We’re Queer And We’ve Been Here

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

By Dr. Jay Michaelson

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

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

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

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

1. Mild offenses

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

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

2. Gender-nonconforming ancestors

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

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

3. Sexual samurai

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

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

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

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

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

4. Gender fluidity

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

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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Non-Binary Folks Share Advice for Coming Out as Gender Non-Conforming and Accepting Yourself

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Struggling to come out as your authentic self? You’re not alone.

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With Pride Month coming to a close, Lifehacker has released a video featuring folks discussing coming out and the process of identifying as non-binary. The individuals include Nandi Kayyy, Dane Calabro, Divesh Brahmbhatt, and Kei Williams, all of whom use the pronouns they/them, but describe their gender identity in a variety of different ways. The video touches on gender, sexuality, identity, and the struggles of coming out as non-binary.

Simply put, gender non-forming is “a term used to describe some people whose gender expression is different from conventional expectations of masculinity and femininity.” Similar terms like genderqueer, gender fluid, non-binary, and gender variant express the recognition of a gender spectrum that exists beyond the male/female binary.

Another important distinction is the difference between sex and gender, two concepts often used interchangeably with each other. Sex is simply the medical assignment made at birth based on a baby’s external anatomy. Gender however, is how you feel inside, your sense of self. Sex and gender are entirely separate from sexuality/orientation, which is about who you are(or aren’t) sexually or romantically attracted to.

Despite being acknowledged across cultures and countries, the concept of gender variance is still widely misunderstood and dismissed. While gender variance has existed for centuries, many people struggle with upending and exploring identities beyond the binary.

It’s hard to break out of a system that’s been reinforced as a cornerstone of our identity since before we’re born. Just look at the rise in popularity of gender reveal parties, where parents and families gather together to cut open a cake or bust a pinata or smash a watermelon in an alligator’s mouth to get those pink vs. blue results.

But progress is happening: states like Oregon, Washington, New York and California have passed laws officially recognizing a third gender, and gender variant characters are appearing in popular culture (one of our faves, Steven Universe, gets a shout-out in the video).

For some people, gender identity is a fixed constant, while others experience gender as a fluid and ever-changing experience. There’s no wrong answer and no wrong way to identify: everyone moves at their own personal velocity. If you want to learn more, check out resources like GLAAD, The Non-Binary Resource and the Trevor Project or reach out to your local LGBTQ center.

Complete Article HERE!

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Sex and gender both shape your health, in different ways

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When you think about gender, what comes to mind? Is it anatomy or the way someone dresses or acts? Do you think of gender as binary — male or female? Do you think it predicts sexual orientation?

Gender is often equated with sex — by researchers as well as those they research, especially in the health arena. Recently I searched a database for health-related research articles with “gender” in the title. Of the 10 articles that came up first in the list, every single one used “gender” as a synonym for sex.

Although gender can be related to sex, it is a very different concept. Gender is generally understood to be socially constructed, and can differ depending on society and culture. Sex, on the other hand, is defined by chromosomes and anatomy — labelled male or female. It also includes intersex people whose bodies are not typically male or female, often with characteristics of both sexes.

Researchers often assume that all biologically female people will be more similar to each other than to those who are biologically male, and group them together in their studies. They do not consider the various sex- and gender-linked social roles and constraints that can also affect their health. This results in policies and treatment plans that are homogenous.

‘Masculine?’ ‘Cisgender?’ ‘Gender fluid?’

The term “gender” was originally developed to describe people who did not identify with their biological sex. John Money, a pioneering gender researcher, explained: “Gender identity is your own sense or conviction of maleness or femaleness; and gender role is the cultural stereotype of what is masculine and feminine.”

There are now many terms used to describe gender — some of the earliest ones in use are “feminine,” “masculine” and “androgynous” (a combination of masculine and feminine characteristics).

Research shows that gender, as well as sex, can influence vulnerability to disease.

More recent gender definitions include: “Bigender” (expressing two distinct gender identities), “gender fluid” (moving between gendered behaviour that is feminine and masculine depending on the situation) and “agender” or “undifferentiated” (someone who does not identify with a particular gender or is genderless).

If a person’s gender is consistent with their sex (e.g. a biologically female person is feminine) they are referred to as “cisgender.”

Gender does not tell us about sexual orientation. For example, a feminine (her gender) woman (her sex) may define herself as straight or anywhere in the LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex and asexual or allied) spectrum. The same goes for a feminine man.

Femininity can affect your heart

When gender has actually been measured in health-related research, the labels “masculine,” “feminine” and “androgynous” have traditionally been used.

Research shows that health outcomes are not homogeneous for the sexes, meaning all biological females do not have the same vulnerabilities to illnesses and diseases and nor do all biological males.

Gender is one of the things that can influence these differences. For example, when the gender of participants is considered, “higher femininity scores among men, for example, are associated with lower incidence of coronary artery disease…(and) female well-being may suffer when women adopt workplace behaviours traditionally seen as masculine.”

In another study, quality of life was better for androgynous men and women with Parkinson’s disease. In cardiovascular research, more masculine people have a greater risk of cardiovascular disease than those who are more feminine. And research with cancer patients found that both patients and their caregivers who were feminine or androgynous were at lower risk of depression-related symptoms as compared to those who were masculine and undifferentiated.

However, as mentioned earlier, many health researchers do not measure gender, despite the existence of tools and strategies for doing so. They may try to guess gender based on sex and/or what someone looks like. But it is rare that they ask people.

