Category Archives: Reading

Bisexuality

If you’re bi you’re most likely well aware of all the trouble that comes with bisexuality and the common myths around it. Part of the reason for the latter is that research into bisexuality is beset by problems: unexamined assumptions, scientific incompetence, the politicization of sexual identity, you name it. The Nerve recounts a history of dud studies.

In 2011, Northwestern University came back and apologized for the six years it had rejected the validity of an entire sexual orientation and bisexual men’s experience. Their 2005 study had mainly sourced participants from gay mags, but this time around, the researchers found subjects who identified as bisexual and who had both sexual and romantic relationships with both men and women. While watching videos of female and male same-sex encounters, the bisexual men doing the study were aroused all around. All combinations of videos gave them boners. Meaning, bisexual men were just what they said they were: bisexual men.

Meanwhile this week two new studies were released. The first is called Understanding Issues Facing Bisexual Americans. The result of a collaboration between the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), BiNet USA, and the Bisexual Resource Center, the report is an overview of the health, safety, and economic disparities experienced by bisexual Americans. It also includes policy recommendations to address these disparities. From the press release:

While more than half of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community identifies as bisexual, bisexual people are vulnerable to poverty, discrimination, and poor physical and mental health outcomes–often at rates higher than their lesbian and gay peers…

"Despite comprising the largest population within the LGBT community, bisexual people are among the most invisible," said Ineke Mushovic, executive director of the Movement Advancement Project. "The failure to account for bisexual lives and experiences compounds a lack of social support and keeps bisexual people in the closet."

"Bisexual people often face pervasive stereotypes and myths surrounding bisexuality," said Ellyn Ruthstrom, president of the Bisexual Resource Center. "The fear of being stereotyped manifests itself in a real way: bisexual people are six times more likely than gay men and lesbians to be closeted. This impacts the emotional well-being of many bisexual people and is a contributing factor to the community’s higher rates of poor physical and mental health."

Bisexual_by_DevilsLittleSister from DeviantART

The second report, released yesterday focused on bisexual youth: Tthe Human Rights Campaign Foundation, in partnership with the Bisexual Resource Center, BiNet USA, and the Bisexual Organizing Project, published Supporting and Caring For Our Bisexual Youth, a report based on one of the largest-ever surveys of LGBT youth in America. More than 40 percent of the 10,000 LGBT youth surveyed identify as bisexual, and those youth report that they face greater challenges coming out and being accepted than their peers who are gay or lesbian.

The survey found:

  • Only five percent of bisexual youth reported being "very happy," compared to 21 percent of non-LGBT youth surveyed separately to provide a point of comparison.
  • Nearly a third of bisexual young people said they had been "frequently or often" harassed or called names at school, compared to nine percent of non-LGBT youth who reported similar mistreatment.
  • When asked if they have an adult family member they can turn to, 44 percent of bisexual youth said they did, compared to 79 percent of non-LGBT youth who reported having a supportive adult at home.

HRC’s Liz Halloran adds:

Many of the young people surveyed expressed the potential to be attracted to more than one gender, but rejected the term "bisexual" when describing their sexual orientation. Instead, they wrote their own descriptions, including "queer" and "pansexual."

The findings, released on the 15th annual Celebrate Bisexuality Day, also show that bisexual youth in America are overwhelmingly female, and confront broad skepticism and misunderstanding about their sexual identities.

"It hurts deeply when young people are told they are not legitimate, and, unfortunately, that is what many bisexual youth are hearing from their family and friends," says Ellen Kahn, director of the HRC Foundation’s Children, Youth & Families Program. "This report will help bust the myths and misunderstandings associated with bisexuality, and create a space for young people to be more open, and to find the support they deserve."

