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Intersex community holds first summit in Phl

In an effort to gather members of the intersex community in the Philippines, thereby discussing issues that are very specific to them and then bringing the same to the fore, Intersex Philippines (IP) organized its very first summit in the country.

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All photos courtesy of Jeff Cagandahan/Intersex Philippines

Making the “I” visible.

In an effort to gather members of the intersex community in the Philippines, thereby discussing issues that are very specific to them and then bringing the same to the fore, Intersex Philippines (IP) organized its very first summit in the country.

According to Jeff Balahadia Cagandahan, who helms IP, exactly because intersex people remain largely invisible, there’s a need to gather “so that they will not feel alone.”

IP – of course – started as an online support group, and this is the first actual physical gathering; and for Cagandahan, “it (has) a different impact when you meet in person.”

For the gathering, IP started at the basics – e.g. while there were lessons on Intersex 101 “because some of them don’t know anything about intersex, basta ang alam lng nila e kakaiba sila (they just knew they’re ‘different’)”; there were also lessons on self-acceptance because “we want them to accept themselves (as intersex people) first because mahirap manghingi ng pagtanggap sa iba kung sarili mismo namin e hirap kaming tanggapin (we can’t make others accept us if we, ourselves, have issues with accepting ourselves).”

As FYI: intersex is NOT identity; it is a medical condition/biological variation. As stated by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights: ” Being intersex relates to biological sex characteristics, and is distinct from a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. An intersex person may be straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual or asexual, and may identify as female, male, both or neither.”

Added the (now-defunct) Intersex Society of North America, “intersex is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.

To stress, from UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights: “Intersex people are born with sex characteristics (including genitals, gonads and chromosome patterns) that do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies. Intersex is an umbrella term used to describe a wide range of natural bodily variations. In some cases, intersex traits are visible at birth while in others, they are not apparent until puberty. Some chromosomal intersex variations may not be physically apparent at all.”

According to experts, between 0.05% and 1.7% of the population is born with intersex traits – the upper estimate is similar to the number of red haired people (similarly stated by the Intersex Campaign for Equality).

Incidentally, Cagandahan – who is now part of Intersex Asia, an Asia-wide support group/network/organization for intersex people – was granted by the Supreme Court (SC) to change his gender marker because of his medical condition.

On December 11, 2003, Cagandahan filed a Petition for Correction of Entries in Birth Certificate before the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 33 of Siniloan, Laguna. Specifically, Cagandahan asked to change his name and his sex (from female to male). Cagandahan claimed that he developed male characteristics while growing up because of a condition called Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH).

The case reached SC, which sided with Cagandahan.

In its 2008 decision, the highest court stated:

“Ultimately, we are of the view that where the person is biologically or naturally intersex the determining factor in his gender classification would be what the individual, like respondent, having reached the age of majority, with good reason thinks of his/her sex. Respondent here thinks of himself as a male and considering that his body produces high levels of male hormones (androgen) there is preponderant biological support for considering him as being male. Sexual development in cases of intersex persons makes the gender classification at birth inconclusive. It is at maturity that the gender of such persons, like respondent, is fixed…

…Respondent is the one who has to live with his intersex anatomy.To him belongs the human right to the pursuit of happiness and of health. Thus, to him should belong the primordial choice of what courses of action to take along the path of his sexual development and maturation. In the absence of evidence that respondent is an incompetent and in the absence of evidence to show that classifying respondent as a male will harm other members of society who are equally entitled to protection under the law, the Court affirms as valid and justified the respondents position and his personal judgment of being a male.”

This decision was written by Associate Justice Leonardo A. Quisumbing; with Conchita Carpio Morales, Dante O. Tinga, Presbitero J. Velasco Jr. and Arturo D. Brion concurring.

Now, Cagandahan wants intersex people – Filipinos, in particular – to know that “God did not make mistakes in creating us. We are God’s masterpiece. Wala kang dapat ikahiya sa pagiging intersex (You have nothing to be ashamed of for being intersex).”

