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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Mountain Province: Adventure haven in the uplands

John Ryan N. Mendoza finds joy in the rustic – while enjoying bugnay, encountering the 9:00 PM curfew, and discovering the mini-Amsterdam – up north.

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First published in Zest Magazine

As a development worker for years in the far-flung indigenous communities in the Mindanao mountains, finding nature just right outside one’s doorstep has been a much missed memory after recent city-dwelling years. So when I got the invitation of some friends to travel to the Mountain Province, a landlocked province in the Cordillera Administrative Region in Luzon, to support a community effort to help build a children’s library made of trash filled plastic bottles, I immediately packed and sped to the nearest bus terminal for the P445 trip to Baguio City to rendezvous with the group; and from Baguio, caught the non-aircon buses at the Dangwa Station at the back of the Center Mall for P212 that took us through the six hour treat to the dramatic cliffs and mountains of the Cordilleras.

Bontoc
Poblacion Bontoc is quite a compact town center where the provincial capitol building, plaza, market, municipal hall, and commercial center are located. One can either just hike or ride around in a tricycle for eight pesos per trip. The Bontoc Provincial hospital has been one of the facilities I find notable in the country for their promotion of indigenous and alternative health practices; they encourage utilization of Igorot herbs and practices and a traditional Chinese acupuncturist serves fulltime in their physical therapy unit.

We stayed at the Churya-a Hotel & Restaurant that is just situated along the national road – a five story building with verandas on each floor with a cozy view of the townscape. Nights at the poblacion, though, could be a disappointment to travelers seeking more quiet spaces as townspeople spend their time at karaoke bars and disco live bands in the vicinity. Bontoc has been known as the first mining town in this mountainous region of North Luzon, where locals would travel to for leisure and business.

For breakfast, a must-try would be the early morning coffee at the Bontoc Public Market. Locally sourced and organic, Arabica coffee blends only cost ten pesos per cup.

The bottle library is being constructed in the upland village of Guina-ang which is an hour drive of seven kilometers of winding roads up the mountains. Next to Guina-ang is the village of Mainit, which is known for its hot sulphur springs. We decided to spend one night in these invigorating baths before getting into hard labor. The jeepney ride to Mainit and Guina-ang is parked beside the Shell Gas station in Bontoc. The jeepney leaves usually at 2:30 PM and the next at 4:00 P.M. On days with no rain, one can ride on top of the jeepney and enjoy much of the view of rice terraces while going up. Mainit accommodations priced at P300 per person were very modest. One must be warned that water from the faucet (when flowing) is still sourced from the hot springs, so one could burn him/herself. The hot spring water piped into small pools could be murky, but locals say that it is a good sign that various healthy minerals are present. A warm soak is just a perfect match for this village’s very cool climate.

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Spending many days doing community work in the village of Guina-ang has given me a glimpse of the strong collective indigenous culture among the Bontocs. United by a common history and struggle, the Bontocs have learned to rely on their strength as one community to warmly welcome initiatives from the outside if they are deemed beneficial to all and shun any external action that could put them at a disadvantage. The steady progress of the bottle library is attributed to this cooperative spirit that is shown by each one, young and old, in this mountain village.

Surviving Sagada
This first trip of mine to this part of the Cordilleras would be sorely lacking without experiencing Mountain Province’s pride: Sagada. In Bontoc, jeepneys going up to Sagada are located on the street beside the Walter Clap Centrum. Travelling up to this other mountain town would just take less than an hour.

I first noticed the significant drop in temperature when we arrived. We were there in February, the coldest month, when it is reported that temperatures drop to 12 degrees Celsius at night. I stayed at Alfredo’s Inn for P250 a night for a single bed with a common bathroom with hot showers and Wi-Fi. All other hostels also charge the same rate, though with just minimal differences, such as a viewing deck and better accessibility to the town’s public amenities and attractions.

