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Lawmakers come on board on LGBT hate crimes

Following consultations with sectoral organizations and stakeholders, lawmakers are now eyeing at pushing for legislations that will “work towards the achievement of genuine equality and ultimate protection of fundamental rights of all persons against hate-motivated crimes.”

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Philippine Congress

The seven-member Makabayan bloc, Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez and Dinagat Islands Rep. Kaka Bag-ao in the House of Representatives took measures to address hate-motivated crimes and violence directed at the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in the Philippines.

The Makabayan bloc – composed of Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon, Bayan Muna Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate, Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap, ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio, and Gabriela Reps. Luz Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus – filed a resolution on October 29 to seek for a congressional inquiry “on reported cases of hate crimes committed partly or wholly on the basis of prejudice over a person’s age, race, religion, sexuality, gender preference, ethnicity, nationality, disability, political belief or affiliation with the end view of crafting a landmark legislation against said hate crimes.”

Following a series of consultations with sectoral organizations and stakeholders, the Makabayan solons filed House Resolution No. 1625 for Congress to perform its “constitutional obligation to work towards the achievement of genuine equality and ultimate protection of fundamental rights of all persons against hate-motivated crimes.”

Meanwhile, “Akbayan is seriously studying the possibility of filing an anti-hate measure that will increase the protection of members of the LGBT community who remain vulnerable to various forms of violence and crimes due to their sexual preference. We have tinkered with this before and Jennifer’s killing has created a new urgency,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez added that their bill under consultation aims to achieve three reforms in strengthening protection of the LGBT community.

Firstly, the bill is being studied in relation to the constitutional freedoms in the 1987 Philippine Constitution, including freedom of expression. This is to ensure that it will not muzzle nor penalize the people’s freedom of expression but violent crimes which target, among others, people because of their SOGIE.

Secondly, “we are studying further revisions to the Revised Penal Code which will either (a) include as an aggravating circumstance to crimes against persons or property the circumstance of committing such crimes because of a bias against one’s SOGIE or (b) qualify a crime against person or property to a different crime of higher penalty whenever the perpetrator committed the crime because of a bias against one’s SOGIE (for example, instead of homicide the crime will be murder), with a presumption that whenever the victim is an LGBTI person then the crime is already qualified.”

Lastly, “we are also studying the manner by which ‘hate crimes’ may be proven, given the existing definitions of crimes.”

PARTICIPATORY APPROACH

Ridon, the lead author of HR 1625, explained that there is a need for “active engagement and participation” of sectors that will be covered by the envisioned anti-hate crime bill.

“That’s why we are starting the process with a resolution in aid of legislation. We don’t want to jump off the boat and go file a bill without providing maximum room for participation of organizations of the LGBT community, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, and other sectors covered by the envisioned legislation,” Ridon said.

HR 1625 traces the history of anti-hate crime legislation in the world, and aims to come up with a committee report that will serve as basis for drafting the Anti-Hate Crime Law.

“In HR 1625, we identified key issues that need to be covered by the Anti-Hate Crime Bill. This includes criminal-penalty-enhancement provisions, provisions that require administrative agencies to collect hate crime statistics, and of course provisions on education and welfare protection of vulnerable sectors,” Ridon explained.

“We are currently in consultation with the LGBT community for the necessary actions that will put an end to these unwarranted hate-motivated acts and hopefully eliminate further violence and loss of lives among its members. Further, we hope to set in place the fitting penalties that will deter the perpetrators from committing these acts and allow the LGBT people to openly express their sexual orientation,” Gutierrez said.

PROTECTION FOR VULNERABLE SECTORS

The seven lawmakers of Makabayan said that their resolution will pave the way in the crafting of a law that will protect vulnerable sectors from hate crimes or “criminal offenses done based on actual or perceived prejudice over an individual’s race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, national origin, or ethnicity.”

“The death of transgender Filipina Jennifer Laude allegedly in the hands of a US Marine has reignited the campaign to junk the Visiting Forces Agreement and likewise spurred public demand for the legislation of an anti-hate crime law,” the Makabayan solons noted in HR 1625.

