What Having Sex With Women Taught Me About Myself

Share

By Tanya Compas

Until I was 23, I had only ever slept with cis men and always felt conflicted when it came to sex because on one hand, I love it – like, really love it – but equally I was scared to enjoy it because of the stigma attached to being a sexually active woman. From a young age, a woman’s sexual agency is policed by society and I found myself sleeping with men to validate my femininity – often men who would play upon my insecurities. After some unhealthy relationships with men, at 21 I consciously became celibate to find out what I actually wanted from relationships. At 23, I realised Hey, I think I might like women too.

Soon after, I went on my first date with an androgynous woman I met on Tinder. After a few drinks at a rooftop bar, we hit a club and I ended up in an Uber back to hers. My celibacy came to an end that night. From that moment, the way I viewed myself, my sexuality, my body, my sexual agency and gender changed.

The unwritten rules of dating and sex in the hetero world rob women of their sexual agency; I didn’t realise just how little agency I had over my own sex life until I began dating women. I realised I was either abstaining from sex out of fear of being seen as a ‘hoe’ or having orgasm-less sex because I prioritised a man’s pleasure over my own. I’ve since had to spend a lot of time unpacking and unlearning the toxic behaviour and language I inevitably picked up through my years of heterosexual dating, in order to have healthy relationships with women.

One of the biggest things I have learned since sleeping with women is that there is no shame in being a fluid person. My gender expression is both masculine and feminine. Yet when I was dating men, my femininity became a performance because in my head the man already ‘fulfilled’ the masculine role in the relationship, so I felt like I had to hyper-feminise myself and hide my masculinity. This continued to play out as I dated the first woman I slept with. She was androgynous and masculine presenting, so I found myself once again performing my femininity. Every time I saw her, I’d wear tight dresses and makeup, and during sex I became a ‘pillow princess’ – receiving, never giving pleasure. I’m not going to lie, it was a role I was happy to play because shit, I deserved orgasms after my years of having none

It was weird that having sex with a woman felt natural; it didn’t feel awkward and for once I wasn’t squirming to hide my body. But I was still trying to hide my masculinity. Not because I was told by the girl I was dating that I had to fulfil the feminine role or that she didn’t like to receive pleasure, but I couldn’t shake myself from the heteronormative gender roles or realise that relationships could exist outside of this binary, same sex or otherwise.

Having sex with women has also made me feel comfortable enough to explore sex and the various ways of receiving pleasure, from switching between dominant and submissive roles to different positions and the use of toys. While I’m now a proud owner of a plethora of sex toys, when my ex-girlfriend took me on a surprise date to a sex shop to buy my first toy – a strap – I did a double take, thinking Omg what if somebody sees me? I felt so embarrassed going into the shop; evidently, I still carried so much shame around sex. I was avoiding eye contact with absolutely everybody, while my ex was grabbing dildos, asking me which size and colour I wanted. I was just like, “Fam, I do not know”. She asked a shop assistant for help and I swear at that very moment I wanted the ground to eat me up. Which is ironic because here I am writing a very public article about my sex life. What do we call that? Growth.

As I grew more into my queerness and became more comfortable expressing my fluidity, I began to notice how misogyny, sexism and gendered thinking still exists within the LGBTQ+ community and how the way I presented myself dictated my own experience within the community. Now, as a more masculine presenting person, I have found that some women will assume I am the ‘dominant’ person in bed and adopt the role of the ‘man’. While there are women who are happy to play that role, I’m not one of them. A couple of years ago, a girl I was dating asked me to ‘strap’ her (have sex with a strap-on dildo) the first time we slept together. I had a strap but we’d never spoken about it – I’d only ever used it with my ex-girlfriend and to be honest, she strapped me more than I did her – so this girl must have assumed I had one and that I wanted to take the ‘dominant’ role in bed. Wrong. I like to throw it back, too.

Sex with women has shown me intimacy and reciprocity in ways that I never had with men and has given me levels of body confidence I never knew I could reach. I’ve had my naked body described in ways I’d never imagined; my vulva, which I’ve always been embarrassed about because it doesn’t look like the ‘perfect pussy’ you see in porn, no longer brings me shame.

It sounds really cheesy but I’ve never had my body complimented in the way I have had it complimented by women. My unfiltered naked body, appreciated in ways I didn’t know I deserved. Through seeing the beauty in other women, I was able to see the beauty in myself. Women have shown me compassion, intimacy and acceptance. I am my most vulnerable during sex and have seen my fluidity stripped bare. Without clothes, my fluidity is still valid. I’m now at a point in my life where I’m happily in love with a woman who has both affirmed my fluidity and allowed me to explore what it means to me, without shame.

Through sleeping with women I’ve learned that there is no shame in having sex and we should normalise speaking about it. During sex, you need to communicate. The moment I rid myself of shame, I was able to communicate what I liked in bed, how I liked to be pleasured and importantly, what I wanted from the relationship. Without the need to lie, manipulate or shame. Was it just sex? A one-night stand? A relationship? Communication really is key. The more I communicated what I wanted, the more orgasms I had. Sleeping with women not only gave me my voice; it gave me the orgasms I deserve.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

LGB people face higher risk of anxiety, depression, substance abuse

Share

By Chrissy Sexton

Researchers at Penn State are reporting that individuals who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual are at a higher risk for several different health problems. The experts found that sexual minorities were more prone to anxiety and depressive disorders, cardiovascular disease, and drug and alcohol abuse.

