry, resentful, and shut down all the time. Those were the emotions that took over me the most, which probably blocked all the other ones. My life did not change until I was ready and willing. These people were just holding me up until I was able to stand on my two feet and say, “I can do this”. It took some time, and it was not until after it was all said and done I moved back to NYC that it took full effect, but it was a process.

On a separate, but related note, I get messages from people all the time wanting me to message or tell people their story that follow or that I work with for BKO and have become friends that they are fans of, and in the end, they just need someone to talk to and who will listen. I do that for them. I want to help them, but I also need them to see they can do it without relying on the one thing they do not have access to the way they want.

This is something I think we all need to realize. It never comes from just one place. I tell them they can share their story. I am always happy to share stories from the site or feature them on Twitter and Facebook.

Some believe they can only get better through certain people, and that is not true. It has to be done by YOU. You can find guidance and support from others, but it is up to us to make the actual changes. It is a big job. We cannot rely on other people to make us happy or only survive through them. Yes, people have idols they look up to, but that can’t be your only outlet. You have to utilize people in your life and around you as well. There are a plethora of outlets to incorporate into healing. I think people just want to be heard, and it is nice when you get that from people you look up to.

I personally look too many, that are both part of my life and those that are not. 

Someone asked me who my idols were, and I had to explain that I do not have any. I have too many people I admire, I love what they do, I want to connect with them, work with them, or meet them, but I also learned we can’t put people on pedestals. When we do so, one little misstep or fall or mistake, which WE ALL do as human beings, they become disappointed or angry because they believe they are perfect and flawless.

You can’t do that to someone. It is not fair to that person or yourself. They are only being a human being who have lives, families, work, feelings, and opinions of their own. They are not superheroes with powers or immortal. They are people just like you and me. I have seen it too much on and off social media people being hateful, disrespectful, or cruel for someone they admire being their authentic self. They want them to be perfect or their way. It does not exist. This happens with people our loved ones and friends as well.

I firmly believe in building your life around YOU, and being happy and following your dreams. I never survived or lived for others. Ultimately, I was putting my sweat in tears into climbing back up that cliff. I utilized every tool I was able to get my hands on. There was not one thing or person I can say that made it all better. Find hope and strength in others, kind words, and support, but that can only take you so far. Then you want more and more and crave that attention that once you stop getting, you fall right back into a hole.  

Have hope in yourself as you do in what helps you get through those tough times. It is hard to hold onto hope when you do not believe in yourself or have hope in what you have the capability to accomplish.

Q: Our lives are a never ending process of change and improvement, we are basically never done
working on ourselves. Do you find parts of yourself that still suffer from your background?
Something you realize you still need to work on?

DJ: Oh lord, that is a loaded question. [laughs]. I believe we all have things we need to improve on or fix or better. As I believe I said somewhere above in my long winded answers [laughs], it is a never ending process. There are always new things we might find about ourselves or old things that still linger. I can tell you that I absolutely still struggle and suffer from my past. It scars you, and it doesn't go away at all. You might forgive, but you never forget it. In not forgetting it, you keep learning, you can look back and kick yourself in the ass when you need it, and they are lessons we need to be there. I have to work on many things. I am not done by a long shot as I still fall back on old habits here and there. Things still hit me hard, but not as hard. Things still haunt me or come back to me if it is a reminder. Healing is a process that takes a while. It is like losing someone you care about and love. You still miss them. You still have memories and reminisce about them. You do not take them out of your heart or mind ever. They are there forever until you meet again.

I use that to my strength. I miss those that I have lost, but I still have them inside of me. A part of each one. You do not ever lose that. Just like you never lose parts of yourself that make you and made you who you are today. I would not be me or doing what I am doing if I did not go through what was meant to be. You think, sh*t, that was meant to be so I could learn this or be stronger or be successful [laughs]. Why do some people not have to go to hell and back to get there? Well, everybody has a different story and journey. I think we are dealt cards that will ultimately result in a hand that was predestined. How much we choose to bet on that hand and believe in it is up to us. We can easily fold...and that is an entirely other chapter we would be creating for ourselves, but we are the author. Let's not forget that. We write our own stories. So at any time, we can start a new fresh chapter and begin again.

