The Modern Monogamous Marriage Is Built on Lies, Not Sex Research

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By Carrie Weisman

With some exceptions, gender constructs have served men well in the modern world. It’s landed them in more high-powered positions. It’s gotten them higher wages. And, yeah, it’s given them license to pursue sex in ways that would lead women to be ostracized or shamed. In her new book Untrue: Why Nearly Everything We Believe About Women Lust and Adultery Is Wrong and How the New Science Can Set Us Free, author Wednesday Martin digs into the damage incurred through this “boys will be boys” mentality. And she blows a whistle on the many biases that have boxed their female counterparts into such sexually constrained identities.

Fatherly spoke to Martin about what authentic sexuality looks like in women and how men can help them find their own special shade.

A lot of Untrue is about adultery. Why was it important for you to look into how women function in relationship to non-monogamy?

Infidelity is really a great test case for how we actually feel about gender parity. We have people who believe women should make the same amount men do. We have people who believe that women should hold political office. But how do they feel when women seize a privilege that has historically belonged to men, the privilege of not being monogamous? We don’t have any autonomy if we don’t have the autonomy to do what we want with our bodies.

This book really looks at how science and social science has conspired to put out a narrative that keeps women from attaining sexual autonomy. We think it’s physical violence, coercion, and slut-shaming that keep women in their place within this culture, but it’s also bad science and bad social science. So much of it has been abused to coerce women into monogamy and to discourage us from being sexually autonomous.

How does that message relate to the current cultural climate? How does it relate to the ways in which women are now asserting their sexual autonomy?

In terms of the #MeToo movement, well, I feel like bad science brought us to this moment. There’s been inaccurate science that posits that men are naturally sexually aggressive and that the male sexual coercion of females is natural. There’s a lot of more recent science that tells us that’s not true. I think a lot of that bad, biased science helped bring our culture to a point of crisis.

What are some other misconceptions surrounding female sexual identity and desire?

There is some research to suggest that the institutionalization of a relationship, whether it’s marriage or moving in together, dampens female sexual desire even more than male desire. There are studies that document women talking marriage and long-term partnership as anaphrodisiacs, as something that dampens sexual desire. They talk about familiarity and security killing their libidos. Men need to understand this about the women that they’re with. These women need sexual adventure just as much as men do.

Okay. That’s probably going to unnerve or surprise some guys out there. And maybe that’s indicative of the issue. Why do you think so many women have a hard time coming out about their genuine attitude towards polyamory and other nonconforming sexual behaviors?

You pay a high price for being honest about your sexual desires in this culture. Everything from slut-shaming to lethal violence to someone just thinking that you’re weird. Women who do step out face a lot of danger. In this country, so many mass shootings involve men trying to control women who have left them. And a lot of the triggers don’t even involve infidelity, but the suspicion of infidelity. It’s still really dangerous for women to exercise that really basic form of autonomy within the U.S.

How can men help women feel safe speaking about their desires?

I think men need to educate themselves. They need to understand the female erectile network, the extensiveness of the clitoris, the possibility of multiple orgasms, the fact that we have no refractory period. This all seems to suggest, to me, that women really evolved for sexual pleasure and serial sexual pleasure.

What about guys in monogamous relationships with wives who are not likely to be experiencing serial sexual pleasure any time soon? How can they help their partners enjoy a more diverse sex life?

I wrote the book to be a conversation starter between women and their partners. Men should know that some women really struggle with monogamy. Now, that doesn’t mean they’re going to go invite a “third” into the bedroom as a way to attain novelty. But it should encourage men to step up their game. Buy her a sex toy. Talk about sexual fantasies. Watch porn together. Go on adventures that have nothing to do with sex. Go on a zip line. Learn to tango. Take a trip. Remember, adrenaline can deliver a similar feeling to what sexual novelty gives us. These are all options if you don’t want to seek out adventure by way of consensual non-monogamy.

What about men with daughters? How can they impart healthier sexual attitudes?

It would be extremely helpful to start educating kids about female sexual pleasure at home. It’s important we teach them that women are more than an extension of male desire. Girls are more than precious little things who have to protect themselves from the boys. They are thinking, feeling people who have an amazingly evolved sexual anatomy with an extremely high capacity for pleasure. This is really basic information that kids aren’t getting in school.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to Have Sex if You’re Queer

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What to Know About Protection, Consent, and What Queer Sex Means

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Happy Pride!

Rarely does traditional sex education tackle pleasure for pleasure’s sake, how to have sex for non-reproductive purposes, or the wide spectrums of sexualities, bodies, and genders that exist. Instead it tends to cover penis-in-vagina penetration only, pregnancy risks, and STI/STD transmission, leaning heavily on scare tactics that may not even work.

Traditional sex ed is failing us all, but when it comes to standardized sex education in the U.S., the LGBTQ community is especially left out of the conversation. A GLSEN National School Climate Survey found that fewer than 5% of LGBTQ students had health classes that included positive representations of LGBTQ-related topics. Among self-identified “millennials” surveyed in 2015, only 12% said their sex education classes covered same-sex relationships at all.

The good, and even possibly great news is that not being boxed in by the narrow definitions of sex provided to us via traditional sex ed means that we are free (and perhaps even empowered!) to build our own sex lives that work uniquely for us, our partners, and our relationships. But we still need some info in order to do so.

Let’s talk about what classic sex education might’ve missed about how to have sex if you’re queer, from what sex between queer people means to how to keep it safe and consensual between the rainbow sheets.

What Queer Sex Means and How to Have it

Redefine and self-define sex. Sexual desire exists on a spectrum just like gender, sexuality, and other fluid and fluctuating parts of our identities. From Ace to Gray-Ace to Allosexual and everywhere in between and beyond, check in with yourself and your partners about how they experience sexual desire (if at all).

Similarly, “having sex” can mean a million different things to a million different people from making out, to certain kinds of penetration, orgasmic experiences, etc. You get to decide “what counts as sex” to you which is especially true when it comes to sexual debuts — a necessary and inclusive term for self-determined first times that looks beyond the traditional, heterosexist version of “losing your virginity.”

Honoring the identities and bodies of ourselves and our partners with respect, kindness, compassion, and tenderness is crucial and can feel even more precious and rewarding when you’re queer. Truly pleasurable sex — regardless of your identity — starts with a sense of safety, clear communication, confident boundaries, active listening skills, and self-awareness.

Check in with yourself first. Active consent starts with knowing yourself and what your boundaries are. Though an important piece of practicing consent is asking your partner for permission and for their preferences, it can be easy to forget to ask yourself similar questions. What do you want out of a sexual experience? Where are you confident you don’t want to venture now, yet, or maybe ever? What are you super excited to explore?

This check-in can help you determine what you want from sex and what queer sex means to you. This is when you can think about experimenting with sex toys, whether you’re interested in penetration, and what kind of touch feels good to you.

Sometimes we don’t even know where to start if we’re not sure about what our options even are. Scarleteen.com or Girl Sex 101 (much more gender-spectrum-inclusive than the title suggests) are both great resources that can get some of your questions answered. You can also find more information here.

Name your own bits. Body parts, especially private body parts, can be complicated territory for LGBTQ folks, and understandably so. One of the main goals of sex for many of us is to feel good in our bodies. The first step to this can be feeling good about the terms we use for our body parts. Try on one or a few that might work for you, communicate them to your partners (especially new ones), and ask them how they like their bodies to be talked about or touched.

Gender roles are bendable roles. You don’t have to adopt traditional gender roles in sex unless you want to. Media mediums from PG-13 sex scenes to X-rated porn can create clear splits between what’s considered being “sexually masculine” (being the do-er, taking control, knowing the ropes) and being “sexually feminine” (being the receiver, being passive or reactive, being led rather than initiating the sexual interaction).

Just because you identify with being masculine, feminine, or somewhere in between doesn’t mean you need to act a certain way or do anything in particular in your sex life. You can be a Ferociously Fierce Femme, a Passive Prince of Pillows, a Non-Binary Take-Charge Babe, or any version of your sexual self that follows what feels good, affirming, and right to you and your partners.

Talk about sex outside of a sexual context. Talking about sex with your potential or current partners before the clothes come off can be a great way to keep clear-headed communication and consent thriving. Sexual interactions are vulnerable, exciting, and can get your body and brain functioning in all new ways. So, sometimes it can be easier to talk about your feelings about sex, your enthusiastic Yes-es, your definite No’s, and your curious Maybes over coffee or text first, in addition to in-the-moment communication about consent.

Make an aftercare plan. We know that consent, permission, and pre-sex talks are all important parts of a healthy sex life, but we can forget to think about what happens after we have sex (besides water, a pee break, and snacks, of course). This is aftercare — or, how we like to be interacted with after sex has ended.

Aftercare preferences can include what we want to do immediately after sex (cuddle? watch Netflix? have some alone time?) and can also include what happens in the upcoming days or weeks (check-ins over text? gossip parameters? is there anyone you and your partner definitely do or don’t want to dish to?).

No matter your aftercare preferences, a post-sex check-in conversation about how things went, what you’d love an encore of, and what you might want to avoid next time (if you’d like there to be a next time) is always a good idea.

