How Better Sex Education Supports LGBTQ Kids’ Mental Health

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By Kelly Gonsalves

We know sex education in America needs a lot of work. Not only do most states lack comprehensive, medically accurate, and pleasure-positive sex ed programs, but they also tend to leave out or outright antagonize LGBTQ kids.

And according to recent research, sex ed that excludes sexual and gender minorities can have a severely damaging effect on these young people’s mental health: A new study published in the American Journal of Sexuality Education found a lack of inclusivity in sex ed was associated with more anxiety, depression, and suicidal tendencies in LGBTQ people both in high school and later in life.

Current LGBTQ sex education policies.

When it comes to American sex ed, the sorry stats speak for themselves: Just 24 states require sex ed be taught in schools at all, 27 states require abstinence be stressed in any sex ed programs provided, and just 13 states require all school sex ed programs to be medically accurate.

But if that picture looks grim, it’s even worse for LGBTQ kids. According to GLSEN, a national organization that promotes inclusive education, seven states still have laws prohibiting the “promotion of homosexuality” in classrooms. Three states (Alabama, South Carolina, and Texas) require “only negative information” on sexual orientation be provided in sex ed programs. For example, here’s a snippet of Alabama’s law on the matter: “Classes must emphasize, in a factual manner and from a public health perspective, that homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under the laws of the state.”

There are nine states that require inclusive and LGBTQ-friendly sex education, thankfully. (You can find out more about each individual state’s education policy from the Guttmacher Institute.)

Why LGBTQ sex education is important.

Researchers surveyed 263 people between ages 18 and 26, all of whom identified as sexual minorities (meaning they identified sexually as something other than straight). About 21 percent of them were also trans or nonbinary. They were asked about their experiences in their school sex ed classes, their mental health during high school and after presently, their substance use, and their sexual behaviors.

As expected, the results showed most sexual minority students received “highly heteronormative and exclusive sex education.” The greater the level of exclusion in the program was, the greater their rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide risk were as well. “Many of these associations persisted among the sample even after graduating high school,” the researchers noted. “Although poor mental health outcomes generally lessened over time, those reporting greater levels of exclusion endorsed lingering mental health consequences.” And students who were trans or nonbinary in addition to identifying as a sexual minority reported even worse mental health outcomes compared to cisgender sexual minority students.

But the flip side was also true: LGBTQ people who perceived their sex ed program to have been more inclusive tended to have less anxiety, less depression, and fewer suicidal tendencies.

“More inclusive sex education may fulfill a protective role, providing normalization and visibility of sexual minority orientations in the curriculum,” the researchers write. “These results highlight the potential power of sex education policies and laws at the national, state, and local level on sexual minority youth.”

The study found LGBTQ kids were not more likely to practice safer sex just because a program was inclusive, suggesting comprehensive, medically accurate sex ed is still paramount to protecting young people of all stripes in addition to increasing inclusivity. But in general, research shows inclusive classrooms benefit sexual and gender minority students in many tangible ways, including making them feel safer, encounter less bullying in middle and high schools, be less likely to engage in risky sexual or substance-related behaviors, and have better academic outcomes.

Inclusive sex ed as a mental health issue.

Why would sex ed have such a powerful effect on mental health, in particular?

“The immediacy of sex education during the process of sexual identity formation may help to explain these associations,” the researchers explain. Indeed, the major milestones of sexual identity formation tend to happen during middle and high school, around the same time kids are learning about sex in general and experiencing school sexual education programs. Gay kids, for example, tend to have their first experience with being attracted to someone of the same gender around age 11; by age 18, they’ve usually told at least one non-family member about their sexual orientation.

A large body of research shows denying or invalidating a person’s sexual and gender identity can harm their physical and mental health. These effects might be especially devastating during these vulnerable and formative adolescent years: “Minority stress and internalized homophobia appear to be powerful negative influences on sexual minority youth, and exclusion in education and particularly sex education may contribute to these forces,” the researchers write. “As students develop a sense of social and sexual identity, they receive messaging from their education about the acceptability and normality of their experiences. The connection between perceived inclusivity of sex education and mental health outcomes is unsurprising given these dynamic and powerful influences.”

The effects of an inclusive program were associated with better mental health even after graduation and into their adult years. Considering LGBTQ youth are much more likely to struggle with mental health than their cis and straight peers, often due to the discrimination they experience, the fact that a school sex ed program can have such a lasting impact on their mental health matters a lot.

Clearly, providing quality sex education for kids is a matter of health and wellness, which is why it’s vital that we push our schools to institutionalize better sex ed programs. If you’re a parent, call up your kid’s school and ask about how they do sex ed. Go to school board meetings, rally other parents, and make your voice heard. Parental buy-in can dramatically influence what kinds of sex ed curricula school administrators feel comfortable using.

Sex education classrooms have the potential to become sites of empowerment, both for LGBTQ kids and for everyone, as long as we’re willing to invest in them.

Complete Article HERE!

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Exploring the different sexual orientations

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Gender symbols, sexual orientation: heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality.

By Logan Metzger,

Sexuality and sexual orientation is one topic not often brought up in the average American household.

It’s a taboo, hush-hush subject left somewhere on the fringe of socially acceptable.

“I think in general, America has a really weird relationship with sex,” said nicci port, project director and LGBTQ+ initiative for the office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Things such as television ads are sexualized but as a society people are uncomfortable talking about sexuality, port said.

Twenty-two states require sex education in their schools, and only 12 states require discussion of sexual orientation within those sex education classes.

Three of those states require teachers to impart only negative information on sexual orientation to students.

“I think at the basis we think we have to be a puritanical society and care about purity by viewing sex as procreation instead of realizing we are sexual beings,” port said.

According to reachout.com, sexuality is about who a person is attracted to sexually and romantically, but “is more complicated than just being gay or straight.”