Q: Reading what you have been through and overcome, I honestly believe you own your story and
Background but, given the chance to change something of your past, would you choose to do it?
And, in case, what would you change?

DJ: I used to want to go back or wish certain areas of my life were different, but I am not so sure anymore. I believe it sent me on a course that I was supposed to go on, or one that I chose to fall off of and learn my own lessons. I was a hot mess years ago. I will not lie about that at all. I think we all go through stages like that. When I say a hot mess, I mean a hot mess [laughs]. My past was consuming me to no end. The pain was unbearable. I did nothing to ease the pain either. I probably made it worse. I bullied myself to the extreme that one should never do.

Nothing was going my way...ever. Then I learned that the energy you feel, believe, and put out, is the energy you attract and get back. So my hot mess attracted other hot messes [laughs]. I was a big ball of mess [laughs]

I think that if I did not go through these things, I might not have gone down the path to be a voice for so many and have personal experience in arenas that need attention. I will not say I could not have done what I am doing, because anybody can advocate and be kind and help others. That is not something we are taught. It is just something you do.

I also think I could have been a different person, and it took me a long time to love the person I am today. So I think I am pretty happy with who I am and turned out to be. You ever watch those movies where they go back and mess with the past or change something, and then the course of their life takes a turn that they are either unhappy with or thought they wanted and it is the complete opposite. It was a lesson for them to learn to see that in changing your past life, it will not necessarily make you happy. Having everything you want in every perfect way is not real life living. Let me put it this way. You get nothing from it. You get being miserable and wishing you never made the changes in the first place. So if there was such a thing of being given that chance, I probably wouldn't take it for fear of what I might find having the life of someone else or turning out to be someone other than me.

I would go back to my younger self and tell her to not believe the people who hurt you, be strong when it happens, be prepared, it is ok to cry, do not be afraid, and it will be over soon. I mean I would say so many things to myself as if I was a guardian angel, but I would know I am not able to change it. I would not want to change it, I would just be there for myself so I had someone.

I felt alone, even with so many friends and people that loved me...it just wasn't the same. You know how things just are not the same. Hard to explain in a few words...I wanted what other people had, that is what hurt the most. Not having that support and unconditional love that we should have growing up. Not having certain relationships that you need growing up. It was hard. It still is hard, and I am an adult.

Q: Do you think having a story like yours makes advocating easier, since you can be more emphatic,
or more challenging, because it can be somehow triggering?

DJ: I think anytime we go through things in life that can relate to so many out there, especially activism and advocating, it provides us with a special momentum and skill. It does not mean you have to have been through something to have the same effect. I believe people are meant to do that type of work. Some more so than others. Some are just attracted to it and have a natural and beautiful vibe. They just exude compassion, understanding, and love. It is about our beliefs, not always what we have been through.

I am a HUGE advocate for LGBTQ, and have been for many years. Most of the people in my life are part of that community. I am not part of that community, but people assume so when you advocate or believe in something. So there is an exact case in point. I am not able to relate to them in those type of struggles and discrimination or human rights issues, but I can fight for them and lend my voice. I can be an ally.

You can fight for whatever you believe in. Does not matter what you have been through; however, I would not say it makes it easier. For me, this type of work is innate. It is like second nature to me. It might hit you harder when you hear stories or you might relate and be more understanding and emphatic knowing you have been in similar shoes. I never say someone else's shoes. We can never do that. I am not them, and they are not me. You can never attempt to walk in another shadow. We can just be there with our hands stretched out waiting for them when they come out the other end.

The anguish is different for everybody. Everybody handles situations differently. Just because someone was able to come through something sooner or easier does not mean it should be expected from another.  People say get over it or suck it up. That is just not reality. I used to hear the most ridiculous things. Go for a run and go do this or that. The truth is, I know what worked for me, and that is the end of the story. Nobody knew what was going to make me feel better or safe in that moment...but me.

