Tag Archives: LGBT community

Being a Better Trans Ally: Gender Pronouns

Many of us are so used to having conversations that involve a limited amount of pronouns that we take for granted (he/she, his/her, they/theirs) because (when speaking English) we must assign a gender when we’re speaking about one person.  We need to understand that others, particularly trans people, ask to be referred to by different pronouns than we might assume we should use.

Singular pronouns such as “ze” and “hir” are the more common new ones for those not wishing to use “he” or “she”.  Changing pronouns can be a significant part of coming out as trans.  This can sometimes cause a lot of emotional pain when they’re met with negative responses, even violence.  Here are some major reasons why it is incredibly important to use the correct gender pronouns as a trans ally:

We’re helping shape our culture with language

Language is very powerful and we often take the words we use for granted, passing them off as insignificant, gender pronouns included.  Language spreads more quickly than ever now due to Internet and social media sites.  We are validating and making visible those who wish to be described and identified in a way that doesn’t fit into a strict gender binary.  Using the correct gender pronouns, even when we’re not with our loved one, is important and respectful.

We’re showing respect to their reality

Trans people are often told what’s best for them by doctors, politicians, schools, and anyone else who wants to deny their reality with a gender pronoun or name that invalidates who they really are.  It’s not up to us to decide who they are, but to show them the same respect we would want in life.

Being a Better Trans Ally: Gender Pronouns

We’re holding the media responsible

The media frequently ignores the requests of trans people who state their gender pronoun preference.  Many allies and activists have prompted change in news organizations, leading them to change their protocol on gender pronouns.  It’s important to keep using our voices.

We’re fighting transphobia and sexism

In our culture, it’s seen as bad or wrong to not fit within the male/female binary, acting outside of the gender of which our culture assigns us.  It’s not up to others to assign anything to us — and we need to realize that if we’re not transgender, and bring clarity to the obvious lack of understanding surrounding these cultural differences.  If you support gender equality, you’re playing a big part in walking the talk by being a trans ally.

We’re educating the community

It’s normal for some folks, activists included, to be confused by different pronouns.  It’s important to  learn them and then be patient as we’re educating others.  As allies, if we consistently use terms that are a true reflection of a person’s gender, we’re not only educating by example, we’re encouraging use of the proper terms by others in the community.  If it seems like a lot of work, just remember, it’s completely necessary and worth our attention.



On Alcoholism in the LGBTQ Community

Alcoholism within the LGBTQ community is an endemic problem.

Readily available, and easy to depend on to aid in feeling comfortable with the stresses of being “out”, alcohol abuse, according to The Pride Institute, is “estimated to occur in up to 45% of those within the LGBTQ community.“ That is almost half of a minority population. When compared with the eighteen million Americans (roughly 15% of the population at large) who suffer from alcohol abuse, the statistics are even more troubling. Why are the numbers regarding alcoholism tripled in the LGBTQ community? As always, the answer lies within.

Across the board, people only rely on drugs and alcohol for one reason, and it can be summed up in a single word: unhappiness.

While most members of the LGBTQ community are happy and content with their lives, their jobs, and their position in society, many self-medicate with drugs and alcohol (particularly the latter) to cope with the daily bombardment of homophobia, workplace discrimination, and the stresses (equal, yet dramatically different) of being either openly gay, or remaining closeted.

On Alcoholism in the LGBTQ CommunityAlcoholism is a symptom of a much deeper sickness that becomes it’s own disease if given enough time to develop. In order to stop the process of it spreading, the members of the LGBTQ community must focus on functioning as a whole in the social strata, and not rely so heavily on drinking to be comfortable with itself.

Programs like Alcoholics Anonymous have helped countless people recover from this crippling addiction for decades. The program works, so long as the addict wants to recover, and “works the steps”, of which there are twelve. A constant refocusing of efforts is required to remain sober, and relapsing into self-destructive behaviors is common – and treatable.

Within the spectrum of the AA treatment program, there are several subcategories, or types of groups that one can seek out. Finding a group that one is comfortable sharing with is of utmost importance in order for the program to work. On the AA website, a search-by-location option is featured on the main page. Trying several different groups before finding the right one is standard practice.

For LGBTQ-exclusive recovery groups, the Pride Institute (linked above) has a vast network of counselors and support systems available. They also offer detoxification, case management assistance, and a wide array of other mental health support programs.

It’s Not a Cat Fight, It’s Not a Brawl. It’s Domestic Abuse.

