Why Tumblr’s ban on adult content is bad for LGBTQ youth

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Tumblr’s new rules will likely shut much of the LGBTQ youth activity. Here a chaptered LGBTQ youth themed comic on Tumblr.

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As of Dec. 17, Tumblr will no longer allow “adult content,” defined as that which shows “real-life human genitals or female-presenting nipples, and any content — including photos, videos, GIFs and illustrations — that depicts sex acts.”

Before this, the platform’s lenient policies contrasted significantly with those of Facebook and Instagram, which have stricter content moderation guidelines.

This update follows the removal of Tumblr’s app from Apple’s app store after child pornography was found on the platform. However, it also reflects broader changes following Verizon’s acquisition of Yahoo, Tumblr’s parent company.

Katrin Tiidenberg, a researcher who has studied self-expression on Tumblr, conjectures that this change may have more to do with advertising sales than protecting users. Regardless of Tumblr’s motives, this update will seriously affect LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) youth who rely on Tumblr and its communities for self-discovery and support.

‘Safer’ online spaces

Since LGBTQ identities have often been stigmatized, the internet has been pivotal in helping those with diverse gender and sexual identities learn about themselves and find each other. Tumblr has provided a safe space for this through many of its key features (e.g. pseudonymous accounts, reblogging) and the communities it attracts.

Given this, it’s not surprising that a large Australian survey found LGBTQ youth use Tumblr much more frequently than the rest of the population. Many respondents indicated content on Tumblr broadened their understanding of sexuality and gender and facilitated self-acceptance.

The Tumblr logo is displayed at Nasdaq in New York in July 2013.

Tumblr has served as an essential outlet for LGBTQ youth in relation to other popular platforms. Alexander Cho, a postdoctoral fellow at UC Irvine, has written about Tumblr’s “queer ecosystem” where “users circulate porn, flirt, provide support to deal with homophobia as well as advice on coming out…” Cho has found that queer youth of colour experience Facebook as a space of “default publicness” and prefer Tumblr for sharing intimate and personal content.

LGBTQ people have also found Tumblr to be powerful for self-representation. Through sophisticated hashtagging practices, transgender people share art, stories and engage in dialogue that challenges cisgender norms.

Researcher Tim Highfield and I have explored how sharing queer GIFs – short, looping media — not only allows LGBTQ youth to engage in Tumblr’s fan communities but also playfully displays queer culture en masse. This broad representation of LGBTQ identities may dissuade homophobic harassment, as some of the queer women I’ve interviewed perceive less discrimination on Tumblr.

What’s porn got to do with it?

Porn is a portion of the multiple forms of media resonating among LGBTQ users. This media allows them to knit together non-mainstream identities and survive in a world where heterosexuality is ubiquitously portrayed across social media and broadcast outlets.

Not all LGBTQ content contains genitals, “female-presenting nipples” or sex acts, but not all content with these elements constitutes what we would generally think of as pornography. Much of the sexualized content circulated among LGBTQ Tumblr users make available depictions of sexuality that are frequently rendered invisible or marginalized.

These can take the form of fan art, remixed film clips of sensual embraces and selfies. This media allows LGBTQ people to see themselves as sexual beings — something that is particularly important for young people developing a sense of sexual and gender identity.

Even if you disagree with teenagers accessing this type of content, Tumblr’s new policy bans it for everyone regardless of age. Formerly, users could voluntarily mark their blogs as “NSFW” (Not Safe for Work) if they posted occasional nudity and “adult” if posting substantial nudity. This provided a sort of checkpoint to hinder younger users in accessing this content.

Now even adults won’t be able to access “adult content.” This means that young people over 18, who may be facing formative life changes, like starting post-secondary education or moving away from home, won’t have access to media that may help them learn about their identity and feel supported while doing so.

Commercial platforms shape culture

Strict content moderation policies tend to have negative outcomes for already marginalized users. In my research with Jean Burgess and Nicolas Suzor, we found that some queer women experienced Instagram’s content moderation as overly stringent.

Instagram asks users to report content and responds through automated mechanisms. Therefore, queer women’s content was subject to removal based on other users’ whims and the banning of certain hashtags like #lesbian. Tumblr’s new updates promise a similar mixture of user reporting and automated content detection tools.

Several scholars have begun to critically examine how platforms’ decisions shape our social and cultural norms.

In Canada, Chris Tenove, Heidi Tworek and Fenwick McKelvey have pointed out that content moderation is not standardized and lacks federal oversight. Platforms often apply content moderation categories, such as “adult content,” without transparency or accountability.

Tumblr’s CEO, Jeff D’Onofrio, said: “There are no shortage of sites on the internet that feature adult content. We will leave it to them and focus our efforts on creating the most welcoming environment possible for our community.”

It seems that with this new change, youth who want to encounter sexual content will need to relocate. While some young people may turn to pornography sites, many of these sites are not designed with diverse sexual and gender identities in mind.

Youth entering these sites may be more likely to encounter stigmatized, stereotypical and demeaning representations of women and transgender people. Even LGBTQ-friendly pornography sites don’t have the elaborate community networks unique to Tumblr.

Such communities help youth to make sense of sexual content in relation to who they are becoming as they grow up. Tumblr’s decision means LGBTQ youth will have one less outlet where they can learn about sexual identity and gain support from peers who are like them and sharing content for them.

Complete Article HERE!

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Gender Identity in Weimar Germany

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Remembering an early academic effort to define sexual orientation and gender identity as variable natural phenomena, rather than moral matters.

The Eldorado, a popular gay night club in Berlin, 1932

By: Livia Gershon

As the already precarious legal rights of trangender Americans come under renewed threat, it’s worth looking back at the first political movement around gender identity in the modern West. As German Studies scholar Katie Sutton writes, that was activism by people in Weimar Germany who referred to themselves as “transvestites.”

Sutton writes that sex researcher and political activist Magnus Hirschfield invented the term “transvestism” in 1910. “Transvestites” were understood as people whose gender identity and preferred clothing did not align with the sex to which they were assigned at birth. Hirschfield was part of an academic effort to define sexual orientation and gender identity as variable natural phenomena rather than moral matters.

Under German law, cross-dressing could be prosecuted as a public nuisance. But starting in 1908, the government began issuing “transvestite certificates” with the support of Hirschfield and other scientists and psychologists. Holding a “transvestite certificate” allowed people to legally wear clothing that contradicted their assigned biological sex.

After World War I, Sutton writes, continuing urbanization, social liberalism, and the spread of new “scientific” ideas about sexuality in the Weimar Republic helped usher in a movement for gay rights. The nation’s two major gay organizations sponsored subgroups and publications for transvestites. In big cities, they organized lectures, fashion parades and balls, and other social events. For trans people scattered across the country, they published magazine columns and supplements.

Cover of The Lesbians of Berlin by Magnus Hirschfeld

The science of sex that Hirschfield and other German researchers were developing informed transvestite organizing. In the magazine supplements, readers debated “sex-change” operations and discussed the biological underpinnings of their identities. One described blood tests required to apply for an official name change, which supposedly revealed “gender-specific elements of both sexes.”

Like the larger gay rights movement at the time, the public face of transvestite organizing was middle-class and focused on bourgeois values. Fighting back against lurid media stereotypes of cross-dressing criminals, the organizations worked for more visibility of “respectable” trans people. They called on their members to apply for transvestite certificates en masse and to “confess” their identity to their spouses, families, and coworkers. Middle-class male-to-female transvestite organizers policed their peers, rejecting gaudy clothing and celebrating the ability to “pass” as a middle-class lady. (Female-to-male dressing was simpler since masculine clothing was fashionable for cis women in the mid-20s.)

Despite their organizational connections with gay groups, transvestite activists drew a line between gender presentation and sexual orientation. Female-to-male transvestites were often sidelined, partly because they were closely identified with lesbian culture. Many male-to-female representatives featured in the movement’s media took pains to declare themselves heterosexual—by which they meant biologically male people who were attracted to women. (A flip side of this was gay men embracing militaristic masculinity to gain acceptance within the rising Nazi party.)

Despite all their self-policing, the transvestite movement came under attack when the Nazis gained power. The party made Hirschfield’s Institute of Sexology one of its first targets in 1933. Still, the activists’ work helped pave the way for today’s transgender movement.

Complete Article HERE!

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Recovering the Beauty of Sex

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By Joseph A. Barisas and William F. Long

Last week, a group of students hosted Harvard Sex Week, a series of widely-publicized events with titles ranging from “Hit Me Baby One More Time: BDSM in the Dorm Room” and “Bloody Good! An Intro to Period Sex” to “One is Not Enough: Open Relationships, Non-Monogamy, & Polyamory.” The Undergraduate Council and the Harvard Foundation shared the distinction of sponsoring these talks with, among others, various retailers of exotic sex toys, lubricants, and condoms.

Over our years at Harvard, we’ve seen our fair share of the extreme and the avant-garde, but this year’s programming managed to shock even us. The idea that a week including BDSM and polyamory could possibly contribute anything to a healthy understanding of sex struck us as entirely backward. Why has our dialogue about sex, something which should be considered intimate and reverent and profound, become simply an outlet for our unrestrained desires and debased passions?

The answer, we suspect, likely has something to do with the fact that Harvard teaches us from our very first week on campus an oversimplified attitude towards sex that we might call the “consensual” philosophy of sex. Each year during Opening Days, freshmen sit through a mandatory theatrical production called “Speak About It” in which, over an hour of sexual reenactments, they learn that as long as they have “consent,” they are free to engage in whatever with whomever they please. What matters is not the act consented to, but the consent itself. While consent is obviously essential to the very nature of sex, there is so much more to it than just a verbal assent extracted from the other party in order to do whatever one desires.

