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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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Course disputes idea that heterosexual sex is ‘natural’

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  • Eugene Lang College is offering a “Queer Ecologies” course this fall devoted to countering “heterosexist” explanations of animals and nature.
  • According to the instructor, common scientific practices like using the terms “male” and “female” when describing reproduction among plants and animals contributes to the perception that “queerness” is “unnatural.”

By Toni Airaksinen

Eugene Lang College, part of The New School in Lower Manhattan, will offer a course next semester for students who wish to fight “heterosexist” explanations of animals and nature.

Taught by Heather Davis, “Queer Ecologies” is a four-credit course offered by the school’s Culture and Media department for students who wish to “disrupt prevailing heterosexist discursive and institutional articulations of sexuality and nature.” 

According to the professor, these “heterosexist” explanations of sexuality and nature often involve referring to male/female animals.

According to the course description, students will be taught to “reimagine evolutionary processes, ecological interactions, and environmental politics in light of queer theory” by drawing from research in fields such as feminist science studies and environmental justice. 

Students will also “draw important connections between the material and cultural dimensions of environmental issues, and examine the ways in which sex and nature are understood in light of multiple trajectories of power and matter,” the description adds. 

During an interview with Campus Reform, Davis explained that queer ecologies is an “interdisciplinary field that examines the relationship between sexuality and nature, thinking beyond the boundaries of assuming that heterosexuality is the norm or standard.”

The field “inquires into the sexual lives of animals, plants, and bacteria—lives that are often much more strange, adaptable, and queer than anything humans do,” she elaborated. “It also seeks to critique how heterosexuality is presumed as natural.”

While it is not immediately apparent why the school’s Culture and Media department is offering the class, Davis explained that the course takes aim at how institutions like media outlets and schools often perpetuate myths about sex, gender, and the environment.

Such institutions, Davis said, often promote the idea that “mammals only use sex for reproduction, and that this is always heterosexual sex,” for example.

“We can see this in how queerness is often said to be ‘unnatural’…rather than thinking about how queer sex might actually be helpful to the survival of species,” Davis noted.

One example of this, Davis asserted, is how scientists often characterize plants using gender-specific language.

“We still tend to characterize plants that reproduce sexually in heterosexual terms where a male and female plant need to transfer gametes. Although this understanding of plant reproduction is not un-true, it misses the point that in order for these plants to fertilize they also rely on other species, such as bees and wasps,” she argued.

“In other words, reproduction here is about cross-species interaction, even pleasure, and reducing this description to purely an exchange of genes misses the opportunity to inquire into these relationships,” Davis elaborated. “Queer theory helps to broaden the picture, understanding the behaviours and companionships that exist in these ecologies.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Gay or bi men who disclose sexual history may get better healthcare

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By Anne Harding

Young men who have sex with men (MSM) who disclose their sexual orientation or behavior to a health care provider are more likely to receive appropriate healthcare, new data suggest.

Dr. Elissa Meites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and her colleagues studied 817 MSM, ages 18 to 26, who had seen a healthcare provider in the past year.

Men who had disclosed were more than twice as likely as those who had not to have received the full panel of recommended screenings and vaccines, the researchers found.

The CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommend that MSM be screened for HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia at least once a year, and immunized against hepatitis A and B and human papillomavirus (HPV), Meites and her colleagues note the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases.

Overall, 67 percent of the study participants had received all four recommended STI screenings, but that was true for only 51 percent of the MSM who had never disclosed.

Nine percent overall had received all vaccinations, compared to six percent of those who hadn’t disclosed.

The pattern was similar when researchers looked to see how many participants received all seven recommended services. The rate was just seven percent for the overall study population, but it was even lower – at less than four percent – for the MSM who hadn’t disclosed.

About two-thirds of study participants (64.2 percent) said they had disclosed their sexual behavior or orientation to a healthcare provider, while roughly nine in 10 (91.7 percent) said they would do so if it was important to their health.

“This shows us that the patients are doing all the right things. They are going to the doctor regularly and they are willing to speak about their sexual behaviors,” Meites told Reuters Health in a telephone interview. “It looks like health care providers may be missing some opportunities to provide the best health care to these young men.”

Doctors can encourage disclosure among MSM by asking about sexual history, and “fostering a clinical environment where people can be comfortable revealing their sexual behavior,” Meites said. And doctors should be aware of the panel of health care services that are recommended for MSM, she added.