Always keep it consensual. Consent starts with asking permission before any sexual touch or interaction begins, continues with checking in about how things are going, and ends with talking with each other about how the sexual interaction went overall so that feedback can be exchanged and any mistakes can be repaired.

True, enthusiastic consent thrives in a space where each person feels free, clear-headed, and safe to speak up about what their No’s, Yes-es, and Maybes are.

Safer Sex for Queer Sex

Hormones matter. Even though testosterone hormones can decrease your risk of unwanted pregnancy, folks on T can still become pregnant, so make sure to use condoms if sperm is likely to be in the mix. Estrogen hormones can slow sperm production, but if your body is still producing sperm, an egg-creating partner could still get pregnant, so put your favorite birth control method to work.

Starting or ending hormone therapy, whether it’s testosterone or estrogen, can impact your sexual response, your desire levels, your emotions, and even your sexual orientation — so don’t be surprised if these changes crop up. Find safe people to talk to about any complicated feelings this may trigger rather than keeping them bottled up.

Condoms aren’t a one-trick pony. Though the gym teacher might think that putting a condom on a banana tells students all they need to know about wrapping it up, they’re usually doing little more than wasting a high-potassium snack. Condoms can help reduce pregnancy and STI/STD transmission risk for all kinds of penis-penetrative sex (vaginal, anal, and oral) so they’re important to learn to use correctly. But, they can also be used in other ways. Condoms can be put on sex toys to help with easy clean-up, or if you want to share the toy with a partner without getting up to wash it (just put on a fresh condom instead!), and can even be made into dental dams.

Gloves are another important piece of latex (or non-latex if you’re allergic) to keep…on hand…in your safer-sex kit, as they can prevent transmission of fluids into unnoticed cuts on your hands and can protect delicate orifice tissues from rough nails or your latest catclaw manicure (Pssst: if your nails are extra long and pointy, you can put cotton balls down in the tips of your glove for extra padding).

Lube is your friend. Lube is a great addition to all kinds of sex, but comes highly recommended for certain kinds of sex. A good water-based lube (avoid the ingredient glycerin if you’re prone to yeast infections!) can add pleasurable slip to all kinds of penetration, is latex-compatible, and reduces friction from sex toys or other body parts.

Lube can also be put on the receiver’s end of a dental dam or a small drop can be added to the inside of a condom before you put it on to create more pleasure for the condom-wearer.

Anal sex especially benefits from lube as your booty doesn’t self-lubricate like the vagina does, so it can be prone to painful tearing or friction during penetration. Using a thicker water-based lube like Sliquid Sassy for anal sex reduces friction, increases pleasure, and decreases chances of tearing which, also lowers risk of STI/STD transmission.

Sadly, no one is immune to STIs. Though it’s true that certain sex acts come with greater or lesser risk of STI/STD transmission, it doesn’t mean that certain partner pairings are totally risk-free. The Human Rights Campaign’s Safer Sex Guide (available in both Spanish and English) contains a helpful chart that breaks down the health risks associated with specific sex acts, complete with barrier and birth control methods that’ll help lower your risk.

Remember, some STIs/STDs are easily curable with medication, some are permanent-yet-manageable, and some can be lethal (especially if left untreated). So, knowing the difference and knowing and communicating your status are all important pieces of your sexual health. You can continue to lower STI stigma while reducing rates of STI transmission by keeping conversations about sexual health with your partners open and non-judgmental.

Sex toys need baths, too. When choosing sex toys, it’s wise to pay attention to the kind of material your toy is made out of. Medical grade silicone, stainless steel, glass, and treated wooden sex toys are all, for the most part, non-porous, meaning that they can (and should) easily be washed with soap and water between uses, between orifices, and between partners.

Sex toys made out of cyberskin, jelly rubber, elastomer, or other porous materials have small pores in them that can trap dirt and bacteria (kind of like a sponge), even after you wash them! This means that you could reintroduce dirt and bacteria to your own body causing bacterial or yeast infections for yourself, or you could pass bacteria or STIs to a partner via the toy. You could avoid these porous materials entirely (check the packaging to see what your toy is made out of) or you could use a condom on them every time like you would a body part.

For more tips on building a culture of consent in your communities and relationships, head to yanatallonhicks.com/consenthandout.

Complete Article HERE!

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How Many Genders Are There

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— And Why Does Talking About The Spectrum Of Identity Matter So Much?

By Amber Leventry

Lack of representation in the media doesn’t mean you’re not normal.

A person’s identity is so much more than a name scribbled on a ‘Hello My Name Is …’ sticker tag.

We are each complex beings made up of our histories, emotions, desires and values, and defined by our gender identity, sexual orientation and gender expression.

Conversations around the spectrum of gender and human sexuality are evolving, as discussions and celebrations during Pride Month 2019 attest.

It’s becoming more common to see the option of “other” or “preferred” as choices when selecting gender and pronouns on registration forms.

To many of us in the LGBTQIA+ community, asking about our preferences — really, asking who we are — feels refreshing, even hopeful. It makes us feel respected and seen.

But for others, it raises some big questions. How can you prefer something other than male or female?

How many genders are there?

There’s only one good answer to the question of how many genders there are: Gender is a spectrum, and there are as many gender definitions as there needs to for every person to have a label that feels true to themselves.

Maybe that’s confusing. Let me explain.

These three distinct and independent pieces of who we are — gender identity, sexual orientation and gender expression — depend on each other; they weave in and out, touching and layering on themselves to form a complete identity.

Photo credit: The Trevor Project

How do we proudly display all of our components in safe and meaningful ways to strangers if there isn’t room to include more than a name?

We do it by making room in our society for identities that do not follow the heteronormative assumptions of what is “normal”.

This may mean that we need to get a little uncomfortable while we learn about people and terms that are new or confusing.

Think of the sense of self as a spectrum with unlimited possibilities.

The first thing we either attach to or reject is our gender identity — that sense of being male, female, neither, or both.

When humans are born, they are given a gender assignment based on sexual anatomy. That assignment is usually limited to only two genders: male or female.

Even babies who are born intersex, “a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male”, are given a gender assignment with the assumption that one needs a binary label.

But the label is just a suggestion, because sexual anatomy (traditionally used to define “sex” in terms of identification) does not equal gender, and gender is not limited to meaning only one or the other.

Gender is not the binary constraint of being a man or woman, boy or girl.

So while I can’t tell you how many genders there are, there definitely are more than two.

It might help if you understand a little about my personal history.

Based on my anatomy, I was assigned female as my sex at birth. But since I was a kid, I knew I wasn’t just a girl. And as I got older, I knew I wasn’t a boy, either. I am both.

Once I discovered the language for this, I knew the word to describe me is nonbinary.

I can’t be placed into a box of being either male or female, though trust me, it would be easier to do this at times.

The world is not a kind place for those of us who know one of the key components of our identity is a gender many people and organizations do not recognize.

So, how do I know what my gender is?

Well, how do you know you are male? Or female? You just know — I do, too.

On most days I feel like a perfect mix of being both male and female; it’s a grounded feeling of knowing I am a hybrid of two genders.

On other days, I don’t feel overly connected to any gender. I am just me, but male pronouns are not right and female pronouns hurt.

Because of this, I use they/them pronouns.

There are other options for gender neutral and inclusive pronouns, and it’s anyone’s right to use what feels most comfortable.

Photo credit: UWM Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center

While it may seem confusing at first, you don’t have to “get it” to respect it.

In some countries and cultures, the people who know they are neither completely male or female are celebrated. In the United States, it’s hard for people to even get my pronouns correct, so I am not expecting mass celebrations.

Here is a list of some other important gender terms and definitions:

1. Genderfluid or Genderqueer

Some folks who don’t identify as either male or female may call themselves genderfluid or genderqueer.

A genderfluid person is someone who feels male one day, maybe one hour, and female the next. Their gender fluctuates, but what’s consistent is that they are not always one or the other.

Genderqueer folks may identify as neither or both male and female, much like a nonbinary person, and their gender expression may fluctuate, breaking stereotypical gender expressions of what it means to be masculine or feminine.

2. Transgender

If your gender assignment at birth does not match your gender identity, you are transgender, sometimes abbreviated to “trans”.

My gender assignment at birth does not match my gender identity, so this makes me transgender, and my gender identity is nonbinary.

3. Cisgender

If your gender assignment at birth does align with your gender identity, then you are cisgender, sometimes abbreviated to “cis”.

Being referred to by this label is not an insult; it’s simply a way to describe the fact that your assigned gender matches your true identity.

Note that the words transgender and cisgender are adjectives, not good or bad, just descriptors of gender.

Many transgender people still fall into the binary of being male or female. For example, a woman who was assigned male at birth based on anatomy knows she is a woman because of that inner sense of self. Therefore, she is a transgender woman.

4. Gender expression

Our gender expression is how we want to show the world who we are.

As long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, we all have the right to do what makes us most comfortable and happy. This includes what we wear, how we style our hair, if we wear makeup or jewelry, the names and pronouns we wanted to be called and how we accessorize any other external aspects of ourselves.

While I am not male, I express myself in a masculine way. I consider myself trans masculine, even androgynous at times. Others express themselves in more feminine or femme ways; all genders can consider themselves masculine, feminine, neither or both.