Cagandahan eventually co-formed IP to support those like him; and he keeps stressing that “hindi tayo rare; marami tayo. Ito na rin siguro ung panahon para magsalita tayo (We are not rare; there are many of us. It is time for us to speak out).” For him, “naniniwala ako na kapag mas maraming nagsasalita, mas magiging madali ang hinihingi nating pagbabago (If more people like us speak, it will be easier to get the changes we want to happen).”

For intersex people, or those who want to know more about intersex condition/s and Intersex Philippines, visit Jeff Balahadia Cagandahan’s FB account; email jeffcagandahan@yahoo.com, or contact 09155159819.

"If someone asked you about me, about what I do for a living, it's to 'weave words'," says Kiki Tan, who has been a writer "for as long as I care to remember." With this, this one writes about... anything and everything.

NEWSMAKERS

Trans woman killed; body found in lake in Caloocan

Transgender woman Donna Nierra was killed, with her body found floating in a river in Caloocan City.

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A member of the LGBTQIA community – transgender woman Donna Nierra – was killed, with her body found floating in a river in Caloocan City.

Donna reportedly had head wounds when found on Monday, September 28, at Barangay 176 sa North Caloocan.

When interviewed by ABS-CBN News, Donna’s father – Ricky – said Donna left home to be with friends last Sunday. She wasn’t seen since.

It was Donna’s friends who informed her family that her body was found in the river.

Donna’s family said they are not aware of anyone wanting to harm Donna, as she did not have enemies.

In a tweet, Bahaghari Kamaynilaan – an LGBTQIA group – stated that “it is time the State acknowledge(s) this is an emergency.”

Donna was 23, and the third among six children.

The Caloocan police is now investigating Donna’s death.

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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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NEWSMAKERS

Women more prone to depression in countries with low gender equality rankings

It’s well established that men and women differ in their self-perception, values, and personality traits, as well as stereotypes held with regards to representatives of one or the other sex. But a paper now says that women are more depressive, especially in societies with low gender equality rankings.

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It is well established that men and women differ in their self-perception, values and personality traits, as well as stereotypes held with regards to representatives of one or the other sex. Men typically find themselves more active, whereas women think of themselves as more sociable. But a paper now says that women are more depressive, especially in societies with low gender equality rankings.

Overall, scientists from 24 countries and regions contributed in the paper, including the UK, Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, US, Greece, Germany, Brazil, Pakistan, Malaysia, Australia, Argentina, Georgia, Romania, Armenia, Chile, China (with Hong Kong as a separate participant), Turkey, Italy, and Mexico. Overall, 5,320 students were polled. Associate Professor of the KFU’s Department of Pedagogical Psychology Olga Lopukhova was one of the participants.

The paper showed a slightly different picture of sex differences in self-assessment among students than could be inferred from previous such polls.

“In all sampling groups, we cannot find proof of sex differences in a culture as a whole. Instead, we can see that women see themselves as more interdependent in the conditions of low gender equality and more independent in high gender equality. Men self-assess as more closed, whereas women feel more connected with others. There are no noticeable sex differences in the other two parameters of self-construal or in depressive symptoms,” said Lopukhova.

In the Russian version, the researchers added the interaction of the congruence of students to the culture type and their inclusion into social groups with their psychological wellbeing.

“The problem of psychological wellbeing and its factors becomes more and more popular in Russian and overseas research in light of the ever complicating conditions of personality adaptation to the fast-changing values, social norms, types of behavior, and interaction,” said Lopukhova. “Students are such a social group prone to the risks psychological non-wellbeing because of age factors, their changing social standing, and exposedness to adaptation and information overloads.”

Becoming a student is often inextricably linked with a change in cultural environment, be it moving to another country or city or moving from countryside to an urban dwelling. In any case, a student needs to go through adaptation and acculturation processes while starting their studies.

The Kazanian part of the poll comprised 488 respondents, 249 of whom were female and 239 male, aged from 18 to 28 years, from various universities of the city. The results showed that students with median congruence-to-culture ratios showed better psychological wellbeing. About a third of students had pronounced depressive symptoms and unsteady self-esteem, which calls for more attention to psychological support.

As KFU researchers found, the congruence (internally non-contradictory acceptance) of the normative values of the cultural environment is a cultural predictor of subjective wellbeing. Conversely, non-congruence, i. e. non-acceptance of behavioral norms, is a predictor of non-wellbeing and heightened depressive symptoms. Inclusion in social groups is also a predictor.

