By Malkie Khutoretsky
Everywhere you look there is change. It’s not just you, this generation has the fastest rate of change in the history of change. There’s really just a lot going on. Politically, socially, environmentally; every sphere seems to be going through a huge growth spurt of some kind. Some spurts are more incredible than others. Some have created platforms for almost voiceless minorities, and some have created platforms for some uglier truths in our society. The good, the bad, and the ugly: truths nonetheless, and they’re spurting all over the place.
Growth spurts are not cool. The early ones are the most famous. The discomfort of puberty, the aches and pains of growing bones and stretching skin; the tilted heads that come with acne, the slouched shoulders of growing breasts. What does the boy that’s grown 3 feet in one summer do with all his new-found perspective? Who does the girl who is quietly discovering herself think she will be on the other end of this cycle?
Spurts race ahead of us and give us no time, just no time at all. Without the time to decide who we are growing into, we pick from whatever we see right in front of us. There are indicators all around us, some subtle, like the way your mother hides your shorter skirts in the back of your closet, and some as blatant as your favourite songs and tv shows – ‘My anaconda don’t want none’… because frankly he’s intimidated and gets performance anxiety.
For any gender, any orientation, the messages that we received during puberty didn’t leave a lot of room for variation. The irony being that variation, trial and error, is basically the only way anyone succeeds at…anything. But that takes guts when you’re best friend has supposedly been wearing a bra for three months now and you’re still rocking the Barbie crop. How do you tell her that you’re cool with that? Maybe just let’s not talk about it at all?
During times of uncertainty it’s easier to pick a pre existing theme, a pre designed outfit, a purpose built color palette, than building your own idea of who you could be. That’s a lot of mental work to squeeze in between classes, home life, and a social life.
The School Bus
Andhere all trauma is born, in my feel-good-90s-movie opinion. Let's take a quick scan: you have the girls who turn and do each others hair – against the rules; there’re boys that will play music too loudly while pretending to hit each other – until they actually hit each other; a few kids with earphones are scattered like unassuming civilians, blocking out the world; the couples way at the back. Where you take that seat on the schoolbus, who you align yourself with, becomes secondary to the destination: the education itself.
Take a look at social media for a second, really a second because no one wants to read any more about how social media has changed the game. But the fact is that those seventeen year olds that were the social media guinea pigs are now hitting the 30 mark.
So, essentially, we’re in this second spurt: The Spurt ll, if you will. That’s the part where we realise that whatever went on in Round One…may not have worked out so well. It’s a spurt where both men and women are coming forward and finding the voices to express that something is very wrong in the way that we are relating to each other and to ourselves, and calling out the systemic issues that led us here.
It’s becoming clear that no matter your gender or sexual orientation, people are not feeling cool with them self, and the statistics reflect it. From abuse to isolation; suicide to rape, it’s impossible to say ‘that doesn’t happen around here’ anymore. We are finding our voices, but don’t have the toolbox to process all those voices. So here we are, screaming over each other becoming white noise.
And then the teacher comes on board. And if you’ve got a good one, and you know what I’m talking about, you might have a chance. The Good Teacher sees all the seats, and somehow pushes you and makes you feel safe all at the same time. It’s that safety that TGT (the good teacher) brings that allows you to make an optimistic attempt, not take a harmful risk; make a choice, not freefall.
Ladaat: The Voice of Choice
Although they’ve been around since the 70s, operating under the name of Shilo, they’re raising their voice – and scope – louder than ever, for us. Of course, Shilo was concerned with positive sexuality and reproductive health, but it mainly focused on options available at the crisis point. And I’m happy to report, that when you know more, you do more, and we’re ready for more.
Ladaat is the future. They spread education, provide counseling, advocacy and influence policy change at every stage of sexual and reproductive health representing the local community but with a loud voice that carries their message irrespective of language barrier. They create space for self love and provide the language and vision that can carry us there. “Ladaat” – “To Know”, they arm us with knowledge so that we are no longer screaming from a place of reaction, they advocate for us while educating us on how to advocate for ourselves.
And they do this from the home base of one of the most ‘conservative’ cities in the world – Jerusalem. This country that is so busy with its immediate issues often finds itself accused of falling behind with the rest of the world. Whether it’s music or fashion, Israel tends to do it’s own thing, joining the party a little later on.
Joining The Party
When it comes to positive sexuality, the conversation can be so difficult even in a western sphere, you’d imagine that Israel might need some time to get it’s head around it. But we don’t have time. The growing stages are the stages of vulnerability. We’re left wide open and defensive. As the tech industry develops, as the next generation comes into high school, as religious and secular leadership evolves, those are the awkward, jutting corners of a growth spurt. But those open spaces are opportunities to breathe education into as we reconnect with ourselves in this new stage.
We’re all still packed into this crowded school-bus, some singing camp songs at the top of their lungs in denial of what’s going on around them, others almost coming to blows, some just hoping not to get noticed. Only this time, we have the power of advocacy. Social media means that we can’t ignore the growing pains anymore. We can’t sit with our friends in the back and pretend we don’t have burning (sometimes literally) questions. The adolescent-bravado-mask is coming off. All it takes is a little patience with ourselves, some solid footing, knowing we won’t lose our seat, and we can open ourselves up to each other to really learn.
Through education, support and advocacy, Ladaat gives the knowledge that means that Israeli society have a chance to discover themselves as this incredible conversation unfolds globally. So, if you’ll have me, I’d love to explore the world of sexual and reproductive education; to strip away the taboo and find the commonality. Simply to grow, and to know, together. You know where to find me as the wheels keep turning.
All the way from my little screen in the Middle East,
All my love,
Malkie Khutoretsky is an Australian-born, fast talking, Writer-Educator living in the centre of Jerusalem. She focuses on creating inclusive spaces built on informed dialogue, shared experience, and laughing too loudly. A passionate advocate of question asking, she practices vigilant patience with others and is working on awarding herself the same treatment. Malkie is happy to talk to you abut all things, and here to tell you that whatever you're going through, you're not alone.