Via Boing Boing & Bilerico

  

Next time someone says Trans Children don’t exist, just introduce them to amazing seven-year-old Ryland

Any child would likely be lucky to have Jeff and Hillary Whittington as parents. Ryland Whittington may be especially lucky. Ryland, the Whittingtons tell us through this amazing video they made, is a transgender boy. Now seven, his parents have documented his story with love and understanding and honesty. Jeff and Hillary tell how they brought Ryland into the world, learned their child needed hearing implants at the age of one, then discovered “Ryland had more to share with us.”

They spent a few years saying Ryland was just going through a phase, but soon realized it wasn’t. “When the family dies, I will cut my hair so I can be a boy” Ryland told them. “Why did God make me this way?,” he asked.

When the Whittingtons learned 41 percent of transgender people have attempted suicide, they decided to embrace Ryland as a boy rather than risk losing him. The Whittingtons made this beautiful and inspiring film for the Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast. They posted it to YouTube on Tuesday. Three days later, it has gone viral, seen by more than 350,000 people already.

The Whittington Family: Ryland's Story

“We are overwhelmed with the kind, loving messages from many people,” the Whittingtons told The Huffington Post. “While this journey has been difficult at times, we have come to a place where our family is ready to come out and try to help other families facing similar situations. Our hope is that by sharing our story, we can begin to make the world a more loving place where people can be their authentic selves.”

PS: The video might not be available in Germany, if you want to see it anyway you could try a plugin like ProxTube for Firefox (let us know in the comments if you know an easier way, thanks!)

  

Different: Gay Youth Troubles in America

“I am often picked on because of who I am,” 12-year-old Marcel Neergaard writes in a new op-ed published on The Huffington Post. “Sometimes being openly gay is like having a sign above my head that flashes ‘Different’ in neon colours.” The article paints a heart-breaking portrait of what life is like for too many gay youths in America.

Neergaard made headlines last summer when he helped squash Tennessee’s homophobic  “Don’t Say Gay” bill. But now, nearly a year later, he claims the law is still being used to trample his free speech and to create a negative learning environment at school.

The “Don’t Say Gay” bill was authored by Tennessee Representative John Ragan. Had it passed, it would have forbidden teachers from talking about being gay in classrooms, and required principals and guidance counsellors to call parents if a student mentioned anything about being gay to them. Last summer, Neergaard wrote a petition against the bill that received over 50,000 signatures.

At the time, Neergaard was being home-schooled. Excessive bullying had forced him out of public school. Last fall, he returned to public school for seventh grade. But the bullying persists.

“In chorus we are going on a field trip to King’s Island, which they do every year with seventh and eighth graders,” Neergaard writes. “The other boys in chorus refuse to sleep in the same room as me for fear of being ‘turned gay.’” He continues: “The teacher pulled me aside and explained how the boys didn’t want to be in the same room with me because I’m gay … Then she told me the principal had called my parents to talk about this. It was upsetting. I was mad because if the same thing had happened to a student who was not ‘out’ at home, the principal would have outed them to their parents. That’s just not safe.”

“When it came time to sign up for rooms, all the boys except me were together,” he writes. “The principal pulled me aside to explain that I would have my own room on the trip. He didn’t say why, but I knew… they don’t like me.”

Neergaard also writes about the things other students say to him on a daily basis, including: “Who did you turn gay for?” “When did you turn gay?” “How do you know that you’re gay if you haven’t been on a gay date?” “Do you want to be a girl?” and “You’re gay because you act gay.”

“The protection of the classroom doesn’t seem to extend to me,” he confesses. “One day I was talking with my friends about Zachary Quinto being gay. An otherwise supportive teacher stopped me and told me ‘talking about being gay in the classroom is illegal in Tennessee.’”

The teacher, of course, was wrong. She was referring to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, the very bill Neergaard had worked tirelessly the summer before to kill. “I have found teachers are quite confused because of Ragan’s bill (the Don’t Say Gay Bill),” Neergaard writes. “They’re too busy teaching to know if it passed, so they just try to be safe. Meanwhile, I am not allowed to talk about myself with my friends.” Yet despite his daily woes, Neergaard remains determined to create a more hopeful future for others. “I know I am not alone in my struggles,” he writes. “I also know that it’s not okay to be called out for being different.”

