Category Archives: GLBTQ

Do you know how babies are made?

By: Nicole McLaren

The goal of sexual education is to teach young folks how to lead healthy sex lives, at least that is the ideal form of it. Unfortunately only 24 states and D.C. require that public schools teach sex education. Even among these sex education programs there is variance, some programs focus on abstinence only instead of providing a comprehensive education.

Not only have these abstinence only programs been found ineffective at keeping teens from having sex, some of them are not based on scientific fact and actually rely on religion to educate. The federal government has spent taxpayer money to fund these abstinence only programs even after the research found them to be ineffective.  Advocates for Youth claims that overall congress has spent over $1.5 billion on these harmful programs.

Multiple studies have found that parents regardless of educational obtainment, economic class, and religious affiliation, support the idea that comprehensive sexual education should be provided to their children. These studies have been completed nation-wide and in individual states and the results have been the same.

The prevention of teen pregnancy and STD/STI contraction is important for young people to lead healthy, successful lives. The best way to do this is to provide sexual education for teens in school, at home and in the community. Every year, according to dosomething.org 750,000 teen girls will get pregnant in the U.S. That’s 3 out of every 10 teenage girls. Becoming a parent is the leading cause of dropping out of high school, 50% of teen moms never graduate. Only 2% of teen moms earn a college degree.

There is much we can do in way of changing policy by working with organizations  like Planned Parenthood to lobby legislators into listening to the wants and needs of their constituents. Something that we can do right now though is start a free Babysitters Club to help teen moms stay in school or earn their GEDs. Here is a link https://www.dosomething.org/us/campaigns/babysitters-club?source=node/152

Sex Education in America: Why Abstinence Only Education Does More Harm Than Good

By: Jillian James

WHAT IS ABSTINENCE ONLY EDUCATION?

Abstinence only education is sexual education that promotes and teaches abstinence until marriage. Discussion of different types of birth control, STDs and STIs, and other sexual topics are excluded completely. Abstinence only education also for the most part only discusses heterosexual relationships and doesn’t provide a depth of information on LGBTQ+ issues.
WHY IS COMPREHENSIVE SEXUAL EDUCATION BETTER?

Abstinence education does more harm than good. It is incredibly important to provide comprehensive sexual education in schools because it gives students the power to makes informed decisions about their bodies and their sexual health. According to Advocates for Youth, 88% of millennials support comprehensive sex education.

Comprehensive sexual education gives students the power of knowledge and the resources to be healthy. By discussing sexuality, it becomes less stigmatized and students grow up feeling more self-actualized and confident about their identity and their bodies. Abstinence only education makes sex and sexuality seem shameful and causes students to have low self esteem and question their natural desires.

The idea that teenagers in high school must be “shielded” from comprehensive sexual education is ridiculous and counter intuitive. Teenagers are exposed to sex and sexual acts through music, movies, and pop culture and it is crucial that they are given medically correct information that is taught by a professional.

It is also important to note that the message of abstinence can be taught effectively while still providing comprehensive sexual education. Several studies have shown that providing comprehensive sexual education does not make the teen pregnancy rate go up. In fact, teen pregnancy rates have been dropping over the past few years and many studies owe that fact to wider contraception access and education.

Take steps to educate yourself and research sexual education in your area. If you have any questions at all about sexual health, Planned Parenthood clinics are available to provide educational services and professional help and advising. You can find your local Planned Parenthood and learn more about the educational services they offer at PlannedParenthood.org.

Why Gender Pronouns Matter

By: Nicole McLaren

             I was introduced to the term ‘preferred gender pronouns (PGPS)’ my second year of college at a club meeting. At the time I felt like I was the only person in the room who did not have a clear idea of what this is but my experience since then taught me that many people do not fully understand the importance of respecting other people’s PGPS.   As a cisgender person (someone who identifies with the sex they were assigned at birth), I had not put myself in the shoes of my peer who does not identify with a gender (agender) or with those who do not identify with their sex at birth (transgender), until someone had asked me how I identify.

I think it is important that we give people the opportunity to choose for themselves how they want to be identified and we can do this by just asking the person and sharing your own PGPS. You can do this upon introduction or with friends because it is important for individuals to feel comfortable having this discussion with new acquaintances and old friends.

For those who already knew what PGPS are and how they work, it is important to remember that not everyone has experience with using PGPS and there will be times when further explanation might be necessary. In these moments we must remember that we are trying to call people in, not contribute to the culture of shunning people and calling them out. With that being said, it is important to have open discussion about the importance of these things and to feel safe enough to correct people when they misgender a fellow member of the community.

