Category Archives: Social Issues

President Obama Wants Conversion Therapy Banned

Transgender 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn wrote in her suicide note that one of the ways her family rejected her was by forcing her to see “Christian therapists.”  These therapists told her that she was selfish and wrong, and should look to God for help. Soon after her suicide, a White House petition was started, calling for “Leelah’s Law,”  which would ban all forms of the cruel ex-transgender and ex-gay conversion therapies.

Recently, the White House responded to the petition in agreement that conversion therapy should be banned.  Valerie Jarrett, White House Senior Advisor, said, “The overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that conversion therapy, especially when it is practiced on young people, is neither medically nor ethically appropriate and can cause substantial harm.”  She added, “As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.”

President Obama Wants Conversion Therapy Banned

Jarrett believes that even with the best intentions, families can cause harm to their children who are LGBTQ. She said, “Countless families and guardians across the country proudly support their LGBTQ+ children. Too many LGBTQ+ youth, however, lack this support system, which can have devastating consequences. Negative family reactions to LGBTQ+ youth can be perceived as rejection by children, often contributing to serious health issues and inhibiting a child’s development and well-being. And when it comes to LGBTQ+ youth, some actions by family and caregivers can be harmful, despite even the best intentions.”

This year, Republican lawmakers have defeated several legislative bans that were pending in various states; some are still pending. Currently, only California, New Jersey, and Washington, DC have banned conversion therapy for minors. According to Jarrett, a national ban would require congressional action. But, she said: “We’re hopeful that the clarity of the evidence combined with the action taken by the states will lead to broader action that the administration would support.”

Jarrett stated in an interview with the New York Times that Obama was incredibly moved by Alcorn’s story and added that it’s not a unique experience: “It’s not the story of one young person,” she said. “It is the story of countless young people who have been subjected to this.”

New Jersey Schools Still No Stranger to Gay Hate

Now, with social media, it is easier than ever to discover the views and routines of the people that we work with through websites like Facebook where one can “like” a post and have it show up in the newsfeeds of friends and even friends of friends. Of course the downside of this is that private opinion can quickly become public. Such was the case when Reverend Warren Hall, one of the directors at Seton Hall University in New Jersey “liked” a gay equality “No H8” photo on facebook.

Reverend Warren Hall claims that the facebook post cost him his job. Seton Hall University declines to comment on the incident, but the Reverend states that the incident is reason to address the issue of LGBT rights more frequently among religious organizations. The anti-gay Facebook comments that were allegedly made by a High School teacher earlier this year leads one to wonder if the New Jersey School system needs to address LGBT issues more frequently. New Jersey Human Rights laws do prohibit bullying and discrimination in schools, but the failure of the state to fire teachers such as Knox that make anti-gay remarks in the name of free speech smacks of an ineptitude for truly resolving LGBT rights issues.

New Jersey Schools Still No Stranger to Gay Hate

The real issue here is not just one of privacy and discrimination. The mood of a nation is being threatened by a stigma, and it’s this same stigma that prevents LGBT youths and young adults from seeking the health counseling that they need. The failure of the education system to address LGBT sexual health and relationships is perhaps the biggest obstacle in the fight against the spread of STDs, so it is important that people in communities where injustices like this occur raise their voices.

If you are interested in becoming more involved in your community’s awareness of LGBT issues the website http://www.lgbtcenters.org/ has local directories.

Important Ways Parents Contribute to LGBT Teens Health

Many parents of teenagers have their hands full, to put it lightly. Being a parent is not an easy job. You have to work on your own issues and those of your children. LGBT teens have particular health issues that need to be addressed and many heterosexual parents are either not aware of them or they don’t know where to start when it comes to helping their teens be healthy. Here are some steps you can take to help your teenager:

Seek out a pediatrician who is LGBT-friendly
This is important because your child might not be comfortable with the doctor they had in childhood. You may find a healthcare provider that’s LGBT or who is an ally. In order to find out, you must ask them. It’s also possible that they will be listed online. The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA) has a database that is searchable by zip code.

Look into mental health care
Even if your teenager doesn’t appear to have signs of mental distress, they might. They might need someone with whom they can speak and feel comfortable saying things that they may not with a parent. Check out GLMA’s website for this information if you want. Also, consider someone to talk with for your own needs.

Remember that safe sex is still important
If your teen is with a same-sex partner, they still need to learn about safe sex practices. Make sure they’re tested for HIV and STIs and follow up with testing regularly. Make sure they know how to protect themselves in many ways, including not allowing themselves to be pressured into having sex before they’re ready.

Important Ways Parents Contribute to LGBT Teens Health

Vaccinations are important
Health care providers are not recommending that the HPV vaccine Gardasil is given to girls and boys. It’s important to get them vaccinated. For example, health care providers recommend that men who have sex with men (MSM) are given vaccinations against Hepatitis A & B, HPV, and the flu (annually) to begin with.