Because there are no other normative guidelines on what true and good sex is, this ambivalence inevitably reduces sex, one of the most powerful and meaningful components of the human experience, to what many young people invariably want it to be: a purely physical act whose primary function is to produce pleasure and satisfy passions. It matters not with whom one engages in it, neither the duration or depth of that relationship, nor yet the further continuance of the relationship. To speak of its emotional and spiritual aspects feels awkward and anachronistic, and discussion of its procreative nature, arguably the most essential characteristic of sex, is avoided like the plague.

But the consequences of this cheapened, hollowed-out view of sex are heartbreaking. They can be seen in a culture of one-night-stands and hook-ups, fueled by alcohol, often ending in indifference and, occasionally, emotional trauma. Young men and women learn to see one another as means to gratification and not ends in themselves, infinitely valuable and unique. A woman who had suffered the emotional toll of being ghosted once too many times asked in a New York Times column whether by consenting to hook-up culture, she had also consented to its premise of detachment and self-centeredness. When we lower our standards of acceptable sexual behavior to merely what is legal, we should not be surprised to see our personal standards of sexual morality drop and unbridled license expand to fill the void.

A sexual ethic that bases its standards solely on what is allowed teaches students that they are being moral by merely staying within the bounds of the law. A robust ethic has positive rather than solely negative norms. Students learn implicitly a definition of sex as allowance, where anything not prohibited is good, instead of realizing that boundaries and reason help make sex the entirely unique and wonderful thing it is. Paradoxically, this prohibitive ethic in which we are currently immersed destroys the possibility of allowing people to see sex as a good and honorable and beautiful thing.

One of the self-proclaimed objectives of Sex Week was to “connect diverse individuals and communities both within and beyond Harvard,” and the group that runs it aims to “open up campus dialogue.” This is an aspiration we can certainly agree with, and we want to begin engaging in this dialogue by rejecting the premise that the ethic of “consent” is sufficient to create a culture of sex that truly empowers and connects.

Couldn’t we all agree that true sex requires genuine care for the other party and to have their best interest at heart? The moment we impose this reasonable requirement, we recategorize a wide swath of sexual behavior — drunken one-night-stands for instance — as instead a sort of glorified mutual masturbation. As we continue to positively construct sex by considering its many natural and valuable facets, we begin to elevate its dignity and purpose and reestablish a philosophy of sexual ethics that we believe benefits everyone. At the Harvard College Anscombe Society, we believe among other things that true sex should be a total and unreserved giving of oneself to another, physically, emotionally, psychologically, biologically, and spiritually. Its primary function is unitive, tying two people in an indissoluble bond, and procreative, wherein the love shared between the two manifests itself in the miracle of human life.

Only when we take every aspect of sex seriously and consider it in its proper framing, can we recover its natural beauty and value. Admittedly, constructing a full alternative vision of sex is not something that can be easily done in an op-ed, and the Anscombe Society — through meetings and public talks, including one with world-renowned moral philosopher Dr. Janet E. Smith this week — hopes to continue this ongoing dialogue about true love.

Complete Article HERE!

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5 Ways to Be More Sexual…

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Even When You’re Not in Bed

By Amy Stanton & Catherine Connors

Getting in touch with your erotic self can help you feel more authentic, and confident too.

This may seem counterintuitive in a culture that celebrates the Kardashians and made 50 Shades of Grey a bestseller, but female sexual power has always been controversial.

Women who own their erotic power have, for pretty much all of human history, been seen as dangerous and disruptive. (Who is Eve, after all, if not a brazen woman who tempts an otherwise innocent man? And she, apparently, caused humanity to be kicked out of paradise as a result!) History and theology are full of tales of women whose sexual power caused the downfall of nations and peoples. From the Hindus’ Mohini to the Greeks’ Sirens to the Old Testament’s Jezebel, Delilah, and Salome to Stormy Daniels—sexually confident women have been long characterized as capital-T Trouble.

It’s not hard to figure out why: women’s sexual power has long been directly associated with men’s sexual weakness. Delilah’s cutting of Samson’s hair is a figurative castration: a sexually powerful woman can rob a man of his strength and will and render him vulnerable. Other cultures viewed a man’s falling under the influence of a woman as so disempowering that it could only be the work of demons or other supernatural forces. And we all know the tragedy of the cuckold (who persists to the present day in the idea of the “cuck”): sexually duped by a woman, the cuckolded man can’t know who his real children are, and so is effectively impotent. (That this became the basis for The Maury Povich Show is arguably a compounded tragedy.)

The idea that women shouldn’t be sexually empowered runs so deep that we often don’t realize how much it influences us. Take the notion of the “slut” and the double standard it purveys. According to author and journalist Peggy Orenstein, “A sexually active girl [or woman] is a slut while a similar boy [man] is a player.” Apart from “player,” we don’t really have words to describe the sexually active boy or man. Girls and women are called “sluts,” “whores,” “slags,” “slatterns,” and (for older women) “cougars,” to name a few. And although we shame unabashedly sexual women (think of how much vitriol gets aimed at Kim Kardashian), we also vilify the so-called prude who suppresses her sexuality. To say that these double standards and contradictions create a confusing landscape for girls and women is an understatement.

It’s not only confusing… it’s also a dangerous landscape. In the era of #metoo, #BelieveHer, and #WhyIDidntReport, we are more aware than ever that our confidence—sexual or otherwise—won’t protect us from the risk of assault. And even though we know that the arguments about constraining women’s sexual freedom for our own protection are completely bogus–even dangerous—it’s hard to not absorb the chill of those messages. So how do we claim and own our sexual power? How can we use it in a way that promotes our emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being?

We think the starting point is to get in touch with your erotic self. Explore your sexual identity so that you can get to know it better. As Amy discusses in our book, The Feminine Revolution, one of the ways she does this is by embracing her love of lingerie—a love that started for her, because it made her feel great and then if men appreciate it, even better. For Catherine it’s been a process of embracing sensuality in all its forms—not just sexual—and getting to know what moves and inspires her senses. For you, it could be something completely different—what matters is only that you get started. Ask yourself, What makes me feel good? What makes me feel sexually and sensually gratified—and confident? And consider trying a few of these tricks:

Practice the skill of erotic observation

Explore what it feels like to “love” a sunset or the curve of smoke above a fire—and cultivate connection to beauty everywhere you find it. Your erotic self is defined by its connection to beauty and spirit in all forms, so being in touch with your erotic—and, by extension, sexual—power requires practicing appreciation of those things outside the sphere of sex and romance.

Use your senses

Sexuality is a power of the mind, but also, of course, of the body, and so the practiced exercise of sexual power requires connection to the senses. But this isn’t restricted to the sexual experiences of the senses—on the contrary, honing your senses more broadly can only enhance more, um, specific sensual experiences. Pay attention to what delights your senses. Is it the taste of fine wine or great chocolate? Is it the warmth of crackling fires, the feel of wind in your hair, the tingling of your muscles after a run? Do more of that. Find more of that.

Own your physicality

The way you sit, the way you walk—every movement plays into your sexual power. How can this work to your advantage? How can you express yourself intentionally through your movement? Pilates is a great way to get really specific with your various body parts and learn how to move and control them. Dance allows you to free and express yourself. Bring attention to how you’re walking down the street and how you feel.

Experiment

Try different ways of expressing and feeling your sensuality and sexuality. See how it feels. Play with it—visit extremes and fantasies. What feels right? Perhaps you’ll find you’ve been playing it too safe, and there’s room to indulge. Or maybe you’ll find that you want to dial it back. No matter what, the result is clarity and power.

Find inspiration in others

Look to sexual/sensual/erotic role models as a way to find your own approach to sexuality. Consider people across the gender spectrum: Whom do you find sexy? Why? What about that person is sexually or erotically compelling? Is it his or her physical beauty or sense of style, intelligence, or charisma? Understanding what we find erotic—what we desire—can help us find our own sexual being.

As we explore our femininity, our feminine power and, as part of that, our sexuality and sexual power, let’s not forget it’s a journey. A journey of freeing ourselves, learning what makes us feel our best and most confident and moving towards true authenticity. Towards a better world for us and for those around us.

Complete Article HERE!

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The early-20th century German trans-rights activist who was decades ahead of his time

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Magnus Hirschfeld, on the right, sits with his partner, Tao Li, at the fourth conference of the World League for Sexual Reform in 1932.

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The Trump administration continues its assault on transgender rights.

In July 2017, Trump sought to bar transgender people from serving in the military. Then, this past October, The New York Times obtained a memo indicating that the administration was considering narrowly defining gender “as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth.” Anyone wishing to challenge their officially-assigned sex would have to have the matter resolved by genetic testing.

Those opposed to recognizing gender identity sometimes call it a form of “radical gender ideology” or “political correctness” gone too far.

But recognition of transgender identity is no recent phenomenon: Some doctors acknowledged gender nonconforming people far earlier than most might realize. Perhaps the most important pioneer was German physician Magnus Hirschfeld, who was born 150 years ago, in 1868. As a historian of gender and sexuality in Germany, I’m struck by how he paved the way for the legal recognition of gender nonconforming people.

Hirschfeld’s ‘sexual intermediaries’

In recent years, the medical and psychological professions have come to a consensus that sex assignment at birth is inadequate for understanding individuals’ sexual and gender identity – and that failure to recognize this fact can have a devastating impact.