5. Gender nonconforming

Some expressions, like a man wearing dresses, is considered gender nonconforming.

For example, a person might identify as being a female, but describe her gender expression as masculine.

The important thing to remember is that there isn’t one way or a right way to be a man, woman, or nonbinary person.

It’s a bummer to feel like we are constantly compared to what many think is the “normal” way men and women and male and female-bodied people should present themselves.

Just because I am not represented in the media, movies, or books, that doesn’t mean I am not normal.

I am unique, perhaps. I am part of a minority. But I am normal and want pretty normal things in life and from others.

I want respect, kindness, and happiness. I want to feel safe and loved (because I fall in love, too).

My sexuality is an important part of who I am because it attracts people who see me for who I am. And for me, I want to find intimacy in vulnerable places with people who don’t question my identity.

The world can be pretty lonely for folks like me who are considered outliers.

What makes me feel most at home and sure of myself can make others feel uncomfortable.

My sense of self includes a gender outside of the binary, but my need for acceptance and compassion falls well within the range of deserved human decency.

What I really want is to feel more comfortable, and that can start with you.

Let go of assumptions and trust that the person you are talking to knows themself better than what you think you know about them based on stereotypes and heteronormative thinking.

And when you add your name to that ‘Hello My Name Is …’ sticker, add your pronouns, too.

It shows that you don’t want anyone making assumptions about you and that you are happy to acknowledge any and all pronouns of the people who may be in your presence.

Hi, my name is Amber. I use they/them pronouns. I am a person who deserves kindness and respect.

There’s a lot to who I am.

For instance, I like tacos and books and I want good coffee and great friends.

And when we meet, I want to know what pronouns you use because I want you to feel good, too, while we search for the nearest library or taco truck together.

Complete Article HERE!

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A Guide To Transgender Friendly Clinics by Region

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By Capri Fiello

Hims and Hers were founded with the goal of getting more people to be open and honest about their health. For too long there has been a stigma around talking about fairly common issues.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult for marginalized communities to access the health resources and information they specifically need. As an inclusive company, we want to use our platform to help the LGBTQ community. We want to spread awareness and assist people who are having trouble finding professional help.

Researching and searching the web can be exhausting and draining. To make things a bit easier, we researched and compiled our own guide to trans-friendly clinics across the United States by region.

Western United States

In regards to transgender issues, the Western United States is fairly progressive. Though there aren’t any clinics that explicitly advertise as trans-friendly, there are plenty of health clinics that are inclusive and affordable. Throughout the Western U.S., there are LGBTQ welcoming clinics in almost every major metropolitan hub.

San Francisco Community Health Center

Location: San Francisco, California

This health center offers a range of services for transgender people. Every Friday, they host “Trans: Thrive” — a drop-in clinic in which trans individuals can meet with providers.  In addition to offering feminizing hormone therapy, masculinizing hormone therapy, gender-reconstruction surgeries, and electrolysis, this clinic also has a range of other LGBTQ-friendly services like PrEP, HIV treatment, STI/HIV testing, and therapy. Though the services aren’t all free, they do offer free HIV testing.

Lyon Martin

Location: San Francisco, California

Lyon Martin has a plethora of transgender services like trans-affirmative gynecologic care, hormone therapy, mental health counseling, HIV and STI testing and treatment, and referral for gender-affirming surgery. In addition to accepting both public and private insurance, this clinic has a sliding-scale system that considers a patient’s income and insurance status.

The San Diego LGBT Community Center

Location: San Diego, California

This LGBT community center has fantastic transgender services. With Project TRANS, they have group therapy, HIV education services, outreach, referrals, and much more. On top of that, Project TRANS helps with changing one’s gender marker on documents. The San Diego LGBT Community Center is inclusive of people from various financial backgrounds, accepting patients regardless of their insurance status and assisting with costs.

Los Angeles LGBT Center

Location: Los Angeles, California

The Los Angeles LGBT Center is mindful and inclusive of LA’s transgender population. They offer trans-sensitive exams, hormone therapy and education, surgical care, and more. What’s particularly great about this center is that a lot of the referrals are in-house, making care easier and faster for transgender patients. In regards to payment, the center advertises that it can assist patients set up their own health-care plans and accepts most public and private health plans.

HOPES

Location: Reno, Nevada

HOPES is a community health center with robust services (pharmaceutical, HIV care, behavioral health) for the LGBTQ population of Reno, Nevada. This health center hosts transgender peer groups and a transgender family support group. Despite not having free services, they do offer free HIV and Hepatitis C testing.

Southeast US

In Southeast America, there are a few clinics that offer services to transgender individuals. However, there aren’t any clinics that are free. These clinics have some free services such as HIV and STI testing.

Magic City Wellness

Location: Birmingham, Alabama

This Birmingham clinic is an LGBTQ healthcare that offers primary care, Hormone Replacement Therapy, PrEP counseling, and free STI testing for transgender individuals. In addition, they have support groups for the LGBTQ community. The majority of major insurance plans and cash payments are accepted.

Five Horizons Health Services

Location: Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Like most LGBTQ friendly clinics, Five Horizons Health Services has free HIV testing and a robust STI prevention program. Though they don’t have any specific programs for transgender individuals, they do have STI and HIV prevention programs that are inclusive to the LGBTQ community. Five Horizons Health Services also has programs that are directed to African American women and Latinx communities. These tests are available at low-costs or for free.

Medical Advocacy & Outreach

Location: Montgomery, Alabama

Medical Advocacy & Outreach have numerous LGBTQ services. They offer HIV testing and education, special treatments, and mental health counseling for the LGBTQ community.

Thrive Alabama

Location:

Huntsville, Alabama     
Albertville, Alabama
Florence, Alabama

They offer affordable care to the LGBTQ community which includes PrEP prescriptions and free HIV testing. Thrive Alabama also has an Affordable Care Act specialist that assists patients in enrolling and figuring out their healthcare.

Crescent Care Sexual Health Center

Location: New Orleans, Lousiana

Crescent Care was named a “Leader in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality” by the Humans Right Campaign. They provide STI and HIV testing and treatment services. Their testing services are free. In regards to trans-specific healthcare, they offer gynecological screenings, behavioral health services, hormone treatment, primary care, and much more. Crescent Care is also quite inclusive to people from various financial backgrounds — they have a sliding discount and accept a variety of plans.

Northeastern United States

Our research found six trans-friendly clinics in the Northeastern U.S. These clinics are fairly affordable with some being free. On top of offering STI and HIV services, these LGBTQ institutions also provide trans-specific care.

Apicha Community Health Center

Location: New York City, New York

In addition to offering HIV and STI testing and treatment, this clinic offers transgender primary care, hormone therapy, and referrals to necessary surgeries. They also offer transgender group therapy. Apicha also is notable for their pledge of not refusing any patients due to income and their ability to afford care.

Callen-Lorde Community Health Center

Location: Bronx, New York City, New York

Callen-Lorde is a community health center that has a focus on LGBTQ and women issues. They have a transgender healthcare program that includes hormone therapy, HIV/AIDs care, mental health counseling, STI screening,  primary care, and more. Callen-Lorde offers complimentary sexual health clinic and has a sliding-scale payment system while accepting a diversity of insurance plans.

Alder Health

Location: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

As the only LGBTQ health center in a 120-mile radius of Harrisburg, Alder Health offers STI and HIV testing, PrEP education, and a holistic transgender health program. These services include hormone therapy, PAP treatments, behavioral health, and more. They provide free HIV & STI testing and treatment.

Equality Health Center

Location: Concord, New Hampshire

Equality Health Center provides hormone therapy and LGBTQ-specific health services like PrEP, STI testing and treatment, and more. In addition, they also accept a range of insurance options and have a sliding scale option for uninsured patients.  

Penobscot Community Health Care

Location: Multiple cities in Maine

The Humans Rights Campaign has been regarded Penobscot Community Health Care as a “Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality” for eight consistent years. They have resources on coming out to your doctor and how to deal with contracting the HIV virus. In addition, they have a sliding fee program that assists people who can’t necessarily afford care.

Whitman-Walker’s Sexual Health & Wellness Clinic

Location: Washington D.C.

There are numerous Whitman-Walker clinics across our nation’s capital. They offer a  range of transgender services like gender affirming services, hormone therapy, and HIV care and testing. This clinic advertises itself as a “safe, respectful and affirming environment” for transgender individuals. Most of their services aren’t free but they do offer free HIV and STI testing and treatment.

Midwestern United States

There are a handful of trans-friendly clinics in the Midwest. These clinics offer a diversity of services ranging from counseling to assisting with hormone therapy and have a variety of payment options.

The Boulder Valley Women’s Health Center

Location: Boulder, Colorado

This health center has ensured that transgender and non-binary individuals feel safe and included. They offer hormone therapy, referrals to gender confirmation surgery, and counseling. On top of that, they have STI testing. Though they offer free HIV testing, their services aren’t free but they have a sliding fee scale system and accept a range of insurance plans.