Keep watch of their online personas
This is important for everyone, whether or not they have LGBT kids. Your children are vulnerable to being lured into unsafe experiences or relationships by predatory adults. Make sure to pay attention to their online activity and have talks with them about how they appear in their online world. A harsh and constant reality is that bullying and violence against LGBT people exists; this includes child abuse and exploitation.

Speak about substance use/abuse
LGBT people are at a higher risk for substance abuse. Talk with your kids about the risks and the pressures they might face. If your child has a problem, seek treatment.

Love them unconditionally
Good health depends a great deal on a child’s supportive, loving environment.

Individuals with HIV Age 14 Years Faster, According to Study

A diagnosis of HIV is no longer the death sentence it used to be; we’ve come a long way. However, there is a new study that was published in PLOS One that shows that although HIV positive individuals are typically living longer, they may be aging more quickly than expected. The study shows that those with HIV are at a greater risk of age-related diseases including kidney disease, frailty, osteoporosis, neurocognitive disease and some cancers.

Researchers are not pointing to the medications used to treat HIV as being the reason for faster aging; they think it’s HIV itself and that it speeds the process by 14 years.  Scientists from the Multi-Center AIDS Cohort Study and the UCLA AIDS Institute and Center for AIDS Research looked at whether HIV induced epigenetic changes that are age-related, meaning those changes to the DNA that do not change the genetic code, lead to changes in expression of genes. These types of transitions are triggered by the aging process itself or environmental factors.

Individuals with HIV Age 14 Years Faster, According to Study

One of the study’s senior authors, Beth Jamieson, professor of medicine in the division of hematology/oncology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, director of the UCLA Flow Cytometry Core said, “While we were surprised by the number of epigenetic changes that were significantly associated with both aging and HIV-infection, we were most surprised that the data suggests HIV-infection can accelerate aging-related epigenetic changes by 13.7 to 14.7 years.”  There is published data and anecdotal evidence that lines up with this number. It suggests that treated HIV positive adults may develop age-related diseases, about a decade sooner than those who are uninfected.

The study looked at 96 samples of white blood cells from both young and old HIV patients before they began Antiretroviral Therapy (ART). DNA was then extracted and looked at for changes. When studied, there was a lot of overlap when the pattern of changes was compared to the pattern connected with aging. After extrapolating the biological ages of the HIV positive patients, researchers found that the patients were 14 years older than their actual age on both a cellular and physiological level.

Researchers say that this data suggests that HIV speeds up some aspects of the aging process, and there are common mechanisms found in both HIV-related aging and general aging. They consider the results of the study to be an important start in the attempt to find therapeutic approaches to mitigate the effects of HIV and aging.

A Dating App for Lesbians Created by a Lesbian

The dating app called “Her” was created exclusively for lesbians.

The service used to be named “Dattch” (a combo of the words date and catch), but people were having trouble pronouncing it, remembering it or knowing what it meant. In addition, Dattch was made for romantic relationships and dating. Her, on the other hand, has the option for pursuing relationships that are strictly platonic. This occurred because a lot of people wanted to be in on the social side of Her–the events posted and what everyone’s up to, for example. Her is a place to find a community of lesbians.

A Dating App for Lesbians Created by a Lesbian

Even though people of any sexual orientation are able to use OkCupid, Match.com, and Tinder, Her was the first dating app created for lesbians. The other sites usually have a limited dating pool for lesbians, with men even pretending to be women sometimes. There is another popular app that was created for lesbians. It’s called Brenda and was created by a man. Some people would not consider that encouraging or appealing.

When users of Her visit the site they are shown one profile at a time. This gives them the option to “like” the profile. Both users can exchange private messages if they “like” each other. Users are encouraged to upload photos of themselves to be displayed. There’s a lot going on with Her as far as social events go, too. There are blog feeds on the app, for eight cities across the US that show what’s going on in entertainment.

There have been some obstacles along with the creation of Her. Exton said that she had issues trying to find investors, some even doubting her sexuality because she has long hair. She was also told there wasn’t any market, but thankfully this has proven to be false because the app has seen consistent, month-to-month growth.

6 Major Reasons We Need to Rethink HIV Prevention

Many HIV prevention campaigns rely on appealing to our emotions, but are not taking a good look at the HIV research and information available. Read on to see why we should rethink HIV prevention.

60 Percent of young people with HIV do not know their status
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 60 percent of young individuals have no idea that they have HIV. Some men and women who are HIV negative think that it is too big of a risk to be with someone who discloses that they are HIV positive, yet they might go on to have sex with someone who believes they’re HIV negative, but hasn’t been tested to verify. Those undiagnosed carry a higher viral load than those who are aware of their status and on treatment.