Sagada is known for its natural wonders of caves, falls, limestone cliffs, rice terraces, burial sites, and other historical landmarks. It has a land area of only 8,000 hectares and most spots can actually be reached by just walking. Mountain bike rentals are also available for P500 per day or P100 per hour. While we managed to find the Echo Valley and the Hanging Coffins on foot, I personally getting a guide mainly for safety. There are two official guide organizations in town–the Sagada Enviromental Guides Association and the Sagada Genuine Guides Association. These associations have done a very competent job in organizing and standardizing their rates for guide services and van rentals. The tourism office ensures transparency through officially posting them and assuring that there are no hidden charges.

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A friend came with me to conquer the cave connection, which can be done anytime between 7:00 AM to 4:00 PM. The caving journey begins at the huge opening of Lumiang Burial Cave, which is a 40 minute walk from the town center. The challenge then starts with a crevice that is narrow enough to fit one person. The passage then led down to various awesome rock formations. Moisture is always present on the rocks, so extra caution and strict compliance to instructions have to be observed to avoid accidents. To facilitate safe access through rocks and tunnels, guides usually offer their shoulder as a “human step stool.” There are also built-in ropes with knots in very challenging areas. There are parts in the exploration that one has to swim during rainy season when some of the pools are filled with water. Yet guides can offer an alternate route if this is not preferred. The tour lasted for four hours until we exited at Sumaging Big Cave. The standard fee is P800 for one to two visitors and P400 for every additional visitor. Another P400 is charged if transportation to and from the town center is availed.

Finishing the cave connection did give me a great sense of physical achievement. That was then I understood what the t-shirt print “I survived Sagada” really meant. Important reminders for anyone who would attempt this feat would be to wear loose shirt, shorts or loose pants, and rubber sandals/flip flops/ rubber shoes. Guides generally do not advise people with fear of heights and/or closed space, heart ailments, asthma, and injuries to go through this long route and would suggest other less strenuous alternatives such as the short course caving.

The short course caving is an hour and 30 minutes of spelunking at the Sumaging Big Cave. This cave has a huge chamber and there’s a small tunnel at the end. To date, guides report that this is the most frequented tourist attraction in Sagada. Visitors are treated to amazing rock formations, huge open chambers and boulders to climb over. Sumaging cave is the habitat to thousands of bats. Visitors usually come upon a dung section in one of the huge spacious chambers. All visitors climb back at the same route. On the way back to town, the guide usually brings guests to the entrance of Lumiang/Burial Cave and drop by at the view point if Sugong Hanging Coffins, which is an hour walk. The guide fee is P500 pesos for up to four visitors.

All these other adventure options are in the list of the things I would love to conquer when I get back (Much cheaper when done in groups):

  • The Sagada to Mainit Hotspring Trekking is a five to seven hour climb and trek through rice terraces, villages, and rivers. Guests would then spend a night at the Mainit hotsprings. Guide fee is P2,500 per visitor.
  • The Mt. Sisipitan trekking is a six hour hike back and forth up a mountain of mossy and pine forests with an elevation of more than 2,200 meters. Guide fee is P2,000 per person.
  • The Danum – Mt. Langsayan trekking is a three to four hour traverse hike through mossy and pine forests that overlook two municipalities and offers a vast view of the rice terraces. Guide fee is P1,000 for up to three visitors.
  • The Marlboro Country trekking is an hour and 30 minutes hike from the mountain’s base to the peak. The Mt. Ampacao trekking is a hike to an elevation of about 1,880 meters. Guide fee for each trek is P600 good for up to 10 visitors.
  • The trip to the Bomod-ok Big Waterfall is a three hour hike back and forth from the Bangaan road. Fee: P600 good for up to 10 visitors.
  • The sunrise viewing at the Kiltepan mountain ranges offers an “aerial” view of rice terraces. The trip starts at 4:30 in the morning. Fee is P450 per ride which is good for up to 10 visitors
  • The sunset viewing at Lake Danum starts at 4:30 in the afternoon. Visitors also stop by at Sagada Pottery. Fee is P500 per ride which is good for up to 10 visitors.
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The cold nights in Sagada actually spur much drinking and videoke singing. You can either have beer or the locally produced bugnay or rice wine. A 9:00 PM curfew is imposed though, and there are only a number of bars open beyond this. One such is the Sagada Pine Café, which is usually packed with booze and music-seeking foreigners and locals. This place has its hushed reputation of being a small Amsterdam in this part of the country. Go and figure out why for yourself.