The Chicago Women’s Health Center

Location: Chicago, Illinois

The Chicago Women’s Health Center has had a robust trans-focused health program since 2009. They offer gynecological services, counseling, hormone therapy, and primary care. As a community-based center, they welcome feedback from transgender individuals on how to improve their services. They also offer a sliding-scale payment system, ensuring that their services are widely accessible.

The Howard Brown Health Center

Location: Chicago, Illinois

The Howard Brown Health Center offers numerous services for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals such as hormone therapy, HIV & STI testing, pharmacy services, specialized screenings, and more. They also have support groups for Chicago’s transgender population. For people who have no insurance and are low income, they have a sliding-scale payment system.   

The KC Care Clinic

Location: Kansas City, Missouri

The KC Care Clinic helps transgender individuals find “gender-affirming surgical providers.” In addition,  they also offer primary care, behavioral health services, and hormone therapy. On top of that, they provide free HIV testing. They advertise how “you will never be denied healthcare if you are unable pay” on their website and have an easily accessible system for people who both have insurance and lack it.

“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:

Or, use hims’ guide to search for trans-friendly clinics by region.”

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Exploring the different sexual orientations

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

By Logan Metzger,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The other orientation is pansexuality.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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Not That Kind of Girl

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In her influential 1959 Atlantic article, “Sex and the College Girl,” Nora Johnson predicted that young, educated women pursuing expansive new opportunities would likely end up disappointed. She spent the rest of her life finding out what could happen instead.

High-school students graduate in 1960. Nora Johnson’s articles, novels, and memoirs followed women as they matured from infatuated teenagers to aging lovers.

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Every few years, new concerns bloom about the changing ways young people are approaching relationships, from the stigmatized early years of online dating in the 1990s and 2000s to the panic over campus hookup culture in the early 2010s to the dawning concern that rather than having too much sex, Millennials aren’t having enough. Many young people are now experiencing a sex recession, my colleague Kate Julian wrote for the cover of this magazine in December.

But long before Tinder or Match.com were founded, and even before most universities went coed, the seeds of these ideas were planted in another Atlantic article: Nora Johnson’s influential “Sex and the College Girl.” Written in 1959, the article captured a snapshot of college romance on the lip of the sexual revolution and the second-wave feminist movement: Young women were pulling back from romantic commitment and domestic life to explore their options; young men were left bewildered and resentful as their relationships shifted in turn.

Johnson framed the moment not as one of ecstatic liberation, but rather as an uncertain and sometimes overwhelming introduction of possibility for female students. She observed educated women navigating a convoluted path of desire, respect, security, and shame in pursuit of the dream of a full life: “a husband, a career, community work, children, and the rest.” Only an exceptional few could achieve that life without sacrificing personal or professional goals along the way, she predicted. For many of the rest of them, this pursuit would end in “an ulcer, a divorce, a psychiatrist, or deep disappointment”; and for some of them, those who were put off by the apparent futility of trying to balance all the expansive possibilities, “the most confining kind of domestic life.” Without the “moral generalizations” of her grandmother’s era, Johnson’s college girl was left to forge ahead toward those difficult choices with more subjective, and personal, judgment—carrying “her belief in herself,” or what she calls the “modern version” of herself, forward into the unknown.
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Johnson wrote “Sex and the College Girl” when she was 26, just five years after graduating from Smith. Though young, she was already beginning to establish herself as an author. She’d grown up as the daughter of a Hollywood filmmaker, surrounded by “an encampment of storytellers,” as she later recalled, and had published her first and ultimately most successful novel, The World of Henry Orient, a year earlier. Like “Sex and the College Girl,” the book drew on her own experiences as a student, fictionalizing the crush she and a friend had nursed for an actor-musician while they were in high school.

As Johnson grew older, the subjects of her writing generally did too, maturing as the decades wore on from students navigating the college dating scene to married couples to divorcées to aging lovers. But though the characters changed, the sense of uncertain possibility she described in “Sex and the College Girl” remained—sometimes joyful, sometimes dutiful, sometimes onerous, but never entirely gone. Johnson’s love stories, told in an era of expanding female choices, were weighted with the consciousness of them.

In “Sex and the College Girl,” the choices were myriad, novel, and full of potentially far-reaching consequences. Female students faced decisions about who to date, what to offer physically and emotionally, and how much to hold in reserve for how long. Beyond that immediate horizon stretched a broader array of opportunities and potential pitfalls: children, careers, and all of the self-betterment and intellectual rigor their educations were preparing them for. Commitment and marriage, in a sense, presented an out—a sense of certainty, a solid support system. “Joe has a future,” Johnson wrote. “He knows exactly what he is going to do after graduation … The decision about [the college girl’s] life keeps her awake at night, but when she is with Joe things make more sense.”

Two years later, in “The Captivity of Marriage,” Johnson described the constrained choices of the women who stuck with their Joes. Now juggling the responsibilities of raising children, keeping a house, and engaging in “community or P.T.A. work of some kind,” married women “feel … like a pie with not enough pieces to go around,” Johnson wrote. But the new responsibilities and family and community ties did not put the “undefined dreams” of their younger years to rest; instead, the wife and mother “vaguely feels that she is frittering away her days and that a half-defined but important part of her ability is lying about unused.” That feeling of dissatisfaction, Johnson observed, was coupled with the lingering “quality of excitement that comes from strangeness and the idealization of still-unknown experience” that made the concept of sex with an unfamiliar partner attractive. But those choices, which would take women away from their husbands and children, were now taboo. In their place were new choices, more limited but still unfamiliar and consequential. “Choosing a house and everything that goes into it, and a school, and a competent doctor are decisions that the young mother makes without adequate knowledge,” Johnson wrote, “and she can ill afford mistakes.”

She described the fallout from one error in judgment a year later in “A Marriage on the Rocks,” an article published in the July 1962 issue of The Atlantic. “The moment when it first becomes apparent that one’s marriage was a mistake,” she opened the piece, “is the beginning of probably the longest, darkest period in the human lifetime.” She chronicled the slow fracturing of a union that, to the college girl, had carried a promise of lifelong certainty in an otherwise unknown future. Unhappiness settled in and grew unbearable as the relationship devolved into “the endless opening of wounds … capitulating one’s beliefs … [and] adjusting oneself to the dismal and baneful workable compromise.” But choosing to break free of  that unhappiness meant exchanging it for a new, unknown one, defined by a sudden and “terrible feeling of having no one around on whom to blame everything.”

Johnson expressed the frustration of seeing a marriage fail while knowing that, with the newly available options for women to marry for love and to define more aspects of their life and work, “all of us … have the potential to become the greatest lovers on earth.” She wondered: “All this freedom and opportunity are breathtaking. Do we deserve them, and can we possibly live up to their obligations?”

Divorce loomed large in Johnson’s life. Her parents’ marriage ended when she was 6 years old, and they moved to separate coasts, leaving Johnson to shuttle back and forth between her mother’s New York home and her father’s star-studded Hollywood life for much of her childhood and adolescence. “My heart begins to tear, a long ragged rent which I have spent my life trying to mend,” she reflected in her 1982 memoir You Can Go Home Again, looking back on the dissolution of her family. She recalled how her mother’s attempts to become “an elegant divorced lady in a lovely house in the most exciting city in the world” transitioned into a second marriage to a possessive man who resented Nora when she returned home for a time as an adult after her own first marriage failed.

By the time she turned 32 in 1965, Johnson had already been married, divorced, and married a second time herself. In The Atlantic’s June 1961 issue, in which “The Captivity of Marriage” was published, she was introduced to readers as “happily married and the mother of two daughters.” When “A Marriage on the Rocks” was printed in the July 1962 issue,those details were omitted from her introduction. By the time she published You Can Go Home Again at the age of 59, her second marriage had also ended in divorce. In that sense, she fulfilled the melancholy predictions of “Sex and the College Girl” twice over.

But she had also built a successful career as a writer of novels, memoirs, articles, and, once, in collaboration her father, a movie based on The World of Henry Orient. Decades later, in an essay for The New York Times, she wrote about something she hadn’t predicted: finding love again. Johnson “was a long-divorced 71”; George was 83 and “recently widowed.” He became her third husband. “What astonished us,” she wrote, “was that the electricity we generated was as strong and compelling as love had been 50 years before, that it scrambled the brain every bit as much. Yet more surprising was that we had a rousing and delightful sex life.”

They still faced daunting choices and disappointments. At first they lived together in Florida, but they grew bored and moved to New York, only to grow bored there too, and be cold, and miss Florida. They dealt with natural disasters and health problems. They had difficult conversations. And then, seven years after they met, George died.

All Johnson’s stories resist the neat closure of the happily ever after. The security that Joe seems to present in “Sex and the College Girl” proves illusory; love degrades, fractures apart, or abruptly ends. “Marriage, entered upon maturely, is the only life for most women,” Johnson wrote in 1961. “But it is a way of life, not a magic bag of goodies at the end of the road.” Even old age, retirement, and George, who she said “brought joy and magic to my life,” don’t put the uncertain possibility of other paths to rest or stave off the sting of disappointment.

But her stories also resist the closure of a final failure. The college girl grows up, gets married, gets divorced, gets married again. She makes the wrong choices and then gets to make new ones. “This, then, is what the result is for a girl who has been brought up in a world where the only real value is self-betterment,” Johnson concluded in 1959. “She has had to create her own right and wrong, by trial and error and endless discussion.”