Study co-author Cara Rice explained that stress associated with discrimination and prejudice may contribute to these outcomes.

“It’s generally believed that sexual minorities experience increased levels of stress throughout their lives as a result of discrimination, microaggressions, stigma and prejudicial policies,” said Rice. “Those increased stress levels may then result in poor health in a variety of ways, like unhealthy eating or excessive alcohol use.”

Professor Stephanie Lanza said the findings shed light on health risks that have been understudied.

“Discussions about health disparities often focus on the differences between men and women, across racial and ethnic groups, or between people of different socioeconomic backgrounds,” said Professor Lanza. “However, sexual minority groups suffer substantially disproportionate health burdens across a range of outcomes including poor mental health and problematic substance use behaviors.”

It has been previously documented that sexual minorities have an increased risk of substance abuse or anxiety disorders, but Rice said that studies have not yet established whether these health risks remain constant across age.

“As we try to develop programs to prevent these disparities, it would be helpful to know which specific ages we should be targeting,” said Rice. “Are there ages where sexual minorities are more at risk for these health disparities, or are the disparities constant across adulthood?”

The investigation was focused on data from over 30,000 participants in the National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions-III, who were between the ages of 18 and 65. The survey collected information about alcohol, tobacco, and drug use, as well as any history of depression, anxiety, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), or cardiovascular disease.

To analyze the data, the researchers used a method developed at Penn State called time-varying effect modeling.

“Using the time-varying effect model, we revealed specific age periods at which sexual minority adults in the U.S. were more likely to experience various poor health outcomes, even after accounting for one’s sex, race or ethnicity, education level, income, and region of the country in which they reside,” explained Professor Lanza.

Overall, sexual minorities were found to be more likely to experience all of the health outcomes. For example, these individuals had about twice the risk of anxiety, depression, and STIs in the previous year compared to heterosexuals.

The experts also determined that risks for some health problems were higher at different ages. An increased risk for anxiety and depression was highest among sexual minorities in their early twenties, while an increased risk for poor cardiovascular health was higher in their forties and fifties.

“We also observed that odds of substance use disorders remained constant across age for sexual minorities, while in the general population they tend to be concentrated in certain age groups,” said Rice. “We saw that sexual minorities were more likely to have these substance use disorders even in their forties and fifties when we see in the general population that drug use and alcohol use start to taper off.”

Rice said the results of the study could potentially be used to develop programs to help prevent these health problems before they start.

“A necessary first step was to understand how health disparities affecting sexual minorities vary across age,” said Rice. “These findings shed light on periods of adulthood during which intervention programs may have the largest public health impact. Additionally, future studies that examine possible drivers of these age-varying disparities, such as daily experiences of discrimination, will inform the development of intervention content that holds promise to promote health equity for all people.”

The study is published in the journal Annals of Epidemiology.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

11 Sex Tips for Guys Just Coming Out of the Closet

Share

By Zachary Zane

A few pointers for people who are just starting to explore their sexuality!

Right after coming out as gay/bi, the idea of having sex with another man can be nerve-wracking. The mechanics, while simple, aren’t necessarily intuitive. It also can be tough to really connect to another guy sexually right after sashaying out of the closet. Well, as we begin 2019, let’s make a New Year’s resolution to explore having better and more meaningful sex. With that in mind, here are 11 sex tips for guys who’ve just come out as queer.

1. There will always be cute guys

Cute guys are a dime a dozen. There will always be cute guys, so don’t be upset if one rejects you. Seriously, it’s not the end of the world! Don’t do anything stupid just to have sex with one. Relax. You have the rest of your life to sleep with cute guys.

2. Use condoms (even if you’re on PrEP)

If you just came out and are just starting to get comfortable with your sexuality, the last thing you’ll want to be doing is getting an STD or STI. Honestly, it’s just going to bum you out and make you never want to have sex again. So wear condoms. (Even if you’re on PrEP!)

3. Tell him what you’re into beforehand

Sex shouldn’t be a guessing game. If you’re into something, let him know beforehand that you like X, Y, Z, and it would really turn you on if he did that to you. That’s one of the (few) things that’s great about apps like Grindr. You can explicitly state what you’re into before meeting up without any judgement.

4. Be vocal during sex

In addition to saying what you’re into before things start heating up, you should also be vocal about what you like during sex. If that position isn’t doing anything for you, tell him you want to change positions. He isn’t a mind reader. Let him know what’s up!

5. Have sex with guys who are outside your normal “preference”

We all have men who we are attracted to and not attracted to. I’m not saying that you should sleep with men you’re not attracted to, but I am saying that you should broaden your horizons. Often, societal norms dictate to us what’s attractive. If we’re able to break away from societal standards of beauty, it opens us up (metaphorically and physically) to a wider range of sexual and romantic partners. 

6. Be vers

It’s 2019. Being a top or bottom only is so passé. Do it all. Be a millennial, renaissance man! Besides, being vers makes you a better lover because you’re aware of the mechanics of both types of sex.