Sure things are triggering. That is what I mean when I say I still struggle or run into road blocks. It comes and goes. You can be watching something on television and you have to get up and excuse yourself. Out of nowhere tears just start to come out or you get angry. Triggers are not a joke, even when you are healed or in the process of healing. I have nightmares all the time. I had other personal issues in personal relationships that were hard for me to not think about.

Your life might not be rainbows and unicorns 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. You will still have triggers.

Q: Talking about your own story can be both scaring and empowering. Which one of these two
feelings describe your experience so far?

Both. I do not think I can pick one or the other. I am I have scars that will never go away. A scar does not usually disappear. I have them physical and emotionally, but they also empower me. As I have said before, along with many other things I probably repeated a few times in this interview [laughs], there is no choosing when it comes to trauma or adversity that we go through. You will have a plethora of emotions throughout life. It is hard for me to do this. I have never done it before so publicly. I was not so much scared or ashamed, but nervous and other personal reasons that I thought it might be best to just reveal oh so much without divulging more than I was ready to. You have to be ready.

Does it empower me to keep fighting for causes and finding new ones that are important to me as well? AMEN! Absolutely. Let’s not confuse empowerment with entitlement though. I have seen that happen many of times.

Use that empowerment to be kind to each other. Be gentle with not only yourself first and foremost, but others. Life is a bumpy ride.

My scars have healed, but I see them as a reminder when I need a good kick in the ass [laughs]. Sometimes I wonder if I want to forget or keep it all someplace safe in mind when I need it. Believe it or not, there are times when we need our past turmoil to help another or ourselves. It is like regrets. People say they have them. I am not sure I have them. I truly go by the notion that everything happens for a reason. I have a strong faith in that statement these days when I look back.


We are in charge of our which paths we choose to venture on. We make our own choices. We are responsible for our actions. We must own everything we do and say. If you feel you need to get something off your chest to those who have hurt you or have done you wrong, speak your truth and let the universe do the rest. Trusting, believing, and having hope is half the battle. Never let go of either of those things. They are lifelines that you will always need to come back to. Life will never be perfect, and it might not be exactly what you want, but that is only because you are meant for other things…possibly bigger and better. Just ride the waves.

You might find that standing up on your two feet to surf that tidal wave no matter how big or small is more possible than you thought it was. Follow your heart…and believe in happy endings. They do happen. I never found magic and miracles to be much different…
 I know sometimes it is hard to believe in yourself when people knock you down over & over. There is no bell, keep getting up. It took me a long time to realize it myself, but at any age it is important to always know...YOU MATTER!

I would also like to add that I have been very blessed....even through the bad or negative. I am living my dreams out that I forgot about years ago. I do so many things from entertainment industry, to my passion of writing professionally for entertainment publications, to my own sites and beyond. Most of all, I am living my dreams of giving back, helping others, philanthropy, being a humanitarian, and social good. That is what I am most proud of. Never give up. You can accomplish anything at any moment in life...


Don't dismiss an entire group of people that are suffering.

I hate when people use the word depressed as an adjective for their mood, because it totally dismisses an entire group of people that are suffering. You don't get depressed by not getting attention from your favorite celebrity, you don't get depressed from not having your morning coffee or sitting through a meeting at work. Depressed, or depression, is a diagnose, a mental illness, and is not to be used wrongly.

By using it wrongly, you make my diagnose seem like it is not to be taken seriously. It took me years to get my diagnose and for me to feel confident enough to speak up about it. I have always been ashamed to feel what I feel. There are days I don't even want to leave my bed, days I have to pretend to be great and all smiles but behind that facade I am miserable. By using depressed wrongly, you make it seem as my daily struggle is just something I can "get over".

Along with my diagnose there came a relief, but it is still hard. I still struggle. Every day is a fight against what I suffer from, and it is a fight that has been invisible for so many years. And I have finally learned how to be open about it, but every time someone uses depressed wrongly, it makes my struggle seem a little less important than what it is. That I could just decide to not be depressed (and I have gotten this advice once, yes, trust me it doesn't help), that I could decide to wake up happy one day and not feel what I feel. Anyone who struggles with a mental illness knows this is not the case.