A tool for researchers

The self-report gender measure (SR-Gender) I developed, and first used in a study of aging, is one simple tool that was developed specifically for health research.

The SR-Gender asks a simple question: “Most of the time would you say you are…?” and offers the following answer choices: “Very feminine,” “mostly feminine,” “a mix of masculine and feminine,” “neither masculine or feminine,” “mostly masculine,” “very masculine” or “other.”

The option to answer “other” is important and reflects the constant evolution of gender. As “other” genders are shared, the self-report gender measure can be adapted to reflect these different categorizations.

It’s also important to note that the SR-Gender is not meant for in-depth gender research, but for health and/or medical studies, where it can be used in addition to, or instead of, sex.

Using gender when describing sex just muddies the waters. Including the actual gender of research participants, as well as their sex, in health-related studies will enrich our understanding of illness.

By asking people to tell us their sex and gender, health researchers may be able to understand why people experience illness and disease differently.

Complete Article HERE!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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

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You deserve sensitive, comprehensive care.

By Nathan Levitt, FNP-BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Article ↪HERE↩!

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What Does It Actually Mean To Be Sexually Fluid?

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It’s not the same as being bisexual.

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[R]ecently, I was speaking with a friend about sexuality and labels: She has fallen in love with both men and women, and cannot quite pin down her orientation.

She doesn’t feel fully lesbian and she doesn’t feel fully straight. But bisexual somehow doesn’t strike her as the right fit, either.

Hers is more an attraction she can categorize on a person-to-person basis and it has evolved over the years, but when pressed to define it herself, no single word surfaces.

I had two words to suggest: sexually fluid.

Sexually, what? This concept can be difficult to wrap your mind around, and comes with a lot of confusion.

What Is Sexual Fluidity?

“I define sexual fluidity as a capacity for a change in sexual attraction—depending on changes in situational or environmental or relationship conditions,” says Lisa Diamond, Ph.D., professor of psychology and gender studies at the University of Utah. Diamond should know: she literally wrote the book on this matter, Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love and Desire.

Sexual fluidity: The idea that sexual orientation can change over time, and depending on the situation at hand.

The concept of sexual fluidity doesn’t negate the existence of sexual orientation (heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, and so forth). Rather, fluidity builds in a little wiggle room, Diamond says.

Not quite getting it? Rena McDaniel—a clinical sexologist and licensed therapist—suggests thinking about a spectrum, with attraction to women-identifying people on the left side, and male-identifying people on the right. Your attraction profile exists within a bracket on that spectrum, and that bracket can slide: At age 22, for example, your attraction bracket might sit closer to the left, but by 30, you might find it’s shifted a few degrees to the right.

“You may, for instance, be attracted to the more feminine side of the gender spectrum, and over time, that may evolve and you may find yourself attracted to…people on more the masculine side…and that—over your lifetime—may shift and change,” McDaniel says.

That’s not to say a person chooses their sexual orientation, though: Rather, it means that the degree to which they’re attracted to men or women, or whoever, might vary somewhat over time.

In other words, sexual fluidity does not mean once I was exclusively attracted to men, and now I’m exclusively attracted to women, but something closer to I was once attracted to men and women, but these days I find myself attracted more or less exclusively to women. That migration can depend on a person’s experiences, Diamond adds, and on their personal relationships.

How Is It Different Than Bisexuality?

“Are you not just describing bisexuality?” I hear someone muttering off in the distance. Diamond says she gets that question a lot, and in truth, the two concepts do share much in common.

The confusion isn’t helped by a lack of agreement, even among bisexual people, as to what bisexual means: For some, it’s attraction to both genders; for others, it’s not caring about gender at all and gauging attraction on the basis of the person in front of you.

Bisexuality, she continues, “is a real orientation, it does exist, and I’ve seen a lot of people in the bisexual orientation experience themselves as consistently over time being attracted to both women and men. Maybe not to the exact same degrees—it doesn’t have to be 50/50—but they are consistently attracted to both women and men.”

Fluidity, meanwhile, connotes change over time: “Someone who’s fluid, they aren’t necessarily going to consistently experience attraction for both women and men,” Diamond explains. “There may be times in their life that they are more aware of attraction toward one gender, and times in their life when they’re attracted to the other gender.”

Further, not everyone exhibits the same degree of fluidity—and some people don’t experience fluidity at all, which is also fine. You can be the most open-minded person in the world and still not summon up attraction for a man-identifying or woman-identifying person, because again, you don’t get to choose sexual orientation.

And while Diamond’s research used to indicate that women-identified people were more fluid than male-identified, that’s changing. Many men are increasingly comfortable describing themselves as mostly heterosexual, Diamond notes.

Complete Article HERE!

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

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

Evonne Kaho

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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Beyond breadwinners and homemakers, we need to examine how same-sex couples divide housework

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[H]ousework is often understood as a gendered negotiation based on the traditional roles of homemaker (feminine) and breadwinner (masculine). While gender norms have shifted dramatically in the past few decades, theories of housework are still stuck on this 1950s model.

Shifting family structures, including the rising number of same-sex marriages in recent years, mean our understanding of housework needs updating. In our recent study, we highlight that current theories of housework do not adequately address dynamics in same-sex couples.

We present our own approach, arguing that all couples adopt different roles at different life points, and some reject traditional gender identities altogether.

Simply, there is no single way to explain the role of gender in housework. Our theories and data analysis need updating to account for the more diverse ways people behave as men and women in both same-sex and heterosexual relationships.