Respecting someone’s PGPS is important for everyone in our communities. We are not only respecting other people’s identities we are also challenging the idea that gender roles and identities are binary. By doing this we can contribute to creating safer communities. So start the conversation with a friend or incorporate PGPS into introductions at a club meeting or into a personal introduction. It is our job to keep the conversation going.

Breaking down G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board

By: Nicole Mclaren

The Supreme Court of the US (SCOTUS) plays a very important role but it does not receive very much attention even though their rulings have a much further reach and lasting impact than any political party or administration. In the past year since the passing of Justice Scalia Americans have been paying slightly more attention to it because we are interested in who will fill that seat. Here though I would like to take time to address a timely and important case that SCOTUS will be hearing in a month. That is the case of G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board. The ruling could determine whether or not transgender students are allowed to use the bathroom of their choosing.

The case began in Virginia when a school board demanded that the student who brought the case, Gavin Grimm, use a single stall bathroom because the school board did not want him using the boys’ facility. Two courts have seen the case, the first ruling was in favor of the school board while the second was in favor of Gavin and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) who are representing Gavin. The school board has now appealed to the Supreme Court whose decision is ultimately final.

This ruling could have direct implications on the rights of folks in the transgender community and a less direct but still hurtful impact on student communities in general. We must combat the idea that allowing folks to use their bathroom or other public facility of choice is somehow a hindrance on other people’s rights. This is not the only attempt to hinder the rights of transgender folks in our country. Multiple state legislatures have tried to pass laws that make it mandatory for people to use the bathroom of their gender at birth. As the next generation of power we need to stand up for the communities whose rights are being attacked. One way we can do that is by educating people about their rights so that they have the knowledge and power to defend themselves. The ACLU provides many educational tools to do this, so if you want to know your own rights or help other people learn about their own click this link and use the free tools that are provided for us to stand up for ourselves and each other. https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights

Sex Ed for Queers

By: Cassandra Hedrick

 

Recently, more and more kids and teens are coming out as gay, bisexual, or trans. However, LGBTQ+ sex is not included in most sex ed curriculums. In fact, only 12 states require sexual orientation to be taught and 3 of those only teach negative information, like homosexuality is a sin and a criminal lifestyle. This means the vast majority of LGBTQ+ youth are uninformed about how to practice safe sex.

It is common knowledge that you can’t get pregnant having sex with the same gender, so many gay and bi teens don’t think about protection.Image_11 In fact, gay and bi men between the ages of 13 and 29 make up 2/3s of new HIV infections. Gay and bi girls are also more likely to contract an STD or even become pregnant than straight girls. This is because they are not taught how to protect themselves during sex. Even I didn’t know exactly how protection would work until I was in college and discovered what a dental dam was.

Another consequence of not having LGBTQ+ inclusive sex ed is the increase in bullying. Because the LGBTQ+ youth are excluded from most sex ed lessons, and in some criminalized, they are less accepted by their peers. Gay, bi, and trans teens are victims to more violence and bullying than straight kids.

In 2016, Canada introduced a bill that would require sex ed to be LGBTQ+ inclusive. This would start with third graders being taught about sexual orientation and gender identity and accepting differences. In the US, a bill has been introduced that would require not only medically accurate, but also LGBTQ+ inclusive sex ed. This bill is called the Real education for healthy youth act, and you can sign the petition to have is passed at https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/pass-the-real-education-for-healthy-youth-act.

LGBTQ+ inclusive sex ed would help keep gay, bi and trans teens from contracting STDs, as well as decrease bullying. You can help us make that happen by signing the petition. And, if you have any more questions about sexual orientation, gender identity, or sex education you can visit plannedparenthood.org. You can also talk to your teachers about adding sexual identity and gender orientation to the curriculum.

 

Genders in 2017: What Matters and What Doesn’t

By: Cassandra Hedrick

 

Do you not fit into a specific gender?

It has been said many times that there are only two genders, GenderSpectrum_1to the point where it has become a bit of a meme. Traditionally, the only genders are male and female and what you are depends on your genitals. Even when considering people can be a gender different from their biological sex (transgendered),many believe they can only be male or female (the binary system) like people whose gender matches their biological sex (cisgendered). Most research done on this topic has been based in this assumption.

More recently, gender has been considered a personal identity instead of biological. It has been suggested that people can identify as genders outside of the binary, such as both genders or even no gender at all. YouTuber Lacie Green, a feminist vlogger, has said there may even be five different genders. However, most recent studies have suggested that gender are not individual categories, packaged like popsicles, but are more fluid, like a slushie.

