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The genderless and infinite soul

Tamsin Wu writes about how the concept of reincarnation can be crucial in understanding and accepting the natural existence of LGBTQ in our lives.

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Souls pertain to the immortal force that drives the human being. Being immortal and immaterial, it never perishes, but rather gets to be incarnated time after time. Reincarnations are used to explain away the amazing talents of child prodigies, the unexplainable connection between soulmates, as well as the countless events and karma we experience. The concept of reincarnation can be crucial in understanding and accepting the natural existence of LGBTQ in our lives.

In a nutshell, reincarnation is about infinite souls going through different existential forms and lives. Souls live through this world again and again in order to fulfill spiritual contracts, learn further and face karma. A lot of our current experiences depend on the good and bad deeds we’ve made in our lifetimes before. In enlightenment, souls would be able to go to higher consciousness and realms away from the world we know of today.

While some philosophies or spiritual beliefs – such as those found in Buddhism, Hinduism and Plato’s philosophy – talk about the rebirth and ascension of the soul throughout many lives before and after, other more popular religions discredit it. Some people are closed off from reincarnation thinking it’s too much of a foreign idea in our conventional belief system for it to be real. This is unsurprisingly so considering the widespread indoctrination of mainstream Christian religion on people since the time they were born. They wouldn’t be able to grasp the concept of reincarnation without the fear of punishment for compromising their devotedness in the typical Biblical interpretations they’re accustomed to. However, in these modern days, more Christians or Catholics are showing an open-mindedness to spiritual activities and beliefs that have been considered unholy by tradition. Besides psychic reading and feng shui, the belief in reincarnation is one of them.

Religious talks aside, it is refreshing to know that psychology and science is progressing in their studies of the possibility of reincarnation. From pro-LGBTQ arguments that gay people are just born that way to interesting explanations about how homosexuality exists naturally in the animal kingdom, perhaps we can put reincarnation into the mix.

In order to blow away the cancerous notion that LGBTQ is something abnormal, demonic or out of the ordinary, we have to comprehend nonheterosexuality from a standpoint higher than the limiting characteristics of anatomy our souls are moving in.

There are two things that need to be clarified in understanding LGBTQ – sexual orientation and sexual identity. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, straight belong to sexual orientation. For many years, most societies have been heteronormative – a romantic relationship should only be between a guy and girl. Homosexuality has been feared, derided and punished. In some parts of the globe, this is still the dangerous scenario. But, as the world works, there’s always a Yang (good) to the Yin (bad). Gradually, marriage equality has been sprouting in some countries and LGBTQ is being celebrated. Humanity is starting to understand that as long as something comes out of love, there is no evil when two people of the same gender enter into a relationship. There is no harm done when a person wants to express him/herself in a way that deviates from the social constructs of masculinity and femininity. In actuality, humans fall in one or more spectrum within the Kinsey Scale in their lifetime. Eventually, they find the point that rings true to them, which brings them a step closer to fulfillment. This sexuality scale is useful to understand attraction between humans because it goes beyond the binary concept of gender, which is not inherent in souls. It shows that people cannot be labeled as only either-or, black-and-white.

Sexual identity, as the name implies, refers to which gender a person sees oneself as. Sexual identity doesn’t immediately determine sexual orientation, which is same as the fact that biological gender doesn’t determine sexual orientation.

This brings us to the topic of transgender. Why do transgendered people identify as a certain gender that’s the opposite of the biological gender they have been born with? Doesn’t this show that the soul does have a gender? Aside from the explanation of the complexity of gender development, we can also attribute this to the reincarnation concept. As has been said, souls have gone through different lifetimes, and none of us know what stories and experiences other people’s souls have gone through (unless you’re a legit past life reader, or you have remnants of past life memories in your brain which have been testified by some). Those past lifetimes may have left some deeply felt characteristics in some people’s current human existence that had them to believe that they must be a certain gender. Past experiences and karma comes into the picture. Whatever it is, we should not judge them because it is part of their own journey. The best that we can do to understand is to see pass the material and physical essence. We should not allow our consciousness to get stuck in this dimension of materialism. Otherwise, we will always follow a limited way of thinking that bars us from embracing the beautiful infiniteness and grandness of our existence in this universe.

