Tag Archives: Gender

Same-sex couples experience unique stressors

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Study by SF State professor finds that institutionalized discrimination has lasting effects

Professor of Sociology Allen LeBlanc

By Lisa Owens Viani

Stressors faced by lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) individuals have been well studied, but San Francisco State University Professor of Sociology Allen LeBlanc and his colleagues are among the first to examine the stressors that operate at the same-sex couple level in two new studies conducted with support from the National Institutes of Health. “People in same-sex relationships are at risk for unique forms of social stress associated with the stigma they face as sexual minority individuals and as partners in a stigmatized relationship form,” said LeBlanc.

In the first study, recently published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, LeBlanc and colleagues conducted in-depth interviews with 120 same-sex couples from two study sites, Atlanta and San Francisco, and identified 17 unique pressures that affect LGB couples. Those range from a lack of acceptance by families to discrimination or fears of discrimination at work, public scrutiny, worries about where to live and travel in order to feel safe, and experiences and fears of being rejected and devalued. The researchers also found that same-sex couple stressors can emerge when stress is contagious or shared between partners and when stress “discrepancies” — such as one partner being more “out” than the other — occur.

“We wanted to look beyond the individual, to look at how stress is shared and how people are affected by virtue of the relationships they’re in, the people they fall in love with and the new ways couples experience stress if they’re in a stigmatized relationship form,” said LeBlanc. “One of those is feeling that society doesn’t value your relationship equally.”

“Changing laws is one thing, but changing hearts and minds is another.”

That perception is the focus of a second study just published in the Journal of Marriage and Family. LeBlanc found that feelings of being in a “second-class” relationship are associated with mental health issues — such as greater depression and problematic drinking — even after taking into account the beneficial impact of gaining legal recognition through marriage. In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, but the effects of long-term institutionalized discrimination can linger, according to LeBlanc.

“Our work is a stark reminder that legal changes will not quickly or fully address the longstanding mental health disparities faced by sexual minority populations,” said LeBlanc. “Changing laws is one thing, but changing hearts and minds is another.”

Even though people in same-sex relationships experience many unique challenges, research also shows that having a good primary intimate partnership is important for a person’s well-being, which is true for both heterosexual and LGB couples. “The unique challenges confronting same-sex couples emanate from the stigma and marginalization they face from society at large, not from anything that is unique about their relationships in and of themselves,” said LeBlanc. LeBlanc’s study builds on an emerging body of research suggesting that legal recognition of same-sex relationships is associated with better mental health among LGB populations — as has long been suggested in studies of legal marriage among heterosexual populations. “This new research suggests that legal marriage is a public health issue,” said LeBlanc. “When people are denied access in an institutionalized, discriminatory way, it appears to affect their mental health.”

LeBlanc said transgender individuals were not included in the studies because of other stressors unique to them; he noted that another study focused specifically on trans- and gender-nonconforming individuals is underway. He hopes his research will help people better understand and support not just same-sex couples but also other stigmatized relationships, including interracial/ethnic relationships or partnerships with age differences or different religious backgrounds. “It’s not just about civil rights for LGB persons,” he explained. “It’s about science and how society can be more supportive of a diversity of relationships that include people from all walks of life.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Barres examines gender, science debate and offers a novel critique

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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What Does It Mean to Be Pansexual?

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One of the beautiful things about being a person right now is that there are no limits to the ways you can express your sexual preferences. While there’s still a lot of work to do in terms of representation, people who identify with sexualities and genders beyond binaries are finding it easier than ever to find both partners and communities that support their needs. But since inclusivity, though extremely awesome, can also be a bit overwhelming or confusing for some who haven’t heard certain terms in the past, it can be a little hard determining exactly where you fit. So, for the sake of said representation, let’s look at a term that’s gaining more and more traction nowadays: pansexual.

