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A Gay Filipino in Shanghai

Michael David C. Tan visits Shanghai, China to discover that, unlike the “extremely strict” notion the Western world has of it, there’s a thriving, and quite wild, gay scene to be checked out.

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We all know China.

Or so we think, at least.

DIFFERENT LOOKS
China is rediscovering its past (topmost photo) just as the world is embracing everything Chinese. Touches of past influences, like the French Quarter, are still must-visit places; just as Western forms of expression, e.g. Eddy’s, are fortunately now common.

Considering that the global media still remains largely West-dictated most of the time, China (of the East) is always portrayed as bad. Forget for a while the Western confusion with concepts of freedom and its application, but regularly we have been (and still are) bombarded with news, serving as examples on why China is bad.

E.g. Internet access is curtailed there (in the US, they don’t use the word curtail even if they also control what you can access in the Net – they refer to it as “necessary control” of people in authority who are supposed to know best what you should see online); people live afraid of the military else another Tiananmen Square occurrence could happen again (in the US, they detain suspects without needing to file cases against them – they don’t see this as a violation of human rights because, well, they’re Americans and they can do this); and in China, we only see images that the Chinese government wants us to see, so forget the peasants, et cetera – they stay hidden from the world (as if there are no poor people in the West).

The big question, of course, is if China is really as bad as it is said to be.

And my answer? It’s experiential.

Yes, Beijing’s there. So is Shenzen. Then there are the territories Macau SAR and Hong Kong. And a lot of other now often-visited Chinese destinations. But here, the focus is Shanghai – the Sleeping Giant’s heart, in a manner of speaking (and even more so than Beijing, it can be argued, even if the capital is the latter).

Why Shanghai?

Because it can be argued that it best represents (in China) the notions of “modernity” as is generally accepted in Western definition.

Case in point: gay life.

Head to the French Quarter to find the gay yuppies, hanging out to perve (as we tend to do) in cafés, brunching in high-end restaurants, et cetera. Blame (or thank – depends on your way of seeing) commercialization, but this looks more like the usual catching up late Sunday afternoon (after clubbing the night before) in Melbourne, or brunching in Manhattan (a la Carrie, Samantha, Miranda in SATC).

At night, there are two options, divided by how you prefer for your night to end.

On the one hand, sans paligoy-ligoy (beating around the bush), head to bath houses. Yes, they have them in Shanghai, too – and there are aplenty. The catch is to find them – check Web sites for the addresses (basing on experiences in the Philippines, in K.L., et cetera, the addresses of similar venues should not just be given out since abusive government officials tend to find these venues to close them, or ask ‘protection’ money for them to be left alone).

On the other hand, there are the more “accepted” gay bars.

At the outskirts of the city is Eddy’s Bar, the pioneering gay venue of Shanghai. Look hard, as you may miss it – it is right beside a convenience store – considering it is largely nondescript (the intent, I suppose, is to remain not “loud”). Inside, too, the simplicity is the rule – stools with chairs scattered around a bar in the middle of the floor, with but few of the patrons actually doing some dancing.

IN AWE
Even food (topmost photo) are given some twists in Shanghai, with siopao turned into porcupines. The past (e.g. use of the Three Old Men) and modernity (e.g. French Quarter) continue to merge in the city.

“You’re new here?” this guy, the owner of the bar, asked as he approached me and my group.

“Just visiting, actually,” I laugh. Then, stupidly (I say I was drunk): “And you would be?”

He looked at me, seemingly hurt before he laughed: “Eddy!”

“Oh,” I said. “Sorry. Wasn’t thinking – owner of the bar, so, of course, you’re Eddy.”

He laughed, too. Then, abruptly, he let go of his hand on my back. “Sorry… You have a partner, of course?”

I laughed. “Yes.”

“Sorry, sorry…”

“It’s not like we’re doing anything but talk.”

More laughing.

“And you have a partner, I assume?” My turn to ask.

“Yes,” he said. Then he broke into a big laugh. “But he isn’t here.”

The whole scene didn’t seem too different from chitchats I’ve had elsewhere outside China.

