Thursday, December 1, 2016

World AIDS Day has almost Come and Gone, but HIV and AIDS Linger.



What Is World AIDS Day?
Started in 1988, WORLD AIDS Day was the first global health day. We remember what was considered a plague  (AIDS) back then and how it took the lives of 100,000 + New Yorkers alone. It’s a day to acknowledge our progress in HIV prevention and treatment around the world and renew our commitment annually on December 1st to a future free of HIV.  New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has projected that goal by 2020,
WORLD AIDS DAY is a time for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and show support for people living with HIV. The theme of this year’s World Aids Day is Leadership, Commitment, Impact.  This campaign asks leaders to strengthen their commitment to using evidence-based HIV interventions, prevention tools and testing efforts to help stop HIV. 
Know the Facts About HIV:
·      According to the Centers for Disease and Control, gay and bisexual men continue to be the most affected population, accounting for 2/3 of new diagnosis.
·      More than 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV.
·      Globally, an estimated 36.7 million persons are living with HIV/AIDS. 
·      Each year more than 1 million people become newly infected by HIV.
·      ONE IN EIGHT AFFECTED DON’T EVEN KNOW THEY HAVE HIV.
·      Gay and bisexual men continue to be the most affected population, accounting for 2/3 of new diagnoses.
·      With the recent heroin epidemic in the United States, unless syringes come from a sterile source and aren’t shared, the HIV cases will rise.
Goals for UNAIDS ’90-90-90’ Program
·      Targets 90% of people living with HIV to know their status.
·      90% of those diagnosed to start and stay on antiretroviral therapy (ART) and
·       90% of those on ART to have a suppressed viral load to protect their own health and prevent transmission of HIV.
·      The United Nations wants to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.
·      The UNAIDS Prevention Gap Report shows that worldwide an estimated 1.9 million adults have become infected with HIV annually for at least five years.
·      Make new drugs like PrEP, a pill that when taken prophylactically can prevent HIV infection, less expensive and more readily available.
“No One Should Die Of Ignorance” – Elizabeth Taylor, AIDS Crusader
HIV doesn’t discriminate across race, gender, and age. END THE STIGMA.
As a parent, you should know the following and communicate the information to your children:

·      If your children are sexually active, have them tested once a year for HIV. It’s easy, free, fast and confidential and should be part of his health routine.  
·      They should know about how to prevent transmission (i.e. safe sex) and their HIV stat.
·      For more Information on WORLD AIDS Day and features such as plug-ins for finding a testing site, please see http://www.cdc.gove/features/worldaidsday/.







Sunday, November 20, 2016

Are You Transgenderally Aware?



This past week was annual Transgender Awareness Week, culminating today in Transgender Remembrance Day against transphobia.  I have been thinking all week of a transgender man whom I interviewed for my co-authored book When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know (Sterling, 2016). This young man had told me that if he hadn’t transitioned as a freshman in college, he probably would have killed himself.  Without his family’s eventual acceptance, he would have probably been one of the 51% of transgender individuals who attempt suicide.
Like so many other transsexual people. J.R. was not comfortable in the gender identity and/or gender expression he was born with.  Or, a psychiatric term, he had gender dysphoria.  Born to a loud Italian family, Jennifer, his given name, was always at war with his gender assigned at birth.
For example, he would wipe off the makeup his mother encouraged him to wear.  Wanting a quick change out of frilly blouses, at high school, he would take a backpack full of baggy and amorphous clothes that earned him the title of “dyke and “butch.”
Today, he lives as a transgender man and is much happier. He transitioned through hormone therapy as surgeries are horribly expensive, he told me, and not a prerequisite for transitioning. (However, transitioning does NOT necessarily include taking hormones, having surgery or changing identity documents such as driver’s license, Social Security Record, to reflect one’s gender’s identity.)
Transgender 101
What’s the difference between a transgender and a transsexual? Transgender is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth.  It is an adjective. So, do not use word transgenderism, use being transgender.
A transsexual is NOT an umbrella term, but also an adjective. Many transgender people do not identify as transsexual and prefer the word transgender.  Best to ask which term they prefer.
Transgender people are NOT transvestites.  This is an outdated term, anyway. Transvestites wear clothes associated with the opposite sex.  They identify as heterosexual and do NOT wish to change permanently their sex or live full-time as women.
Transgender Etiquette
·      Do not use the following words: “tryanny,” “she-male,” “he/she, “it,” “shim.”
·      Do not use phrase “sex change.” Not all transgender individuals have “top” and “bottom” surgeries.
·      Use the right pronoun when addressing them.  Always uses a transgender person’s chosen name.  Ask the person what pronouns do they use.
·      If you can’t ask, use the pronoun “they” in the singular to reflect their non-binary identity. Use the pronoun consistent with the way the subject lives publicly (he, his, she, her, hers).

 Unfortunately, the legal system, social service agencies, schools, workplace, hospitals are not trained to treat transsexual population with respect.