Surviving an abusive spouse is a Sisyphean challenge when you have the law on your side, but for so many same-sex relationships, a domestic abuse situation does not often garner an equal, or even appropriate response from a system that is supposed to protect all citizens equally.

The root causes of domestic abuse – whether in same-sex couples or otherwise – are myriad. Poverty, mental instability, environmental factors, and the added dimension of the sometimes crippling stress that comes with being a minority because of a relationship are all ingredients for a toxic cocktail that shatters homes, lives, and hearts.

Any illusions about how members of the LGBTQ community are somehow better than, or above domestic abuse are long overdue to be dispelled. Men and women within the community are suffering, and the problem must be fixed internally. Fortunately, there are several local and national resources to aid in this task.

It’s Not a Cat Fight, It’s Not a Brawl. It’s Domestic Abuse.Callen-Lorde, a community health center located in Manhattan, offers an array of different services for LGBTQ spouses that are trapped in abusive relationships. Legal counseling, psychiatric counseling, and talk therapy are available onsite, and support groups for survivors of domestic abuse are located throughout the five boroughs. In addition to mental healthcare, victims who find themselves cut off from healthcare can seek it there, and all services are charged on an income-based sliding scale. Their locations and times can be viewed on their website, linked above.

The Anti-Violence Project, also located throughout New York, provides and promotes advocacy services (legal and otherwise) for victims of domestic abuse within the LGBTQ community.

But how do these agencies help the trans teen in Wisconsin who is getting their life threatened daily? Or, the man in Washington State who can’t sleep at night for the terrible memories? They can’t. But, there are national agencies and coalitions all over the country that CAN help. The bridge from Manhattan to San Francisco is a broad banner, and it is dotted with safe places of respite for those who seek shelter.

Now, with all of that information, the community can move mountains. But there has to be a discussion, first. From region to region, the LGBTQ community is tightly knit. with each individual connected by only one or two degrees of separation. There must be an open dialogue, however painful, on the subject of friends abusing, harassing, and beating their significant others.

It’s going to be difficult, because so many already have a familiar face in mind, either victim or abuser; a personal connection, but forcing the conversation will shed light on the cause, and thus, the cure.

Housing the Elderly LGBT Community

It’s uncommon knowledge, but housing is a much more serious issue for the LGBT community than it is for the mainstream population. In a nationwide survey released by Philadelphia’s Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity department, the figures show that heterosexual couples were favored over same-sex couples when in property deals 16% of the time.

Fair housing and Equal Opportunity in Philadelphia has received 150 allegations relating to sexual-orientation based housing discrimination just since last year. The statistics show this problem isn’t restricted to the city of Philadelphia where housing is difficult to find but a thriving threat in all metropolitan areas—the issue is one purely of discrimination, and it impacts the elderly in the LGBT community in a particularly harmful way in that the aging LGBT population faces more of a roadblock when it comes to housing agreements. Seniors are usually single and without as many benefits as younger generation LGBT people and heterosexual counterparts, which can impact the level of trust that renters have in them.

Younger heterosexual couples looking for housing may have children or plan to have them, and it is not surprising if this sways management to favor a heterosexual couple over a same sex couple that does not have children of their own or does not fit the management’s concept of being “in need” of housing.

Housing the Elderly LGBT CommunityThe elderly in the LGBT community, however, that are not competing with new families for housing find they are snubbed in housing decisions, and the psychosocial impact of the discrimination that comes after a successful housing deal has been made can be have a similar tone.

The previous generation of LGBT individuals missed out for the most part on marriage and parenting, new neighbors can respond inappropriately to singles, and it’s worse when they aren’t tolerant of the real reasons behind solitude. Plenty of studies have been done on housing issues in minority groups, and the evidence shows that groups which face housing discrimination have poorer general health. The older LGBT community and LGBT individuals that are racial or ethnic minorities fall under “double discrimination” categories, and these individuals do have a heightened risk of developing severe depression, poorer general health, and even a reduced lifespan in comparison to individuals that fall under just one discrimination category.

In the past thirty years, minorities that fit single discrimination categories have seen small (less than 5%) improvements in the rates of homelessness and unemployment resulting from discrimination, but the statistics for adult LGBT individuals are not available. We do know that LGBT folks that fall under double discrimination categories have not seen any improvements in homelessness or unemployment since the 1980’s, however.

The LGBT Incidence of Poverty

 The LGBT Incidence of PovertyStatistics published on the LGBT community by the Williams Institute of Law show that a disparate proportion of low income households are headed by same-sex couples, and lesbian and African American same-sex couples face the greatest economic disadvantages; 7.6% of lesbian couples versus 5.7% of heterosexual married couples live below the poverty line.