Magnus Hirschfeld was the first doctor to openly research and advocate for people whose gender did not correspond with their sex assignment at birth.

He’s often remembered today as an advocate of gay rights, and in the early 20th century, his activism played a major role in nearly overturning Germany’s law criminalizing male same-sex relations.

But Hirschfeld’s vision extended much further than homosexuality. He defined his specialty as “sexual intermediaries,” which included everyone who did not fit into an “ideal type” of heterosexual, cis-gendered men and women.

According to Hirschfeld, sexual intermediaries included many categories. One type was cis-gendered people who were gay, lesbian or bisexual. Another consisted of transvestites: people who comfortably identified as their assigned sex but who preferred to dress in the clothing assigned to the other sex. Yet others were “trans” in a more radical direction, like those who wanted to live fully as their non-assigned sex or longed for sex-change surgery.

A relentless advocate

As a gay man, Hirschfeld was aware of the legal and social dangers sexual intermediaries faced.

Since sexual intermediaries often turned to their doctors for help, Hirschfeld worked to educate the medical community. He published medical journals including the “Yearbook on Sexual Intermediaries” and the “Journal of Sexual Science.” In 1919, he founded the Institute for Sexual Science in Berlin to promote further research.

A German cartoon depicts Hirschfeld with the caption ‘The first champion of the third sex.’

In court he gave expert testimony on behalf of men who had been accused of violating Germany’s law banning male same-sex relations.

He even co-wrote and made a cameo appearance in the world’s first feature-length movie featuring a gay protagonist: the 1919 silent film “Anders als die Anderen” (“Different from the Others”).

Nor did Hirschfeld shy away from political engagement. In 1897, he founded the “Scientific Humanitarian Committee” to advocate for gender and sexual rights.

Then, from 1897 to 1898, Hirschfeld worked to decriminalize male same-sex relations in Germany. He collected over 5,000 signatures from Germans willing to be publicly identified with the effort, including such luminaries as Albert Einstein and Thomas Mann. A bill decriminalizing male homosexual acts gained only minority support when it was introduced in Parliament in 1898, but a new bill was reintroduced after the First World War. In the more progressive environment of the Weimar Republic, the bill advanced to parliamentary committee, only to stall when the Great Depression hit in 1929.

Importantly, Hirschfeld’s advocacy extended well beyond the decriminalization of gay male sex.

Like most European countries, Germany had – and still has – an “internal passport,” a government-issued ID that citizens are expected to carry with them. Germans whose passport indicated “male” but who dressed in female clothing were subject to police harassment or arrest for disorderly conduct.

Together with a colleague, Hirschfeld in 1910 convinced the Berlin police to accept a “transvestite certificate,” signed by a doctor, to nullify such charges. After World War I, he convinced the Prussian judiciary to permit legal name changes from gender-specific names to gender-neutral names, which enabled trans people to present as the gender that was most true to themselves.

Not all sexual minorities in Germany endorsed Hirschfeld’s views. Early twentieth-century Germany was a politically and culturally diverse place, and that diversity extended to same-sex and gender-nonconforming people.

Some gay men, for example, argued that far from being an “intermediary” sexual type, they were the most masculine men of all: After all, they didn’t form close bonds with women. The vision of these “masculinists” had little room for lesbians, bisexuals, or trans people.

A life’s work goes up in flames

By contrast, Hirschfeld’s approach was all-inclusive. In his view, all “sexual intermediaries” – whether L, G, B, T, Q, or I in today’s parlance – were worth recognizing and protecting. He once calculated that there were 43,046,721 possible variants of human sexuality. That was simply another way of saying that the human species was infinitely diverse.

“Love,” he said, “is as varied as people are.”

When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Hirschfeld, who was Jewish, was on tour lecturing on sexual science. From abroad, he watched newsreels of his Institute for Sexual Science set aflame by Nazi Storm Troopers. Thousands of unique medical records, publications, photos and artifacts were destroyed.

Students organized by the Nazi party parade in front of the building of the Institute for Sexual Research in Berlin prior to pillaging it on May 6, 1933.

Hirschfeld died two years later, and materials confiscated by the Nazis became evidence against gender and sexually-nonconforming people in the Third Reich. Male same-sex relations weren’t decriminalized in East Germany until 1968, and in West Germany until 1969. Full legal equality had to wait even longer.

Nearly a century after Hirschfeld’s institute burned, only tentative progress has been made in ending discrimination based on gender identity. And that progress is at risk.

Yet no bureaucratic definition of “sex” will change what Hirschfeld so clearly demonstrated over 120 years ago: Trans people exist.

Complete Article HERE!

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Breaking the Binary

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– A guide to understanding the essence of human sexuality and gender

By Sasha Ranganath 

Humans have always boxed everything up into black and white contrasts and standardised ideals, essentially losing touch with what it means to be human. In this ever-changing, quick-paced world, where everyone is in a hurry, let’s take a step back and get down to the basics of being human – identity. Specifically, sexual and gender identity.

It’s time to break the binary by understanding the LGBTQIA+ community.

Let’s first understand the difference between gender, sex and sexuality.

Sex – At birth, the genitalia and reproductive system humans possess, determines their sex. This could be male, female or intersex (more on this later).

Gender – A combination of innate traits and learned behaviour, gender is how one identifies and expresses themselves regardless of sex. Gender and sex cannot be used interchangeably.

Cisgender – describes a person who is comfortable and identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth.

Sexuality – Completely separate from gender and sex, sexuality only refers to the romantic and sexual attraction one experiences towards other people.

Heterosexual – describes a person attracted exclusively to the opposite gender (men attracted only to women; women attracted only to men) romantically and sexually.

Now that we have this basic understanding, what does LGBTQIA+ mean?

L – Lesbian

Lesbian (n.) is the term for women who are only attracted to other women, romantically and/or sexually.

Usage: A lesbian; Lesbians; “I am a lesbian”

G – Gay

Gay (adj.) is the term for men who are only attracted to other men, romantically and/or sexually. Gay is also an umbrella term for same-sex attraction and can be used by lesbians to describe themselves as well.

Usage: A gay man; Gay men; Gay women; “I am gay”

Wrong usage: A gay.

B – Bisexual

Bisexual (n., adj.) is the term for people who are attracted to both men and women, romantically and/or sexually. Contrary to what many believe, bisexual people are not, in fact, “half gay, half straight, or confused”.

Usage: A bisexual person; “I am bisexual”

T – Transgender

Transgender (adj.) defines people who do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. is the antonym, denoting people who are comfortable and identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. Some transgender people also undergo gender-affirming surgery to align with their identity.

Usage: A transgender person; “I am transgender”

Transgender woman/trans woman

A transgender woman or trans woman is someone who was assigned male at birth but identifies as a woman.

Transgender man/trans man

A transgender man or trans man is someone who was assigned female at birth but identifies as a man.

Wrong usage: Transgendered; transgenders

Q – Questioning/Queer

The ‘Q’ in LGBTQIA+ refers to people who are still questioning and exploring their identity. It may also stand for “queer” – a word that originated as a slur against people in the LGBTQIA+ community.

Many members of the community have reclaimed the word “queer”, and use it amongst themselves as a blanket term for the community. However, there are some members who find the word offensive and don’t condone its usage. If you are not part of the LGBTQIA+ community, refrain from using this word.

I – Intersex

Intersex (adj.) is the term for people born with any of the several variations in chromosomes and hormones, and a reproductive system or genitalia that does not align with the typical definitions of female or male.

However, many intersex children are brought up as the gender their physical appearance most resembles. Some of them are also subjected to irreversible genital surgeries as infants, thought to help them “grow up normally”. This is an unnecessary procedure, as being intersex is not a medical problem. It may actually cause them psychological harm.

It is also important to note that intersex is exclusively about varying reproductive and sex characteristics, therefore it is not the same as transgender.  

A – Asexual

An asexual person, “ace” for short, is someone who does not experience sexual feelings towards others, regardless of gender. This does not mean asexual people do not enter romantic relationships or occasionally engage in sexual activity. It simply means that they rarely, if ever, have sexual desires. Note: Asexuality and celibacy are not the same thing, as celibacy is a conscious choice and decision.

Plus (+)

There is a host of other sexualities and gender identities apart from those mentioned above. Let’s take a look at a few of them

:

  • Pansexual – Describes a person who is attracted to others regardless of their gender; different from bisexual, as a bisexual person experiences attraction to only two genders.
  • Demisexual – Describes a person who is sexually attracted to others only after establishing a close relationship with them.
  • Genderfluid – Describes a person whose gender identity varies from time to time, or is fluid.
  • Non-binary – Describes a person who does not identify as man or woman/boy or girl at any given point of time. Read about non-binary poet Alok Vaid-Menon here.
  • Gender non-conforming – An umbrella term for people with alternate gender identities, including but not limited to genderfluid and non-binary people.

