“Uh oh! You see how our kitty is arching her back and moving away from you? That means she doesn’t like how you’re playing with her right now. She’s using her body to tell you to leave her alone. Let’s go play with something else together.” I have conversations like that with my almost 2-year-old son multiple times a week, not only because I want him to be a respectful friend and pet owner, but because that’s one of the many sex positive things you can say to your son that don’t necessarily even have to do with sex, but do lay an important foundation for his sexual behavior in the future.
Sex positivity is simply the idea that sex and sexuality are normal and positive parts of life, as long as they’re expressed in healthy, respectful, and consensual ways. Sex positive people recognize that sex should feel good — emotionally and physically — which means everyone involved needs to feel knowledgeable and comfortable enough with their own bodies and their partners to give and get what they want out of any sexual interaction. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation and mythology about sex that prevent people from living their sexual lives this way, which is a source of much needless trauma and pain in our lives. However, as parents we can end that cycle, by ensuring that our kids know the truth about their bodies, about their rights and boundaries, and about sex itself.
As sex positive parents — and parents of sons in particular — we have a special responsibility to make sure our sons don’t grow up with the kind of shame and misunderstandings that not only put them at risk of harm, but may make them a danger to others in their future sexual interactions. Our sex negative culture teaches us all many lies about male sexuality, including that boys and men are inherently bad and sexually aggressive. Yet, the mythology goes, because they have these “base” desires, it’s OK for them to trick, manipulate, or even force women and girls into sex. This is rape culture in a nutshell, and it’s on us to stop it. As parents, we have a huge role to play in interrupting these kinds of messages before they shape our sons’ behavior (whether our sons are gay or straight).
The following kinds of sex positive statements can help us raise boys into men who are safe for others to be around, and capable of having the kinds of fulfilling, satisfying relationships we hope will enrich their lives.
“Yep, That’s Your Penis!”
I find myself saying this at nearly every diaper change, usually in between saying things like, “Yep, that’s your nose!” or “Yep, that’s your knee!” Even as little babies, our sons notice their bodies during diaper changes, bath time, and any other time, really. It’s important to use those moments to make sure they learn the proper language for all of their body parts from a young age, and to treat their private parts as no more inherently shameful as any other body part.
“It’s OK To Touch Yourself, As Long As You Have Privacy”
Eventually, boys and girls alike discover that touching their private parts can feel good. That’s a perfectly healthy development. Instead of shaming or punishing them for doing so, sex positive parents model setting boundaries and reinforce the normalcy of sexual pleasure by letting them know it’s OK, but that they should only do so in their own private spaces (like alone in their own bedrooms, or when they bathe themselves).
“If Your Friends Say ‘Stop’ While You’re Playing, That Means You Stop Right Away”
Consent and boundaries are fundamental concepts in all relationships, not just sexual ones. That’s why teaching consent can and should happen in lots of other, totally non-sexual contexts from a very early age, including when they’re learning how to play fairly with friends.
“It Looks Like That Dog/Cat/Friend Doesn’t Want To Be Touched. Let’s Leave Them Alone.”
I don’t use words like “sex positive” or “consent” when I help my son interact with our or others’ pets (or with new people, for that matter). That’s what I’m thinking about, though; teaching him how to read others’ body language for signs that indicate their openness or unwillingness to be touched. Those are skills he’ll need in a variety of future situations, sexual and otherwise.
“Can I Hug You?”
Again, consent consent consent. Asking before giving our sons affectionate touches is how we both honor their right to govern their own bodies, and model how they should do that for others.
“Ask Before Giving Hugs Or Other Nice Touches”
Just like we should always ask them before giving touches, we’ll need to remind them to ask, too. These reminders are more effective if we always ask them, so they know what asking looks like in practice.
“Adults Have Sex To Make Babies…”
When our sons ask where babies come from, we should tell them the truth (in age-appropriate ways). We don’t need to give very young children all the details or lots of concepts they can’t understand. However, by telling them the simple truth that grown ups usually make babies by having sex (putting their private parts together in a way that lets a man’s sperm meet a woman’s egg inside her body) is better than lying to them, or treating the subject like a shameful secret they’re not allowed to know yet.
“…And Also Because Sex Feels Good…”
Older kids and teenagers eventually need to understand that sex doesn’t always result in pregnancy, and that making children isn’t the only reason people have sex. They also need to know sex is supposed to feel good, physically and emotionally, for everyone involved.
It’s incredibly important that our sons understand that their partners deserve and should expect sexual pleasure just as much as they do, once they are mature enough to actually have sex. When boys and men don’t understand that their desire is normal and healthy — and that girls and women experience desire too — we run the risk of having things like pressuring or drugging someone in order to meet their sexual needs, seem “normal.” They need to understand that that is rape, and that they don’t need to resort to coercion or rape to experience sexual release. If they are safe, comfortable, respectful, caring people, they can cultivate the kinds of relationships in which they can have truly (and mutually) fulfilling sex.
