Sex workers offer intimacy and connection for disabled clients in the age of the dating app

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Oliver Morton-Evans visits sex workers as he says potential partners cannot see past his wheelchair.

By Sarah Matthews

Oliver Morton-Evans has sought the services of sex workers over the years, because dating can be especially tough for anyone with a disability.

Despite having tried “every dating app out there”, Oliver, 39, has never been in a long-term relationship.

The Sydneysider, now a successful tech entrepreneur, said despite looking for a partner ever since finishing high school, he has had no luck.

In the modern dating world, in which apps such as Tinder rely on appearance and snap judgements, Mr Morton-Evans said most people could not see past his wheelchair.

“It’s been really hard because I’m kind of always in a quandary of, ‘do I disclose my disability straight up or do I not?’,” he said.

“I kind of don’t want to, because although it’s a part of me it’s not all of who I am.

“The moment they see a wheelchair, people tend to create a story in their head of what that might mean.”

But he said visiting sex workers was not just about the physical pleasure.

“I have no shame or anything like that, but that’s just not what I most deeply desire,” he said.

“There’s so much more to sex than just the physical activity.”

Mr Morton-Evans said everybody needed the feel of human touch to feel connected.

Mr Morton-Evans said seeing sex workers provided him with the intimacy he craved in his everyday life, and motivated him to keep looking for a partner.

“I think for an able-bodied person they forget about how much, particularly touch for example … humans need touch to feel connected with others,” he said.

“So when I would see a sex worker, it tends to make me feel a lot more able to then go out and find the kind of relationship I want.”

People with disabilities seek intimacy from sex workers

Although often viewed as taboo, many people with disabilities seek the services of sex workers as an outlet for their sexual and intimate desires.

Brisbane escort Lisa said she regularly saw clients with disabilities and was proud to provide a service for people struggling to find intimacy in their everyday lives.

“I see this job as just an extension of the caring person that I am,” she said.

Brisbane escort Lisa says clients with disabilities may want affection or a chat, not always sex.

“Not everyone wants to have sex. They just want a bit of affection, or to chat to someone, all that sort of thing.

“It’s just me giving to the person what they need, and I feel that I’m doing a worthwhile job by helping other people.”

She said access to sexual services, especially for marginalised people, was vital for their health and wellbeing.

“It’s a genuine health issue,” she said.

“Like a baby needs affection, needs cuddles, needs touch, needs food, needs all these things [so too] an adult does.

“It doesn’t matter what age you are … it’s so basic of a human need.”

Noriel works as an escort and is the Cairns representative for Respect Inc, the Queensland sex worker support group.

She said she believed access to sex workers for people with disabilities should be covered under the NDIS.

Cairns escort Noriel believes access to sex workers for people with disabilities should be covered under the NDIS.

“Whether you are a wage-earner or you’re on any type of benefit from the government, you have a right to spend your money however you want,” she said.

“And if you would like to spend your money hiring the services of a sex worker, I think you should be able to do that.”

Social attitudes have harmful impacts

Counsellor and registered NDIS provider Casey Payne said it was a common misconception that people with disabilities were non-sexual.

“Just because you live with something that’s different to everybody else doesn’t mean that your life can’t still be the same in every aspect, especially in sexual health.

“Everybody deserves the right to have a pleasurable, sexual, healthy life.”

Deakin University Associate Professor in disability and inclusion Dr Patsie Frawley said research had found people with disabilities were disproportionately affected by breast and cervical cancer — but also by sexually transmitted infection (STI).

“If you’re not seen as sexual and as a sexual person, the range of sexual health screenings, sexual health prevention and response services won’t be offered to you,” she said.

“It’s been identified in research that men with an intellectual disability have eight times greater rates of STIs than their non-disabled peers.”

Sex worker with a disability challenges perceptions

Raivynn DarqueAngel has met the stereotypes of both sex workers and people with disabilities head on.

Raivynn has cerebral palsy and has worked in Melbourne’s sex industry for more than 20 years.

Raivyn, who has cerebral palsy and uses an electric wheelchair, has worked in Melbourne’s sex industry for more than 20 years, mostly as a dominant escort.

“I chose to be a dominant to … change perceptions,” she said.”

The submissive people that I see make me feel strong and in charge and I like that. I’ve taken it back home and I’m much more confident saying what I need with my support workers.

“It’s given me the confidence to trust that I’m worth my needs.”

Despite his disappointing dating experiences, Mr Morton-Evans insisted he had not given up on finding love.

He had one thing to say to potential partners: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Here’s the lowdown on a lesser-known sexual orientation: asexuality

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Debunking some myths regarding people who identify on the asexualility spectrum

by: Simran Randhawa

Sex usually is directly associated with romance and intimate relationships, but what if you love someone and you still don’t feel sexual attraction towards them? Experiencing this without understanding it can often lead a person to feel inadequate, rejected, and isolated. To make it worse, there are many myths about asexuality and not enough information to go around.

Well, today is your lucky day. Here’s some of the most essential information regarding asexuality.

Asexuality, just like other sexualities — and almost everything — is on a spectrum. One end is a complete lack of sexual attraction and the other end is total sexual attraction. There are multiple sexual and romantic identities that are in-between, such as:

Demisexual: sexual attraction contingent on romantic attraction and a connection to the other person.

Grey-A: the grey area between sexuality and asexuality.

Aromantic: people who experience little to no romantic attraction to others, and can be content with non-romantic partners or friends.

Being a person who identifies as asexual doesn’t mean that you hate sexual intimacy; it only means that this particular form of intimacy is not necessary for you to have a fulfilling relationship. Just like how people who identify as heterosexual don’t feel sexual attraction towards people of same gender. Your romantic attraction is different than sexual attraction, and is treated as such. You could be asexual and still only feel romantic attraction towards people of the same gender, or of different genders.

Although many who identify as asexual do not experience sexual attraction, you can be asexual and still experience other forms of attraction. Some commonly mentioned categories include romantic attraction, aesthetic attraction, and sensual attraction. Aesthetic attraction is when you are attracted only to a person’s looks and how they present themselves. You appreciate their beauty. That doesn’t mean you either want to fall in love with them or have sex with them. Sensual attraction is when you have a desire to engage physically with another person while remaining nonsexual. You might want to platonically sniff, hug, kiss, or cuddle them.

Asexuality is not made up. It is not an excuse to not have sex with you. This cannot be said enough.

Asexuality is not the same thing as celibacy. Being celibate is a choice, regardless of whether it’s for religious or personal reasons. Asexuality isn’t a choice; it’s just who you are. If a person on the asexual spectrum feels sexual arousal, it is very specific to that person and where they are on the spectrum.

Asexuality is also not the same as impotence. Impotency implies that one is unable to perform sexually, and has nothing to do with willingness to do so. Asexual people can perform sexual acts, but would not necessarily want to do so. It does not mean there is something wrong with them or with their significant other, but just that sexual attraction isn’t the defining trait for them. Just because asexual people may not want to have sex with others, doesn’t mean that they don’t masturbate or have sexual fantasies. They can think about others in sexual connotations, but would not want those fantasies to become reality.

