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Outdated misconceptions about gender identity and sexual orientation have no place in medicine, but they can run rampant.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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How to Have ‘The Talk’ With Your Queer Kid

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By Kate Ryan

I never had The Talk with my parents. We shared the assumption I was having safe, straight sex because I never suggested to them I was doing anything otherwise. So, you can imagine their surprise when I came out as queer at the age of 26. After spending the day in downtown Los Angeles for the Day Without a Woman strike, I’d come home overheated and exhausted. I didn’t expect to open up to my mom when she called and I picked up the phone. When she pressed me for a reason why I was breaking up with my boyfriend of five years, I hadn’t intended to blurt out, “I’m gay.” But that’s exactly what I did.

All she said at first was, “Oh.” A moment passed. Then another. I lay on my bed staring at cracks in the ceiling’s ancient plaster. At last, she said, “That makes sense.”

Even though my mom has been talking about wanting grandchildren since I was old enough to understand reproduction as a concept, as a family, we never talked about the intersection of sex, identity, and relationships—or intimacy at all for that matter. It wasn’t until I was much older that I understood how isolating this lack of open communication had been, how my parents’ assumptions—though rarely vocalized and largely invisible—weighed me down with expectations that made me feel strange and alone when I couldn’t conform.

The messages we don’t receive as kids end up being just as important as those we do. I get that talking to kids about sex can sometimes feel like threading needles with your eyes closed, but for me, having any kind of discussion about the sexual spectrum would’ve been enormously helpful. After talking to friends and experts, I’ve gathered some ways that straight parents can connect with their kids in a way that allows for safe sexual exploration and expression, despite their fears and discomfort.

Pay Attention to How You Talk About Gender

When talking to a queer kid—or any kid for that matter—avoid gendering your language. For instance, instead of speaking in terms of future husbands and wives, refer to future partners and gender-neutral spouses. Ask your kids if they’re crushing on any people at school as opposed to boys or girls. Kids are better at picking up on subtext than we give them credit for, making these small shifts in language incredibly important. While it wasn’t her intention, all my mom’s talk about grandchildren made me feel guilty for entertaining any dreams beyond marrying a man and raising children.

React Without Judgment

“Children will open up about their feelings only if they feel safe doing so,” says Dr. Ron Holt, a psychiatrist and author of PRIDE: You Can’t Heal If You’re Hiding from Yourself. “Using open-ended questions and following their lead is the best way to lead to a healthy and honest discussion about their sexuality.” If your kid mentions that they like someone of the same sex, react nonjudgmentally and and accept that your kid’s feelings or attractions are real and valid. It’s all too common for queer kids to try to ignore their sexual preferences because a parent told them their same-sex attractions were just a phase or a normal part of being straight.

Exploring romantic relationships can be stressful at any age, and for queer kids, there can be the added pressure of having to clearly define their sexuality. Parents can lessen this burden by reassuring their kids the door is always open when it comes to matters of sex, sexuality, and identity. In households where this is the case, “children are much more likely to come to their parents when they are ready to discuss,” Dr. Holt says.

Go Beyond Mere Acceptance

It’s also worth going out of your way to let your kids know queerness is not just normal but something to be celebrated. In a discussion with Jason Black, a producer and LGBTQ activist, he stressed this point, telling me it’s about time we take the discussion beyond “If you’re gay, it’s OK” to something more along the lines of, “If you like a guy, or a girl, or both, here’s how to be safe and respectful of both yourself and that other person.” This is another way parents can pivot away from the misconception cisgendered heterosexuality is the default setting rather than one point on a vast spectrum, while also setting up a larger conversation about respect and consent.

Make It an Ongoing Conversation

While puberty is a classic time to open up the discussion about sex, you can softly start to approach the subject earlier depending on your kid and how curious they are about sex and identity. In Dr. Holt’s mind, there isn’t a wrong time to go about it, as long as you’re rising to the occasion when your child needs you for support and honest advice.

As a culture, we tend to think of it as one big discussion in which all questions are brought to the table and answered factory-line style. In reality, ongoing, casual conversations would be more helpful and less intimidating for both kids and parents—no matter where they fall on the sexual spectrum. There are plenty of online resources to help you out along the way. The CDC has tons of information for LGBTQ youth, as does PFLAG, an organization founded specifically for parents, friends, and allies of the LGBTQ community.

Don’t Worry About Getting Everything ‘Right’

If I’ve learned anything, it’s that straight parents can feel reassured knowing their love and willingness to learn mean more than their ability to master queer terminology. That day I came out to my mom, she told me I was like Julia Roberts in the seminal, egg-sampling scene from Runaway Bride. For those who can’t immediately conjure this scene, Roberts makes and eats eggs using every technique you can imagine after realizing she failed to form opinions of her own in a relentless quest to appease the men in her life. “You need to try all the eggs to know which kind you like,” my mom said, and despite the somewhat grotesque imagery, I knew she was listening and I was loved. Ultimately, that’s what counts.