Housework in theory

Existing theories of housework argue that domestic labour is one way to perform gender for oneself and one’s partner within heterosexual couples. The basic assumption is that individuals are socialised from birth into gender roles that dictate appropriate feminine and masculine behaviours.

Traditional gender roles teach young girls that women are responsible for the physical and mental work of ensuring household chores are completed. By contrast, breadwinner roles teach young boys that masculinity is tied to providing for the family economically.

Traditional housework divisions relegate men to a narrow set of housework tasks – maintenance of the home, yard work and home repair.

Existing theories of housework suggest individuals are socialised into traditional gender roles from birth.

Feminist literature has challenged these ideas, arguing that domestic and economic work should not be distributed based on gender.

Young people today are more likely than older generations to reject traditionally gendered expectations in favour of more equal divisions of paid and domestic work. Yet we know that gender remains a major factor in unpaid divisions of household labour.

Housework and same-sex couples

Research shows that same-sex couples have more equitable divisions of housework than heterosexual couples, but the partner who engages in more childcare also does more “feminine” housework tasks. However, the question of how to explain these divisions remains.

Existing theories assume same-sex couples either behave just as heterosexual couples, with one specialising in the home and one in the workforce, or do not divide housework by gender at all.

One argument is that same-sex couples are able to negotiate housework in the “absence” of gender. As the argument goes, one partner does the washing, dishes and vacuuming not because they are male or female but because they prefer these chores, have less money or spend less time at work.

Existing studies show that same-sex couples have more equitable housework divisions than heterosexual couples.

However, we argue that same-sex couples’ housework divisions and relationship dynamics may function in more complicated ways, rather than simply doing or undoing heterosexual gender dynamics.

Women, regardless of sexual orientation, may view a clean and well-dressed table as one way to be a “good” woman. But, for others, housework may tap into more nuanced gender relations. For example, resisting the urge to constantly tidy up after children and partners may, for some women, be a form of feminist rebellion, a challenge to patriarchal norms.

Same-sex couples may have more scope to engage in a greater diversity of housework tasks, without the boundaries of heterosexual norms of “feminine” and “masculine” chores. But their performance of these chores is often interpreted through traditional gender norms (for example, gay men clean, cook and decorate as a sign of femininity) that have homophobic connotations.

Applying heterosexual norms to same-sex couples housework negotiations is fraught with false gendered assumptions and homophobia.

Cultural narratives of gender

To fully explain the way same-sex couples might negotiate housework, we need to leave our old theories of gender behind.

Take two examples. The idea that men using power tools to feel a rush of masculinity is evident in our cultural narratives. Similarly, the notion that women bake cupcakes to shower their families with feminine love is also ingrained in our traditional gender norms.

If we switch the genders here – have women use power tools to be feminine and men bake cupcakes to be masculine – we can see that the logic of these theories falls flat. Of course, men bake and women use tools, but how these tap into gender identities is lacking from existing research.

Men may bake to show care for their partners and this action may tap into other dimensions of masculinity (such as caring and nurturing). Gay men may engage in baking and lesbian women in using power tools as a way to tap into different dimensions of their masculinity and femininity (such as care or empowerment), not to demonstrate their rejection of either gender identity.

Or, housework may have less to do with gender among modern heterosexual and same-sex couples and more to do with preferences, leisure and relaxation.

Important questions

As ideas of gender as a simple binary (masculinity and femininity) are increasingly challenged, the question of how gender affects couples’ housework divisions is important. Existing studies on gender and housework ask standard questions about gender (male/female/other) but fail to ask detailed questions about gender identities and gender expressions on a continuum.

Within same-sex couples, housework is less likely to be a source of patriarchal domination, but that doesn’t mean gender is absent from negotiations. Today’s adults were raised in the context of our society’s gender norms, and being in a non-heterosexual relationship requires a re-evaluation of these norms.

This can create flexibility in how gender is expressed to the outside world, to people’s partners, and to themselves. And identifying to what extent gender remains coupled to inequality is important, especially given that housework inequality jeopardises relationship quality regardless of sexuality.

Complete Article HERE!

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This is the difference between gender and sexuality

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The two are incredibly different

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

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

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

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

What is gender identity?

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

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

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

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

A Pakistani transgender activist

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

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

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

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

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

What is transitioning?

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

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

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

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

This is the difference between gender and sexuality

Complete Article HERE!

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A Glossary of Terms for Talking About Sex and Gender in 2018

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[A]s our understanding of gender and sexuality is evolving, so are the words we use to describe them. There are many more sexual identities and expressions than previously acknowledged, so it’s about time we named more of them.

“The binary options of gender—man or woman—and sexuality—heterosexual or gay—are way too limiting to capture the complexity of human life,” says sex educator Kenna Cook. “There are so many variations in our personalities, beliefs, and DNA that limiting human sexuality to a tiny box of two choices makes it impossible for people to exist authentically.”

Learning the correct terminology for different expressions of gender and sexuality is essential not only to participate in conversations on this topic in an educated way, but also to support the people in your own life who might identify with them. “Language gives us ownership of our identities and autonomy over our personal choices,” says Cook. “Having words to communicate our identities gives us a way to find others similar to us. Words can help us feel seen.”

So, in the interest of educating ourselves and others, here’s a guide to a few human sexuality terms that you might not know, but definitely should.