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I’m a young gay man. Here’s how sex-ed class failed to represent students like me

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Sex ed taught me little about LGBT relationships, so I went searching on my own

Nathan Sing today.

“Don’t have sex, because you will get pregnant and die.”

Before today, this exclamation by the pedophiliac health teacher Coach Carr in the iconic film Mean Girls formed the bulk of my understanding of sex-ed class.

But on this afternoon in my high school library, as my classmates and I giggled, two sexual health educators taught us how to put on a condom on a banana — or as per the demonstration — a wooden dildo painted as the universally-loved Nintendo character Yoshi.

As the educator slid the condom down the shaft of the dildo (or in this case Yoshi’s pink tongue), my best friend and I held back laughter as we did the same to our bananas, unaware how normal this practice would become in our lives years later.

The educator followed the demonstration by briefly discussing a wide variety of topics, without going in-depth into the many aspects of sex education that concern LGBT people and the distinctive qualities that concern the queer community.

Instead, a majority of the conversation focused on contraceptives, bullying, pregnancy and heterosexual-centric information involving relationships between men and women.

Even then, these classes were short. I can say with absolute certainty that I spent more time in high school memorizing the periodic table of elements than the sum of classes that were focused on sexual health.

My school’s sexual education primarily equipped me with misapplied information on how to be a respectful cisgender heterosexual man — although topics concerning queer people were brought up in sex-ed class, the majority of the focus was allocated towards heteronormative material, which bolstered the feeling that my concerns came second to that of my heterosexual peers.

Even though information on LGBT relationships and sexual health was somewhat of an afterthought compared to my heterosexual counterparts, the brief acknowledgement that I could one day get married — and that my feelings were valid — was enough for me to seek out more information on my own.

I had grown up in an environment where I was assumed to be heterosexual, and I often internally questioned my sexuality. At an early age, I was rarely given information that reassured me I belonged or what I was feeling was valid.

Nathan Sing at a younger age.

Having no LGBT figures in my life, I formed an idea of what it meant to be gay through stereotyped characters in television and film. These stereotypes permeated my perception of what it was to be a gay man so deeply that in my early years as a teenager I equated an interest in fashion and speaking with an “unmasculine” way to being a gay man.

I could not go to my heterosexual parents although they raised me with progressive and inclusive views, because they had no knowledge of same-sex relationships or answers to my questions about being a gay minority man. Instead, I sought out this information from online forums, various blogs and informative videos on YouTube.

Being that I had no queer friends or family members and was not openly gay myself, consuming this information solitarily felt isolating at times. Still, watching these videos offered a sense of inclusivity and community through my screen, as I discovered resources that my school’s sex-ed class lacked.

Through these digital resources, I watched hundreds of videos where individuals shared their coming out stories, learned of the mistreatment of gay men during the HIV/AIDS epidemic as well as other cases of mistreatment of LGBT people throughout history, and became educated on the precautionary measures to take while on dating apps.

Even though I found answers to my questions independently, not all youth will go to these lengths for the information they need.

Young LGBT people, especially those in marginalized communities where talking about queer identity with family may be difficult, will undoubtedly benefit from being taught comprehensive and representative material in school instead of being taught a curriculum that largely benefits youth in heterosexual relationships. I am a young gay minority and part of a community that is often underrepresented, heavily stereotyped and misportrayed in the mainstream — it’s incontrovertible that I would have benefitted from that kind of sexual education.

For a time, it seemed that this ideal world could become a reality in Ontario high schools: in 2015, three years after I saw a condom being slid over Yoshi’s tongue, the Liberal BC and Ontario governments updated the sexual-education curriculum to cover areas including mental illness and stereotypes in media.

In Ontario, the changes were even more considerable being that this was the first update to the curriculum since 1998; the new 2015 curriculum added new topics including same-sex relationships and gender identity, the concept of consent, homophobia, sexting and cyberbullying, to name a few.

Yet on July 11, 2018, less than three years after the Ontario Liberals introduced the new sex-ed curriculum, Ontario’s education minister announced that in September, students would be going back in time: the revised curriculum will be replaced with the one from 1998. Students will be taught a sexual-education program that is as old as I am.

This is a curriculum that was designed well before the creation of Tinder and Grindr, let alone the devices they are powered by. In an age where youth are exposed to sex by virtue of social media, technology and dating apps, this curriculum will not equip young students with the information required to properly learn about and deal with revenge porn, cyberstalking and consent, issues that were not as prevalent or discussed two decades ago.