All of us face different joys and struggles in our lives that pave the path towards growth, strength and wisdom. For the LGBTQ community, the struggle of simply being comfortable in our own skin can already be seen as a political stance and challenging towards the status quo, even though we’re just being our authentic selves. But what is the “self’? The self is the so-called “ego” that has been painted layers upon layers of physical characteristics, social engineering and labeling, consumerist inclinations, media and political propaganda. Peel away all those thick layers and we are just left with this profound life force called the soul, with energies derived from multiples lives. Hence, the soul’s ego is molded and re-molded depending on such layers presently dealt with by the soul. Contrary to what a lot of people have been thinking their whole lives, the soul is not defined by the body. It doesn’t have a ghostly, feather-light appearance of our physical body which has been portrayed countless times on the screen. The soul is without the imposing characteristics and behavior of a human gender. The soul is unisex, devoid of such human concept. That is why regardless of race, class, religion, gender, sexual expression and orientation, we are all the same at the core of our existence. This is a universal truth that holds all of us together. It is only with layers of physical limitations, lies, fabricated truths and distorted facts that we have been differentiated and pitted against each other, as well as blinded from the true nature of our being.

To elucidate further the difference between the soul and ego, let me share with you a recent past life reading I’ve had with my girlfriend at a The Third Eye Wellness party. The past life reader gave me a feeling of certainty that her readings were true because of the things she said about my girlfriend and I even before I’ve divulged any information to her. Anyway, on to the past life…

I honestly couldn’t remember anymore if she asked us to pick cards when she was reading a part of our past (love)life. I can only remember the details she saw. According to her reading, I was a thin, frail-looking man and my girlfriend was the woman. I was a man of wealth who held a silent dignity and substance. The woman’s face looked a lot like my girlfriend’s face, and she was someone who loved to socialize and who wore big dresses. We both mutually loved each other, albeit discreetly, since she was already married to an off-putting man with a moustache. Although they didn’t have a happy marriage, she stayed poised and positive in her life. On the other hand, the past life reader told me that she could see a plump woman with a high-pitched voice, but she couldn’t tell if that was my wife or my mother. That plump woman was dominating me in that toxic relationship as I chose to keep mum whenever she scolds. However, there were times that she showed loving ways towards me. The past life reader added that the man whom my girlfriend was married to is a male relative of hers in this lifetime. It is someone whom she dislikes very much. (We know who that is..)

The past life reader told us that we never did anything unfaithful. We just loved each other without harming anyone else. After that lifetime, she said that perhaps our souls made a contract to be women in this lifetime (and, might I add, in a country wherein LGBTQ rights are still being largely fought for) to keep in tune with the kind of discreet relationship we had before.

However, as the past life reader also said, the lifetime she described to us isn’t necessarily the previous lifetime. There were probably a few lifetimes in-between that and this current lifetime. What is important, anyhow, is the learning and growth we’ve gained, and to continue to gain.

The read was indeed interesting and just goes to show how our egos change from one lifetime to another. However, there are some things that stay the same wherever lifetime your soul goes to. Parts of your personality and relationships repeat, albeit in different situations, from one lifetime to another.

As we go through life, the soul needs to be nurtured despite the obstacles put forth in our earthly existence. Pure intentions of love, compassion, helping and learning add positivity to the soul and the environment. Hate, ignorance and violence, on the other hand, add negativity. Therefore, attacking someone based on sexual orientation and gender is obviously wrong, and would definitely reap bad karma. This is done from a consciousness of ill and uninformed thoughts. Ultimately, the goal is to rid the soul, and on a grander scale, this world, of such impurities.

In the words of Scarlet Johannson’s character Lucy, “We never really die”. Our bodies or selves gradually morph into death, but our souls surpass it. Souls will go from one lifetime to the next, and perhaps beyond this planet we call Earth. This isn’t a new radical way of existential thinking. Old centuries have recognized that there are higher spiritual planes and dimensions than our human mind can reach. It is only with the constant pursuit of noble values, such as wisdom and love, will we transcend this lowly, materialistic existence we’ve been held to. All souls – young and old – go through this worldly life to grow and break free from negativity and oppression. Eventually, we can all attain the spiritual height that sends us back to our source, or to God, as others would say.

In the meantime, let us enjoy discovering what learning the universe has to offer us, as well as what purposes our situations and relationships want us to fulfill.

A sure-footed wanderer. A shy, but strong personality. Hot-headed but cool. A critic of this propaganda-filled, often brainwashed society. A lover of nature, creativity and intellectual pursuits. Femme in all the right places. Breaking down stereotypical perspectives and narrow-mindedness. A writer with a pen name and no face. I'm a private person, but not closeted. Stay true!