Complete Article HERE!

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7 Ways To Have Sex Without A Penis

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— Because You Really Don’t Need One

By Kasandra Brabaw

When most people think about sex, their minds likely jump to penis-in-vagina (P-in-V) sex. And it’s no wonder, given that the sex ed many of us had (if we had it at all) focused on teaching us how to not get pregnant. When pregnancy is the concern (or the goal) then the only kind of sex that seems to “count” is P-in-V sex. We’re so invested in the penis’ involvement in sex, that when the story of a man who lost his penis in a childhood accident came out on Reddit, people had one burning question: How can he fuck his girlfriend?

“We typically end up having this picture in our brain that sex involves a penis and vagina,” says Laura Deitsch, PhD, resident sexologist of Vibrant. “It starts when a penis is hard and it ends when a penis ejaculates.” That fixation on penis-in-vagina penetration as “real sex” not only leaves a bunch of people out, it also ignores all kinds of sexy things couples could be doing instead of sticking a penis into a hole, she says. Plenty of people default to penis-less sex because they have to — including cisgender women in queer relationships and trans or non-binary people who feel gender dysphoria around their genitals — but even straight, cisgender people could benefit from giving the penis a break. Taking one night off from P-in-V sex could inspire creativity in straight couples’ sex lives, and that helps to stave off boredom.

Whether you’re a cis queer woman wondering what to do with her penis-less partner, a trans person looking for ways to avoid gender dysphoria, a straight and cis person whose partner can’t use his penis for medical reasons, or someone who simply wants to add a little excitement to your sex life, we’ve rounded up five ways to have sex without a penis. So, consider giving the P-in-V sex a break, and trying something new.

Put your tongue to work.
You’ve likely heard of the orgasm gap — the fact that straight women orgasm significantly less often than straight men — but have you heard of the oral sex gap? According to at least one study, women are more than twice as likely to go down on a sexual partner than men. So if you’re in a straight pairing, use your penis-less night to start filling in that gap.

Often, oral sex is way more effective (in terms of having orgasms) than penetrative sex alone for people who have vulvas, because there are about 8,000 nerve endings in the clitoris. But, regardless of your gender identity or sexuality, eating someone out for the first time can be scary. Vulvas and vaginas seem like this big mystery, simply because no one talks about them.

So let’s shatter the mystery. All it takes is a little bit of anatomy knowledge and some stellar communication to know what you’re doing. Things to remember: 1) All clits look different, but they’re generally located toward the top of your partner’s vulva. If you can’t find your partner’s clit, ask if you’re in the right spot. 2) Talk to your partner about what they like. It’s the best way to get them off, promise. 3) Have fun! Oral sex is hot.

Get your fingers (or fist) in there.
Fingering isn’t just for foreplay. When done correctly (meaning, there’s plenty of lubrication and it feels good), fingering can be just as satisfying as other forms of penetration. Plus, if your partner has a vulva, using your fingers gives you plenty of mobility to add another finger, tongue, or vibrator circling their clit. And that combo is amazingly good at creating explosive blended orgasms.

If your partner has a penis, you can finger them, too. It’s called “muffing.” People with penises have two spots tucked behind the scrotum and testicles called inguinal canals, which are about the diameter of a finger (but also stretch). Mira Bellwether first wrote about this kind of fingering in a zine called Fucking Trans Women, but the sex act can feel good for anyone who has a penis, regardless of gender identity.

Kick it old school.
Think back to the days of your first romance. You were likely waiting a while to have “real sex.” So, instead, you’d rub your fully clothed body against your partner’s. That, my friends, is dry humping and it can count as sex, too. If you rub in the right places, it can also result in orgasm.

“The main thing for people to remember is that you’re going to try getting some constant friction on the clit,” Laura McGuire, PhD, a sexologist and consultant, previously told Refinery29. So just swivel your hips around on a partner’s erection, hip, thigh, or a sex toy, until you hit a spot that feels good.

Take out the toy box.
Sex toys are your friend, and they can make any kind of sex much more interesting (whether or not the penis is in play). If at least one partner has a clitoris, toys like vibrators and dildos can be used either in combo with oral sex or fingering or they can be used on their own to stimulate any part of the body, Dr. Deitsch says.

Strap-ons can also be a great addition to your sex adventures, whether or not your partner has a penis. And if they do have a penis, toys can still come in handy. Anyone who has a prostate can get lots of pleasure from anal sex, so you can use a strap-on to peg your partner (aka, enter them from behind).