Waking up in chilly mountain province mornings has been indeed a surreal joy. Watching the early bustle of women harvesting fresh vegetables and the view of faintly sunlit fog covered slopes from afar are exactly the perfect rustic vibes I have and will always long for. Each new start of the day is another beginning for the endless choices of adventures for all types of thrills.

And so one visit to this upland haven can never be enough; one definitely has to come back for more.

A registered nurse, John Ryan (or call him "Rye") Mendoza hails from Cagayan de Oro City in Mindanao (where, no, it isn't always as "bloody", as the mainstream media claims it to be, he noted). He first moved to Metro Manila in 2010 (supposedly just to finish a health social science degree), but fell in love not necessarily with the (err, smoggy) place, but it's hustle and bustle. He now divides his time in Mindanao (where he still serves under-represented Indigenous Peoples), and elsewhere (Metro Manila included) to help push for equal rights for LGBT Filipinos. And, yes, he parties, too (see, activists need not be boring! - Ed).

LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

How to reduce students’ stress during the holiday season

Parents play an essential role in helping the stressed student cope through the holiday by using the following stress management techniques.

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Holiday seasons are usually a time when students get to spend extended quality family time with their loved ones. Whereas these periods are expected to be joyous occasions, they come with many demands such as shopping, gifting and entertaining guests for many Australian households. 

The combined efforts of making the holidays perfect can be too much to handle. Many students may return to school after the holidays having experienced some level of stress. This may also affect them academically. 

Parents play an essential role in helping the stressed student cope through the holiday by using the following stress management techniques.

Acknowledge student’s feelings

Everyone experiences stress at some point or the other. Some amount of stress may be beneficial, but too much stress can take a toll on you both mentally and physically. Let them know that it is normal to feel sadness and anxiety during the holiday season. Let them take the time to express their feelings. 

Manage expectations

Students and parents may have different ideas about how they want to spend the holiday. While parents look forward to spending quality time with their children, the students may want to take up holiday jobs or visit with old friends. 

To avoid disappointment, parents need to discuss with the students beforehand about the holiday and how their plans look like.

Avoid discussing academics during holidays

While some parents check on their children’s performance throughout the semester, some bring up these discussions during holiday seasons. This may be a cause for stress in college students. Parents are encouraged to give them a little space before such discussions.

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Ensure smooth transitions during the holiday season

Most college students are used to living by themselves while on campus. Transitioning back to their parent’s house means following their rules, which may be difficult and may cause a bit of friction. Parents are encouraged to renegotiate some rules to ensure a smooth transition and a happy holiday season.

Open and honest communication

Students are encouraged to communicate with their parents openly about their grades or any other matters that may be stress triggers during the holiday season. Early resolution of such issues will be stress relievers for both the parent and the student. 

Support one another

In situations where the family dynamics in the home have shifted while the student was away in college, parents are encouraged to support their children as they cope with these changes.

Help in environmental adjustments

Some students may feel anxiety and depression because of being away from their college environment. The same may also happen when they return to college after the holiday season. 

Parents are encouraged to keep in contact with the student and encourage them to use the counseling facilities available on campus to manage their anxiety. The use of online services where students can request to make my essay, should be encouraged. The services provide quality writing work and that helps students have free time for themselves.

Students are also encouraged to use online resources to find tips to cope with stress and anxiety while in school.