Related terms to keep in mind:

  • Coming out of the closet – Coming out of the closet, or just “coming out”, refers to the process of a person accepting themselves for their sexuality and gender identity, and letting people around them know.This can be a rather terrifying process for many, as it involves risks including being abandoned, alienated and even violence. If someone comes out to you, always remember that they trust you and hope that you will not treat them any differently because of their identity. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a sexuality and/or gender identity different from the majority. There is no shame in knowing someone from the LGBTQIA+ community.It is also important to note that you should never disclose someone else’s identity, or “out” them, without their consent, as it could be dangerous for them. Plus, it’s not your story to tell
  • Pronouns – Pronouns are especially important when it comes to trans people and gender non-conforming people because it directly aligns with their identity. Referring to trans women as “he” or “him”, and trans men as “she” or “her”, based on their assigned gender at birth, is extremely disrespectful.We’ve all learnt that “he/him” and “she/her” are singular pronouns, and that “they/them” is a plural pronoun. However, many gender non-conforming people go by “they/them” pronouns as it is gender-neutral and can be used in the singular form.Do not purposely refer to them with gender-specific pronouns. It is ok to forget or slip up sometimes but always correct yourself without being overly apologetic.
  • Heteronormativity – The deep-rooted idea that gender falls into strictly two categories and that only heterosexual relationships are valid. Gender and sexuality vary from person to person and are not limited to rigid boxes. A large part of this mindset is due to what we watch on TV and read in the news, which is almost entirely made up of heterosexual couples, stereotypical portrayals of gender roles and depicting gay and transgender people in derogatory and/or excessively comical light. We need to consciously remove this veil of heteronormativity and look at the world with a wider perspective.

The LGBTQIA+ community has faced and continues to face immense discrimination and violence. As times change, there have been a lot of positive changes in mindsets, opinions and laws all around the world, including the recent de-criminalisation of Section 377 in India, but there still remains the discomfort and awkwardness when we talk about sexuality and gender.

Parents shield themselves and their children from such conversations, labelling them “bad” and “inappropriate”. Forced “conversion therapy” takes place behind closed doors. Classrooms, corridors and washrooms have heard and seen too many slurs being hurled, “jokes” being made, and bullying being overlooked. Teenagers and young people are thrown out of their own homes, with nowhere else to go.

There have been innumerable incidents of targeted violence that have turned fatal. The list of injustices faced by the members of the LGBTQIA+ community goes on and on and needs to stop. Use your knowledge and voice to stand up for and with the community.

How you can be a better ally:

  • Don’t laugh at “jokes” that throw the LGBTQIA+ community under the bus. Instead, call them out and make your stance known firmly.
  • If someone comes out to you, support and respect them.
  • Remember to use the right pronouns.
  • Don’t disclose anyone’s identity without consent.
  • If you don’t fully understand something, do some research about it. Don’t hold opinions that are based on incomplete knowledge.
  • Have an open mind, because the world is more than just black and white boxes. Celebrate the differences!

Complete Article HERE!

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A strong libido and bored by monogamy:

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the truth about women and sex

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When a heterosexual couple marries, who’s likely to get bored of sex first? The answer might surprise you…

What do you know about female sexuality? Whatever it is, chances are, says Wednesday Martin, it’s all wrong. “Most of what we’ve been taught by science about female sexuality is untrue,” she says. “Starting with two basic assertions: that men have a stronger libido than women, and that men struggle with monogamy more than women do.”

Martin pulls no punches. Her bestselling memoir Primates of Park Avenue cast her as an anthropologist observing the habits of her Upper East Side neighbours. She claimed among other shockers that privileged stay-at-home mothers were sometimes given a financial “wife bonus” based on their domestic and social performance. The book caused a furore, and is currently being developed as a TV series, with Martin as exec producer. Her new book, out this week, should be equally provocative. Entitled Untrue, it questions much that we thought we knew about women’s sexuality.

Her starting-point is that research into human sexuality has been, historically, overwhelmingly male-centric; “notable sexologists”, starting with Carl Friedrich Otto Westphal (1833-1890) are mostly male. You have to scroll through another 25, including Sigmund Freud and Alfred Kinsey, before you arrive at a female name: Mary Calderone (1904-1998), who championed sex education. And even in the subsequent 30 names there are only five women, including both Virginia Johnson (partner of the famous, and male, William Masters), and Shere Hite.

All these men made certain assumptions about women’s sexuality. It’s no surprise that it was Hite who revolutionised thinking on female orgasm, arguing that it was not “dysfunctional” to fail to climax during intercourse. Crucial, too, says Martin, has been the work of Rosemary Basson, who realised that spontaneous desire, the kind sexologists had measured for years, was only one type of relevant desire, and that responsive or triggered sexual response is much more important for women. Measured on that scale it turns out that women are, in fact, every bit as sexually arousable as men.

New findings showed that women reported similar intensities of desire and arousal to men, and “a real shift in thinking” about females and monogamy. “We were taught that men were the ones who needed variety, but the exact opposite turns out to be the case,” says Martin. “Overfamiliarisation with a partner and desexualisation kills women’s libido. We used to think it’s only men who became sexually bored after marriage; turns out that’s not true. It’s when women get married that it’s detrimental to their libido.”

Martin isn’t here to talk about her own relationship, but for the record she’s 53, has been married for 18 years, still lives in New York, and has two sons aged 17 and 10 who are, predictably enough, “mortified” at what their mother writes about. She hopes her work will help validate the feelings of the next generation of young women: “It’s not about giving them permission to ‘cheat’, not even giving them permission to refuse monogamy, but I hope it does give them permission to feel normal if they don’t like monogamy,” she says. Because that’s the central fallacy: the belief that monogamy is harder for men than for women. In fact, argues Martin, the exact opposite is the case. “Women crave novelty and variety and adventure at least as much as men, and maybe more.” She talks me through what she says is the classic pathway for women when they marry or commit to one heterosexual partner long-term (the research has so far concentrated on heterosexual couples; more work is needed on gay women’s sex lives). “A couple live together, their libidos are matched, and they have a lot of sex. But after a year, two years, maybe three years, what tends to happen is that the woman’s desire drops more quickly than the man’s. At that point the woman thinks, ‘I don’t like sex any more.’ But what, in fact, is happening is that she is having a hard time with monogamy; because women get bored with one partner more quickly than men do.”

So women are socialised to believe that they’ve gone off sex, when in fact they’re craving variety. Instead of being the brake on passion, says Martin, the female half of the long-term partnership is the key to a more adventurous and exciting sex life. What it’s all about, she explains, is the existence of the only entirely pleasure-seeking organ in the human repertoire, the clitoris. For her portrait, she wears a necklace shaped like one. “Women evolved to seek out pleasure, women are multiply orgasmic, women’s biology sets them up to seek out pleasure,” says Martin. “The clitoris has a very important back story about female human sex which is that our sex evolved for the purpose of adventure.”

Another element in the mix, she says, was the finding that a third of women who are having an extramarital relationship say their marriage or long-term partnership is happy or very happy. “So we need to understand that women aren’t just seeking variety because they’re unhappy, they’re seeking it because they need variety and novelty,” she says.

What does all this mean, in a practical sense, for our sex lives? Martin doesn’t like the word “cheating” – she prefers to use the term “step out” – and that’s what some women decide to do. But it’s not the only solution. “There are many women who are suffering but don’t want to leave their relationship or to step out, and they’ve not yet discovered vibrators,” says Martin. “I can’t tell you how many women have told me they never had a vibrator – there’s a generation in their 40s and 50s who missed the vibrator revolution and never caught up. And there are all these new vibrators out there – and anything new you can introduce will make a big difference to your sex life.” Another way forward can be for a couple to open up their relationship in some way, and invite someone else in. And she has other ideas up her sleeve that seem a lot less risqué, like going on a zip wire, taking up dance lessons or going scuba diving together. Why does that help? “Research on the neurochemicals has found that our sexual desire is triggered when we do something new with a long-term partner. A thrilling activity is ideal: it can give you a wash of hormones that makes you feel new to each other again.”

Indeed, part of the narrative seems to be that men are too quick to settle for “the usual” (which makes sense now we know they’re not the ones who are bored); but opening up the conversation about what else they could try can relight the fuse. The trick here, counsels Martin, is for them to keep on and on asking. “Men really caring about what women want sexually makes a huge difference. You might need to have the conversation over and over, and women might keep saying they’re happy with things as they are – but keep asking, and eventually women will open up about their sexual fantasies. We find that their menus are more varied than men’s. Men are shocked, but also gratified and thrilled, when they find out how sexually exciting we can be when we get past the inhibitions that have been socialised into us.”

Paradoxically, there’s been a parallel shift in attitudes towards extramarital affairs and divorce alongside the growing studies into women’s sexuality. Martin quotes the US statistics: in 1976, fewer than half of well-educated Americans thought having an affair was always wrong; by 2013, that figure was 91%. “We’ve become a lot less tolerant of infidelity in recent years,” says Martin. “And meanwhile divorce has become much more common: a large number of people in the 1970s who thought affairs were OK, thought divorce was wrong.”

So at the precise moment science reveals women have the bigger “need” to be sexually adventurous, society clamps down on infidelity. And that, says Martin, is hugely significant. “The way we feel about women who refuse monogamy is an important metric for how we feel about equality.” She’s talking, she says, about women who openly refuse monogamy by being polyamorous. The overwhelming story we buy into, after all, is that men who “cheat” are just “men being men”; women who “step out” are far more likely to be criticised and shamed. Ultimately, though, they’re challenging something very deep in society’s expectations of them – and perhaps their stance is the most radical female stance of all.

Complete Article HERE!

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Sexual orientation may be set by sex hormones in the uterus – new study by Kiwi and Europeans

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Lesbians are more inclined to taking risks, alcohol use and “sexual sensation seeking”, the study found.

Some women may be born gay because of the amounts of male and female sex hormones they were exposed to in the uterus, according to a new study.

Based on a review of 460 scientific studies, New Zealand and European researchers argue that the quantities of testosterone and oestrogen may be crucial in understanding the full range of female traits – from those that are typically masculine, to those that are typically feminine.

The researchers believe that arguments suggesting same-sex sexual behaviours are contrary to the order of nature are implausible when seen in the context of their findings.