7. You can say “no” anytime before or during sex

You can always say no anytime before or during sex without an ounce of shame. If you don’t feel comfortable, you have a right to stop having sex at anytime. Is it awkward to kick guys out of your house? Yes, it is, but it is worth the awkwardness. If you’re not into it, and he’s being aggressive, tell him to GTFO.

8. Figure out your own method of cleaning your butt

There are plenty of ways to get a deep clean. Figure out if a douche (or some other way) is the right way for you! While I douche, I’ve heard of some folks using ear syringes to clean out because it’s less forceful.

9. Never feel embarrassed, ashamed, or awkward about asking a guy’s status

You should never get uncomfortable or feel bad for asking a guy what his status is, as well as asking him to use a condom. In the era of PrEP, there is definitely a little bit of condom-shaming, but while you shouldn’t judge them for not wearing a condom, they shouldn’t judge you for wanting to wear one.

10. Use lube

Lube is your best friend. The more lube the better. You want to be turning that bed of yours into a Slip ‘N Slide! Additionally, it’s important to see what type of lube feels best for you. Some guys prefer water-based, whereas others prefer silicone or a hybrid mix of both. 

11. Explore your kinks

We all have some form of kink. Something a little more exciting that we’re into. Explore them now. There’s literally no reason to wait. And no matter how “weird” you think your kink is, there are literally thousands (if not millions) of guys who have the same one. You’re definitely not alone.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Homosexuality in nature: Bisexual and gay animals

Share

By

So many people question if animals can be gay, and the answer is, of course.

Every LGBT+ person will cringe upon hearing that their lifestyle is a “choice.” Unfortunately, people around the world still firmly believe that.

For those who believe that homosexuality is a result of being “brainwashed” by society, they should turn their attention to homosexuality in nature.

Indeed, there are bisexual and homosexual members of the animal kingdom beyond mere humans. (And we’re pretty sure that the sheep weren’t ‘turned gay’ from watching ‘gay agenda’ on television.)

Homosexuality in nature

From birds to mammals and reptiles, homosexuality is present in all kinds of animals who are able to have sexual intercourse.

These bisexual and gay animals include penguins, lions, bats, birds, dolphins, elephants and much more.

Join us as we go through some animals that are out and proud.

Bisexual and gay animals

1) Penguins

Penguins are known to mate for life, and they certainly are romantic specifies as they are often in monogamous pairings. Indeed, a penguin is probably more faithful than your ex.

And among these monogamous couples, there are many same-sex couples among penguins.

These gay animal couples will often even adopt their own baby chick, either by caring for an abandoned penguin or by kidnapping one from another couple.

 

Homosexuality among penguins has actually been known for some time. It was discovered and hidden from the public in 1911 as it was deemed ‘too shocking’. The information was then released over 100 years later in 2012.

George Murray Levick had the privilege of observing a wild colony of Adélies penguins at Cape Adare during 1911-1912. There, he described the “astonishing depravity” of “hooligan males” as they had homosexual intercourse, which was highly controversial during the time (apparently even among penguins), as well as conducting in necrophilia and forcefully entering female penguins.

2) Primates

From bonobo apes to snow monkeys and orangutans, there are countless reports of homosexual activities within the primate kingdom.

All bonobos are bisexual species, and other kinds of primates show various homosexual behaviour, found in both zoos and the wild.

3) Black swans

An estimated one-quarter of all black swans are in gay couples.

The same-sex pair of black swans often steals nests from the female so they can raise the chick. Equally, they often form threesomes (or thruples) with the female in order to do this.

Not only that, but black swans may also have relationships with other kinds of birds as seen with the infamous New Zealand love story between Thomas the goose and Henry the swan.

Thomas the goose (left) and Henry the swan.

The bird couple spent “18 happy gay years together” before Henry left Thomas for a female swan.

Then, after Thomas got over his heartbreak, he joined them to make the threesome a thruple.

4) Lizards

Homosexuality is also present in lizards in a rather unique way.

Certain species of whiptail lizards are exclusively female, and the females are able to reproduce from the ovum without the fertilization of a male.

In order to stimulate ovulation, female lizards engage in homosexual behaviour.

Geckos are also known to shown homosexual behaviour in a non-reproductive manner.

5) Dolphins

You’ve probably heard that dolphins are among the few animals that have sex for pleasure.

It’s therefore not that surprising that the adorable sea creatures get involved in some saucy acts of love.

There have been reports of dolphins having same-sex group sex, with spottings of the Amazon river dolphin forming bands with up to five bisexual dolphins.

Dolphins are known to have group sex.

Without regard to gender, dolphins are observed having non-reproductive sex, rubbing each other’s genitals and using their blowhole, anus, penis, snouts, vagina and flippers.

6) Vultures

At Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, two male griffon vultures named Dashik and Yehuda were somewhat of a couple.

The bisexual vultures hit headlines in 1998 when they were often seen having “open and energetic sex.”

Not only that, the couple even raised a chick together. Zookeepers had provided the couple with an artificial egg which the birds had looked after through incubation. Once it was time to hatch, zookeepers put in a baby vulture.

Of course, not all love stories last forever and after some rocky years together, Dashik and Yehuda split up.

They each moved on to have female partners, leaving their wonderful, gay animal romance behind.

7) Elephants

African and Asian elephants will engage in homosexual animal relationships, and males will engage in homosexual intercourse.