Health & Wellness

Experiencing police violence worsens mental health in distinct ways

Simply put, the experience of police violence puts Black, Latino, Indigenous, and sexual minority communities at higher risk of distinct mental health problems, in addition to greater risk of death at the hands of police.

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The experience of police violence is associated with mental and emotional trauma distinct from that caused by other kinds of violence, creating a public health crisis for communities most affected.

Simply put, the experience of police violence puts Black, Latino, Indigenous, and sexual minority communities at higher risk of distinct mental health problems, in addition to greater risk of death at the hands of police, according to the paper.

The study is authored by a group of researchers at several universities, including UC Riverside, who have been examining the mental health effects of police violence at the population level for several years.

“It’s a public health issue because police violence is not experienced equally in our society but instead has a disproportionate effect on the mental health of racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities,” said Bruce Link, a UC Riverside distinguished professor of sociology and public policy. “The point of our paper is to indicate why the experience of police violence is uniquely stressful and therefore particularly impactful.”

People who have experienced police violence have few options for redress. They must report incidents to the same police departments that abused them in the first place.

Psychologists agree that trauma spurs biological or psychological changes that manifest over time as psychiatric symptoms, particularly when the trauma is sexually or physically violent. Research on stressful life events, especially uncontrollable events, has attempted to provide a broader framework for how stress may affect a person’s usual activities, goals, and values, but until recently this approach has not been applied to police violence.

Link, along with Jordan DeVylder of Fordham University and Lisa Fedina of the University of Michigan, reviewed numerous studies of the effects of police violence on mental health in a paper called “Impact of police violence on mental health: a theoretical framework,” and identified eight factors distinct to police violence.

Police violence is state sanctioned

Unlike most other forms of violence, police violence is embedded in a history of state-enforced practices that permitted cruel, unusual, and dehumanizing punishment of individuals deemed to be from so-called “dangerous classes,” particularly Blacks. Communities of color and LGBTQ communities have been historically subjected to discriminatory laws, such as Jim Crow laws and sodomy laws, which permitted harassment and excessive and fatal force against individuals from these communities.

The police are a pervasive presence

Police are everywhere, especially in low-income communities of color. People who have experienced violent or stressful encounters with police have no way to avoid being around constant reminders of these painful experiences, or the fear of future encounters.

There are limited options for recourse

People who have experienced police violence have few options for redress. They must report incidents to the same police departments that abused them in the first place. Police are authorized to use force in a wide variety of situations and survivors have to prove that the violence was not legitimate. Because they have few options for reporting an incident, for legal recourse, or for advocacy services and referrals to mental health treatment, any mental health symptoms they have may worsen over time.

Police culture deters internal accountability

Violence committed through institutions, rather than interpersonal relationships, is supported by organizational cultures that condone it. Police often maintain a code of silence around violence and therefore often fail to hold each other accountable. This amounts to gaslighting survivors who do report incidents, potentially worsening mental health symptoms.

Police violence alters deeply held beliefs

Many are taught that police protect them and their communities from various dangers and help in emergencies. A single violent encounter can shatter this belief for an individual, but when police violence is the norm, instead of an isolated incident, the community at large loses trust in the police as an institution and, often correctly, comes to regard them as part of the problem.

Racial and economic disparities in exposure

Police violence is disproportionately directed at people of color, especially Blacks and Latinos, potentially leading to diminished feelings of self-worth and value within American society.

Police violence is stigmatizing

Because police are allowed to use force in many situations, survivors of police violence are often blamed for the encounter. Their actions are heavily scrutinized and faulted to justify the officers’ actions, especially by members of groups that benefit from the social order policing upholds. Moreover, many people have friends and relatives who work as police officers, making it feel like a betrayal to report incidents of police violence.

Police are typically armed

Unlike police in many countries, American police carry firearms and police departments have become heavily militarized. Police are given broad latitude to determine when and how to deploy force. Every interaction with police holds the possibility of violence, and for communities subjected to routine overpolicing, this threat brings additional challenges for mental health.

The researchers call for a framework to examine the mental health consequences of police violence that takes into account these points. However, implicit in their analysis are solutions for the public health crisis caused by police violence, such as demilitarizing police, holding police accountable when untoward events occur, ending the overpolicing of communities of color, providing better reporting options and support for survivors of police violence, and policies that build mutual trust between police and the communities they are meant to serve.

