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The World Health Organization Proposes Dropping Transgender Identity From Its List of Mental Disorders

Transgender identity would instead be categorized under the sexual health umbrella, which could significantly impact acceptance of transgender individuals in health care and social spaces.

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The World Health Organization is currently considering reclassifying transgender identity in its International Classification of Diseases. Though the WHO previously labeled transgender identity as a mental disorder, a recent Lancet Psychiatry study has led the organization to reevaluate that decision. Now, the WHO is discussing re-categorizing the term under its sexual health umbrella—which could have major implications for how transgender people are viewed in both health care and society.

This new conversation is the result of a study that shed light on the complex relationship between transgender identity and mental illness. The study, which drew on a sample of 250 transgender individuals, found that while many transgender people experience mental distress, most of that distress is linked to experiences associated with being transgender—like family, social, or work or scholastic dysfunction. It’s not that being transgender is a mental illness in and of itself, it’s that identifying as transgender can lead to rejection, violence and other things that cause mental distress. These findings clearly challenge the WHO’s decision to label transgender identity as a mental disorder, which is why the organization is currently rethinking its original designation—and why it’s doing so right now.

If this story sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Until the late 1980s, homosexuality was classified as a mental illness in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). While that’s not the same thing as the WHO’s ICD, the two serve a similar purpose: being the go-to resource for defining health conditions and tracking global health trends. The DSM renamed homosexuality as “sexual orientation disturbance” in 1973, and changed its name to “ego-dystonic homosexuality” before removing it from the list of mental disorders altogether in 1987. “I’ve never heard a gay person lament the loss of the diagnosis of homosexuality,” Diane Ehrensaft, a developmental and clinical psychologist specializing in gender, tells SELF. “[And I don’t] think we will find many transgender people—if any—[who] lament the disappearance of a mental health diagnosis—as long as we continue to ensure the provision of all medical services.” Ehrensaft explains that classifying transgender identity as a mental disorder “declares a mental illness where there is none,” which can leave transgender individuals facing increased stigma in an already rejecting world.

Though there’s no official count of how many Americans identify as transgender, LGBT demographer Gary Gates has estimated that the number falls around 700,000. (It’s worth noting that this data is based on two studies—one from 2007 and one from 2009—so it’s not necessarily representative of the actual transgender population in the U.S.) Regardless of the exact figure, the WHO’s decision has the potential to impact a significant number of Americans—and Americans who are disproportionately at risk for things like poverty, suicide, and various forms of discrimination, at that. “It is extremely damaging to label someone’s identity as a mental disorder,” Jamison Green, transgender rights activist, tells SELF. Stigmas associated with transgender identity and mental health can impact someone’s ability to get hired, receive a promotion, and to feel confident enough with the surrounding world. “There’s a huge, huge problem,” he says.

While the WHO hasn’t made any official decisions yet, reclassification could potentially have beneficial outcomes for members of the LGBT community. “What we have to look at is social ramifications of the experience of transgender people,” Green says. And one of the things the WHO’s decision would do, he says, is clear up some of the cross-cultural confusion surrounding gender and sexual orientation. “It’s a very complex subject, and there’s very little known about it from a clear technical perspective,” Green says. Still, moving away from classifying transgender as a mental disorder is a positive step, he says, because transgender identity is linked to a person’s physical nature (gender confirmation surgery, potential roots in endocrinology, etc.) in many ways.

That said, the decision to potentially re-categorize transgender identity under the sexual health umbrella is a little complicated—and could potentially be a step in the wrong direction. “I think it kind of misses the mark,” Green says. He mentioned that sexual health issues include things like the inability to orgasm and, in some cases, pregnancy—not gender identity. “There is nothing sexual about gender when it comes to health,” Ehrensaft reiterates. “It’s all about who you know yourself to be—as male, female, or other—and how you want to present your gender to the world. Anything having to do with sex organs and sexual functioning is a different issue.” Still, it’s a step nonetheless. “That’s sort of the mentality that we’re having to deal with—that’s there’s something wrong with a person if their gender doesn’t match the sex of their body,” Green says. “So where do we [classify] that so people can be properly treated in a humane fashion, rather than in a damaging one? There’s a struggle.”