The Kinsey Scale, developed in 1948 by sexologists Alfred Kinsey, Wardell Pomeroy and Clyde Martin, organizes sexuality into a gradient scale which demonstrates that sexuality is a spectrum and not everyone fits into one specific definition.

The Kinsey team interviewed thousands of people about their sexual histories.

Their research showed that sexual behavior, thoughts and feelings toward the same or opposite sex were not always consistent across time.

Instead of assigning people to three categories of heterosexual, bisex0ual and homosexual the team used a seven-point scale. It ranges from zero to six with an additional category of “X.”

A person’s sexuality can manifest in many ways and forms that only the identifier truly understands, but there are quite a few umbrella terms that encompass the currently defined sexual orientations.

The most common and widely recognizable sexual orientation within the United States is heterosexuality, with an estimated over 90 percent of the population not identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual, according to Gallup.

Heterosexuality is when “a person has emotional, physical, spiritual and/or sexual attractions to persons of a different sex than themselves. More commonly referred to as “straight” in everyday language,” according to the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success website.

On the opposite end of the Kinsey scale is homosexuality, with an estimated 4.5 percent of the United States population identifying as lesbian, bisexual or gay.

Homosexuality is when “a person has emotional, physical, spiritual and/or sexual attraction to persons of the same sex,” according to the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success website.

The term is often considered outdated and potentially derogatory when referring to LGBQ+ people or communities.

Within the homosexual umbrella lies at least two sexual orientations, these being gay and lesbian. Gay is used to refer to men who have an attraction to other men, but not all men who engage in sexual behavior with other men identify as gay.

Lesbian is used to refer to women who have an attraction to other women, but not all women who engage in sexual behavior with other women identify as lesbian.

Under the homosexual umbrella “about 4 to 6 percent of males have ever had same-sex contact.”

For females, the percentage who have ever had same-sex contact ranges from about 4 percent to 12 percent,” according to the Kinsey Institute.

In between homosexuality and heterosexuality on the Kinsey Scale are at least two sexual orientations. The most heard of and talked about of the two is bisexuality.

Bisexuality is when “a person is emotionally, physically, spiritually and/or sexually attracted to both men and women,” according to the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success website.

The other orientation is pansexuality.

Pansexuality is “a term used to describe a person who can be emotionally, physically, spiritually and/or sexually attracted to people of various genders, gender expressions and sexes, including those outside the gender binary,” according to the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success website.

Though both pansexuality and bisexuality are similar in that identifiers have attractions to those of multiple sexes, they are inherently different — but are often confused and assumed to be the same sexual orientation.

The “X” on the Kinsey Scale refers to either those who have not yet had sexual contact with another person or those who identify as asexual.

“In its broadest sense, asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction and the lack of interest in and desire for sex,” according to the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success website. “However, some asexual people might experience emotional attraction or other non-sexual attractions.”

Asexuality is one of the less-heard of sexual orientations and the smallest group within the LGBTQIA+ community, with the CDC finding in 2014 about one percent of the population identified as asexual.

Homosexuality, bisexuality, pansexuality and asexuality all fall under the umbrella term of queer, which essentially is anyone who identifies as not heterosexual in the broadest sense.

Queer is “an umbrella term which embraces a matrix of sexual desires, identities and expressions of the not-exclusively-heterosexual and/or monogamous variety,” according to the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success website.

Complete Article HERE!

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When Brooklyn was queer: telling the story of the borough’s LGBT past

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In a new book, Hugh Ryan explores the untold history of queer life in Brooklyn from the 1850s forward, revealing some unlikely truths

The cover of When Brooklyn Was Queer.

By  

For five years Hugh Ryan has been hunting queer ghosts through the streets of Brooklyn, amid the racks of New York’s public libraries, among its court records and yellow newspaper clippings to build a picture of their lost world.

The result is When Brooklyn Was Queer, a funny, tender and disturbing history of LGBT life that starts in an era, the 1850s, when those letters meant nothing and ends before the Stonewall riots started the modern era of gay politics.

The book grew out of Ryan’s other project, The Pop-Up Museum of Queer History, a sort-of travelling museum that creates installations celebrating the histories of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Ryan and his friends had done shows about local queer history in other cities but never in Brooklyn, where many of them lived. When they decided that they should do a Brooklyn event, they put out a call for information and got little reply. “People just didn’t know Brooklyn’s queer history,” says Ryan. “I thought I’d just go to the library, get the book about queer Brooklyn history. It’s probably from the 1970s and all of 10 people have read it. There wasn’t one.”

Ryan started collecting information and then got a grant from the Martin Duberman Fellowship in LGBT studies at the New York Public Library. “They said to me when you are done with this grant you should have your book proposal written.”

One recurring theme in his research that fascinated Ryan was how Brooklyn’s rise from rural backwater to New York’s second city mirrored the rise in interest in sex and gender studies and – sadly – the rise in homophobia, bigotry and abuse.

Construction on the Brooklyn Bridge started in 1869, the same year that human rights campaigner and journalist Karl-Maria Kertbeny first used the terms homosexual and heterosexual.

Shortly before that, the Erie Canal finally connected the city to the Great Lakes, bringing jobs and the urbanization that allowed queer life to flourish – especially along Brooklyn’s waterfront.

“Brooklyn’s growth runs along the same timeline as the evolution of our modern ideas about sexuality,” says Ryan. “You could chart the two against each other. I used Brooklyn as an example of how things were developing in the world and America generally.”

The poet Hart Crane.

The book is studded with the stories of Brooklyn-based A-list gays of yesteryear: Walt Whitman, Hart Crane, Truman Capote. Then there is The February House – a Brooklyn townhouse that was once home to WH Auden, Benjamin Britten, Carson McCullers and Gypsy Rose Lee and which also hosted Salvador Dalí, his fearsome wife and muse Gala, and the writers Paul and Jane Bowles (a cast that would make the most cerebral Celebrity Big Brother house ever).