The next stop for my gay visit was D2 – what used to be Deep, I was told. This one, completely unlike Eddy’s, is somewhat impersonal. Why so? It’s a gigantic venue – a warehouse turned dance club, more apt for a DJ Tiesto (and his likes) gathering than a weekend romp venue. It is fun, nonetheless, dancing with out lesbians – and in Shanghai, there are many of them openly out, kissing their partners in the middle of D2’s dancefloor (I still can’t find them in Metro Manila). And if the dancing is getting too boring? Head to the second floor, where the gays/MSMs are, standing around a well-lit bar, checking each other out, hoping to finish the night with someone.

Worth noting here is that many Filipinos are “queens”… in many ways that word could be taken. More noticeably, though, they are the bitches, picking on the not-so-pretty; and, as they tend to be prettier, they hold courts, choosing the good-looking ones for themselves. Solution (in case this is problematic): chat with them – Filipinos have that tayo-tayo (regionalistic) attitude (as should be for expats), and those in Shanghai are nice to fellow Filipinos.

With bars open until 8.00 AM in Metro Manila, club-hopping is a must – something that isn’t possible (I guess for now) in Shanghai, since bars close early, not later than 5.00 AM. Meaning, considering their distance from each other, visiting two bars in a night should suffice (particularly when picking up, or getting picked up). Else, cut visits short to check other clubs – extensive list below.

Back at the French Quarter, grabbing coffee after mass-clubbing, three other gay guys – Westerners (they were at D2, too) – were already planning their next going-out.

“Did you see that one with the thingie on?” one of them asked, hand tapping his head.

“You mean that one with…”

“No, that’s a different one.”

The other chimed in: “He means the one who studied in London.”

“Oh, that one…”

The conversation continued, exhaustively going into: picking up, preferences, partying, drink prices, bitching, et cetera.

It was no different from elsewhere.

Though maybe that’s too big a generalization.

Yes, human rights issues –particularly pertaining the gay community – remain (e.g. no Mr. Gay China here).

But generalizing about China is NOT only not fair, but limits the discovery of the places the likes of Shanghai has to offer.

Do we really know China?

Maybe not. But it’s always there for the discovering.

The founder of Outrage Magazine, Michael David dela Cruz Tan is a graduate of Bachelor of Arts (Communication Studies) of the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia. Though he grew up in Mindanao (particularly Kidapawan and Cotabato City in Maguindanao), even attending Roman Catholic schools there, he "really, really came out in Sydney," he says, so that "I sort of know what it's like to be gay in a developing and a developed world". Mick can: photograph, do artworks with mixed media, write (DUH!), shoot flicks, community organize, facilitate, lecture, research (with pioneering studies under his belt)... this one's a multi-tasker, who is even conversant in Filipino Sign Language (FSL). Among others, Mick received the Catholic Mass Media Awards (CMMA) in 2006 for Best Investigative Journalism. Cross his path is the dare (read: It won't be boring).

Health & Wellness

Trans women can safely maintain estrogen treatments during gender affirming surgery

The practice of withholding estrogen prior to gender affirming surgery was not necessary. Most transgender women can now safely remain on their estrogen therapy throughout surgery.

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Photo by @kylewilliamurban from Unsplash.com

There was no difference in blood clots when estrogen hormone therapy was maintained during gender affirming surgery.

This is according to a study (titled, “No Venous Thromboembolism Increase Among Transgender Female Patients Remaining on Estrogen for Gender Affirming Surgery”) helmed by John Henry Pang with Aki Kozato from Mount Sinai, and was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Historically, the lack of published data contributed to heterogeneity in the practice of whether doctors and surgeons advised transgender women to withhold their estrogen therapy before surgery. The sudden loss of estrogen in the blood was sometimes very uncomfortable with symptoms that amounted to a sudden, severe menopause.

So the researchers tapped 919 transgender patients who underwent gender affirming surgery at Mount Sinai’s Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery between November 2015 and August 2019. Notably, including 407 cases of transgender women who underwent primary vaginoplasty surgery.

This study found that the practice of withholding estrogen prior to gender affirming surgery was not necessary. Most transgender women can now safely remain on their estrogen therapy throughout surgery.

The bottom line: This study found that most transgender women can  safely maintain their estrogen hormone treatments during gender affirming surgery.

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Health & Wellness

Facebook posts help facilitate belief that HPV vaccine is dangerous to health

Nearly 40% of Facebook posts about the HPV vaccine amplified a perceived risk, and the data suggests these posts had momentum over time.