This is the story that Johnson wrote again and again, for several decades, until she died in 2017: There’s no happily ever after, or any ever after at all, but there’s happiness. Heartbreak. Regret. Magic. Surprise. Her extraordinary work was also a life lived, and recorded in pieces, over decades of love stories.

Complete Article HERE!

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There’s no room for double standards in the bedroom

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Lessening a woman’s value based on her sexuality is degrading — especially in the bedroom

By Payton Saso

Donald Trump is America’s most hated or loved man, depending on what side of the spectrum you’re on, and his deeply rooted misogyny is apparent in all levels of American culture.

While awarding a Presidential Medal of Freedom to the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Trump praised him for having lots of sex, but not without making a comment to Scalia’s widowed wife — “you were very busy.”

At first glance, this just seems like another one of Trump’s poorly-timed, unnecessary remarks. In reality, this is an example of how the double standard of men and women, especially in the bedroom, is so skewed even as adults.

It’s time for the double standard surrounding sex to end — including the sexual hierarchy that favors males.

Ian Moulton, an ASU professor of English and cultural history, said that this double standard is due to hundreds of years of society seeing a women’s place as in the home. 

“What has happened over time, is that the work that men do is valued more than the work that women do,” Moulton said. “Men go out and do work that is seen as important or responsible or powerful and traditionally that’s been rewarded with some sort of payment. Whereas women’s work has been seen as unpaid work: you take care of the kids.”

A woman’s place is not confined to a household anymore — and society has begun to accept that. 

Research with the Florida Atlantic University found that, “Men are usually allowed more sexual leniency and are evaluated with more acceptance and tolerance relative to sexual behaviors and number of sexual partners when compared to women who engage in the same behaviors.”

Heterosexual sex is often seen strictly as something a man does to a woman. While it may be a consensual, two person act, the woman’s role is diminished because the focus falls on the pleasure of men and less on that of women. 

When sex is seen as something men are in control of, it can have harmful repercussions and even change the way men and women view sexual health. Research in connection with Pennsylvania State University found that women who view men with a traditional gendered role in society were less likely to use condoms. 

“Findings suggest the importance of examining gender’s role in sexual behaviors and beliefs by assessing multiple gendered attitudes, rather than simply considering biological sex,” the research stated.

When men and women act how they are “supposed” to act, then gender roles begin to seep into the bedroom. Just because women need to be viewed as equals when discussing sexuality, it doesn’t mean a woman is always ready or comfortable to have sex — or that they will voice this discomfort.

The stigma around women’s sexual activity and identity should not be diminished. 

Men tend to assume that their needs align to the needs of their sexual partners, and whether it’s a late night ‘booty call’ or at a party, it’s still an assumption. Whether a woman has two, ten or twenty sexual partners, her character or quality of life should not be viewed as less than a man’s.

Complete Article HERE!

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What Having Sex With Women Taught Me About Myself

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By Tanya Compas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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What Our Skeletons Say About the Sex Binary

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Society increasingly accepts gender identity as existing along a spectrum. The study of people, and their remains, shows that sex should be viewed the same way.

Stanislawa Walasiewicz won the gold for Poland in the women’s 100-meter dash at the 1932 Olympic Games. Upon her death, an autopsy revealed that she had intersex traits.

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She wasn’t especially tall. Her testosterone levels weren’t unusually high for a woman. She was externally entirely female. But in the mid-1980s, when her chromosome results came back as XY instead of the “normal” XX for a woman, the Spanish national team ousted hurdler María José Martínez-Patiño. She was ejected from the Olympic residence and deserted by her teammates, friends, and boyfriend. She lost her records and medals because of a genetic mutation that wasn’t proven to give her any competitive advantage.

People like Martínez-Patiño have been ill-served by rules that draw a hard line between the sexes. In the U.S., the Trump administration looks set to make things worse. According to a memo leaked to The New York Times in October, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is trying to set up a legal binary definition of sex, establishing each person “as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.” But our bodies are more complicated than that.

An increasing recognition of this complexity by researchers and the public has affirmed that gender sits on a spectrum: People are more and more willing to acknowledge the reality of nonbinary and transgender identities, and to support those who courageously fight for their rights in everything from all-gender bathrooms to anti-gender-discrimination laws. But underlying all of this is the perception that no matter the gender a person identifies as, they have an underlying sex they were born with. This represents a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of biological sex. Science keeps showing us that sex also doesn’t fit in a binary, whether it be determined by genitals, chromosomes, hormones, or bones (which are the subject of my research).

The perception of a hard-and-fast separation between the sexes started to disintegrate during the second wave of feminism in the 1970s and 1980s. In the decades that followed, we learned that about 1.7 percent of babies are born with intersex traits; that behavior, body shape, and size overlap significantly between the sexes, and both men and women have the same circulating hormones; and that there is nothing inherently female about the X chromosome. Biological realities are complicated. People living their lives as women can be found, even late in life, to be XXY or XY.

Skeletal studies, the field that I work in as a doctoral student in anthropology, and the history of this field show how our society’s assumptions about sex can lead to profound mistakes, and how acknowledging that things are not really as binary as they may seem can help to resolve those errors. Trump and his advisers should take note.

If you’ve ever watched the TV series Bones, you’ve heard Temperance “Bones” Brennan, the show’s protagonist and star forensic anthropologist, call out to her colleagues whether the skeleton she’s analyzing is male or female. That’s because sex distinctions are very helpful to know for missing persons and archaeological sites alike. But just how easy is it to make this determination?

In the early 1900s, the U.S.-based anthropologist Aleš Hrdlička helped to found the modern study of human bones. He served as the first curator of physical anthropology at the U.S. National Museum (now the Smithsonian Institution). The skeletons Hrdlička studied were categorized as either male or female, seemingly without exception. He was not the only one who thought sex fell into two distinct categories that did not overlap. Scientists Fred P. Thieme and William J. Schull of the University of Michigan wrote about sexing a skeleton in 1957: “Sex, unlike most phenotypic features in which man varies, is not continuously variable but is expressed in a clear bimodal distribution.” Identifying the sex of a skeleton relies most heavily on the pelvis (for example, females more often have a distinctive bony groove), but it also depends on the general assumption that larger or more marked traits are male, including larger skulls and sizable rough places where muscle attaches to bone. This idea of a distinct binary system for skeletal sex pervaded—and warped—the historical records for decades.

Two pelvises with drastically exaggerated differences—a man’s shown on the left and a woman’s on the right (identified in Lithuanian)—illustrate how sex was estimated skeletally in the early 1900s

In 1972, Kenneth Weiss, now a professor emeritus of anthropology and genetics at Pennsylvania State University, noticed that there were about 12 percent more male skeletons than females reported at archaeological sites. This seemed odd, since the proportion of men to women should have been about half and half. The reason for the bias, Weiss concluded, was an “irresistible temptation in many cases to call doubtful specimens male.” For example, a particularly tall, narrow-hipped woman might be mistakenly cataloged as a man. After Weiss published about this male bias, research practices began to change. In 1993, 21 years later, the aptly named Karen Bone, then a master’s student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, examined a more recent dataset and found that the bias had declined: The ratio of male to female skeletons had balanced out. In part that might be because of better, more accurate ways of sexing skeletons. But also, when I went back through the papers Bone cited, I noticed there were more individuals categorized as “indeterminate” after 1972 and basically none prior.

Allowing skeletons to remain unsexed, or “indeterminate,” reflects an acceptance of the variability and overlap between the sexes. It does not necessarily mean that the skeletons classified this way are, in fact, neither male nor female, but it does mean that there is no clear or easy way to tell the difference. As science and social change in the 1970s and 1980s revealed that sex is complicated, the category of “indeterminate sex” individuals in skeletal research became more common and improved scientific accuracy.

For generations, the false perception that there are two distinct biological sexes has had many negative indirect effects. It has muddied historical archaeological records, and it has caused humiliation for athletes around the globe who are closely scrutinized. In the mid-1940s, female Olympic athletes went through a degrading process of having their genitals inspected to receive “femininity certificates.” This was replaced by chromosome testing in the late 1960s and subsequently, hormone testing. But instead of rooting out imposters, these tests just illustrated the complexity of human sex.

It might be more convenient for the U.S. federal government to have a binary system for determining legal sex; many U.S. laws and customs are built on this assumption. But just because it’s a convenient system of classification doesn’t mean it’s right. Some countries, such as Canada, and some states in the U.S., including Oregon, now allow people to declare a nonbinary gender identity on their driver’s license or other identification documents. In a world where it is apparently debatable whether anti-discrimination laws apply to sex or gender, it is a step in the wrong direction to be writing either one into law as a strictly binary phenomenon.

The famous cases of strong, athletic, and audacious female athletes who have had their careers derailed by the Olympic “gender tests” exemplify how misguided it is to classify sex or gender as binary. These women are, like all of us, part of a sex spectrum, not a sex binary. The more we as a society recognize that, the less we will humiliate and unnecessarily scrutinize people—and the less discriminatory our world will be.

