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Media shape public opinion about surrogacy and homosexuality

One issue that is beginning to arouse public debate about which most audiences do not have any direct experience is the matter of surrogacy on the part of homosexual couples.

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The media play a key role in informing society and at the same time an important role in shaping perceptions and judgements about social issues, particularly concerning issues on which there is insufficient knowledge and/or a lack of experience. And one issue that is beginning to arouse public debate about which most audiences do not have any direct experience is the matter of surrogacy on the part of homosexual couples.

This was the focus of a research that eyed to explore how public opinion on surrogacy and gay parenthood is shaped. Carried out by Rafael Ventura and Carles Roca-Cuberes, researchers with the Department of Communication at UPF, together with Xosé Ramón Rodríguez-Polo, a researcher at Rey Juan Carlos de Madrid University, this was published in Journal of Homosexuality.

In Spain for instance, according to the barometer of the Sociological Research Centre, 86.8% of the population claims to get its news via the television. Although in principle television news programs aim to produce the most objective content possible, it is also true that they construct discourses about reality that may promote certain behaviors and attitudes by their audiences.

“In our study, we focus on the formation of attitudes about surrogacy and gay parenthood analyzing the audience’s interpretation of a news item broadcast on Spanish television,” said Rafael Ventura, first author of the paper.

To test this, the authors set up four discussion groups consisting of 6 to 10 people each, two adults (40- 60 years) and two younger people (20-30 years), a total of 17 women and 16 men, from Barcelona and Madrid. They then analyzed each person’s interpretation of a television news item broadcast in Spain to perform a qualitative content analysis of the discourse produced by the participants.

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The researchers based themselves on three main issues: the values transmitted by the media about surrogacy; what relationship they attributed to surrogacy and gay parenthood, and finally, if the interpretation of a news item differed according to the age of the audience.

To study the formation of participants’ attitudes, the researchers used a Spanish news item about surrogacy that included all of these key issues. The selected item was broadcast at prime time on TV1, the news program with the largest audience in Spain.

The news item dealt with the fact that surrogacy is illegal in Spain and, therefore, there are increasing numbers of Spanish couples, including homosexual couples, traveling to other countries, such as India, to have a child. The story was illustrated with a real case and the argument revolved around the desire of homosexual couples to become parents and the consequences for the women involved.

Initially, the two groups of participants (adults and youths) stated that they had limited data and a lack of contextual information that prevented them from forming an opinion based on the evidence explained in the news. Nevertheless, both groups agreed in that they rejected surrogacy after watching the news programme, mainly due to the way the news had presented the Indian women: as victims of exploitation and in a situation of poverty. The authors found that as the debate progressed, there was greater rejection towards homosexuals due to the fact that they were taking advantage of the poverty of women in countries like India to achieve their goal of having a baby.

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The results show that the focus of the content of the news put to debate contributed to defending an attitude of the repudiation of surrogacy, with a feeling of aversion that also extended to gay couples wishing to become parents.

“As we saw in the results of our study, attributing responsibilities, placing the debate on surrogacy on the conflict of homosexual couples who want to become parents, on the one hand, and the feminist rejection of the commodification of the woman’s body, on the other, may have very negative consequences for the traditional link between the feminist movement and the LGBT community,” said the authors. “It may feed discriminatory attitudes towards gay couples and create a clash between the feminist and the LGBT causes, forcing the public to adopt a position in favor of one of the two sides, as it is interpreted as a controversy,” they add.

There is still no law specifically dealing with surrogacy in the Philippines, even if this has been entering the Filipino news cycle/awareness because of the involvement of well-to-do people, including Mar Roxas and Korina Sanchez, as well as gay fragrance entrepreneur Joel Cruz.

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Implementing rules and regulations of new HIV Law signed

The new law provides for the lowering of age of consent from 18 to 15 years old. This law also ensures the development of program for treatment, care and support for persons confined in closed-setting institutions. It likewise provides stiffer penalties for breaching confidentiality with regards to ones’ HIV status.

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The Implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Republic Act 11166, otherwise known as the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act, which eyes to address the growing HIV epidemic in the country, has been signed. The new law repealed RA 8504.

“We are confident that the new law will forge a stronger alliance among government, private sector, civil society organizations, faith-based organizations, media and all stakeholders in order for us to overcome the HIV epidemic,” Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said.

It should be noted that in 2008, an average of one infection per day was recorded. This has now ballooned to 36 new infections per day as of April 2019.

“We should act now as fast as we can since 29% (240/840) of all new confirmed HIV cases last April 2019 affect our youth aged 15-24 years old,” Duque said.

In order to address the worsening situation, the new law provides for the lowering of age of consent from 18 to 15 years old. The law specifically provides for intervention through the matured minor doctrine and the provision of proxy consent for children below 15 years old.