91 percent of new HIV transmission happen by those who are not diagnosed or haven’t been treated
This statistic comes from a new study released by JAMA Internal Medicine. In 2009, there were more than 1.1 million people living with HIV; of these people 207,600 were undiagnosed and 519,414 knew they were HIV positive, but were not receiving medical care. In comparison to those who were undiagnosed, those who knew about their status, yet not receiving medical care were 19 percent less likely to transmit the virus.

6 Major Reasons We Need to Rethink HIV Prevention

Those who are HIV positive and receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) who have achieved an undetectable viral load are 96 percent less likely to spread HIV
There hasn’t been a reported case of anyone living with the virus with an undetectable viral load who has transmitted the virus.

Truvada has been shown to reduce HIV transmission by 96 – 99 percent, when used daily
One new study also shows when PrEP is used as needed (a user taking Truvada 2-24 hours before sex and one pill 24 and 48 hours after) has shown to be 86 percent effective in preventing HIV. With all that’s available–TasP, PrEP and condom use, there seems to be much less of a reason to fear sex with someone with someone of opposite HIV status. Be open and honest with your partner.

Three out of 10 in the US have their virus under control
The care continuum, which is also known as the HIV treatment cascade, showed that even though 86 percent of people living with HIV were diagnosed, only 30 percent of them had  an undetectable viral load. The majority of those living with HIV know they have it, but are either too scared or unable to do what is needed to control it.

You can expect to live an additional 51 years if you’re newly diagnosed in your 20’s
That is, if you enter proper treatment. This is roughly the same number of years as a person without HIV would live. Many need only take one pill each day to manage HIV. Of course, there are mental and emotional health issues to treat as well.

Study Shows LGBT Women among Most at Risk for Poverty

A study conducted by The National LGBTQ Task Force, Movement Advance Project, and Center for American Progress, called Paying an Unfair Price: The Financial Penalty for LGBT Women in America, shows that LGBT women are presented with challenges that obstruct their economic well being in health coverage, jobs and getting legal recognition from their families. The study emphasizes the many obstacles that LGBT women in the US face, including exclusion from insurance coverage, wage differences and inflexible workplaces.

LGBT women (transgender in particular) risk employment discrimination
Sixteen percent of LGB individuals said they lost their job because of sexual orientation and 35 percent said they were harassed by their employers, as recently as 2008. Sixty-two percent of LGB people in the study said they heard jokes about lesbians and gays while at work. Out of the transgender women surveyed, 55 percent of them said they were turned down for employment due to their gender identity.

LGBT women are asked by healthcare providers to pay higher rates
They are twice as likely as non-LGBT women to not have a doctor who they visit on a consistent and regular basis. LGBT women with incomes at or below $47,000/yr tend not to have healthcare coverage. The fact that there are exclusions in care for transition-related issues, it’s incredibly expensive for needed services for trans women.

LGBT women are more likely not allowed to be legal parents of their children
They often lack protected family or medical leave at work, and face obstacles in obtaining safe, affordable health care for their families. This is due to the lack of marriage equality throughout the US.

Study Shows LGBT Women among Most at Risk for Poverty

LGBT women pay higher rent and longer rental applications
One study by H.U.D. showed that opposite-sex couples were favored over same-sex couples by 16 percent when they applied for the same rentals. Same-sex couples were given higher prices, longer application processes and less incentives about promotions.

LGBT women lack intimate partner violence protection
The study showed that bisexual women were less “out” in the workplace, which may cause them to stay in an abusive relationship because they fear being outed by their partner. It’s also possible that women who report domestic violence when they’re in same-sex relationships are not taken seriously because of gender stereotypes.

LGBT women/families may not be aware of their eligibility for government assistance
It’s challenging for same-sex couples to navigate state and federal benefit systems because of the legal jumble of relationship recognition for them.

Doctors Need to Initiate Communication with LGBTQ Patients

LGBTQ patients are faced with a variety of health obstacles.

Within the community are high rates of substance abuse and suicide. Men who have sex with men (MSM) make up the majority of new cases of HIV. In order to narrow and eventually close the health gaps between LGBTQ patients and those who are straight, doctors need to talk about sexual orientation and gender identity with their patients.

Dr. Harvey Makadon, director of the National LGBT Health Education Center at the Fenway Institute in Boston said that few physicians talk to patients about sexual behavior, desires and issues of identity.

It’s important for doctors to speak up about sexual orientation and gender identity with patients. It’s a huge part of one’s life and certain issues need to be addressed that affect both mental and physical health. Doctors are potentially missing some of the big issues. Those in the transgender community are of particular concern. Statistics in the community are unsettling. Transgender individuals suffer high rates of poverty, crime and STDs. Almost one-third of transgender women have HIV. According to Makadon, that’s a rate 49 percent higher than other adults of reproductive age.