“…But That’s Only True When You’re Mature And Ready Enough To Have Sex”
Some critics of the notion of sex positive parenting worry that being honest about sexual pleasure will make kids vulnerable to sexual abuse. However, kids who misunderstand sex, or who feel too ashamed to discuss their bodies with the trusted adults in their lives, are far more easily manipulated into situations where they can be sexually abused. Abusers use kids’ innate curiosity about sex, their desire to be cooperative, and their body shame against them, and exploit their shame and lack of language about sex to maintain the silence they need to get away with abuse.
Again, sex positivity revolves around the notion that sex should feel physically and emotionally good. That means all participants need to be in a position to freely consent to sex, which children fundamentally can’t. Even if any sexual contact they experienced were to incidentally feel good physically, the emotional damage of adults (or even more powerful and/or older kids) manipulating or forcing them into sexual conduct fails that fundamental test.
So it’s important to ensure our kids know that sex isn’t fundamentally bad, and that it is inappropriate for anyone to try to engage them in any kind of sexual conduct — from inappropriate touching, to asking them to look at others’ private parts or have theirs looked at, to taking inappropriate photos of them, and so forth — while they are young.
“No One Should Ever Touch You In A Way That Doesn’t Feel Good…”
Our sons need to understand that they have a right to decide who touches them, and when and how, and that if that doesn’t feel good to them, that they can ask and/or do whatever else they need to do to make it stop. They need to understand that this is true for any kind of touch, whether it’s a prospective hug from a relative, or a sexual touch from a future sex partner.
It’s also important for our sons to understand that not all sexual touches will feel good to them, that that is normal, and that it’s OK for them to demand that it stops (even if the person touching them is female). Our culture teaches boys and men that “real men” always want and enjoy sexual touch, and that straight men always enjoy touches they receive from women. These myths not only leave them vulnerable to sexual abuse and assault, but leaves them without social support and understanding if these things happen to them.
“…And You Should Never Touch Anyone Else In A Way They Don’t Want And Like”
And of course, our sons need to know that just like they have a right not to experience touches they don’t want, everyone else they meet has that same right and expectation of them. Recognizing that all the people they meet have the same rights they do, and that other people have their own complex mixes of desires, fears, curiosities and discomforts like they do, will help them avoid becoming a danger to others, and lay the foundation for the kinds of mutually fulfilling relationships we want for them in the future.
Complete Article HERE!
By Anna Gorman
Patrick Mizelle and Edwin Fisher, who have been together for 37 years, were planning to grow old in their home state of Georgia.
But visits to senior living communities left them worried that after decades of living openly, marching in pride parades and raising money for gay causes, they wouldn’t feel as free in their later years. Fisher said the places all seemed very “churchy,” and the couple worried about evangelical people leaving Bibles on their doorstep or not accepting their lifestyle.
“I thought, ‘Have I come this far only to have to go back in the closet and pretend we are brothers?” said Mizelle. “We have always been out and we didn’t want to be stuck in a place where we couldn’t be.”
So three years ago, they moved across the country to Rose Villa, a hillside senior living complex just outside of Portland that actively reaches out to gay, lesbian and transgender seniors.
As openly gay and lesbian people age, they will increasingly rely on caregivers and move into assisted living communities and nursing homes. And while many rely on friends and partners, more are likely to be single and without adult children, according to researchpublished by the National Institutes of Health.
But long-term care facilities frequently lack trained staff and policies to discourage discrimination, advocates and doctors said. That can lead to painful decisions for seniors about whether to hide their sexual orientation or face possible harassment by fellow elderly residents or caregivers with traditional views on sexuality and marriage.
“It is a very serious challenge for many LGBT older people,” said Michael Adams, chief executive officer of SAGE, or Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders. “[They] really fought to create a world where people could be out and proud. … Now our LGBT pioneers are sharing residences with those who harbor the most bias against them.”
There are an estimated 1.5 million gay, lesbian and bisexual people over 65 living in the U.S. currently, and that number is expected to double by 2030, according to the organization, which runs a national resource center on LGBT aging.
Nationwide, advocacy groups are pushing to improve conditions and expand options for gay and lesbian seniors. Facilities for LGBT seniors have opened in Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco and elsewhere.
SAGE staff are also training providers at nursing homes and elsewhere to provide a more supportive environment for elderly gays and lesbians. That may mean asking different questions at intake, such as whether they have a partner rather than if they are married (even though they can get married, not all older couples have). Or it could be a matter of educating other residents and offering activities specific to the LGBT community like gay-friendly movies or lectures.