Share your fantasies.
Sex means so many different things to different people that it sometimes doesn’t require much touching at all, Dr. Deitsch says. “If we opened our minds, we’d realize that sex is a whole lot of stuff,” she says. “And I challenge someone, if they’re thinking that something like tying your partner up and reading them erotic fiction isn’t sex, would they do that with a family member or with someone who they just met at the grocery store?”

To some people, sharing sexual fantasies can be highly erotic. So Dr. Deitsch recommends laying with your partner and describing the sexy things you want to do to them, or watching porn together, or engaging in some light bondage as you read sexy stories.

Experiment with texture and touch.
If non-penetrative sex is new for you, then now is a great time to really get to know your partner’s body. “An interesting way to conceptualize a partner is having them be your canvas,” Dr. Deitsch says. Use whatever you can find, that your partner feels good having on their body, and explore different parts of your lover’s body. That can mean a wooden spoon or spatula, a comb, an ice cube, a smooth piece of cloth or a fork. “Rake a comb across their back or take a piece of cloth in between the cleavage area,” Dr. Deitsch says. “Just making a big long production out of feeling different types of touch with different materials.” It’s fun, but can also help you get intimately acquainted with all of your partner’s sensitive spots. (Maybe you can even attempt the elusive nipple-gasm.)

Make it booty-licious.
(Almost) everyone has an anus, Dr. Deitsch says. So anal sex is the great equalizer. “There are a plethora of new toys on the market, like butt plugs and anal beads, that you certainly don’t need a penis to be able to utilize,” she says. And whether any partner involved has a prostate or not, anal sex can feel amazing.

But, it’s also easy to have anal sex that hurts. So, if you’re a first-timer, make sure you’re buying smaller butt plugs that have a flared base and using plenty of lube.

Complete Article HERE!

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

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Following their own path.

By

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s not a phase

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

Young people have thought this through.

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

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

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DublinBus Proud Dads

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

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We’re Queer And We’ve Been Here

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

By Dr. Jay Michaelson

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

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

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

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

1. Mild offenses

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

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

2. Gender-nonconforming ancestors

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

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

3. Sexual samurai

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

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

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

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

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

4. Gender fluidity

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

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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

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You deserve sensitive, comprehensive care.

By Nathan Levitt, FNP-BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Article ↪HERE↩!

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Queen Mother of the South: My Life as a Transgender Parent

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[T]he Southern part of the U.S. has to be one of the more conservative regions in the nation. Rooted in traditional, religious, and conventional values, it is often referred to as the “Bible Belt.” Southern traditionalists marvel at their old-fashioned ways and high moral standards. These standards are applied to every aspect of Southern culture, regardless of race, color, ethnicity, religion, or gender.

Evonne Kaho

This is most evident in the Southern family. As experienced by many in the South, I was taught that the family should consist of a father, a mother, and children. As in my family, these roles are defined and dominated by principles engrained in “Southern tradition.”

Although I embraced this experience, deep down I knew that my life would take a turn that would clash with the very things I had been taught to respect and uphold. In 2000, I became a transgender woman. My transformation was a long-awaited accomplishment that symbolized my freedom, but not an end to my struggle as a member of the transgender community. I so desperately wanted to be a parent, but I shivered at thought of becoming one in Mississippi. As a transgender woman, I hoped, but I thought that I had no chance of having my own child. After all, as a child, I was taught that only traditional families that consisted of heterosexual couples should have children.

In 2002, I met the mate of my dreams, and we were married. In 2003, we were blessed with a beautiful baby girl. Watching the women in my family, I knew how to be a mother, but society was not ready for it. Even my parents criticized me and told me that my household was an abomination to God and was not the right environment in which to raise a child. With less and less support, I became stronger and more determined to be the parent that my child needed. I was taught that support, love, understanding, patience, and empathy were needed to successfully raise a child, and I possessed them all. My transgender identity did not prevent me from loving my daughter, nor did it take away from the positive contributions that I made in her life.

My daughter is 15 now and more beautiful than ever. She is one of my more, if not my most, important accomplishments. She is loving, caring, empathetic, and most of all open-minded. I taught her not to judge or to be critical of those who differ from her. My mate and I both reinforced choice. We would often explain to her that her choice to be whatever she wanted should not be dictated by who we were.

When I contracted HIV, the hardest thing was not accepting that I had it, but deciding how I would explain it to my daughter. I didn’t want the ignorance and stereotypes of society to determine her view of me or those like me.

I remember the morning that I told her. I asked myself, “Am I really prepared her this?” Sure, she knew about HIV/AIDS. My mate and I had both talked to her about it. However, other people had the disease, not one of her parents. It was one of the hardest things that I had ever done. She looked at me and said, “Mama, they have medicine for that, and you will be OK; I will help you.” I had not failed. That was one of my defining moments as a successful parent. The loving, caring, and empathetic spirit that I had worked so hard to impart to my daughter had revealed its beautiful head.