Asexuality is not a medical or mental health condition. It’s a sexual orientation, just like heterosexuality and homosexuality — it is just not widely known. The “A” in LGBTQIA doesn’t stand for ally; A is for the people who identify as asexual. But asexuality needs to be just as visible as the other parts of the acronym LGBTQIA, as the lack of information and visibility means that people of this orientation are left to feel like there is something wrong with them.

In summary, sexuality is different from person to person, and everyone falls on the spectrum between a lack of sexual attraction and complete sexual attraction. Some still feel romantic attraction, and they are capable of sexual intimacy. They just don’t feel the need for it, and their relations aren’t contingent on them. The best way to interact with asexuals is exactly the same as with members of other sexual orientations: just be respectful and kind.

Just remember, if you are asexual, there is nothing wrong with you — regardless of what others might say.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to Stop Being Jealous

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Occasional jealousy is natural and can even be motivating. But if you find yourself getting upset when seeing Instagram photos of clothes, jobs, or cars that you envy, you might need to work through this issue. Or maybe your jealousy is making you paranoid and causing problems with you and your significant other. Curbing these emotions can be difficult, but it’s often necessary to move forward and feel secure and confident. Work through your jealousy by addressing it, finding a new focus, and improving yourself. You got this!

Method 1 Handling Jealousy in the Short Term

1 Take a few deep breaths when you start feeling jealous. Perhaps you see your boyfriend talking to another girl or find out your friend got the exact truck you want. Instead of freaking out, calm yourself instead. Take a deep breath in through your nose for five seconds, and then exhale slowly through your mouth. Do this until you feel calm.[1]

  • If you want to address the issue, do so only when you’ve calmed down. For instance, if you see your boyfriend talking to a girl, calm down first, then approach him and say ‘hello’ to both of them. She may just be a friend or classmate.

2 Stay off social media. Social media floods you with images of people sharing fragments of their lives that might spark your jealousy. But, what you may not know is the girl who constantly posts pics of the flowers her boyfriend gets her may be unhappy in her relationship. People tend to only post things that show them in a positive light, so stay off social media while you’re overcoming your jealousy.[2]

  • If you can’t stay off of social media, unfollow or unfriend the people you’re jealous of.

3 Avoid criticizing or using sarcasm. When you’re feeling jealous, you might resort to name-calling or trying to diminish the accomplishments of others. However, this only shows your insecurity and makes others feel bad. Instead of being negative, keep your comments to yourself or compliment them.[3]

  • For instance, if your girlfriend comes home telling you about her new coworker, don’t say something like, “Oh, so since he’s so smart, you wanna go out with him now?” Allow your significant other to tell you things without fear of rudeness.

4 Confess your feelings if the person is close to you. If you’re very jealous of a sibling, best friend, or significant other, and have been for years, tell them. Getting it off your chest can help you move on from this negative feeling and clear the air.[4]

  • For instance, you might say, “Sis, I know that I’ve been a bit rude to you for a while. But when you got into Stanford and I didn’t, it hurt me. I’ve been so jealous of you because I feel like you’re living my dream. I know it’s not your fault, and I wish I didn’t feel this way.”

5 Focus on what you have in common with the person you’re jealous of. Unravel your jealousy by looking at the similarities you and the person you envy share. The more you two are alike, the less you have to feel jealous over![5]

  • For example, maybe you’re jealous of your neighbor because they have a nice car. But remember that the two of you live in the same neighborhood and probably have similar houses. Maybe you went to the same school, too, and have friends in common.

Method 2  Refocusing Your Attention

1 Identify the source of your jealousy. Understanding why you are jealous can help you overcome it. Is it because of low self-esteem and insecurity? Do you have a past history with infidelity? Or are you placing unreasonable standards on your relationship? Once you have identified the source, reflect on ways that you can improve upon or fix the issue.

  • Writing in a journal every day can help you discover where your jealousy might be coming from.
  • Professional therapy can help with this process. A therapist may be able to help you find the source of your jealousy while working through the issue.

2 Praise those who are doing well. Hating on someone’s accomplishments won’t put you closer to your own goals. When you see others doing the things you want to do, give them kudos. This shows respect and humility.[6]

  • For instance, if your friend has an awesome career, say, “Molly, your job seems so cool. It seems like you’re always getting awards and promotions, too. You’re really killing it! Got any tips?”
  • Perhaps your boyfriend has been doing a great job lately of being more affectionate; tell him you appreciate his effort.

3 Reflect on your own strengths. Instead of harping on what others are doing, focus on yourself! Take a moment to either list or think about at least three things that you are good at. These can range from organizing or cooking to being a good listener or hard worker.[7]

  • Do one thing related to your strengths list today to build your confidence, like cook an awesome meal.

4 Compile a list of what you’re grateful for. Every day that you wake up is truly a blessing. Remember that and think about one thing that you’re thankful for each day. This will help reduce your feelings of jealousy because you’ll become more appreciative of what you do have.[8]

  • Maybe you have an awesome mom who supports and loves you. Or perhaps you got into a really good school and you’re starting soon. Be thankful for these blessings!

5 Meditate daily. Meditation can clear your mind and help you focus on what’s important. Your thoughts of jealousy might cloud your headspace daily, but get some relief by sitting quietly in an uninterrupted space in the mornings for at least ten minutes. During this time, focus only on your breathing and how your body feels.

  • If you’re unfamiliar with meditation, you can also download an app like Simple Habit or Calm.

6 Call the shots. You might have a rich friend who’s always asking you to go to expensive restaurants or on extravagant trips. This might make you feel jealous of their money. Instead of letting that control you, take the reins! Pick the restaurants you go to and choose not to go on vacations if you can’t afford it. Plan something locally, instead.[9]

  • You can say, “Hey Josh, I enjoy eating at five-star restaurants with you, but to be honest, it’s a little out of my price range. If you still wanna get dinner once a week, that’s cool, but you’ll have to let me pick the place most of the time. I hope you understand.”

7 Have fun daily to distract you from your jealousy. You won’t be able to think about your jealousy as much if you’re out having fun! Schedule something to look forward to every day, like watching your favorite show, getting ice cream, or going shopping. Life is short, so make the most of it every day!

Method 3 Improving Your Own Life

1 Set short- and long-term goals. Use your jealousy to motivate you to become the best version of yourself. Based on the things you want in life, create action steps to help you achieve it. Set goals that you can achieve within the next five days and things to focus on for the next five years.[10]

  • For instance, maybe you want to get a high paying job. As a short-term goal, try to get A’s in all your classes for the semester. A long-term goal could be finding a mentor or getting an internship in your field.