“Recent deaths of members of the LGBT community points to the urgency of an anti-hate crime legislation. In the past, members of vulnerable groups do not only feel discrimination in employment and social services, but also fall victim to crimes motivated by hate over their protective characteristic. It is timely and of utmost necessity that the State, through Congress, enact and enforce anti-hate crime laws for the protection of vulnerable sectors and to determine criminal liabilities of offenders,” they further noted.

SWIFT PASSAGE OF ANTI-DISCRIMINATION BILL

Gutierrez and Bag-ao also urged Congress to swiftly and immediately pass the Anti-Discrimination Bill, saying this will usher in much-needed action to secure the rights and welfare of the LGBT community.

Filed on July 1, 2013, House Bill 110 seeks to prohibit all forms of discrimination and to provide penalties against discriminatory practices on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI).

According to Section 3(c) of the bill: “Discrimination shall be understood to imply any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference which is based on any ground such as sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, whether actual or perceived, and which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment, an equal footing of all rights and freedoms.”

“This measure will ultimately bring forth a culture of acceptance of LGBTs in our society. It does not prescribe special rights. Instead, it cements into our legal system the basic rights found in the Constitution and in international agreements,” said Bag-ao, the principal author of the bill.

Bag-ao called on her fellow legislators to act against any form of discrimination against the LGBT community.

“It is our duty to create safer spaces for Filipino LGBTs. By passing legislation against discrimination and hate crimes, we can ensure that the rights, welfare, and dignity of our fellow citizens are upheld and protected. Now, more than ever, concrete action on the part of Congress is an imperative. Clearly, in the murder of Jennifer, our struggle goes beyond discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. Our fight extends to hate that is translated into violence,” Bag-ao said.

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Negative transgender-related media messages linked with adverse mental health outcomes

A study found that exposure to negative media messages was associated with symptoms of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and psychological distress among transgender adults.

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Exposure to negative media messages from multiple sources necessitates multilevel interventions to improve the mental health of transgender people and curb stigma at its source.

This is according to a study – “Negative Transgender-Related Media Messages Are Associated with Adverse Mental Health Outcomes in a Multistate Study of Transgender Adults” by Jaclyn M.W. Hughto, David Pletta, Lily Gordon, Sean Cahill, Matthew J. Mimiaga and Sari L. Reisner and published in LGBT Health – that eyed to examine the extent to which transgender people have observed negative transgender-related messages in the media, and the relationship between negative media message exposure and the mental health of transgender people.

For this study, 545 transgender adults completed an online survey assessing demographics, negative transgender-related media messages, violence, and mental health. Separate multivariable logistic regression models examined the association of frequency of negative media exposure and clinically significant symptoms of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and global psychological distress.

The study found that the mean frequency of exposure to negative transgender-related media was 6.41 (SD = 2.9) with 97.6% of the sample reporting exposure to negative media depictions of transgender people across a range of mediums.

In separate multivariable models adjusted for age, gender identity, race, education, income, and childhood/adult abuse, more frequent exposure to negative depictions of transgender people in the media was significantly associated with clinically significant symptoms of depression (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 1.18; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.08–1.29; p = 0.0003); anxiety (aOR = 1.26; 95% CI = 1.14–1.40; p < 0.0001); PTSD (aOR = 1.25; 95% CI = 1.16–1.34; p < 0.0001); and global psychological distress (aOR = 1.28; 95% CI = 1.15–1.42; p < 0.0001).

In a gist: The present study found that exposure to negative media messages was associated with symptoms of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and psychological distress among transgender adults sampled even after controlling for known sources of poor mental health (i.e., physical and sexual abuse).

The study recommended for structural interventions that aim to increase transgender visibility by featuring positive, gender-affirming depictions of transgender people to help to counteract the harms of negative media messages both directly and indirectly.

“In terms of direct benefits, structural interventions depicting transgender people in a positive light could increase transgender people’s self-esteem and diminish internalized stigma. Such interventions could also indirectly improve the wellbeing of transgender people by helping cisgender individuals develop positive attitudes toward transgender people, in turn leading to reductions in enacted stigma,” stated in the study.

Clinical interventions can also help transgender people cope with the stress of being exposed to negative transgender-related media.

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Sexual minority adults more likely to experience harms from other people’s drinking

An interaction of sexual identity with the respondent’s own drinking showed that the increased odds of harm associated with heavy drinking was even greater among sexual minority respondents (both bisexual and lesbian/gay respondents) than among heterosexual respondents.