So far, the proposed reclassification has been approved by every committee that’s discussed it—leaving it under review for the latest edition of the WHO’s ICD. Geoffrey Reed, a professor who worked on the Lancet Psychiatry study, told the New York Times that the re-categorization wasn’t receiving opposition from the WHO and suggested we might see the change as soon as May 2018, when the newly revised version of the ICD is approved.

“Trans people, like anybody else, have identities that need to be respected,” Green says. “And all of the people who are affected by these sex and gender misunderstandings—and our lack of scientific knowledge—do not deserve to be vilified or stigmatized or punished in any way. That’s what we’re trying to move toward in the awkward world of policy making.”

Complete Article HERE!

Coming strong : forceful ejaculations, part 1

masturbation 023

We all want to shoot our semen across the room. Granted, not many can boast to shoot that far, and to be fair we don’t always feel like cleaning the whole house after an ejaculation. But if there is something we still want, it is to have a powerful cum shot. For the uninitiated, this desire seems ludicrous or maybe appear as a show of personal vanity. But for anyone who has ejaculated more than a few times, the reason is clear : forceful ejaculations mean stronger orgasms, earth-shaking orgasms, fully draining orgasms. And maybe giving us some bragging rights too ! How can it be achieved?

Forceful ejaculations result from a combination of many elements. Some of which you can influence, and some of which you cannot.

Your level of arousal greatly influence the contraction strength of the pelvic muscles. How tired you are, how hydrated you are also directly influence your ejaculation’s strength.

Some anatomical peculiarities can greatly influence your ability to shoot forcefully. One of those is the size of the urethra. The urethra is the canal inside the penis where urine and semen flow. A urethra that’s too wide (slack) will allow semen to flow too easily, causing a rapid decrease in pressure as it leaves the posterior urethra (where the semen was assembled and pressurized before ejaculation). On the contrary, a urethra that’s too narrow will create too much resistance to the semen’s passing, in the end also diminishing the shooting distance. All in all, to be a far shooter, you need to have been granted with an ideally sized shooting tube. Can you change this ? It depends. If it’s too slack, there’s no way of narrowing the opening. If its gauge is too tapered, however, then dilation with a urinary catheter could be considered. But : be very wary. This needs to be done cleanly or you may cause severe infections (of the prostate in particular). And you should have a good understanding of your anatomy before inserting anything in your penis. That penis of yours is not built of steel and it has no user replaceable parts : you break it, you lose it ! Always ask a pro’s advice.

Exposing your body to longer sexual stimulation also influences the ejaculation’s strength. Indeed, the various glands that produce the different liquids forming semen will have all the time they need to produce and dump a lot of stuff in the posterior urethra if you take the time to prime yourself. Whatever your preparation is, the posterior urethra’s size is fixed (surprise !). So the more seminal liquid you produce, the greater the pre-ejaculatory pressure will be. And higher pressure, of course, translates as a more forceful cum shot. So a long male foreplay (the period before ejaculation) will cause you to shoot further.

Now, of course, there would be no forceful ejaculation without strong pelvic muscles. And this is the area where you can have the most influence (aside from taking your time, of course). Improving the strength of your pelvic floor muscles will in fact have numerous benefits :

  • Decrease the likelihood of peeing involuntarily (it had to be said, even if you understandably don’t care as of today !) (PC, BC).
  • Help with erectile dysfunction (BC).
  • Definitely help if you have premature ejaculation by increasing your ability to withhold your ejaculation. But even if you don’t have premature ejaculation problems, this increased ejaculation control will translate into better edging abilities : being able to edge longer and closer to the cresting point (BC, but also PC and IC).
  • Increase the strength of your orgasmic contractions, in effect enhancing your orgasmic pleasure (BC, PC, IC).
  • And finally, of course, since this is the topic, increase your shooting distance.

The pelvic muscles are a group of muscles formed of the iliococcygeus (IC), pubococcygeus (PC) and bulbocavernosus (BC). These muscles form a hammock holding the content of the pelvic floor.

