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Filipino ecumenical youth leaders gather to tackle gender justice, HIV

Youth leaders from Christian organizations, academe, government and nongovernment sectors converged to discuss national flashpoints in gender and sexuality, as well as HIV.

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CEBU CITY – Youth leaders from Christian organizations, academe, government and nongovernment sectors converged for the “Young People at the Center: An Ecumenical Youth Consultation on HIV, Human Sexuality and Gender Justice Advocacy” to discuss national flashpoints in gender and sexuality, as well as HIV.

“As human beings, we are created as sexual beings,” said Dr. Ronald Lalthanmawia in introducing human sexuality and the phrase “sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression” (SSOGIE). He noted, among others, that homosexuality and transgender identities are no longer considered diseases in the medical field.

“The rights of gender minorities are human rights,” said Vaughn Alviar, chairperson of Kalipunan ng Kristiyanong Kapataan sa Pilipinas or Philippine Ecumenical Youth Council (KKKP), which organized the event with the Christian Conference of Asia – Action Together to Combat HIV and AIDS in Asia (CCA-ATCHAA) and National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP).

Discussing the realities of LGBTQIA Filipinos, he cited research revealing that they usually experience harassment and mocking at work; that the Philippines has the highest number of documented transphobic killings in Southeast Asia; and that only 11.2% of Filipinos reside in areas protected against discrimination.

“Gender issues are also an issue of class,” said UMC Pastor Hazel Joyce Salatan and NCCP representative during the forum, “Church and the challenge of sexuality.” “Until there is class, so too will sectors continue to be exploited – indigenous peoples, LGBTIQ+, people with disability, people living with HIV, even youth, children and women.”

She added that “in all these issues, it is not enough to stand in the middle. We know this from Jesus … who suffered death on the Cross as a capital punishment for siding with the downtrodden individuals whose only help was in the Lord”.

Citing preliminary findings from a research on queer faith, Ateneo De Manila University Development Studies researcher Robbin Dagle said: “Homonegativity is present across all denominations, from affirming to rejecting… Is there hope? Most young people who participated so far say there is: when the older generations pass on.”

He believes people should establish brave — not just safe — spaces.

“In safe spaces, we tend to not speak our minds, thinking we might offend people. We must create spaces where everybody is brave enough to express their beliefs without being judged, so that we can talk about them,” Dagle said.

HIV similarly took centerstage during the gathering.

“The epidemic of the human immunodeficiency syndrome and the culture that has made it so formidable make this consultation a timely meeting of leaders from across the country,” said Alviar, a member of Iglesia Filipina Independiente. “Government data reveals that, from 1 in 2008, the number of people diagnosed with HIV every day climbed to 36 in 2019. We now have the fastest-growing HIV epidemic in Asia-Pacific. We must address HIV as a public health concern, but many turn moralistic about it and wrap it in superstition, misinformation and stigma. This can be rooted in the combination of conservatism and patriarchy; sexuality is a taboo and gender minorities are second-class citizens.”

Churches must embrace people living with HIV and gender minorities as “the least,” noted Iglesia Evangelica Metodista En Las Islas Filipinas youth president Jon Dave Angeles, reflecting on the passage on the Judgment of the Nations from the Gospel according to Matthew. “We are sheep and goats who will be judged not simply according to ministries like singing, dancing or administering inside the church but more so on how we treat the least.”

“The picture of Christ separating the sheep from the goats ought to get under our skin and compel us to consider the direction of our lives,” added Blessy Grace de Leon of the United Methodist Church. “We are ‘bound in the bundle of the living under the care of the Lord your God’ (1 Samuel 25:29), and we cannot ignore the plight of human beings suffering hunger, thirst, nakedness, homelessness, sickness or imprisonment.”

Jon Neil Perfecio of HIV testing facility and treatment hub Balay Malingkawasnon (BM) explained the Philippine HIV situation, including how even health practitioners are not capacitated to handle cases properly.

“To us, the 36 new people that test positive for HIV every day are our victory as advocates, because we are making it possible for more people to know their HIV status,” he said. “Unfortunately, we are running out of antiretroviral medications, that’s not fake news. Governmental budget cuts for the health sector will also affect HIV services.”