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Sexual minority adults may be more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to experience harms from other people’s drinking. 

This is according to a study – “Harm from Others’ Drinking Among Sexual Minority Adults in the United States” by Katherine J. Karriker-Jaffe, Laurie Drabble, Karen F. Trocki, Tonda L. Hughes, and Thomas K. Greenfield and published in LGBT Health – that compared prevalence of second-hand alcohol harms for sexual minority and heterosexual adults. Data from the 2014–15 US National Alcohol Survey (n = 5516; 10.2% sexual minority adults) were analyzed using logistic regression with survey weights to account for sampling and nonresponse. Multivariable models included simple main effects of sexual identity on the past-year harm outcomes, as well as interactions of drinker status with sexual identity.

In bivariate results stratified by sex, bisexual women were significantly more likely than heterosexual women to report all five types of harms. Lesbian respondents had greater odds relative to heterosexual women of reporting harm by a friend/coworker and assault or physical harm by a drinker.

Bisexual identity among men was associated with greater odds of reporting assault/physical harm relative to heterosexual men in bivariate models. In adjusted models, differences by sexual identity were substantially reduced, with significance remaining only for friend/coworker-perpetrated harms and assault/physical harm among lesbian respondents compared with heterosexual women.

For assault/physical harm, an interaction of sexual identity with the respondent’s own drinking showed that the increased odds of harm associated with heavy drinking was even greater among sexual minority respondents (both bisexual and lesbian/gay respondents) than among heterosexual respondents.

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Sexual harassment claims by less feminine women perceived as less credible

Women who do not fit female stereotypes are less likely to be seen as victims of sexual harassment, and if they claim they were harassed, they are less likely to be believed.

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Women who do not fit female stereotypes are less likely to be seen as victims of sexual harassment, and if they claim they were harassed, they are less likely to be believed, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

“Sexual harassment is pervasive and causes significant harm, yet far too many women cannot access fairness, justice and legal protection, leaving them susceptible to further victimization and harm within the legal system,” said Cheryl Kaiser, PhD, of the University of Washington and a co-author of the study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. “Our research found that a claim was deemed less credible and sexual harassment was perceived to be less psychologically harmful when it targeted a victim who was less attractive or did not act according to the stereotype of a typical woman.”

Sexual harassment is a widespread social problem with a broad range of harmful consequences, including decreased engagement with and performance in work and school, worse mental and physical health, and increased economic instability, according to Kaiser. 

“Perceiving sexual harassment involves noticing a behavior that might qualify as harassment and linking that behavior to gender-based group membership,” said co-author Bryn Bandt-Law, a doctoral student at the University of Washington. “We wanted to understand what happens when the victim does not look or act like a stereotypical member of that gender-based group.”

In Western societies, stereotypical women tend to be perceived as attractive, thin, relatively young and dressing in a feminine way. Stereotypically feminine hobbies include shopping, yoga or watching romantic movies, rather than stereotypically masculine hobbies such as fishing, contact sports or watching violent action movies. 

The researchers conducted a series of 11 multi-method experiments, involving more than 4,000 total participants, designed to investigate the effect a victim’s fit to the concept of a typical woman had on participants’ view of sexual harassment and the consequences of that mental association.

In five of the experiments, participants read scenarios in which women either did or did not experience sexual harassment. Participants then assessed the extent to which these women fit with the idealized image of women, either by drawing what they thought the woman might look like or selecting from a series of photos. Across all the experiments, participants perceived the targets of sexual harassment as more stereotypical than those who did not experience harassment.

In the next four experiments, participants were shown ambiguous sexual harassment scenarios, such as a boss inquiring about a woman’s dating life. These scenarios were paired with descriptions or photos of women who were either stereotypical or not. The participants then rated the likelihood that the incident constituted sexual harassment. 

“We found that participants were less likely to label these ambiguous scenarios as sexual harassment when the targets were non-stereotypical women compared with stereotypical women, despite the fact that both stereotypical and non-stereotypical targets experienced the same incident,” said Jin Goh, PhD, of Colby College and another author of the study.