So what does pansexual mean? It’s actually pretty simple: Pansexuality is a sexual identity used to describe those who could be potentially attracted to all people, regardless of gender. Some people who identify as pansexual put it in the most adorable terms possible and say they care about “hearts and not parts.”

The reason pansexuality is defined as a sexual identity, rather than a gender identity, says Becca Mui, Ms.Ed., education manager at GLSEN, is because “it describes people’s feelings of emotional, physical, romantic, and sexual attraction to others, [whereas] gender identities refer to people’s personal conception of themselves, which may include ‘female,’ ‘androgynous,’ ‘transgender,’ “genderqueer,’ ‘nonbinary,’ ‘male’ and many others, or a combination thereof.”

Obviously, there is a bit of overlap (and therefore some confusion) when it comes to different sexual identities. For instance, what’s the difference between bisexual and pansexual, since doesn’t bisexual mean potential attraction to both genders? It does, but they aren’t the same thing. The term bisexual refers to someone who is attracted to male and female people, or people who are on the gender binary. “Someone who is pansexual may be attracted to someone who is transgender, gender nonbinary, or genderqueer,” Kristie Overstreet, Ph.D., a psychotherapist and clinical sexologist, tells Glamour. Pansexuality does not assume there are only two genders, rejects the binary, and embraces all people as individuals.

That’s not to say that identifying as pansexual means you aren’t attracted to people who do identify as male or female (i.e., within the traditional gender binary)—only that gender is not something you take into consideration when it comes to sexual attraction. If you find you’re attracted to all people, or most people, and gender isn’t something that dictates your desire for someone, you might be pansexual!

For some people, pansexual is a way to accept a sexual descriptor while leaving lots of room for interpretation. “[Pansexual] is the most inclusive type of sexuality and is not limited to attraction to men or women,” Alicia Sinclair, a sex coach and founder of B-Vibe, tells Glamour. “They may find their sexual attraction is much broader than the traditional identifications and labels.” Even so, it’s important to remember that labels are entirely self-regulated and are no one’s business but your own. Even if you may technically fit into a “box,” or some of your behaviors may fall under a label, you still may not be comfortable using any one term to describe yourself. For example, someone might be attracted to men and women, but not wish to be called bisexual. They may prefer the term queer, heteroflexible or homoflexible. Or maybe they don’t want any label at all. You don’t have to call yourself something just to make other people comfortable. Any label you choose should be strictly for your own benefit and self-identification.

Though there isn’t a clear stat on how many people identify as pansexual in the world—it’s a relatively new term and has been more widely accepted as a sexual identity only in the last decade or so (and we’re still working on it, tbh)—as more people feel comfortable coming out on a gender and sexuality spectrum, we’ll likely see a push for more comprehensive population statistics. According to the GLSEN 2015 National School Climate survey, 16.1 percent of the student participants identified themselves as pansexual. That’s a pretty significant number, and one that will probably grow as acceptance permeates popular culture.

If you are pansexual, some people want the next step to be explaining their sexual identity to family or friends. When you live in a world that generally expects that there are men and women, gay and straight people, falling outside of those parameters can be jarring for people you love. If you’re looking for some “coming out” ideas, Overstreet suggests writing a letter to family as a way of expressing who you are. “This is a great way to share your identify with them, as well as your feelings related to it, in a safe way,” she says.

Identifying on the sexuality spectrum may lead to some awkward moments in public. Though it can be disheartening, it happens to plenty of people. “Be prepared that some people may comment or ask inappropriate questions about your identity or your behavior,” Overstreet says. “Remember to keep your boundaries in place and don’t feel that you have to answer any questions that are inappropriate.”

Remember that you have agency, that your sexual identity is totally valid, and that how you choose to label yourself is nobody’s business but your own. We’ll say it again for the seats in the back: Any label you choose is strictly for your own benefit and self-identification.

You got this.

Complete Article HERE!