Sex hormones play a key role in the development of reproductive organs and other characteristics. Testosterone is found in men and less so in women. Oestrogen, too, is produced in the bodies of both sexes, but plays a bigger role in women.

The review article by the researchers, one of whom is Severi Luoto, a PhD student of evolutionary psychology at the University of Auckland, has been published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior.

The review identified clusters of sex-typical traits which vary in their degree of masculinity.

Lesbian and bisexual women tended towards being more masculine on physical traits such as facial structure, the length of leg and arm bones and hearing. Their behaviour inclined towards the riskier, greater alcohol use and more “sexual sensation seeking”, the university said.

“While these traits vary between heterosexual and non-heterosexual women, the current findings suggest the traits also vary between different types of non-heterosexual women.”

Luoto said women have increasingly masculine traits across the range of sexual orientation: from heterosexual, mostly heterosexual, bisexual, femme lesbian to butch lesbian women.

“Butch lesbians show a composite of masculine biological, psychological, and behavioural characteristics.

“Higher bodily masculinity is an indication of higher exposure to testosterone in prenatal development.

“Femme lesbians and bisexuals do not have similarly masculinised bodily traits, but they do show psychological and behavioural masculinisation.

“So, we infer that bodies of femmes and bisexuals have not been masculinised in prenatal development but parts of their brains have. Increased masculinisation of psychological and behavioural traits may have resulted from moderate exposure to testosterone, or high exposure to oestrogen.”

“We propose that the sex hormones testosterone and oestrogen present at different times of fetal development might account for differences in masculinisation of the body and psychological traits between types of non-heterosexual women.

“Our neurodevelopmental theory can provide a framework for understanding non-heterosexual women’s body morphology [or type], psychological dispositions, behavioural outcomes and lower general health.

“Distinguishing between different types of non-heterosexual women leads to an improved understanding of their different developmental trajectories and behavioural outcomes.

“Advances in the scientific understanding of diversity in human sexuality should help direct social policy, and provide impetus to abolish laws across nations which still restrict freedoms of expression and association, or punish same-sex sexual behaviour.”

Complete Article HERE!

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I’ll Have What She’s Having: Books for Better Sex and Better Relationships

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By Judith Newman

Having recently found myself single again, I approached the latest crop of books on sex and relationships with more than scholarly interest. Anything new happen while I’ve been on ice for the past 25 years? Let’s find out.

If you’ve ever had a sexual fantasy and thought, “Oh God, what’s wrong with me?” a quick read of TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life (Da Capo, $27) might ease your mind. Sure, maybe I’d had some odd thoughts, but did I have vomerophilia, the condition of being sexually aroused by vomit? No, I did not. Nor do I want to be a human cow, which means — well, look it up. So, all in all, I’m vanilla (which is both an expression and part of the buffet of sexual food fantasies).

Justin Lehmiller, Ph.D., a research fellow at the Kinsey Institute, surveyed almost 4,000 Americans of various religions, ethnic groups and economic backgrounds to see what races our motors. Group sex is by far the most common fantasy, followed closely by receiving or inflicting pain. (You didn’t think those millions of copies of “Fifty Shades of Grey” were all bought by the same randy gal, right?) There were many startling findings, at least to me. For example, men and women aren’t wildly different in their fantasy lives, although women are more fluid in their sexuality and care more than men about where the sexual act takes place (presumably in the room with the best lighting and window treatments).

I was less surprised to learn that people who identify as either Republican or Democrat really are different in their fantasy lives. Republicans are publicly more conservative in their tastes, but in their private lives are more likely than Democrats to crave taboo situations like exhibitionism, voyeurism and fetishism. American political affiliations have implications for body features too. “I found that among men and women, both gay and straight,” Lehmiller writes, “Republicans were more likely to fantasize about larger penises than Democrats.” He speculates that they’re more likely to see the penis as a symbol of power or toughness. I can’t possibly imagine how he could come to this conclusion.

Lehmiller isn’t just putting out a compendium of our raciest thoughts; he tries to explain what those thoughts do for the health of our psyches. And he believes they do a great deal. We need our fantasies both for ourselves and, often, to share with our partners, even when it’s uncomfortable. He gives concrete advice on how to do this without making them feel threatened.

Incidentally, not all fantasies are about being transgressive. Many people simply dream of sex with a loved one, often an absent loved one. The teenager who masturbated to the fantasy of making love to his ex-girlfriend, ending with him cooking her a romantic dinner … well, I almost cried. (And wondered whom I could fix him up with.)

It may be preferable to regard HOW TO KEEP YOUR MARRIAGE FROM SUCKING: The Keys to Keep Your Wedlock Out of Deadlock (Diversion, $22.99) as a book of comedy rather than self-help because the married authors, Greg Behrendt (who wrote “She’s Just Not That Into You”) and Amiira Ruotola, are very funny people who are more at home with punch lines and movie scenes than helpful advice. The key to a good marriage is in the setup, they say, using a regrettable metaphor: the planting of flowers of goodness that will get you through the weeds of badness. “The practice, not the goal, is to learn how to love each other even when you struggle to like each other.” O.K., fine. But before we get to this common-sense conclusion, we need a weedwacker to get through a lot of dopey ideas. Should we really get married because it makes it harder to walk away? Do we all need a movie “trailer moment” of a marriage proposal so our mates won’t resent us in the future? Not merging your finances is a recipe for disaster? (I’d argue that more often it’s the exact opposite.)

The best reason to read “How to Keep Your Marriage From Sucking” isn’t the advice but the fabulous cautionary tales from the marriages of the authors’ friends. Here’s a valuable lesson: If you’re a would-be groom, don’t enthusiastically spell out “Will you marry me?” in s’mores right outside your tent while on a romantic camping trip. Adorable to wake up to, theoretically — and in reality an invitation to marauding raccoons, who bit the future groom on the hand when he tried to rescue the ring he’d set next to his culinary masterpiece. Well, that’s one way to make memories.

My aunt — and probably yours too — had a favorite expression when my cousins and I would gas on and on about some new love interest: “You think you discovered sex?” I was reminded of Aunt Alberta while reading GIRL BONER: The Good Girl’s Guide to Sexual Empowerment (Amberjack, $24.99). Its author, the sexuality podcaster August McLaughlin, writes as if she discovered sex, and she really wants to share the news. Her book is terrifically encouraging, if not exactly filled with surprises. Masturbation, good! Fat-shaming, bad! “Embracing our sexuality and capacity for pleasure can be as crucial to living a full, healthy life as eating a balanced diet, breathing well and getting sufficient nightly sleep.” True words, those.

McLaughlin has written a thorough primer on everything from sex toys to bondage to “no means no,” intended for young women readers who might be new to the idea that they deserve, and own, their personal pleasure. I just wish it weren’t written with a level of preciousness that made me want to scream my literary safe word. “In the mirror I could see my vaginal lips bulging outward, like fiery rosebuds blooming.” “Make sure your nipples get some TLC. … Because, delicious!” I don’t know what a chapter that involves her family’s history of sexual abuse should be called, but I can promise you it’s not “Porn Perks, Problems and the Penises in Between.”

The book I least looked forward to reading — because I thought it would be gloomy — turned out to be the best of the bunch. IF YOU’RE IN MY OFFICE, IT’S ALREADY TOO LATE: A Divorce Lawyer’s Guide to Staying Together (Holt, $26) has the best description of the institution: “Divorce is, at best, a knife fight in a closet. And the kids are in the closet with you. … And the lights are off.”

Fifty-six percent of all American marriages end in divorce — and the divorce lawyer James J. Sexton claims he wrote this book to help you beat the odds. So he’ll teach you what his years of observing warring couples have taught him. It turns out to be a lot, starting with: You need to stay interesting to your mate, which generally involves staying interesting to yourself. Lose your identity in marriage, and you’re likely to lose the marriage.

It’s not novel to tell people that they need to know how to communicate better, but Sexton’s advice is both spot on and very specific — and he sugarcoats nothing. (Including himself: He too is divorced.) He points out, for example, that what we all like to think of as constructive criticism of our mate is actually just criticism. He’s a big believer in training people through redirection and praise for even tiny changes, kind of like throwing bushels of “Whoosa Good Boy!” at your dog. And this guy is nothing if not a realist. Holding sex back as punishment is counterproductive, but suddenly becoming way more affectionate and enthusiastic when your mate does something right: That’s the way to go.

The book is riddled with jaw-dropping stories about people’s insane behavior when things go wrong. Sexton is a very hard guy to shock. This is his interior monologue when a new client says, ‘You’re not going to believe what I’m going to tell you.” “Really? Because unless you’re a nun” and you’re sleeping with “your cousin while married to a hit man for the Russian mob who has liquidated all of their drug money and converted it into Nigerian currency that you’ve transferred to your tattooed bisexual lover who happens to be a sitting judge, you’re not making a blip on my shock radar.” Sexton has seen some stuff. There are not one but two chapters on what he calls “nanny fascination,” which sounds about right to me. In fact, if I were advertising the book rather than reviewing it, this would be the headline.

Of course, I was nosily waiting to find out what happened in Sexton’s own marriage. We never learn. But perhaps there’s a hint in his unequivocal advice about Facebook: Leave it. Or, as he titles his chapter on the perils of social media: “If We Were Designing an Infidelity-Generating Machine, It Would Be Facebook.” Who would have guessed that the person who gives the best advice about marriage was the guy responsible for getting you out of yours?

Complete Article HERE!