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Photo by @nordwood from Unsplash.com

The human papillomavirus infection, or HPV, is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). HPV is associated with health problems including genital warts and cancers, but a vaccine has been available since 2006 to help stop the virus. The CDC reports more than 12 years of data supports the HPV vaccine is safe and effective, yet HPV vaccination rates still remain low.

Social media has a history of being a popular place for sexual health discussions, and the HPV vaccine is one of the most discussed vaccines on the internet. Monique Luisi, an assistant professor in the University of Missouri School of Journalism, has studied more than 6,500 public HPV vaccine-related posts on Facebook from 2006 to 2016. In a previous study, Luisi used these Facebook posts to identify a negative trend on Facebook related to how people perceive the HPV vaccine.

Now, she suggests this negative trend on Facebook may also cause people to develop a false perception of the health risk of the vaccine. After looking at the percentage of posts that made the vaccine seem more dangerous, less dangerous or neither, Luisi found nearly 40% of Facebook posts about the HPV vaccine amplified a perceived risk, and the data suggests these posts had momentum over time.

“We should not assume that only the disease is perceived as a risk, but when research supports it, that medical treatments and interventions might unfortunately also be perceived as risks,” she said. “It’s more likely that people are going to see things on social media, particularly on Facebook, that are not only negative about the HPV vaccine, but will also suggest the HPV vaccine could be harmful. It amplifies the fear that people may have about the vaccine, and we see that posts that amplify fear are more likely to trend than those that don’t.”

Luisi suggests the spread of this negative information may lead people to have a false perception of the vaccine, so people should consult their doctor or health care provider before making an informed decision.

“Facebook remains a very popular social media platform for adult audiences, which necessitates action to address HPV vaccine risk messages,” she said. “People are going to see what they are going to see on social media, so it’s important to not only take what you see on social media, but also talk to a doctor or health care provider. Just because it’s trending doesn’t mean it’s true.”

Luisi notes research must continue to address the perception of vaccine safety where the vaccine is perceived as a greater health threat than the virus or disease it prevents, and her study could also inform officials for the ongoing COVID-19 vaccine roll out and distribution.

“As the COVID-19 vaccine is being rolled out, people are likely going to see a lot of negative information, and that negative information will be what trends on social media,” she said. “But, if the public can anticipate this negative information, it will be interesting to see if that will that make them less sensitive to the perceived risk of the vaccine.”

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Health & Wellness

Depression and stress could dampen efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines

Even though rigorous testing has shown that the COVID-19 vaccines approved for distribution are highly effective at producing a robust immune response, not everyone will immediately gain their full benefit. Environmental factors, as well as an individual’s genetics and physical and mental health, can weaken the body’s immune system, slowing the response to a vaccine.

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Photo by Nick Bolton from Unsplash.com

Decades of research show that depression, stress, loneliness, and poor health behaviors can weaken the body’s immune system and lower the effectiveness of certain vaccines.

A new report accepted for publication in Perspectives on Psychological Science suggests that the same may be true for the new COVID-19 vaccines that are in development and the early stages of global distribution. Fortunately, it may be possible to reduce these negative effects with simple steps like exercise and sleep.

Vaccines are among the safest and most effective advances in medical history, protecting society from a wide range of otherwise devastating diseases, including smallpox and polio. The key to their success, however, is ensuring that a critical percentage of the population is effectively vaccinated to achieve so-called herd immunity.

Even though rigorous testing has shown that the COVID-19 vaccines approved for distribution are highly effective at producing a robust immune response, not everyone will immediately gain their full benefit. Environmental factors, as well as an individual’s genetics and physical and mental health, can weaken the body’s immune system, slowing the response to a vaccine.

This is particularly troubling as the novel coronavirus continues to rage across the world, trigging a concurrent mental health crisis as people deal with isolation, economic stressors, and uncertainty about the future. These challenges are the same factors that have been previously shown to weaken vaccine efficacy, particularly among the elderly.