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Lesbian, gay and bisexual people more likely to suffer migraines; discrimination may be to blame

Many members of sexual minority groups experience prejudice, stigma, and discrimination termed sexual minority stress, which could trigger or exacerbate migraine. Furthermore, members of sexual minority groups may encounter barriers to health care and experience greater physical and mental health problems, which could contribute to migraine.

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Members of the LGBTQIA community may have migraines at a higher rate than their straight counterparts, according to a study that suggested that this may be due to sexual minority stress brought about by prejudice, stigma and discrimination.

The study – “Disparities Across Sexual Orientation in Migraine Among US Adults” – was published in the journal JAMA.

Dr. Jason Nagata, lead author of the study, told Insider that the study was actually not able to evaluate why sexual minorities might experience migraines at a higher rate than straight people. However, “lesbian, gay and bisexual people may experience prejudice and discrimination which can lead to stress and trigger a migraine… They may also face barriers to accessing health care which can lead to worsened health,” he was quoted as saying.

For this study, the sample consisted of 9,894 adults, with a mean age of 37.33 years, of whom 51.0% (n = 5705) were women and 49.0% men (n = 4189). Participants identified as exclusively heterosexual (n = 8426 [85.8%]), mostly heterosexual (n = 1062 [10.0%]), or lesbian, gay, or bisexual (n = 406 [4.2%]).

Migraine was measured based on self-report in response to the interview question, “Have you ever had five or more headaches that were at least four hours long; one-sided, pulsating, intense, or worsened by activity; and associated with nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light or sound?”. This was consistent with the International Classification of Headache Disorders, third edition diagnostic criteria for migraine without aura.

Sexual orientation was categorized into three categories: exclusively heterosexual; mostly heterosexual but somewhat attracted to people of one’s own sex; or lesbian, gay, or bisexual, as has been previously categorized.

Logistic regression analysis was conducted using Stata version 15.1 (StataCorp) with sexual orientation as the independent variable and migraine as the dependent variable, adjusting for sex, race/ethnicity, age, education, income, smoking, and alcohol use1 and incorporating national sample weighting.

The study noted that prevalence of migraine was higher among individuals who reported being mostly heterosexual (n = 327 [30.3%]) and lesbian, gay, or bisexual (n = 112 [30.7%]) compared with those who reported being exclusively heterosexual (n = 1631 [19.4%]).

In its analysis, the researchers noted that “many members of sexual minority groups experience prejudice, stigma, and discrimination termed sexual minority stress, which could trigger or exacerbate migraine. Furthermore, members of sexual minority groups may encounter barriers to health care and experience greater physical and mental health problems, which could contribute to migraine.”

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With childhood sexual abuse, mental and physical after-effects closely linked

The key takeaway from this study is that one-sided treatment – one that addresses just the psychological after-effects or just the physical trauma – is inadequate. There is a need to follow a combined approach to treatment that doesn’t view these issues as separate.

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A Canadian study reveals that the psychological and physical effects of childhood sexual abuse are closely tied. The finding could help healthcare professionals develop more effective interventions and ultimately improve mental and physical health outcomes for survivors of abuse in childhood.

Authored by Pascale Vézina-Gagnon, a PhD candidate at Université de Montréal’s Department of Psychology, under the supervision of Professor Isabelle Daigneault, the study is published today in Health Psychology.

Twice as many diagnoses

The long-term consequences of childhood sexual abuse on survivors’ health have only been recognized recently.

An initial study of 1,764 children and adolescents, published in 2018, showed that girls who survived substantiated cases of sexual abuse received 2.1 times as many diagnoses of urinary health issues and 1.4 times as many diagnoses of genital health issues than girls in the general population.

This finding prompted a subsequent study to determine why and how sexual-abuse survivors suffered from genitourinary problems more often than their peers in the general population.

Specifically, the second study aimed to gain a better understanding of this phenomenon by testing the theory that increased psychological distress is partly responsible for the higher incidence of genitourinary issues – such as urinary tract infections, vaginitis and pain during sex or menstruation – among childhood sexual-abuse survivors.

‘A combined approach to treatment’

“The key takeaway from this study is that one-sided treatment – one that addresses just the psychological after-effects or just the physical trauma – is inadequate,” said Vézina-Gagnon. “We need to follow a combined approach to treatment that doesn’t view these issues as separate.”