Elephants often engage in homosexual intimate relationships

There are reports of affectionate same-sex interactions beyond mere sex. Elephants virtually hold hands by intertwining their trunks, groom and kiss.

The same-sex companionships may last for several years and are apparent in both sexes.

8) Bats

From oral sex to homosexual masturbation and intercourse, various bat species often engage in homosexual behaviour, even cross-species with different kinds of bats forming homosexual animal relationships.

Such behaviour has been observed in both wildlife and in captivity.

9) Lions

There are many reports of gay lion pairings within the wild. Males are observed engaging in homosexual intimate behaviour.

There are countless reports of homosexual activity between lions

However, exclusively female relationships are rare with most reports of lesbian activity within captivity rather than the wild.

10) Insects

Gay sex is very common among various kinds of insects. Scientists found that 85 percent of male insects engage in homosexuality in nature.

This means that billions of bugs around the world are having gay sex each year.

Despite the high number, many scientists claim that it’s a case of mistaken identity, with insects doing it by accident, actually intending to impregnate a female mate.

The infamous gay sheep studies

You’ve probably heard of this highly publicised study by Oregon Health and Science University in 2003.

While most members of the animal kingdom swap between male and female partners, domestic rams are unique in that they can be completely gay, with 8-to-10 per cent of sheep exclusively homosexual.

A similar percentage of sheep also appear to be asexual, however, many believe that a large part of them could be lesbian sheep who do not have the physical capacity to show their lust given their structure as female sheep simply stand still regardless of whether they want intimacy or not.

However, instead of just letting these sheep be, heterosexual reproductive sex is considered so important in agriculture that experiments were conducted on the gay sheep to attempt to “cure” their homosexuality by altering their hormone levels in the brain.

The reality is that the discoveries from these sheep, along with other members of the animal kingdom, suggests that homosexuality in nature is indeed biological, despite what many homophobic people may argue.

Not to mention, of course, what we see and know from human beings. Surely, what we observe in society and throughout history should be enough? But that combined with the amazing facts about the animal kingdom tips the scales.

There is homosexuality in nature all around the world, whether people like it or not. These are just a few animals that we listed. No doubt, there are hundreds upon hundreds more.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Breaking the Binary

Share

– 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!

Share

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

Share

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.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

More People Than Ever Identify As Bisexual

Share

— So When Will We Be Taken Seriously?

By Bobby Box

Coming out as bisexual is a strange experience. You’re telling people something they already know: that you have a sexual interest in the opposite gender, and you’re mixing it with something they don’t know: that you also dig the same gender. It’s like mixing a super strong cocktail that some will slug back and others will spit out. Generally speaking, coming out as bisexual can communicate two very different and conflicting message to heterosexual and homosexual communities. As they say, the bisexual closet has two doors.

While most peers are (hopefully) supportive, straight people tend to think you’re experimenting, attesting your sexuality is temporary when it’s not. In the LGBT community, they tend to believe you’re only halfway out of the closet. You’re not entirely homosexual, so bisexuality is merely a pit-stop before admitting you’re gay (“bi now, gay later”). This double stigma can be incredibly frustrating and perhaps why the majority of bisexual individuals remain closeted, especially men.

It’s discouraging because we can’t seem to collectively understand a sexual orientation that one-third of today’s youth identifies with. A survey commissioned by the BBC last year found that percentages of people identifying as bisexual steadily increased the younger the respondents were. In Gen Z, 24 percent reported being mostly attracted to the opposite sex or equally attracted to both sexes compared to 18 percent of Gen-Yers and eight percent of Gen-Xers.

The majority still thinks in binary terms, especially with regard to sexuality and orientation. Bisexuality doesn’t sit well with that.  “I think the fact that there are varying ‘shades’ of bisexuality also throws people off a bit and this vaugery makes people uncomfortable,” Lawrence Siegel, clinical sexologist, tells Into. “For many, there is a distinct preference for one sex, but they enjoy occasional sexual and intimate contact with another (but they don’t all identify as bisexual),” he shares. “Others are equally attracted to men and women.  For many, this is still seen as a binary and those who are attracted to any type of sexual or gender expression are more likely to refer to themselves as ‘pansexual’ these days.”

Bisexual people comprise the largest segment of the LGBT community, and these numbers are increasing. Research from the Center for Disease Control found percentages of bisexual men and women had increased a considerable amount. As most of these studies conclude, more women report having sexual contact with both genders than men. This is partially due to the fact that bisexual women tend to be more accepted than men. Women liking women can be considered “hot” (though that’s definitely not what bisexual women are after). Bisexual men, on the other hand? They’re just gay and not willing to admit it. However, the number of men to identify as bisexual nearly doubled in five years. Among those who labeled themselves heterosexual, 13 percent of women and three percent of men had engaged in sexual contact with the same sex. “Mostly straight,” perhaps?

Still, the stigma persists and has affected the collective comfort levels of bisexual people. Only 28 percent of bisexuals said most or all of the important people in their lives knew about their sexual orientation, compared to 71 percent of lesbians and 77 percent of gay men. Again, the numbers were especially small among bisexual men, where only 12 percent said they were out to that degree, compared to one-third of bisexual women.