“I’m not the only gay youth in Tennessee,” he continues. ”I’m not the only gay kid in Oak Ridge. I’m not even the only gay student in my school, I’m just someone who is standing up. I know I have written about bullying many times, but this is still happening to kids like me everywhere and I refuse to let it continue.” He concludes the op-ed with a challenge to the rest of us:

“We also need people to encourage our representatives, who are supposed to represent us, to pass bills like the Dignity for All Students Act and federal legislation such as the Safe Schools Improvement Act. I want to make sure other kids do not have to go through what I have.” “This week I will be in Nashville for Advancing Equality on the Hill Day talking to my senator and (hopefully) representative about making schools safer for kids like me,” he writes. “What will you do?”

  

It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens

Sociologist danah boyd’s long-awaited first book, It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, hits shelves today. boyd, who is  currently working as a researcher at Microsoft, is one of the preeminent scholars of the way young people — especially marginalized young people of diverse economic and racial backgrounds, as well as diverse gender and sexual orientation — use the Internet, and her work has been cited often for her sharp observations and her overwhelming empathy for her subjects.

It’s Complicated is a passionate, scholarly, and vividly described account of the reality of young peoples’ use of networked technologies in America today. Painstakingly researched through interviews and close study for more than a decade, boyd’s book is an important analysis of networked culture you don’t want to miss.

In eight brisk chapters — thoroughly backstopped by a long and fascinating collection of end-notes — boyd tackles the moral panics of networks and kids, and places them in wider social and historical contexts. She systematically, relentlessly punctures easy stories about how kids don’t value privacy; whether the Internet holds special danger of sexual predators; the reality of bullying; the absurdity of "Internet addiction" and the real story of "digital natives" and the important and eminently fixable gaps in kids’ network literacy.

boyd is not a blind optimist. She is alive to the risks and dangers of networks; but she is also cognizant of the new opportunities and the relief from other social problems (such as hysteria over the presence of kids in public places; sexism, racism, homophobia and slut-shaming; the merciless overscheduling and academic pressure on adolescents) and the immense power of networks to enable advocacy, agency and activism.

via BoingBoing

  

20 Years of So What?

Earlier in the week, 19-year-old British diving champion Tom Daley made a YouTube video in which he revealed that he’s in a relationship with "a guy." Several reports have since claimed that the guy in question is Hollywood screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who, at 39, is 20 years older than Daley, a fact that headline writers worldwide made sure to focus on.

Almost immediately on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere came the comments. "He could be his father," one gay man tweeted. "Yuk!" That was just the beginning.

A lot to unpack here:

1. Let’s cut the ageist crap. The "yuk" is a display of nothing but disgust for someone older. Yes, Black is old enough to be Daley’s father. But he’s not. If Black were just a couple of years older than Daley, he could be his brother too. But he’s not. Shocking news for you: You’re all going to be old. And your tastes are going to evolve over time. Some younger people are attracted to older people, and vice versa. There’s even a gay website called Daddyhunt. The famed novelist Armistead Maupin’s 27-years-younger husband, Christopher Turner, founded it. They met on another one of Turner’s sites, HotOlderMale.com. If that’s not your thing, it’s totally cool, but in that case just shut your mouth.

2. Deal with your homophobia, including your internalized homophobia if you happen to be gay. There’s an undercurrent in these comments — the "chicken hawk" charge — that suggests that gay men are more likely to sexually abuse underage teens, the ugliest lie about gay men out there. Hardcore homophobes are predictably pointing to Black and Daley as supposed proof. But many gay men too, so defensive about the charge and deathly fearful of how it’s used, overcompensate by saying "yuk." Look, we live in a world where youth and beauty are heralded, and where 77-year-old Bob Dole appeared in a Pepsi ad in which he had the hots for a 19-year-old Britney Spears. We’ve put an age limit on what we can and can’t do because we live in a civil society and abide by the rule of law. And this particular relationship falls well within the limit. So let’s drop this crap too.