Doctors Need to Initiate Communication with LGBTQ Patients

Physicians who are not afraid to treat transgender patients hold the key to preventing significant medical issues. It’s tricky because not all MSM identify as gay and some transgender people may have trouble defining gender clearly, particularly those who are younger and. It’s important for people to become comfortable and get to know LGBTQ people. It will allow individuals to feel at ease in seeking care.

Health issues may start early; children and teens struggle with sexuality. LGBTQ teens have a higher suicide rate than straight teens—two to three times higher, in fact. There are also issues with regard to lack of support systems, as many of them have faced parental rejection. This often leads to homelessness, which leads to risky behaviors that include drug and alcohol abuse and sex work. Transgender and gay minorities face rates of HIV infection that are even higher.

Makadon says, “Most people who I’ve had this discussion with say that the duty to care for everybody has to outweigh personal values. For people who continue to feel too conflicted, they probably shouldn’t continue to be in a caring profession. That may sound harsh, but I do think it’s a reality that if we do provide healthcare that we have to provide healthcare for everybody.

Transgender Activists and Radical Feminists Battle on Social Media

There’s something trending on Twitter—but also offline. Both transgender activists, and feminists who do not view trans women as women are debating online and on college campuses.

#TERFs (trans exclusionary radical feminists is a hashtag being used and is a pejorative term used on Twitter to describe anti-trans feminists. Anti-sex work, anti-porn, anti-trans feminists seem to be reappearing from the 1970’s. Many wonder why.

An open letter published in the Guardian of London and the Observer that claimed those who expressed opinions regarded as “transphobic” were being censored on England’s college campuses triggered a significant debate on social media. The letter posted revealed a strong hostility that many wouldn’t be aware of unless they were in specific activist or academic circles, that is occurring between transgender activists and a certain group of feminists who do not believe transgender women are ‘real’ women. Beliefs they hold include, transgender women should not be let into feminist events or female bathrooms. Some of these women are even doxing transgender teens, which means they are revealing their identities to the public online.

Transgender Activists and Radical Feminists Battle on Social Media

These radical feminists have been nicknamed “the Westboro Baptist Church of feminism”, referring to the church known for its hate speech that pickets at funerals of LGBTQ people. Urban Dictionary has a definition listed, which describes them as “group of feminists that claims that trans women aren’t really women, as biological determinism is only a fallacy when it used against them, not when they use it against others.”

One of the loudest anti-trans feminists is Germaine Greer, a 1970’s feminist who wrote the book “The Female Eunuch”.  Greer, now 76, has said that transgender women are a “ghastly parody”, that they are men with “delusions” who use their male privilege to sneak their way into the feminist movement. She believes that transgender women don’t know what it is to “have a big, hairy, smelly vagina”.

Some people regard this as transphobic hate speech and connected to essentialist ideas regarding sex that have been challenged since around the 1990’s, when debate was shifted from sex to gender and its social construction.

It seems that that, according to the “TERFs”, one must be a woman who has suffered sexism in order to be a feminist. Thankfully, present day feminists tend to believe this is an outdated and narrow-minded approach. More and more people are understanding the importance of inclusion, and not rigid definitions about what it means to be a man or a woman. Hopefully this will only continue.

HIV Used to Fight Cancer

HIV and cancer are the most feared diseases on the planet.

But now researchers at the University of Pennsylvania are using one to fight the other. 125 patients with either non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or chronic leukemia took part in this study, 36 of which were children. Two-thirds of participants had either gone through partial or full remission due to the experimental procedure.

Researchers at the university’s School of Medicine are reprogramming billions of cells in the body’s own immune cells to attack the cancer, a tactic which originated from studying HIV. The portion of the virus that allows it to pass into white blood cells is being used to fight cancer. What they are using isn’t HIV per se, but the genetic portion that gives the virus this ability. This method could replace bone marrow transplantation in some instances. This is the current treatment which is complex and can be dangerous.

HIV Used to Fight Cancer

The genetic material fashioned from the type HIV uses is inserted into the patient’s T-cell, an immune system cell known to fight pathogens. Certainly it isn’t the virus itself nor can patients develop HIV from the procedure. When the new cells are refurbished as cancer fighters, they are once again reintroduced into the body, where they can do mighty battle and crush cancer. These cells also reproduce spreading throughout the body and taking the fight right to cancer.

Dr. Doug Olson was diagnosed with Leukemia in 1996. He has undergone four treatments since. The cancer keeps resurfacing. By 2010, around half of all the bone marrow cancer in his body was infected with cancer. With few options left, he underwent this new treatment. Four weeks later, he was cancer free. Oncologists and others wonder if this sort of therapy can be adapted to fight other forms of cancer.