Partners in PROMISE is launching a podcast entitled “Disruptive Storytelling with Military Changemakers” on Tuesday, July 27, 2021. The premier season will feature experiences of military-connected stigma ranging from racial and gender discrimination to sexual assault, with a focus on turning these individual stories into collective action.
“From my experience [as an Asian American] growing up, yes the stereotypes just happen. The part of belonging still resonates with me. Trying to fit in. Sorry I tear up because this is so personal.” (pause) “I feel like that’s the question. Everything I do is, ‘do I fit in? Am I patriotic enough? Am I American enough? I have to show people that I’m American.’”
– Podcast guest
Why is an organization dedicated to special education talking about stigma? “At Partners in PROMISE, we love data, but stories complete us,” said Chief Operating Officer and podcast host, Jennifer Barnhill. “Our 2021 Military Family Special Education Survey found that many families are not taking advantage of available services provided by the DoD because of the stigma and shame surrounding special needs programs within the military community.”
This podcast not only hopes to address the shame surrounding EFMP enrollment, but also the stigma that is pervasive within the military culture, which promotes strength and resilience over perceived weakness and vulnerability. Stigma is a hard topic to understand as it is both felt and experienced. At its worst, stigma is felt through shame or suicidal ideations and experienced through acts of violence, racism and discrimination.
What Is Stigma & How Can We Fight It?
Stigma is a Greek word that describes a painfully applied tattoo-like mark or brand. This permanent label was only given to people who were seen as tainted –criminals, outcasts, undesirables–so everyone could instantly see that there was something “defective” about them.
According to research conducted by podcast guest and stigma researcher, Dr. Anna Scheyett, stigma is reduced through “protest, education and connection.” This trio is required to disrupt the effects of stigma because stigma loves the status quo.
“At Partners in PROMISE we believe that having vulnerable and honest conversations is required to see change,” said Barnhill. “Don’t misunderstand, these conversations are hard and uncomfortable, but I think our community is ready to have them. We are ready to move beyond the easy conversation because the sustained change we all desire requires a little bit of discomfort.”
Partners in PROMISE Executive Director Michelle Norman is no stranger to living with stigma. Norman has experienced criticism for being a vocal military spouse mother and advocate while fighting for her daughter Marisa who has special needs to receive a free and appropriate public education. “We are surrounded by military changemakers and launching the Disruptive Storytelling podcast is just our way of elevating these tough conversations that our community needs to see change.”