That day, as well as my experiences since, has equipped me with the skills I need to care for others like me. The number of transgender families has increased since 2003. As the CEO of Love Me Unlimited for Life, a non-profit transgender organization in the state of Mississippi, I have the resources to help transgender families and those living with HIV/AIDS. My organization serves as a support system for individuals who lead alternative lifestyles.

Becoming transgender after forming a family can be hard. We provide support for the whole family. In addition, we provide a repertoire of resources for families whose parents are living with HIV/AIDS. It’s very hard to explain to your child what HIV/AIDS is and what it means to live a long healthy life with it. It’s neither a death sentence nor a punishment for being homosexual or transgender; it’s a life change like having any other chronic disease.

Over the years, I have become a mother to many in the LGBTQ community. I have utilized the same parenting skills that I began using with my own child in 2003. Regardless of their ages, they appreciate the love and support that they receive. I am thankful that I have been able to serve as a beacon of hope for so many.

After all, I am known as “Queen Mother of the South.”

Complete Article HERE!

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This is the difference between gender and sexuality

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The two are incredibly different

By

Many assume gender identity and sexual orientation are linked, but the two concepts are different and it’s important to know why.

On a very basic level, gender identity is described as being more about who you are, and sexual orientation is defined as who you want to be with.

If someone is transgender, for example, some people assume that they must also be lesbian, gay or bisexual – but this is not the case.

However, gender and sexuality is (obviously) much more complex than this.

What is gender identity?

Gender identity is your own personal perception of yourself – and there are many different genders outside of male and female. And importantly, the gender with which someone identifies might not match the gender they were assigned at birth.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, gender identity is the “innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither – how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves.”

Gender is complicated because different genders come with a host of societal expectations about behaviours and characteristics, which can have negative impacts on people.

Societal expectations of gender norms – or gender roles – often dictate who can and should do what.

A Pakistani transgender activist

For instance, women have historically faced setbacks in the workplace, or fewer opportunities, purely because they are women and for no other reason.

Whereas from a traditional viewpoint, men are expected to make decisions, and naturally be authoritative when at work.

Gender also has legal implications. In the UK, anyone who wants to legally change the gender they were assigned with at birth has to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate, but it is a lengthy and difficult process so not everyone chooses to do this.

To qualify for the certificate, people must have lived for two years in the gender they identify with and have a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

Gender dysphoria is a condition where someone experiences distress because there is a mismatch between their gender identity and biological sex.

What is transitioning?

Transitioning describes the steps which a transgender person may take to live in the gender with which they identify.

The process is different for each person and may include medical intervention such as hormone therapy and surgeries, but not everyone wants or is able to have this.

It may involve transitioning socially, either by wearing different clothing, using names or pronouns or telling friends and family.

Gender expression is how someone expresses their gender identity externally, for example, through appearance – clothing, hair or make-up – or through their behaviour.

This is the difference between gender and sexuality

Complete Article HERE!

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Parents struggle to discuss sex with LGBTQ teens

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[I]t’s hard enough for parents to have “the talk” about sexual health with their kids, but parents of LGBTQ children feel especially uncomfortable and unequipped when they try to educate them about sex and dating, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study.

The study examined parents’ attitudes toward talking about with their lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer teens (LGBTQ).

“Parents play an important role in helping their children learn how to have healthy sexual relationships, but they really struggle when discussing this with their LGBTQ teens,” said lead author , an assistant professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

In contrast to heterosexual youth, very little research has previously been conducted on the relationships between LGBTQ youth and their parents, and how parenting can affect children’s sexual behaviors.

Parents in the study reported that they face many challenges when trying to educate their LGBTQ children about sex. These challenges include general discomfort with talking about sex with their children, as well as feeling unequipped to provide accurate advice about what constitutes safe LGBTQ sexual practices.

“My challenge around talking about sex is that I have no idea what sex is really like for men, especially for gay men,” commented one mother in an online focus group.

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

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

One parent reported feeling isolated in handling sex talks with her gay child. “I don’t have an opportunity to talk to other parents whose kids are LGBTQ,” she said.

“We need resources to help all parents—regardless of their child’s sexual orientation or gender identity—overcome the awkwardness and discomfort that can result from conversations about sexual ,” said Newcomb, associate director for scientific development at the Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health at Feinberg.

The Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health conducted the survey examining attitudes toward talking about sexual health from the perspective of parents of LGBTQ teens.

The study was published March 26 in the journal Sexuality Research and Social Policy. There were 44 participants in the study who were parents of LGBTQ adolescents ages 13-17.