A whopping 1/3 of lesbian couples without high school diplomas live in poverty versus the 18.8% reported for differently sexed couples and 20.1% for gay males. African American same-sexed couples were more than two times more likely to live in poverty than heterosexual couples in general.

The reasons for the disparities are fairly obvious from the figures—the risk of poverty and unemployment is higher in rural areas where there is less awareness and sensitivity to LGBT rights. Lesbian couples in rural communities are roughly twice as likely to be unemployed than lesbians living in urban areas.

We may have a lot of beautiful ideals in the USA, but we don’t respect them. As history has always had it, the level of compassion that we as a society demand for women and African Americans is much slighter than what we are willing to give to other groups. Although there are other battles that can certainly be fought in the name of LGBT equality, emphasis needs to be on the minorities within the community that face the greatest and the most deleterious struggles.



Neil Patrick Harris’s Wedding Helps Mainstream Gay Marriage

Neil Patrick Harris's Wedding Helps Mainstream Gay MarriageOn Saturday, September 6th Neil Patrick Harris (of How I Met Your Mother among other works) was happily wed to his partner of 10 years, David Burtka. The two expressed they proposed to each other over half a decade ago, and have been waiting for New York to legalize before committing to their nuptials. They are also the fathers of fraternal twins, who also took part in the festivities in Italy.

Patrick recently tweeted the news on Twitter writing, “Guess what? David Burtka and I got married over the weekend. In Italy. Yup, we put the ‘n’ and ‘d’ in ‘husband.”

Big names like Sir Elton John even showed up to perform and support. Talk show host Kelly Ripa of Live! With Kelly And Michael on Monday also attended, and spoke of the event, “It was a beautiful family affair in Perugia, Italy. They rented a castle — or I think they rented it. I hope we didn’t break into a castle and just stayed there. There were fireworks. The food was amazing. There were magic tricks, because, you know Neil is way into magic. Their wedding vows were so beautiful.”

Neil Patrick Harris's Wedding Helps Mainstream Gay MarriageIgnoring the ceremony, attendee’s and location in Italy, this is still huge news. Right now there are only 19 states that have legalized Gay Marriage and advocates are pushing for this number to grow. With recent reports from the CDC showing the gay population to be much less then previously believed, many fighting for LGBT equality felt this would hurt  their chances towards equal rights; that they would hold less validity because their community isn’t as big, thus needing less attention. Neil Patrick Harris has a big name in the media, however, starring in movies like The Smurfs and making cameo everywhere from Sesame Street to Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. He is a positive figure for same-sex marriage advocates to stand behind.

To be fair, their monogamy is also a contradiction to the character Harris plays on How I Met Your Mother, Barney, who is a womanizing player. The denial of their equal wedding rights would seem like a cruel joke when you consider A-listers Brittany Spears and Kim Kardashian have married and divorced people they were involved with for less than a few months.

This wedding is not only a success for modern America, but also love overall. These two have been together for years and are the total opposite of the sexually risky stereotype gay men have been painted to be.

The Science of Sexual Dimorphism? Just Count Sheep Neurons

The Science of Sexual Dimorphism? Just Count Sheep NeuronsSex and gender expression are two different things even though the terms get thrown around interchangeably. Sex refers to anatomy, whether or not we have male or female genitals and what our gonads, brains, and chromosomes consist of. Because so many different things can happen during embryonic development to influence sex, the easiest way to define it is by the chromosomes an individual has in their somatic (“normal”, non-reproductive) cells. The X chromosome is the larger sex chromosome that contains the gene that determines female development, and the Y chromosome is the smaller chromosome that contains exclusively male genes.

Now it is not so simple as that — females receive two copies of the X chromosome, one from each parent, but in each of a woman’s cells only one of the two copies gets to express genes. On top of that, the X and Y chromosomes have some genes in common that aren’t related to sexuality at all (and some that are), but males express genes on both chromosomes. However, somewhere around week seven of embryonic development the DAX1 gene on the X chromosome stimulates the development of ovaries in embryos that do not possess the SRY gene… a gene found on the Y chromosome that is necessary for testicular development. At its most fundamental, this is how male and female sexual dimorphism is determined during development. But one of the important aspects of sexual dimorphism, sexual preference, is neglected by this simplified view. A lot of people will argue that sexual preference has more to do with societal conditioning, but research is continuing to reveal that things like gender expression and sexual orientations are strongly, if not exclusively, influenced during embryonic development.

