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MSMGF launches online resource for grassroots HIV advocates

The new website will provide access to advocacy toolkits, trainings, and technical assistance in English, French, Spanish, and Vietnamese.

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MSMGFThe Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF) has launched a new webpage for the Speaking Out Initiative, an international collaborative program to fight HIV among men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender people by supporting grassroots activists to reduce stigma, discrimination, and violence faced by these groups in their respective countries. Launched on this year’s International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), the new webpage increases access to Speaking Out’s advocacy toolkits in multiple languages and provides detailed information on how activists can bring Speaking Out to their own region.

The new website can be accessed at www.msmgf.org/speakingout.

“We are thrilled to launch the Speaking Out website on this year’s IDAHO,”said Dr. George Ayala, executive director of the MSMGF. “Today, people all over the world will stand together in solidarity against homophobia and transphobia. The more we learn about the HIV epidemic, the clearer the connection between stigma and discrimination and the spread of HIV becomes. We cannot increase access to HIV services without addressing the impact of homophobia and transphobia, and that is what the Speaking Out Initiative strives to do.”

The Speaking Out Initiative begins with an in-depth assessment of local advocacy capacity, followed by a collaborative effort between the MSMGF and local activists to adapt the Speaking Out toolkit to local conditions and languages. The adapted toolkits are used to conduct multiple levels of tailored trainings for local advocates, followed by an invitation for Speaking Out graduates to develop homegrown advocacy initiatives that are eligible for small grants funding from the Speaking Out program. Speaking Out is currently running in Central America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

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At present, the MSMGF is funding two locally conceived and executed advocacy initiatives, called “Breakthrough Initiatives,” led by graduates from the Speaking Out training in Honduras. The first Breakthrough Initiative involves an advocacy campaign to include sexual orientation and gender identity in the Honduran HIV anti-discrimination law, and the second focuses on advocacy for the inclusion of LGBT rights in the Honduran government’s public policy Social Protection Programs.

“The Speaking Out Initiative is part of a larger effort to equip grassroots organizations with the information and resources they need to hold governments and policy-makers accountable for doing quality, rights-based HIV work. This includes addressing homophobia, transphobia, and other social drivers that fuel the epidemic. From laws that criminalize homosexuality, deny gender identity protections, and punish HIV non-disclosure to policies that make it impossible for LGBT-led organizations to register legally – homophobia and transphobia remain major obstacles to health and rights for our communities,” said Dr. Ayala.

Data from the 2012 Global Men’s Health and Rights Study (GMHR), a multilingual survey of over 6,000 MSM from more than 160 countries, showed that only one third of MSM surveyed could easily access condoms, lubricant, and HIV testing. The survey revealed that homophobia was significantly associated with reduced access to HIV services, and that community engagement and comfort with health service providers were each significantly associated with increased access to HIV services.

“When LGBT people everywhere continue to suffer violent attacks and discriminatory treatment, it is crucial to expose and address the problems of social discrimination and HIV in our communities,” said Omar Baños, MSMGF policy field initiatives manager. “This webpage is an important opportunity for anyone working on MSM and transgender advocacy to connect with local and regional partners on a grassroots level to exchange ideas and get involved in the Speaking Out Initiative.”

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The new Speaking Out webpage provides a unique opportunity for advocates to explore opportunities and strategies for advocacy work in hostile environments. The website features downloadable PDF versions of the Speaking Out toolkits in English, French, Spanish, and Vietnamese, as well as detailed information about the process of toolkit adaptation, implementation, and trainings in each region. The webpage also showcases video testimonials from MSM and transgender advocates sharing their experiences about the challenges faced by MSM and transgender people around the world.

“On this International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, we must remember how damaging homophobia and transphobia can be,” said Dr. Ayala. “Through the Speaking Out Initiative and new Speaking Out webpage, we will continue to work to increase awareness and support local MSM and transgender people to lay claim to their rights and get involved in the fight against homophobia and transphobia. Our victory over HIV depends on it.”

The Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF) is a network of AIDS organizations, MSM networks, and advocates committed to ensuring robust coverage of and equitable access to effective HIV prevention, care, treatment, and support services tailored to the needs of gay men and other MSM.

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SM Supermalls to install gender-neutral restrooms starting this November

SM Supermalls will begin installing all-gender restrooms in its malls starting this November. The move will be first done in malls in Metro Manila, including SM Mall of Asia, SM City North EDSA, SM Megamall, SM Aura Premier and The Podium; as well as at SM Seaside City Cebu.