GenderSpectrum_2The best way to explain this spectrum is as a triangle (shown to the left). As you can see here, each point of the triangle is 100% male, female, or no gender at all (agender).
But there is also a neutral option shown on the top line of the triangle, which is equal parts male and female. Because it is a spectrum, a person could land at any point on it, being more masculine or feminine, but not be entirely male or female.

The most iconic nonbinary, or “genderqueer” individuals was Prince (may he rest in peace). He broke away from the gender binary with his entire image, from often wearing heels and scarves to his signature color being purple. Even the symbol he changed his name to was reminiscent of the genderfluid symbol.

So, it is possible for someone to identify as a gender that is not on the binary or a gender that doesn’t even have a label at all, like Prince. Gender is more like a slushie than popsicles, being that it is fluid and not neatly packaged. If you feel you may not fit into the gender binary, you can call the Planned Parenthood main call center if you have any questions or need to talk to someone. Many people may land somewhere on the spectrum that isn’t 100% any gender and it is completely possible and okay to not fit into a popsicle package gender, because gender is about personal identity and not fitting into the binary.

Lesbian and Bisexual Women’s Sexual Health Issues

TwoWomenPocketsLesbian and bisexual women face unique problems when it comes to sexual health care. Many healthcare professionals have had little or no training on health issues specific to women who have sex with women or have sex with both males and females. They may make assumptions about the patient’s need for birth control, ask about a boyfriend instead of a partner, educate on safer sex practices that may not apply or not be aware of sexual health issues unique to this population.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services there are several factors that can prevent lesbian and bisexual women from getting good health care.

  • Being afraid to reveal your sexual orientation or sexual history
  • Having a health care provider who does not know your disease risks or issues that may be unique to you
  • Not having health insurance or not being able to qualify for your partner’s insurance
  • Not realizing the risk of STDs and cancer of the female reproductive organs

In general, women who are lesbian or bisexual have a higher rate of obesity, smoking, alcohol and drug abuse and stress. These are primary factors in heart disease, cancer and diabetes. In addition, sexually transmitted diseases can be spread from woman to woman sexual contact through:

  • Skin-to-skin contact
  • Mucosa contact (Oral sex)
  • Vaginal fluids
  • Menstrual blood
  • Sharing sex toys

Some STDs are more common among lesbians and bisexual women than the general populaton. The STDS that are most likely to be passed are:

  • Bacterial vaginosis – BV often occurs in both members of the couple. The vagina has a natural balance of mostly helpful bacteria to lesser amounts of harmful bacteria. BV develops when the balance is reversed. Sometimes there are no symptoms but there may be vaginal itching or fishy smelling discharge. BV is cured with antibiotics.
  • Chlamydia – Chlamydia is caused by a bacteria being passed during vaginal, oral or anal sex. It often has no symptoms. It can be cured with antibiotics.
  • Genital herpes – Genital herpes is caused by herpes simplex types 1 and 2. Type 1 usually causes painful blister on the mouth or lips while type 2 typically is spread by genital skin-to-skin contact. However, oral sex can spread either type between two partners. Medications can lessen the symptoms, but there is no cure.
  • Human Papillomavirus – HPV can cause warts which may be removed and cancer of the cervix, which can be detected by a Pap test. Here is a vaccine to help prevent several strains of the virus.
  • Trichomoniasis – Trich is caused by a parasite that can be spread during sex. You can also get it from contact with damp moist objects such as towels or wet clothes. It can be treated with antibiotics.

For more information on lesbian and bisexual health issues contact:
www.Womanshealth.gov
www.lesbianhealthinfo.org
www.glma.org

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Come Out of the Quiet

This speech by DeRay Mckesson caught my attention the other week, and I’ve been thinking a lot about his ideas since then.


(It’s really worth watching, but in case you’re just skipping ahead, here’s the part of it that I’m going to be talking about: even when a lot of us are ‘out’ about who we are, it can be easy for some of the less convenient parts of ourselves to get overlooked and/or pushed aside when we don’t prioritize talking about them.)

I really like thinking about this, because I feel like it fills in a gap in how we talk about marginalized identities. We’ve had the metaphor of in the closet for ages, but it describes a pretty all-or-nothing situation. My last big ‘coming out’ moment was almost 20 years ago when talking with my grandfather – ever since then, it’s something that comes up as I meet new people, but there’s no big reveal. And that metaphor has always broken down when it comes to talking about identities that are a lot easier to pick up on visually (many racial and ethnic minorities, a number of physical disabilities, etc.)