2 Plan a fun getaway. Maybe you’re jealous because it seems like everyone else is having all the fun. Create some fun for you! Plan a fun weekend away for you and your bae, go to a theme park, or go hang out on the beach. Do whatever makes you happy![11]

3 Take care of your health. You’ll be a lot less worried about others if you’re focused on your own health. Build your confidence up by exercising at least three times a week. Eat a healthy meal by having veggies, fruits and lean meat. Be sure to get at least eight hours of sleep per night.[12]

  • Drink a lot of water, too!

4 Surround yourself with positive people. Maybe your jealousy comes from hanging around friends who try to make you jealous on purpose. That’s definitely not cool. Instead of being around that negativity, spend more time with your kind-hearted, honest, and down-to-earth friends!

  • A positive person will be supportive, honest, kind and helpful. A negative person will insult, criticize, and drain you.

5 Consider seeing a counselor to work through your jealousy. If your jealousy is making it hard for you to enjoy life anymore, it might be time to seek outside help. There are many therapists who are trained to help their clients work through feelings of envy or inadequacy. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with getting help! It’s much worse to suffer in silence.[13]

  • Search online for therapists or counselors in your area. You can also get a referral from your doctor’s office or insurance provider.

Complete Article HERE!

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DublinBus Proud Dads

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This year at Pride, we had the proudest bus in the parade, not because it had the most glitter or flags, because it had the proudest people, Proud Dads. Gwan ahead and warm the cockles of your heart.

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We’re Queer And We’ve Been Here

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Rediscovering Buddhism’s LGBT history of gay monks, homoerotic samurai, and gender-nonconforming practitioners and gods

By Dr. Jay Michaelson

It’s no secret that many LGBTQ people have found refuge in the dharma, and it’s easy to see why.  It helps us work with the wounds of homophobia, recognizing internalized self-hatred for the delusion and dukkha [suffering] that it is. Yet when queer people interact with the dharma, there is often something missing: visibility. It’s nice that Buddhism doesn’t say many bad things about us, but does it say anything good? Where are we among the Dogens and Milarepas and Buddhaghosas?

This is not, of course, a question limited to Buddhism. Everywhere, queers have been erased from history. Often we find ourselves only when we are being persecuted; we have to read in between the lines of our interlocutors, trying to reconstruct a lost past.  

But there is much to be gained from the effort. Finding ourselves in history, for better or for worse, reminds us that we have one. We can see the different ways in which gender and sexuality were understood across time and cultures, and we are reminded that sexual and gender diversity has always been a part of human nature.

The history of queer Buddhism does not always paint a rosy picture. We find a mixed tapestry that includes stories of acceptance and persecution as well as examples that are problematic or offensive to modern Western sensibilities. While books can be (and have been) written about this subject, here I will limit myself to four examples that demonstrate the breadth of queer experience throughout Buddhism.

1. Mild offenses

First, and I think least interestingly, there are various levels of injunctions against male-male sexual behavior. What’s interesting here, apart from the mere visibility—yes, the monks were doing it with each other—is the minor nature of the offense. In the Theravadan monastic code, for example, sexual (mis)conduct between monks or novices was no more egregious than any other sexual misconduct, and did not warrant additional sanctions. The offense is similarly minor in Vajrayana monastic communities, leading both to consensual “thigh sex” (frottage) among monks, and, tragically, to many documented instances of sexual abuse.

Conflicting statements by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama have reflected this ambivalence. In 1994, he said that as long as there were no religious vows at issue, consensual same-sex intimacy “is OK.”  But in an interview published two years later, he said that only when “couples use organs intended for sexual intercourse” could sex be considered “proper.” After meeting with gay and lesbian activists in 1997, he noted that the same rules applied to straight and gay people alike, and that they were not part of the direct teachings of the Buddha and thus might evolve over time. In 2014, he reiterated the view that for Buddhists, homosexual acts are a subset of sexual misconduct, but that this was a matter of religious teaching and did not apply to people of another or no religion. Other rinpoches have disagreed and fully affirmed gay and lesbian lives.  There is no clear position. 

2. Gender-nonconforming ancestors

Second, there are several instances of what today might be called gender-nonconforming people in Buddhist texts, now newly accessible thanks to historian Jose Cabezon’s recently published 600-plus page tome, Sexuality in Classical South Asian Buddhism. Many Theravada and Mahayana texts, for example, refer to the pandaka, a term which, Cabezon shows, has a wide variety of meanings, encompassing “effeminate” male homosexuals, intersex persons, and others who exhibited non-normative anatomical, gender, or sexuality traits. (The term pandaka is often translated “eunuch,” but insofar as a eunuch is someone who chooses to be castrated, this is an inaccurate translation. Because of the breadth of the term, Cabezon himself renders it “queer person.”)

By and large, the pandaka is not depicted positively. As Cabezon describes in great detail, the Theravadan monastic code prohibits the ordaining of a pandaka—“the doctrine and discipline does not grow in them,” it says. And a Mahayana sutra called A Teaching on the Three Vows says bodhisattvas should not befriend them. But to me, just the visibility of the pandaka is encouraging. Here we are! And if we have been stigmatized, well, as Cabezon notes, that is hardly comparable to how queer people have been treated in other religious traditions.

3. Sexual samurai

Third, there is a fair amount of male-male homoeroticism in Buddhist textual history. The Jataka tales [parables from the Buddha’s past lives] include numerous homoerotic stories featuring the future Buddha and the future Ananda; in addition to the tales themselves apparently being told without a sense of scandalousness, these stories suggest an interesting appreciation of the homoerotics or at least homosociality of the teacher-disciple relationship. Like Batman and Robin, Achilles and Patroclus, and Frodo and Sam, the Buddha and Ananda are, emotionally speaking, more than just friends.

Japanese Buddhism probably had the most fully developed form of same-sex eroticism—nanshoku—that endured for hundreds of years, beginning in the 1100s and fading out only in the 19th century, under the influence of Christianity.  These relationships—sometimes called bi-do (the beautiful way) or wakashudo (the way of the youth)—were pederastic in nature, often between an adolescent boy (probably aged 12–14) and a young man (aged around 15–20), and thus not role models for contemporary LGBT people, but a queer love nonetheless.

As with Greek pederasty, these relationships combined a sexual relationship with a mentoring relationship. And as in the Greek model, there were clear rules and roles that needed to be followed; nanshoku was not hedonism but a homosexuality that was socially constructed.

The legendary founder of the institution of nanshoku was the 12th-century monk Kukai, also called Kobo Daishi (“the great teacher who spread the dharma”), who was also credited with founding of the Shingon school of Japanese esoteric Buddhism, which incorporates tantric practice. Although there is not much historical evidence for this, it’s interesting that the institution of nanshoku became linked with tantra, which has its own polymorphous eroticism in the service of awakening.