The Ontario Progressive Conservatives’ decision to return to a 20-year-old way of teaching a subject as ever-changing and complex as sexuality is not only absurd but irresponsible. What a young person learns in sex ed during their formative years sets the groundwork to cultivate their identity, build their confidence and have agency over their own sexual health.

Nathan Sing as a teenager.

The information that is taught in sex ed goes beyond courses such as chemistry and calculus; while those classes may get some in the door to college, topics related to sexual health are fundamental to everyone. We are sacrificing medical- and fact-based information for the next generation over intransigent moral opposition from parents and politicians.

Even if the 2015 curriculum is not taught in schools, young people will still seek out information about sex, but from potentially dangerous sources. In today’s world where knowledge is in the hands of every young person with a cell phone or laptop, offering students comprehensive information about sexual health in a place meant for learning can help keep youth from believing and acting on false and potentially damaging information they might discover on their own. This is especially true for LGBT students, who often don’t see themselves reflected in sex-ed programs.

The world has changed dramatically over the last 20 years, as has our knowledge of sexual health. The way Ontario’s educators — and all educators for that matter — teach sexual health and education must reflect that.

Come September, young people in Canada’s most populated province will be learning about sexual health from a curriculum that predates the impact of the internet, the cultural shift towards the mainstream acceptance of LGBT people, and the legalization of same-sex marriage in Canada. If I am proof that this more recent curriculum still has a ways to go in meeting young people’s needs, the announcement that students will now be taught a more dated program should be hard to swallow for everyone.

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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Why straight parents struggle to talk to their LGBTQ kids about sex and how to make it easier

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[A] few months ago over Sunday brunch, my 18-year-old daughter and I fell into a discussion about sex and dating. Between the omelets and crepes, she described how she felt about her new boyfriend, and I gave advice on enjoying their young love while retaining her independence and sense of self.

From the time she was in middle school, I have spoken to my daughter about how to stay safe on dates — never let anyone else get your drink, no means no, you do not have to do anything you do not want to do, always practice safe sex — and other rules I wanted her to live by. Every discussion we have had and every piece of advice I have given originated from our shared identity as cisgender, straight females.

Not long after that brunch, I read about a recent set of online focus groups conducted by Northwestern University that examined heterosexual parents’ attitudes toward talking about sex with their lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer teens. Some of the remarks from those parents made me realize how easy I have had it, in a way, talking with my teenage daughter. Few parents feel comfortable broaching the subject of sex with their children, but parents of LGBTQ teens have the added challenge of not always feeling equipped to talk about an experience they themselves have not had.

“I have no idea what sex is really like for men, especially for gay men,” one mother commented.

Another parent reported sending her bisexual daughter to a lesbian friend to talk to her about “gay sex.”

“I felt challenged that I’m straight, my daughter is dating a gal, and I didn’t know anything about that,” the mom wrote. “All my sex talks were about how not to get pregnant and how babies are conceived.”

Aside from sexual education in schools (which is not universal) teens learn about sex from their parents and peers, so if no one in their life knows what it is like to have the sex that corresponds to their orientation, they are left to fend for themselves. Michael Newcomb, lead author of the focus-group study and an assistant professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, says it is difficult for heterosexual parents of an LGBTQ teen to give advice about how to stay safe when having sex. In fact, parents who participated in the Northwestern focus groups reported sexual safety was the most challenging subject for them when giving advice to their LGBTQ teens.

“The mechanics of sex are different for LGBTQ people in some ways, so those young people could be unprepared the first time they have sex and could get into unsafe situations,” Newcomb says. “Most often with safety, we think about prevention of things like HIV and STDs, but safety encompasses much more than that. It’s about not feeling coerced into having sex, it’s about feeling comfortable while you’re having sex, not being in pain; all of those kinds of things that would be very difficult to prepare for if no one in your life knew what it was like for you to have sex.”

About a quarter of the 44 parents in the focus groups expressed concerns about predators, with one parent of a 16-year-old, questioning, gender-nonconforming teen writing. “They are in a very vulnerable place, and sometimes I feel they are desperate for a true friendship/relationship. If they were to let someone in, I would really want to get to know the person and understand their intentions.”