But the book also excels in uncovering what life was like for “ordinary” queer folk such as Loop-the-Loop, a trans woman and sex worker from Brooklyn at a time when “trans” was not part of the vocabulary (Loop preferred “fairy”) and Coney Island’s working-class gay bath houses.

Much of the information Ryan gathered was from sources who hated the LGBT community – and increasingly so as it was studied and categorized.

One of those groups was the Committee of 14, a group of morally righteous New Yorkers who drove for prohibition, then against (straight) prostitution and, on discovering the queer community, went after them, too.

“They were crazy,” said Ryan. “On the one hand I am glad they existed because otherwise the records they kept wouldn’t have existed but at the same time it’s shocking. They were a very strange group of people.”

One of the fascinating aspects of the book is how accepted the queer community was in Brooklyn at certain periods (and by certain people). During prohibition, gay and straight bars merged while during the war, queer life flourished as sailors poured into town, categories were looser than today and – again with caveats – there was acceptance.

Hugh Ryan.

“Before World War II, especially in 1920s, there were a lot more spaces where queer and non-queer people mixed,” says Ryan. “There was even this period ‘the pansy craze’ where it was fashionable to have limp-wristed men in movies who may have been gay or trans or entirely outside that in movies.”

But as queer profiles rose, so did the backlash. The repeal of prohibition drove gays and straight apart and the queers went underground where the police – and the mafia – came after them.

America’s love affair with eugenics, the “science” of improving the population by controlled breeding, caught up with the queer community as it had with people of color. Queers were dangerous to the health of the nation, easily blackmailed, not to be trusted. They were driven out of public life, academia, the movies; society turned against them.

By the 1940s, thousands of men would be arrested each year for “degeneracy”. In 1942, Senator David Ignatius Walsh’s career was destroyed in a sensational sex scandal that involved rumours that he had frequented a gay Brooklyn brothel that was being used by Nazi spies. The New York Post, which had fought for the US to join the war against Germany when Walsh was set against it, broke the story which became known as “Swastika swishery”.

Ryan thinks Walsh was probably gay but that the claims he attended the brothel were dubious.

The brothel’s owner, Gustave Beekman, and several others were arrested. Beekman cooperated with the authorities but still received a 20-year sentence in Sing Sing for sodomy and wasn’t released until 1963.

“The legacy of all of this is when we get this turn towards homophobia – 45 to Stonewall or the early 80s – there is this really negative idea that gay life is sad, small, limited, dirty, painful, persecuted. And I think that we have internalized that. Anytime before Stonewall that was what gay life was, when really it was just what gay life was like when gay life was becoming speakable in most of America and was getting its history written,” says Ryan.

“We have this ahistoric idea that what life was like in 1957 was ‘What Life Was Like’ for gay people.

An image from Brooklyn Pride 2015

“Well, it’s not like that now. Today Brooklyn is arguably the epicenter for queer New York culture, vibrant, diverse, out and proud. It’s awesome,” says Ryan. “It’s exciting, it’s more diverse than it’s ever been. More powerful. I think people are paying attention. what happens in Brooklyn sets the tone – and not just in queer culture.”

But is it sustainable? Can we keep the gains we have while we strive for more?

“It’s very hard to tell. There is an amount of retrenchment that happens anytime there is progressive gains. We are always on a pendulum. I worry about that but I do think that some things have changed forever.”

There’s probably no better time for us to relearn Brooklyn’s queer history.

Complete Article HERE!

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Gay Sex And Censorship:

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How Gay Spaces Are Being Changed By “Family Friendly” Standards

By Devin Randall

As gay society continues to be accepted into the mainstream, its sexual identity is thinning out.

Gone are the days where a gay man could experience an establishment full of other gay men. Instead, the gay man is losing the place he so greatly needed. Spaces of self-expression where attraction and inclusion were guaranteed.

Now, our gay bars have become mainstream. The place to be. Now, a gay man will enter “the straight man’s gay bar” where female friends will feel comfortable and safe, and straight male friends will complain about having their butts groped.

Of course, some spaces do still exist. The occasional sex shop with a backroom used for unspoken exploration, the remaining bathhouses that pale in comparison to the social hotspots of the past century, and the leather bound clubs stationed in plain sight but covered with a “need to know” front. But these spaces don’t speak for all queer men.

Then there are, of course, gay apps. Apps like Grindr, Blued, and Scruff have become the calling card of gay men. They are the digital spaces where men can converse and, more likely, hunt for their next sexual adventure.

But the distance from our screns has created distance in our hearts. We have devolved into dehumanizing each other in preference of jockstraps and headless torsos. While gay men have always been overtly sexual, this digital age has made us less empathetic than ever before.

And worse of all, even these digital gay spaces are under attack of the mainstream eye. Social media apps like Grindr, Scruff, Tumblr, and Facebook are under attack from censorship.

Grindr is fighting a court battle with a man named Matthew Herrick. Herrick’s ex created several fake accounts of him. These accounts then pointed strangers to the man’s home address and place of work. But instead of suing his ex, the man is suing Grindr. He claims the app and company are negligent in monitoring its users.

If found guilty, Grindr’s case could change the face of the tech industry and apps in general. Companies will then increase their monitoring of users in fear of also being sued. While this result might, at first, seem appealing, it ultimately will lead to stricter rules and more oversight on apps.

We’re already seeing how that can be a bad thing with Scruff, Tumblr, and Facebook.

Last month, Scruff released an update to its policy on profile pictures. Users are no longer allowed to post pictures of themselves in jockstraps, underwear, or bikini styled swimsuits.

While some may celebrate this change as an effort to humanize and de-sexualize users/the app, the real effort was made to fit in with family friendly standards. Scruff made the change after its app was taken off the Apple app store. They want to appeal to the mainstream program’s regulations and are thus changing this gay space to do it.