This culture has left us the greatest collection of homoerotic Buddhist texts of which I am aware. Nanshoku Okagami (the Great Mirror of Male Love), published in 1687 and available in a fine translation by Paul Gordon Schalow, is a collection of love stories, some requited and others not, between samurai warriors and Buddhist monks, actors, and townspeople. Now available in multiple translations, the book is an almost unbelievable artifact of Edo-period hedonism, warrior love conventions that closely resemble the Mediterranean ones, and Romeo-and-Juliet-like stories of forbidden love, impossible love, and star-crossed lovers. If you can get past our cultures’ very different ethics regarding intergenerational sex, it’s an amazing queering of history.

4. Gender fluidity

Finally, the fluidity and play of gender within some Buddhist texts is often inspiring but also frequently problematic. Numerous Buddhist enlightenment stories feature women suddenly transforming into men, for example. On the one hand, that’s kind of awesome from a queer and trans point of view. On the other hand, it’s often a way of explaining how deserving women can become fully enlightened—by becoming men.  

That highlighting the role of a prominent female bodhisattva like Kuan Yin or a female deity like Tara has enabled many Western dharma centers to manifest their commitments to gender egalitarianism—awesome. That Kuan Yin is but one manifestation of the male bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara—less awesome. And yet, that a male bodhisattva occasionally manifests as a female figure—maybe more awesome.

So too the feminization of the principle of wisdom, prajnaparamita, and the Vajrayogini, who is female, erotic, and enlightened. These figures may be gender-essentialistic, gender-binaried, and heteronormative, but especially for Westerners, they productively queer the assumptions of what is masculine and feminine.

These examples of queerness in Buddhist text and history are just a sampling; there are many more. When queers look at these echoes in the past, we’re doing several things: We are finding ourselves in history and theology. We are claiming and acknowledging our existence, albeit in different forms from those we know today. And we are, hopefully, keeping our senses of irony and historicity intact. This isn’t gay-hunting or a naïve apologetics that siphons off the bad and leaves in only the good. We are, instead, searching for a usable past, not with a faux nostalgia or appropriative orientalism, but with a sophisticated relationship to what has gone before and what is present now.

Complete Article HERE!

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Study: Even more Americans identify as something other than heterosexual

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A new survey finds the number of people who identify as bisexual, pansexual or homosexual continues to rise

A United States study has found that more people than ever before identify as something other than heterosexual.

The study by YouGov, a U.K.-based data analytics firm, found that one-third of 18 to 34-year olds identify as something other than completely heterosexual — a figure that has increased by 5% since 2015.

Carrie Baker, director of Smith College’s Program for the Study of Women and Gender, told Newsweek that society’s increasing acceptance of LGBTQ relationships has led to an increasing rise in people being more open about their sexuality.

“Really it was not that long ago that same-sex behavior was illegal in this country,” said Baker. “As our culture opens up same-sex sexuality as a possibility, more people are likely to experiment or to acknowledge those feelings or act on them.”

She also explained that an increase in same-sex couples being depicted in movies and television, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court ruling for same-sex marriage and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” have helped spur conversations that allow people to feel more comfortable with their sexuality.

The study was conducted by having participants rank themselves from a 0 to 6 on the Kinsey scale, 0 being completely straight and 6 being completely gay. The data collected was then compared to a similar study conducted in 2015.

Of the 1,096 people surveyed, 25% labeled themselves as something other than completely heterosexual, an increase from 20 percent in 2015. Twenty percent also picked a 1-5 on the Kinsey scale, meaning they’re bisexual, pansexual or fluid, compared to 16% three years ago. Those who listed themselves as exclusively homosexual — or a 6 on the Kinsey scale — increased 1% over 2015.

Baker said that these results show that sexual attraction is on a spectrum, which she attributes to young people’s openness.

“Circumstance can influence sexuality,” she said. “I also think the young people are thinking less of sexuality as sort of rigid and binary and more as on a continuum and as fluid.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Gay, Straight, Or Bisexual – Which Group Of Men Are More At Risk Of Heart Failure?

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Can your sexuality increase or decrease your risk of heart failure?  A new study released by the NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing states that Bisexual men have a higher risk for heart disease compared with heterosexual men.

Now, of course it is not because you’re sleeping with men, but it’s because of everything else that may come with it.

In a new study published online in the journal LGBT Health, Billy Caceres, the study’s lead author, states:

Our findings highlight the impact of sexual orientation, specifically sexual identity, on the cardiovascular health of men and suggest clinicians and public health practitioners should develop tailored screening and prevention to reduce heart disease risk in bisexual men.

More than 30 percent of men in the US have some form of heart disease making it a leading cause of death for American men. Not many studies have been done to understand the impact of sexual orientation on heart disease risk for men.

In this study, NYU researchers examined differences in modifiable risk factors for heart disease and heart disease diagnoses in men of different sexual orientations. Risk factors measured included:

mental distress
health behaviors such as

  •       tobacco use
  •       binge drinking
  •       diet
  •       exercise

biological risk factors such as

  •       obesity
  •       hypertension
  •       diabetes
  •       cholesterol.

Responses from 7,731 men ages 20 to 59 were part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2001-2012). Differences were analyzed across four groups based on their sexual identities: gay men, bisexual men, heterosexual men who have sex with men, and heterosexual men.

The researchers found no differences in heart disease diagnoses based on sexual orientation, but risk for heart disease was more complicated.

  • Gay men, heterosexual men, and heterosexual men who have sex with men had similar heart disease risk.
  • Gay men reported lower binge drinking compared with heterosexual men, but otherwise few differences in health behaviors were noted.
  • Bisexual men, however, had higher rates of several risk factors for heart disease relative to heterosexual men: mental distress, obesity, elevated blood pressure, and three different measures of diabetes (medication use, medical history, and average glycosylated hemoglobin level).

“Poor mental health is a recognized risk factor for the development of heart disease,” said Caceres. “Clinicians should be educated about sexual minority health and should routinely screen bisexual men for mental distress as a risk factor for heart disease. This is particularly important as healthcare organizations increasingly include sexual orientation as part of demographic questionnaires in electronic health records.”

Complete Article HERE!

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How Satisfying Are Open Relationships Compared To Monogamy?

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Monogamy;— to have only one partner at a time — is considered a social standard in modern human society. But is it a necessary component of a satisfactory relationship?

Canadian researchers present new findings, suggesting that it may not have to be the ideal relationship structure. People in open relationships report feeling just as happy and content as those in conventional, monogamous ones.

The study titled “Reasons for sex and relational outcomes in consensually nonmonogamous and monogamous relationships” was published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships on March 23.

“We are at a point in social history where we are expecting a lot from our partners. We want to have sexual fulfillment and excitement but also emotional and financial support,” said lead author Jessica Wood, a Ph.D. student in applied social psychology at the University of Guelph.

“Trying to fulfill all these needs can put pressure on relationships. To deal with this pressure, we are seeing some people look to consensually non-monogamous relationships.”

While monogamy is omnipresent, Wood said that open relationships are actually more common than most people would expect. Currently, somewhere between three to seven percent of people in North America are said to be in a consensual, non-monogamous relationship.