Newcomb says because there are fewer LGBTQ people than there are heterosexuals, it can be difficult to find partners in more traditional settings, such as schools. So they may be more likely to meet partners online.

“Navigating who you can or cannot trust online can be very challenging, particularly when most people on those sites are adults,” Newcomb says. “If LGBTQ youth are highly motivated to meet partners online because they feel isolated, they may overlook some indicators that potential partners may not be trustworthy.”

I spoke with one mother who, with her husband, has two sons, one who is straight and the other who is gay. Long before her son came out to her when he was 14, she suspected he was gay.

“It was a matter of him getting comfortable talking to me about it,” says the mom, who asked to remain anonymous to protect her family’s privacy.

In the five years since, she has talked openly with him about sex and relationships and says she is lucky she has a lot of gay friends whom she often turned to for advice.

While acknowledging she needed some assistance with the more mechanical aspects of gay sex, she says she spoke to both her sons in the same way when it came to how good relationships work.

“It has nothing to do with being gay, but about keeping the lines of communication open and letting your kids understand that they are being listened to,” she says.

Newcomb, who is also a clinical psychologist, advises parents — whatever their teen’s sexual orientation — to initiate conversations about sex and dating, regardless of how uncomfortable they or their teenagers feel.

“The more frequently parents initiate conversations about sex and dating, the more likely it is that their child will come to them when they have a question or when they could potentially be in trouble,” Newcomb says.

He added it is important for parents to tell their LGBTQ teen their experience as a heterosexual person might be different and to acknowledge what they do not know. Newcomb suggests parents and their LGBTQ teen do research together online because parents may be better prepared to evaluate the credibility of the information. It also gives parents the opportunity to teach Internet literacy.

“Parents may need to help their teens figure out who they can and cannot trust online, as well as put in place strategies for staying safe when meeting people in person who they met online initially (for example, meet in public places or have a parent meet the other person first),” Newcomb says in an email.

He also recommends reaching out to organizations such as PFLAG, a national nonprofit that provides information and resources to LGBTQ people and their families.

“It’s a great support system for parents — particularly with a child who is first coming out — to be around other parents who are much more experienced. It can help in providing role models for how to effectively parent LGBTQ teens,” Newcomb says.

Complete Article ↪HERE↩!

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

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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!

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What Does It Actually Mean To Be Sexually Fluid?

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It’s not the same as being bisexual.

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[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!

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Loads of straight people are having same-sex sex

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If you’ve ever had a same-sex experience, but consider yourself to be straight, then you’re not alone. 

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[I]n fact, you’re in good company. According to research released in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, 25% of women who’ve had same-sex sexual experiences consider themselves to be straight.

The research examined just over 24,000 undergraduate students, and of that 24,000, a quarter of women and 1 in 8.5 men, have had sexual experiences with people of their own gender, but don’t consider themselves to be gay or bi.

The study’s co-author, Arielle Kuprberg, explained that same-sex experiences don’t ‘make’ you homosexual, saying: ‘Not everybody who has same-sex relationships is secretly gay,” says co-author Arielle Kuperberg, Ph.D., director of Undergraduate Studies in Sociology at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, who has written extensively on student relationships. “There was a big disconnect between what people said their sexual orientation was and what their actions were.’

So, if it’s not because you’re gay, why would you hook up with someone of your own gender?

The study found that there are two main reasons: experimentation and performance.

Experimentation occurs when people – especially young people – want to try something new. Even if they enjoy the experience, they don’t consider it to have changed their sexual identity.

So called ‘performative bisexuality’ happens when people (usually women) enjoy sexual contact with other women because of the attention that it garners and the arousal that it provokes in others. It’s more about reaction than the actual act, which is why people who experiment with performative bisexuality don’t usually consider themselves to be genuinely gay or bi.

The great thing about your sexual orientation is that you get to pick how you label it, if you label it at all.

There’s no obligation to define yourself in a specific way if you don’t want to, and no-one else can tell you which title is the ‘right’ fit for your sexuality.

Complete Article HERE!

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Sexuality especially taboo for LGBTQ and sex shouldn’t be closeted for anyone

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By C.L. Quebedeaux

[W]e’ve all been told at one point or another about the significance of sex. Whether it was to help us prepare for sex or deny it altogether, these conversations are always brought up. Learning about of the significance of sex in the human experience is a discovery that every person should be able to go through individually. Sex is an important part of humanity and should be acknowledged in that way.