I know there are a lot of people like me out there, who suffer from a mental illness, whether it is depression, anxiety, bipolar, borderline or all of above, we don't want to feel like we don't matter. We want to be heard, respected and included. So please don't use our diagnoses to describe your mood, or your temporarily feeling when your favorite actress doesn't notice you, or when your Starbucks order gets messed up; there are so many other words to describe your mood that do not dismiss people.


You are not alone

Something that I've learned during my dark times is that it's okay to feel. It is okay to question things, to feel sad, it's okay to not feel strong or brave or loved. Because during our dark times we struggle to see the light and we constantly need reminders that there is something better for us waiting. Now, we might not believe it when we hear it, but those words are so important. So if you need a reminder, here it is: You are not alone. You are not a burden. It is okay to feel lost, it is okay to have bad days.

There is always hope, even if you're in the dark, there are tiny flickers of light and that is called hope. They say hope is the last thing we give up and that is true. I struggle every day, some days are worse and some days are okay, life and its emotions are a roller coaster but it's not predictable. Sometimes I wish I could just switch a button and I would be happy but it isn't that easy. Life wasn't made to be easy, and we wouldn't be who we are if it wasn't for our ups and downs. The key is to let ourselves feel, to know it is okay to feel but not let our feelings define us. Remember, it's a bad day, not a bad life.

I hope that you can one day look back at your dark periods and see them as lessons, as moments you lived through and survive so you'd walk in the light. The reason you're still here is because you didn't give up hope and I'm glad you didn't. Because I truly believe that one day, we will all end up where we need to be. Meanwhile, we just have to take lots of breaths, keep hope and remind ourselves that we are not alone. 

Don't give up. Stay strong. You are not alone.


Note: If you want to talk, you can find me on twitter @anniesass

A Southern Italy little town gives honorary citizenship to migrants' children

Lusiana (@UglyLusiana)
"Here in Calimera, I don't feel foreign"
Children accepting the honorary citizenship
CALIMERA (LE), ITALY - November 20th is World Children's Rights Day and, in a small town in the really South of Italy, the Mayor and the town administration have decided to celebrate this important day holding a special town council to give 22 children the town honorary citizenship.
These children, as stated by Italian laws, are not Italian because they were not born on Italian land; which means that, when they will be 18, they will be asked to leave the country, even if they have lived in Italy most of their lives, attending Italian schools and learning Italian culture and language.
The new Mayor, Francesca De Vito, and her council have thought it would have been highly educational to bring this issue to the "Children Council" (yes, Calimera has a council composed by elected children with a child Mayor!), letting them know that their friends, with whom they go to school, gym and hang out, are not Italian and what the Italian law says about it. The two councils have then decided together to give the honor of citizenship to those 22 children, contacting the families and organizing today's town council.
In a difficult moment for Italy, when some racist political parties are spreading hate about migrants and refugees, trying to convince the population of their nationalistic ideas, and opposing the new law, "Ius Soli", which would permit migrants' children who have been raised in Italy to be Italian citizens, this gesture is a light in the dark and many hope to see more towns do the same.

For news and picture, check the council official Twitter page (In Italian).

Tutoring bullying victims, my experience as a tutor.

Lusiana (@uglylusiana)

Something quite peculiar has happened to me this October, Bullying Prevention Month, and I feel like it would do some good to share it with you all who have pledged to fight bullying in your daily life with #RiseAgainstBullies.
I have been actively working as a private tutor for a couple of years but I have been doing it occasionally since I started High School. This year, though, I had decided not to take any student under my wings because I am one exam from getting my degree in Physics and I want to concentrate on that. Sometimes, though, there are requests you can't say no to, especially if you are indicated as the only one for the job. It is quite flattering, and I have an ego too, after all.
So here I am, tutoring this beautiful girl, smart eyes, sweet smile and the most terrible self esteem problem on the Earth. She is basically scared of answering to any question in fear of mistakes, looking at me waiting for the bad words to come out of my mouth and saying “I am not good at anything” introducing herself to me. I couldn't say no because this girl needs me, and she is teaching me the worst lasting effects bullying can have on a child's learning capability.
Her relationship with school is like mine with heights, I freeze in fear one meter away from a balcony rail, she freezes in fear the moment she is called to answer a question. So much that she has convinced herself that she can't learn anything, even stopping trying at some point.
Probably someone has convinced her that she is no good, or too slow, at some point. Maybe a school mate or a friend at one of those awful group tutoring classes. That's why I am totally against group tutoring.