“Having a healthy and supportive relationship with parents is one of the strongest predictors of positive health outcomes in teens, and this is true of both heterosexual and LGBTQ teens,” Newcomb said. “Many parents and their LGBTQ teens want to have supportive relationships with one another, so if we can design programs to strengthen these relationships, it could have a tremendous impact on LGBTQ teens’ health and well being.”

The Institute also recently published a separate study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior focused on talking about sex from the perspective of LGBTQ adolescents.

“We found that many of the gay and bisexual male youth in our study wanted to be closer to their parents and to be able to talk about sex and dating,” said lead author Brian Feinstein, a research assistant professor at the institute. “However, most of them said that they rarely, if ever, talked to their parents about sex and dating, especially after coming out. And, even if they did talk about sex and dating with their parents, the conversations were brief and focused exclusively on HIV and condom use.”

Participants in the youth study were ages 14-17 and identified as gay or bisexual males.

Brian Mustanski, director of Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and professor of medical social sciences at Feinberg, noted, “Research on family relationships is a high priority for us because it is an extremely understudied area, and parents are asking us for advice. We need new research to give these the right answers.”

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Barres examines gender, science debate and offers a novel critique

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[B]en Barres has a distinct edge over the many others who have joined the debate about whether men’s brains are innately better suited for science than women’s. He doesn’t just make an abstract argument about the similarities and differences between the genders; he has lived as both.

Having lived as a woman and a man helped Ben Barres to better understand gender discrimination against female scientists.

Barres’ experience as a female-to-male transgendered person led him to write a pointed commentary in the July 13 issue of Nature rebuking the comments of former Harvard University president Lawrence Summers that raised the possibility that the dearth of women in the upper levels of science is rooted in biology. Marshalling scientific evidence as well as drawing from personal experience, Barres maintained that, contrary to Summers’ remarks, the lack of women in the upper reaches of research has more to do with bias than aptitude.

“This is a street fight,” said Barres, MD, PhD, professor of neurobiology and of developmental biology and of neurology and neurological sciences, referring to the gang of male academics and pundits who have attacked women scientists who criticized arguments about their alleged biological inferiority.

Barres’ piece revived the heated debate about gender inequality in science, garnering worldwide attention including pieces in the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.

Where Summers sees innate differences, Barres sees discrimination. As a young woman—Barbara—he said he was discouraged from setting his sights on MIT, where he ended up receiving his bachelor’s degree. Once there, he was told that a boyfriend must have solved a hard math problem that he had answered and that had stumped most men in the class. After he began living as a man in 1997, Barres overheard another scientist say, “Ben Barres gave a great seminar today, but his work is much better than his sister’s work.”

From Barres’ perspective the only thing that changed is his ability to cry. Other than the absence of tears, he feels exactly the same. His science is the same, his interests are the same and he feels the quality of his work is unchanged.

That he could be treated differently by people who think of him as a woman, as a man or as a transgendered person makes Barres angry. What’s worse is that some women don’t recognize that they are treated differently because, unlike him, they’ve never known anything else.

The irony, Barres said, is that those who argue in favor of innate differences in scientific ability lack scientific data to explain why women make up more than half of all graduate students but only 10 percent of tenured faculty. The situation is similar for minorities.

“It’s leakage along the pipeline all the way,” Stanford President John Hennessy, who last year spoke out against Summers’ original remarks, said in an interview with a Newsweek reporter.

Yet scientists of both sexes are ready to attribute the gap to a gender difference. “They don’t care what the data is,” Barres said. “That’s the meaning of prejudice.”

Barres doesn’t think that scientists at the top of the ladder mean harm. “I am certain that all of the proponents of the Larry Summers hypothesis are well-meaning and fair-minded people,” he wrote in his Nature commentary. Still, because we all grew up in a culture that holds men and women to different standards, people are blind to their inherent biases, Barres said.

In his essay Barres points to data from a range of studies showing bias in science. For example, when a mixed panel of scientists evaluated grant proposals without names, men and women fared equally. However, when competing unblinded, a woman applying for a research grant needed to be three times more productive than men to be considered equally competent.

Further evidence comes from Mahzarin Banaji, PhD, professor of psychology at Harvard. She and her colleagues have devised a test that forces people to quickly associate terms with genders. The results revealed that both men and women are less likely to associate scientific words with women than with men.

Given these and other findings, Barres wondered how scientists could fail to admit that discrimination is a problem. His answer? Optimism. Most scientists want to believe that they are fair, he said, and for that reason overlook data indicating that they probably aren’t.

Unfortunately, this optimism prevents those at the top of the field from taking steps to eliminate a bias they don’t acknowledge. “People can’t change until they see there’s a problem,” he said.