The education component of the program was also strengthened by mandating learning institutions to focus not only on the right information on HIV and AIDS but also in human rights principles to reduce stigma and discrimination. HIV education will also cover Indigenous Peoples (IP) communities and communities in the geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDA).

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A “Comprehensive Intervention” shall be provided to the key affected population which includes males having sex with males (MSM), sex workers, people who inject drugs (PWID), transgender people, and overseas Filipino workers (OFW). The law also provides care and support to all people living with HIV (PLHIV), their affected families and especially the orphaned children.

This law also ensures the development of program for treatment, care and support for persons confined in jails, rehabilitation centers and other closed-setting institutions. It likewise provides stiffer penalties for breaching confidentiality with regards to ones’ HIV status, and much higher liability for those who have access to this information.

No PLHIV shall be denied or deprived of private health insurance under a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) and private life insurance coverage under a life insurance company on the basis of a person’s HIV status.

“The active involvement of all HIV and AIDS stakeholders will be the key element for the success in the implementation of this new law in achieving the overall health of the PLHIV Communities. This law ensures the effective implementation of our country response to HIV and AIDS through the Philippine National AIDS Council,” Duque concluded.

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Teens ‘mocked’ by their parents are at greater risk for bullying, victimization

Derisive parenting fosters dysregulated anger in adolescent children. Dysregulated anger is indicative of difficulties regulating emotion, which typically result in negative emotions, verbal and physical aggression, and hostility. Increases in dysregulated anger, in turn, place adolescents at greater risk for bullying and victimization, and for becoming bully-victims .

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New evidence suggests that adolescent bullying and victimization may have origins in the home. Many bullies have parents who are hostile, punitive and rejecting. Researchers from Florida Atlantic University’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, and Uppsala University in Sweden, have identified another type of parenting that contributes to peer difficulties: those who direct derision and contempt at their children.

Derisive parents use demeaning or belittling expressions that humiliate and frustrate the child, without any obvious provocation from the child. These parents respond to child engagement with criticism, sarcasm, put-downs and hostility, and rely on emotional and physical coercion to obtain compliance.

The study, published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, emphasizes the emotional underpinnings of peer difficulties. The researchers followed 1,409 children for three consecutive years from grades 7 to 9 (ages 13-15 years).

Findings show that derisive parenting fosters dysregulated anger in adolescent children. Dysregulated anger is indicative of difficulties regulating emotion, which typically result in negative emotions, verbal and physical aggression, and hostility. Increases in dysregulated anger, in turn, place adolescents at greater risk for bullying and victimization, and for becoming bully-victims (bullies who also are victimized by other bullies).

The latter finding is noteworthy given that past research indicates that bully-victims are at the greatest risk for poor mental health, behavioral difficulties, and suicidal thoughts when compared to “pure” victims, “pure” bullies, or non-victims. Identification of the family-specific origins of bully-victim status may be a key step in limiting or preventing such poor outcomes.

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Importantly, these findings held after controlling for parenting behaviors implicated in child adjustment, such as warmth, control and physical punishment. This study suggests that derisive behavior is a unique form of parenting that increases the risks that adolescent children will adopt inappropriate anger management strategies that increases their risk for peer difficulties.

“Inappropriate interpersonal responses appear to spread from parents to children, where they spawn peer difficulties. Specifically, derisive parenting precipitates a cycle of negative affect and anger between parents and adolescents, which ultimately leads to greater adolescent bullying and victimization,” said Brett Laursen, Ph.D., co-author and a professor of psychology in FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. “Our study is important because it provides a more complete understanding of how parents’ belittling and critical interactions with adolescents thwart their ability to maintain positive relationships with peers.”

Daniel J. Dickson, Ph.D., Department of Psychology at Concordia University, is the senior author of the study.

“Implications from our study are far-reaching: practitioners and parents should be informed of the potential long-term costs of sometimes seemingly harmless parenting behaviors such as belittlement and sarcasm,” said Dickson. “Parents must be reminded of their influence on adolescents’ emotions and should take steps to ensure that adolescents do not feel ridiculed at home.”

Co-authors are Olivia Valdes, a Ph.D. student in FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, and Håkan Stattin, Ph.D, Department of Psychology at Uppsala University.

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Loneliness heightened among gay men in certain age group

Research shows men in 25-29 age group are eight times more likely to feel criticized and rejected than younger men.

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Gay men aged 25-29 are eight times more likely to feel criticized and rejected compared with men aged 20 or younger, new University of Hawaii at Manoa research shows.