  • The iliococcygeus (IC) muscles stabilize the rectal area, together with the PC muscle. The IC muscles pull the rectum towards the back. They contract rhythmically during orgasm.
  • The pubococcygeus (PC) muscles control the urine flow, and they pull the rectum towards the front. They contract rhythmically during orgasm. In women, the PC muscles also contract the vagina and are thus, for them, the most important pelvic muscles to work on. While men who strengthen their PC muscles definitely experience an improvement of their orgasmic experience, they will not shoot any further.
  • The bulbocavernosus (BC) muscles serves to maintain blood inside the penis during erection (even though the erection is largely a vascular process) and also serves to expel urine and semen out of the urethra. So this muscle is the one men should work on.

So, to summarize :

  • Forceful ejaculations are desirable because they translate into more intense orgasms
  • While the shooting distance is in direct relation with the strength of an ejaculation, shooting distance will always vary greatly between ejaculations because of various other variables. Moreover, some men will always be able to shoot further than others.
  • It is possible to improve the strength of your ejaculation by working on the pelvic muscles, in particular the bulbocavernosus. How far you will shoot, after these exercises, will vary from man to man. But a sure thing is that your sexual experience will be improved.
  • Being well hydrated and rested is also important.

Complete Article HERE!

Are you getting any closer? A pocket-sized primer on female sexuality

By Clarissa Fortin

Stay curious between the sheets, friends.

Closer: Notes from the Orgasmic Frontier of Female Sexuality
by Sarah Barmak
(Coach House Books, 2016; $14.95)

If it weren’t for Sarah Barmak’s Closer: Notes from the Orgasmic Frontier of Female Sexuality I might have gone for years of my life without ever finding out what my clitoris actually looks like.

“Illustrations of it resemble a swan with an arched neck,” Barmak writes. “When I saw an closerillustration of the clitoris’s true shape for the first time I felt like a blind man finally seeing a whole elephant when all he’s ever known was the tip of it’s trunk.” I realized while reading those sentences that no one in my Catholic high school health class ever bothered to show me such an image and I’d never thought to seek one out.

I consider myself a feminist and a sexually liberated woman. Yet, there are still surprising gaps in my understanding of my own body. And that’s why a book like Barmak’s is important. Closer tackles its subject with eloquence, intelligence and humour.

The book is split into five essays that tackle the “fear of pleasure,” the history of female sexuality, the science and psychology of the orgasm, the “female sexual underground” and the politics of acknowledging female desire.

While each essay has its own strengths, I think the most effective chapter is “A History of Forgetting.” This section aligns the historical “discovery” and “loss” of the clitoris with the individual experience of a woman named Vanessa — an actual interview subject.

We first meet Vanessa on the table at the doctor’s office filming herself masturbating in order to prove to the doctor that she can indeed ejaculate. We learn that Vanessa has been having a series of problems — pain after sex, recurring yeast infections and so on — that no doctors can figure out.

From here Barmak momentarily leaves Vanessa’s story behind and turns her attention to the clitoris itself, noting that “the mapping of the human genome was completed in 2003, years before we got around to doing an ultrasound on the ordinary human clit.”

While the tendency is to see history as ever moving forward and progressing, Barmak counters that “women’s sexuality began by being celebrated, then was feared as too potent, before being downplayed and denied in the scientific era.”

The Christian church, the scientific revolution and various other factors resulted in a demonization and rejection of female bodies. It’s a generalized historical account to be sure, but Barmak does point readers in the direction of Naomi Wolf’s Vagina, a much more comprehensive book on the subject.

What makes this essay so powerful is the way it revisits and concludes with Vanessa and her struggle. Her story held up against the larger history of the clitoris itself demonstrates all too well an overall contempt for and neglect of the female genitalia.

Along with research and anecdotes, Barmak amasses a diverse collection of interviews with doctors, researchers and sex educators. I was excited to learn many factoids that I will surely whip out at dinner parties in the future — for instance, vaginal self stimulation actually blocks pain in women, and even women who are paralysed can sometimes still feel sexual pleasure because of nerves which bypass the spinal cord and communicate directly with the brain!

