Wisdom from Neil deGrasse Tyson

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Conchita Wurst – Believe

Austrian pop singer and winner the final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2014 – Conchita Wurst performs an amazing version of ”Believe” on the Austrian television show ‘‘Starnacht am Wörthersee”

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Acceptance or Homophobic Shunning Begins at Home

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From LGBT News and http://itsoktobegay101.tumblr.com

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The World Health Organization Wants to Legalize Sex Work and Drugs

I completely agree with the World Health Organization‘s (WHO) recommendations to reduce the transmission of HIV which will also affect other sexually transmitted diseases and/or blood born pathogens. Here’s the story from Annalee Newitz writing for io9

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Earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) released guidelines for helping to prevent the spread of HIV in key populations. The group, which also monitors the globe for pandemic outbreaks, says we have to decriminalize sex work and drugs if we want to stop HIV.

HIV can be controlled with medications and safer sex, especially among people in the developed world who can afford treatment. But outside these pockets of privilege, the virus continues to be a health problem of epidemic proportions. Following the principles that many epidemiologists recommend, the WHO seeks to contain the spread of HIV by identifying key populations where it spreads the most quickly. By bringing treatment to these groups, doctors block the main avenues that the virus uses to get into the general human population.

This new report explains who those key populations are, and offers ways we can stop HIV from spreading among their members. These populations include men who have sex with men, transgendered people, people who use or inject drugs, sex workers, and certain groups of adolescents.

What unites these groups is that their activities are either illegal or heavily stigmatized in many parts of the world. That means that they are unlikely to seek out medical help or advice simply because they don’t want to be arrested for being gay or having sex for money. In the case of adolescents, many live in countries where they need parental permission to get birth control or medical care. So they, too, must hide their activities from doctors to avoid being “turned in” to their parents.

When you have populations of people who fear that a trip to the doctor may land them in jail, it makes sense that those populations won’t follow medical guidelines about safer sex or clean needles. Either they don’t know how to reduce their risks; or if they do, they don’t have have access to materials that would allow them to have sex or inject drugs safely.

And that’s why the WHO is calling for all countries to decriminalize the behaviors and identities of all these groups so that they can get the health care they need.

Under a section in the report called “decriminalizing the behavior of key populations,” the WHO writes:

Supporting the health and well-being of key populations whose sexual behaviours, drug use, gender expression or perceived sexual orientation are currently criminalized may require changing legislation and adopting new policies and protective laws in accordance with international human rights standards. Without protective policies and decriminalization of the behaviour of key populations, barriers to essential health services will remain; many people from key populations may fear that seeking health care will expose them to adverse legal consequences.

Specifically they suggest that all countries immediate decriminalize homosexuality and transgender identities. They also want countries to decriminalize sex work and drugs. Finally, they want countries to allow adolescents to receive reproductive health care without notifying their parents.

Here’s how the report puts it:

Countries should work toward developing policies and laws that decriminalize same-sex behaviours.

Countries should work toward developing policies and laws that decriminalize injection and other use of drugs and, thereby, reduce incarceration. Countries should work toward developing policies and laws that decriminalize the use of clean needles and syringes (and that permit NSPs) and that legalize OST for people who are opioid-dependent. Countries should ban compulsory treatment for people who use and/or inject drugs.

Countries should work toward decriminalization of sex work and elimination of the unjust application of non-criminal laws and regulations against sex workers. The police practice of using possession of condoms as evidence of sex work and grounds for arrest should be eliminated.

Countries should work toward developing policies and laws that decriminalize same-sex behaviours and nonconforming gender identities. Countries should work towards legal recognition for transgender people.

Countries are encouraged to examine their current consent policies and consider revising them to reduce age-related barriers to HIV services and to empower providers to act in the best interest of the adolescent. It is recommended that sexual and reproductive health services, including contraceptive information and services, be provided for adolescents without mandatory parental and guardian authorization/notification.

The WHO isn’t known for taking controversial stances on social issues. Instead, they are a pragmatic and clear-eyed organization that stands for public health above all else. Though this report sounds radical, it is actually just plain common sense when looked at from a medical perspective.

What the WHO sees are groups of at-risk people who can’t get health care because they have been stigmatized for behaviors that do not harm anyone. The solution isn’t to crack down on these groups more, because we’ve already seen that strategy causes HIV to spread — not just to at-risk groups, but beyond them. The at-risk group becomes a vector that harms all of society. So the only sane solution is to decriminalize things like sex work, so that sex workers get proper health care and don’t endanger their clients (who in turn endanger their partners, and so on).

The point is that criminalizing sex work and drug use winds up harming everyone. And the WHO is trying to eliminate that harm, but going to the source of the problem.