Everyone learns with a different pace and technique. I have some friends who had serious problems at school but then graduated with honors from college, that's because they got the chance to prove them selves when they could finally decide the pace, way and what to study individually. What I am trying to say is that in a class there will be many different minds, all of them set to pick on information in a different way. Someone could be a faster learner and maybe forget information sooner and someone could be slower but keep info for life. Someone could remember the exact words of a page just reading them once, some other will remember the pictures and colors. The key of teaching is being able to understand all those different possibilities your children have and teach them to use them. Yes, it is not easy, above all in a crowded class (Italian classes can get to 32 students), that's why there are tutors. That's why I always recommend individual tutoring.

Keeping little secrets. Being totally afraid of her school mates and teachers, my new student stays silent when she loses the point during a lesson which means she has a big bargain of holes in her knowledge, from maths to foreign languages. I am experimenting a little technique, I asked her to bring a clean notebook, one she won't take to school with her. It will be ours only. We will use that to exercise on old things she is not confident on, avoiding them to be on her usual notebook which could fall under the eyes of her classmates and friends. She looked absolutely enthusiast of the idea, which says a lot about her life at school.

Bursting self esteem. Every little step is an improvement so never restrain from praising the effort. I am basically always saying “Good”, “You are doing great”, “You are getting there” and, boy, aren't those smiles she gives back praise enough for my work? But, as simple as it can sound, it works. So praise their work and they will work harder. Believe in them and they will believe in them selves.

Tutoring for me is a win-win situation because I am teaching and learning. It gives me great satisfaction to know that I am helping someone to appreciate them selves but, truthfully, it really angers me how the schooling system still can't work for the weakest, but only for the strongest. It is easy to teach to someone who can basically learn by them selves. That one child, the silent and shy one, the one you can't even remember the name of. Well, that child is your mission. If they get to learn, everyone else will, not only school subjects, but possibly some big life lessons.

Guess Writer: Autistic in Southwest Virginia "There is no upside to bullying"

Source: autisticinswva (Author has gently sent this amazing article for publication to the Feather Of Hope team)

Last night I read a truly horrifying article called “10 Perks Kids with Autism Get from Bullying“. It wasn’t on The Onion either. (Article linked via Do Not Link so as to not boost the post.)

From dictionary.com: 

Perk: to become lively, cheerful, or vigorous, as after depression or sickness; jaunty 

Bully, Bullying: a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people. To act the bully toward; intimidate; domineer; to be loudly arrogant and overbearing. 

These two things do not go together. You do not become lively and cheerful after bullying. You do not cheer situations up by bullying. Perhaps the only person who gets a high (good feeling) out of bullying is the bully. And that is exactly the role Karen Sisto has taken in her article.

She actually states that there are “benefits for peers, staff members, parents, and most importantly — your child with autism if everyone seizes the opportunity to act!”. This is followed by the header, ‘10 Good Opportunities from Bad Bullying’. In my experience, all bullying is bad. Is Karen Kabaki-Sisto, M.S. CCC-SLP, actually trying to tell us that good bullying exists? 

Kabaki-Sisto is a Speech-Language Pathologist and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) instructor. I was recently advised that I should have sessions with a Speech Pathologist and a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Even before I read this article, I was not at all interested in either. Reading Kabaki-Sisto’s words makes me all the more determined not to be forced into either type of therapy.

I won’t deny that some types of education can be helpful; after all, where would most people be if no one taught them to read, to communicate (orally, typing, sign language, et cetera), but by and large, any type of ABA meant for autistic people, from my observations, is to make it easier for non-autistic people to ‘deal’ with us, rather than learning to get along with us. It’s not education. It’s therapy to make us conform and to be someone other than ourselves (which is exhausting). Instead of taking into account what is easier and more beneficial for autistic people, we are forced to change to make it easier for everyone else. That’s bullying.