Cisgender: Identifying with the same sex you were assigned at birth. A cisgender woman, for example, may have been born with female anatomy, like a vulva, and assigned female at birth.

Transgender: Identifying with a gender that differs from the sex you were assigned at birth. For example, trans women are people who may have male anatomy and been assigned male at birth and identify as women.

Queer: Anything other than straight and cisgender, or, more generally, breaking the mold of what society teaches us are the default options for gender and sexuality.

Sexually fluid: Feeling attracted to different genders at different times in one’s lifetime, or open to sexual relationships with a gender that one is not normally attracted to. For example, a heterosexual women who occasionally is attracted to women might identify as sexually fluid.

Pansexual: Attracted to all variations of gender identities. Because there are more than two genders, pansexual people may not find the word “bisexual” adequate to describe their sexual identities.

Asexual: Not experiencing sexual attraction to other people. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t have sexual urges or romantic attraction to others. In fact, many aseuxal people masturbate and have romantic relationships. Some people also feel some sexual attraction to others but view themselves as on the asexual spectrum.

Pangender: Feeling an affiliation with multiple gender identities. A pangender person, for example, might feel they embody male, female, and other genders simultaneously.

Agender: Not identifying with any gender. Agender people might disagree with the whole concept of gender or simply feel that it does not apply to them.

Non-binary: Not exclusively identifying as male or female. Non-binary people may also identify as agender, pangender, or trans. They can also identify as male or female in addition to being non-binary. Some non-binary people use the pronouns “they/them”.

Genderqueer: Expressing gender outside of cisgender. This could include someone who is trans, non-binary, pangender, agender, or simply “genderqueer,” without any other gender label.

Gender-nonconforming: This term is sometimes used simply to denote a lack of adherence to typical gender roles or stereotypes. Other times, it indicates a refusal to identify with a gender. Some non-binary and trans people also identify as gender-nonconforming.

Polyamory (a.k.a. ethical non-monogamy): Consensually having romantic relationships with more than one person, whether with one primary partner and other secondary partners or with several partners given equal importance.

Open relationship: A relationship in which one or more people are permitted to have other sexual or romantic relationships. This type of relationship agreement can exist in both monogamous and non-monogamous relationships.

Solo polyamory: Someone who considers their primary relationship to be with themselves. Sometimes this means having multiple partners but not a “primary” relationship with anyone.

BDSM: an acronym for Bondage, Dominance, Submission/Sadism, and Masochism.

Kink: a term that is representative of alternative sexual interests like BDSM, sexual fetishes, and other forms of sexual expression that depart from what’s considered “vanilla” sexual expression.

Keep in mind that all these definitions are personal, so you won’t be able to say which term applies to another person unless you ask. For this reason, it’s important not to make assumptions about who someone dates, who they have sex with, or how they identify based on how they look or act.

Complete Article HERE!

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Straight men share what sex feels like when you have a penis

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If you’re a person born with only a vagina, it’s a sad day when you realise you’ll never truly know or understand what it’s like to have sex if you had a penis.

[A]nd vice versa, for people born with penises.

It’s a fact of life. An unbridgeable gap in understanding. It is something that will always come up in hypotheticals, when asked what we’d do if we had a penis for the day or whether we’d rather change sex every time we sneezed or always smell like butter.

Sadly, us vagina-havers will never truly know what it’s like to have sex when you have a penis.

But we asked a bunch of straight men to be as descriptive as possible when telling us what it actually feels like to put their penis in a vagina, so we can all get a little closer to understanding.

All names have been changed, because few men want to publicly declare what sex feels like on the internet.

Let’s find out all the bodily sensations men feel when they slip their penis into a vagina.

Sam, 35

‘It feels like a warm cushion.

‘The weird part is, the penis doesn’t really “absorb” the feeling. It’s your head/brain that starts rushing.’

David, 31

‘It feels like a snug glove filled with warm oil.’

Eric, 34

‘Entering a vagina for me is a very intense moment because for me – it’s the ultimate agreement of intimacy between a man and woman.

‘If I am wearing a condom it feels different to going natural – my penis feels less sensitive and less connected to the woman with a condom on.

‘There is a warm soft feeling of entering her, she has a moistness that cant be matched.

‘I guess you could say it’s like scuba diving penis first.’

Steve, 24

‘It’s hard to describe, but it kind of feels like pushing yourself into a lubed inflatable armband.

‘I’d say it feels a little like going underwater too.

‘Imaging eating the best brownie you’ve ever had, then imagine that sensation over all your nerve endings and taking up your entire headspace, rather than just having a party in your mouth.’

Chris, 43

‘Like your penis is being stroked and hugged from all directions at the same time.’

Ross, 27

‘Warm with a bit of tightness so there’s feeling all over, but soft enough so it’s not like the thing’s getting squeezed.

‘However in some circumstances it can be a bit like penetrating a keyhole where the inside’s lined with some kind of dry rubber.’

Ron, 42

‘Gooey warm softness. It feels like a warm smooth jam doughnut that you’ve just pierced with your cock.’

Aaron, 36

‘There is always the initial sensation when entering the vagina, a certain warmth, and this tickles the nerve sensations up and down the shaft of the penis.

‘It’s a bit like the feeling of heat when you open an oven on a cold day.

‘She gets wetter and wetter, it becomes more difficult to maintain friction and sometimes it can feel as if the orgasm is running away from you.

‘The intensity of my own release can vary, it can always be satisfying, but the bigger orgasms are obviously better, like a volcano erupting inside you – your whole body feeling every part.