Barres’ colleague Jennifer Raymond, PhD, assistant professor of neurobiology, said she appreciates his speaking out. “Most people do think there is a level playing field despite the data to the contrary,” she said.

Medical school Dean Philip Pizzo, MD, also applauds Barres’ efforts to promote fairness in science. “Dr. Barres is right to challenge individuals and organizations who contribute to known or unknown bias. He compels us to think more critically and honestly and to grow in more positive directions,” Pizzo said.

Barres’ concerns go beyond his own advancement. Pointing to his own large office, replete with comfortable furniture and a coffee table, he said, “I have everything I need.” As a tenured professor, he’s not fighting for himself. “This is about my students,” he said. “I want them all to be successful.”

And he wants science to move forward, which means looking beyond the abilities of white men, who make up 8 percent of the world’s population. The odds that all of the world’s best scientists can be found in that subset is, at best, small, he said.

With that in mind, Barres has been at the forefront of the fight to make science fairer for all genders and races. One focus is eliminating bias from grant applications, especially for the most lucrative grants where the stakes are highest.

Last year, Barres convinced the National Institutes of Health to change how it chooses talented young scientists to receive its Director’s Pioneer Award, worth $500,000 per year for five years. In 2004, the 64-person selection panel consisted of 60 men; all nine grants went to men. In 2005, the agency increased the number of women on the panel; six of the 13 grants went to women. Barres said that he has now set his sights on challenging what he perceives as gender bias in the Howard Hughes Investigator program, an elite scientific award that virtually guarantees long-term research funding.

In his commentary, Barres listed additional ideas for how to retain more women and minorities in science, beyond the standard cries to simply hire more women. He suggested that women scientists be judged by the quality of their science rather than the quantity, given that many bear the brunt of child-care responsibilities. He proposed enacting more gender-balanced selection processes for grants and job searches, as with the Pioneer award. And he called on academic leaders to speak out when departments aren’t diverse.

Barres said that critics have dismissed women who complain of discrimination in science as being irrational and emotional, but he said that the opposite argument is easy to make. “It is overwhelmingly men who commit violent crimes out of rage and anger,” he wrote. “If any one ever sees a women with road rage, they should write it up and send it to a medical journal.”

He continued, “I am tired of powerful people using their position to demean me just because I am different from them. . . . I will certainly not sit around silently and endure them.”

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Gender Glossary: Understanding ‘Intersex’ Beyond the Binary

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By Harish Iyer

[8] November is designated as the day where we show solidarity and ensure that we educate ourselves about the intersex community. 8 November is the birthday of Herculin Barbin a french intersex person, who was brought up as a girl, but in adulthood discovered that she has a vagina but also a small penis. She thought she was being punished and ended up committing suicide after writing a memoir, which is, a living document of what it meant to be intersex in the mid 1800s.

As a person from the LGBTIQ community, it is important that we address the I in LGBTIQ. To address that, we need to understand what intersex really means. This is because much of our discrimination is borne out of misinformation or lack of knowledge. In a world where we view everything in binaries, to let people know that there are sexes beyond male and female would need an open mind. But do we understand the binaries well either?

Did You Know: Bisexuals are capable of having romantic feelings with people regardless of gender.

Before we even get to intersex, it is important to understand the difference between sex, gender and sexuality. Let me try simplifying this with the least amount of jargon.

Speaking of sex, I remember the joke way back in school, where we used to giggle whenever we saw “sex” written in any form as we thought the response should be “2 times in a day”. But sex in every context is not the act of sexual intercourse. The most easy and explicit way that I could explain is that sex is between your legs, it is determined by the presence or absence of an organ like a penis or vagina. If you have a penis you get classified as male, if you have a vagina you get classified as female.

Gender is a social construct. It is in your mind and heart and is not determined by the presence or absence of a body organ. One could be a female and identify as female, or be a male and identify as a male. However, you could also be a male (with a penis) but identify as a female, or be a female (with a vagina) and identify as a male. What you identify as, is what we call – “gender identity”.  It is also known as “transgender”.

Segregation of gender would directly detriment a culture of empathy and mutual respect.

Also, when we say gender is a social construct, it could mean that it may take time for people to realise their gender expression. Because of the fact that the society puts people in specific gender roles, it becomes difficult for people to express that they actually are a man but from within they feel they are a woman or the vice versa. It could mean that they wish to identify as gender-queer or transgender.

Like, I am a male and till a few years back I thought my gender was male. But I am realising that my gender expression is more feminine, which could mean that I could identify as gender-queer in coming years.

The bottom-line is that my gender is what I tell you my gender is. My gender is not what you think my gender is.

One could go on and on about gender, sex and sexuality. Now that we have some basic knowledge about sex and gender. Let us understand intersex.