She added: “Interdisciplinary care is increasingly becoming the standard, and that’s the message we hope our research sends to general practitioners, pediatricians, urologists, gynecologists, psychologists and psychiatrists so that they can help children recover as much as possible.”

This is the first study to look at the relationship between genitourinary and psychological issues over such a long period of time – more than a decade – in such a large sample of child survivors of substantiated sexual abuse versus a comparison group.

1,322 girls studied

The researchers used medical data provided by Quebec’s public health insurance agency, the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec, and the Quebec Ministry of Health and Social Services. The study involved 661 girls between the ages of 1 and 17 who survived one or more instances of substantiated sexual abuse and a comparison group of 661 girls from the general population.

The researchers had access to anonymized data on genitourinary and mental health diagnoses received following medical consultations or hospital stays the girls went through between 1996 and 2013. Several variables were taken into account, such as socioeconomic status, the number of years of access to medical data, and individual predispositions to genitourinary health problems before the sexual abuse occurred.

Childhood sexual abuse includes fondling and petting, oral sex, actual or attempted penetration, voyeurism, indecent exposure, inducement to engage in sexual activity and sexual exploitation (prostitution).

‘A wider range of psychiatric issues’

“The results show that girls who were sexually abused were more likely to see a health professional for a wider range of psychiatric issues–anxiety, mood disorders, schizophrenia or substance abuse–than girls in the comparison group,” said Vézina-Gagnon. “These consultations were also associated with more frequent medical appointments or hospitalizations for genital and urinary issues in the years after the sexual abuse was reported.”

The researchers also found that the more girls consulted their doctors or were hospitalized for multiple psychiatric issues (so-called comorbid psychiatric disorders) after experiencing abuse, the more importantly this explained subsequent genital health issues (62%) and urinary health issues (23%). This difference observed between genital and urinary health (62% vs. 23%) may be explained by factors not included in this study, said Vézina-Gagnon.

The key takeaway from this study is that one-sided treatment – one that addresses just the psychological after-effects or just the physical trauma – is inadequate. There is a need to follow a combined approach to treatment that doesn’t view these issues as separate.

“Additional studies are needed to investigate this difference and determine whether other important variables – ones that we didn’t have information on, such as the severity, length and frequency of the abuse -could be associated with more severe genitourinary health outcomes,” she said.

Two hypotheses offered

“On an emotional and behavioural level, two hypotheses can be formulated to explain these findings,” said Vézina-Gagnon. The first is that the association is due to a hypervigilant response. Survivors of sexual abuse who are affected by several mental health issues – such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder – may become hypervigilant or more likely to notice symptoms related to their genital or urinary health, which would lead them to see their doctor more frequently.

“In contrast,” she continued, “the second hypothesis is that the association is caused by avoidant behaviour. Survivors may put off or avoid asking for help or seeing a doctor for genitourinary issues, thereby increasing the risk that such problems deteriorate or become chronic conditions. Gynecological care may trigger memories of past abuse (due to the imbalance of power between patients and doctors, the removal of clothing, feelings of vulnerability and physical pain) and it may therefore be especially difficult for these girls.”

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Toward a holistic approach

The study’s findings align with the scientific literature on health psychology and abuse, and once again highlight how important it is to consider the relationship between physical and mental health,” said Vézina-Gagnon. A holistic approach (body-mind approach) is therefore needed to help girls recover from sexual trauma, she maintains.

“In light of these findings, healthcare practitioners should assess the level of psychological distress experienced by survivors of childhood sexual abuse who report genitourinary issues and direct them to the right mental health resources” Vézina-Gagnon said.

“The researchers behind this study believe that early and targeted intervention to reduce psychological distress among survivors may be helpful in preventing genitourinary issues from deteriorating or turning into chronic conditions.”

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Transgender people who experience discrimination likelier to have poor mental health

Protective factors, such as support from friends, family, and the community, appeared to mitigate the negative impact of discrimination and stigma.

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Transgender people who experienced stigma, including harassment, violence and discrimination because of their identity are more likely to have poor mental health outcomes. Sadly, the study also shows that over half (51%) of transgender people experienced discrimination for being transgender.

This is according to a study from the University of Waikato, via a study involving 1,178 people who completed a national Aotearoa/New Zealand survey. The findings were published in the International Journal of Transgender Health,.