Read on…

  

Propagating Hate

The amendment to the Russian Federal Law, effectively banning the "propaganda" of same-sex sexual relations to minors, what are called "non-traditional sexual relations," makes for chilling reading. Stephen Fry’s likening it to anti-Semitism may not be far wrong; it is aimed at invalidating LGBT people which, in turn, fosters a climate of hate. To highlight this, the text of an "Explanatory Note" published with the Bill and the new clause of the Legal Code of the Russian Federation itself, approved by Vladimir Putin on 29th June 2013, is reproduced below with the words "non-traditional" sexual relationships and "homosexuality" replaced with "interracial" relationships, for its resemblance to Nazi racial laws of the 1930s is among this law’s most terrifying features.

What follows is based on an accurate translation of the original Russian documents. The Explanatory Note would read (with modifications in bold):

The promotion of interracial relationships has sharply increased in modern-day Russia. This promotion is carried out via the media as well as via the active pursuit of public activities which try to portray interracial relationships as normal behavior. This is particularly dangerous for children and young people who are not able to take a critical approach to this avalanche of information with which they are bombarded on a daily basis. In view of this, it is essential, first and foremost, to protect the younger generation from exposure to the promotion of interracial relationships, this being the aim of the present bill….

It is therefore essential to put in place measures which provide for the intellectual, moral and mental wellbeing of children, including a ban on any activities aimed at popularizing interracial relationships. A ban of this kind on propaganda as an activity involving the intentional and indiscriminate spreading of information which may be injurious to physical, moral and spiritual wellbeing, including instilling distorted ideas that society places an equal value on traditional and interracial sexual relations, amongst people who are incapable, due to their age, of critically assessing this information on their own, cannot in itself be considered a breach of the constitutional rights of citizens.

In view of the above, a bill has been drafted which introduces amendments to the Legal Code of the Russian Federation by making the promotion of interracial relationships to minors illegal. However, it would not be an offense to be a person in an interracial relationship but only to promote interracial relationships to minors.

The bill confers the right of drawing up charge sheets relating to activities carried out in public which are aimed at promoting interracial relationships to minors on officials of the authorities responsible for internal affairs (the police) and of considering any resulting cases on the courts.

The text of the new clause, again replacing "non-traditional" with "interracial," would be as follows:

Article 6.21. Promoting interracial sexual relations to minors:

1. Promoting interracial sexual relations to minors by spreading information aimed at instilling in minors interracial sexual arrangements, the attractiveness of interracial sexual relations and/or a distorted view that society places an equal value on traditional and interracial sexual relations or propagating information on interracial sexual relations making them appear interesting, provided that these activities do not involve criminal acts which are punishable under the law, will be punishable by the imposition of a fine ranging from four thousand to five thousand roubles for individuals, from forty thousand to fifty thousand roubles for officials, from eight hundred thousand to one million roubles or suspension of operations for up to ninety days for legal entities.

2. Activities stipulated in section 1 of the present article carried out using the mass media and/or information-telecommunications channels (including the internet) provided that these activities do not involve criminal acts which are punishable under the law, will be punishable by the imposition of a fine ranging from fifty thousand to one hundred thousand roubles for individuals, from one hundred thousand to two hundred thousand roubles for officials, of one million roubles or suspension of operations for up to ninety days for legal entities.

3. Activities stipulated in section 1 of the present article carried out by foreigners or stateless persons provided that these activities do not involve criminal acts which are punishable under the law, will be punishable by the imposition of a fine ranging from four thousand to five thousand roubles plus deportation from the Russian Federation or detention for up to fifty days plus deportation from the Russian Federation.