Studies done on sheep flocks whose populations are 8% homosexual (males that will only court other males) have shed light on some of the factors that determine sexual preference in the brain. The sexually dimorphic nucleus of the pre-optic area is a brain region that has been demonstrated to be larger in males than in females of several species, and in the U.S. sheep population, the dimorphic nucleus has been shown to be significantly smaller and contain fewer neurons in sheep that have a sexual preference for males versus sheep that prefer females. Multiple research studies on the sexually dimorphic nucleus in these sheep have shown that the sex hormone testosterone influences the growth of this brain region during embryonic development. By day 135 of gestation, this brain region is larger in male sheep than in female sheep. Treatment of female embryos early in gestation has with testosterone enlarges and “masculinizes” the sexually dimorphic nucleus.

Studies done on human beings have revealed a startling number of anatomical features, many that are not thought to be involved in the expression of sexual behavior, are abnormal in homosexual men. For instance the oto-acoustic region of the inner cochlea is tuned to higher frequencies in females and in homosexual men, and ratios of finger digit length have been shown to influence sexual preference as well. The anterior commissure, an area that connects the left and right hemispheres in the brain, is significantly larger in heterosexual women and homosexual men than in straight men. Although many seemingly irrelevant anatomical features surface in studies, the general consensus among scientists in regards to the origins of these variations is that they occur prior to birth and not as a result of upbringing.

The Science of Sexual Dimorphism? Just Count Sheep NeuronsA study at the UCLA that looked at the composition of the human sexually dimorphic nucleus of the pre-optic area found that a specific region known as the interstitial nucleus of the anterior hypothalamus number three was larger in heterosexual men than in homosexual men. Further studies indicated that the size difference may be insignificant, but that the neurons in this brain region in homosexual men are more densely packed and synaptic networks are formed differently than in heterosexual males. From what scientists have learned in studies of sheep and other animals, removal of testosterone and its metabolites following embryonic development is unable to alter the development of the sexually dimorphic nucleus.

No one knows exactly what determines the hormonal milieu during gestation, but there is some evidence that suggests that at least part of influence on testosterone is seasonal. Studies done on homosexuality in males and females have shown that babies born around the November and May equinoxes, times of year when maternal testosterone spikes in the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the brain, are significantly more likely to be gay. Interestingly these circadian spikes in testosterone and estradiol may determine other “masculine” gender traits such as sports performance and finger length.

A Possible End to AIDS

A Possible End to AIDSAIDS is a horrible illness that has claimed over 20 million lives since the epidemic began. It is the leading cause of death world-wide. While no cures are available, Executive Director of UNAIDS (the United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS), Michel Sidibé has brought up a plan that he beleives will end its spread.

Sidibé announced the “90-90-90 intiative” last week during the International Aids Conference last week, in Melborne, Australia. The intiative is a plan to reduce all new infections, deaths, and AIDS related discrimination cases by 90% globally. Of this Sidibé claimed, “We aim to bring the epidemic under control so that it no longer poses a public health threat to any population or country. No one must be left behind.” UNAIDS reports rougly 35 million people are living with HIV/AIDS in 2013, but only 21 million of them are aware they have contracted the virus. Also, about 2.1million people become newly infected each year. According to Sidibé, antiviral medications have thankfully been slowing transmission and supressing the virus, saving millions. “We have done more in the last three years than we have done in the previous 25 years,” he says.

A Possible End to AIDSConsidering the recent debates on anti-gay laws, the 90-90-90 iniative would be a blessing if it proves effective. At the International Aids Conference, arguments were made combining human rights and health concerns towards countries like Russia who have made distrubuting information about homosexuality a crime punishable by jail-time. “Some laws ban freedom of assembly and freedom of association” says Kene Esom, a Nigerian who works in South Africa for gay advocacy group, the African Men for Sexual Health and Rights. “That means groups can’t meet or even receive funds.”

Besides the obvious crime this is against humanity, such enforcement forces homosexuals into hiding. They fear seeking medical attention, because revealing their sexuality could mean incarceration. So now you have people infected with AIDS walking around unaware, potentially spreading the virus while others imprisoned may also be infected. This anti-progressive thinking is a death spell, causing the number infected to multiply exponentially. If Michel Sidibé’s initiative is successful, experts believe AIDS may no longer exist by 2030. While this would not correct the social injustices homosexuals see, it would do wonders for the medical world and alleviate one of the gay communities biggest biological enemies.