One could go on and on about gender, sex and sexuality. Now that we have some basic knowledge about sex and gender. Let us understand intersex.

Intersex persons are people who are born with a sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit into definitions of sex of male or female in terms of anatomy. A person may be born with a penis and with a depression that leads to a labia. Or a person could be born with a vagina and may have a small penis.

It is rude and incorrect to classify intersex persons as “in-betweens” or “abnormal” people. It is however not rude to state that intersex persons are different.

There is a huge confusion among most people about intersex persons and hijras. Hijras are a community of transgender persons who live together and have their own social and religious practices. They are mainly male persons who have a female gender expression. They may or may not have undergone a sexual re-assignment surgery to align their sex with the gender that they identify with. Hijras could be intersex people too. However, all intersex people are not Hijras.

There is a myth that hijras pick up children with ambiguous gender when they come to bless newborns. In a world where the girl child is drowned and killed at birth, it is not hard to imagine that a child with ambiguous gender is despised and also killed in some cases. Hijras are believed to offer to adopt such children. There is very little research on this. Much of these are myths propagated by folklore and incredibly stupid television serials who’re feeding on such myths and increasing the confusion between our understanding of intersex persons and hijras.

How do you identify if a person is intersex? You will not be able to tell. And you don’t need to identify them. They will tell you if they feel like telling you. It is polite to ask everyone what gender pronoun they would prefer and address them that way.

Didn’t I say, gender is something that people tell you? It is not just he/she or him/her, some could say that they prefer a collective pronoun “they or their” or “ze or hir” as gender neutral pronouns. So the pronouns in short are he/she/ze/ they or him/her/hir/their. Ask, don’t assume such things.

There are very few people in India who are intersex and openly identify as one.  One of my friends, Gopi Shankar is an intersex person who founded an organisation called Srushti Madurai. I used to always refer to Gopi as “he” as his gender expression, I assumed is Male and so did many journalists. Until recently when I discovered that he is intersex and prefers pronoun “ze”.

Ze contested elections in the Tamil Nadu Legistlative assembly in 2016 and has also won a lot of awards and accolades for hir work in the domain of gender and sexuality especially in Madurai, Tamil Nadu.

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The future is fluid:

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Generation Z’s approach to gender and sexuality is indeed revolutionary

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Whenever a new generation comes of age, it inevitably ends up getting scrutinized by those who came before. Just look at how millennials have been derided for killing romance, sex, and the entire democratic system. If you believe everything you read, it’s like this generation is single-handedly out to destroy all that is holy in America, leaving nothing behind for posterity.

But death leads to new life, and from the ashes of the American Dream (which millennials have also killed), the younger Generation Z appears to have discovered a bevy of new social norms—especially in regards to gender and sexuality.

Also called the iGeneration, Generation Z is loosely defined as anyone born between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s (aka ages 7 to 22). Growing up in the shadow of what is now the largest living American generation, Generation Z inevitably took a lot of inspiration from millennials. But as this group of young Americans become teenagers, even certified legal-drinking adults, one defining feature experts are starting to notice is the iGen’s tendency to view gender and sexuality as something on a spectrum, not just simply male or female, or gay or straight.

Lily-Rose Depp, Johnny Depp’s 18-year-old daughter and an actor in her own right, has said, “You don’t have to label your sexuality; so many kids these days are not labeling their sexuality and I think that’s so cool.” At 19 years old, Jaden Smith told GQ Style, “I feel like people are kind of confused about gender norms. I feel like people don’t really get it. I’m not saying that I get it, I’m just saying that I’ve never seen any distinction.”

For these Gen Zers, fluidity isn’t reactionary like it was (and still is) for millennials; now, it’s closer to the norm.

In fact, a 2016 survey by the consumer insight agency J. Walter Thompson Innovation Group found that only 48 percent of Generation Z identifies as “completely heterosexual,” compared to 65 percent of millennials. And over half of these young Americans reported knowing someone who goes by non-traditional gender pronouns like “they/them,” making this generation the only demographic where that is the case.

The iGeneration, as its name suggests, is unique because its members were the first to be born in the post-dot-com bubble world. While Generation X, baby boomers, and even older millennials will wax poetic about life before the internet took over, Gen Z doesn’t even know what that looks like. And although being constantly connected to the web can be very problematic at times, it has also gifted this generation with a level of exposure to different worldviews that was previously unheard of.

“We grew up in a time when the internet opened the doors of the world—literally—and allowed us to talk to someone on the other side of the globe in a matter of seconds,” Sean Dolan, a 19-year-old who grew up in the Chicago suburbs and now lives in Austin, told the Daily Dot. “The internet generation, as I’ve heard us referred to, has never experienced what it is like to not feel connected to every piece of information in the world at any time.”