Workplace stigma is no different. Only 11 percent of bisexual people polled by Pew said most of their closest co-workers know about their sexual orientation, compared to 48 percent of gay men and 50 percent of lesbians. Bisexuals were also less likely to say their workplaces were accepting of them, and a separate study published in the Journal of Bisexuality found half of bisexual people surveyed said their coworkers misunderstood bisexuality.

The bisexual orientation is commonly misunderstood in a few ways (in addition to those already outlined). One is that we’re seen as promiscuous and cannot be trusted. “There’s a biphobic undercurrent of perceived disloyalty when it comes to bisexuality,” Page Turner, relationship coach, author and proud bisexual woman, tells INTO. As a relationship coach specializing in consensually non-monogamous relationships, Turner believes biphobia has greatly contributed to the stigma against people who are polyamorous or in open relationships. “While there are plenty of bisexual people who are also quite monogamous, I found many people think being bisexual means that you have to have at least one partner of each gender you’re attracted to at the same time,” she says. “And that if you’re bisexual you can’t really be happily monogamous with a single partner. That’s simply not the case.”

Bisexual women are viewed as either showgirls for straight men or sexual tourists for women. Bisexual men must convince men and women that they aren’t gay. Together, bisexuals are seen as more privileged in the LGBT community as we’re able to “duck” discrimination by entering straight relationships.

People like to put others in boxes: you’re gay or you’re straight; male or female. The reality is, gender and sexuality exist on a spectrum, this was established years ago. “I have bisexual friends who mostly date men and others who mostly date women,” Andrea Gonzalez, a bisexual woman, tells Into. “That doesn’t make them any less bisexual, just like being married to a woman or man doesn’t automatically change your sexuality. Now that I’m married to a woman, people assume my sexuality has been defined by that and I am no longer bisexual. It’s like the second you put a ring on it, you have to pick a side. That’s foolish.”

In fact, Gonzalez never officially came out as bisexual. “I never saw that as a real option,” she says. “I was made to feel like if I was going to come out, it had to be as gay, not anything in-between. I had always dated men. Then, at 18, I dated a woman so I thought, ‘OK, I’m a lesbian, I’ll come out as that.’” Later, Gonzalez went back to dating men and thought maybe people were right and that was just a phase. At 21, she started dating both men and women and became more open about her sexuality. That’s when she realized that she didn’t have to choose a side.

“I think a lot of people are underwhelmed by someone coming out as bisexual simply because they don’t see a real need to do so,” Siegel says. “They don’t see it the same way as coming out as gay, usually because they relate to the struggle of having a ‘different’ orientation.  There’s not a struggle they can see in being bisexual, especially if they don’t consider it a legitimate orientation.”

However, the very fact that there are more people identifying as bisexual speaks to the fact that bisexuality is being recognized; we’re at least acknowledging the subtleties of sexuality. Understanding it on the other hand? Not even close. And that’s an issue. “I do think bisexual people will be taken more seriously in the future,” Turner says. “The trends that I’ve observed over my lifetime have been extremely encouraging and I only see those continuing. I think it’ll be important for people to continue coming out and sharing their stories. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that the best defense against biphobia and bi erasure is existing and staying visible.”

Siegel agrees. “Where I see it not be taken more seriously is in the growing rejection of the binary view of both sex and gender,” he says. “As sexual and erotic orientations are opening up and expanding for people, there is less of an inclination for them to identify themselves according to traditional lines of male-female or gay-straight; or even bisexual.”

If you aren’t able to come out for whatever reason, Turner says it’s important to have conversations with people you trust. “People close to you don’t always understand right away,” she says. “It can take some time. In my own life, I’ve found that people close to me need time to really adjust and internalize new information. It might take longer than you like, but it does happen.”

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Disabled LGBT+ young people face a battle just to be taken seriously

Share
Following their own path.

By

As young people navigate adolescence, they ask questions about their sexual attractions and how they understand gender. If they are fortunate, they have access to sex and relationship educators or mentors and support networks. But my research with young people who identify as LGBT+ and disabled shows that they are often treated as though their gender or sexuality is just a phase.

In my research looking at the experiences of young people aged between 16 and 25, we’ve seen how harmful this approach can be. Not recognising that young disabled people can be LGBT+ can reduce their ability to have fulfilling sexual lives. It also reduces the chance that they will receive appropriate help and support in relation to their sexuality or gender throughout their lives.

Seeing sexuality or gender as a phase is not new. But for the young people we work with, it comes as a result of misconceptions about their disability, sexuality and their age. As one young person put it, with regards to their disability:

I do sometimes think that my mum thinks my whole mental health issues and my autism…I think she hopes it’ll go away, she goes on about me getting a job which makes me feel even worse. It makes me feel panicky. It makes me feel like she wants a better child than I am, like I am not good enough because I don’t want work.

These ideas about disability often work alongside misconceptions about sexuality. One young person explained how being gay was “blamed” on their disability. They felt that people think you are LGBT+ “because you are ill or have autism”.

In addition to confusion about disability and sexuality, young people reported challenges due to their age. One interviewee was told to hold off on identifying in one way until they’re older and more mature; “so that you know for sure, so it gives you time”.

These reactions suggest that there is resistance to young disabled people identifying as LGBT+. There seems to be a perception that young disabled people cannot understand LGBT+ sexuality. But the stories the young people told me show a long process of working to understand sexuality and gender. Such decisions were not trivial or a result of trends.