For this study, a team of experts from Waikato, and the University of Otago, assessed the results of the 2018 ‘Counting Ourselves’ survey – a community-based questionnaire of transgender people living in Aotearoa/New Zealand. They specifically analyzed the extent that stigma and discriminatory experiences alongside protective factors such as the support of friends, family, neighbors and communities, are related to the mental health of transgender people in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

The results show that 23% of transgender people had been verbally harassed in public venues, including public transport, retail stores and restaurants for being transgender. Also, more than one-third (39%) had been victimized through cyberbullying.

According to the study’s lead author, Kyle Tan, the findings show that experiences of gender minority stress are strongly associated with mental health, including suicide; and that positive, protective factors appear to act as a buffer against this.

“One quarter (25%) of transgender participants who had high levels of discrimination, harassment and violence, and low levels of support from friends, family and community, had attempted suicide in the last year. However, only 3% of those who with low levels of discrimination, harassment, and violence and high levels of protective factors had attempted suicide. This means that those with lower risk factors and higher protective factors were more than eight times less likely to have attempted suicide,” Tan said.

Principal investigator Dr. Jaimie Veale added that these mental health inequities mean that transgender people should be a named priority in mental health and addiction policies. “To improve the mental health and wellbeing of transgender people, we need to address the stigma and discrimination that they face. We also need to protect transgender people from violence, as a priority in sexual and domestic violence work.”

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Health & Wellness

LBG individuals use stimulants at higher rates than heterosexuals

Higher drug use among LGB individuals is likely a result of minority stress – that is, the fact that exposure to stigma and discrimination based on sexual orientation results in health disparities. Structural stigma (e.g. employment or housing discrimination) drives psychological and physical health morbidities among LGB populations, and perceived stigma is associated with cocaine use.

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Lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) individuals report higher rates of medical, non-medical, and illegal stimulant use compared to heterosexuals, mirroring patterns seen in other substance use.

The study by Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health researchers provides the most detailed picture to date on stimulant use by LGB subgroups and gender. Findings are published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The researchers analyzed data from the 2015-2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health to examine associations between sexual identity and past-year use of medical and non-medical stimulants (i.e., Adderall, Ritalin) and illegal stimulants (i.e. cocaine, crack, methamphetamine). They found that bisexual women’s illegal stimulant use in the past year was fivefold that of heterosexual women (7.8% vs. 1.5%), while gay men’s use was threefold that of heterosexual men (9.2% vs. 3.2%).

Non-medical use of prescription stimulants was higher among gay and bisexual men than heterosexual men (5.4% and 6.6% vs. 2.4%) and among gay/lesbian and bisexual women versus heterosexual women (3.3% and 6.8% vs. 1.6%). Past-year medical use of prescription stimulants was higher among gay men than heterosexual men (6.6% vs. 4.1%) and bisexual women than heterosexual women (7.9% vs. 4.9%). There were no differences between bisexual men and women compared to their gay/lesbian counterparts.

Potential consequences of stimulant include substance use disorder and overdose, particularly given increases in fentanyl contamination in illegally produced pills and cocaine and methamphetamine. As many as half of LGB individuals who reported nonmedical and illegal stimulant use also reported nonmedical prescription opioid use.

“This study highlights the need for future interventions to target stimulant use among LGB populations, with a particular focus on harm reduction approaches,” says first author Morgan Philbin, PhD, assistant professor of sociomedical sciences. “The findings have important implications across sexual identities, and demonstrate the need to disaggregate stimulant use by subgroup and gender, particularly related to polysubstance use.”

Higher drug use among LGB individuals is likely a result of minority stress – that is, the fact that exposure to stigma and discrimination based on sexual orientation results in health disparities. Structural stigma (e.g. employment or housing discrimination) drives psychological and physical health morbidities among LGB populations, and perceived stigma is associated with cocaine use.

Bisexuals can also experience “double discrimination” from heterosexuals and lesbian and gay communities, which the researchers say may account for the particularly high substance use among bisexual individuals.

The paper outlines several avenues to address stimulant use, including by educating healthcare providers who focus on LGB communities to screen for and discuss substance use, including stimulants. Communities and providers can also scale-up access to medication disposal and harm reduction services.

The researchers note that their dataset started assessing sexual identity among adults in 2015, so these relationships could not be examined in earlier years or among adolescents. The options for gender included only “male” or “female” and thus did not allow researchers to differentiate between transgender and cis-gender individuals. The dataset does not assess sexual behavior, so this study only captured associations based on individuals’ sexual identity.