Barmak combines this research and traditional journalistic writing with first-person narration, bringing her own experience into the story. This means attending seminars and workshops, watching a demonstration of a female orgasm at Burning Man, and getting a vaginal massage.

Barmak is open about her own skepticism and trepidation during these investigations. “I like to consider myself open to new things,” she writes. “Yet, the idea of a strange lady’s gloved fingers all up in my jade palace falls somewhat outside my personal boundaries.” She goes through with it and the personal account makes for a richer narrative overall.

A note about the term “woman”: Barmak uses it throughout the book to generally refer to the cisgendered female experience. If I have any strong critique of the book it is that by celebrating the distinctly female anatomy, the book sometimes verges on unintentionally emphasizing a gender binary. This is something Barmak herself seems aware of. She notes on pg. 21 that “the word woman can refer equally to cisgender, intersex, genderqueer and transgender women all representing varied shades of experience.” While it’s good that the acknowledgement is there, I think a declaration like this belongs even earlier on as a note for readers to keep in mind before the book even begins.

That said, Barmak does make an effort to include the experiences of typically marginalized women such as trans women and women of colour in her narrative. “Being white affords privileges even in non-mainstream spaces of revolt such as sexuality,” she notes.

The topic is something “that requires far more depth and attention than this little book can offer,” Barmak says and while this seems like a partial cop-out for having only a few pages devoted to women of colour and trans women specifically, Barmak makes a valid point. Issues regarding sexuality faced by marginalized women warrant entire books altogether, preferably penned by a writer who has lived those experiences.

Nevertheless, I think this book would have been more complete with a sixth section devoted specifically to these issues.

At its core this book is compassionately optimistic, celebrating the innate complexity of sexual pleasure itself and arguing in favor of orgasms for all, something I can definitely get behind.

Sex educator and vlogger Lindsay Doe has a motto she repeats at the end of each of her videos: “stay curious.” Closer isn’t the definitive book about female sexuality and it doesn’t claim to be. But it made me curious about my own body, and even more curious about the wonderfully vast array of experiences we humans have between the sheets.

I recommend it to my friends of all genders, my boyfriend, my sisters, and especially the woman who started it all, my mother.

Complete Article HERE!

Two-Spirit: Gender as an Expression of Spirit

by SlickLion

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Two-Spirit: Gender as an Expression of Spirit

While gender identities are pretty widespread at this point, there are a few culturally distinct gender identities that pertain only to certain ethnic groups. One of these is known as Two Spirit. It’s only for indigenous Native American peoples, and it pertains to a very specific and important role in their culture. It pertains to individuals within the society that fulfills one or several mixed gender roles found traditionally among many Native Americans.

That might sound a little confusing to some, so to narrow it down to more layman terms, it’s a general term used to describe gay, lesbian, bisexual and gender-variant individuals in their communities. It was created in 1990 to replace a more insulting term, and is also a spiritual role recognized by the Two-Spirits community.

However, don’t assume that this term can be used with all Native American tribes. Not all tribes conceptualize sexuality and gender the same way, and many of them have words for such gender identities in their own language. Always be sure of the proper term before making too large of an assumption.

But for tribes that do use this term, Two-Spirit individuals are people who usually perform and behave in both gender roles, including work or clothing that can be associated with either gender. The idea is that Two-Spirits embody and manifest both masculine and feminine qualities, though not necessarily in equal amounts.

In some tribes, Two-Spirit individuals are seen as having two identities within one body. This may be a difficult concept to understand, but it is not too different from some other ideas we may be familiar with. Two-spirit is similar to the notion of being able to fulfill either gender role at any time one pleases, or to be a little of both at any time.

Like any notion of gender society in the culture you may be used to, it’s important to understand that other cultures have them as well, and have even had them accepted long before many others.

In the tribes that use Two-Spirit to define individuals of this gender identity, they perform many roles in both male and female areas, and relationships between Two-Spirits and other individuals of any gender is usually not seen as heterosexual or homosexual, but rather something unique from both of those.