13 million people are currently taking some form of antiretroviral therapy, which has dropped HIV-related deaths between 2009 and 2012 by 20 percent. These treatments and medications are costly; UNAIDS reports the US spends about 19 billion annually on HIV treatment and prevention. With HIV and AIDS elimated, that money could be used to research the treatment for other diseases. The world could work on fixing other problems to make this a better place to live.

Transgender Children: Making the Change Early

Transgender Children: Making the Change EarlyWhile not a common issue, growing up feeling like your body is the wrong gender is a struggle. About 700,000 people in the U.S., or 0.3% of the population identify as transgender in 2014. This often translates into stress for individuals and families because society has rigid guidelines for how it identifies an individual’s gender. In a shocking 2013 study, 41 percent of 6,400 transgender respondents claimed to have attempted suicide. Becoming who we feel we are is a very important journey; one seven-year-old A.J. (who’s name has been changed for privacy concerns) would go on much sooner than the average person.

A.J. was originally born a boy, but not long after A.J. turned 3, things started to changed. At the time, he wanted longer hair. Mother, Debi, claimed A.J. “screamed and fought when I got out the clippers and got one cut down the side … there were tears… like torture.” He did not feel comfortable in his clothes, frequently telling his parents he wanted to wear dresses and jewelery. The victim of constant harassment, A.J. said “When I first, in the fourth grade, cut my hair they called me he-she.”

At 4 years old, A.J.’s parents took her to their pediatrician, who declared the then boy’s gender identity did not align with her then body. While much happier now, her (A.J.) parents expressed great difficulty with the transition. Many of A.J.’s childhood friends have been distanced. Her parents have transferred her to a new school and guarded her transgender status with secrecy; something they plan to continue to do, fearing the discrimination their daughter could face.

A.J.’s story is truly a testimony of the power of love and family. Her family are not only Southern Baptists, they are also Republican and generally do not support things like transitional surgery/therapy. A.J.’s mother says they are in no way pushing a liberal agenda, and was quoted stating, “There is a profound difference between wanting to be something in imaginary play and in declaring who you are insistently, consistently and persistently. Those are three markers that set transgender children apart, and my daughter displayed all of them.”

Of transgenderism, A.J.’s dad said, “It’s not something we asked for. It’s not something we wanted. It just happened. My thought process all along is I would rather have a happy, healthy little girl than a suicidal, dead son.”

Should Gay Men and Lesbians be Lumped Together?

Should Gay Men and Lesbians be Lumped Together? They’ve been put together for years by government agencies and advocacy groups alike. But lesbians and gay men often say that they have few things, if anything in common besides discrimination, prejudice, and the other things that come from societal marginalization and varying from the norm. Should we lump gay men and lesbians together?

We are now comfortable using the term LGBT. But some say even this term is out of step with the complex reality, the spectrum of human sexuality, as psychologist Erik Erikson classified it. We also have questioning, queer and intersex, making the new acronym LGBTQQI. These groups have their own culture, goals, values, and indeed different needs when it comes to healthcare. Gay journalist Anthony Lorenzo makes fun of the newest acronym saying, “We’ve had to start using Sanskrit because we’ve run out of letters.”

Canada has gone the extra mile, recently holding an event which it termed as its “annual festival of LGBTTIQQ2SA culture and human rights.” LGBTTIQQ2SA and festival attendees were defined as, “a broad array of identities such as, but not limited to, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, intersex, queer, questioning, two-spirited, and allies.” Two-spirited is a Native American term meaning “having more than one gender identity.”

LGBT finalIn terms of healthcare, there are cross overs. For instance, though the data is limited, most LGBT have a higher suicide rate, higher substance abuse rate, and suffer from elevated depression, anxiety and stress. Much of this is due to discrimination, harassment, prejudice, not being accepted by family, friends and their community, and trouble in relationships. But different aspects of the LGBT community are affected by different healthcare issues. For instance, the HIV epidemic is mainly a men who have sex with men (MSM) issue. Although anyone can catch HIV, this group has the highest propensity, along with transsexual women, and so should be more targeted in campaigns. Sexual reassignment surgery and hormone therapy affects transsexuals, but few others in the LGBT community.

As awareness grows, our language has to change, to become logical and still inclusive. Gay rights activist Paul Burston suggested to the BBC the acronym NQBHTHOWTB (Not Queer But Happy To Help Out When They’re Busy). Burston also offers the far more concise GLW (Gay, Lesbian or Whatever). Though humorous, Burston may not be far off, as the extended acronym alphabet soup is sure to drive people crazy and stir up controversy within and outside the community for quite some time to come.