NEWSMAKERS

Straight cisgender people more likely to be open-minded, accepting if they see LGBTQIA people in media

Those who have seen LGBTQIA representation are more accepting of gay and lesbian people than those who haven’t (48% to 35%). They are also more accepting of bisexual people (45% to 31%), and of non-binary people (41% to 30%).

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Straight cisgender people more likely to be open-minded and accepting if they see LGBTQIA people in the media. This is according to a study by US media organization GLAAD.

GLAAD’s researchers surveyed 2,031 non-LGBTQIA Americans (those who saw LGBTQIA people in the media, and those who say they have not seen LGBTQIA media representation recently). They found 80% of those who saw LGBTQIA representation are more supportive of equal rights, compared to 70% of those who haven’t seen LGBTQIA people in the media.

For the companies jumping into the rainbow bandwagon: 85% of the straight, cisgender respondents think that companies who include LGBTQIA people in their advertising are showing their “commitment to offering products to all types of customers”.

According to Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD: “The findings of this study send a strong message to brands and media outlets. Including (LGBTQIA) people in ads, films, and TV is good for business and good for the world.”

Other findings include:

  • Those who have seen LGBTQIA representation are more accepting of gay and lesbian people than those who haven’t (48% to 35%).
  • They are also more accepting of bisexual people (45% to 31%).
  • They are also more accepting of non-binary people (41% to 30%).
  • 72% of those who see LGBTQIA representation are more likely to be comfortable with an LGBTQIA family member (versus 66% of those who don’t see that representation).
  • They are more likely to be comfortable if an LGBTQIA family with children moves into their neighborhood (79% to 72%).
  • They are also more likely to be comfortable starting a conversation with someone who is not straight (81% to 76%).
  • 73% of those who have seen LGBTQIA representation first group would be happy if their doctor is gay, lesbian or bi (against 67% of those who haven’t seen recent LGBTQIA representation.

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Health & Wellness

Gender affirmation linked with trans, gender nonbinary youth mental health improvement

Having accessed multiple steps of gender affirmation (social, legal, and medical/surgical) was associated with fewer symptoms of depression and less anxiety. Furthermore, engaging in gender affirmation processes helped youth to develop a sense of pride and positivity about their gender identity and a feeling of being socially accepted.

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Enabling transgender and gender nonbinary youth to access gender affirmation processes is good.

This is according to a study – “Gender Affirmation Is Associated with Transgender and Gender Nonbinary Youth Mental Health Improvement” – done by Anna Martha Vaitses Fontanari, Felipe Vilanova, Maiko Abel Schneider, Itala Chinazzo, Bianca Machado Soll, Karine Schwarz, Maria Inês Rodrigues Lobato, and Angelo Brandelli Costa; and which appeared in LGBT Health.

The study aimed to evaluate the impact of each domain of gender affirmation (social, legal, and medical/surgical) on the mental health of transgender and gender nonbinary youth. To do this, 350 transgender boys, transgender girls, and gender nonbinary Brazilian youth, aged from 16 to 24 years old, were asked to answer an online survey.

Among the 350 participants, a total of 149 (42.64%) youth identified as transgender boys, 85 (24.28%) identified as transgender girls, and 116 (33.14%) identified as gender nonbinary youth. The mean age was 18.61 (95% confidence interval 18.34–18.88) years. Having accessed multiple steps of gender affirmation (social, legal, and medical/surgical) was associated with fewer symptoms of depression and less anxiety. Furthermore, engaging in gender affirmation processes helped youth to develop a sense of pride and positivity about their gender identity and a feeling of being socially accepted.

“Enabling transgender and gender nonbinary youth to access gender affirmation processes more easily should be considered as a strategy to reduce depression and anxiety symptoms, as well as to improve gender positivity,” the researchers stated.

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Love Affairs

LGBTQIA people think domestic violence is a cis-straight issue – study

A study found that domestic and family violence (DFV) and intimate partner violence (IPV) were perceived by community members and professional stakeholders to be a “heterosexual issue that did not easily apply to LGBTQIA relationships.”