With 1 article, this woman has proven to me that ‘autism therapists’ have no clue what they are doing, and no clue how to safely interact with us.

What’s worse, is that this article, posted on October 13, 2015, was posted just short of two weeks into National Bullying Prevention Month. It happens every year, so it’s not like she didn’t know.

These are the 10 opportunities that Kabaki-Sisto claims comes out of bullying: 

  1. Promoting Autism-Friendly Programs 
  2. Team Work 
  3. Autism Awareness Every Month 
  4. Kids Learn Skills 
  5. Builds Strength 
  6. More Friendships 
  7. Overall Well-Being 
  8. Healthy Relationships 
  9. Increased Life Skills 
  10. Self-Esteem 
Let’s see, shall we?

  1.  You know what would really promote friendliness to autistics? If people stopped bullying us! 
  2. Bullying often has to get pretty bad before kids will go to a teacher about it, and even then, it’s often dismissed. And sometimes the bully is the one who is believed. In my K-12 years, I only ever had 1 teacher I felt safe enough going to about bullying, and he did what he could about it, but didn’t make the environment safer or more enjoyable for me. 
  3. Who isn’t aware of autism? Let’s have some autism acceptance instead. (This would include not bullying us in the first place.) 
  4. Autistic or not, kids do not learn skills from bullying, unless hiding and not trusting people are considered skills. Do you know what I see most on forums, social media sites, and in books? Parents telling their kids to stand up for themselves. This usually results in a fight. Guess who usually gets the brunt (or all) of the punishment? 
  5. If Kabaki-Sisto honestly thinks bullying builds strength, she’s never been bullied. And even if kids learn defensive skills, it’s not a way to develop positive, stronger connections. 
  6. I’ve never seen friendships come out of bullying. I’m nearly 20 years out of high school, and I’m still unwilling to even consider friendships with the kids who bullied me for years. I had some friends when I was little, but when they matured (emotionally) faster than I did, they moved on to new friends and I was left behind with none. The older you get, the harder it is to fit into the long-standing cliques. Do you know who I spent more time with? Myself. Lonely. 
  7. You can’t count on the teaching staff to supervise and create (new) interventions to ensure the well-being of the bullied child. They have many other students to supervise. 
  8. I was mostly told to ignore bullies, and they’ll get bored and stop. This is not good advice. Guess who also falls into the bully category? Rapists. And they don’t get bored and stop if you try to ignore them. Healthy relationships do not come out of bullying. 
  9. “With your child’s increased communication, survival skills, and independence, she will become more aware of the people around her.” – Yes, so aware that I’m incredibly jumpy. I’ve slapped people who touched me unexpectedly. I am not good at defending myself in oral or written communication against bullies. Being constantly on edge, and looking up at the slightest sound are not good life skills. And they make getting work done and sleeping really hard. 
  10. “Ironically, and in spite of the bully’s goal to do the opposite, your child will grow self-confidence and self-preservation esteem.” – Gee, ironically, I didn’t get self-esteem or self-confidence from being bullied. I got the opposite! (And what exactly is ‘self-preservation esteem’?) 
I’d love to know if this woman thinks bullying is beneficial to everyone, or just autistic people.

Schools and situations which need bullying to help promote acceptance is not a good place to be. And it’s not acceptance they’re actually promoting in that case.

This ‘article’ is dangerous and damning. It’s wholly anti-autistic under the guise of being helpful. I sincerely hope that no one will take this woman seriously. Kabaki-Sisto is promoting an extremely unsafe environment for autistics. Can’t you just see it now? “We chose not to do anything about your child being bullied because Kabaki-Sisto says it will help them develop life skills!”

This woman should not be around kids and should not instruct people who will be around kids, especially autistic people (of any age).

I originally saw it on the Autism Daily Newscast’s Facebook page. I reported it to Facebook for promoting harm to people with disabilities. They said it doesn’t violate community standards. Not one post expressing harm towards autistic people has ever violated Facebook’s community standards.

That needs to change, and they can start with Kabaki-Sisto’s horrendous piece of trash posing as educational material. She should be ashamed of herself.