For the study, the team surveyed around 200 people in monogamous relationships and around 140 people in open relationships to compare the data sets. Both groups were asked questions regarding how satisfied they felt, whether they considered separating, general happiness levels, etc.

Research has shown that many people tend to have a negative perception of open relationships. Some find it to be immoral, some equate it to cheating or sex addiction, and some simply believe it offers low levels of satisfaction.

“It’s assumed that people in these types of relationships are having sex with everyone all the time. They are villainized and viewed as bad people in bad relationships, but that’s not the case,” Wood said. “This research shows us that our choice of relationship structure is not an indicator of how happy or satisfied we are in our primary relationships.”

The results of the study revealed that people in open relationships actually had similar levels of relationship satisfaction, psychological well-being and sexual satisfaction as those in monogamous relationships.

Sexual motivation appeared to be the biggest predictor of satisfaction, regardless of relationship structure. This was because of how closely sexual satisfaction is tied to our psychological needs.

“In both monogamous and non-monogamous relationships, people who engage in sex to be close to a partner and to fulfill their sexual needs have a more satisfying relationship than those who have sex for less intrinsic reasons, such as to avoid conflict,” she said.

Complete Article HERE!

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Nearly half of British women dissatisfied with sex lives, survey finds

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Those aged 25 to 34 were the least satisfied

By Olivia Petter

More than one in four British women report being unhappy with their sex lives, new research has found

The survey by Public Health England (PHE) of more than 7,300 women investigated problems relating to reproductive health and included an unsatisfactory sex life within this umbrella.

The report revealed that those aged 25 to 34 were the least satisfied in bed, with 49 per cent complaining of a lack of sexual enjoyment.

Dissatisfaction was slightly lower for women aged 55 to 64, less than a third of whom reported experiencing unfulfilled sex lives – however, it was not clear whether this was because they were enjoying sex more or simply having less sex.

Health officials found that women who experienced unhappiness in their relationships, had been diagnosed with STIs and had difficulty communicating with their romantic partners were more likely to have low sexual function.

Meanwhile, positive sexuality (defined by PHE as experiencing high levels of sexual satisfaction, sexual self-esteem and sexual pleasure) were associated with use of contraception, improved relationship quality and an absence of STIs.

For young women specifically, a healthy sex life was also linked to less alcohol use, improved mental health and a positive attitude towards education.

The report also found that nearly a third of women surveyed had suffered from severe issues relating to sex, such as heavy periods and menopausal symptoms.

Dr Jane Dickson, vice president of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, commented: “The importance of having a healthy, enjoyable sexual life cannot be overstated as this strongly contributes to general wellbeing.

“However, there is still much stigma and embarrassment when it comes to sexual function – especially when we are talking about women’s sexual pleasure. Society still relegates women’s sexual pleasure to the background.”

Public health consultant at PHE Sue Mann added that a fulfilling sex life is fundamental to women’s mental and emotional wellbeing.

“Our data show that sexual enjoyment is a key part of good reproductive health and that while many women are reporting sexual dysfunction, many are not seeking help.”

The research also found that there is a strong stigma associated with reporting sexual and reproductive health issues.

“This is particularly true in the workplace where many women do not feel comfortable speaking to their managers about the real reasons for needing to take time off work,” Mann continued.

“We want to empower women to educate themselves about good reproductive health and to feel confident speaking about it.”

Complete Article HERE!

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The End of Safe Gay Sex?

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By Patrick William Kelly

June is Pride Month, a ripe time to reflect on one of the most startling facts about our sexual culture today: Condom use is all but disappearing among large numbers of gay men.

Many rightly attribute the condom’s decline to the rise of PrEP — an acronym for pre-exposure prophylaxis, a two-drug cocktail that inoculates a person from contracting H.I.V. But another crucial component is the fading memory of the AIDS crisis that once defined what it meant to be gay.

After tracking the sexual practices of 17,000 gay and bisexual Australian men from 2014 to 2017, a team of researchers this month unveiled the most convincing evidence to date. While the number of H.I.V.-negative men who are on PrEP increased to 24 percent from 2 percent, the rate of condom use decreased to 31 percent from 46 percent. More troubling, condom use among non-gay men is also down significantly</a

Although public health advocates have been sounding the alarm on condom use for the last decade, their calls have gone largely unheeded. Part of that is because of a shift in how we talk about risky sex: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has replaced “unprotected” with “condomless” sex.

The dangerous implication is that PrEP alone may ward off all sexually transmitted infections. Indeed, studies have shown a strong correlation between PrEP use and the contraction of S.T.I.s. PrEP enthusiasts counter that PrEP mandates testing for S.T.I.s every three months, a practice that promotes rather than discourages a culture of sexual health.

But a 2016 study by the University of California, Los Angeles illustrated that PrEP users were 25.3 times more likely to acquire gonorrhea and a shocking 44.6 times more likely to develop a syphilis infection (other studies have found no significant uptick in S.T.I. rates, however).

More than the specific public-health risks of declining condom use among gay men is the shocking speed with which a sort of historical amnesia has set in.

The very idea of “safe sex” emerged from the gay community in the early 1980s, in response to the AIDS crisis. Drag queens once ended performances with catchy one-liners like, “If you’re going to tap it, wrap it.”

AIDS indelibly shaped what it meant to be gay in the 1980s and 1990s. When I came out at the tender age of 14 in 1998, I recall my mother’s reaction. As tears welled up in her eyes, she buried her face in her hands and said, “I just don’t want you to get H.I.V.” No stranger to controversial allusions, the AIDS activist and author Larry Kramer famously called it a homosexual “holocaust.” Condom use, therefore, was never a negotiating chip.

Until it was. PrEP, which the Food and Drug Administration approved in 2012, replaces the condom’s comforting shield. Liberated from the stigma of AIDS, gay men, many people think, are now free to revert to their carnivorous sexual selves. In this rendering, the condom is kryptonite, a relic that saps the virile homosexual of his primordial sexual power.

AIDS is no longer a crisis, at least in the United States, and that is a phenomenal public-health success story. But it also means that an entire generation of gay men has no memory or interest in the devastation it wrought. AIDS catalyzed a culture of sexual health that has begun to disintegrate before our eyes. What is there to be done to bring it back?

One answer is to recall the gay culture of the 1970s that gave rise to the AIDS crisis in the first place. The myth of a world of sex without harm is not new. The 1970s were a time of unprecedented sexual freedom for gay men, during which diseases were traded rampantly, fueled by a libertine culture that saw penicillin as the panacea for all ills.

The nonchalant dismissal of the condom today flies in the face of the very culture of sexual health that gay men and lesbians constructed in the 1980s. If a hyper-resistant strand of another life-threatening S.T.I. develops, we will rue the day that we forgot the searing legacies of our past. We might also recognize that PrEP has not proved nearly as effective a prevention strategy for women as it has for men, and that some strains of H.I.V. have developed resistance to the drug.