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How Evangelical Purity Culture Can Lead to a Lifetime of Sexual Shame

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Former born-again Christian Linda Kay Klein combines personal reflections with years of research to trace the psychological effects of purity culture on women in her new memoir, “Pure.”

by Stephanie Dubick

For millions of girls growing up in evangelical Christianity, sexuality is a sin. Girls are sexual “stumbling blocks,” they’re told—a danger to the relationship between men and God.

Such is the way of the purity movement. Emerging out of white evangelicalism in the early 1990s, the conservative Christian movement—today promoted by both local churches and national organizations such as Focus on the Family and True Love Waits—emphasizes sexual purity and abstinence-only education. The cornerstone: If women remain virgins until the day they marry a man, they’re holy; if not, they’re damaged goods. To avoid the latter outcome, young adults are required to make promises—signified in the form of purity balls, rings, and pledges—to remain abstinent from puberty ’til “I do.”

After marriage, the metaphorical chastity belt unbuckles. But as writer Linda Kay Klein engrossingly details in her recently released book, Pure: Inside the Movement that Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free, the psychological effects don’t stop there; they can follow women into their adult lives, leading to mental and physical side effects similar to symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

In purity culture, both young men and women are taught that sex before marriage is wrong. But it’s teenage girls who end up most affected, Klein finds, because while boys are taught that their minds are a gateway to sin, women are taught that their bodies are. After years of being told that they’re responsible for not only their own purity, but the purity of the men and boys around them; and of associating sexual desire with depravity and shame, Klein writes, those feelings often haunt women’s relationships with their bodies for a lifetime.

Klein knows from personal experience. After realizing she couldn’t be the woman the church wanted her to be, she left the evangelical community in the early 2000s. It was at that point, when she began considering having sex, that the symptoms started. “It began when I took the possibility of having sex and put it on the table,” Klein tells Broadly. “From that point on, sometimes it was my boyfriend and I being sexual that would make me have these breakdowns where I was in tears, scratching myself until I bled and ending up on the corner of the bed crying.”

Klein knew immediately that the reactions were linked to her religious upbringing, but assumed it was specific to her. “I never wondered where it came from, I just wondered why it was manifesting that way,” she says. “It couldn’t be that everyone who was taught these things were having these experiences, because surely I would have heard about it.”

Eventually, though, Klein realized that she wasn’t nearly alone. In 2006, she began compiling dozens of testimonies from childhood friends involved in the purity movement and found that they were all experiencing similar feelings of fear, shame, and anxiety in relationship to sex. “Based on our nightmares, panic attacks, and paranoia, one might think that my childhood friends and I had been to war,” writes Klein. “And in fact, we had. We went to war with ourselves, our own bodies, and our own sexual natures, all under the strict commandment of the church.”

Today, Klein considers the phenomenon an epidemic. When she first realized the scope and severity of what she was researching, she decided to quit her job—at the age of 26—and dedicate herself to learning more about the effects of purity culture. She went on to earn an interdisciplinary Master’s degree from New York University, for which she wrote a thesis on white American evangelicalism’s messaging toward girls that involved interviewing hundreds of current and past evangelicals about the impact of the purity movement on their lives. Eventually, those seeds of research grew into Pure.

A 12-year labor of love, the resulting book is an eye-opening blend of memoir, journalism, and cultural commentary that masterfully illustrates how religion, shame, and trauma can inform one another. Citing medical studies, she lays out that evangelical adolescents are the least likely “to expect sex to be pleasurable, and among the most likely to expect that having sex will make them feel guilty.” And in comparison to boys, Klein observes, girls are 92 percent more likely to feel shame—especially girls who are highly religious. For many women, like Klein, that shame can manifest in physical symptoms.

Klein observes and cites an expert who found that many women who grow up in purity culture and eventually begin having sex report experiencing an involuntary physical tightening of the vagina—also known as vaginismus—that is linked to a fear of penetrative sex and makes intercourse extremely painful. This could also be considered a symptom of Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS), a diagnosis developed by Dr. Marlene Winell, a psychologist in San Francisco and author of Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving Their Religion. According to Winell, as quoted by Klein, RTS is a condition “experienced by people who are struggling with leaving an authoritarian, dogmatic religion and coping with the damage of indoctrination.” The symptoms resemble those of PTSD, anxiety disorders, borderline personality disorders, and can result in depression, sexual difficulty, and negative views about the self.

Perhaps more convincing than the medical research and professionals that Klein cites, though, is the wealth of testimonies she gathers from women. One woman she spoke to described having years of awkward, uncomfortable sex with her husband until she began to feel overcome by such extreme exhaustion, she had difficulty getting out of bed. Another shared that after her first sexual experience, her body began to shake uncontrollably. In one extreme account, a woman said that feelings of panic and guilt flooded her mind “like a cloud of locusts” after an early sexual encounter. Soon after, orange-sized welts broke out on her stomach, arms, back, and breasts and it became difficult to breathe. After jumping into the shower to find relief, welts the size of both of her palms formed on her vagina. “I would say it’s the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” she told Klein. “I had no idea what was happening to me. My legs, my face, everything was bright red. It felt like I had absolutely no control over these horrific, nightmarish things that were happening to my body.” The woman was rushed to the emergency room, and though the doctors told her she went into anaphylactic shock, they couldn’t explain what caused it. While she knows something medical happened, she told Klein that’s she is certain something spiritual happened to her as well—the result of what happens “when you tempt Satan.”

Pure is a thorough and focused study on the effects of the purity movement’s rhetoric on women and girls, but Klein stresses that her findings aren’t relevant only to religious conservatives. Rather, they represent an extreme microcosm of a broader culture of gendered sexual shaming to which we should all be paying attention.

“The conclusion that I reached was that the evangelical culture is useful because it provides a mirror of what’s happening in other places in the culture,” Klein says. “You see what happens when you have high doses of this toxic messaging. But the reality is that this toxic messaging is everywhere and we’re all taking in unhealthy amounts of it.”

Complete Article HERE!

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What the Bears Can Teach Goldilocks

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By Frank Strona

“Bear Culture” — a supportive, global community of mostly large, mostly hairy gay men — has evolved and thrived through ideas of inclusion, diversity, self-acceptance and self-expression. Health advocate, diversity specialist and “Daddy Bear” Frank Strona explains what Bear Culture gets right as lessons for Goldilocks and the rest of mainstream society Frank Strona, health planner, shares his unique perspective on diversity and inclusion in explaining bear culture history and lifestyle This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.

Find out more about Frank Strona HERE!

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Questions you should ask before you get into a new relationship

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By Simone Paget

When I was younger, attraction, desire, love and sex were all tangled together in one big elastic band ball of feelings. I equated physical attraction with romantic love and found the two nearly indistinguishable. If I was attracted to someone, I’d immediately make it my goal to date them, often sacrificing my heart and mental well-being in the process. As a result, I frequently found myself in relationships (or if we’re being completely honest, “situationships”) with people who weren’t necessarily good for me.

I imagine my younger self scoffing at the way I manage my love life as a thirty-something single woman. I’ve dated a lot over the past few years (and even met some really wonderful people), but it takes a lot for me to want to enter into a serious relationship with someone. I’ve seen what happens when you throw caution to the wind and I’m not interested in repeating old mistakes.

“Getting back into the swerve of dating can be tough, especially coming out of a long-term relationship. It can be so easy to start a relationship into the first person you meet or heck, even match with on a dating app. But without knowing someone well, jumping into a relationship too early can spell disaster,” says author and life coach, Carole Ann Rice.

Instead, here’s a few things you should ask when considering a new relationship.

1. Are there any deal-breakers?

When I was nineteen, I went out with a guy who revealed he had a history with substance abuse and a criminal record within the first few minutes of our initial date. Despite the din of warning bells, we dated for two years.

I used to see dealbreakers as “negotiables” — things that might change if I just loved the person enough. However, some deal-breakers are just that. As Rice notes, “if you know what your deal-breakers are, such as marriage, kids, location, etc., you should find this out early on. Sketching out your expectations of your partner (and, in turn, yourself) will build a lot of transparency and trust. It’s important to know that if you aren’t willing to change something, and they aren’t either, it won’t work at all.”

 

2. Are you comparing them to past relationships?

As you may have surmised from the story above, my dating past is colourful. It’s easy for me to compare past relationships to new ones. But as Rice reminds us, it’s important that we give the other person the benefit of the doubt — at least at first. “A new relationship is best started with a blank slate – don’t tarnish them with your old thoughts and bad expectations,” says Rice. If you have emotional baggage, confront it and find a way to leave it behind.

3. Do you share the same values and lifestyle?

This, more than anything is something that I overlooked when I was younger.

As Rice suggests, “assessing how well your values and interests align should be done so early on, to avoid wasting time. If you and your new beau have extreme differences, and neither of you are willing to budge, it’s not going to work. For example, if they live and breathe football, taking up most weekends – is that something you can deal with?”

4. How do they talk about their past?

Have they ever been in a serious relationship before? How did it end? I’m less interested in the nitty, gritty of what they did with whom, but rather the wisdom they’ve garnered in the process. Whether it’s a past romance, career or family relationship,” Rice says, “be sure to let them explain their past – being mature about how the person describes their dating history is a large indicator of how they can perform in the future. Maturity is also a great sign that they’re emotionally ready to begin another relationship.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Rekindling the spark

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– how older couples can rediscover the intimacy of the early days

‘Poor communication is one of the main causes of discord’

A lifetime together can make some couples complacent, uncommunicative, or changed so much that they no longer recognise the person they first fell for. Here, in week three of our Be Your Best You series, Claire O’Mahony asks the experts how older couples can revitalise love and rediscover intimacy

By Dr Damien Lowery, Annie Lavin, Margaret Dunne

The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus maintained that change is the only constant in life, and this is clearly evidenced in romantic partnerships: they are not static entities. If you’ve been part of a couple for a long time, neither of you may recognise the people you once were, and likewise your situation will have changed, all of which is played out in your relationship.