“In addition to the physical toll of COVID-19, the pandemic has an equally troubling mental health component, causing anxiety and depression, among many other related problems. Emotional stressors like these can affect a person’s immune system, impairing their ability to ward off infections,” said Annelise Madison, a researcher at The Ohio State University and lead author on the paper. “Our new study sheds light on vaccine efficacy and how health behaviors and emotional stressors can alter the body’s ability to develop an immune response. The trouble is that the pandemic in and of itself could be amplifying these risk factors.”

Vaccines work by challenging the immune system. Within hours of a vaccination, there is an innate, general immune response on the cellular level as the body begins to recognize a potential biological threat. This frontline response by the immune system is eventually aided by the production of antibodies, which target specific pathogens. It is the continued production of antibodies that helps to determine how effective a vaccine is at conferring long-term protection.

The good news, according to the researchers, is that the COVID-19 vaccines already in circulation are approximately 95% effective. Even so, these psychological and behavioral factors can lengthen the amount of time it takes to develop immunity and can shorten the duration of immunity.

“The thing that excites me is that some of these factors are modifiable,” said Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at The Ohio State University and senior author on the paper. “It’s possible to do some simple things to maximize the vaccine’s initial effectiveness.”

Based on prior research, one strategy the researchers suggest is to engage in vigorous exercise and get a good night’s sleep in the 24 hours before vaccination so that your immune system is operating at peak performance. This may help ensure that the best and strongest immune response happens as quickly as possible.

“Prior research suggests that psychological and behavioral interventions can improve vaccine responsiveness. Even shorter-term interventions can be effective,” said Madison. “Therefore, now is the time to identify those at risk for a poor immune response and intervene on these risk factors.”

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Lifestyle & Culture

Encouraging outdoor, active fun in children today

Because outdoor activity is still needed.

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A ride-on is an extremely popular toy. If you’re looking to encourage outdoor fun in your child, this is the way to go about.

They have become even better loved over the past few years because more and more innovative designs have come to the forefront. Ride-ons are definitely more advanced with regards to style and design in comparison to what they used to be. 

IMAGE SOURCE: PIXABAY.COM

You can also find adaptive ride-ons that have been created for children with physical disabilities, from low muscle tone to Cerebral Palsy. 

However, this is a toy which tends to be more catered towards boys. There are lots of fantastic race cars, fire engines, tractors, and so on and so forth. There is no shortage of choice if you are looking to buy a ride-on for your son. Nevertheless, if you are looking to buy for your daughter, then that is where the issue lies. 

The choices available are limited and so a lot of parents struggle to find an exciting ride-on for their little princess. Nonetheless, we’ve managed to source out some fantastic ride-ons and thus you will be able to put a smile on your daughters face with one of the following…

8338 Speedster Freestyle Pink

This gorgeous car is sleek and sporty and perfect for any girly girl. It has an unusual style which is simply adorable. The vehicle itself is pale pink and finished off with a sparkling glisten. The wheels are black and white, the seat is black, the wheel is black, and moreover, the front of the car boasts a beautiful chrome effect. This is suitable for any little angel who is aged between one and three years old. The Speedster Freestyle is a car that can rival any little boys’ vehicle. 

Rolly Toys Foot to Floor Carabella Mini Tractor

Who said girls can’t have a tractor? This ride-on is the perfect blend between unlimited fun and girly glam. The tractor is pink and features big bold black wheels. The bonnet of this tractor opens which is great because it means that there is room for your little one to store some stuff inside. They can take a long some snacks for the journey or even take with them their favourite cuddly toy. In addition to this, the tractor comes complete with a squeaky horn – meaning your daughter can let people know when she has arrived. A final point worth noting is that this tractor is suited to those aged over one-year-old.

Wheelybug Pig Large

This is one of the most unique ride-ons you will see. Your little girl will get to ride a pig! This is possibly the cutest toy on the market today. Not only does this toy look good, but it has been specifically designed in order to help children increase their motor skills, confidence, coordination, and spatial awareness. This is one of the best ride-ons to get your child welcomed to the world of wheels. It is fun, it is exciting, it is safe, and it is easy to get to grips with. Any little girl who loves pink and loves animals with love this toy.

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Health & Wellness

Bisexual men more prone to eating disorders than gay or straight men – study

80% of bisexual men reported that they “felt fat”, and 77% had a strong desire to lose weight, both figures higher than the 79% and 75% for gay men, respectively.