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Members of the LGBTQIA community think domestic violence is a cis-straight issue. This is according to a study conducted by Relationships Australia New South Wales (RANSW) and ACON (formerly the AIDS Council of NSW), and was published by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety.

As stated in “Developing LGBTQ programs for perpetrators and victims/survivors of domestic and family violence”, many LGBTQIA people think domestic violence is an issue only faced by people who are both cisgender and straight.

The study found that domestic and family violence (DFV) and intimate partner violence (IPV) were perceived by community members and professional stakeholders to be a “heterosexual issue that did not easily apply to LGBTQIA relationships.”

“In particular, many community members held the view that relationships between (LGBTQIA) people could avoid the inherent sexism and patriarchal values of heterosexual, cisgender relationships, and, by implication, avoid DFV/IPV.”

In a way, this doesn’t come as a complete surprise, considering the language and framework used when discussing DFV and IPV.

The study noted that “although DFV and IPV have received increased attention in recent years, the focus has been on addressing intimate abuse between cisgender, heterosexual people with greater attention paid to male perpetrators.”

Also, “clients and potential clients did not have a full understanding of what constitutes domestic violence and felt this term related only to physical forms of abuse.”

And so “although (LGBTQIA) perpetrator interventions, and research around them, are emergent at best, the scant literature does provide a little information which can be used
to inform program developers and clinical practice.”

The researchers also noted particular kinds of abuse not seen among cis-straight people.

For instance, there are “identity-based tactics of abuse” where the fear of exposure or outing is used as a weapon within queer relationships.

After an individual has appraised that he/she may be experiencing abuse, seeking appropriate intervention may also be challenging because of non-inclusive services currently available.

The researchers recommended the following:

  • Make LGBTQIA inclusivity training required learning for all DFV/IPV sector staff, particularly those employed in specialized DFV/IPV roles.
  • Advocate that inclusivity training be made mandatory within clinical organizations, and among police and legal professionals.
  • Develop referral pathways into LGBTQIA-friendly DFV/IPV programs for key professionals, such as court support workers and magistrates.
  • Increase representation of LGBTQIA people in promotional material about DFV/IPV.
  • Use social media platforms to increase DFV/IPV awareness in LGBTQIA communities and use these channels to engage clients for future programs.
  • Provide ongoing funding to develop, trial and implement tailored programs. Short funding cycles do not provide adequate time to populate groups within an underdeveloped community area.
  • Ensure programs respond to diverse needs within mixed LGBTQIA groups and manage transphobia and biphobia.

This isn’t the first time DFV and IPV within the LGBTQIA community was tackled – even if it remains to be under-researched, and not widely tackled within the LGBTQIA community. In 2018, for instance, a study found that nearly half of men in same-sex couples suffered some form of abuse at the hands of their partner, according to a study that surveyed 320 men (160 male couples) in Atlanta, Boston and Chicago in the US to measure emotional abuse, controlling behaviors, monitoring of partners, and HIV-related abuse.

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NEWSMAKERS

LGB individuals have less contact with, and live geographically farther from siblings

LGB individuals had less frequent contact with, and lived geographically farther from their siblings. The pattern of effects was similar for bisexual and gay or lesbian individuals, and stronger for male than female sexual minority individuals.

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Lesbian, gay and bisexual people tend to live geographically farther away from their brothers and sisters, and have less less frequent contact with them. This is according to new research from Australia, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family.

The study – “Sexual Orientation, Geographic Proximity, and Contact Frequency Between Adult Siblings“, authored by Francisco Perales and Stefanie Plage – suggests that (no surprise here) sexual stigma is a reason why this is so, as it can harm family relationships.

To compare the closeness of sibling relations between individuals with different sexual orientations, the study used data from an Australian national survey (Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey). The researchers analyzed data from 13,252 individuals with 35,622 individual‐sibling pairs.

Key results indicated that — when compared with heterosexual individuals — LGB individuals had less frequent contact with, and lived geographically farther from their siblings. The pattern of effects was similar for bisexual and gay or lesbian individuals, and stronger for male than female sexual minority individuals.