‘Sometimes to heighten my orgasm I may suck her toes towards the end (I have a foot fetish)

‘After a particularly big release, there’s little can be done above collapsing on top of her, drained and content. Everything spent, but too weak to just roll over.’

Harry, 30

‘Well, the initial feeling when you first go inside is pretty unreal. Especially when the vagina is really tight and wet.

‘Then when you’re inside the only way to describe it is if you were to squeeze your penis with your hand, like the vagina is gripped to your penis.

‘Then different positions give you different sensations, for example from behind can feel really deep and intense, more so than missionary.’

Jerry, 30

‘Warm, soft and sensitive with that slight rubbing.

‘A rush of adrenaline and excitement and then a satisfying feeling, like when you have that first sip of a cold beer on a really hot summer’s day.’

Mark, 32

‘It doesn’t feel like I expected it to as a young man.

‘Before I had sex, I expected it would feel wet and noticeably warm, Stifler’s words from American Pie ringing in my teenage ears.

‘It is however a different sort of pleasure from masturbation and I wondered why for a while.

‘I think a big part of the erotic sensation comes from the pressure applied to the base of the penis. Men tend to focus on the tip when they masturbate, but during sex there is a lot more going on with the base of the shaft, and it contributes greatly to sexual pleasure.

‘Thrusting sends a tingling sensation down the penis as the sensitive portions of the tip are stimulated. There is no grating shove or resistance, really, another pre-sex misconception.

‘The penis does not feel consumed or surrounded, but functionally positioned like an elevator in its shaft. Pleasure comes in occasional jolts and not a constant sensation of deepening or rhythmic enjoyment.’

Tom, 28

‘Imagine a thick sock made of velvet. Then add in some ridges.’

Paul, 24

‘Warm, comfortable and (usually) wet, but if it is dry it’s very uncomfortable. But, in the odd occasion, over quicker than I’m able to actually think what it’s like.’

Joe, 34

‘The quelling of long standing wonder, akin to Indiana Jones finding a way into a cavern he long hoped he’d find. Like entering a brave new world that’s quite snug, warm, and eventually hot. Good kind of hot.

‘There’s tingling and further hardening and excitement and the feeling of growth and the will to go forward even deeper.’

Oliver, 28

‘Putting your penis in something is a bit like putting your foot in something, but if your foot was extremely sensitive.

‘If you put your foot in a slipper that is cold, hot, dry, wet, small, big, whatever, then you will feel the appropriate feeling. The penis is much the same, although you are generally a lot more careful with where you’re putting it than your big old hoof.

‘Also, what is positive/negative is very different between the foot and the penis. You wouldn’t want your slippers to be wet and warm, although that is absolutely fine when it comes to the vagina.

‘The similarities come in terms of fit, a snug fit is ideal for both and you can certainly notice if your slipper/vagina does not fit as you may have hoped.

‘Much like if you were to try on every pair of slippers in Debenhams, each vagina is different, specifically on entry. Some much more of an issue than others in terms of each of entry. I guess this is just down to shape and size of the respective genitals.

‘Once in, there is notable difference in terms of how snug the fit is and how aqueous the area is, which makes a big difference to the general feel.

‘But, unless circumstances are particularly extreme, it’s all a lot of fun regardless of variables.’

Ned, 27

‘I once read that it feels like sliding into warm custard.

‘I’ve never slid into warm custard, but that sounds similar to the feeling of going in a vagina – just very warm, wet with a slight thickness, and comforting.

‘It’s also like a well-fitting shoe, or getting tucked into bed. It feels like exactly the right size, nice and snug without cutting off circulation.’

Ryan, 50

‘Every experience is different and very much age and childbirth dependant. It also depends on the type of sex you are having, position and a multitude of other variants.

‘First full penetration is simply heaven – smooth, encompassing, embracing – a huge depth of sensations across your whole penis.

‘Subsequent thrusts – again depending on speed, angle and depth – give you different sensations across different parts of your willy.

‘Getting to know your partner’s fanny and how to work together can build and release all kind of sensations.’

Complete Article HERE!

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What’s the Best Way to Talk to a Teen About Sexual Identity?

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A new survey indicates that many teens aren’t getting the information or advice they need about important health issues.

by George Citroner

[A] nationwide survey of almost 200 gay teens found that young males who have sex with other males aren’t receiving proper advice about critical health issues that affect them.

The survey included responses from 198 gay adolescent males. It was conducted by a questionnaire linked from a website popular with that group.

According to some study participants, their primary reason for participating was to help members of their community.

Healthcare providers are a critical source of information about HIV and sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention.

Before this study, little was known about health communication and services between gay adolescent males and their healthcare providers.

“This is the first study to ask kids about their attitudes on getting sexual healthcare. Pediatricians and general practitioners are the gateway of youth experiences with healthcare, but [these patients] only go once a year, so this is an ideal time to ask [about their sexual activity],” Celia Fisher, PhD, professor of psychology and the chair in ethics at Fordham University in New York who also directs Fordham’s Center for Ethics Education, said in a press release.

Barriers to revealing sexual orientation

Survey responses showed that more than half the teens who participated had decided against revealing their sexual orientation to healthcare providers.

“One of the barriers to discussing the sexual health needs and concerns of adolescent patients was fear that the healthcare provider would disclose confidential information to their guardians. It’s important to also note that whether or not a sexual minority youth is out to his parents doesn’t mean the parents are accepting of their sexual identity,” Fisher told Healthline.