It’s not a phase

Labelling sexuality as a phase suggests that it is something through which one will pass, emerging on other side as heterosexual. This frames anything other than heterosexuality as being flawed and suggests that there is something undesirable about being LGBT+. One young person said that they thought being “LGBT in the heterosexual world is a bad thing”. As a society, we appear to be more accepting of LGBT+ identities. Yet not for young disabled LGBT+ people who are seen as non-sexual and unable to understand what LGBT+ means.

Young people have thought this through.

We need to think about sexuality and gender as part of life and not a passing moment. This is important because young disabled LGBT+ people need appropriate support. Labelling their sexuality as a phase denies them access to information and support as their sexuality is not seen as being valid. They may suffer physical and mental violence and discrimination because of who they are, and are left to fight on their own because no one recognises them for who they are.

In order to work against societal attitudes and misconceptions, we need to listen to the experiences of young disabled LGBT+ people and understand that they are experts in their own lives. Dismissing sexuality as a phase says a lot about societal attitudes towards what it means to be young, disabled and LGBT+. Yet most importantly, such reactions have a direct impact upon the intimate lives of young disabled people as they work against such challenges to make sense of who they are.

Share

Study: Even more Americans identify as something other than heterosexual

Share

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!

Share

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

Share

By

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!

Share

More young Americans now identify as bisexual

Share

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!

Share

Gay and bisexual male teens use adult dating apps to find sense of community, study shows

Share

June is PRIDE Month

By Darcel Rockett

[F]inding one’s community is integral to adolescent development. The members of that community create space for relationships to grow.

For some teens, that community is found on dating apps meant for adult gay men — apps that only require a user enter a birth date that coincides with the site’s legal terms of service.

A new Northwestern Medicine study (published in the Journal of Adolescent Health) found that more than 50 percent of sexually active gay and bisexual boys ages 14 to 17 use dating (also known as hook-up) apps like Grindr (21+) and Scruff (18+) to find new friends and boyfriends.

Data was gathered through online surveys taken by 200 sexually experienced teens in the United States and is the first known study on the topic.

“I was surprised we didn’t know this information when we started the study, but a lot of folks don’t do research on people under the age of 18, especially on LGBTQ teens under the age of 18, for a variety of reasons,” said Dr. Kathryn Macapagal, an author on the study and research assistant professor of medical social sciences at the Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “But we found that teens in this study were super excited that somebody was paying attention with what was going on in their lives and how these apps played a role in their sexual development and coming-out process,” she said.

Macapagal says gay and bisexual male teens turn to the apps to meet others in that community because they feel there are few opportunies to do so where they live. App features might also appeal to those not as open about their sexual identity, or who are navigating dating and sex with same-gender partners for the first time.

“Youth who use these apps are, many times, also looking for partners on Facebook, Instagram, Tindr, etc.,” Macapagal added. “If you’re using something like Grindr, the likelihood of you having a sexual relationship with this person is higher. But we also found that although you might have had sexual relations with these folks, these folks might have turned into friends, they might have turned into boyfriends. So there is some evidence that youth are getting lots more out of these apps than just sexual relationships.”

Dr. Hector Torres, chief program officer at the Center on Halsted, an LGBT community center in Lakeview, said he found the study to be “alarming and surprising.” So did Denise DeRosa, mother of three and cyber-safety consultant from Bethesda, Md.

“The fact that they’re on at all is definitely concerning,” she said. “There should be some type of mechanism to prevent this. As much as we parents can do, we can’t do everything, so I think these apps have to take some of the responsibility for making sure that their environment is safe – that there’s some sort of functioning guardrail to keep anybody under 18 from using it.”

DeRosa said she understands why a teen seeks out connections, but she is adamant about being careful when doing so online. She suggests parents step up their game to find out what their teen’s favorite apps are and which ones they stay on the longest.

“I wouldn’t want anyone to go meet someone without really, fully vetting these people or maybe telling a parent,” she said. “That’s where the dangers are, and I think that kind of goes across whether you’re heterosexual, homosexual, transgender or lesbian — we don’t want 14-year-olds seeking to date people 21 and older.”

But Torres cautioned that pressing for better youth protections on hookup apps, is probably a losing game. He said it’s too easy for less scrupulous apps to jump in and serve LGBTQ teens.

“Sexuality in adolescence is such a force that, no matter what we do, it’s going to happen,” he said. “The sex or hooking up apps are scary because of their bluntness and access, yet Facebook, Snapchat and other apps are often used the same way. We just don’t study them as much.”

When asked about the study results, Grindr offered this statement: “Grindr does not condone illegal or improper behavior and we are troubled that an underage person may have been using our app in violation of our terms of service. Grindr services are only available for adults. Grindr encourages anyone aware of any illegal or improper activity on the app to submit a report either within the app or via email.”

As with any social media site teenagers use, there are benefits and drawbacks. For example, the study found that teenage boys who used the apps were more likely to seek out important sexual health services, such as HIV testing.

“Gay and bisexual adolescent boys account for almost two-thirds of HIV infections among teenagers in the United States, but unfortunately sex education and HIV prevention tailored to their needs is almost nonexistent,” Macapagal said. “The sooner we understand the role these apps play in the lives of gay and bisexual teen guys, the sooner we will be able to tailor sex education and HIV prevention efforts for this population and help them live healthier lives.”