Did you know that:

·      A patchwork of state and local laws make it difficult for transgender people to update their drivers licenses, birth certificates and other identification records with accurate names.
·      In 31 states, you can be fired on the basis of gender identity.
·      Every three days, a transgender person is murdered somewhere in the world.
·      The Human Rights Campaign said that more transgender people were killed in 2015 than during any other year on record.
·      Vast majority of those killed are of African-American or Hispanic descent.
·      In the first eleven months of 2016, there have been 21 transgender women killed in the U.S.


  

Saturday, October 29, 2016

What’s With The Profiles This Week?

This week, I noticed that Facebook people had turned their profiles gray, black or white.  I thought they might have done this for upcoming Halloween.  Upon closer observation, I learned that those faces had turned color for National Asexual Awareness Week, celebrated October 23-29th this year.

Listen, Believe and Respect
Founded in 2010 by Sara Beth Brooks ACE WEEK has become a tradition in October. To make the public aware of asexuality each year, efforts are made to educate the public by:

  • ·      wearing asexual pins, stickers, colors, etc.
  • ·      supporting an asexual person.
  • ·      printing and handing out material about asexuality.
  • ·      writing a blogspot about asexuality.
  • ·      putting up a poster about asexuality.
  • ·      talking to local groups about asexuality.
  • ·      taking AVENS survey at asexuality.com
  • ·      using inclusive speech.
  • ·      acknowledging asexuality as an option.
 
It is hard to imagine that in our seemingly hypersexed society that there are an estimated three million people or ACES as they call themselves.  You might think that a person who is asexual is afraid of sex or relationships, may have been molested or has an hormonal imbalance.  But these hypotheses do not ring true. 

Asexuality does NOT mean:
  • ·      you’re necessarily celibate.
  • ·      It is not a disorder.
  • ·      It’s not a choice.
  • ·      It’s not a gender identity (although they may be trans, non-binary or genderqueer). 
  • ·      It’s not an abstinence pledge.
  • ·      It’s not caused by a loss of libido or age-related circumstance, inability to find a partner or fear of intimacy.
So, What is Asexuality?

  • ·      It’s an orientation where a person doesn’t experience sexual attraction to any gender.
  • ·      It affects females more than males.
  • ·      A common theme of ACE identity is feeling broken, alone or even ashamed of one’s sexual orientation.
  • ·      asexual people may want friendships like everyone else, to fall in love, experience arousal and orgasm and be any age or background.

Inclu    Included in this umbrella group are:

  • ·      aromantic: lacking interest in or desire for romantic relationships.
  • ·      demisexual: lacking sexual attraction towards any person unless one becomes deeply emotionally or romantically connected with a specific person.
  • ·      grey-asexual: experiencing sexual attraction but not strongly enough to act on them.
For more information, see http://www/AVEN.com and http://www.asexuality.com




Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Color Purple: No, Not That One!



Last week, my Facebook profile was purple. So was my Twitter icon.  Why?
And what was that Spirit Day that many used as a hashtag?

History of Spirit Day…

Spirit Day began in 2010 by Brittany McMillan, a Canadian teenager who wanted to show her solidarity and support for LGBT youth by wearing purple. Spirit Day commemorates young LGBT people who have lost their lives to suicide. The color purple is intertwined with Spirit Day and is represented in the rainbow flag.

Always celebrated on the third week of October, Spirit Day falls during National Bullying Prevention Month. Started by GLAAD (formerly Gay & Lesbian Alliance against Defamation, but now has a focus on advocating for Bisexual and Transgender), Spirit Day is now a global event.

Why We Need Spirit Day

According to www.mental health america.net/bullying and LGBT youth/ LGBT teens have to deal with harassment, threats, and violence directed at them on a daily basis.

Out of fear, 60% of LGBT students did NOT report incidents to school.
One-third who reported an incident said the staff did nothing in response.
LGBT youth are nearly twice as likely to be called names verbally, harassed or physically assaulted at school compared to non-LGBT peers.

The 2011 National School Climate Survey reported:
LGBT youth are more than twice as likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol.
Only 37% of LGBT youth report being happy.
With each instance of verbal or physical harassment, the risk of self-harm among LGBT youth is 2 ½ times more likely.
LGBT youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual peers if frequently harassed.
LGBT youth have lower grade point averages if harassed.
One-third skip school one day per month due to feeling unsafe on school premises.

However, if LGBT students had allies in the school staff,

Their school staff intervened twice as often in schools with comprehensive bullying/harassment policies.
The LGBT students had higher GPA’s if their school staff consisted or six or more professionals and were supportive.

 





Saturday, October 8, 2016

Is Religion Getting In The Way of Coming Out?




Last week, I was invited to a Pride Club at a Catholic College in Westchester County.  October is National Coming Out month and I was at the college to answer questions from club members about how to come out to parents. As a gay son’s straight mother who had written an advice book When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need to Know, I was familiar with the subject, but hardly omniscient.  