Then there’s Tumblr with a very similar story. Tumblr got taken down from the Apple app store because child pornography had slipped through its censors (never mind the fact that the site was riddled with porn bots for years).

To fix this, Tumblr banned all adult content. Their very sloppy way of enforcing this is by flagging any pictures, videos, and gifs that can seemingly appear sexual in nature. If a post or picture includes too many flesh colored pixels, it’s flagged down.

In the process of this NSFW visual crackdown, LGBTQ users have found their accounts and posts flagged for deletion. Some with reason, but many without.

And then there’s Facebook. Ever since the site was used as a tool for influencing US voters, it has been changing its algorithms and policies left and right. Then late last year, the site updated it’s Community Standards Policy.

Now, gay users on the social media app have been flagged and outright banned for sharing LGBTQ content. In this case, even the inclusion of certain words and terms can incite a ban.

It’s not just everyday citizens who are getting banned or flagged for sharing gay content. Gay publications and sites are also feeling the pressure. Perhaps even more.

Due to Facebook’s constant tweaking of its algorithm, posts from gay sites get flagged and are shared less. Facebook will make it so fans and page-likers won’t see posts about gay content. This is partially because they are gay in nature, and partially because Facebook wants to avoid the spread of fake news.

In a business where clicks equal pay, the inability to reach your audience is a punch to the stomach.

But speaking of advertisers, there’s another problem here. Advertisers are pushing for more “family friendly” content from gay sites. That means tweaking the way that gay stories are told and presented.

On top of that, mainstream sites like Huffington Post and Buzzfeed have dedicated separate staff and sections for LGBTQ stories. Some believe that gay sites like Instinct, Queerty, and more will soon disappear. Then, queer citizens will have to go to these mainstream sites to find their news.

Clearly, there’s a change in the air. As gay men become more accepted by the mainstream, we are being forced to work under their restrictions. Our spaces, real and digital, are fading into theirs. Meanwhile, our self-expression and sexual exploration are being pressed down or outright banned in order to fit a global standard.

But here’s the thing, is all of this bad news? Not every gay man finds comfort in the gay sex scene. Once idolizing the gay club and sex scene through shows like Queer as Folk and movies like Not Another Gay Movie, I too have found the gay sex scene to be tiring. As I wrote last year, the hyper sexualized spaces no longer excite me but discomfort me.

It appears that specifically for gay men, this mainstreaming of LGBTQ culture is focused on watering down the heightened sexuality that we’ve indulged in for decades and centuries.

And as much as it’s a shame to lose the clubs and the sexual history, we gay men have evolved beyond it. Even further, we are not beholden to sex.

Gay men can be gold medal winning athletes, business men, singers, actors, politicians, teachers, lawyers, construction workers, drivers, and more. Sex is only one factor of what it means to be a gay man.

It’s a difficult issue, because gay men should fight to maintain our existence, our safe spaces, and our right to sexual expression. But, are we still only defined by our love of sex in dark and secluded spaces?

We are under attack by censorship, and we certainly should fight back. But, our pursuit of happiness is not determined by merely our right to sex but by our right to sex, love, and life.

Complete Article HERE!

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The Sexy, Secret History of Leather Fetish Fashion

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From post-war motorcycle groups to modern-day sex apps, this is the story of how leather became a symbol of masculinity and sexuality

By Louis Staples

This article is part of a series on AnotherManmag.com that coincides with LGBT History Month, shining a light on different facets of queer culture. Head here for more.

“When I’m wearing my leathers, I like the way I get to be such a symbol, a trope, of masculinity and sexuality,” explains Max, a 38-year-old gay man from London. Max is a “leatherman” or “leatherdaddy”, two common descriptors for gay and bisexual men who fetishise leather clothes and accessories.

“Fetish fashion” is the term used to describe the intrinsic link between clothing and sexual fetishes, with materials like leather, lace, latex, and rubber holding particular prominence. Dr Frenchy Lunning, author of the 2013 book Fetish Style, writes that fashion has historically been the easiest way to “traverse” from one spectrum of fetish to the other. Lunning gauges that, in the history of fetish fashion, there have been two climaxes – no pun intended – with the first occurring between 1870 and 1900. “The Victorians went crazy over silk and velvet,” writes Pat Califia, author of Public Sex: The Culture of Radical Sex. “As quickly as new substances were manufactured, somebody eroticised them.”

When fetishwear resurged for its second peak a century later, between 1970 and 2000, leather was the material of choice. On the gay scene, an infatuation with leather was alive and well as early as the 1950s. Today, leather fetishwear is worn by leathermen like Max in sex clubs, parties, Pride parades and hook-ups, but some incorporate leather into their everyday lives, too. Common clothes and accessories include leather trousers, boots, jackets, gloves, ties and caps, with harnesses, masks and jockstraps more often worn during sexual encounters.

While leather fetishwear is not exclusively queer, there is a widely acknowledged parallel between the increased visibility of gay and lesbian identities and leather-based fetishes in contemporary culture. Recon – a fetish app for gay and bisexual men – allows leather wearers to connect with others and follow a year-round calendar of global events such as “London Fetish Week” and “Leather Prides” in cities from Los Angeles to Belgium. Paul, a 34-year-old Recon user, tells me that he equates leather with “power, strength and dominance”. He doubts that he could be with someone “vanilla” – a term for someone who doesn’t have any fetishes. “There’s nothing hotter than the feeling of leather on my skin, it’s peak masculinity,” he says. Max, who was first drawn towards leather five years ago, also associates it with manhood. “It’s just so fucking masculine,” he explains. “The more masculine I’ve become over time, the more I’ve been into it. When I wear leathers, it feels like my exterior is reflecting my interior. It’s weighty too: the opposite of something light, diaphanous and feminine.”