The study also highlights just how little parents, educators and health care providers know about how teens spend their time on apps and online technology that is constantly changing. This may have parents feeling they have little to no control over the situation, but Torres said they do have control over communication.

“If parents have good communication with children and know that their children want to meet more people like them, and they can meet that need, then the app becomes less necessary,” he said. “And there are places like Center on Halsted where young people can meet other young people and entertain themselves in a healthy environment and develop skills, and it’s supervised.”

Torres said it helps to have honest conversations with teens: What does it mean to have sex? If sex is going to happen, with whom should it happen? When should it happen? What are the risks, and how can you best protect yourself?

“What we do know from studies of heterosexual adolescents is that communication with parents can really help in sexual health and well-being,” Torres said. “And what happens with the LGBT community is that parents may be less comfortable talking about sex, and even less about these apps.”

Complete Article HERE!

Share

What Does It Actually Mean To Be Sexually Fluid?

Share

It’s not the same as being bisexual.

By

[R]ecently, I was speaking with a friend about sexuality and labels: She has fallen in love with both men and women, and cannot quite pin down her orientation.

She doesn’t feel fully lesbian and she doesn’t feel fully straight. But bisexual somehow doesn’t strike her as the right fit, either.

Hers is more an attraction she can categorize on a person-to-person basis and it has evolved over the years, but when pressed to define it herself, no single word surfaces.

I had two words to suggest: sexually fluid.

Sexually, what? This concept can be difficult to wrap your mind around, and comes with a lot of confusion.

What Is Sexual Fluidity?

“I define sexual fluidity as a capacity for a change in sexual attraction—depending on changes in situational or environmental or relationship conditions,” says Lisa Diamond, Ph.D., professor of psychology and gender studies at the University of Utah. Diamond should know: she literally wrote the book on this matter, Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love and Desire.

Sexual fluidity: The idea that sexual orientation can change over time, and depending on the situation at hand.

The concept of sexual fluidity doesn’t negate the existence of sexual orientation (heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, and so forth). Rather, fluidity builds in a little wiggle room, Diamond says.

Not quite getting it? Rena McDaniel—a clinical sexologist and licensed therapist—suggests thinking about a spectrum, with attraction to women-identifying people on the left side, and male-identifying people on the right. Your attraction profile exists within a bracket on that spectrum, and that bracket can slide: At age 22, for example, your attraction bracket might sit closer to the left, but by 30, you might find it’s shifted a few degrees to the right.

“You may, for instance, be attracted to the more feminine side of the gender spectrum, and over time, that may evolve and you may find yourself attracted to…people on more the masculine side…and that—over your lifetime—may shift and change,” McDaniel says.

That’s not to say a person chooses their sexual orientation, though: Rather, it means that the degree to which they’re attracted to men or women, or whoever, might vary somewhat over time.

In other words, sexual fluidity does not mean once I was exclusively attracted to men, and now I’m exclusively attracted to women, but something closer to I was once attracted to men and women, but these days I find myself attracted more or less exclusively to women. That migration can depend on a person’s experiences, Diamond adds, and on their personal relationships.

How Is It Different Than Bisexuality?

“Are you not just describing bisexuality?” I hear someone muttering off in the distance. Diamond says she gets that question a lot, and in truth, the two concepts do share much in common.

The confusion isn’t helped by a lack of agreement, even among bisexual people, as to what bisexual means: For some, it’s attraction to both genders; for others, it’s not caring about gender at all and gauging attraction on the basis of the person in front of you.

Bisexuality, she continues, “is a real orientation, it does exist, and I’ve seen a lot of people in the bisexual orientation experience themselves as consistently over time being attracted to both women and men. Maybe not to the exact same degrees—it doesn’t have to be 50/50—but they are consistently attracted to both women and men.”

Fluidity, meanwhile, connotes change over time: “Someone who’s fluid, they aren’t necessarily going to consistently experience attraction for both women and men,” Diamond explains. “There may be times in their life that they are more aware of attraction toward one gender, and times in their life when they’re attracted to the other gender.”

Further, not everyone exhibits the same degree of fluidity—and some people don’t experience fluidity at all, which is also fine. You can be the most open-minded person in the world and still not summon up attraction for a man-identifying or woman-identifying person, because again, you don’t get to choose sexual orientation.

And while Diamond’s research used to indicate that women-identified people were more fluid than male-identified, that’s changing. Many men are increasingly comfortable describing themselves as mostly heterosexual, Diamond notes.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

For Queer Women, What Counts as Losing Your Virginity?

Share

I wanted, desperately, to know if the sex I was having “counted.”

[A]fter I hooked up with someone, I snuck out of bed and into the darkness of my balcony, alone. A nervous wreck, I texted my friend, practically hyperventilating because of something I’d never expected to worry about at all.

Hoping for an answer, I texted: Am I still a virgin if I had sex with a girl?

My friend asked what I thought, but I really didn’t know. The woman I’d slept with defined sex as penetration, so by her definition, we hadn’t had sex. She, as the older, long-time queer in the hookup, had the upper hand. I didn’t think it was up to me. After all, what did I know about the rules of girl-on-girl sex, let alone what counts as losing your virginity? Could it be sex if only half of the people involved thought it was?