Giveaways

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Just before schools and colleges break for holidays in Australia, it may be beneficial if they can host annual fundraisers to allow people to donate food, clothes, gifts, or blankets that can be provided to students and families with low income. This can relieve a lot of financial stress for both the students and their families. 

Identify community resources: It may help when the school makes efforts to identify community resources such as shelters, food depositories, safe havens, affordable childcare, and counseling for some of their students that come from low-income families. 

Avoid giving assignments describing winter breaks: Such assignments may be a source of ridicule and embarrassment for the student who did not have a very pleasant holiday season experience. 

Facilitate small group counseling: This is helpful for students that are suffering grief, loss, divorce, or other identified needs. It creates a safe environment for the student to open up and share their feelings with their peers and teachers. Sharing acts as a stress reliever. 

Conclusion

The holiday season can be a trying time, even for a calm and collected person. Though the above techniques may work, they may not give lasting solutions for every family and student. Parents need to allow students to express their sadness, anger, and frustrations. They need to create a safe space for the students to be open at home. 

Seeking social support, counseling and support groups can be of help if the symptoms are too much to bear. Doctors and mental professionals may also help improve the student’s coping skills. The holidays come once a year, have a peaceful holiday!

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AUTHOR BIO
Joshua Robinson is a student counselor who’s on a mission to make the learning process for the college and university students a pleasant experience. He believes that the classroom ecosystem should be free of stress and provide enhanced learning. When he has free time, he likes to work on his mental health blog, watch TV and play the piano.

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Could keystone habits get your life back on track?

There is no substitute for accessing professional help when you’re in a bad way, but there are also very small changes that you can make to support yourself in difficult times.

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Life has a way of going off track sometimes. You start off with good intentions, but you get thrown a curveball and things start falling apart. It could be the loss of a job, someone close to you passing away, getting injured or seriously ill, or the break up of a meaningful relationship.

IMAGE SOURCE: PEXELS.COM

In times of sadness and anger, we can quickly turn to negative coping mechanisms in an attempt to mute our emotions. This can show itself in many ways, from alcohol or drug addiction through to gambling and other reckless behaviors like self harm. Things can spiral if we don’t get the appropriate help quickly, and you could wake up one day and find yourself in a men’s alcohol rehab centre or looking around wondering where it all went wrong. 

What Is A Keystone Habit?

There is no substitute for accessing professional help when you’re in a bad way, but there are also very small changes that you can make to support yourself in difficult times. Keystone habits are minor, everyday behavior, that on the surface of it can seem almost trivial. And yet most of our daily life and wellbeing are the result of the choices we make about the basics – what we eat and drink, how much sleep we get, and whether we take any exercise. These small habits actually make up our daily existence. Sometimes, when there are big issues and life feels like it’s spinning out of control, being able to focus on these small things gives us something that we can control, in a positive way. It may not seem much, but mastering these things gives you the power to make real change in your life, perhaps at a time when you’re trying to recover from something major. And you have nothing to lose by giving them a go.

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Make Your Bed In the Morning

This one is a very easy habit to get started with, and according to studies on high-achieving people, making your bed as soon as you get up in the morning creates a productive mindset which can then spread to other tasks in your day. It’s a very simple thing to tick off, and it instantly makes the room look neater. You get to tick something off straight away, and that creates a positive momentum that helps you to achieve more.

Learn A Few Recipes

Relying on takeout food is easy, but it’s also bad for your waistline and your wallet. Takeout food is packed full of sugar, salt and additives which are poison for your body, and it isn’t a smart move financially. Learning just a handful of simple recipes using fresh ingredients can make a huge difference. You’re supporting your body and your health with nutrients and saving money. If you work all day, invest in a slow cooker – you can prep the ingredients the night before and leave them to cook while you’re out and come home to a nourishing meal that’s ready to eat.

Do Some Morning Exercises

If you make time to fit in some exercise in the morning, you’re likely to notice an immediate impact on your mood. Working out releases endorphins – a feelgood brain chemical that keeps us happy and focused. Morning is the best time to fit in a run or stream a quick HIIT workout, as it gets our bodies going for the day. Make just a little time for it and you’re likely to see a lot of positive benefits.