“There’s nothing hotter than the feeling of leather on my skin, it’s peak masculinity” – Paul, 34

These remarks reveal leather fetish fashion’s significance to masculine gay identities, particularly those relating to sadomasochistic (S&M) sexual practices. In Hal Fischer’s seminal photography book Gay Semiotics, which analyses coded gay fashion signifiers in 1970s San Francisco, leather accessories like caps were indicators that the wearer was interested in sadomasochistic sex. Lesbians also adopted leather and, nowadays, female sex workers and dominatrixes often wear the material. Though, traditionally, the gay leather scene centres on “dominant” men wishing to “own”, or exert control over, a “submissive” male partner.

Sociologist Meredith G. F. Worthen, author of Sexual Deviance and Society, writes that the leather community first emerged after the Second World War, when military servicemen had difficulty assimilating back into mainstream society. For many of these men, their military service had allowed them to explore homosexual desire for the first time. When the war ended, a void was left by the absence of homosexual sex and same-sex friendships. Instead, many found sanctuary in motorcycle communities where leather clothing was popular. The men who rode these bikes were icons of cultural masculinity, conjuring up an image of dangerous rebelliousness that was alluring to many gay men who were weary of seeing themselves depicted as effeminate pansies. Peter Hennen, author of Faeries, Bears and Leathermen, believes that this caused gay men to “invest in leather with a certain erotic power intimately tied to the way it signalled masculinity.” Queer cultural historian Daniel Harris suggests that the “raw masculinity” that leather evokes “shaped a new form of masculinised gay identity among leathermen.”

Leather’s military routes, combined with its significance in hierarchy-driven male social groups, are thought to be behind its importance to sexual practices like S&M, which centre on order, discipline and control. Yet outside the leather fetish scene, artist Andy Warhol famously used garments such as the leather jacket as a device to appear more masculine from the 1950s to 1960s. Transforming his personal style, Warhol sought to present a more macho, aloof persona to the heterosexual male-dominated New York art establishment.

“Tom of Finland ‘set the standard’ for the ‘quintessential leatherman replete with bulging chest, thighs and cock’”

Max tells me that cultural imagery, such as “Tom of Finland, Robert Mapplethorpe, Marlon Brando and James Dean” contributes to his love for leather. Finnish artist Touko Valio Laaksonen, commonly known as Tom of Finland, is behind leather’s signature homoerotic aesthetic. According to feminist studies professor Jennifer Tyburczy, Finland “set the standard” for the “quintessential leatherman replete with bulging chest, thighs and cock.” By depicting working-class men like construction workers, bikers and lumberjacks, Finland allowed gay men to feel masculine and strong while maintaining their interest in those of the same sex. His images are the antithesis of the effeminate gay stereotype that was widely circulated at the time, bringing connotations of hyper-masculinity, strength and, of course, sex to black leather. After being circulated in physique magazines such as Physical Pictorial throughout the 1950s, his work quickly became emblematic of the gay fetish community.

Following the popularity of leather in the queer sanctuary cities on America’s coasts, international travel increased its global appeal, with leather kink scenes developing in London, Berlin, Amsterdam, and parts of Scandinavia. Imitations of Finland’s images became the customary advertisement of fetish events in these places, which were often disguised as motor sport or biking clubs. For the first time, Finland’s reclamation of masculine imagery provided gay men with what communications professor Martti Lahti describes as an “empowering and affirmative” gay image.

Though after years of resurgence, the leather fetish scene is facing challenges. Rising rents and gentrification in the world’s queer-friendly cities have caused most clubs to shut their doors. Fetish apps and websites now mean that attending a leather event is not necessary to connect with leather admirers. Lesbian leather wearers, who have traditionally operated their BDSM club scene separately, have been most harshly impacted by club closures as most gay leather nights purposely ban women from entering. With a full outfit of leathers costing several thousand pounds, it is little wonder that younger kinksters are turning to cheaper alternatives like rubber or sportswear to fulfil their fetish needs.

“Rising rents and gentrification in the world’s queer-friendly cities have caused most clubs to shut their doors. Fetish apps and websites now mean that attending a leather event is not necessary to connect with leather admirers”

The extended rights and freedoms won by queer people in recent decades have also resulted in pressure from wider heterosexual-focussed society to assimilate to their norms. Queer historian Lisa Duggan has described how the pressure to comply with what she calls “neoliberal” aims has resulted in a “depoliticised” and “desexualised” gay identity revolving around “domesticity” and heteronormative institutions like marriage. This gay identity can be exclusionary to those that fall outside its “acceptable” norms.

As the visibility of “vanilla” gayness has extended, heterosexual kink aesthetics have moved further into the mainstream, ushered in by pop moments like Madonna’s Justify My Love, Rhianna’s Disturbia and Christina Aguilera’s Bionic era, plus books such as 50 Shades of Grey. Reality star Kylie Jenner even graced the cover of Interview magazine dressed as a “sex doll”, clad entirely in skin-tight black latex. Though despite figure skater Adam Rippon wearing a leather harness once on the red carpet and the occasional performance costume from Jake Shears, the Village People’s Tom of Finland-inspired outfits and Robert Mapplethorpe’s extremely explicit photographs – both almost 40 years old – remain gay fetish fashion’s most visible representations.

With visible mainstream gay identities remaining “desexualised”, the false link between kink, sexual deviance, immorality and even criminality – a trope peddled for decades to depict gay men as “socially wrong” or “sick” – still lingers, even within the LGBTQ+ community. Andrew Cooper, author of Changing Gay Male Identities, suggests that overt sexuality has become less important to gay identities since the AIDS crisis, when sex – and communities like the leather scene that revolve around sex – became associated with death and shame. In Beneath the Skins, a book that analyses the politics of kink, Ivo Dominguez Jr writes that, as gay identities and attitudes become more sanitised, “leatherphobia” remains a significant barrier. Dominguez suggests that those who practice leather are seen by the wider LGBTQ+ community as “poor relatives they wish to hide” or an “albatross around their public relations neck”.