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We Need To Talk About LGBTQ Students & Sex Ed

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By Kimberly Truong

It’s no secret that the state of sex education in America can be dire — so much so that when Refinery29 polled more than 500 of our staffers and readers about their sex ed, we found that nearly a third described their respective experiences as “terrible.”

But if sex ed already fails to be comprehensive in general, often neglecting subjects like consent and pleasure, imagine how unhelpful it can be for students who identify as LGBTQ.

In fact, according to a 2016 report from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), LGBTQ students are even less likely than their peers to find sex ed useful. In a survey of 1,367 students, almost half (46.5%) of LGBTQ students who received sex ed said they didn’t find it useful, while less than a third (29.9%) of their non-LGBTQ peers reported the same.

These results aren’t exactly surprising. For starters, a 2015 study from the Public Religion Research Institute found that a mere 12% of millennials reported that their sex education classes even discussed same-sex relationships in the first place. And, sadly, most of the dialogue around LGBTQ sex ed is about how terrible it can be. A cursory Google search for “LGBTQ sex ed” will bring up front-page results like “The Quest For Inclusive Sex Ed” and “LGBTQ Youth Need Inclusive Sex Education.” Not to mention, what we learn about virginity and safer sex often neglects to cover what those topics might entail for people who aren’t heterosexual. In fact, sex ed can fail to acknowledge that even what’s considered sex in the first place can differ depending on the person.

Discussing sexual orientation and LGBTQ issues in a positive way, however, is crucial to inclusive and useful sex ed that sets up students for safer, consensual sex lives (which is a pretty bare minimum goal). Noreen Giga, senior research associate for GLSEN, tells Refinery29 that even when LGBTQ issues are included in sex ed or other health discussions, they can be covered in a stigmatizing way, like “only talking about the LGBTQ community when talking about harmful behaviors” — for example, only discussing HIV/AIDS when it comes to transgender people and gay men.

“That’s just talking about the community in a negative way and not providing any positive information or representation around LGBTQ youth, especially when it pertains to healthy sexual behavior,” Giga says. “HIV can be an issue in the LGBTQ community, but that doesn’t mean that’s what health education should focus on — it needs to focus on preparing young people to engage in safer sex practices.”

It’s no wonder, then, that GLSEN’s 2015 National School Climate Survey found that less than 6% of LGBTQ middle and high school students in the U.S. learned about LGBTQ issues in a positive way during health classes. So where does that leave the remaining 94% of LGBTQ students? In an educational environment that either covers these issues in a negative way or completely ignores them. And that’s unacceptable.

“There are so many barriers when it comes to sex education overall that when you move down the line to thinking about comprehensiveness and inclusivity, it’s a huge challenge,” Giga says.

While it’s clear that educators have to make sure that sex education really prepares everyone — not just straight people — the rest of society needs to do our part and examine our own biases to help make that possible. Positive, comprehensive LGBTQ sex ed isn’t a straightforward issue that can be solved with any one solution. But in a world where parents can be outraged over children learning about different sexualities in school, and health teachers can be suspended for teaching students about gender identity, perhaps we can start by helping people better understand orientations and identities that are different from their own.

We may have a ways to go before sex education really addresses the issues it needs to in order to help us all lead healthier, more enjoyable lives, but we do have to start somewhere — even if that means having conversations that make us uncomfortable. (Need help? Our Gender Nation glossary is a great place to start.)

“We need to let go of this fear that you need to know all these answers [about sexual education], or this idea that young people need to feel shame when asking these questions [about sexual health],” Giga says. “Sexual health education is crucial, not only to students’ current well-being, but also the rest of their lives. It plays a part in having healthy relationships, learning to negotiate better health care, communicating with doctors, and even in how we think about gender roles.”

Bottom line: Everyone deserves education that helps them make healthy choices about their bodies and their relationships, no matter what their sexual orientation or gender identity happens to be

Complete Article HERE!

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Gender Glossary: Understanding ‘Intersex’ Beyond the Binary

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By Harish Iyer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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