According to the researchers, the findings are consistent with theoretical perspectives highlighting the unique barriers to socioeconomic inclusion experienced by individuals from sexual minorities. They suggest that these barriers begin within the nuclear family.

As quoted by PsyPost, study author Perales said: “We know that people who identify as LGB tend to experience poorer outcomes across life domains than heterosexual people… The dominant explanation for this is that these individuals receive lower levels of social support from their family and the broader community. This is because non-heterosexuality remains a stigmatized and not fully accepted social status.”

Family support – or its lack – is an important issue for members of the LGBTQIA community. A 2016 study, for instance, noted that more than 42% of the individuals who self-identified as transgender or gender nonconforming reported a suicide attempt, and over 26% had misused drugs or alcohol to cope with transgender-related discrimination. After controlling for age, race/ethnicity, sex assigned at birth, binary gender identity, income, education, and employment status, family rejection was associated with increased odds of both behaviors. Odds increased significantly with increasing levels of family rejection.

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NEWSMAKERS

Tech-related jealousy is real… including LGBTQIAs

According to the Pew Research Center, about one-third of LGB partnered adults whose significant other uses social media report that they have felt jealous or unsure in their current relationship because of how their partner interacted with others on social media (versus 22% of straight people who say this).

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Social media can be a source of jealousy and uncertainty in relationships – especially for younger adults.

This is according to a Pew Research Center study (with the survey conducted in October 2019, though the study was only released recently) that found that, indeed, many people encounter tech-related struggles with their significant others.

In “Dating and Relationships in the Digital Age”, Pew Research Center noted that “younger people value social media as a place to share how much they care about their partner or to keep up with what’s going on in their partner’s life.” However, “they also acknowledge some of the downsides that these sites can have on relationships.”

Twenty-three percent (23%) of adults with partners who use social media say they have felt jealous or unsure about their relationship because of the way their current spouse or partner interacts with other people on social media.

Now get this: the number is higher among those in younger age groups.

Among partnered adults whose significant other uses social media, 34% of 18- to 29-year-olds and 26% of those ages 30 to 49 say they have felt jealous or unsure in their current relationship because of how their partner interacted with others on social media. This is definitely higher than the 19% of those aged 50 to 64 who say this, and 4% of those ages 65 and up.

The insecurity is also common among those not married – i.e. 37% of unmarried adults with partners who are social media users say they have felt this way about their current partner, while only 17% of married people say the same.

Women are reportedly more likely to express displeasure with how their significant other interacts with others on social media (29% vs. 17% for men).

Meanwhile, college graduates are less likely to report having felt this way than those with some college experience or a high school degree or less.

And yes, LGBTQIA community members are no different.

According to the Pew Research Center, about one-third of LGB partnered adults whose significant other uses social media report that they have felt jealous or unsure in their current relationship because of how their partner interacted with others on social media (versus 22% of straight people who say this).

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NEWSMAKERS

Marriage equality boosted US economy by $3.8B since 2015 – study

Marriage equality in the US injected approximately state and local economies by an estimated $3.8 billion, and generated an estimated $244.1 million in state and local sales tax revenue since 2015.

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Marriage equality in the US injected approximately state and local economies by an estimated $3.8 billion, and generated an estimated $244.1 million in state and local sales tax revenue since 2015, when the US Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that the country’s constitution guarantees all couples the right to marry, extending marriage to same-sex couples throughout. This spending, by the way, supported an estimated 45,000 jobs for one full year.

This is according to “The Economic Impact of Marriage Equality Five Years after Obergefell v. Hodges”, a study done by the Williams Institute at California’s UCLA School of Law.

The Williams Institute study included figures and estimates based on data from the US Census Bureau.

Approximately 293,000 LGBTQIA couples tied the knot since the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality.

“Marriage equality has changed the lives of same-sex couples and their families,” said the study’s lead author Christy Mallory. “It has also provided a sizable benefit to business and state and local governments.”

Broken down, the amounts spent were:

  • Some $3.2 billion on weddings
  • $544 million by traveling wedding guests
  • $244 million in state and local taxes

The US is one of only 28 United Nations’ member states recognizing marriage equality.

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