Complete Article HERE!

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How genes and evolution shape gender – and transgender – identity

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There are many genes involved in shaping not just our biological sex, but also our gender identity.

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Mismatch between biological sex and gender identity, culminating in its severest form as gender dysphoria, has been ascribed to mental disease, family dysfunction and childhood trauma.

But accumulating evidence now implies biological factors in establishing gender identity, and a role for particular genes.

Variants – subtly different versions – of genes linked with gender identity might simply be part of a spectrum of gender and sexuality maintained throughout human history.

Transgender and gender dysphoria

Some young boys show an early preference for dressing and behaving as girls; some young girls are convinced they should be boys.

This apparent mismatch of biological sex and gender identity can lead to severe gender dysphoria. Coupled with school bullying and family rejection, it can make lives a torment for young people, and the rate of suicide is frighteningly high.

As they move into adulthood, nearly half of these children (or even more when the studies are closely interrogated), continue to feel strongly that they were born in the wrong body. Many seek treatment – hormones and surgery – to transition into the sex with which they identify.

Although male to female (MtF) and female to male (FtM) transitions are now much more available and accepted, the road to transition is still fraught with uncertainty and opprobrium.

Transwomen (born male) and transmen (born female) have been a part of society in every culture at every time. Their frequency and visibility is a function of societal mores, and in most societies they have suffered discrimination or worse.

This discrimination stems from a persistent attitude that transgender identification is an aberration of normal sexual development, perhaps exacerbated by events such as trauma or illness.

However, over the last decades, growing recognition emerged that transgender feelings start very early and are very consistent – pointing to a biological basis.

This led to many searches for biological signatures of transsexualism, including reports of differences in sex hormones and claims of brain differences.

Sex genes and transgender

In the 1980s I was swayed by the passionate advocacy of Herbert Bower, a psychiatrist who worked with transsexuals in Melbourne. He was revered in the transgender community for his willingness to authorise sex change operations, which were highly controversial at the time. Aged in his 90s, he came to my laboratory in 1988 to explore the possibility that variation in the genes that determine sex could underlie transgender.

Dr Bower wondered if the gene that controls male development might work differently in transgender boys. This gene (called SRY, and which is found on the Y chromosome) triggers the formation of a testis in the embryo; the testis makes hormones and the hormones make the baby male.

There are, indeed, variants of the SRY gene. Some don’t work at all, and babies who have a Y chromosome but a mutant SRY are born female. However, they are not disproportionately transgender. Nor are the many people born with variants of other genes in the sex determining pathway.

After many discussions, Dr Bower agreed that the sex determining gene was probably not directly involved – but the idea of genes affecting sexual identity took root. So are there separate genes that affect gender identity?

Evidence for gene variants in transgender

The search for gene variants that underlie any trait usually starts with twin studies.

There are reports that identical twins are much more likely to be concordant (that is both transgender, or both cisgender) than fraternal twins or siblings. This is probably an underestimation given that one twin may not wish to come out as trans, thus underestimating the concordance. This suggests a substantial genetic component.

More recently, particular genes have been studied in detail in transwomen and transmen. One study looked at associations between being trans and particular variants of some genes in the hormone pathway.

Studies of twins help us learn about the genes involved in determining identity.

A recent and much larger study assembled samples from 380 transwomen who had, or planned, sex change operations. They looked in fine detail at 12 of the “usual suspects” – genes involved in hormone pathways. They found that transwomen had a high frequency of particular DNA variants of four genes that would alter sex hormone signalling while they had been developing in utero.

There may be many other genes that contribute to a feminine or a masculine sexual identity. They are not necessarily all concerned with sex hormone signalling – some may affect brain function and behaviour.

The next step in exploring this further would be to compare whole genome sequences of cis- and transsexual people. Whole genome epigenetic analyses, looking at the molecules that affect how genes function in the body, might also pick up differences in the action of genes.

It’s probable that many – maybe hundreds – of genes work together to produce a great range of sexual identities.

How would “sexual identity genes” work in transgender?

Sexual identity genes don’t have to be on sex chromosomes. So they will not necessarily be “in sync” with having a Y chromosome and an SRY gene. This is in line with observations that gender identity is separable from biological sex.

This means that among both sexes we would expect a spread of more feminine and more masculine identity. That is to say, in the general population of males you would expect to see a range of identities from strongly masculine to more feminine. And among females in the population you would see a range from strongly feminine to more masculine identities. This would be expected to produce transwomen at one end of the distribution, and transmen at the other.

There is a natural range in masculine and feminine identity.

This occurrence of a range of differing identities would be comparable with a trait such as height. Although men are about 14 cm taller than women on average, it’s perfectly normal to see short men and tall women. It’s just part of the normal distribution of a certain human characteristic expressed differently in men and women.

This argument is similar to that which I previously described for so-called “gay genes”. I suggested same–sex attraction can readily be explained by many “male-loving” and “female-loving” variants of mate choice genes that are inherited independently of sex.

Why is transgender so frequent then?

Transgender is not rare (MtF of 1/200, FtM of 1/400). If gender identity is strongly influenced by genes, this leads to questions about why it is maintained in the population if transmen and transwomen have fewer children.

I suggest genes that influence sexual identity are positively selected in the other sex. Feminine women and masculine men may partner earlier and have more kids, to whom they pass on their gender identity gene variants. Looking at whether the female relatives of transwomen, and the male relatives of transmen, have more children than average, would test this hypothesis.

I made much the same argument to explain why homosexuality is so common, although gay men have fewer children than average. I suggested gay men share their “male loving” gene variants with their female relatives, who mate earlier and pass this gene variant on to more children. And it turns out that the female relatives of gay men do have more children.

These variants of sexual identity and behaviour may therefore be considered examples of what we call “sexual antagonism”, in which a gene variant has different selective values in men and women. It makes for the amazing variety of human sexual behaviours that we are beginning to recognise.

Complete Article HERE!

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The new war on gender studies

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Although there is a global war on gender studies, women’s movements around the world continue to resist. Here people shout slogans during a protest at the Sol square during the International Women’s Day in Madrid, March 8, 2018.

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Recently, a bag thought to contain a bomb was left outside the National Secretariat for Gender Research in Gothenburg, Sweden. The dynamite-shaped device inside turned out to be a fake, but the intent to threaten and scare was clear.

Eva Wiberg, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Gothenburg, expressed her grave concerns, saying some scholars are more exposed to hatred and violence than others.

Lately, we have witnessed global story after story of government rollbacks on abortion provision, LGBTQ rights and now the closure of entire programs devoted to women’s and gender studies. It is part of the populist playbook in places like Poland and Hungary.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsinaro put it bluntly in his inaugural address on Jan. 2. He will fight the “ideology of gender” teaching in schools, “respect our Judeo-Christian tradition” and “prepare children for the job market, not political militancy.”

The war on gender studies is a pillar in the authoritarian critique of liberalism. But for many scholars, it is a sign of the times for liberal democracies as well.

Proponents use “gender ideology” and “gender theory” as a catch-all to oppose marriage equality, reproductive rights, sexual liberalism and anti-discrimination policy generally. In their book, Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe researchers Roman Kuhar and David Paternotte note that several parts of Europe are facing new waves of resistance to “gender theory.”

This trend is a global concern, part of a neo-traditionalist turn in how we meet the challenge of sexual rights and gender identity in the 21st century.

Spike in hate crimes

The extreme reaction against gender and sexual equality is indicated by the spike in hate crimes against sexual minorities, in brutal acid attacks and in the countless #metoo testimonies. It has seeped into the policies of traditional conservative parties all over the world who cozy up to right-wing populists to salvage popular support.

In Ontario, the sex education curriculum has come under attack. Such straightforward things as teaching teens sexual consent and LGBTQ family structure have become political.

Social media companies have also engaged in moral panic. Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram have disproportionally limited online spaces of sex positivity and consensual erotic expression in the name of Community Standards.

A continuous battle

Anti-gender studies campaigns have a long history in all parts of the world, and they have long moved outside the borders of increasingly authoritarian regimes.

In this 1979 photo, Bella Abzug, left, and Patsy Mink of Women USA sit next to Gloria Steinem as she speaks in Washington where they warned presidential candidates that promises for women’s rights will not be enough to get their support in the next election.

These new campaigns transcend borders. They unite Catholics with Evangelicals, secularists and the devout. They challenge academic integrity while shoring up government policy limiting reproductive rights, propping up a particular image of the family as natural and universal. Although they take on the appearance of a popular movement, they are often stage-managed and supported by popular politicians. The Vatican’s role has been vital, with Pope Francis going on record at World Youth Day in 2016 saying gender theory is a form of “ideological colonization.”

A product of the social movements of the New Left, women’s and gender studies departments (many are now gender and sexuality studies programs) never shied from the difficult task of exposing structural violence and inequality through systemic studies of sexual violence, harassment, labour and racial inequity, citizenship, war and militarization.

Although not without its own blind spots — feminist researcher Chandra Mohanty famously pointed out the U.S. imperialism and colonialism within western feminist movements — feminist studies have weathered various storms to hold universities, government and corporations accountable for failing to uphold minority rights around access to power, representation and equality.