The final two experiments found that sexual harassment claims were viewed as less credible and the harassment less likely to be recognized as psychologically harmful when the accuser adhered less to the female stereotype, even though the claims were identical.

“Our findings demonstrate that non-stereotypical women who are sexually harassed may be vulnerable to unjust and discriminatory treatment when they seek legal recourse,” said Bandt-Law. “If women’s nonconformity to feminine stereotypes biases perceptions of their credibility and harm caused by harassment, as our results suggest, it could prevent non-stereotypical women who are sexually harassed from receiving the civil rights protections afforded to them by law.”  

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Emotionally neglected or severely sexually abused girls report riskier sexual behavior

A noteworthy finding was that adolescents categorized as having had moderate emotional neglect without abuse, as well as those categorized as having experienced severe sexual abuse, reported more sexual risk behaviors than peers who reported low maltreatment. Those with severe sexual abuse also reported the fastest increase of sexually risky behaviors over time.

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Girls who are emotionally neglected or severely sexually abused early in their lives report riskier sexual behaviors during adolescence, Mount Sinai researchers report. The findings highlight the need–and suggest the potential for tailored approaches–to promote healthy sexual development in vulnerable populations.

The researchers identified four distinct patterns of neglect and sexual abuse in low-income, predominantly Black and/or Latina girls and young women that led to distinct trajectories of risky sexual behavior during adolescence. Their findings were published in Child Development in January.

The study was the first of its kind to identify categories of maltreatment among adolescent girls of color in an urban setting that correspond with measurable changes in sexual behavior as they get older. The four categories are low maltreatment, moderate emotional neglect only, severe physical and emotional abuse, and severe sexual abuse.

The study examined how different categories of maltreatment were related to changes in risky sexual behaviors between ages 13 and 23. Risky sexual behaviors included not using condoms, having five or more lifetime partners, having sex in return for money, having sex with someone known to be infected with a sexually transmitted disease, having a partner at least five years older than themselves, and having sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

A noteworthy finding was that adolescents categorized as having had moderate emotional neglect without abuse, as well as those categorized as having experienced severe sexual abuse, reported more sexual risk behaviors than peers who reported low maltreatment. Those with severe sexual abuse also reported the fastest increase of sexually risky behaviors over time.

The girls who experienced moderate emotional neglect, which is the most common form of child maltreatment, may develop riskier behaviors than their peers who were not neglected because emotional neglect may interfere with the development of a secure bond with a parent and the self-esteem that bond produces; the lack of these may precipitate the onset and risky patterns of sexual behavior during middle adolescence, according to the study. Contrary to other research, the study did not find different sexual behaviors between girls and young women who reported severe physical and emotional abuse and those in the low-maltreatment group.

Given that sexually risky behavior often increases in adolescence and decelerates in young adulthood, effective sexual health intervention programs must be designed and implemented earlier in adolescence, particularly among youth with a history of maltreatment, the researchers say. The results from this longitudinal study can inform tailored prevention and intervention efforts, and clinical diagnostic tools, that recognize the different types of neglect and abuse in adolescents and young adults to meet their individual needs in a developmentally appropriate manner.

According to Li Niu, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in Environmental Medicine and Public Health, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai: “The larger society needs to recognize crucial social forces, such as stigma and victim-blaming, that affect girls’ sexual development, and work together to address factors such as gender inequalities and stereotypes.”

This study measured self-reported childhood maltreatment among 882 sexually active adolescents and young adults every six months between the ages of 13 and 25. The participants were enrolled in an ongoing human papillomavirus surveillance study at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center and were recruited on a rolling basis from 2007 to 2016.

The researchers believe that one outcome from the study could be that primary care physicians conduct interviews with girls about neglect and abuse to identify possible interventions. In addition, the study points to a need for further research into how details such as the relationship of a perpetrator of abuse or the chronicity of the maltreatment, might play in sexually risky behavior.

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Efforts to increase sexual orientation acceptance can address LGBTQ youth suicide

Interventions aimed at increasing sexual orientation acceptance from supportive adults and peers have strong potential to address the public health burden of LGBTQ youth suicide.

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Interventions aimed at increasing sexual orientation acceptance from supportive adults and peers have strong potential to address the public health burden of LGBTQ youth suicide.