Yet the leather scene could certainly be more inclusive itself. In addition to its exclusion of women, it is overwhelmingly white. When combined with the fact that elements of the leatherman aesthetic have been co-opted by various sub-fetishes and groups that eroticise white supremacist roleplay and Nazi iconography, this paints a particularly objectionable picture. Then there’s the fact that much of the hyper-masculine culture that surrounds leather promotes the idea that feminine men are inferior. Society’s ever-evolving understanding of the effects of entrenched, socially-constructed gender binaries and toxic masculinity has undoubtedly reduced its appeal further.

However, despite its current challenges, the history of leather fetish fashion is as fascinating as the black cowhide is transformative to those who lust over it. Leather can conjure solidarity among those who feel alienated, while acting as a symbol of sexual liberation. Its history tells a nuanced, important story of just how integral fashion can become to communities and subcultures. To its devotees, it represents more than mere aesthetics or the leather-clad bikers of the past. To them, leather fetish fashion is a way of life.

Complete Article HERE!

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Why are we so coy about sex education for gay teens?

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For novelist Lev Rosen, school sex ed involved putting condoms on fruit. We need to be much more creative – and fun, he argues

By Lev Rosen

When I was 13 years old, when I knew I was queer but wouldn’t be saying so for a year, I remember some boys at school during lunch talking about gay sex. They called it “gross”, they laughed about it. That’s what I heard from my peers about the topic. I heard nothing from my teachers; I wasn’t about to ask my parents; and the gay people on TV never did more than peck each other on the lips.

Sex education for teens is one of those topics we tend to dance around. No one wants to talk to them about sex. It sounds pervy to tell kids how to have sex – as if you’re ruining their innocence or, worse, grooming them. I don’t know what your sex education was like, but I remember mine: it was putting condoms on bananas.

Fun fact about bananas: they’re all genetically identical. Every banana you’ve eaten is the same as every other banana you’ve eaten. And many of the sex-education classes taught today are exactly the same as the one I attended more than a decade ago. Condoms on bananas, STDs, reproduction – no talk of pleasure or consent, much less gay sex.

So, I wrote a novel for teens that features guides to oral sex, anal sex, and basic BDSM. I didn’t do this just so people had someone new to send hate mail to; I did it because teens have heard all this already from TV, playground talk, and online porn. Even sheltered teens already have some idea about how sex works; pretending they don’t isn’t going to help anyone. And while not all of them want to try these things, those who do, need to know how to do it safely, and with consent. Instead, they learn all of that from the media.

In most media aimed at teens, queer men tend to be sweet and sexless. You’ve seen or read the gay best friend character who talks about how hot guys are but never touches one. Or you’ve experienced mainstream gay romance – with gentle kissing, hand-holding, maybe a hug (fully clothed). Even when they get to say what they want, these boys on TV or in film rarely long for more than a kiss and a cuddle. We never see the mimed, under-the-covers sexy-and-shirtless making-out that our straight peers are treated to. Straight teens get to have sex on TV. Gay ones, not so much.

There’s this thing I call the glass closet: the idea that liberal-minded, well-meaning folks who genuinely don’t think they have a problem with queer people tend to confine them to a rigid definition of “good” queerness. For women, this means not going too butch, usually. For men, it means not going too femme, and also, not being too slutty. “I love gay people, but do they have to be so in-your-face about it?”; “I love gay people – but not being ‘too gay’, OK guys?”

And gay sex? That’s way too gay.

Society likes to keep gay teens sexless. It likes to maintain that gay content (even something non-sexual, like the representation of gay parents) is inappropriate for children’s TV or books. Those who complain say it’s too adult – implying that queerness, essentially, is all about sex, while straightness is just what a normal relationship looks like. It’s a weird dichotomy: straight people holding hands are non-sexual, while queer people holding hands is somehow the same as broadcasting pornography. The message is clear across all media: gays have to be kept sexless because they’re already too much about sex.

And so, if all the gay teenagers on our screens are portrayed as “good” gays, kept safely in the confines of the glass closet, and sex-ed doesn’t discuss more than bananas and STDs, then real queer teens turn to the one place they can see their desires: porn.

If you haven’t seen any gay (male) porn, let me describe most of it: everything is clean and polished (yes, even most of the dirty stuff). Everyone has lots of vocal fun. No one ever flags until they finish.

Of course, porn is fantasy, and the men in these videos do massive prep for these scenes. It looks much easier than it is – that’s half the fantasy. And as fantasy, it’s fine. But as a primary source of education, gay porn leaves young queer men with an idealised, routine set of acts that suggest a (wrongly) regimented set of requirements for “real” queer sex. Standardised sexual imagery, it turns out, is just bananas with abs.

I’ve also spoken to queer women about their sexual education. They didn’t always go to porn for their sex-ed, but they didn’t find it at school or home either. Those who did look for it in porn had the additional problem that the fantasy being presented wasn’t even being presented for them.

“Many young women will encounter lesbian sex through mainstream porn,” says Allison Moon, sex educator and author of Girl Sex 101. “This means everyone, not only girls, can get some very wrong ideas about lesbian sex, because the lesbian sex in mainstream porn is designed for male visual pleasure. So queer women have to navigate male sexuality whether or not it interests them.”

And that leaves queer teens in sex-education classes in an awkward place. Straight teens can ask about things they’ve seen on TV, they can apply condoms-on-bananas to what they learn from the media, and come away with a basic framework of sex. Queer teens can only turn to porn.

The good news is that, in some places, things are changing. When I contacted my old high school to find out how the condom bananas were going, I spoke to the director of health and wellness about how the sex-education curriculum has changed, and how it’s about to change even further.