Read more here at io9

How to stop a pandemic (and how to make it worse)
We already have many of the medicines we need to kill pandemic diseases. But to stop a pandemic…Read more

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Recommend Link: Changing the way we look at trans women on TV

This article looks at the evolving way transgender people are portrayed on television…

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The cast and crew of transgender comedy The Switch want to see more inclusive representation of transgender people on TV. We Love The Switch

The Canadian production company Trembling Void has just successfully crowdfunded a new television series called The Switch. The project is a comedy tracing the lives of an ensemble of trans characters. It explores the ups and downs of its misunderstood gender non-conforming community – with a lot of laughs along the way. What’s more, The Switch offers some powerful alternatives to mainstream media’s representation of trans experience…

Continue reading here at The Conversation

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In the Spirit: UW study finds religion — some kinds, anyway — may protect gay youth : Wsj

In this story by Doug Erickson of the Wisconsin State Journal looks at the role LGBTQ affirming churches in mitigating the negative psychological impacts LGBTQ youth face when coming out. Although I was no longer a youth when I came out, it was my joining an LGBT supportive denomination, the Unitarian Universalists, that eased my coming out.


The symbol of LGBTQ Welcoming Unitarian Universalists

In the Spirit

Organized religion, so often the villain in gay people’s coming-out stories, doesn’t necessarily have to play that role, a new UW-Madison study suggests.

The harmful effects of discrimination suffered by gay young people may be mitigated somewhat by affiliating with a denomination that supports same-sex marriage, researchers found.

Specifically, gay college students in the study who were affiliated with gay-affirming religious denominations suffered fewer “depressive symptoms” related to discrimination than their gay counterparts who are secular or who were affiliated with denominations opposed to same-sex marriage.

Examples of depressive symptoms include a loss of interest in usual activities, feelings of loneliness and thoughts of suicide.

The results are significant because religion and homosexuality often are viewed as incompatible, said Maurice Gattis, an assistant professor of social work at UW-Madison and the lead researcher.

“This suggests there is something about a gay-affirming denomination that is acting as a buffer against the negative consequences of discrimination,” he said. “We were not able to drill down any further with this study, but it may be something about the social support, it may be the positive messages they hear about themselves, it may be because they have a place to talk about the discrimination they’re experiencing.”

The findings have been peer-reviewed and accepted for publication in an upcoming edition of the Archives of Sexual Behavior, a journal of the International Academy of Sex Research.

The study builds on research in the general population showing that aspects of religion, such as social interaction, can improve people’s psychological well-being, Gattis said. Yet the role religion plays in the lives of gay people, particularly gay young people, has not received much attention, he said.

The researchers surveyed 2,120 college students at “a large, public, research university in the Midwest.” Due to privacy concerns, researchers are not disclosing the campus. It was not UW-Madison, Gattis said.

Of the sample size, 1,727 identified as heterosexual, 393 as being gay, lesbian or bisexual. The latter group is collectively called “sexual minorities.”

The survey responses confirmed what has been found in numerous other studies: sexual minority young people experience more discrimination and suffer more depressive symptoms than their heterosexual peers. Examples of discrimination ranged from being the target of derogatory remarks to suffering physical attacks.

As with most studies, this one raises many additional questions for future study, Gattis said.

But it did conclusively answer one small one. For sexual minority college students at this particular university who had experienced discrimination, the effects of that discrimination were reduced by affiliation with a gay-affirming denomination. (The study used a denomination’s stance on same-sex marriage to determine gay-affirming.)

While one basic takeaway of the study seems obvious — that pro-gay denominations are probably more helpful to gay youth than denominations opposed to gay rights — Gattis said the value of the study is that it explores this in an empirical manner.

The differences were statistically significant among all groups surveyed, he said, even between gay college students attending pro-gay denominations and their secular gay peers. However, more research would need to be done to determine why this is, he said.

“I want to be clear on this: We’re not saying everyone should go out and be religious,” Gattis said. “But for those who are religious, it appears to matter what the denominational stance is. For secular gay college students, it’s less clear what is going on. They may not be getting the social support and positive messages you get by affiliating with a gay-affirming congregation.”

Another possibility is that the secular students once were religious but fled unwelcoming denominations and are still recovering from the negative experiences, Gattis said.

On the practical front, the study suggests that people who work with gay, lesbian and bisexual youth should keep an open mind about a young person’s religious affiliation, recognizing it as a possible plus, he said.

Read more at the Wisconsin State Journal

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Recommended Link: ‘We Are The Youth’ Chronicles The Diversity Of Queer Youth In America (PHOTOS)

Have a look at this preview of a wonderful New book…

An incredible new photographic journalism project is documenting the lives and stories of a handful of queer kids across America through a project titled “We Are The Youth.”

Continue reading here:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/20/we-are-the-youth_n_5599723.html

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