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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

American Red Cross changes policy on blood donations for gay, bi men

The antiquated, yet still current practice is to ban men who have sex with men (MSM) from donating blood within 12 months of having sex with another man. But starting June 8, the wait time will be cut to three months.

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Image source: Pixabay.com

The American Red Cross has changed its restrictions on blood donations from gay and bisexual men, and other men who have sex with other men (MSM).

Aside from gay and bisexual men, the policy also affects women who have sex with MSM, and donors with recent tattoos or piercings.

The antiquated, yet still current practice is to ban MSM from donating blood within 12 months of having sex with another man. But starting June 8, the wait time will be cut to three months.

This is not a pro-LGBTQIA move, however; instead, there’s severe shortage of blood donations in the US due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Earlier, in April, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated that: “The Covid-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented challenges to the US blood supply. Donor centers have experienced a dramatic reduction in donations due to the implementation of social distancing and the cancellation of blood drives.”

The Red Cross’ policies were established in 1983 based on recommendations from the FDA to prevent the spread of HIV. At that time, the FDA implemented a lifetime ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men.

In 2015, during Pres. Barack Obama’s administration, that policy was eased to a ban on donations from men who had sex with the men in the past year.

In Twitter in 2015, the Philippine Red Cross was asked about its policy re blood donation of members of the LGBTQIA community. In its post, the organization stated that: “We do not discriminate. We allow people to donate blood for as long as they practice healthy lifestyle.”

The wording was – obviously – vague, pandering on non-discrimination yet also complying with the more explicit policy of the Department of Health (DOH) pertaining blood donation of men who have sex with men (including gay and bi men).

According to the National Voluntary Blood Services Program (NVBSP) of the DOH, there are individuals disqualified from donating blood (known as “deferred” donors).

“A prospective donor may be deferred at any point during the collection and testing process. Whether or not a person is deferred temporarily or permanently will depend on the specific reason for disqualification (e.g. a person may be deferred temporarily because of anemia, a condition that is usually reversible). If a person is to be deferred, his or her name is entered into a list of deferred donors maintained by the blood center, often known as the ‘deferral registry’. If a deferred donor attempts to give blood before the end of the deferral period, the donor will not be accepted for donation. Once the reason for the deferral no longer exists and the temporary deferral period has lapsed, the donor may return to the blood and be re-entered into the system.”

As per DOH, those who may be deferred include:

  • Anyone who has ever used intravenous drugs (illegal IV drugs)
  • Men who have had sexual contact with other men
  • Anyone who has ever received clotting factor concentrates
  • Anyone with a positive test for HIV (AIDS virus)
  • Men and woman who have engaged in sex for money or drugs
  • Anyone who has had hepatitis
  • Anyone who has taken Tegison for psoriasis
  • Anyone who has risk factors for variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) or “mad cow”

No explicit policy update has been announced by the Philippine Red Cross, or the DOH on this.

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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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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Unsplash.com

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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