The reason may be that 25- to 29-year-olds tend to be out of college and in the workforce, where they may face overwhelming social discrimination, according to a study co-authored by Assistant Professor Thomas Lee in the Office of Public Health Studies at the Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work.

The study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, is part of a recent effort among public health researchers to develop a better understanding of the mental health of the LGBTQ community.

Lee and colleagues administered questionnaires to 367 gay men in China. Some of the surveys were conducted face-to-face, but the majority were administered online. More specifically, the link to the survey was shared with live-chat applications specifically designed for gay men in China.

The men answered questions that allowed the researchers to measure feelings of loneliness and whether the study subjects were experiencing depression, anxiety or other psychological problems.

Several of the questions were aimed at measuring the men’s degree of “interpersonal sensitivity,” defined as a person’s propensity to perceive and elicit criticism and rejection from others. People who are high in interpersonal sensitivity may have difficulty in communicating with others and are susceptible to depression and anxiety.

The findings showed that gay men who had no siblings or college degree and who earned less money than average were more likely have a high degree of interpersonal sensitivity and loneliness. Also, those who had experienced more sexual partners during their lifetimes showed lower measures of interpersonal sensitivity and loneliness.

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“There is great pressure from society and family that may be imposed on (Chinese) gay men,” said Lee. “We found that these men feel criticized and rejected, and that these feelings are linked with loneliness.”

There was no link between disclosing one’s sexual identity to others and men’s degree of interpersonal sensitivity, however, men who had disclosed their sexual identity to others felt less lonely.

“Traditional… culture puts a strong emphasis on family inheritance and reproduction,” said Lee. “Our results suggest that we need to be more aware of… gay men’s mental health and that everyone, especially family members, should offer more support to… gay men and work to create a social environment that is more open and inclusive.”

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Virtual worlds can help social movements raise awareness and create safe spaces – study

Going forward, social movements may make use of other emerging technologies, such as virtual or augmented reality. Insights from this study could provide the analytical tools necessary to understand how different technologies impact LGBT and other movements.

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Online virtual worlds can help social movements raise awareness and create safe spaces for their members, according to a new study by an academic at the University of East Anglia (UEA).

The research examined how an LGBT group used a virtual world for their own cause, which was different to its intended design. These worlds are immersive, three-dimensional environments, where users create an avatar, or character, that enables them to interact with other users.

The study, by Dr Brad McKenna of UEA’s Norwich Business School, focused on the game World of Warcraft (WoW) and analyzed data from an LGBT ‘guild’ within it. It looked at how its members used the technology compared to ordinary game play.

The guild, known as ‘Alpha’ for the purposes of the study, was created to “better service the LGBT community and offer a safe, inclusive place to game for members of any sexual orientation or gender identity”. The group was the largest special interest guild in WoW, with up to 7800 members during the course of the study. There were approximately 15,000 characters in the guild, as it was possible for one player to have multiple characters.

The group held regular activities inside the game, including an annual Pride parade, model competitions and dance parties. The movement also had a website with discussion forums.

The findings, published in Information Systems Journal, show how members used the game’s features and virtual environment for their specific needs and objectives. For example, in ordinary game play, players have spells they can use in battle against others. However, the members used these as lighting effects to create an atmosphere during the parade and dance party.

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They also show how the group navigated changes made to the game by the developers. On one occasion, the parade route had to move when the virtual landscape it previously went through changed after an update. 

Another change involved introducing a cap on the size of guilds because the developers found that large ones did not function well in the system. This saw the group having to come up with creative ways to continue their existence without losing members.

To conduct his research Dr McKenna joined the LGBT guild, with permission from its leaders, and participated in their movement over a period of 18 months. He created an avatar, which became his identity when in WoW.

“This study provides some practical examples of how virtual worlds can act as a safe haven for social movements or to create awareness, for example about for LGBT issues, within a broader gaming community,” said Dr McKenna, a lecturer in information systems. “Many group members came from countries that do not support LGBT rights, so this was a safe space for them.

“By understanding the affordances, or possible actions, available to them groups can shape how the world works for them and think of more creative uses of the technology and features, using them in a much different way, without involvement from the game’s developers.

“This paper also raises some important issues for virtual world social movements. If a movement wants to use these worlds to advance their cause, their leaders and members need to be aware of what the virtual world can offer them and how they could use that to their advantage, or be aware of actions which could potentially be a hindrance to their cause.

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“Social movements also need to be aware of the type of virtual world they might use, for example a social virtual world, or a gaming virtual world, as depending on the type, different limitations or affordances might impact the movement.”

Other social movements have previously used WoW, for example to raise awareness for breast cancer, for political rallies and environmental protests. Dr McKenna said the findings may have implications for other users of virtual worlds and businesses.