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Travel

Cry freedom

#Buffalo may (just) be a sleepy city in Upstate #NewYork in the US. But it does have surprises – e.g. The Freedom Wall, which celebrates the nation’s historic and ongoing struggles for political and social equality.

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Chicken lovers may know the story – i.e. that the Buffalo wing was allegedly invented by Teressa Bellissimo in 1964 at Anchor Bar in the sleepy city of Buffalo in the state of New York.

The thing though, is, sans the spiced fried chicken, Buffalo has other surprises – e.g. The Freedom Wall.

Located at the corner of Michigan Avenue and East Ferry Street, The Freedom Wall was built in 2017 by John Baker, Julia Bottoms, Chuck Tingley and Edreys Wajed.

It was commissioned by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery Public Art Initiative, in partnership with the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA).

It was developed in collaboration with the Michigan Street African-American Heritage Corridor and neighborhood stakeholders.

From the get-go, the intention was always clear: The Freedom Wall eyes to celebrate the nation’s historic and ongoing struggles for political and social equality.

The large concrete wall surrounding NFTA’s Cold Spring Bus Maintenance Depot now has portraits of 28 civil rights leaders.

Some of the subjects depicted include:
Rosa Parks
Mama Charlene Caver Miller
William Wells Brown
King Peterson
Angela Davis
Bill Gaiter
Malcolm X
W. E. B. Du Bois
Frank Merriweather
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Mary B. Talbert
Thurgood Marshall
Minnie Gillette
Harriet Tubman

Now, The Freedom Wall continues to encourage conversations about the scope of the long journey toward equality and freedom.

And that a lot of effort still needs to be done to bring about a just and equitable world.

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Travel

Best LGBT nightspots in Vegas

If you’ve been to Vegas before, don’t be fooled into thinking you know all the best places. Bars, hotels and clubs are opening, closing and changing their names all the time.

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Photo by James Walsh from Unsplash.com

Las Vegas – it’s America’s biggest playground and it’s a place where everyone is welcome. Age, sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation, nationality, wealth, social background – none of them matter in Sin City. Vegas has a large and vibrant gay scene, and one that extends far beyond what is affectionately know as the fruit loop around East Naples Drive, near the University of Nevada. 

If you’ve been to Vegas before, don’t be fooled into thinking you know all the best places. Bars, hotels and clubs are opening, closing and changing their names all the time. If you leave it for more than a couple of years between visits, it can feel like you’re entering a completely different city and you have to learn it all again from scratch. 

Five years ago, for example, the Blue Moon resort was the first place on everyone’s list. But Vegas’s first and only specifically gay hotel and resort suddenly closed its doors in October 2014. There have been rumors of it reopening, but none of these have come to fruition as yet. 

Here, we’ve taken a look not just around the fruit loop area but also up and down the strip to find some of the top LGBT nightspots in Glitter Gulch. 

Piranha Nightclub

The exception that proves the rule in the constant swirl of Vegas change, the Piranha nightclub is one constant that has been around for years. The two-floor nightclub is chic, sophisticated and high-energy. The dance floor is always packed, but if you want something a little calmer, it is well worth splashing out on a VIP package. 

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That provides an opportunity to rub shoulders with the rich and famous, as the VIP area and skyboxes are a popular celebrity haunt. As well as offering an amazing view of the dance floor, you can enjoy a luxury patio, accessed through a walk-through aquarium full of – you guessed it – piranhas. Check out the weekend party package for four, which includes two bottles of New Amsterdam along with mixers in the $350 price. 

Piranha is on Paradise Road just to the north of Tropicana Avenue and close to the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. 