This is according to a study – titled: “Association of Sexual Orientation Acceptance with Reduced Suicide Attempts Among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning Youth” – by Amy E. Green, Myeshia Price-Feeney and Samuel H. Dorison and published in LGBT Health.

The researchers noted the relationship between sexual orientation acceptance from others and suicide attempts among LGBTQ youth. So to look into this closely, they analyzed data from a 2018 cross-sectional survey of LGBTQ youth between the ages of 13 and 24 years across the US. Youth reported sexual orientation acceptance levels from parents, other relatives, school professionals, health care professionals, friends, and classmates to whom who they were “out.” Adjusted logistic regression analyses were used to examine the association between sexual orientation acceptance and a past-year suicide attempt.

They found that all forms of peer and adult acceptance were associated with reduced reports of a past-year suicide attempt, with the strongest associations found for acceptance from parents (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 0.52) and straight/heterosexual friends (aOR = 0.54).

Youth who reported high levels of acceptance from any adult had nearly 40% (aOR = 0.61) lower odds of a past-year suicide attempt compared with LGBTQ peers with little to no acceptance. Youth with high levels of acceptance from any peer also had significantly lower odds of reporting a past-year suicide attempt (aOR = 0.55). These relationships remained significant even after controlling for the impact of each form of acceptance, suggesting unique associations with suicide risk for both peer and adult acceptance.

For the researchers, therefore, interventions aimed at increasing sexual orientation acceptance from supportive adults and peers should be considered as these have strong potential to address the public health burden of LGBTQ youth suicide.

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Childhood neglect leaves generational imprint

Early life experiences can have an outsized effect on brain development and neurobiological health.

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Early life experiences can have an outsized effect on brain development and neurobiological health. New research is showing that those effects can be passed down to subsequent generations, reporting that the infant children of mothers who had experienced childhood emotional neglect displayed altered brain circuitry involved in fear responses and anxiety.

The study appears in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, published by Elsevier.

“These results show that our brain development is not only shaped by what happens in our own life, but is also impacted by things that happened to our parents before we were even conceived,” said lead author of the study, Cassandra Hendrix, PhD, Department of Pyschology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA.

Dr. Hendrix and her colleagues studied 48 Black mother-infant pairs starting in the first trimester of pregnancy. Mothers were given a questionnaire to assess childhood trauma (experiences of early abuse or neglect). The mothers were also evaluated for current, prenatal stress levels, and for anxiety and depression. One month after birth, infants underwent a brain scan using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging, a non-invasive technology that could be used while the babies slept naturally.

The researchers focused on brain connections between the amygdala, which is central to processing fearful emotions, and two other brain regions: the prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex. Both areas play a key role in regulating emotions. Babies whose mothers experienced childhood emotional neglect had stronger functional connections between the amygdala and the cortical regions.

After controlling for mothers’ current stress levels, the researchers found that the more emotional neglect a mother had experienced during her own childhood, the more strongly her baby’s amygdala was connected to the frontal cortical regions. Physical abuse or neglect of the mother were not correlated with the stronger connectivity. The findings suggest that childhood emotional neglect has intergenerational effects on brain structure and function.

The significance of the stronger connection remains unclear, said Dr. Hendrix. “The neural signature we observed in the 1-month-old infants of emotionally neglected mothers may be a mechanism that leads to increased risk for anxiety, or it could be a compensatory mechanism that promotes resilience in case the infant has less supportive caregivers. In either case, emotional neglect from a mother’s own childhood seems to leave behind a neural signature in her baby that may predispose the infant to more readily detect threat in the environment almost from birth. Our findings highlight the importance of emotional support early in life, even for subsequent generations.”

This is, of course, an issue that is of importance to the LGBTQIA community, considering LGBTQIA people may have difficult family relationships.

In June 2020, for instance, a global report noted that family members are often the main perpetrators of abuse against lesbians, bisexual women and transgender people.

In the Philippines, the issue is just as complicated. For instance, in December 2020, after seeing abuses experienced by LGBTQIA youth even in the hands of family members, Atty. Clara Rita Padilla, who helms EnGendeRights, Inc., said that “LGBTQIA people in GBV/IPV/FV ought to know that their situation can be managed; they just need to – first – not fear seeking for help.”

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