However, Fisher warned in the press release that a doctor may be obligated to say something in certain instances.

“The gray area is if the child is having sex with an adult that might be considered sexual abuse, and that needs to be reported. Even if the relationship is legal and consensual, some youth lack assertiveness skills to demand a condom from an older or aggressive peer partner,” she said.

Initiating a discussion

The findings suggest teens who reported having their healthcare provider initiate a discussion about sexual orientation were much more likely to receive HIV and STI preventive services and testing.

“To ensure that youth get the services they need, I would suggest that doctors make it clear to their adolescent patients that they’re committed to protecting the patient’s confidentiality, but also provide youths with the opportunity to agree to engage their parents in discussion of treatment for HIV and STIs if they believe it is in their best interests,” Fisher said.

Some parents are unsure about asking directly about their child’s sexual orientation.

However, Steven Petrow, author of “Steven Petrow’s Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners,” wrote in the Washington Post: “As for ‘the talk,’ you’re right to wait for your son to come to you. He may not be sure about his identity or isn’t ready to talk with you about it. A direct question can result in defensiveness, a forced coming out or an outright lie.”

What can be done?

Fisher believes that it’s important for medical schools to begin incorporating sexual health training early in the medical school curriculum.

“The small amount of research that has been conducted with physicians indicate many believe they lack the training to speak to young adults about these issues and provide sexual minority youth with information relevant to their sexual health needs,” she said.

How the question is phrased can make a big difference.

“Doctors should not use terms like ‘gay,’ or ‘LGBT,’ because for many young people the terminology is in flux. Youth no longer identify with these traditional behaviors. The question should [instead] be, ‘Who are you attracted to sexually?’” Fisher said.

Complete Article HERE!

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How Homophobia Has Robbed Men Of Touch

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The pathological fear of even platonic contact has created a generation of men plagued by loneliness and anxiety.

I wrote an article in which I asked people to consider the following: American men, in an attempt to avoid any possible hint of committing unwanted sexual touch, are foregoing gentle platonic touch in their lives.

I call it touch isolation.

Homophobic social stigmas, the long-standing challenges of rampant sexual harassment and abuse, and a society steeped in a generations-old puritanical mistrust of physical pleasure have created an isolating trap in which American men can go for days (or weeks) without touching another human being.

The implications of touch isolation for men’s health and happiness are huge.

Gentle platonic touch is central to the early development of infants. It continues to play an important role throughout men and women’s lives in terms of our development, health and emotional well being, right into old age. When I talk about gentle platonic touch, I’m not talking about a pat on the back, or a handshake, but instead contact that is sustained and meant to provide connection and comfort: Leaning on someone for a few minutes, holding hands, rubbing their back or sitting close together not out of necessity but out of choice.

Yet, culturally, gentle platonic touch is the one thing we suppress culturally in men and it starts when they are very young boys.

While babies and toddlers are held, cuddled, and encouraged to practice gentle touch during their first years of their lives, that contact often drops off for boys when they cease to be toddlers. Boys are encouraged to “shake it off” and “be tough” when they are hurt.

Along with the introduction of this “get tough” narrative, boys find that their options for gentle platonic touch simply fade away. Mothers and fathers often back off from holding or cuddling their young boys. Boys who seek physical holding as comfort when hurt are stigmatized as “cry babies.”

By the time they are approaching puberty, many boys have learned to touch only in aggressive ways through rough housing or team sports. And if they do seek gentle touch in their lives, it is expected to take place in the exclusive and highly sexualized context of dating. This puts massive amounts of pressure on young girls; young girls who are unlikely to be able to shoulder such a burden. Because of the lack of alternative outlets for touch, the touch depravation faced by young boys who are unable to find a girlfriend is overwhelming. And what about boys who are gay? In a nutshell, we leave children in their early teens to undo a lifetime of touch aversion and physical isolation. The emotional impact of coming of age in our touch-averse, homophobic culture is terribly damaging. It’s no wonder our young people face a epidemic of sexual abuse, unwanted pregnancy, rape, drug and alcohol abuse.

In America, in particular, if a young man attempts gentle platonic contact with another young man, he faces a very real risk of homophobic backlash either by that person or by those who witness the contact. This is, in part, because we frame all contact by men as being intentionally sexual until proven otherwise. Couple this with the homophobia that runs rampant in our culture, and you get a recipe for increased touch isolation that damages the lives of the vast majority of men.

And if you think men have always been hands-off with each other, have a look at an amazing collection of historic photos compiled by Brett and Kate McKay in their article Bosom Buddies: A Photo History of Male Affection. It’s a remarkable look at male camaraderie as expressed though physical touch in photos dating back to the earliest days of photography.

As the McKays note:

“At the turn of the 20th century… Thinking of men as either “homosexual” or “heterosexual” became common. And this new category of identity was at the same time pathologized—decried by psychiatrists as a mental illness, by ministers as a perversion, and by politicians as something to be legislated against.

“As this new conception of homosexuality as a stigmatized and onerous identifier took root in American culture, men began to be much more careful to not send messages to other men, and to women, that they were gay. And this is the reason why, it is theorized, men have become less comfortable with showing affection towards each other over the last century.”

Spend some time looking at these remarkable images. You’ll get a visceral sense of what has been lost to men.