Sahara Hotel and Casino

Let’s face it, there’s never been a particularly strong correlation between casino gambling and gay culture. As a result you’re not going to find a “gay casino” as such in Las Vegas, but whether you go to Paris, Wynns or the MGM Grand, you’re guaranteed a warm welcome and a great night’s entertainment. 

Having said that, no city on earth has as much choice as Vegas when it comes to gambling halls, so you can afford to be fussy. The Sahara on Las Vegas Boulevard gets singled out here for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a place with its own unique style. Across the board, casino fashion is changing from the archetypal formal wear of Monte Carlo, but the vibe at Sahara is one that really encourages you to express yourself, so make an effort and get dressed up for the night. 

Secondly, though, once you’ve had enough of the blackjack, roulette and slots, there are few places better to catch a show. The Sahara has hosted some of the absolutely classic gay icons across the years. These include Liberace, Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, Liza Minelli, Barbara Streisand and Kenny Kerr. 

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Quadz

Fancy something a little more casual? Quadz could be just the thing, with its retro, dive bar feel. The drinks are cheap, the chatter is friendly and it is one of those places that is as popular with locals as it is with visitors. In Vegas, that’s one of the highest accolades, so definitely pay the place a visit. 

The focus here is on traditional bar games like pool, darts and good old fashioned arcade games. There’s a juke box with an eclectic mix so that you can choose your own soundtrack for the night. Quadz also has regular game nights, including Cowboy Bingo once a month and poker every Thursday evening. 

Quadz is on Paradise Road, right opposite Piranha Nightclub, and is open 24/7. 

The Luxor (Temptation Sunday)

If you’re visiting Las Vegas in the height of summer, a pool party makes all sorts of sense. The Luxor Hotel and Casino on The Strip hosts regular gay pool parties of a Sunday. The Luxor pyramid serves as the perfect backdrop for sun-kissed fun around the pool, and the party vibe is enhanced by Go-Go boys and the cheesiest of party music. 

Temptation Sunday also hosts a range of top-notch DJs, so if you are in Vegas for a while, it is worth checking who is on when and planning your visit to The Luxor accordingly. If you want to really make it a party to remember, you could consider renting out a cabana for the occasion. These come equipped for four, and comfy chairs, soft drinks, towels and even a flat screen TV with sports package are all provided for you and your party. 

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The Temptation Sundays Seasons runs throughout the summer months from about May to September.

The Phoenix

Situated on West Sahara Avenue, a short drive to the north west of The Strip, The Phoenix is a friendly cocktail bar that offers cheap drinks, good conversation and a great variety of special event nights.

On a run of the mill evening, there will be no-nonsense bar food, dancing and a choice of video games and traditional bar games to keep you amused. Time your visit right, though, and you could join the fun for an underwear party. Dare to bare and it’s all you can drink for a one-off $5 charge. 

Phoenix is a bar that allows smoking even if you’re not playing casino games, so keep that in mind. For smokers, it’s like a step back in time to the good old days, but for others, it can come a bit of a culture shock. However, there’s a fabulous outdoor patio where you can take in the fresh desert air.

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

LGBT athletes who have been an inspiration on and off the field

There are some sports stars across the US and the world who are out and proud. They are paving a path for new generations, so let’s celebrate them.

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Photo by tommy boudreau from Unsplash.com

The sports world is one that loves tradition. In most respects, that’s a good thing, and some of the rituals attached to our favorite sports have become woven into national folklore. There are times, however, when those deeply ingrained practices make it difficult for sport to move with the times. 

It means that traditions dating back to the mid 20th century or earlier can sometimes be accompanied by attitudes from the same period. For example, there is an immense gender gap in professional sports of practically every type when it comes to both the profile of the sport and the money earned by the athletes. Certain sports also show an alarming disparity when it comes to ethnicity. The achievements of stars like Tiger Woods and the Williams sisters illuminate just how few black golfers and tennis pros there are, for example. 