While we debate the utility of latex, what are we to think about the millions of sex workers, injecting-drug users and marginalized populations (in particular, black men who have sex with men) without adequate access to costly and coveted drugs like PrEP? If they develop AIDS, they also struggle to acquire the triple drug therapies that have since 1996 turned AIDS into a manageable if chronic condition. Millions have died from lack of access while pharmaceutical companies rake in billions every year.

We might also pivot away from the individualistic and privileged approach of our dominant L.G.B.T. organizations — what one scholar called the “price of gay marriage.” We might, then, regain a radical sense of queer community that we lost in the wake of AIDS.

Complete Article HERE!

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Non-Binary Folks Share Advice for Coming Out as Gender Non-Conforming and Accepting Yourself

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Struggling to come out as your authentic self? You’re not alone.

 by


 
With Pride Month coming to a close, Lifehacker has released a video featuring folks discussing coming out and the process of identifying as non-binary. The individuals include Nandi Kayyy, Dane Calabro, Divesh Brahmbhatt, and Kei Williams, all of whom use the pronouns they/them, but describe their gender identity in a variety of different ways. The video touches on gender, sexuality, identity, and the struggles of coming out as non-binary.

Simply put, gender non-forming is “a term used to describe some people whose gender expression is different from conventional expectations of masculinity and femininity.” Similar terms like genderqueer, gender fluid, non-binary, and gender variant express the recognition of a gender spectrum that exists beyond the male/female binary.

Another important distinction is the difference between sex and gender, two concepts often used interchangeably with each other. Sex is simply the medical assignment made at birth based on a baby’s external anatomy. Gender however, is how you feel inside, your sense of self. Sex and gender are entirely separate from sexuality/orientation, which is about who you are(or aren’t) sexually or romantically attracted to.

Despite being acknowledged across cultures and countries, the concept of gender variance is still widely misunderstood and dismissed. While gender variance has existed for centuries, many people struggle with upending and exploring identities beyond the binary.

It’s hard to break out of a system that’s been reinforced as a cornerstone of our identity since before we’re born. Just look at the rise in popularity of gender reveal parties, where parents and families gather together to cut open a cake or bust a pinata or smash a watermelon in an alligator’s mouth to get those pink vs. blue results.

But progress is happening: states like Oregon, Washington, New York and California have passed laws officially recognizing a third gender, and gender variant characters are appearing in popular culture (one of our faves, Steven Universe, gets a shout-out in the video).

For some people, gender identity is a fixed constant, while others experience gender as a fluid and ever-changing experience. There’s no wrong answer and no wrong way to identify: everyone moves at their own personal velocity. If you want to learn more, check out resources like GLAAD, The Non-Binary Resource and the Trevor Project or reach out to your local LGBTQ center.

Complete Article HERE!

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The World Health Organization No Longer Classifies Being Transgender as a Mental Illness

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New catalogue lists ‘gender incongruence’ under ‘conditions related to sexual health’

Ati, who is a Muslim and transgender, waits for the start of Boston’s 48th Pride Parade

Transgender people, who identify as the opposite gender to the one they were born with, should no longer be considered mentally ill, according to a new UN categorisation.

The World Health Organization issued a new catalogue Monday covering 55,000 diseases, injuries and causes of death, in which it discreetly recategorised transgenderism.

The new catalogue, which still needs to be approved by UN member countries, so-called “gender incongruence” is now listed under “conditions related to sexual health”, instead of “mental, behavioural and neurodevelopmental disorders”.

“We expect (the re-categorisation) will reduce stigma,” Lale Say, the coordinator of WHO’s department of reproductive health and research, said.

WHO says gender incongruence is characterised as a “marked and persistent incongruence between an individual’s experienced gender and the assigned sex.”

Several new chapters appear in the first update of WHO’s International Classification of Diseases catalogue since the 1990s, including the one on sexual health.

“We think it will reduce stigma so that it may help better social acceptance for these individuals,” Say said, adding that since the catalogue is used by doctors and insurers to determine coverage, the move away from a mental disorder could “even increase access to healthcare”.

The document, which member states will be asked to approve during the World Health Assembly in Geneva next May, will take effect from January 1, 2022 if it is adopted.

Several countries have already taken steps to reclassify transgenderism and take it off the list of mental disorders, including France and Denmark.

Say said she thought the text, which is the result of years of discussion among experts, would easily win approval, despite widespread lack of acceptance of transgender people in many parts of the world.

WHO’s latest catalogue also has a new chapter on traditional medicine, which previously went unmentioned, despite being used by millions of people around the world.

It also includes a section on video gaming, recognising gaming disorder as a pathological condition that can be addictive in the same way as cocaine.

Complete Article HERE!

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More young Americans now identify as bisexual

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One-quarter (25%) of people identified as something other than completely heterosexual, compared to 20% of people in 2015.

By Jamie Ballard

[F]ewer Americans today identify as completely heterosexual, according to new data from YouGov Omnibus. People were asked to place themselves on the Kinsey scale, where 0 is completely heterosexual and 6 is completely homosexual. The scale was invented by Alfred Kinsey in 1948 as a tool to study human sexuality. The original study used several methods to determine where someone would fall on the spectrum, but YouGov simply asked people to place themselves on the scale.

The same series of questions was asked of YouGov panelists in August 2015 and June 2018, and the results show that in 2018, more people say they’re not completely heterosexual. One-quarter (25%) of people identified as something other than completely heterosexual, compared to 20% of people in 2015.

Just over two-thirds (69%) of Americans identified as “completely heterosexual” in the 2018 survey, a drop from 78% of people who identified as completely heterosexual in the 2015 survey. About half of people in the 18-to-34 age range (55%) said they were completely heterosexual, compared to 67% of 35-54 year olds, and 84% of people aged 55 and up.

But despite what seems like an increase in sexual fluidity, less than half (40%) of people said that the statement “Sexuality is a scale – it is possible to be somewhere near the middle” came closest to their view. A nearly-equal amount (42%) said that the statement “There is no middle ground – you are either heterosexual or you are not” came closer to their view.

Women and men were equally likely (18%) to report that they’d had a sexual experience with someone of the same sex. In 2015, one out of every five women (20%) reported having a same-sex experience, compared to 15% of men at the time.

When asked about the possibility of being in a same-sex relationship, women (15%) were almost twice as likely as men (8%) to respond “definitely” or “maybe, if I really liked them.” Women also tended to be more open to the idea of a same-sex sexual experience, with 17% saying they thought it could happen, compared to 7% of men.

Complete Article HERE!

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6 Things Every Transgender Person Should Know About Going to the Doctor

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You deserve sensitive, comprehensive care.

By Nathan Levitt, FNP-BC

[T]ransgender patients often experience tremendous barriers to health care, including discrimination and an unfortunate lack of providers who are knowledgeable about and sensitive to this population. As a result, many transgender and nonbinary people avoid seeking care for preventive and life-threatening conditions out of fear.