That being said, sexual orientation does not make an individual a Two-Spirit. It’s about embodying aspects of being both masculine and feminine. Regardless of sexual orientation, Two-Spirits are a unique element in their tribes, and regarded as unique. Just as effeminate males or masculine men in our society aren’t necessarily gay or lesbian, neither are Two-Spirits in their own tribes.

Knowing how other cultures treat such gender identities is important to possibly learning how to better handle our own. As always there is something to be learned from other societies, things that could help improve our own in a way that could spark a revolution grand enough to put an end to intolerance and bigotry for good.

 Complete Article HERE!

Assisted-living facilities limit older adults’ rights to sexual freedom, study finds

Georgia State University

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ATLANTA — Older adults in assisted-living facilities experience limits to their rights to sexual freedom because of a lack of policies regarding the issue and the actions of staff and administrators at these facilities, according to research conducted by the Gerontology Institute at Georgia State University.

Though assisted-living facilities emphasize independence and autonomy, this study found staff and administrators behave in ways that create an environment of surveillance. The findings, published in the Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences, indicate conflict between autonomy and the protection of residents in regard to sexual freedom in assisted-living facilities.

Nearly one million Americans live in assisted-living facilities, a number expected to increase as adults continue to live longer. Regulations at these facilities may vary, but they share a mission of providing a homelike environment that emphasizes consumer choice, autonomy, privacy and control. Despite this philosophy, the autonomy of residents may be significantly restricted, including their sexuality and intimacy choices.

Sexual activity does not necessarily decrease as people age. The frequency of sexual activity in older adults is lower than in younger adults, but the majority maintain interest in sexual and intimate behavior. Engaging in sexual relationships, which is associated with psychological and physical wellbeing, requires autonomous decision-making.

While assisted-living facilities have many rules, they typically lack systematic policies about how to manage sexual behavior among residents, which falls under residents’ rights, said Elisabeth Burgess, an author of the study and director of the Gerontology Institute.

“Residents of assisted-living facilities have the right to certain things when they’re in institutional care, but there’s not an explicit right to sexuality,” Burgess said. “There’s oversight and responsibility for the health and wellbeing of people who live there, but that does not mean denying people the right to make choices. If you have a policy, you can say to the family when someone moves in, here are our policies and this is how issues are dealt with. In the absence of a policy, it becomes a case-by-case situation, and you don’t have consistency in terms of what you do.”

The researchers collected data at six assisted-living facilities in the metropolitan Atlanta area that varied in size, location, price, ownership type and resident demographics. The data collection involved participant observation and semi-structured interviews with administrative and care staff, residents and family members, as well as focus groups with staff.

The study found that staff and administrators affirmed that residents had rights to sexual and intimate behavior, but they provided justifications for exceptions and engaged in strategies that created an environment of surveillance, which discouraged and prevented sexual and intimate behavior.

The administrators and staff gave several overlapping reasons for steering residents away from each other and denying rights to sexual and intimate behavior. Administrators emphasized their responsibility for the residents’ health and safety, which often took precedence over other concerns.

Family members’ wishes played a role. Family members usually choose the home and manage the residents’ financial affairs. In some instances, they transport family members to doctor’s appointments, volunteer at the facility and help pay for the facility, which is not covered by Medicaid. They are often very protective of their parents and grandparents and are uncomfortable with new romantic or intimate partnerships, according to staff. Administrators often deferred to family wishes in order to reduce potential conflict.

Staff and administrators expressed concern about consent and cognitive impairment. More than two-thirds of residents in assisted-living facilities have some level of cognitive impairment, which can range from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of dementia. They felt responsible for protecting residents and guarding against sexual abuse, even if a person wasn’t officially diagnosed.

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Co-authors of the study, Georgia State alumni, include Christina Barmon of Central Connecticut State University, Alexis Bender of Ripple Effect Communications in Rockville, Md., and James Moorhead Jr. of the Georgia Department of Human Services’ Division of Aging Services.

The study was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health.

Read the study HERE!

Complete Article HERE!