Overall, the presence of depressive symptoms is highly dependent on cultural congruence, whereas self-esteem is not.

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NEWSMAKERS

Child neglect linked to teen pregnancy

Neglected children, in particular, experienced higher rates of promiscuity, cannabis abuse and visual hallucinations as a result of their maltreatment.

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Children who experience neglect are seven times more likely than other abuse victims to have a teen pregnancy say University of Queensland researchers.

A study of the long-term impact of child abuse and neglect found that neglect was one of the most severe types of maltreatment when compared to emotional, sexual and physical abuse.

UQ researcher Emeritus Professor Jake Najman said the 20-year study found neglected children had the highest rates of teen pregnancy, and were at a three-to five-fold increased risk of failing school, unemployment, delinquency, anxiety, depression, psychosis and cannabis abuse problems.

“Although most children in our study experienced multiple types of maltreatment, child neglect and emotional abuse were specifically linked to the worst outcomes,” Emeritus Professor Najman said. “Neglected children, in particular, experienced higher rates of promiscuity, cannabis abuse and visual hallucinations as a result of their maltreatment.”

Child neglect was defined in the study as not providing the child with necessary physical requirements (food, clothing or a safe place to sleep) and emotional requirements (comfort and emotional support) a child should receive, as determined by the Queensland Government’s Department of Child Safety.

The study found children who experienced emotional abuse were also worse off than sexually or physically abused children.

“Emotionally abused kids were particularly prone to experiencing harassment, psychosis and injecting drugs,” he said.

Neglected children, in particular, experienced higher rates of promiscuity, cannabis abuse and visual hallucinations as a result of their maltreatment.

The researchers looked at data from 8000 women and children beginning in pregnancy and continuing into early adulthood.

Emeritus Professor Najman initiated the data project called Mater Hospital-University of Queensland Study of Pregnancy (MUSP) in 1981.

The study, led by UQ medical school and PhD graduate Dr Lane Strathearn, anonymously linked the data with state government reports of child abuse and neglect to examine how child maltreatment was associated with a broad range of outcomes over two decades, including cognitive, educational, psychological, sexual and physical health, and addiction.

Data showed that sexual and physical abuse led to fewer negative outcomes overall.

“Sexual abuse victims experienced early sexual activity, teen pregnancy, depressive symptoms, and post-traumatic stress disorder, but to a lesser severity than neglected children,” he said. “Physical abuse specifically tended to result in delinquency and externalising behavior problems as well as drug abuse.”

Emeritus Professor Najman said the findings stressed the need to prioritise support for at-risk parents and young children.

“These problems are extremely serious and difficult to treat in adulthood,” he said. “We need to do all that we can to prevent them from happening in the first place. Other studies have shown that simple interventions, such as nurses doing home visits for pregnant women and new mothers, can reduce rates of child maltreatment and help prevent some of these negative outcomes.”

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NEWSMAKERS

Atheists are more likely to sleep better than Catholics and Baptists

A new study of sleep, religious affiliation, and perceptions of heaven found that atheists and agnostics are significantly more likely to be better sleepers than Catholics and Baptists.

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A new study of sleep, religious affiliation, and perceptions of heaven found that atheists and agnostics are significantly more likely to be better sleepers than Catholics and Baptists.

Preliminary results show that 73% of atheists and agnostics reported getting seven or more hours of nightly sleep, which is recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine to promote optimal health. In contrast, 63% of Catholics and only 55% of Baptists reported sleeping at least seven hours per night. Atheists and agnostics also reported experiencing less difficulty falling asleep.

“Mental health is increasingly discussed in church settings — as it should be — but sleep health is not discussed,” said lead author Kyla Fergason, a student at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. “Yet we know that sleep loss undercuts many human abilities that are considered to be core values of the church: being a positive member of a social community, expressing love and compassion rather than anger or judgment, and displaying integrity in moral reasoning and behavior. Could getting better sleep help some people grow in their faith or become better Christians? We don’t know the answer to that question yet, but we do know that mental, physical and cognitive health are intertwined with sleep health in the general population.”