4. Activities stipulated in section 1 of the present article carried out by foreigners or stateless persons using the mass media and/or information-telecommunications channels (including the internet) provided that these activities do not involve criminal acts which are punishable under the law, will be punishable by the imposition of a fine ranging from fifty thousand to one hundred thousand roubles plus deportation from the Russian Federation or detention for up to fifty days plus deportation from the Russian Federation.

Clearly this modified version of the law would be wholly unacceptable. But the original text is no less obscene in targeting sexual rather than racial minorities. It has already been used against Russian citizens and foreigners. Legal sanctions also legitimize the victimization of LGBT people, which has led to some horrific violence. Minors are, of course, everywhere, and the law’s provisions are so far-reaching, including all communication channels, as to make any attempt to speak about, defend or demonstrate sexual orientation or trans-gender identity publicly under any circumstances subject to fines and imprisonment. There can be no support for gay teens in schools and even to discuss issues around bullying and suicide would break the law, as would a challenge to the law in the courts or the Duma. This is a step back to the graveyard of state-sponsored bigotry reminiscent of Nazi Germany, apartheid South Africa and some pre-1960s southern states of the U.S. [via]

  

The Gender Book

When Mel Reiff Hill and Jay Mays’ gender-variant friend needed to give something to his mother that would help explain what was going on with him, they began to create a solution. They created The Gender Book. The book was designed to help both allies and people who are discovering the complexities of gender within themselves.

They wanted to make sure it represented a wide range of people:

We acknowledge that we as creators are pretty gender fabulous, but could never speak for other people’s experiences. Our intention wasn’t to be experts on anything but to share the diversity of a big awesome community (geographically, ethnically, generationally, etc). We wanted as many voices to speak for themselves as possible in the project.

They used personal examples from people who responded to online surveys. For example: “Sometimes I have to hide under the pretext of being ‘male’ or ‘female’ for the sake of surviving, and moving through the world with (some) ease. But I’m still me, despite whatever mask I may be forced to hide beneath. And no matter what, I try to be as true to myself as the situation allows.”

They’re still collecting answers to their survey here. Although all of the responses obviously can’t be put in the book itself, they hope to create a way for people to see all of the responses on their website. And, although they didn’t realize it was going to go as well as it has, they hope to publish it as a real, physical book — as soon as they can get together the funding and find a publisher (hint: you can donate here.) You can download the book for free here!

  

Asexuality & Masturbation

Masturbation doesn’t make you sexual, says sex expert Lori Brotto. She estimates that half of all asexuals stimulate themselves on a fairly regular basis. "People may ask, ‘How can they be asexual if they masturbate?’ I admit the finding did surprise me, too," said Brotto, the director of the University of British Columbia’s Sexual Health Laboratory. "When you talk about masturbation, you may think of it as a sexual activity, but actually masturbation is not inherently sexual. [Asexuals cite] boredom, stress reduction, helping them to get to sleep, etc., as reasons behind masturbation."

Several male asexuals told us they masturbate frequently, some every day, and most used the phrase "cleaning the plumbing" to explain why they do it. One female asexual said that while she masturbates about once a month, she has no idea why she does it; it just feels like something she’s biologically compelled to do.

Though asexuals (or "aces") are often seen as individuals who are devoid of sexual desire, incapable of sexual arousal and averse to interpersonal intimacy, both researchers and asexuals alike say these are largely misconceptions.

In a 2010 study, Brotto says she found evidence that asexual women have a similar genital response to stimuli as sexual women — in other words, a comparable sexual arousal response. Still, despite evidence that sexual desire and arousal are not usually absent in asexuals, current research indicates that aces do have significantly lower sexual desire and arousal than sexual individuals. Orgasmic function also tends to be lower. Several aces even said that while they can experience orgasm (a reflexive response), it is almost always — and this is a direct quote — "meh."

Brotto’s study indicates, however, that these lower levels are not caused by an "impaired psychophysiological sexual arousal response." As one asexual put it, "everything works, we just don’t want to get somebody else involved." Read on…