Not only does the internet open up doors to different views of gender and sexuality, but it also allows for members of Gen Z to find other people who feel the same way that they do. Today, online communities like those found on Tumblr and in private Facebook groups are there to show support even when nobody is physically there to do so.

“Nowadays, I feel like kids are way more open about talking about sexuality, and making it more mainstream through use of social media and new forms of technology,” Madeline Dolinsky, a 20-year-old Chicago native told the Daily Dot. “People can freely express who they are and feel comfortable knowing they have a larger community around them who supports them.”

According to a 2013 study by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, LGBTQ teens are online for an average of 45 minutes longer than straight, cisgender teens. And while only 19 percent of these straight, cisgender teens reported making friends online, half of the LGBTQ survey respondents said that they did have a close friend they met online.

This doesn’t come as a surprise for Michael Bronski, a professor in the women, gender, and sexuality department at Harvard University. In the 16 years that Bronski has been teaching, he has witnessed first hand how internet communities have shaped his students.

“I can remember a moment at Dartmouth, maybe 2007, when the freshman class showed up and because Facebook had just been invented, many gay or lesbian students as freshmen came and they already knew each other,” Bronski told the Daily Dot. “It was this amazing thing where the first LGBT meeting was completely packed because they were all friends already. Well, they were virtual friends.”

And that was 10 years ago, when social media was just starting to become a part of mainstream culture. Now, the iGen often goes to these virtual communities first to learn about gender and sexuality, regardless of whether they’re actively looking for fellow LGBTQ teens or just trying to procrastinate homework.

“Even in the past five years, I think I’ve seen more of an openness and open-mindedness about talking about stuff,” Bronski said. “You don’t have to go to the library to look up in the card catalog books that have ‘gay’ in the title anymore—you can do it on your iPhone that your mother left you with when you were 10.”

In other words, the internet can give queer teens what real-life surroundings cannot. For Dolan, growing up in what he refers to as “the conservative suburbs of Chicago,” it was hard for him to be open about his sexuality. Only when he went off to college and found himself surrounded by other people his own age did he gain the confidence to come out to his family. And when he did come out, he found that his parents were supportive, but not necessarily as understanding as his fellow Gen Zers.

“I had this idea all the way up until college that I would never come out to my parents, except for when I [told] them that I got married to another man,” Dolan said. “It wasn’t until I finally summoned up the courage to call them and tell them that their first reaction was, ‘Honey, we know.’ I still feel that, although they have been accepting when I talk about it at home, it is a borderline don’t-ask, don’t-tell situation.”

Dolan’s family experience shows that America won’t seamlessly become a fluid utopia when iGen takes over. While Gen Xers like Dolan’s parents might be more open to gays and lesbians than Baby Boomers are, sexuality is still predominantly seen as a black-or-white concept among them. The term “sexual fluidity” didn’t even enter the mainstream vernacular until psychologist Lisa M. Diamond wrote a book on the subject in 2008.

Gender fluidity, meanwhile, is an even more recent concept in pop culture. Only in the last few years have people come under fire for using the derogatory term “tranny.” And for some Gen Zers, the reality of living life outside of the binary is still far from perfect.

Nikolai Tarsinov is a 20-year-old transgender man currently living in Boston who identifies as pansexual. He often notices a discrepancy between how open his generation thinks it is in regards to fluidity, versus how open it actually is.

“My friend group is almost all heterosexual and cisgender. If I’m being completely honest, they are a lot less open-minded than they think they are,” Nikolai said. “The same people who proudly declare themselves progressives and allies will offhandedly make comments about how I’m not a ‘real’ guy.”

This also might have to do with maturity—teenagers can be mean and they’re hardly masters of nuance. But it also shows that this generation is teetering on the precipice of a major breakthrough. It’s going to take more than celebrities endorsing fluidity, however, to make long-term, noticeable changes to how America perceives gender and sexual identities. The million-dollar question now is whether or not Generation Z is ready to commit to those changes.

“I would never belittle the progress society has made. Just over the course of my short life, I have seen queerness go from something to make fun of to something that’s tentatively accepted,” Tarsinov said. “We are a lot more progressive than any generation that has come before us, but there is a lot more work to be done before society gets to a place where all people can be comfortable with their sexuality.”

It can be hard to predict trends in an entire generation’s worldviews, especially when dealing with a group as young as Generation Z. It can be even more difficult to try and sum up an entire generation’s views on a topic as complex as gender or sexuality. And let’s get one thing clear: Generation Z probably won’t be the group to completely rid the world of sexual and gender binaries.

With that said, this generation is onto something. It will be interesting to see how gender and sexual norms change as the iGen continues to grow up and enter the “real world”—whatever that means.

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