The study involved a population-based sample of 1,501 participants in the Baylor Religion Survey, which includes questions on religious affiliation, behaviors, and perceptions. Participants also rated their difficulty falling asleep and their average total sleep time.

Results also show that those participants who reported sleeping seven or more hours per night were significantly more likely to believe that they would get into heaven. However, these perceptions of heaven were unrelated to difficulty falling asleep at night. According to the authors, this pattern indicates that better sleep leads to a more optimistic outlook, which in this case is manifesting as positive expectations of getting into heaven.

The research abstract was published in an online supplement of the journal Sleep.

Religion is, of course, a big issue in the LGBTQIA community. In 2019, for instance, a study found that persistence of “conversion therapy” is directly related to societal beliefs about LGBTIQ people and the degree to which their lives are deemed unacceptable within families, faiths, and societies at large.

Not surprisingly, even allies have been calling out faith-based discrimination. In 2019, for instance, Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Grey said that “religion is never an excuse to hate, put down or act indifferent to the suffering of others. I believe God is love, and I will treat everyone – no matter who they are, to best of my ability, with love.”

But even now in the Philippines, parties opposing the passage of the SOGIE Equality Bill frame themselves – and their arguments – as “for equality” and “for human rights for all”, but stress all the same that they do not support granting LGBTQIA people human rights because it supposedly affects their faith.

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NEWSMAKERS

A toxic trio of parental problems strongly linked to childhood sexual abuse

Adults who had parents who struggled with substance dependence, intimate partner violence and mental illness are more than 10 times more likely to have been victims of childhood sexual abuse than those whose parents did not have these problems, once age and race are taken into account.

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Adults who had parents who struggled with substance dependence, intimate partner violence and mental illness are more than 10 times more likely to have been victims of childhood sexual abuse than those whose parents did not have these problems, once age and race are taken into account.

The study, “A Trio of Risk Factors for Childhood Sexual Abuse: Investigating Exposure to Parental Domestic Violence, Parental Addiction and Parental Mental Illness as Correlates of Childhood Sexual Abuse”, by researchers at the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work and Institute of Life Course & Aging, was published online this week in the journal Social Work.

With each risk factor present, the prevalence of childhood sexual abuse increased dramatically. About one percent of men and two percent of women who were not exposed to parental substance dependence, intimate partner violence, or mental illness reported that they had been sexually abused during their childhood.

For those exposed to one of these childhood adversities, the prevalence of childhood sexual abuse nearly tripled to 2.7 percent for men and 6.4 percent for women.

Exposure to two of the risk factors was linked to an additional increase in the prevalence of childhood sexual abuse (5.5 percent for men and 15.5 percent for women). For those who came from chaotic homes where all three main risk factors were present, the prevalence of childhood sexual abuse was 11.6 percent for men and 26.4 percent for women.

“The finding of more than a ten-fold difference in the prevalence of sexual abuse from those exposed to three childhood adversities to those with none was quite shocking,” says co-author Senyo Agbeyaka, a recent University of Toronto MSW graduate who is a social worker at University Health Network. “It is rare to see such a big effect and for the effect to be so consistent for both men and women.”

The researchers decided to conduct the study a second time in a different population-based independent sample in order to see if they could replicate the findings.

“The findings from both surveys were remarkably similar, suggesting that the associations are particularly robust and worthy of further investigation,” Agbeyaka says.

About one percent of men and two percent of women who were not exposed to parental substance dependence, intimate partner violence, or mental illness reported that they had been sexually abused during their childhood.

The study was based on two representative community samples: one study conducted in 2010 with 22,868 adults and the second, in 2012, with a different sample of 29,801 adults. The data were drawn from the Brief Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS) and separate analyses were conducted for each sex. Two major limitations of the study are use of retrospective self-report of these early adversities and a lack of information on the exact timing when they occurred. The findings only indicate correlation and cannot be interpreted as causative.

“Our findings have important implications for improved screening for childhood maltreatment by social workers and other health and education professionals working with children,” says lead author Professor Esme Fuller-Thomson, Director of the Institute of Life Course and Aging at the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work. “We must not underestimate the negative impact of parental intimate partner violence, mental illness and substance dependence on the children in the household. Children are very vulnerable to sexual abuse in households where parents are struggling with several of these adversities.”

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