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Real move for inclusion; or mall-versus-mall PR effort targeting the pink peso?

Months after Araneta Center’s Farmers Plaza in Cubao, Quezon City figured in a much-hyped controversy for refusing to allow a transgender woman to use a toilet befitting her gender identity, SM Supermalls announced that it will begin to install all-gender restrooms in its malls starting this November.

The move will be first done in malls in Metro Manila, including SM Mall of Asia, SM City North EDSA, SM Megamall, SM Aura Premier and The Podium; as well as at SM Seaside City Cebu.

The move, according to a statement released by the giant company, is a “leap towards a more gender-inclusive community”, as SM Supermalls aims to “continue to provide a safe community space that advocates inclusivity, equality, and respect for all regardless of gender expression, identity, or sexual orientation.”

“With inclusivity and innovation at the core of everything we do, we endeavor to create spaces where all shoppers are welcome,” SM Supermalls COO Steven Tan was quoted as saying.

The all-gender restroom will be a new facility in addition to the male, female, and PWD restrooms in these malls.

The effort may be commendable, but SM Supermalls is not always on the side of what’s right. In 2015, for instance, its establishment in Baguio City, SM Baguio, cut 60 trees surrounding the mall for its expansion, including to build additional parking.

SM Supermalls is also infamous for practicing contractualization – i.e. not regularizing its employees, thus failing to give many security of tenure and benefits.

READ:  Metro Manila Pride holds ‘Hubad: Katawan’ to tackle LGBT sexuality

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Positive family relationships linked with lower levels of depressive symptoms

Positive family relationships during adolescence appeared to be associated with lower levels of depressive symptoms from adolescence to midlife in this observational study of about 18,000 adolescents followed up until they were 32 to 42 years old.

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Photo by Ricardo Moura from Unsplash.com

How are adolescent family relationships associated with trajectories of depressive symptoms from adolescence into midlife for women and men?

This was the question asked by a study – “Association of Positive Family Relationships With Mental Health Trajectories From Adolescence To Midlife” by Ping Chen, PhD and Kathleen Mullan Harris, PhD – published by JAMA Pediatrics, with the findings suggesting an association of early intervention in family relationships during adolescence with better mental health into adulthood and midlife.

The study analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, which used a multistage, stratified school-based design to select a prospective cohort of 20 745 adolescents in grades 7 to 12 from January 3, 1994, to December 26, 1995 (wave 1). These respondents were followed up during four additional waves from April 14 to September 9, 1996 (wave 2); April 2, 2001, to May 9, 2002 (wave 3); April 3, 2007, to February 1, 2009 (wave 4); and March 3, 2016, to May 8, 2017 (sample 1, wave 5), when the cohort was aged 32 to 42 years.

The study sample of 8,952 male adolescents and 9,233 female adolescents that were analyzed was a US national representation of all population subgroups by sex, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and geography.

Levels of depressive symptoms (Center for Epidemiologic Studies–Depression Scale [CES-D]) from ages 12 to 42 years were then used to estimate propensity score–weighted growth curve models to assess sex differences in trajectories of depression by levels of positive adolescent family relationships.

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A total of 18,185 individuals (mean [SD] age at wave 1, 15.42 [0.12] years; 9233 [50.8%] female) participated in the study.

The study found that females and males who experienced positive adolescent family relationships had “significantly lower levels of depressive symptoms from early adolescence to midlife than did those who experienced less positive adolescent family relationships.”

For example, depressive symptoms were lower among those with high levels of family cohesion compared with those with low cohesion between 12 (1.26 lower CES-D score; 95% CI, 1.10-1.42) and 40 (0.78 lower CES-D score; 95% CI, 0.50-1.06) years of age among females and between 12 (0.72 lower CES-D score; 95% CI, 0.57-0.86) and 37 (0.21 lower CES-D score; 95% CI, 0.00-0.41) years of age among males.

The study also found that the reduction in depressive symptoms associated with positive adolescent family relationships was greater for females than males during the adolescent and early adulthood years (ie, early 20s) (eg, low-high cohesion difference in mean CES-D score, −1.26 [95% CI, −1.42 to −1.10] for females and −0.72 [95% CI, −0.86 to −0.57] for males at 12 years of age; low-high cohesion difference in mean CES-D score, −0.61 [95% CI, −0.69 to −0.53] for females and −0.40 [95% CI, −0.48 to −0.31] for males at 20 years of age), after which females and males benefited equally from positive adolescent relationships throughout young adulthood to midlife.