These days, put 10 people in the room when two men touch a moment too long, and someone will make a mean joke, express distaste, or even pick a fight. And its just as likely to be a woman as to be a man who enforces the homophobic/touch averse stigma. The enforcement of touch prohibition between men can be as subtle as a raised eyebrow or as punitive as a fist fight and you never know where it will come from or how quickly it will escalate.

And yet, we know that touch between men or women is proven to be a source of comfort, connection and self-esteem. But while women are allowed much more public contact, men are not. Because how we allow men to perform masculinity is actually very restrictive. (Charlie Glickman writes quite eloquently about this in an article for The Good Men Project. Read it. It’s a real eye opener.)

Male touch isolation is one of many powerful reasons why I support marriage equality. The sooner being gay is completely normalized, the sooner homophobic prohibitions against touch will be taken off straight men. As much as gay men have faced the brunt of homophobic violence, straight men have been banished to a desert of physical isolation by these same homophobic fanatics who police lesbians and gays in our society. The result has been a generation of American men who do not hug each other, do not hold hands and can not sit close together without the homophobic litmus test kicking in.’

The lack of touch in men’s lives results in a higher likelihood of depression, alcoholism, mental and physical illness. Put simply, touch isolation is making men’s lives less healthy and more lonely.

When visiting my 87-year-old father for a few days, I made a point to touch him more. To make contact. To express my affection, not just by flying a thousand miles for a visit, but to touch the man once I got there. It may seem simple, but choosing to do so is not always a simple thing. It can raise a lifetime of internal voices, many of which speak of loss and missed opportunities. But I hugged him. I put my arm around him as we shared a cigar and cocktails. I touched him whenever I walked past his chair.

Each evening, we would watch a movie. As part of that nightly ritual, I would sit in the floor, take off his shoes and socks and rub his bare feet for while. It is something I will remember when he is gone. Something I did right. Something that said to him, I love you. Spoken on the same deep touch levels by which he connected with me when I was a toddler sitting next to him, his strong arm around me as I watched the late show 50 years ago.

This touch thing is so crucial: I kiss and hug my son constantly. He sits with me—and on me. I make a point of connecting with him physically whenever I greet him. The physical connection I have with him has been transformative in my life teaching me about my value as a human being and a father.

We need to empower men to touch. We need to fix our sexually repressed (and sexually obsessed) American culture and put an end to distorted and hateful parts of our culture that allow homophobic people to police all men everywhere down to the very tips of our fingertips.

It’s too late in my life for the impact of these stigmas to be fully undone, but I have great hope for my son. When we collectively normalize gay life and relationships, my son, whatever his sexual orientation turns out to be, will be free to express platonic affection for others, be they men or women, in any way he sees fit. The rabid homophobes who have preached hate in America for far too long will finally be silenced, and men will be free to reach out and touch each other without fear of being labeled as somehow less of a man.

It’s a dream for a better America I can already see coming true.

Complete Article HERE!

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Federal courts ask: What is the meaning of ‘sex’?

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Existing prohibitions against discrimination ‘because of sex,’ already provide a civil rights umbrella wide enough to cover discrimination based on sexual orientation and transgender identity, some judges are beginning to say.

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[A] number of federal courts have begun to ask a question that has become more and more subtle over the past few years: What is the meaning of ‘sex’?

It’s a question that has in many ways evolved out of the storms of cultural change that have surrounded the country’s shifting ideas about human sexuality and gender over the past few decades. Many of these culminated in the US Supreme Court’s landmark 5-to-4 decision in 2015, in which a bare majority declared same-sex marriage a constitutional right.

On the one hand, the high court’s epoch-changing decision that legalized same-sex marriage created the kind of situation that inevitably arises out of rapid cultural change. Today, neither the federal government nor some 28 states offer any explicit civil rights protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people (LGBTQ), either in the workplace or any other arena of daily life.

“It is constitutionally jarring to know that, in most states, a lesbian couple can get married on Saturday and be fired from their jobs on Monday, without legal redress,” notes the legal scholar William Eskridge, professor at Yale Law School in New Haven, Conn.

And many throughout the country, even those with liberal-leaning views, continue to be uneasy about the presence of transgender people in certain sensitive places, including school bathrooms and locker rooms.

On Friday, President Trump issued a policy memo that would disqualify most transgender people from serving in the military, after tweeting about his plans to issue such a ban last July. As Defense Secretary Jim Mattis reported to the president in February, the administration is concerned that the presence of transgender soldiers could “undermine readiness,” “disrupt unit cohesion,” and create unreasonable health care costs for the military, echoing arguments used in the past for other groups.

At least four federal courts have found this reasoning constitutionally jarring as well, potentially violating the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.

Yet beyond sweeping constitutional questions which regulate what the government can do to its citizens, the nation’s evolving definitions of sex, marriage, and gender have also been quietly transforming the nation’s civil rights laws, which regulate how citizens live their common lives together.

Title VII and Title IX

Indeed, a number of federal courts have recently begun to weigh in on a vigorous and relatively new legal idea, simmering for the past few years in federal civil rights cases but only now beginning to take a more defined legal shape.

There may be no need to press Congress and the majority of state legislatures to change their statutes and explicitly add LGBTQ people to their lists of protected classes. (Traditionally, these include race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.) Existing prohibitions against discrimination “because of sex,” already provide a civil rights umbrella wide enough to cover discrimination based on sexual orientation and transgender identity, some judges are beginning to say.

The Obama administration took this position in 2016, telling the nation’s public schools that transgender students should be able to use the bathroom of their choice, a directive that interpreted Title IX’s prohibitions against sex discrimination as covering transgender identity.