But regardless of how apparent these identities are, it can still be really easy for them to get overlooked. (The whole “I don’t see race” thing.) It’s not something that happens out of malice, but just a consequence of the fact that human beings are pretty self-centered – it’s easy for us to forget about perspectives that are different from our own unless we’re making a conscious effort to include them.

Which is why the idea of coming out of the quiet is so compelling. It captures the fact that we’re already here, and we’re already a part of things. We’re just told – in various ways – to keep it down when it comes to talking about things that challenge the status quo.

It’s becoming more and more apparent that all of our efforts are stronger when we include this breadth of voices, and that the costs of exclusion are far too high. So here’s to coming out of the quiet, in all of the various ways that we’re called to do so. May we end up making a glorious noise.

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Why Young People Should Still See a Gynecologist Before Their First Pap Smear

Nurse Meeting With Teenage Girl And Mother In Hospital

Nurse Meeting With Teenage Girl And Mother In Hospital

Many people now know the new guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) do not recommend pap smears until the age of 21. This can be a bit confusing and frustrating for parents and teens that still have sexual and reproductive health care needs and are unsure if they should visit a gynecologist or sexual and reproductive healthcare provider (SRHP) who specializes in this area.

Here are some of the most common reasons young people should go to a SRHP.

STDs – Many young people and their partners need to be tested or treated for STDs. They may also want to talk to their parent/guardian and their medical provider to determine if they should receive the Human Papilloma Vaccine. The Gardasil Vaccine is recommended for boys and girls ages 11 or 12. The vaccine is recommended for people ages 9 to 26. According to Merck pharmaceuticals, the Gardasil vaccine helps protect against 4 types of HPV that cause 70% of cervical cancer cases, 70% of vaginal cancer cases, and up to 50% of vulvar cancer cases. In males and females ages 9 to 26, GARDASIL helps protect against about 80% of anal cancer cases and 90% of genital warts cases.

Vaginal Infections – Infections can occur at any time during our lives and many times have nothing to do with whether we are sexually active (i.e. urinary tract infections, bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, folliculitis).

Menstruation – Some teens have irregular periods, PMS, painful cramps or heavy bleeding that keeps them home from school or work, acne or other medical conditions like endometriosis or abnormally large ovarian cysts that may require medication, procedures, or an office visit.

Birth Control – A sexual and reproductive health care provider can discuss the benefits and potential side effects of each birth control method and help the patient determine which method is best for them.

Pregnancy – Young people can receive pregnancy tests, options counseling, and preconception health if someone is planning to become pregnant in the future.

Safer Sex – Education can empower people to make safer choices and know their risks if and when they decide to be sexually active.

LGBTQ Health Concerns – Specific information can be given on how to be safer with a partner, medical concerns that impact LGBTQ individuals and referrals to additional resources.

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Are Same Sex Partners Better or Worse Parents?

One of the tired old arguments against gay marriage and gay adoption revolved around the alleged damage same sex parents would do to their children. Four recent studies that were presented at the American Psychological Association conference disputed this belief.

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Three major concerns about same sex parenting are often heard. One is that children of same sex relationships will experience confusion in gender roles. This is not the 50s when most moms stayed home and took care of the household chores including being the primary childcare giver and dad went off to work each day spending very limited time with his children. Today, clear gender roles are often non-existent where boys are taught to cook, clean and nurture while girls are free to dream of a career and expect a partner who is equally involved in all aspects of childcare. Somehow children reared in opposite sex households where mom goes off to work and dad is the one making the lunches and driving the kids to soccer do just fine. Why would it be any different with same gender parents? Well, it’s not.

A second fear was that children in same gender families would be less well-adjusted than their peers. Research results show that gay and lesbian parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide supportive and healthy environments for their children and raise equally mentally healthy kids.

A third fear is that children of same sex couples will be stigmatized and experience bullying. While they may feel different, research in one study shows that 70% of children interviewed appeared to respond to adversity with resilience and have very positive feelings about their families. Feeling different and experiencing some challenges with peers were not necessarily impacting children negatively. It’s important that issues are discussed with the children and that other adults, such as teachers and coaches, be supportive as well.

Now that same sex marriage is legal and social media frequently normalizes all sorts of blended families, the generation of kids growing up now is much more accepting of two mommies or two daddies. What all kids need more than anything else is a stable, loving environment where they feel safe and loved.

*Additional resources can be found here, here, and here.

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