As per the authors, “The findings suggest that positive adolescent family relationships are associated with better mental health among females and males from early adolescence to midlife. Interventions in early family life to foster healthy mental development throughout the life course appear to be important.”

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This is noteworthy for the LGBTQIA community because other studies highlight the relevance of family support to LGBTQIA people. An earlier study released in July, for instance, showed “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).”

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Divided US Supreme Court to decide whether Civil Rights Act should also protect LGBT workers

Outrage Magazine is at the US Supreme Court, where oral arguments were heard on a major civil rights question: Are gay and transgender people covered by the law barring employment discrimination on the basis of sex?

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WASHINGTON, DC – The US Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a major civil rights question: Are gay and transgender people covered by the law barring employment discrimination on the basis of sex?

As FYI: Legal developments in many countries – including the Philippines – are affected by those in the US. For instance, when the Philippines’ Supreme Court heard oral arguments on marriage equality in the country, the civil rights movement in the US was mentioned, along with other international laws/statutes pushing for LGBTQIA human rights.

At the SCOTUS, three cases are being heard.

Two of those cases, Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda and Bostock v. Clayton County, ask whether a worker can be fired for their sexual orientation. The third, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC, asks whether a worker can be fired because of their gender identity.

US currently has a federal civil rights law that somewhat touches on this – Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex as well as gender, race, color, national origin and religion.

However, the text of the law bans only “sex” discrimination, not specifically stating discrimination based on a worker’s “sexual orientation” or “gender identity”.

It is worth noting, therefore, that in the US, 29 states still do not have a law protecting the rights of LGBTQIA workers from being fired solely because of their SOGIE.

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The cases now at SCOTUS, therefore, ask whether concepts like sexual orientation and gender identity – both tightly bound to the concept of sex (meaning gender, not sexual intercourse) – should also be included under its grasp.

Thus far, the members of SCOTUS are divided.

The top court’s liberal members are expected to vote with the plaintiffs and the argument that LGBTQIA workers should be covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor was among those who already noted that firing LGBTQIA people not because they under-performed but because of who they are may fall under the statutory ban on sex discrimination. “We can’t deny that homosexuals are being fired merely for being who they are and not because of religious reasons, not because they are performing their jobs poorly,” Sotomayor said, calling it “invidious behavior.”

For Associate Justice Elena Kagan, Title VII prohibits employment discrimination that occurs “because of (an employee’s) race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” The language used here is broad and it suggests that a simple test should apply in sex discrimination cases. A plaintiff in such a case should prevail unless they would have experienced the exact same treatment if they “were a different sex.”

For Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, interpretations of Title Vii had changed in the past. Since this law was enacted, the SCOTUS has held that it applied to discrimination based on sex stereotypes, as well as same-sex harassment. And though these areas were presumably not on the minds of the legislators who voted for it, “no one ever thought sexual harassment was encompassed by discrimination on the basis of sex back in 1964. It wasn’t until a book was written in the middle 1970s bringing that out,” Ginsburg said. “And now we say, ’Of course, harassing someone, subjecting her to terms and conditions of employment she would not encounter if she were a male, that is sex discrimination. But it wasn’t recognized.”

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But conservative justices – including those appointed by US Pres. Donald Trump, who may continuously claim to be pro-LGBTQIA but has been attacking LGBTQIA human rights in the country by implementing policies not beneficial to the LGBTQIA community (such as banning transgender people from serving in the military) – are concerned of “massive social upheaval” if the court will rule in favor of LGBTQIA workers, instead of allowing Congress to legislate on the subject.

Decisions from the nine justices of America’s highest court are due by next June. – WITH SUZETTE MAGALLANES-PADOR

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Political divisiveness can cause an increase in homophobic bullying

Divisive partisan climates can cause an increase in homophobic bullying. But one school initiative was found to prevent and combat homophobic bullying – i.e. the formation of gay-straight alliance clubs.

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Photo by Markus Spiske from Unsplash.com

Divisive partisan climates can cause an increase in homophobic bullying. This is according research Dr. Yishan Shen, an assistant professor in the School of Family and Consumer Sciences at Texas State University at Austin.

According to Shen – whose research group was headed by Stephen Russell, chair of the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Texas – being a teenager is hard enough, but Dr. Yishan Shen, an assistant professor in the School of Family and Consumer Sciences at Texas State University, has uncovered additional challenges for youths between 10 and 19 who are targets of bullying during contentious political campaigns.