According to a report from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey of more than 6,450 transgender and gender nonconforming people, nearly one in five (19 percent) reported being refused care because they were transgender or gender nonconforming. Survey participants also reported very high levels of postponing medical care when sick or injured due to discrimination and disrespect (28 percent). Half of the sample reported having to teach their medical providers about transgender care.

As a transgender person myself, I know how difficult it can be to access sensitive care.

That’s why it’s essential for trans and gender nonconforming people to be empowered with the knowledge and information that will help them find the best providers they possibly can, who are knowledgeable and sensitive, and will advocate for their gender nonconforming patients.

It can be hard to know where to start, so I’d recommend looking into the following resources online to help you find trans-friendly medical care near you:

And here are a few questions you might want to consider when looking for a doctor or health care provider who is accessible, inclusive, and who can responsibly and knowledgably care for you:

  • Do they have signs or brochures representing the transgender community?
  • Have the care providers been trained on issues specific to transgender health?
  • Does the organization have a nondiscrimination policy that covers sexual orientation and gender identity?
  • Do they have experience caring for transgender patients? Specifically, are they able to provide medical advice on how to manage hormones, after-surgery care, and health screenings in the trans population?
  • Are they able to provide the necessary accommodations you need to feel comfortable (For instance: a gender-neutral bathroom, a safe and comfortable waiting room environment, willingness to use your requested name and pronoun, etc.)?
  • Has their staff (including the office staff) received training on transgender sensitivity?

Even after you’ve found a medical provider, the reality is that transgender patients often still have to teach them about transgender care.

It’s your responsibility to communicate your medical history and needs so that you can get the best, most appropriate care. That can be intimidating and overwhelming, so I’ve outlined a few of the most important things you should go over with your doctor or medical provider.

1. Make sure your provider has a baseline medical history for you.

Once you find a transgender-sensitive health provider, think of this person as your medical ally—someone who can help you with any changes your body is experiencing. In that vein, you’ll want to tell them about your family and personal health history so they can better manage your health care screenings, such as cardiovascular, bone health, diabetes, and cancer screenings.

Cancer screening for transgender people can require a modified approach to current mainstream guidelines. If your provider isn’t sure what that looks like, you can point them towards UCSF Center of Excellence for Transgender Health.

Unfortunately, I know from professional experience that transgender people are often less likely to have routine screenings and cancer screenings due to discomfort with health care providers’ use of gendered language, providers’ lack of knowledge about surgery and hormones, gender-segregated systems, and insensitive care.

2. Discuss your goals and expectations around medical transition, whether it’s something you have done, are in the process of doing, or are interested in pursuing.

Of course, not all transgender and gender nonbinary individuals are interested in medical transition—including surgery and/or hormones—but for those who are considering these options, it’s important to select health care providers who understand how to administer and monitor hormones and who are knowledgeable about what is needed for pre- and post-operative care.

So it’s a good idea to ask your provider about their experiences with transition-related medical care or if they can refer you to someone who is experienced in that field. You’ll want to talk with your provider about your goals of hormone therapy, any lab work needed, and any relevant information from your and your family’s medical history.

There are many different surgeries that transgender individuals may undergo to align their body with their gender identity. Share with your medical provider any gender affirming surgeries you have had or are interested in. You deserve to feel comfortable with your surgeon and feel that your health care team is working together.

As your body changes, stay informed about what additional screenings may be needed. For instance, although the data linking hormone therapy to cancer is inconclusive (when taken correctly and monitored by a medical provider), it is still important to discuss risks with your provider.

For patients who currently have hormone-dependent cancers, it is imperative that you discuss with your oncologist and your primary care provider any past history or current use of hormones.

I know that some cancer screenings such as Pap smears and prostate screenings can be incredibly uncomfortable for some transgender and gender nonbinary people. Finding sensitive providers is essential to not delay important screenings.

3. As awkward as it may be, discuss your sexual history and activity in a way that allows your medical provider to accurately assess your sexual health needs.

It’s unfortunately not uncommon for transgender men to skip pelvic exams (whether they fear discrimination, think they don’t need them, or avoid them for dysphoria-related reasons). It’s also not uncommon to forego preventive health care, such as STI screenings, out of fear of discrimination or disrespect. This can hurt the transgender population’s health.

Of course it can be awkward, but your sexual health is an important topic to discuss with your provider, so they shouldn’t make you feel too uncomfortable to talk about it. If you feel your provider is not conducting transgender-sensitive sexual histories, you should feel empowered to give them this feedback. You can even ask your provider to use the language you feel most comfortable with to describe your and your partner’s bodies. This is important because they can help you to understand how to have sex that is safe, affirming, and specific to your body and identity.

It’s also important to tell your provider the nitty gritty details about your sex life and history (like: how many sexual partners you have had, whether you’re using condoms or dental dams during sex, what kind of sex you are having, and if and when you were last tested for STIs and HIV).

Unfortunately, surveys tell us that transgender people are less likely to get tested for STIs because of the discrimination and fear they face when talking about their bodies and identity. According to the CDC, in 2015, the percent of transgender people who were newly diagnosed with HIV was more than three times the national average. Trans women are at an especially high risk for HIV; in particular, African American trans women have the highest newly diagnosed HIV rates within the transgender community.

Be proactive and ask what you should be doing to reduce your risk of STIs and HIV. One option your physician may discuss with you is pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which is a daily pill that can greatly reduce your risk of HIV infection, and may be appropriate for some patients

I know it can be uncomfortable to have these conversations with a medical provider, and it can be just as difficult to have them with your partner. To help get you started, here are some helpful resources on sexual health for trans women and trans men.

4. If you’re using substances, ask your medical provider for trans-sensitive resources and referrals for substance support services.

Substance and tobacco use can often be the result of depression and anxiety associated with discrimination by the community. In fact, the National Transgender Discrimination Survey showed that 26 percent of transgender individuals use or have used alcohol and drugs frequently, compared with 7.3 percent of the general population according to a National Institute of Health’s report. In addition, 30 percent of the transgender participants reported smoking regularly compared with 20.6 percent of U.S. adults.

There are many risks associated with substance and tobacco use, especially in combination with hormone therapy. Smoking can cause an increased risk of some cancers, blood clots, and heart disease, and it may negatively impact the outcome of hormone therapy, among other complications. Talk to your provider about resources to help decrease substance dependency.

5. If you’re experiencing anxiety, depression, or any other mental health symptoms, bring it up to your health care provider.

When it comes to getting help or making that first call, you don’t have to wait until things get “bad enough.” Unfortunately, mental health issues can be prevalent in the transgender community as a result of isolation, rejection, lack of resources, and discrimination. Share with your provider any feelings of depression or anxiety you may be having. They can help manage your care and recommend a trans-sensitive mental health professional, which can be challenging to navigate on your own.

If you are in crisis, contact Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860.

6. Tell your physician if you’re interested in potentially having children someday.

Transgender populations have fertility concerns that are often unaddressed by providers. If you are interested in potentially starting a family someday, make sure to talk to your provider about your reproductive health and fertility options early on, especially if you’re considering medical transition or have transitioned.