“We can do better, and we’re on the cusp,” she told me, before going into future plans: a curriculum that covers the usual safe-sex issues, but also talks about consent, healthy relationships, porn literacy and queer sex. I was thrilled to hear it. I may have even become a little teary, thinking about a class of young queer people who get a real sexual education that applies to them.

But not every school does this. And they need to, because queer people are everywhere. We’ve made strides in acceptance, but today I still see gay men in their 20s and 30s online saying they don’t know how things work. I get emails from men saying my book taught them things they wish they had learned as a teen. Teens today tell me that it’s so nice to hear someone talk about gay teens having sex, about how they feel, as though, even if they’re out, they’re still not allowed to act on their desires – or are unsure how.

Right now, teenagers’ choices for learning are two extremes (the “good gay” or the “bad gay”) – neither of which is helpful. Either way, these teens end up feeling as if they’ve done something wrong. And we can fix that so easily. Just start talking about it, teaching it. We do it with straight sex. We can fix this the way we can fix most things in life: just gay it up.

What gay teens should watch and read

Another Gay Movie (2006) A raunchy teen sex comedy about four gay guys trying to lose their virginity before graduating. There are gross sex gags, some nudity, and the pressure to lose one’s virginity is problematic, but if you wanted a queer male version of the American Pie movies (or the more recent Blockers), this is it.

I Killed My Mother (2009) A French-Canadian film that features young gay men having fun, sexy sex without being porn – like many of the straight teens you see on TV today.

Release, by Patrick Ness There are plenty of graphic, but beautifully wrought sex scenes in this book about a queer teen trying to find some freedom for himself in a small American town and with his deeply religious family.

Under The Lights, by Dahlia Adler This fun romp on the set of a Hollywood television show has explicit lesbian sex behind the scenes, as the character deals with who she’s playing on TV, and who she is when she’s with her publicist’s daughter.

Princess Cyd (2017) In this quiet and beautiful film about a teen girl (Cyd) spending the summer with her aunt, there’s one great scene between Cyd and Katie, who is a “little bit boy” (and played by a non-binary actor). It’s exactly the sort of sex we should be seeing everywhere.

Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) by LC Rosen is published in paperback by Penguin on 7 February at £7.99.

Complete Article HERE!

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

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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!

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If You’re Sexually Woke, Then Let Straight Men Experiment Freely

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“Through [gay] experiences, I found out that I am completely straight. I won’t go back.”

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When a woman mentions she’s had an “experimental phase,” it’s often shrugged off as a shared experience. But when men share this same information, the results are often more extreme: They’re teased, labeled gay, or their masculinity is questioned; a Glamour survey even found that 63% of women wouldn’t date a man who had sex with another man. This is an extension of the idea that female homosexuality and sexual fluidity are more socially accepted.

All of this information is nothing new. What’s less known, however, is exactly how interested men are in sex with other men: Are straight men just as curious as women, but shame is suppressing their desire, or are women indeed the more sexually fluid gender?

 

“I know of no evidence that shows that men are less likely than women to have an ‘experimental phase,’” Ritch C. Savin-Williams, Ph.D., and author of Mostly Straight: Sexual Fluidity Among Men tells NewNowNext. “I do believe men are less likely to report it to researchers, on surveys, or to their friends and families due, in part, to the ‘homohysteria’ that pervades our culture.”

As result of his research, Savin-Williams believes men are just as curious in same-sex dalliances as women, and argues if men were “allowed” to engage in such behavior, more would. “I do believe there is a subset of straight men who are fascinated by penises and they might well have sex with a man for that reason.”

 

When a woman mentions she’s had an “experimental phase,” it’s often shrugged off as a shared experience. But when men share this same information, the results are often more extreme: They’re teased, labeled gay, or their masculinity is questioned; a Glamour survey even found that 63% of women wouldn’t date a man who had sex with another man. This is an extension of the idea that female homosexuality and sexual fluidity are more socially accepted.

All of this information is nothing new. What’s less known, however, is exactly how interested men are in sex with other men: Are straight men just as curious as women, but shame is suppressing their desire, or are women indeed the more sexually fluid gender?

 

“I know of no evidence that shows that men are less likely than women to have an ‘experimental phase,’” Ritch C. Savin-Williams, Ph.D., and author of Mostly Straight: Sexual Fluidity Among Men tells NewNowNext. “I do believe men are less likely to report it to researchers, on surveys, or to their friends and families due, in part, to the ‘homohysteria’ that pervades our culture.”

As result of his research, Savin-Williams believes men are just as curious in same-sex dalliances as women, and argues if men were “allowed” to engage in such behavior, more would. “I do believe there is a subset of straight men who are fascinated by penises and they might well have sex with a man for that reason.”

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This last point is one of many uncovered in a 2017 study. Researchers from Northwestern University conducted 100 interviews with men who identified as straight, but sought casual sex with men online. After analyzing the results, the study concluded that these men are indeed primarily attracted to women, with no sexual attraction to men—despite the desire to have sex with men.

Confused? The result relies on semantics. To researchers, “sexual attraction” must include both “physical” and “emotional” attraction. So while these men have a sexual attraction (a combination of both emotional and physical attraction) toward women, it is often only a physical attraction when it comes to men. Some said they aren’t drawn toward male bodies as much as they are female, and others observe they’re only interested in penises. Some will even limit what they’re willing to do with men to convince themselves that their sexual interest in women is stronger than their attraction toward men.

“I know what I like. I like pussy,” Reggie, 28, shares in the survey. “I like women. The more the merrier. I would kiss a woman. I can barely hug a man. I do have a healthy sexual imagination and wonder about other things in the sexual realm I’ve never done. Sometimes I get naughty and explore. That’s how I see it.”

John, 43, is less lewd in his perspective. He tells NewNowNext that masturbating didn’t come naturally to him, so he had a friend show him how. After that inaugural moment, the rest was history. “I have had anal sex and oral sex with a few other guys as a young man, mostly out of sexual frustration but also experimenting. Ultimately, through these experiences, I found out that I am completely straight. I won’t go back.”