“Different online communities could use these ideas, look at how the technology can be shaped for their causes. For organisations which operate within virtual worlds, these findings begin to shed light on the issues faced, and suggests that they need to be willing to evolve if they want to continue operating in these environments, which may constantly be changing.

“Going forward, social movements may make use of other emerging technologies, such as virtual or augmented reality. Insights from this study could provide the analytical tools necessary to understand how different technologies impact LGBT and other movements.”

The main sources of data in the study were participant observations, discussion forum data (128,773 posts downloaded), and chat logs. Additional sources included documents from the LGBT movement’s website, other WoW websites, patch notes about changes to the game’s implementation, and informal conversations with other WoW players.

‘Creating Convivial Affordances: a Study of Virtual World Social Movements’, Brad Mckenna, is published in Information Systems Journal.

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Bisexual adults less likely than gay men and lesbians to be ‘out’

Only 19% of those who identify as bisexual say all or most of the important people in their lives are aware of their sexual orientation.

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Bisexual people, believed to account for about four-in-10 LGBT adults, are much less likely than gays and lesbians to be “out” to the important people in their lives. This is according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of survey data from Stanford University.

In “How Couples Meet and Stay Together 2017”, coming out of Stanford University Libraries in Stanford, CA and written by Rosenfeld, Michael J., Reuben J. Thomas, and Sonia Hausen, it was noted that only 19% of those who identify as bisexual say all or most of the important people in their lives are aware of their sexual orientation.

In contrast, 75% of gay and lesbian adults say the same. About one-quarter of bisexual adults (26%) are not “out” to any of the important people in their lives, compared with 4% of gay and lesbian adults. Roughly half of those who are bisexual (54%) are out to some or only a few people.

Coming out is – obviously – a complex experience.

But as early as 2013, in Pew Research Center’s survey of LGBT adults, many bisexuals already stated that they haven’t come out to their parents because they didn’t feel it was important to tell them or the subject never came up. And among those who did come out, bisexual adults reported somewhat different experiences from gays and lesbians.

Around four-in-10 adults who describe themselves as bisexual (43%) say they are sexually attracted to men and women equally. Around the same number (40%) say they are attracted mostly to the opposite gender, and 4% report feeling attracted only to the opposite gender. Twelve percent and 1%, respectively, say they are attracted mostly or only to their own gender.

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Among those with partners, many more bisexual adults are married or in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex than with someone of the same sex (88%).

The earlier, 2013 survey also found that LGBT adults said that bisexual men faced less social acceptance than bisexual women, gay men and lesbians. Only 8% of LGBT adults felt that there was “a lot of social acceptance of bisexual men”, while 46% said there was only “a little or no social acceptance” for the same group. Among bisexuals, 40% reported in 2013 that they had ever been subjected to slurs or jokes, while 31% said they had been rejected by a friend or family member because of their bisexuality.

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Bullying more prevalent in birth-assigned females and out individuals – study

A study found that bullying is more prevalent in birth-assigned females and in out individuals, commonly consisting of homophobic/transphobic (particularly in socially transitioned individuals) or appearance-related (particularly in out individuals) name calling.

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Non-conformity and bullying.

A study found that bullying is more prevalent in birth-assigned females and in out individuals, commonly consisting of homophobic/transphobic (particularly in socially transitioned individuals) or appearance-related (particularly in out individuals) name calling.

In “Experiences and Psychological Wellbeing Outcomes Associated with Bullying in Treatment-Seeking Transgender and Gender-Diverse Youth” – written by Gemma L. Witcomb, Laurence Claes, Walter Pierre Bouman, Elena Nixon, Joz Motmans and Jon Arcelus; and published in LGBT Health – it was also noted that with the bullying, “individuals who reported having experienced bullying showed greater anxiety symptomology and also self-reported anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem as effects of bullying. Birth-assigned females also reported greater effects on family relationships and social life.”

The study noted that bullying in the adult transgender population is actually already well-documented, and yet “less is known about bullying in transgender and gender-diverse (TGD) youth.”

Fortunately, studies have begun to explore experiences of bullying and the associated psychological distress in TGD youth, even if they “often fail to distinguish among the separate groups within LGBT samples.”

It is this that the study sought to explore: the prevalence, nature and outcomes of bullying in TGD youth attending a transgender health service particularly in the UK, taking into account birth-assigned sex and out and social transition status.

A total of 274 TGD people aged 16–25 years participated in the study. The majority of participants (86.5%) reported having experienced bullying, predominantly in school.

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These findings “indicate very high levels of bullying within the young TGD population”. and even those attending a transgender health service, “which affects wellbeing significantly.”

As such, the researchers are calling for “more intervention work and education… to be introduced in schools to reduce bullying.”

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