But even more glaringly obvious than this is the underrepresentation of LGBT sports pros. Could it be that even in 2019, outdated “locker room” mentalities mean that there is still a fear of coming out? The good news is that there are some sports stars across the US and the world who are out and proud. They are paving a path for new generations, so let’s celebrate them.

Tom Waddell

The former Olympic decathlete was a man of many talents and of strong convictions. Prior to his professional sporting career, he qualified as a doctor and then served in the US Army as a paratrooper and preventative medical officer. Waddell competed in the 1968 Mexico Olympics, where he placed sixth in the decathlon out of 33 entrants. 

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With his military, sporting and medical background, it was an immensely brave act for Waddell to come out given the attitudes of the early 1970s. In 1972, he joined a gay bowling league, and it was this that brought home to him how few openly gay athletes there are. It inspired him to organize the inaugural Gay Olympics in 1982, although an injunction by the IOC forced an eleventh hour name change to the Gay Games. 

Waddell passed away in 1987 aged just 49. Despite declining health, he witnessed and even participated in Gay Games II, winning Gold in the javelin. To this day, he is remembered with numerous tributes and his legacy is one that will live forever. 

Jason Collins

The center, who played 13 seasons in the NBA, came out in 2013. The news created a media storm, as he was the first active male athlete from any of the four major sporting leagues to come out as gay. The Guardian newspaper said at the time that this was a defining moment for LGBT rights, describing professional sport at the “final frontier.”

Collins himself has always remained level headed, and very much takes the attitude that he is doing no more than less than playing the cards he is dealt. He famously said: “I’m black. And I’m gay. I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation.”

That conversation is still ongoing and today, Collins is a passionate advocate for LGBT rights. 

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Michael Sam

Despite these inspiring stories, it would be disingenuous to pretend that coming out as a sports pro is easy, or that once done, the world will welcome you, congratulate you and let you get on with your life. Michael Sam knows that better than most. 

The defensive end spent one season in the NFL, playing for the St Louis Rams. Having come out the previous year, he was the first openly gay player in the NFL. His pro career never really got off the ground, and after a season with the Montreal Alouettes he retired from football. Throughout his pro career, there was constant distraction due to debate over his sexuality. An anonymous source in the NFL said that Sam’s decision to come out immediately after college would probably affect his chances of being drafted, while campaigners with placards either berating or supporting Sam were a common site at and around games. 

All this meant that Sam struggled to focus 100 percent on football, and he even remarked that his career might have gone differently had he stayed in the closet. Today, he works as a writer and motivational speaker. 

Caitlyn Jenner

Born William Bruce Jenner, Caitlyn Jenner is without doubt the most famous and talked-about transgender woman on the planet. Back in the 1970s and prior to her gender reassignment surgery, she led the world in decathlon. After winning the gold medal at the 1975 Olympics, it was the then Bruce Jenner who started the tradition of taking a national flag from a spectator and carrying it on the victory lap, something that is still imitated to this day. 

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In 1982, Bruce Jenner featured on the cover of Playgirl. Who could have imagined that the next magazine cover, some 33 years later would be so different? Caitlyn Jenner has shared the highs and lows of gender reassignment with the world through interviews, social media and even her own TV series. She’s a lady that polarizes opinion, but that’s fine – after all, black or white, straight, gay or trans, none of us have an automatic right to be liked by everyone. What is beyond doubt is that she’s done more than anyone to get people talking about gender reassignment and to bring into everyday conversation. And that can never be a bad thing.

Blazing a trail

There are literally dozens of other names we could mention, including swimmer Ian Thorp, boxer Orlando Cruz, diver Tom Daley and England cricketers Katherine Brunt and Natalie Sciver, who recently announced their engagement

The good news is that with every passing year, we can add more names to this list, and the day will come when we will no longer have to. Saying a sports star is gay or trans will be as irrelevant as saying he or she is left handed or wears a size 10 shoe. The important thing to remember is that this change does not happen overnight, and it has only been made possible by those who had the courage to take those first steps. 