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Photo by Nicholas Swatz from Pexels.com

Bisexual men are more likely to experience eating disorders than either heterosexual or gay men. This is according to a report from the University of California San Francisco, published in the journal Eating and Weight Disorders.

A handful of studies have actually indicated that gay men are at increased risk for disordered eating, including fasting, excessive exercise and preoccupation with weight and body shape. This newer study, however, suggests that bisexual men are even more susceptible to some unhealthy habits.

For this study, the researchers surveyed over 4,500 LGBTQ adults, and a quarter of the bisexual male participants reported having fasted for more than eight hours to influence their weight or appearance. This is higher when compared to 20% for gay men.

The research also found that 80% of bisexual men reported that they “felt fat”, and 77% had a strong desire to lose weight, both figures higher than the 79% and 75% for gay men, respectively.

Now this is worth stressing: According to study co-author Dr. Jason Nagata, not everyone who diets or feels fat has an eating disorder. “It’s a spectrum — from some amount of concern to a tipping point where it becomes a pathological obsession about body weight and appearance,”Nagata was quoted as saying by NBC News.

For Nagata, several factors may be at play here, including “minority stress” (the concept that the heightened anxiety faced by marginalized groups can manifest as poor mental and physical health outcomes).

“LGBTQ people experience stigma and discrimination, and stressors can definitely lead to disordered eating,” Nagata was also quoted as saying. “For bi men, they’re not just facing stigma from the straight community but from the gay community, as well.”

Of all the respondents, 3.2% of bisexual males were clinically diagnosed with eating disorders (compared to 2.9% of gay men). For heterosexual men, it’s only 0.6%.

For the researchers, there is a need to conduct eating disorder research on various sexual identities independently. This is also to raise awareness on this issue (and how it affects different people of various SOGIESCs).

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Lifestyle & Culture

There is no silver bullet to lockdown blues, but…

There is never a magic bullet to our concerns. But we can find solutions that work for us and stick to them while in this very confusing and concerning lockdown world.

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Millions of people won’t be afraid to admit, they are hurting in lockdown. It’s not something that they have coped with well and don’t seem to be improving either. It’s harsh, very tough and daunting to be alone in the lockdown, not being able to have human contact or even talk to people, face to face. It’s not something anyone expected and thus didn’t prepare for. How could you, right?

So, depression and anxieties have led to lockdown blues. The root cause of most of our mental anguish is, not being able to live a normal life. But, there isn’t a silver bullet to this concern. In fact, most of us need to look at more nuanced cures to our ills. Let’s explore what our options are.

Sharing your blues

Lockdown blues have been felt all around the world. Whether you’re in Singapore, Malaysia, America, Italy or in the UK, millions of people are talking about what makes them cope or stressed in the day. This has been spreading on social media with hashtags such as ‘LonelyLockdown’ and ‘BeKind’. However, various message boards where you can anonymously speak about the things that are making you feel down are popular too.

It seems that the best way to get rid of the blues, at least for some people, is to let it out as it comes along. Don’t hold onto your worries, let them go by talking about them. You might be worried about your job, health, home, family, and friends to name a few. Start to talk about what is upsetting you and why. Please don’t bottle it up!

All for one
Do you ever feel like everything is getting too much and you just want a little rest bite? You just want all the stress and worry to halt for just one second. Many people believe that the only way they can do this is by taking something that numbs the pain or allows them to forget for a minute. Substance abuse is not something that should ever be entertained but if you do fall into the trap or relying on something like this, then support is never too far.

Read this American Addiction Centers review and see how they can help you. They have group therapy sessions as well as individual therapy sessions. The group therapy is very well-liked because they are very honest yet very understanding. That’s something that allows people to open up and let their feelings fly. Feelings of shame, disappointment and vitriol for the situation are very common and dealt with.

IMAGE SOURCE: PIXABAY.COM

Zen machine

Sometimes the best solutions are free. If you feel like life is getting on top of you right now, taking up online yoga or meditation classes could be your saving grace. Actually, for millions of people, since lockdown, having Zoom yoga meet-ups has been the silver bullet. If you would like to join in or find a club, go online and search for a zoom yoga club in your state or city.

There is never a magic bullet to our concerns. But we can find solutions that work for us and stick to them while in this very confusing and concerning lockdown world.  

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