It’s also a truism that good relationships require work and that they take an effort to maintain. Long-standing couples can potentially face a variety of challenges: they may have grown apart or they might have communication issues. Even couples who are very much in love sometimes acknowledge that an element of complacency can be found in their relationship and that a certain frisson is lacking. For those in the 55+ demographic, other factors can emerge, affecting how partners relate to each other. For women, menopause can bring side effects such as loss of libido and weight gain resulting in negative body image. Men’s sexual function, meanwhile, can be affected by declining testosterone levels and sometimes ill health. Major life changes at this time can impact on relationships, whether that’s dealing with empty nest syndrome or adjusting to the dynamics of retirement. “There is a lot of change occurring and we aren’t accustomed to change,” says consultant psychologist Dr Damien Lowry, whose practice is in Rathgar, south Dublin. “We are highly adaptive individuals and capable of adaptation and adjustment but it doesn’t come easily and it really puts a strain on our capacity to cope. If there are any cracks in relationships, it’s likely that it will be exposed by these marked changes in our lives.”

However, there are strategies that can be employed that can help older couples revitalise their union and strengthen their relationship, and some of them are even fun:

Better communication is key

Many studies have indicated that poor communication is one of the main causes of discord in relationships. According to Dublin-based dating and relationship coach and psychology lecturer Annie Lavin, clients often have a particular need that they want to express but in trying to do so, end up criticising the other person instead. “Generally when it comes to the effectiveness of any conversation, it’s determined by the tone that we set,” says Lavin, who works to empower people to achieve relationship success by transforming their relationship with themselves. “There’s a huge difference between saying something like, ‘I’m sick of doing everything’, and explaining to your partner that you’re feeling whatever that might be.” She suggests coming to the conversation with a calm demeanour and starting with how you feel but not attributing blame. “Instead of saying, ‘You don’t care about me’, it’s better to say, ‘I’m really upset and I’m really hurting about this’. We have to describe the problem neutrally without criticising the person, so you have to be specific.” Dr Damien Lowry agrees that the use of ‘I-messages’ is an effective way of communicating your needs. “An I-message is saying, ‘I am struggling’ or it’s even linking to behaviour – ‘I feel upset or ignored when you arrive home and ask where your dinner is’. Ultimately, it’s a way of avoiding falling into the trap of criticism.”

Getting Sex back on track

Growing older does not necessarily mean a decline in sexual activity and intimacy. The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing 2017 found that the majority of adults aged over 50 in Ireland are sexually active, with 59pc reporting they had sex in the past 12 months. The study noted that those who are sexually active have a higher quality of life and tend to have more positive perceptions of ageing. Margaret Dunne is a specialist psychotherapist in psychosexual, fertility and relationship therapy, based in Glenageary, Co Dublin. She has found that couples often come to her because they hadn’t been making time for each other, as life might have been so busy with children, which led to an absence of sex. These couples almost need to know how to start again. “When people come to me and say they want to get their sex life and their relationship back on track, it can be very exciting but it can be daunting as well,” she says. The first thing she will ask clients to do is to get tested medically – erectile dysfunction, for example, can be a sign of a heart complaint, high blood pressure or diabetes – before progressing any further.

“The challenge is to change what they have been doing all the time, which may not be working anymore and as our body and mind develops, our sexuality develops too and sometimes people forget and think, ‘If I do A and B, I’ll get to C’ whereas in actual fact, sometimes things change and what worked once mightn’t anymore,” she says. The intimacy aspect is also crucial. Dunne explains that there are four stages of intimacy: operational, where two people live in the same house and divide out tasks; emotional intimacy, where they feel close; physical intimacy and sexual intimacy. It’s difficult for couples to move onto sexual intimacy if there is a disconnect between any of the other three areas. The psychotherapist gives couples a series of exercises called sensate focus where they will touch without having sexual intercourse. “It works very effectively because it almost brings them back to maybe years previously when they were going out together and it was a little bit of touching and being quite intimate but not maybe going the whole way, as it used to be known. It brings back that sense of excitement, and they explore each other’s bodies,” she says. “If you’ve someone who’s not really in the mood or worried that they’re not able to perform, this takes that pressure off, and there’s a huge amount of trust involved.” She also gives couples individual exercises where they explore their own bodies and realise what’s sensitive for them, something that can change over time.

What constitutes a healthy sex life at this stage in life? “Whatever the couple are happy with,” says Dunne. “It’s when one or the other isn’t happy with it and doesn’t enjoy it, that’s when it becomes problematic. I often encourage them at the same time to push themselves out of their comfort zone. They may have never discussed their sex life before and it’s a chance to almost reinvent themselves and to be able to enjoy sex. A lot of them mightn’t have been having sex before marriage, maybe there wasn’t a huge amount of experimenting. For some, they’re at the stage where it’s become very mundane, repetitive and functional. I know there’s a hesitation in talking about it, but it helps tremendously if they can instead of looking outside of themselves for how to earmark whether their sexual relationship is healthy or not.”

Accentuate the positives

We will often hone in on the ‘don’ts’ of relationships – don’t get defensive, don’t give the silent treatment, don’t go to bed angry. But it’s vital to focus on introducing positivity into relationships too. Relationship coach Annie Lavin points to the work of author Gary Chapman who categorises the expression of love into five love languages: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch. “Some of us can rate highly in maybe one or two of those love languages, so if we understand how our partner likes to be appreciated, then we can meet them there, and that goes both ways obviously,” says Lavin. “Expressing appreciation is something we sometimes forget in partnerships and to be thankful for the littler things that your partner does for you. Affection can wane over time and that may need to be reintroduced and to realise that they still admire their partner and what is it about their partner that they now admire, which may have changed from the beginning.” The same goes for establishing caring behaviours such as showing encouragement. According to Lavin, the three universal needs of any relationship are belonging and companionship; affection, either verbal or physical, and support or validation. “The most caring thing you can do in a relationship is to discover your own patterns and really know your own relationship history, to know the things that can really set you off or trigger you. Having this knowledge will help shortcut any relationship issues that can show up so you can then begin to realise, ‘Is this my issue and is this something I’m bringing to this relationship?’ Once you’re then aware of any variations you might have under those three needs, you’ll be less likely to blame your partner when you feel they’re not giving you that extra thing you need.”

Re-establish your identity as a couple and not just parents

Once the children have left home, parents may struggle in their new configuration as a unit of two. Lavin says that the key here is to remind yourself what made your partner tick before children came along, and to become an expert in your partner again. Finding an activity that you both enjoy whether that’s golf, cinema nights or any other, is a good step towards strengthening your connection. It’s something that you can both revel in. “Make sure that you have the time to spend together that’s enjoyable as opposed to just the chores and the routines,” says Lavin. “The idea of dating could be long gone for couples who have been together for a long period of time, so set aside some time every week, even if it’s just to sit down together, have a dinner together. Make it a time where they bring a newness to the relationship by reflecting on their past, how they got together, and maybe just getting to know how the other person thinks. It’s about getting curious again about the other person as opposed to thinking they know everything about them already.”

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Your Guide to Finding a Doctor Who Is an LGBTQ+ Ally

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It can be tough, so here’s some help.

By Sophie Saint Thomas

Once, at a medical appointment, I saw a nurse who seemed unable to wrap his head around the fact that I was sexually active but not on birth control. I wasn’t sleeping with cisgender men at the time; I didn’t need pregnancy protection. Even though I explained this, he prodded me with more questions about my sexual orientation than needles to draw my blood.

I’m a queer, white, cis woman with access to money, transportation, insurance, and other resources that allow me immense privilege. I’ve still had trouble finding doctors and other medical professionals who act as LGBTQ+ allies. To me, a medical LGBTQ+ ally is well-versed in the correct language to describe my sexuality, doesn’t automatically assume I’m straight just because I’m femme, doesn’t say or do offensive things when I correct them, is committed to understanding how my sexuality might influence my health, and generally treats me with respect.

The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities has identified the LGBTQ+ community as a “health disparity population” due, in part, to our lowered health care access. Unfortunately, some of this comes down to LGBTQ+ patients avoiding medical treatment due to past discrimination and fear of stigma. When LGBTQ+ people belong to other marginalized groups, such as being a person of color or having a disability, it only becomes more difficult to find accessible, non-biased care.

It shouldn’t be this hard. Not only because access to affordable, quality health care should be a human right, but also because LGBTQ+ people are at greater risk for a variety of health threats. These include depression, suicide, substance abuse, breast cancer, heart disease, and HIV/AIDS, depending on the specific community in question.

Unfortunately, even the health care we do get sometimes falls miles short of the compassionate, dignified sort we should receive.

Finding decent and affordable health care in America is a challenge for many people, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. Being LGBTQ+ can just make it harder.

Outdated misconceptions about gender identity and sexual orientation have no place in medicine, but they can run rampant. Liz M., 33, a queer, disabled, and non-binary person, tells SELF of “the nurse practitioner who asked ‘how I became a lesbian’ while her hands were inside my intimate parts.”