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Technology

Tinder is a waste of time for most people

Female Tinder users are, on average, more interested in finding long-term relationships than men are. This also applies to encounters without using dating apps.

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Photo by Marjan Grabowski from Unsplash.com

“For people who don’t pull off one-night stands without using Tinder, Tinder doesn’t offer much in the way of new opportunities,” says postdoc Trond Viggo Grøntvedt, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s (NTNU) Department of Psychology.

He is the first author of a new article – titled “Hook, Line and Sinker: Do Tinder Matches and Meet Ups Lead to One-Night Stands?” – that appeared in Evolutionary Psychological Science to deal with the use of Tinder. If you’re failing outside Tinder, then you don’t have much to gain from using Tinder, either.

Other authors include: Mons Bendixen, Ernst O. Botnen and Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair

“For people who actually have sexual relations outside Tinder, Tinder use only provides a limited increase in the number of one-night stands,” Grøntvedt says.

“Most of the people who succeed on Tinder have casual sex and hook-ups otherwise, too,” says Kennair at the Department of Psychology at NTNU.

The researchers have previously found that Tinder use did not lead to an increase in one-night stands.

“We have found little reason to claim that dating apps lead to more short-term sexual relationships than before,” says Bendixen, also in NTNU’s Department of Psychology.

There is thus no reason for any moral outrage from anyone.

Swiping

Tinder is one of several match-making apps. It uses location services to find other users nearby and then tries to match users with each other.

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Selecting someone is simple and effective: candidates pop up with a picture and some information on the screen. Swiping to the left means you’re not interested in a meet-up. Swiping to the right means you would like to meet the person. If two people swipe right on each other, the app can help them meet.

But sweeping and searching on Tinder has very limited effectiveness for the vast majority of users, who will probably succeed just as well by meeting live people instead.

Lots of hits needed

A lot of hits are needed on Tinder before any lead to a meeting. And even more hits are required before any kind of relationship can happen, whether we’re talking about a one-night stand or a meeting a partner with the aim of having a long-term committed relationship.

Men and women tend to use Tinder and other dating apps differently. Most women take more time to evaluate potential matches and are more often looking for a relationship, whereas most men are quicker in their assessments and swipe to the right far more often in the hope that a high enough number will result in at least one hit.

About 20 per cent of users had one-night stands after using Tinder. The vast majority of them had only experienced this once. Thus, eight of ten users never have sex after using the app.

“Tinder may offer new sexual opportunities, but these appear to be very limited,” says Kennair.

Only a tiny group of seven people, between two and three per cent of the study participants, had one-night stands exclusively after meeting someone through Tinder. The rest achieved this by traditional dating methods as well.

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Participants were asked to evaluate how physically attractive they found themselves to be. How physically attractive users are can predict the extent to which they succeed in having short-term sex when using Tinder.

“But this also applies when you’re not using dating apps. Some people get a lot, and a lot get none,” says Kennair.

“Both age and attitudes towards casual sex affect how often you actually achieve a one-night stand after using Tinder. But these are the same factors that play in elsewhere as well,” Grøntvedt says.

If you are more comfortable with casual sex, you’ll also have it more often.

“But there’s also a connection between a high interest in short-term sex encounters and less chance of meeting someone interested in a long-term relationship through the use of the dating app,” says Bendixen.

Female Tinder users are, on average, more interested in finding long-term relationships than men are. This also applies to encounters without using dating apps.

But according to this and previous studies, Tinder is not a very effective way to meet a long-term partner, either.

Ernst Olav Botnen had the idea for this study. He is currently a clinical psychologist at Lovisenberg Diakonale Hospital in Oslo.

“It’s interesting to see how the behaviour we see in other arenas, like bars and nightclubs, is reflected in dating apps,” says Botnen.

Of the 269 study participants who were active or former Tinder users, 62 per cent were women.

“Since the participants in our selection are university students in their early 20s, it will be interesting to see if our findings apply to other groups and age ranges in future research,” Botnen says.

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