Mizelle, 64, and Fisher, 86, said they found the support they hoped for at Rose Villa, where they live in a ground-floor cottage near the community garden and spend their time socializing with other residents, both gay and straight. They both exercise in the on-site gym and pool. Fisher bakes for a farmer’s market and Mizelle is participating in art classes. Fisher, who recently had a few small strokes, said they liked Rose Villa for another reason too: It provides in-home caregivers and has a nursing facility on site.
But many aging gays and lesbians — the generation that protested for gay rights at Stonewall, in state capitols and on the steps of the Supreme Court — may not be living in such welcoming environments. Only 20 percent of LGBT seniors in long-term care facilities said they were comfortable being open about their sexual orientation, according to a recent report by Justice in Aging, a national nonprofit legal advocacy organization.
This summer, Lambda Legal, a gay advocacy group, filed a lawsuit against the Glen Saint Andrew Living Community, a senior residential facility in Niles, Illinois, for failing to protect a disabled lesbian woman from harassment, discrimination and violence. The resident, 68-year-old Marsha Wetzel, moved into the complex in 2014 after her partner of 30 years had died of cancer. Soon after, residents called her names and even physically assaulted her, according to the lawsuit.
“I don’t feel safe in my own home,” Wetzel said in a phone interview. “I am scared constantly. … What I am doing is about getting justice. I don’t want other LGBT seniors to go through what I’ve gone through.”
Karen Loewy, Wetzel’s attorney at Lambda Legal, said senior living facilities are “totally ill-prepared” for this population of openly gay elders. She said she hopes the case will not only stop the discrimination against Wetzel but will start a national conversation.
“LGBT seniors have the right to age with dignity and free from discrimination, and we want senior living facilities to know … that they have an obligation to protect it,” Loewy said.
Spencer Maus, spokesman for Glen Saint Andrew, declined to comment specifically on the lawsuit but said in an email that the community “does not tolerate discrimination of any kind or under any circumstances.”
Many elderly gay and lesbian people have difficulty finding housing at all, according to a 2010 report by several advocacy organizations in partnership with the federal American Society on Aging. Another report in 2014 by the Equal Rights Center, a national nonprofit civil rights organization, revealed that the application process was more difficult and housing more expensive for gay and lesbian seniors.
Recognizing the need for more affordable housing, the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Elder Housing organization opened Triangle Square Apartments in 2007. In the building, the first of its kind, residents can get health and social services through the Los Angeles LGBT Center. The wait for apartments with the biggest subsidies is about five years.
Residents display rainbow flags outside their doors throughout the building. On a recent morning, fliers about falls, mental health, movie nights and meningitis vaccines were posted on a bulletin board near the elevator.
Ed Dehay, 80, moved into one of the apartments when they first opened. His partner had recently passed away and he couldn’t afford the rent on his old apartment by himself. “This was a godsend for me,” said Dehay, a retired floral designer who has covered every wall of his apartment with framed art.
His neighbor, 74-year-old Lee Marquardt, said she came out after raising three children, and didn’t want to spend her elder years hiding her true self as she had as a younger woman. Marquardt, a former truck driver who has high blood pressure and kidney disease, said she found a new family as soon as she moved into the apartment building two years ago.
“I was dishonest all the time before,” she said. “Now I am who I am and I don’t have to be quiet about it.”
Tanya Witt, resident services coordinator for the Los Angeles LGBT Center, said some of the Triangle Square residents are reluctant to have in-home caregivers — even in their current housing — because they worry they won’t be gay-friendly. Others say they won’t ever go into a nursing home, even if they have serious health needs.
In addition to facing common health problems as they age, gay and lesbian seniors also may be dealing with additional stressors, isolation or depression, said Alexia Torke, an associate professor of medicine at Indiana University.
“LGBT older adults have specific needs in their health care,” she said. And caregivers “need to be aware.”
Lesbian, gay and bisexual elders are at higher risk of mental health problems and disabilities and have higher rates of smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. They are also more likely to delay health care, according to a report by The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. In addition, older gay men are disproportionately affected by some chronic diseases, including hypertension, according to research out of UCLA.
Torke said LGBT seniors are not strangers to nursing homes. The difference now is that there is a growing recognition of the need to make the homes safe and welcoming for them, she said.
At Rose Villa, CEO Vassar Byrd said she began working nearly a decade ago to make the community more open to gays after a lesbian couple told her that another facility had suggested they would be more welcome if they posed as sisters. Today, several gay, lesbian and transgender people — individually and in couples — are living there, Byrd said. Her staff has undergone training to help them better care for that population, and Byrd said she has spoken to other senior care providers around the nation about the issue.
Bill Cunitz and Lee Nolet, who began dating in 1976, didn’t come out as a couple until they moved to Rose Villa last year. Cunitz is an ordained minister and former head of a senior living community in Southern California. He said he didn’t want to be known as the “gay CEO.”
Nolet, a retired nurse and county health official, said it’s been “absolutely amazing” to find a place where they can be open— and where they know they will have accepting people who can take care of them if they get sick.