Fifteen students showed up for the meeting.  Some were straight allies, others were LGBT.  They were dressed in sweats, hoodies, flannel shirts, camisoles, one had temporary purple hair, one was in stocking feet.  Whatever their appearances, they had one issue in common: they wanted to come out but were afraid.

One student, a Hispanic lesbian from Cuba, told the group that she was afraid to tell her mother and father because they were Catholic and would disown her.  “You know the Hispanic culture, it’s traditional and macho. My family is not going to like having a lesbian in the family.”  Miss  Frightened wanted to maintain ties with her family, but was scared they would reject her.

This young woman’s dilemma is not uncommon.  Religious parents who have been indoctrinated that homosexuality is wrong and quote the Bible as proof often have a hard time reconciling their religious tenets with the often unexpected reality of their child’s sexuality.

What can a parent do to accept their LGBT child?  They don’t have to reject religion entirely.  There are always more open-minded preachers, more LGBT-friendly churches.  Realize that God created all men equal and teaches us to love our neighbors.

To become more accepting of children’s sexual orientation, parents can  discuss this issue in PFLAG (Parents of Lesbians & Gays with nationwide chapters.
Parents who are tempted to put their LGBT kids in conversion camps should do research.  They will see the negative effects of conversion therapy or gay-to-straight therapy that has been outlawed in many states because it is not  effective, but can do harm.
To educate, videos parents can view include Karslake, Daniel, For the Bible Tells Me So, First Run Features, 2007.  This documentary on the intersection of religion and homosexuality in the United States focuses on the way conservative Christians often interpret The Bible in order to deny homosexual rights.
Vines, Matthew, https:// www.youtube.com/user/vinesmatthew.  These lectures empower LGBT-affirming Christians in non-affirming churches.  Matthew Vines is the founder of the Reformation Project and author of God and the Gay Christians.
There is support for accepting Gays and Lesbians within one’s religion.  For example, there is a LGBT Catholic organization, DIGNITY (http://www.dignityusa.org).

“Do I Have To Tell My Extended Family?”

Another worry of these students is are they obligated to tell their aunts, grandparents, cousins once their parents know?

As it is the child’s story, it should be up to them whom they wish to tell.  Are they out at school and to friends?

As a parent, you should ask an open-ended question such as “Have you thought about how and when you want to tell Granny?  It is conceivable that your child may want you to tell the relatives rather than he having to tell each one. You may have to weigh the pros and cons of telling if the relative is conservative. You don’t want to imply that he should keep it a secret from certain people or act as if he should feel embarrassed or ashamed for others to know.

Coming Out takes nerve and should be done in a quiet setting.  If you think your parent will react violently, it is best to wait until you’re not living in the same house as your parents and are not financially dependent on them.

But once you reveal your true self that you may have been hiding, it can be incredibly freeing and create a closer bond between parent and child.

 






Monday, September 19, 2016

What is Bisexual Awareness Week? Why Have It?



September 19-26  is Bisexual Awareness Week, first celebrated in 1999.  Friday, September 23rd is Bisexuality Day started by three U.S. bisexual rights activists: Wendy Curry of New Hampshire and President of BiNet USA, an American National bisexual civil rights organization, Michael Page of Florida and Gigi Raven Wilbur of Texas.

Recognized in the United States as well as other countries, it is celebrated with teach-ins, poetry readings, concerts, festivals, parties, and picnics, under the umbrella of a multi-color flag:  pink to signify same-sex attraction, blue for opposite attraction, and purple for attraction to both sexes. Bisexual Awareness Week targets attention to the public policy priorities of bisexual people and celebrates resiliency of the bisexual culture and community. Bi people and their allies learn about history, culture, community,

Bring Attention to a Silent Invisible Group

Co-founded by GLAAD, a U.S. non-governmental media monitoring organization founded by LGBT people in the media, Bisexual Awareness Week aims to accelerate acceptance of the bi community. This community makes up more than fifty percent of the LGBT community that perceives “bis” as either straight or gay.  Yet, only a third of bisexuals are out.

Bisexuals are misunderstood.  They are accused of “sitting on the fence,” unable to decide which sex they are attracted to.  They are called promiscuous, “greedy” for sex in a world that wants them to decide on one gender.

But bisexual is a legitimate term; it is sexual behavior or an orientation involving physical or romantic attraction to males and females, especially with regard to men and women.  It’s not just a choice of Hollywood movie stars.

Why We Need Bisexual Awareness Week

Did you know that:

Bisexuals have a disproportionate levels of suicide, eating disorders, and substance abuse.
Bisexual women have a 46% chance of being raped as opposed to 17% of straight women and   13% of lesbians.
Bisexual women have higher rates of sexual assault, intimate partner abuse and stalking. http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2015/9/21/here's-why-we-need-bisexual-awareness-week