Based on the men he’s spoken with in his career, Eric Marlowe Garrison, certified sexuality expert and bestselling author, laments most straight men experiment as a top, mimicking cisgender, heterosexual intercourse. Some do bottom, of course. But that’s considered feminine and submissive.

Author Dan Savage wrote in The Stranger, “If a straight guy sucks one cock and gets caught—just that one cock, just that one time—no one will take him seriously when he says he’s straight.”

But what if it’s more than one cock? What if these straight-identifying men are having regular sex with men? Are they still considered straight or would their sexual preference veer into bisexual territory? What’s the barometer here? Better yet, does one even exist?

“I believe one can be male, straight, and have gay sex without changing either of the first two,” Savin-Williams says. “Of course, they might well be ‘mostly straight,’ a spot on the sexual continuum next to totally straight. Thus, gay sex might not be experimental but an expression of their slight degree of same-sex sexuality.”

Garrison agrees, suggesting that straight men who experiment shouldn’t be scrutinized any more than “a vegan whom you catch eating chicken.”

Same-sex experimentation, though often discouraged, is well documented throughout male history. Think fraternity and military hazing rituals, online personal ads, and straight men frequenting public restrooms for gay sexual encounters pre-Grindr. With such a complicated and discreet history, can straight guys ever experiment without reprimand? Sexuality isn’t black and white‚ it exists on a spectrum. Sexologist Alfred Kinsey published this discovery back in 1948. A lesbian can mess around with a guy every now and then and still identify as gay, just like a heterosexual man can hook up with a man and still identify as straight.

Fortunately, it appears that with each passing generation people’s understanding of sexuality is expanding inch by inch. Savin-Williams and Garrison believe today’s youth are more likely to report that they have engaged in same-sex dalliances, given the more positive attitudes toward same-sex behavior.

In addition to these expert perspectives, a study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior previously analyzed same-sex experiences between 1990 and 2014 and found not one but two encouraging results. First, it revealed that people’s acceptance of same-sex relationships had quadrupled in the timespan; and second, that same-sex activity had nearly doubled for men and women. The final survey in the study documented that 7.5% of men aged between 18 to 29 reported a gay sexual experience and 12.2% of women in the same age bracket reported a lesbian experience.

Sexual experimentation is exploration at its core. And as progressive attitudes toward sexual fluidity emerge, men may become more comfortable openly exploring rather than remaining curious and, perhaps, adopting homophobic attitudes as a result of suppression. Whether they learn they like men or find out they’re more definitively attracted to women, with less social-cultural stigma, that information will be theirs to discover—not for others to judge.

Complete Article HERE!

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11 Sex Tips for Guys Just Coming Out of the Closet

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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!

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Having a gay friend makes you a better person according to science

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It seems like a no-brainer: having LGBTQ friends leads to more accepting attitudes towards the rights of queer people, but until now, little has shown this all goes together when someone comes out to their straight friends.

Now, a recent study has shed light into the connections, showing that people who have LGBTQ friends are more likely to change their attitudes towards LGBTQ people and issues over time.

Using data from the 2006, 2008, and United States General Social Survey (GSS), Daniel DellaPosta, a sociology professor at Pennsylvania State University, was able to show evidence of change in the culture attitudes towards LGBTQ people.

What he found was clear: those who responded to the GSS that they had one or more LGBTQ friend in 2006, “exhibited greater shifts toward increased acceptance of homosexuality and gay marriage in 2008 and 2010.”

Of those in the 2006 sample, 54% had at least one gay acquaintance, with 47% of those reporting a gay coworker and 31% a gay family member.

The change in attitudes towards LGBTQ people may even be more pronounced when people face an acquaintance like a family member coming out to them after knowing them for some time, implying that great weight is attached to those with whom one has already formed a bond.

“This theory is perhaps most eloquently expressed in Harvey Milk’s famous exhortation for gays and lesbians in all walks of life to ‘come out’ to their friends, relatives, and coworkers in order to ‘end prejudice overnight,’” said DellaPosta in the study.

Perhaps most notably, the effect of such contact is strongest among “older, politically conservative” straight people. While they were most likely to be against same-sex marriage in 2006, for example, they are also the ones more likely to change their viewed based on having a close friend of acquaintance come out to them in the ensuing years.

Of course, the study is reluctant to say that such a change in attitudes will happen in every case, particularly in casual contact. It also questioned those who remain negative in the face of an LGBTQ friend or acquaintance.

“There are clear limitations to the analysis undertaken here that should make these findings necessarily provisional,” reads the study. “Most critically, we might wonder whether there is some underlying and unobserved selection in the type of person who reports relatively negative views toward homosexuality at baseline but nevertheless reports a gay acquaintance.”

Nevertheless, they do recommend more study in the field, looking at how the change in attitudes can be affected by population shifts and other factors.

Complete Article HERE!

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Homosexuality in nature: Bisexual and gay animals

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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!

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Breaking the Binary

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

By Sasha Ranganath 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

L – Lesbian

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

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

G – Gay

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

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

Wrong usage: A gay.

B – Bisexual

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

Usage: A bisexual person; “I am bisexual”

T – Transgender

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

Usage: A transgender person; “I am transgender”

Transgender woman/trans woman

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

Transgender man/trans man

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

Wrong usage: Transgendered; transgenders

Q – Questioning/Queer

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

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

I – Intersex

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

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

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

A – Asexual

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

Plus (+)

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

:

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

Related terms to keep in mind:

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

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

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

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

How you can be a better ally:

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

Complete Article HERE!

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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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What the Bears Can Teach Goldilocks

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By Frank Strona

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

Find out more about Frank Strona HERE!

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

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It can be tough, so here’s some help.

By Sophie Saint Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are a few places to start:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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