Everyone goes through a point in life in which they are forced to acknowledge the existence of sex. We are sexual beings by nature. No matter how much we are taught to deny it or think of it as a mythical thing, sex is nonetheless an integral part of the human experience. Whether we are sat down and lectured by our parents or we find information in a magazine or online, humans discover the idea of sex eventually.

There seems to have always been a stigma surrounding sex that assigns it to a rather taboo place in our minds. Through various religious and social institutions, humans have been programmed to view sex as a secret. Rather than embracing this part of our nature, we are taught to pretend that it doesn’t exist, that we do not have these innate urges within our bodies.

The denial of the human body and its pleasures taught to us often leaves people with reservations about their own sexuality. If a person is taught the sexual urges they experience are not holy enough or are not within the realm of acceptable sexual behavior, they end up alienated from their own body. The constant denial of sexuality leads people to either avoid the experience entirely or to the most extreme ends of sexual experience.

The queer community for so long has been a specific group that has been denied the right to the sexual experience. For so long, queer people have been told that their sexual urges and desires are not legitimate enough to be embraced or discussed in society. The queer response to this suppression was the overt sexualization of queer culture. Because they have been denied the right to sexual pleasure for so long, the queer community embraced sexuality to the extreme.

Because of this response, queer culture is now stigmatized to seem like an animalistic center of extreme sexuality. This characterization has led queer culture to be pushed even further into the taboo categories of society. The explosion of queer sexuality caused by society’s suppression of the queer existence is now used as a reason to ostracize the community even further.

The societal movements to put sexuality in a closet ignore the nature of humanity and sexuality altogether. When we deny a fundamental part of ourselves, we lose the ability to embrace ourselves and our bodies for what they are. Sexuality is an important part of the human experience that should be accepted as a part of our nature.

Sex is an expression of the human body and its passion. To deny this is to assume that these passions and these natural urges do not mean anything. To assume that sex is an aspect of humanity that should be suppressed is to neglect its necessity.

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What does queer mean?

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The word “queer” remains controversial, but while some still do find the term derogatory, most LGBTQ+ people have proudly reclaimed the anti-gay slur and use it in a positive light.

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[I]n the English language, queer dates back to the 16th century, and was possibly derived from the German word ‘quer’, which translates as ‘oblique’ or ‘perverse’.

Originally defined as “odd”, “strange” or “peculiar”, the term “queer” took on a more sordid meaning from the mid-20th century when it was used to pejoratively refer to those with same-sex desires, especially gay men.

But, with the rise of LGBTQ+ activism in the 1970s and 1980s, some gay rights campaigners positively reclaimed the word “queer” as an umbrella term for gender and sexual minorities.

Today, queer is widely used by millennials as an inclusive term to refer to anyone who is not straight and/or not cisgender.

But, for some people, particularly older generations, “queer” still carries negative connotations.

Just last month, Twitter banned some users who had described themselves as “queer,” facing a backlash from those who had reclaimed the term.

Definitions

According to Brian Lewis, whose book British Queer History was published in 2013, the word “queer” today has three primary uses.

He explains: “’Queer’ is used in three main ways: as an act of reclamation from homophobes; as an umbrella term for the micro divisions of the LGBT+ community; and as a marker of sexual fluidity in opposition to heterosexual and homosexual binaries and identities.”

For Lewis, the term “queer” is “one of the most useful—and controversial—categories of analysis in the study of sexuality.”

Similarly Alan Butler, a research fellow in history at the University of Plymouth, who is also secretary in the LGBTQ+ arm of the Oral History Society, recognises this contradiction.

“’Queer’ has had multiple meanings through time,” he says. “Currently it’s framed by many as an umbrella term for people who exist outside of heteronormative and cis gender norms. For many people though it’s been derogatory and still is.”

Meanwhile, Justin Bengry, who lectures in and convenes the Queer History MA at Goldsmiths, University of London, the first course of its kind in the UK, says: In academia we often use ‘queer’ as an umbrella term.

“As an inclusive term to include the widest range of gender and sexual diversity in the past and the present.”

He continues: Some activists too have positively reclaimed ‘queer’ as an inclusive term that welcomes people beyond the LGBT spectrum or whose identities fall outside those categories.

Some people don’t want to be identified by LGBT categories – they reject being cateogrised and being labelled.

Queer and same-sex desire

Early recorded examples of queer meaning same-sex desire include a letter written in 1894 by John Sholto Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry.