But the appeal of this illiberal backlash is great. Although chiefly the preserve of right-leaning parties, even Ecuador’s former leftist president Rafael Corrêa trumpeted the claim in 2013 that feminists, LGBTQ activists, and gender warriors were actively mobilizing against traditional values.

The austerity measures in Europe and the U.S. of the mid-2000s put added pressure on gender studies departments in the U.K. but also globally to prove their mettle.

A new wave of violence

The anti-gender studies movement has not been without violence. Professors, like Paula-Irena Villa, chair of Sociology and Gender Studies at the Ludwigs-Maximilian-University of Munich, receive hate mail after speaking about gender equality with the media. Feminists are regularly trolled online. Calls to report teachers have surfaced in the U.S. and Germany.

Last November, prominent queer theorist Judith Butler was attacked by a mob in Brazil to protest her visit as “a threat to the natural order of gender, sexuality and the family.” Anti-Butler demonstrators, mobilized via social media, took to the streets of Sao Paulo. They burned her likeness in effigy, a practice that conjured the inquisitorial history of targeting witches, Jews, heretics and sodomites. Far right groups followed her and her political scientist partner Wendy Brown to the airport where they were targeted with more slurs and well-worn charges that leftists, Jews and sodomites were behind the threat to traditional values.

Newlyweds Thais Lococo Hansen, 32, left, and Catarina Brainer, 28, share a kiss, as their son Pietro, 3, looks on during a group marriage of forty same sex couples in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Dec. 15, 2018. With the election of ultra-rightist Jair Bolsonaro as president, hundreds of same sex couples began to marry.

This new war on gender studies is not solely targeted at the “threat of cultural Marxism.” It is not the preserve of fledgling democracies. Its reach is comprehensive and broad. It is part of a new kind of culture war that targets research in gender and sexuality.

It is a backlash against sexual liberalism in all its forms. It might seem most obvious in arguments against sex education and universal bathrooms. But it is no less active in the hypocrisy of social media conglomerates in regulating sex positivity in the name of child protection.

At precisely the moment of increased visibility for feminist, sex positive, and LGBTQ-desiring people, even the staunchly egalitarian jargon of the social mediascape has fallen prey to fear mongering and moral panic.

The pessimist in me sees dark times ahead. The historian in me knows that backlash and opposition breeds resilience. Here’s hoping the historian wins out.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to Talk About Sex, Gender, and Sexuality

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Everything you need to know about three distinctly different things.

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When it comes to public understanding and acceptance of various gender identities and orientations, much-needed discussions are finally being had. The future is indeed non-binary, but it’s okay if you are still learning the correct language to use to keep up with the discussion. For instance, what is biological sex, gender identity, and what’s the difference between the two? And to top it all off, what does sexual orientation have to do with any of it? Three sex and gender therapists and experts break it all down here.

How Sex is Defined

Nope, we’re not talking about the physical act of getting it on. “I define sex from a biological standpoint,” explains sex educator and trauma specialist Jimanekia Eborn. “It is something that doctors put on your birth certificate after you come out of the womb, based upon what your genitals look like and the particular set of chromosomes that you are given.”

Generally speaking, if you are born with a penis and XX chromosomes, your sex is labeled as “male” on your birth certificate. If you’re born with a vagina and XY chromosomes, it says “female’ on your birth certificate. As sex therapist Kelly Wise, Ph.D. points out, there are also intersex folks, or those born with a variety of conditions in which their reproductive anatomy and/or chromosomes don’t match the traditional definitions of female or male.

The Difference Between Sex and Gender

Not everyone’s gender identity matches the sex they are assigned at birth. “Gender is a socio-cultural concept of the way that people express themselves,” Dr. Wise says.If you’re cisgender, it means that the gender you identify with matches the sex assigned to you at birth. For trans folks, their gender identity does not match what was assigned at birth. Others use labels like non-binary (an umbrella term for someone who doesn’t identify on the gender binary as either male or female). Gender fluid describes someone whose gender fluctuates and may have different gender identities at different times. Basically, there are as many ways to express gender as there are people in the world.

If you’re wondering about your own gender identity, Dr. Wise, who is trans, reminds that there is no need to hurry to put label on yourself and that it’s okay to take your time, or change the way you describe your gender over time. “There is so much space to be an individual,” he says. “[Gender] ends up being one factor about you and not your whole defining exhibit. There is no rush to figure it out and you don’t have to limit yourself.”

What “Sexual Orientation” Means

One important thing to remember is that gender and sexual orientation are completely different. Gender is about your personal identity and expression, and sexual orientation simply refers to who you are attracted to. “I don’t think anyone would assume that a woman is automatically a lesbian or automatically bi,” says sex therapist Liz Powell, Ph.D. “We wouldn’t assume that a cisgender man is automatically gay—we look at them and don’t think that their gender necessarily determines what their sexuality should be. The same applies to people all across the gender spectrum.”

You may have heard a trans, non-binary, or genderfluid person describe themselves as “queer,” and think, well, doesn’t that mean that you’re gay? While the term “queer” is indeed significant to the LGBTQ community, as Dr. Powell explains, queer can mean anything that isn’t one hundred percent heterosexual and one hundred percent cisgender.

TL; DR: Sex is biological. Gender is a social construct, and each of us gets to decide our gender identity based on what we know to be true for us. And orientation simply means who you’re interested in dating and is entirely separate from biological sex and gender identity.

Complete Article HERE!

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Gender Identity in Weimar Germany

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Remembering an early academic effort to define sexual orientation and gender identity as variable natural phenomena, rather than moral matters.

The Eldorado, a popular gay night club in Berlin, 1932

By: Livia Gershon

As the already precarious legal rights of trangender Americans come under renewed threat, it’s worth looking back at the first political movement around gender identity in the modern West. As German Studies scholar Katie Sutton writes, that was activism by people in Weimar Germany who referred to themselves as “transvestites.”

Sutton writes that sex researcher and political activist Magnus Hirschfield invented the term “transvestism” in 1910. “Transvestites” were understood as people whose gender identity and preferred clothing did not align with the sex to which they were assigned at birth. Hirschfield was part of an academic effort to define sexual orientation and gender identity as variable natural phenomena rather than moral matters.

Under German law, cross-dressing could be prosecuted as a public nuisance. But starting in 1908, the government began issuing “transvestite certificates” with the support of Hirschfield and other scientists and psychologists. Holding a “transvestite certificate” allowed people to legally wear clothing that contradicted their assigned biological sex.

After World War I, Sutton writes, continuing urbanization, social liberalism, and the spread of new “scientific” ideas about sexuality in the Weimar Republic helped usher in a movement for gay rights. The nation’s two major gay organizations sponsored subgroups and publications for transvestites. In big cities, they organized lectures, fashion parades and balls, and other social events. For trans people scattered across the country, they published magazine columns and supplements.

Cover of The Lesbians of Berlin by Magnus Hirschfeld

The science of sex that Hirschfield and other German researchers were developing informed transvestite organizing. In the magazine supplements, readers debated “sex-change” operations and discussed the biological underpinnings of their identities. One described blood tests required to apply for an official name change, which supposedly revealed “gender-specific elements of both sexes.”

Like the larger gay rights movement at the time, the public face of transvestite organizing was middle-class and focused on bourgeois values. Fighting back against lurid media stereotypes of cross-dressing criminals, the organizations worked for more visibility of “respectable” trans people. They called on their members to apply for transvestite certificates en masse and to “confess” their identity to their spouses, families, and coworkers. Middle-class male-to-female transvestite organizers policed their peers, rejecting gaudy clothing and celebrating the ability to “pass” as a middle-class lady. (Female-to-male dressing was simpler since masculine clothing was fashionable for cis women in the mid-20s.)

Despite their organizational connections with gay groups, transvestite activists drew a line between gender presentation and sexual orientation. Female-to-male transvestites were often sidelined, partly because they were closely identified with lesbian culture. Many male-to-female representatives featured in the movement’s media took pains to declare themselves heterosexual—by which they meant biologically male people who were attracted to women. (A flip side of this was gay men embracing militaristic masculinity to gain acceptance within the rising Nazi party.)

Despite all their self-policing, the transvestite movement came under attack when the Nazis gained power. The party made Hirschfield’s Institute of Sexology one of its first targets in 1933. Still, the activists’ work helped pave the way for today’s transgender movement.

Complete Article HERE!

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The early-20th century German trans-rights activist who was decades ahead of his time

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Magnus Hirschfeld, on the right, sits with his partner, Tao Li, at the fourth conference of the World League for Sexual Reform in 1932.

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The Trump administration continues its assault on transgender rights.

In July 2017, Trump sought to bar transgender people from serving in the military. Then, this past October, The New York Times obtained a memo indicating that the administration was considering narrowly defining gender “as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth.” Anyone wishing to challenge their officially-assigned sex would have to have the matter resolved by genetic testing.

Those opposed to recognizing gender identity sometimes call it a form of “radical gender ideology” or “political correctness” gone too far.

But recognition of transgender identity is no recent phenomenon: Some doctors acknowledged gender nonconforming people far earlier than most might realize. Perhaps the most important pioneer was German physician Magnus Hirschfeld, who was born 150 years ago, in 1868. As a historian of gender and sexuality in Germany, I’m struck by how he paved the way for the legal recognition of gender nonconforming people.