Transgender men may need to discuss cessation of testosterone if they are interested in becoming pregnant. And if transgender women are interested in having children using their own sperm, they may need to use sperm banking services because of estrogen’s potential effect on sperm production.

Finding trans-sensitive ob/gyn care, birth control resources specific to the trans population, and trans-sensitive fertility support can be difficult, but there are resources that can make it easier, like the ones listed at the beginning of this article.

Finally, remember that you are deserving of a responsible, knowledgeable health care team.

While patients often initially come into a medical office nervous, when they find a healthcare team they trust, they are able to open up more—sharing more information and asking more questions.

As a healthcare provider, I’ve witnessed that those patients who become increasingly empowered to take control of their own health have lasting positive effects, including better overall wellness and greater confidence and self-esteem. Everyone deserves that level of care.

Complete Article HERE!

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Want to figure out the rules of sexual consent? Ask sex workers.

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by Jessie Patella-Rey

[T]he #MeToo movement has pushed issues of consent to the foreground of our cultural zeitgeist. Confoundingly, though, some of the movement’s most vocal champions seem to be the worst at respecting the very conventions they are espousing. Shortly after now-former New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman filed a lawsuit against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, for example, Schneiderman resigned in the face of four sexual-abuse allegations. In a public statement, he claimed that he had simply been engaged in “role-playing and other consensual sexual activities.”

If Schneiderman really believes that to be true, his understanding of what consent actually involves seems to be fundamentally confused. Consent demands thoughtful communication, careful reflection and sometimes takes practice. Few know this better than people who deal with consent every day as part of their jobs: sex workers, for whom negotiating consent and setting boundaries is central to the work of sex work. It’s our ability to tackle these issues that makes us good at what we do. As the conversation around consent moves ahead, it’s time others start learning from our own hard-won experience.

If turning to sex workers for conceptual clarity and moral guidance rings odd to you, it may be because we sex workers have been systematically excluded from these discussions. Many refuse to acknowledge that sex workers are even capable of exercising consent. This is the rhetoric of what anthropologist Laura Agustín calls the “rescue industry”— a term used to describe people and institutions who conceptualize all sex workers as victims in need of saving. Catherine MacKinnon has argued, for example, that “in prostitution, women have sex with men they would never otherwise have sex with. The money thus acts as a form of force, not as a measure of consent. It acts like physical force does in rape.” More recently, Julie Bindel has proposed, “In almost every case it’s actually slavery. The women who work as prostitutes are in hock and in trouble. They’re in need of rescue just as much as any of the more fashionable victims of modern slavery.”

This thinking casts sex workers as victims, entirely without agency of our own, while ironically speaking authoritatively about us without asking for our input. It’s a stance that parallels the hypocrisy behind Schneiderman purporting to champion consent for women while allegedly ignoring it in practice.

This is a mistake. As Lola Davina, former sex worker and author of several books, including “Thriving in Sex Work: Heartfelt Advice for Staying Sane in the Sex Industry,” put it to me in an email, she views “sex workers as soldiers on the front lines of the consent wars.” That squares with my own experience, which suggests that the lessons we teach may be broadly applicable. In my own work as a phone-sex operator, which I also write and podcast about under the name Jessie Sage, I’ve had numerous clients who have called me to rehearse future conversations or negotiations with their wives or partners. And my experiences merely scratch the surface of what’s possible.

With this premise in mind, I recently reached out to community organizer and writer Chanelle Gallant to ask what she thinks sex workers can offer. “Something unique about sex work is that consent is seen as a collective responsibility,” she said. “Sex workers organize to build their power and the ability to prevent abuse.” In some cases, that might involve exchanging information about bad customers, workplaces or managers. In others, it might be about collaborating to improve workplace conditions.

This collective organizing also translates to the interactions of individual sex workers with their clients. Stripper and journalist Reese Piper told me that she has had to learn how to avoid situations with people who will violate her. “Sex workers know how to walk away from people or situations that are dangerous or not worth our time,” she said. “It’s part of our job to detect dangerous customers. And it’s also our job to invest in customers that will value our labor.”

Alex Bishop, a sex worker and activist, talks about gaining these insights and skills as a gift that sex work has given her. She told me, “Before I did sex work, I didn’t think as deeply about sexuality and consent. I was still young and naive and slept with men because they bought me dinner or were nice.” It was her job that helped her change her way of thinking, so much so that she suggested she would like to see everyone try out sex work “for a few weeks,” if only to help open their eyes. To her way of thinking, “sex work instills a lot of confidence in those that do the work. It becomes easy to say no because you find yourself saying it all day long to clients.”

Piper agrees, telling me, “Stripping taught me how to value my time, my emotional energy and my body. It taught me how to stand up for myself. I never used to tell men who accosted me on the street to go away. Now it’s easy. I don’t feel bad about valuing my space and soul.”

Mistress Eva, who specializes in domme work, describes her interactions with clients as safer and defined than those outside of sex work. At the airport on the way home from DomCon, she took a few minutes to write to me: “I never have to hesitate about entering an interaction as a sex worker, because our interaction is always preceded by negotiation and an understanding of our combined desires and limits.”

Circling back to Davina, I asked for specific examples of how sex work has taught her how to negotiate consent. She explains, “Here’s what sex work taught me: I can say ‘yes’ to a lap dance then say ‘no’ to kissing. I can say ‘yes’ to kissing, then say ‘no’ to a blowjob. I can say ‘yes’ to a blowjob, then say ‘no’ to intercourse. … Saying ‘yes’ to one sexual act is saying ‘yes’ to that particular sexual act, and nothing more. Sex workers navigate these waters all day, every day.”

Recognizing that they can add a lot to our conversations around consent, many sex workers have taken it upon themselves to teach consent in their sex work practices. Ginger Banks, who has been a sex worker for eight years, told me, “After learning more about consent [as a sex worker] I see so many different ways that we violate it, possibly [unintentionally]. I think it is important to discuss this topic of consent with our fan bases.” Reflecting on her experience as a porn performer, she explained, “This is why I try and integrate the consent into my films, compared to just having it done just off camera. This way I can teach people about consent while they watch my films.”

It should be clear, then, that despite what the rescues industry assumes, we sex workers spend a great deal of our time both exercising and practicing consent. Significantly, we do so in the context of our relationships with clients. These sort of low stakes transactional interactions are fertile ground for productive consent work. Sex workers can, and often do, walk away from interactions with clients who fail to value consent. Accordingly, clients must practice negotiating consent in order for a transaction to continue. And, as my own experiences suggest, those are skills that they can transfer to their other relationships.

Given all of this, I’d argue that we need to empower sex workers to continue to do the sort of valuable, consent-focused work that we are already doing. In relationship to consent, we need to stop thinking about sex work as the problem, and start thinking about sex workers as part of the solution.

Complete Article HERE!

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