Last April, the US Court of Appeals of the Seventh Circuit in Chicago, which includes nine justices nominated by Republican presidents and five by President Ronald Reagan, also embraced this idea. In an 8-to-3 decision that spanned the panel’s ideological spectrum, the full court ruled that the Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination in the workplace also included any based on sexual orientation.

Last month, the Second Circuit in New York issued a similar ruling. “Sexual orientation discrimination is a subset of sex discrimination because sexual orientation is defined by one’s sex in relation to the sex of those to whom one is attracted,” wrote Chief Judge Robert Katzmann for the 10-3 majority. It would be impossible “for an employer to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without taking sex into account,” he continued.

Such an evolving legal definition of sex could again reshape the nation’s legal landscape. “Potentially a lot is at stake,” says Professor Eskridge. “Depending how broadly you go, this idea could affect dozens of state statutes and dozens of federal statutes, the chief of which are Title VII and Title IX,” sections in the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act that forbids discrimination both in the workplace and in public schools.

Original intent

On the surface, the debate over the meaning of “sex” in these cases divides legal thinkers into classic liberal and conservative approaches to the law. Those who focus on the “original intent” of laws and the precise words of the legal text have generally rejected the expansive lines of thinking about the definition of sex.

“I think the better answer, the cleaner answer is just, let Congress go ahead and change the laws,” says Mark Goldfeder, senior fellow at the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory Law School in Atlanta. And there’s virtue in hashing out such questions through a political process rather than letting a panel of judges make such society-shaping decisions.

Indeed, this was part of the reasoning behind a three-judge panel in the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, which came to the opposite conclusion. In a 2-to-1 decision, the majority said that discrimination “because of sex” and discrimination based on sexual orientation were two different things. The disagreement among appeals courts could invite a potential Supreme Court review, scholars say.

But the history of the legal concept of “sex discrimination” unfolded in a much more complex way, many observers note, and conservative jurisprudence, too, has played a key role in the evolving definitions of “sex” that almost immediately began to widen over time.

“There’s been this natural progression of the law,” says Susan Eisenberg, managing partner at the Miami office of Cozen O’Connor. As a trial attorney who has been defending companies from civil rights complaints for more than two decades, she’s has watched as the concept of “sex” in discrimination cases has evolved over time, changing the ways she defends her clients.

The evolution of civil rights law

In the first decade after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, she and others point out, the “original intent” of the prohibition against sex discrimination was clear. The nation’s elite law schools and medical schools were often reserved for male applicants only, single women could be denied leases and bank accounts, and the nation understood its merit-based workplace as the natural domain of men alone.

But by the 1970s, people began to claim that sexual harassment in the workplace also violated Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination, and the Supreme Court agreed, declaring “a hostile work environment” as a violation of Title VII.

By the end of the 1980s, the Supreme Court found that discrimination based on “gender stereotypes” was also a violation of civil rights laws – in this case a woman who was passed up for promotion because she did not act feminine enough.

“She argued: that’s discrimination against me on the basis of my sex,” says Steve Sanders, a professor at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law in Bloomington. “They’re not discriminating against me as a woman per se, but they’re discriminating against me because I failed to demonstrate certain stereotypes of what it means to be a woman, and the Supreme Court accepted that.”

And the nation’s high court broadened the definition even further in 1998, ruling unanimously that Title VII’s workplace protections covered sexual harassment between members of the same sex – a key decision, says Ms. Eisenberg, citing a passage that in many ways redefined her job.

“Statutory prohibitions often go beyond the principal evil to cover reasonably comparable evils, and it is ultimately the provisions of our laws rather than the principal concerns of our legislators by which we are governed,” wrote Justice Antonin Scalia for the majority in the case Oncale v. Sundowner, explaining the expanding definition of sex in this area of civil rights law.

“The sexual orientation cases that we’re now seeing basically takes the logic of these cases one step further,” says Professor Sanders. “If you’re a man, the social stereotype and the social expectation is that you will want to have sex with a woman, that you will want to have a relationship and a marriage with a woman. But, no, you defy that gender stereotype about what it means to be a man, because you’re attracted to other men.”

“Well, if the idea that men should only be attracted to women and women should only be attracted to men is a form of gender stereotyping, ergo, the logic goes, it’s covered by Title VII,” he says.

The Trump administration, however, maintains that while the Justice Department “is committed to protecting the civil and constitutional rights of all individuals,” in these case it remains “committed to the fundamental principle that the courts cannot expand the law beyond what Congress has provided,” said Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley in February.

‘Lack of clarity can prove expensive’

Corporate attorneys say most businesses have already instituted their own antidiscrimination policies. “But though many have adopted these, only voluntarily, the unevenness, the irregularity of anti-discrimination laws, I think is very challenging for the business community to grapple with,” says Darren Rosenblum, professor at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University in New York. “So I think there is an imperative to clarify the law on this point. That’s what they need first and foremost, because the lack of clarity can prove expensive, figuring out which norms to follow.”

Even so, Eisenberg points out that given the ways in which the high court has redefined the meaning of sex in past precedents, today simple claims of “gender stereotyping” already covers most claims of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“And if you’ve got people who are being discriminated against just because they’re not part of a protected characteristic, that’s just not good management,” Eisenberg says. “It’s not good for recruiting, it’s not good for maintaining employees, it’s not good all the way around.”

Complete Article HERE!

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