To me, it felt like it had to be sex, because if not sex, what was it?

It was a panic I never expected to feel. I was super open-minded. I was super feminist. I should have been beyond thrilled and empowered by the fact that I’d had a positive sexual encounter. But instead of cuddling the girl I was sleeping with and basking in our post-sex glow, or even vocalizing my worry over whether or not we’d just had sex, I was panicking in solitude.

My identity has always been a blur—I’m biracial, bisexual, and queer—and it’s something that makes me feel murky, unsure of who I am. Virginity was just the newest thing to freak out about. I stood in the dark alone and tried to figure out, once again, how to define myself.

I wanted, desperately, to know if the sex I was having “counted.” And I’m not the only one.

While many people have a strained relationship with the concept of virginity (and whether or not it exists to begin with), for queer women, the role of virginity is especially complicated.

“Virginity is a socially constructed idea that is fairly exclusive to the heterosexual population,” Kristen Mark, Ph.D. an associate professor of health promotion at University of Kentucky and director of the sexual health promotion lab, told SELF. “There is very little language in determining how virginity is ‘lost’ in non-heterosexual populations. Given the relatively large population of non-heterosexual populations, the validity of virginity is poor.”

As a result, many of us are stressed out by the concept, and left wondering if there’s just something other queer women know that we aren’t quite in on.

For Sam Roberts*, the lack of clarity surrounding expectations of queer women made them hesitant to come out in the first place. “I didn’t come out as queer until I was 25,” they tell SELF. “I felt vulnerable because of the lack of understanding around queer sexuality. Certainly it has gotten better, but not having a model for what queer sex ([specifically] for [cisgender]-women) looks like via health class, media, or pop culture can make it hard to know how to navigate that space.”

Alaina Leary, 24, expressed similar frustrations the first time they had sex. “My first sex partner and I had a lot of conversations around sex and sexuality,” Leary tells SELF. “We were essentially figuring it out on our own. Health class, for me, never taught me much about LGBTQ sex.”

When you’ve been socialized to view penetration as the hallmark of sexual intercourse, it’s hard to know what counts as losing your virginity—or having sex, for that matter.

“For many queer women, what they consider sex is not considered sex from a heteronormative perspective,” Karen Blair, Ph.D., professor of psychology at St. Francis Xavier University and director of the KLB Research Lab, tells SELF. “So this can complicate the question of when one lost their virginity, if ever.”

“Even if one expands the definition of having lost one’s virginity to some form of vaginal penetration, many queer women may never actually ‘lose’ their virginity—to the extent that it is something that can be considered ‘lost’ in the first place.”

To be clear, relying on penetration as a defining aspect of sex only serves to exclude all those who aren’t interested in or physically capable of engaging in penetrative sexual acts—regardless of their sexual orientation. Ultimately, requiring sex to be any one thing is inherently difficult because of the limitless differences among bodies and genitals, and the simple fact that what feels pleasurable to one body can be boring at best, and traumatizing at worst, to another.

The lack of a clear moment when one became sexually active can make us feel like the sex we have doesn’t count.

We live in a culture that overwhelmingly values virginity, with “losing your v-card” still seen as a step into adulthood. It’s something that, as a former straight girl, I’d never even thought about, but, as a queer girl, I became obsessive over: When was I really, truly, having sex?

It was especially frustrating considering that my straight friends seemed instantly thrust into this status of adults in real, legitimate sexual relationships, while my relationships were being thought of as “foreplay” by the mainstream, rather than valid sex acts.

Apparently, I wasn’t alone in feeling this way. “We had straight friends who were having sex and doing sexual things in very defined ways,” Leary says. “One of my friends was obsessed with the ‘bases’ and insisted that her oral sex with her boyfriend didn’t count as sex because it was ‘only third base.’”

So what does that mean for those of us who will only ever engage in “foreplay?”

Considering the larger structures and cultural expectations that make queer women feel invalid, virginity is just another way that we’re left feeling somehow less than our straight and cisgender counterparts.

“The primary impact of the concept of virginity on queer women is an—even if unconscious—feeling of inferiority or oppression,” Dr. Mark explains. “We as a society place so much emphasis on virginity loss, yet it is a concept that is only relevant to a portion of the population. Women in general, regardless of sexual orientation, know they are sexual objects before they are sexually active due to the existence of the concept of virginity.”

Consider the fact that most young women first learn about sex in the context of virginity, which often exists under the scope of “purity.” This, Dr. Mark says, can make women feel “defined by virginity status.”

As a result, when queer women do have sex, and it doesn’t “count” as their virginity being “taken,” they can be left confused about the encounter and unsure of how valid their sexual relationships are to begin with.

At the end of the day, it’s up to queer women to define what virginity—and sex—mean for ourselves.

“I would encourage queer women to define their sexual lives in ways that make sense for them,” Dr. Mark explains. “If they have created an idea around virginity that makes it important to them, I encourage them to think about alternate ways to define it that fits with their experience. But I also encourage the rejection of virginity for women who feel like it doesn’t fit for them.”

This lack of an expectation (beyond consent, of course) when it comes to how you have sex can actually be freeing, in a way, Dr. Blair says.

“One of the best things that queer women have going for them in their relationships is the freedom to write their own sexual scripts in a way that suits them and their partners best.”

Complete Article HERE!

Share