Even with the best of intentions, medical professionals can make assumptions that lead to mistakes. Leah J., 21, is a non-binary LGBTQ+ speaker and activist with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder that is traditionally seen as a condition that only affects women. “Navigating [seeing] an ob/gyn as a non-binary person is very difficult,” Leah tells SELF, explaining that people in doctor’s offices have misgendered them. Leah also has yet to see an intake form that offers “non-binary” as a gender option (or provides space to write in an answer), they add. Then there’s the thorny matter of how medical professionals talk about Leah’s condition, which causes the body to make an excess of testosterone. “I’ll grow extra hair on my face. My voice might be lower. [Doctors have assumed] it’s something I want to fix, that I want to change,” Leah says.

Sometimes it simply comes down to medical professionals’ lack of familiarity with the specific health issues at play for their LGBTQ+ patients. After a dental procedure left me with bloody gums, I asked my dentist and ob/gyn if there was an increased risk of STI transmission during oral sex on people with vaginas. Both doctors fumbled over their words, leaving me without a clear answer.

So, how does the LGBTQ+ community find a safe space to seek medical treatment free from judgment, assumption, and in the worst cases, harassment and even assault?

There are various resources out there for LGBTQ+ people to find supportive primary, sexual, and mental health care.

Here are a few places to start:

  • The Human Rights Campaign’s 2018 Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) surveyed 626 medical facilities across the nation to see which provide patient-oriented care for LGBTQ+ people. (The survey evaluated areas such as staff training in LGBTQ+ services, domestic partner benefits, and patient/employment non-discrimination.)
  • The HEI designated 418 of those facilities as “LGBTQ Healthcare Equality Leaders” because they scored 100 points, indicating that they’ve made a concerted effort to publicly fight for and provide inclusive care. An additional 95 facilities got “Top Performer” because they received 80 to 95 points.
  • You can look through the full report to learn about the survey and see how various health centers and hospitals performed. The Human Rights Campaign also has a searchable database of 1,656 facilities they’ve scored (including those from past years and some that have never participated at all). Here’s a map laying out where those facilities are, too.
  • Another great resource is the GLMA (Gay and Lesbian Medical Association) provider directory, Bruce Olmscheid, M.D., a primary care provider at One Medical, tells SELF. The providers in the directory have agreed to certain affirmations listed on GLMA’s website, such as: “I welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals and families into my practice and offer all health services to patients on an equal basis, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, and other non-medically relevant factors.”
  • Planned Parenthood has long been fighting the battle to provide affordable sexual and reproductive health care for all. On their LGBT Services page, they explicitly state their commitment to delivering quality care no matter a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation. Of course, while this policy is excellent, Planned Parenthood has many health centers. The level at which staff reflects the written policy can vary from location to location. With that in mind, you can find a local center here.
  • GBLT Near Me has a database of local resources for LGBTQ+ people, including health-related ones.
  • This great Twitter thread serendipitously went viral as I was writing this story. The person behind the account, Dill Werner, notes that you might be able to find therapy services through your local LGBTQ+ center, your state’s Pride website, or by specifically Googling your location and the words “gender clinic.”
  • One Medical of New York City put me in touch with an LGBTQ+ general practitioner with quickness and ease. One Medical is a primary care brand that offers services in eight metropolitan regions: Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. Enter your location here to find nearby offices.
  • You can use the website to find One Medical doctors who specialize in LGBTQ+ care,” a One Medical representative tells SELF via email. If you click “Primary Care Team” at the top of the site, you’ll see a dropdown labeled “Interests” with an “LGBT Care” option. (One thing to note: One Medical is a concierge service with a membership of $199 a year, although the fee is not mandatory, so you can ask your local office about waiving it.)
  • If you’re in New York City, Manhattan Alternative is a network of sex-positive health care providers committed to affirming the experiences of LGBTQ+ people, along with those in gender non-conforming, kink, poly, and consensually non-monogamous communities. If you’re not in NYC, try searching for a few of those keywords and your city, like “sex-positive therapist in Washington, D.C.”
  • You can also try Googling “gay doctor” or “LGBTQ+ doctor” in your area, Dr. Olmscheid says.
  • This isn’t specifically about doctors, but we’d be remiss to leave it out: If you or someone you know is LGBTQ+ and having a mental health emergency, organizations like The Trevor Project offer crisis intervention and suicide prevention specifically for LGBTQ+ people. You can reach their 24/7 hotline at 866-488-7386. They also have a texting service (text TREVOR to 202-304-1200) and an online counseling system. (The texting is available Monday through Friday from 3 P.M. to 10 P.M. ET; the online counseling is available every day of the week at the same times.)
  • Trans Lifeline is another incredibly valuable hotline. It’s run by transgender operators in the United States (877-565-8860) and Canada (877-330-6366) who are there to listen to and support transgender or questioning callers in crisis. While the hotline is technically open 24/7, operators are specifically guaranteed to be on call from 10 A.M. to 4 A.M. ET every day. (Many are also there to talk off-hours, so don’t let that keep you from calling.)
  • “Leverage your community. Ask friends or colleagues if they’ve had positive experiences with their doctors. It’s important to keep the conversation going,” Dr. Olmscheid says.

Of course, all of this might lead you to a list of doctors who don’t accept your insurance, possibly driving up the cost of your care. In that case, Liz has a strategy for working backwards. “If none of my friends know someone good, I start by going into my insurance page and [seeing] who’s in-network,” Liz says. “Are they publicly or visibly identifiable as someone with at least one marginalized identity? Then they might understand that prejudice, even in medicine, is a thing.”

You might feel all set once you’ve found a doctor. But if you’re still not feeling comfortable, you can try calling the front desk with questions.

“I don’t always feel people who advertise as LGBTQ+-competent [actually] are,” Kelly J. Wise, Ph.D., an NYC-based therapist specializing in sexuality and gender who is trans himself, tells SELF. Doing a bit more digging may help ease your mind.

Leah Torres, M.D., an ob/gyn based in Salt Lake City, advises calling the office to ask questions before booking an appointment. You can try asking if the office sees or attends to LGBTQ+ people, Dr. Torres tells SELF. (Dr. Torres is a SELF columnist.) You can also ask more specifically about their experience with people of your identity if you like. If the receptionist doesn’t have an immediate answer for you and doesn’t seem concerned about getting one (or does, but no one follows up with you), that might tell you something about the care the office provides. (Although sometimes the doctor is great with LGBTQ+ issues, and the staff isn’t as familiar. “One of [medicine’s] pitfalls is that the office staff isn’t always trained,” Dr. Torres says. “Having a staff that’s able to set aside their own assumption and bias is important.”)

You can also look through the office’s reviews on resources such as Yelp and ZocDoc. Even if there aren’t any pertaining to LGBTQ+ people in particular, you may get a better feel for how they treat people in the potentially vulnerable spot of trying to look after their health. Finally, consider looking into what sorts of community events the office has participated in, the charitable contributions they’ve made, and the social media presences of the office and the specific provider you might see.

Once you’re face to face with your doctor, their allyship (or lack thereof) might become clear pretty quickly.

Your doctor’s office should be a safe space to explain anything they need to know in order to take excellent care of you, including various aspects of your identity. When they ask what brought you in to see them, that’s a great time to lead with something like, “I have sex with other women, and I’m here for STI testing,” or “I’m dealing with some stress because I’m non-binary, and the people in my office refuse to use my proper pronouns.”

But remember that the onus is really on the doctor to navigate the situation properly, not you, Wise says. Here are some signs they’re committed to doing so:

  • They ask what your pronouns are, or if you tell them before they ask, they use the correct ones.
  • If they mess up your pronouns, they apologize.
  • They ask assumption-free questions such as, “Are you in a relationship?” rather than, “Do you have a husband?”
  • They also don’t assume things after you express your identity, such as thinking you’re there for STI testing just because you are bisexual.
  • If their body language and/or facial expression change when you mention your identity, it’s only in affirming ways, such as nodding and smiling.
  • They admit when they don’t have the answers. “You don’t want the person who is like, ‘I know everything’. You want someone who knows when they have to ask a colleague,” Dr. Torres says. As an example, Dr. Torres, who doesn’t have many transgender patients, tells those undergoing hormone therapy that she will discuss their care with an endocrinologist.

What if a doctor screws up and doesn’t apologize or otherwise doesn’t offer compassionate, comprehensive care?

“Our medical system hasn’t caught up with how evolved our gender and sexual identities are,” Leah says. “A lot of people just aren’t educated.”

If your medical provider does do something that makes you uncomfortable, you might freeze up and not know how to respond. That’s OK. However, if you feel safe enough, try to advocate for yourself in that moment, Wise says. You can try correcting them by saying something like, “I actually don’t date men” or, “As I mentioned, my pronouns are ‘they/them.’” Depending on how comfortable you feel being direct, you can also straight up say something like, “That was extremely unprofessional.”

If you don’t feel you’re in a position to speak up but you want to leave, do or say what you need to in order to get out of there. Maybe it’s exiting the room instead of changing into a dressing gown and proceeding with an exam, or even pretending you got a text and need to attend to work immediately. Whatever you need to do is valid

However you respond in the moment, writing a Yelp and/or Zocdoc review after your appointment or sharing your experience on social media is really up to you. You might feel compelled to warn other LGBTQ+ patients, Wise says, but only do this if you really feel OK with it—it’s not a requirement. (Especially if you’re concerned it might out you before you’re ready.) Dr. Torres also notes that you can file a complaint with the office or hospital’s human resources department. Another option: Get in touch with your state’s medical board to report the episode.

As you can see, there are plenty of options at your disposal if you want to spread the word about a medical professional who isn’t an LGBTQ+ ally. But if all you want to do is move on and find a provider who treats you with the care you deserve, that’s perfectly fine, too.

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