While examining data from the California Healthy Kids Survey gathered before a 2008 referendum known as Proposition 8, Shen found what she described as an “odd peak of homophobic bullying in 2008.”

Shen reported the trend to Russell, whose laboratory she joined as a graduate student at UT in 2015 to expand her scholarship to other minority and marginalized groups. Russell dubbed Shen’s finding as “The Prop 8 Effect”, in a reference to attitudes about a California ballot initiative intended to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry. They continued studying the topic, with their findings published as Proposition 8 and Homophobic Bullying in California in the journal Pediatrics.

The researchers determined that secondary school students reported “significantly more” homophobic bullying as the Prop 8 vote was approaching, but less after the Prop 8 vote. 

The researchers tried running different statistical analyses to see if there are other possible explanations, like the economic or ethnic makeup of the schools, but after controlling for each of these variables, the same pattern was observed, thereby leading them to conclude that the increase in rates of bullying was associated with Prop 8.

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 One school initiative was found to prevent and combat homophobic bullying in their study – the formation of gay-straight alliance (GSA) clubs. 

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‘Humanizing SOGIE’ launched to help elevate SOGIE discussion

LGBTQIA community members, as well as allies launched “Humanizing SOGIE”, a national initiative to advocate for sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression (SOGIE) inclusion and equality in the Philippines.

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Allies in Congress, community leaders, and other advocates joined together to launch “Humanizing SOGIE”, a national initiative to advocate for sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression (SOGIE) inclusion and equality in the Philippines.

Gender equality organization SPARK! Philippines, with support from the Government of Canada and in partnership with Love is All We Need and Propel Manila, is launching this national campaign that shares stories of Filipinos through a public exhibit, engaging the public in a social media conversation and creating space for community coordination.

“Humanizing SOGIE is more than just a social media campaign. Its focal point is a public exhibit highlighting the challenges that 23 Filipinos have faced as a result of their diverse SOGIE,” SPARK! Philippines executive director Maica Teves explained. 

By shining a light on the stories of real Filipinos with diverse experiences, “the campaign aims to challenge preconceptions about what it means to be LGBTQ+ in the Philippines and to increase public awareness about how different forms of discrimination continue to impact members of the community,” Teves added.  

Humanizing SOGIE is expected to contribute to an ongoing public conversation about these issues by encouraging those who visit the public exhibit to share their reactions through social media and to join the call for greater inclusion and equality.

Recognizing that there are no legal protections in the Philippines specifically for SOGIE individuals, “Humanizing SOGIE” will engage directly with lawmakers by inviting them to visit the exhibit and participate on social media. The campaign will also organize a series of community dialogues to convene allied individuals and groups, particularly from the LGBTQ+ organizations, to coordinate their efforts in pushing for greater SOGIE equality.

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The project is funded with support from the Embassy of Canada’s Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, a competitive grants program that supports Filipino organizations implementing projects that empower marginalized groups across the country.

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Only 1 out of 10 Filipinos always use condoms

Only 30% said they used condoms very frequently to prevent pregnancy and at least 40% to avoid STIs.

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Most sexually active Filipinos don’t always use condoms, putting them at risk to acquire sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) and, yes, unwanted pregnancy.

This is according to a study done by PhilCare, a health maintenance organization (HMO), which showed that only one out of 10 Filipinos always use protection.

Over 800 (i.e. 820) sexually-active Filipinos were polled nationwide for this study, which found that at least 30% said they used condoms very frequently to prevent pregnancy and at least 40% to avoid STIs. (It is worth nothing that the study did not segregate respondents based on their SOGIE – Ed)

Condom use for the prevention of STIs was higher among women (48%) than men (36%).

Meanwhile, 36% of women and 30% of men reported using condoms to prevent possible pregnancy.

The study similarly found out that those from Mindanao used protection more frequently, compared to the national average. Some 26% of Mindanawon respondents used condoms against unplanned pregnancy, which is more than twice the national average of 12%.

Meanwhile, at least 18% of respondents from Mindanao used condoms against STIs, still and also higher than the national average of 13%.

The survey also found that only two out of 10 young adults, aged 18 to 30, always used protection. Broken down, over half of young adults used protection very frequently against STIs, while almost 40% did to avoid pregnancy.

In contrast, only 12% of men and women between 31 to 40 used condoms against STIs while 14% said they did to prevent pregnancy.

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Older respondents in between 40 to 50 reported even lower condom use. Only 10% used protection against STIs, while only 7% as contraception.

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