Bengry talks about a letter he has read dating from the 1930s where the writer talks about being “queer” in reference to his desire for another man.

He explains: Even though he’s writing in terms that are similar to our understandings of ‘gay’ today, there are still important differences in the past. But he’s certainly writing about same-sex desires.”

The mid-20th century and negative meaning

From the mid-20th century onwards, however, the term “queer” started to take on a negative meaning and was used to pejoratively refer to LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly gay or bisexual men.

Bengry says that by the mid-20th century “queer” was being used in a way that was “derogatory and venomous and negative.”

Butler explains: “In the 1940s, 50s and 60s, the term was very prevalent and used to describe and often put down LGBT people.

“It tended to be associated most closely with gay men and was used as an insult. The continued through the 80s and 90s and even today some people use it as an insult or as a term of hatred.

Reclaiming the word “queer”

As Lewis writes in his book, British Queer History, from the 1980s the word “queer” began to be reclaimed by “radical grassroots activists in organisations like Queer Nation and ACT UP (in the US) and Outrage! (in Britain).”

These individuals, Lewis writes, “began to deploy it as a calculated and edgy act of reclamation.”

By reclaiming the word “queer”, says Bengry, LGBTQ+ rights activists redefined themselves – and hit back against those who had used the term to insult them.

He says: From the 80s and 90s, with the development of a more radical activism and queer theory, ‘queer’ really came to be redeployed in opposition to the venom of its use in the past.

“Queer people now said: ‘No, this is our word, and we’re taking it back … we’re reclaiming it for our own purposes and activism.’”

Using queer with caution today

But Bengry says the “strongest association” that “many people alive today” still have is of queer being used “threateningly, dangerously, as a weapon, aggressively.”

Consequently, he says, we must act with awareness when using the term “queer.”

He continues: “Many people were physically assaulted and emotionally harmed, and that was the word that accompanied those assaults.”

“That threat and violence is still incredibly resonant for them. It’s something that we all have to bear in mind when we use [queer] today – we can be re-traumatising people by using this word.”

As Bengry points out, the term “is useful and complex”. He adds: “Some people today actively claim it as an identity. It also recognises a much greater diversity of experience and identity than any other term.”

For Butler, “queer” is particularly a taboo word in Plymouth, where he teaches, because of a homophobic murder in 1995. After the crime, someone sprawled the homophobic graffiti “no queer’s here” at the scene of the murder.

Still, Butler is happy that, at least outside Plymouth, the word “queer” has been positively reclaimed.

“If something perceived as an insult is owned and celebrated by you then it loses its power in terms of hatred,” he says.

Complete Article HERE!

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Many parents unsure of talking about sex with LGBT kids

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[M]any parents of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) teens feel uneasy and uninformed when it comes to talking to them about sex and dating, a new study shows.

The study included 44 parents of LGBT teens between the ages of 13 and 17. The parents cited many challenges in trying to educate their teens about sex, including general discomfort in talking about it, and feeling unable to offer accurate advice about safe LGBT sex.

“Parents play an important role in helping their children learn how to have healthy sexual relationships, but they really struggle when discussing this with their LGBTQ teens,” study author Michael Newcomb said. He is associate director for scientific development at Northwestern University’s Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing.

The study was published recently in the journal Sexuality Research and Social Policy.

“We need resources to help all parents — regardless of their child’s sexual orientation or gender identity — overcome the awkwardness and discomfort that can result from conversations about sexual health,” Newcomb said in a university news release.

He noted that a healthy and supportive relationship with parents is a key predictor of positive health outcomes in teens of all sexual orientations.

“Many parents and their LGBTQ teens want to have supportive relationships with one another, so if we can design programs to strengthen these relationships, it could have a tremendous impact on LGBTQ teens’ health and wellbeing,” he said.

In a separate study, institute researchers examined how gay and bisexual boys between 14 and 17 felt about talking to their parents about sex.

“We found that many of the gay and bisexual male youth in our study wanted to be closer to their parents and to be able to talk about sex and dating,” study lead author Brian Feinstein said in the news release.

“However, most of them said that they rarely, if ever, talked to their parents about sex and dating, especially after coming out. And, even if they did talk about sex and dating with their parents, the conversations were brief and focused exclusively on HIV and condom use,” Feinstein said. He is a research assistant professor.

That study was published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior.

Complete Article HERE!

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