Hirschfeld’s ‘sexual intermediaries’

In recent years, the medical and psychological professions have come to a consensus that sex assignment at birth is inadequate for understanding individuals’ sexual and gender identity – and that failure to recognize this fact can have a devastating impact.

Magnus Hirschfeld was the first doctor to openly research and advocate for people whose gender did not correspond with their sex assignment at birth.

He’s often remembered today as an advocate of gay rights, and in the early 20th century, his activism played a major role in nearly overturning Germany’s law criminalizing male same-sex relations.

But Hirschfeld’s vision extended much further than homosexuality. He defined his specialty as “sexual intermediaries,” which included everyone who did not fit into an “ideal type” of heterosexual, cis-gendered men and women.

According to Hirschfeld, sexual intermediaries included many categories. One type was cis-gendered people who were gay, lesbian or bisexual. Another consisted of transvestites: people who comfortably identified as their assigned sex but who preferred to dress in the clothing assigned to the other sex. Yet others were “trans” in a more radical direction, like those who wanted to live fully as their non-assigned sex or longed for sex-change surgery.

A relentless advocate

As a gay man, Hirschfeld was aware of the legal and social dangers sexual intermediaries faced.

Since sexual intermediaries often turned to their doctors for help, Hirschfeld worked to educate the medical community. He published medical journals including the “Yearbook on Sexual Intermediaries” and the “Journal of Sexual Science.” In 1919, he founded the Institute for Sexual Science in Berlin to promote further research.

A German cartoon depicts Hirschfeld with the caption ‘The first champion of the third sex.’

In court he gave expert testimony on behalf of men who had been accused of violating Germany’s law banning male same-sex relations.

He even co-wrote and made a cameo appearance in the world’s first feature-length movie featuring a gay protagonist: the 1919 silent film “Anders als die Anderen” (“Different from the Others”).

Nor did Hirschfeld shy away from political engagement. In 1897, he founded the “Scientific Humanitarian Committee” to advocate for gender and sexual rights.

Then, from 1897 to 1898, Hirschfeld worked to decriminalize male same-sex relations in Germany. He collected over 5,000 signatures from Germans willing to be publicly identified with the effort, including such luminaries as Albert Einstein and Thomas Mann. A bill decriminalizing male homosexual acts gained only minority support when it was introduced in Parliament in 1898, but a new bill was reintroduced after the First World War. In the more progressive environment of the Weimar Republic, the bill advanced to parliamentary committee, only to stall when the Great Depression hit in 1929.

Importantly, Hirschfeld’s advocacy extended well beyond the decriminalization of gay male sex.

Like most European countries, Germany had – and still has – an “internal passport,” a government-issued ID that citizens are expected to carry with them. Germans whose passport indicated “male” but who dressed in female clothing were subject to police harassment or arrest for disorderly conduct.

Together with a colleague, Hirschfeld in 1910 convinced the Berlin police to accept a “transvestite certificate,” signed by a doctor, to nullify such charges. After World War I, he convinced the Prussian judiciary to permit legal name changes from gender-specific names to gender-neutral names, which enabled trans people to present as the gender that was most true to themselves.

Not all sexual minorities in Germany endorsed Hirschfeld’s views. Early twentieth-century Germany was a politically and culturally diverse place, and that diversity extended to same-sex and gender-nonconforming people.

Some gay men, for example, argued that far from being an “intermediary” sexual type, they were the most masculine men of all: After all, they didn’t form close bonds with women. The vision of these “masculinists” had little room for lesbians, bisexuals, or trans people.

A life’s work goes up in flames

By contrast, Hirschfeld’s approach was all-inclusive. In his view, all “sexual intermediaries” – whether L, G, B, T, Q, or I in today’s parlance – were worth recognizing and protecting. He once calculated that there were 43,046,721 possible variants of human sexuality. That was simply another way of saying that the human species was infinitely diverse.

“Love,” he said, “is as varied as people are.”

When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Hirschfeld, who was Jewish, was on tour lecturing on sexual science. From abroad, he watched newsreels of his Institute for Sexual Science set aflame by Nazi Storm Troopers. Thousands of unique medical records, publications, photos and artifacts were destroyed.

Students organized by the Nazi party parade in front of the building of the Institute for Sexual Research in Berlin prior to pillaging it on May 6, 1933.

Hirschfeld died two years later, and materials confiscated by the Nazis became evidence against gender and sexually-nonconforming people in the Third Reich. Male same-sex relations weren’t decriminalized in East Germany until 1968, and in West Germany until 1969. Full legal equality had to wait even longer.

Nearly a century after Hirschfeld’s institute burned, only tentative progress has been made in ending discrimination based on gender identity. And that progress is at risk.

Yet no bureaucratic definition of “sex” will change what Hirschfeld so clearly demonstrated over 120 years ago: Trans people exist.

Complete Article HERE!

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Why Sex Is Not Binary

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The complexity is more than cultural. It’s biological, too.

By Anne Fausto-Sterling

Two sexes have never been enough to describe human variety. Not in biblical times and not now. Before we knew much about biology, we made social rules to administer sexual diversity. The ancient Jewish rabbinical code known as the Tosefta, for example, sometimes treated people who had male and female parts (such as testes and a vagina) as women — they could not inherit property or serve as priests; at other times, as men — forbidding them to shave or be secluded with women. More brutally, the Romans, seeing people of mixed sex as a bad omen, might kill a person whose body and mind did not conform to a binary sexual classification.

Today, some governments seem to be following the Roman model, if not killing people who do not fit into one of two sex-labeled bins, then at least trying to deny their existence. This month, Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary banned university-level gender studies programs, declaring that “people are born either male or female” and that it is unacceptable “to talk about socially constructed genders, rather than biological sexes.” Now the Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services wants to follow suit by legally defining sex as “a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.”

This is wrong in so many ways, morally as well as scientifically. Others will explain the human damage wrought by such a ruling. I will stick to the biological error.

It has long been known that there is no single biological measure that unassailably places each and every human into one of two categories — male or female. In the 1950s the psychologist John Money and his colleagues studied people born with unusual combinations of sex markers (ovaries and a penis, testes and a vagina, two X chromosomes and a scrotum, and more). Thinking about these people, whom today we would call intersex, Dr. Money developed a multilayered model of sexual development.

He started with chromosomal sex, determined at fertilization when an X- or Y-bearing sperm fuses with an X-bearing egg. At least that’s what usually happens. Less commonly, an egg or sperm may lack a sex chromosome or have an extra one. The resultant embryo has an uncommon chromosomal sex — say, XXY, XYY or XO. So even considering only the first layer of sex, there are more than two categories.

And that’s just the first layer. Eight to 12 weeks after conception, an embryo acquires fetal gonadal sex: Embryos with a Y chromosome develop embryonic testes; those with two X’s form embryonic ovaries. This sets the stage for fetal hormonal sex, when the fetal embryonic testes or ovaries make hormones that further push the embryo’s development in either a male or a female direction (depending on which hormones appear). Fetal hormonal sex orchestrates internal reproductive sex (formation of the uterus, cervix and fallopian tubes in females or the vas deferens, prostate and epididymis in males). During the fourth month, fetal hormones complete their job by shaping external genital sex — penis and scrotum in males, vagina and clitoris in females.

By birth, then, a baby has five layers of sex. But as with chromosomal sex, each subsequent layer does not always become strictly binary. Furthermore, the layers can conflict with one another, with one being binary and another not: An XX baby can be born with a penis, an XY person may have a vagina, and so on. These kinds of inconsistencies throw a monkey wrench into any plan to assign sex as male or female, categorically and in perpetuity, just by looking at a newborn’s private parts.

Adding to the complexity, the layering does not stop at birth. The adults surrounding the newborn identify sex based on how they perceive genital sex (at birth or from an ultrasound image) and this begins the process of gender socialization. Fetal hormones also affect brain development, producing yet another layer called brain sex. One aspect of brain sex becomes evident at puberty when, usually, certain brain cells stimulate adult male or adult female levels and patterns of hormones that cause adult sexual maturation.

Dr. Money called these layers pubertal hormonal sex and pubertal morphological sex. But these, too, may vary widely beyond a two-category classification. This fact is the source of continuing disputes about how to decide who can legitimately compete in all-female international sports events.

There has been a lot of new scientific research on this topic since the 1950s. But those looking to biology for an easy-to-administer definition of sex and gender can derive little comfort from the most important of these findings. For example, we now know that rather than developing under the direction of a single gene, the fetal embryonic testes or ovaries develop under the direction of opposing gene networks, one of which represses male development while stimulating female differentiation and the other of which does the opposite. What matters, then, is not the presence or absence of a particular gene but the balance of power among gene networks acting together or in a particular sequence. This undermines the possibility of using a simple genetic test to determine “true” sex.

The policy change proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services marches backward in time. It flies in the face of scientific consensus about sex and gender, and it imperils the freedom of people to live their lives in a way that fits their sex and gender as these develop throughout each individual life cycle.

Complete Article HERE!

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