Authors include Morgan M. Philbin, Emily R. Greene, Silvia S. Martins, and Pia M. Mauro of the Columbia Mailman School; and Natalie LaBossier of Boston University School of Medicine.

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Gender harassment and institutional betrayal in high school take toll on mental health

97% of women and 96% of men from a pool of 535 undergraduate college students had endured at least one instance of gender harassment during high school. Experiences of gender harassment, especially for those who encountered it repeatedly, were associated with clinically relevant levels of trauma-related symptoms in college.

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High school students who endure gender harassment in schools that don’t respond well enter college and adulthood with potential mental health challenges, according to a University of Oregon study.

The study, published last month in PLOS ONE, found that 97% of women and 96% of men from a pool of 535 undergraduate college students had endured at least one instance of gender harassment during high school.

Experiences of gender harassment, especially for those who encountered it repeatedly, were associated with clinically relevant levels of trauma-related symptoms in college.

“We found that the more gender harassment and institutional betrayal teens encounter in high school, the more mental, physical and emotional challenges they experience in college,” said lead author Monika N. Lind, a UO psychology doctoral student. “Our findings suggest that gender harassment and institutional betrayal may hurt young people, and educators and researchers should pay more attention to these issues.”

The study, the three-member UO team noted, served to launch academic research into the responses of high schools to gender harassment, beyond media reports of institutional betrayal by schools since the #MeToo movement began.

Gender harassment, a type of sexual harassment, is characterized by sexist remarks, sexually crude or offensive behavior and the enforcement of traditional gender roles.

Institutional betrayal, a label coined previously by the study’s co-author UO psychologist Jennifer Freyd, is the failure of an institution, such as a school, to protect people who depend on it. A high school mishandling a case of gender harassment reported by a student is an example of institutional betrayal.

“The more gender harassment and institutional betrayal teens encounter in high school, the more mental, physical and emotional challenges they experience in college,” said lead author Monika N. Lind.

Participants included 363 females, 168 males, three non-binary and one who did not report gender; they were initially not aware of the study’s focus.

They completed a 20-item gender harassment questionnaire about their high school experiences and a 12-item questionnaire about their schools’ actions or inactions. Trauma symptoms were assessed with a 40-item checklist that explores common posttraumatic symptoms such as headaches, memory problems, anxiety attacks, nightmares, sexual problems and insomnia.

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An analysis that considered gender, race, age, gender harassment, institutional betrayal, and the interaction of gender harassment and institutional betrayal significantly predicted trauma-related symptoms, but, Lind said, a subtle surprise emerged.

“We expected to find an interaction effect showing that the relationship between gender harassment and trauma-related symptoms depends on institutional betrayal, such that people who experience high gender harassment have different levels of symptoms depending on how much institutional betrayal they experience,” she said. “Instead we found that gender harassment and institutional betrayal are independently related to trauma-related symptoms.”

That issue, Lind said, needs to be further explored. It’s possible, she said, that the pool of students wasn’t large enough or that the measures used were not robust enough. Another factor may be that the study focused more on institutional betrayal than impacts of institutional courage.

“This is like measuring mood and only letting respondents report negative to neutral mood – you’re missing a bunch of variability that might be captured if you extended the scale to go from negative to positive,” she said. “Expanding the scale to capture institutional courage might increase the likelihood of identifying a meaningful interaction.”

Experiences of gender harassment, especially for those who encountered it repeatedly, were associated with clinically relevant levels of trauma-related symptoms in college.

How schools might respond to the issues identified in the study should begin with listening to students, Lind said. Asking about problems and listening to responses is an example of institutional courage. Interventions that do not do so often fail.

“Schools should engage in self-study, including interviews, focus groups and anonymous surveys of students, and they should take students’ reports and suggestions seriously,” Lind said. “When you’re trying to intervene in adolescence, you’ll do better if you demonstrate respect for teens’ autonomy and social status.”

Researchers have not focused on such issues in high schools, where students are emerging into early adulthood from the physical, neurological and psychological changes occurring in adolescence, said Freyd, a pioneer in academic research on issues of sexual harassment, institutional betrayal and institutional courage.

“Until now, all of the education-focused institutional betrayal research has considered the experiences of undergraduate and graduate-level college students, as well as those of faculty members,” she said. “There also has been work on these issues in the military and workplaces, but we don’t know a lot about gender harassment or institutional betrayal in adolescence.”

UO doctoral student Alexis A. Adams-Clark, a member of Freyd’s lab, was the study’s third co-author.

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