“After 40 years of being in the shadows … we introduce each other as partner,” Nolet said. “Everyone here knows we’re together.”
Complete Article HERE!
By Megan Todd
The Office of National Statistics has released its latest data on sexual identities in the UK, and some striking patterns jump out – especially when it comes to bisexuality.
The number of young people identifying as bisexual has apparently risen by 45% over the last three years. Women are more likely to identity as bisexual (0.8%) than lesbian (0.7%), whereas men are more likely to report as gay (1.6%) than bisexual (0.5%). That last finding chimes with other studies in the UK and the US – but why should this be?
Women’s sexuality has historically been policed, denied and demonised in very particular ways, and for a woman to be anything other than passively heterosexual has often been considered an outright perversion. Lesbians have historically been seen as a more dangerous breed, a direct challenge to patriarchal structures, perhaps explaining why women may be more likely to self-identify as bisexual. Some research into women’s sexuality has also suggested that women take a more fluid approach to their relationships than men.
But then there’s the more general matter of how much sexual labels still matter to people – and here, the ONS findings really start to get interesting.
Among young people aged between 16 and 24, 1.8% said they identified as bisexual – exceeding, for the first time, the 1.5% who identified as lesbian or gay. In total 3.3% of young people identified as LGB, a significantly higher proportion than the 1.7% of the general population who identified as such. (Just 0.6% of the over-65s did).
In a society that still tends to see the world in often false binaries – man/woman, gay/straight, white/black and so on – how can we explain such a difference?
A pessimistic view of why more young people are identifying as bisexual rather than as gay or lesbian might be that conservative, rigid and polarised understandings of what gender is still hold sway. This, in turn, might also have an impact on attitudes to sexuality, where an investment in a lesbian or gay identity may be more frowned upon than a bisexual one – which in many people’s minds still has a “friendly” relationship with heterosexuality.
And yet it’s clear that identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual carries less stigma for the younger age group than it does for their elders.
Older generations grew up in a time where any orientation besides heterosexuality was taboo, stigmatised and often criminalised. The lesbian and gay movements of the 1970s and 1980s, inspired by the US’s Civil Rights movement, were often staunchly radical; the concept of the political lesbian, for instance, was a very prominent and powerful one. At the same time, both heterosexual and lesbian and gay communities were also marked by misunderstandings and distrust of bisexuality (in a word, biphobia).
But in the UK at least, gay and lesbian identities have lost a good deal of the political charge they once carried. Once “peripheral”, these sexual categories are well on the way to being normalised and commercialised. Many in the community remember or identify with a more radical era of political lesbianism and gay activism, and many of them are dismayed that non-heterosexuals’ current political battles for equality and recognition are often focused on gaining entry to heterosexual institutions, especially marriage.
But that doesn’t mean people have become more rigid in the ways they think about themselves. So while many in society will be the victims of homophobic and biphobic hate crime, things have improved, at least in terms of state policies.
This, alongside the now extensive reservoir of queer thought on gender and sexual fluidity, and the increasing strength of trans movements, may explain why the younger generation are taking labels such as bisexual, lesbian and gay in greater numbers than their seniors. That celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, Cara Delevigne and Anna Paquin have come out as bisexual in recent years can’t have hurt either.
The ONS survey raises empirical questions which are connected to those of identity. It specifically asked questions about sexual identity, rather than exploring the more complicated links between identity, behaviours and desires.
The category “bisexual” is also very internally diverse. Many would argue that there are many different types of bisexuality and other sexual identities which the ONS survey does not explore.
This much is made clear by the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyle (NATSAL), which has taken place every ten years since 1990 and is perhaps the most detailed picture we have of what people do (or don’t do) in bed. It suggests that the number of people who report same-sex experience is much higher than the number of people who identify as gay or bisexual.
Laud Humphreys’ infamous 1970 book Tearoom Trade, a highly controversial ethnographic study of anonymous sex between men in public toilets, showed us that plenty of people who seek out and engage in same-sex sexual contact do not necessarily identify as exclusively gay or even bisexual – in fact, only a small minority of his respondents did.
However far we’ve come, there’s still a social stigma attached to being lesbian/gay/bisexual. That means the statistics we have will be an underestimate, and future surveys will need a much more complicated range of questions to give us a more accurate picture. If we ask the right ones, we might discover we live in a moment where people are exploring their sexualities without feeling the need to label them.
But are we headed towards a point where the hetero/homo binary will collapse, and where gender will play less of a role in sexual preference? Given the continued privilege that comes with a heterosexual identity and the powerful political and emotional history of gay and lesbian identities and movements, I don’t think so.
Still, it seems more people may be growing up with the assumption that sexuality is more complicated than we have previously acknowledged – and that this not need not be a problem.
Complete Article HERE!