Pinoy rainbow pride.
John Jeffrey Carlos won as Mr. Gay World 2019, the second time the title went to the Philippines (and Asia).
The 41-year-old local of General Trias, Cavite is not new to pageantry, first trying his luck to represent the country in the same pageant in 2016. He placed fourth runner-up then, losing to John Raspado, who ended up winning the first Mr. Gay World title for the country.
Carlos is actually also already relatively known in various circles – e.g. in Facebook and Instagram, where his repeatedly “liked” photos range from showcasing living a luxurious lifestyle in Manila, traveling from one country to another, flexing his muscles during a workout, or wearing swimming trunks and posing provocatively for no other reason but to satisfy the fantasies of his social media followers.
Carlos – who obtained his bachelor’s degree in hotel and restaurant management at the Cavite State University, where he also played for the men’s varsity volleyball team – also appeared in some movies directed by the late Wenn Deramas, such as “Moron 5.2: The Transformation” (2014) and “Wang Fam” (2015).
“When it comes to pageantry, the best trait of Filipino representatives [in general] is they always surprise people with their biggest ideas, just like what Catriona Gray did [in Miss Universe],” he said to Outrage Magazine in an earlier interview.
Perhaps typical of many beauty titlists who are new to their advocacies, Carlos only recently partnered wth Mental Health PH, an organization that promotes awareness about mental health through social media, a few days after winning the Mr. Fahrenheit 2019 title.
All the same, he said that “I think it’s a very good platform for me to push my advocacy, as it is very timely and relevant, especially with the LGBTQI community… We’ve heard so much about mental health issues and things are getting worse. In my own little way, I want to spread awareness about depression, so people will know what to do in case they feel some of the symptoms of this mental illness, affecting us and our loved ones.”
As Carlos wears the second Mr. Gay World title for the Philippines, he stressed: “We have to reach out to people with depression. Together, we can turn this illness to wellness.”
Carlos – who competed with 21 other contestants in Cape Town, South Africa – has a partner and they’ve been living together for the past seven years.
Study highlights fluid sexual orientation in many teens
At least one in five teenagers reports some change in sexual orientation during adolescence, according to new research.
At least one in five teenagers reports some change in sexual orientation during adolescence, according to new research from North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Pittsburgh.
“This work highlights the fluidity that many adolescents experience in terms of how they label their sexuality and who they feel sexually attracted to,” says J. Stewart, a Ph.D. student at NC State and lead author of a paper on the work.
For this study, researchers looked at data from 744 students from rural high schools in the southeastern United States; 54% of the students were girls, 46% were boys. Students filled out surveys each year for three years, spanning either their freshman through junior years or their sophomore through senior years. The data was collected between 2014 and 2016.
The researchers found that at some point during the three-year period, 19% of students reported at least one change in their self-labeled sexual identity – for example, classifying themselves as heterosexual in year one and as bisexual in year two. Some students reported multiple changes, such as switching from heterosexual to bisexual between years one and two, and then back to heterosexual in year three.
There were also notable differences between male and female students, with 26% of girls reporting some change in sexual identity over the three-year study period, compared to 11% of boys.
In addition to how teens labeled their sexualities, researchers looked at the extent to which teens reported being romantically attracted to boys and/or girls. The study found that 21% of students reported changes in who they were attracted to over the course of the study. As with sexual identity, some students reported changes in romantic attraction between years one and two, and again between years two and three.
Again, there were notable differences between boys and girls, with 31% of girls reporting changes in romantic attraction, compared to 10% of boys.
“Some adolescents shifted between sexual minority identities and/or attractions – gay or lesbian, bisexual, etc. as well as varying degrees of same-sex attractions – across all three years,” Stewart says. “Others fluctuated between heterosexual and sexual minority groups. And when we looked at the extent to which sexual identity, attraction and sexual behavior aligned, we saw some interesting trends.”
The researchers found that the majority of people who identified as sexual minorities also reported some degree of same-sex attraction – and most had engaged in some form of sexual behavior with a person of the same sex.
However, there was more variability among students who identified themselves as heterosexual – particularly for girls.
For example, 9% of all female students labeled themselves as both heterosexual and having at least some attraction to girls. And 12% of girls who reported being both heterosexual and having no sexual attraction toward girls also reported engaging in same-sex sexual behavior.
“The results for boys mirrored those for girls, albeit to a lesser degree,” Stewart says.
“Adolescence is a time of identity exploration, and sexual orientation is one aspect of that. One takeaway here is that the process of sexual identity development is quite nuanced for a lot of teens. And based on research with young adults, we expect these patterns will continue for many people into their late 20s and even beyond.
“To be clear, we’re talking about internally driven changes in sexual orientation,” Stewart says. “This research does not suggest these changes can be imposed on an individual and does not support the idea of conversion therapy. There’s ample evidence that conversion therapy is harmful and does not influence anyone’s sexual orientation.”
The researchers are already considering future directions for the work.
“The data in this study comes from kids growing up in the rural South,” Stewart says. “It would be interesting to see if these numbers vary across different sociopolitical environments. Additionally, we weren’t able to identify how these patterns looked among trans and other gender minority adolescents. That would be an important direction for future work.”
The paper, “Developmental patterns of sexual identity, romantic attraction, and sexual behavior among adolescents over three years,” is published in the Journal of Adolescence. The paper was co-authored by Laura Widman, an associate professor of psychology at NC State; Leigh Spivey and Mitchell Prinstein of UNC; and Sophia Choukas-Bradley of Pittsburgh.
Should scientists change the way they view (and study) same sex behavior in animals?
Researchers suggest that same-sex behaviors may actually have been part of the original, ancestral condition in animals and have persisted because they have few – if any – costs and perhaps some important benefits.
Over the years, scientists have recorded same-sex sexual behavior in more than 1,500 animal species, from snow geese to common toads. And for just as long evolutionary biologists studying these behaviors have grappled with what has come to be known as a “Darwinian paradox”: How can these behaviors be so persistent when they offer no opportunity to produce offspring?
In a new article, researchers from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies make the case that it’s time to reframe the question from “why do animals engage in same sex behavior (SSB)” to “why not?” Writing in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, the authors suggest that these behaviors may actually have been part of the original, ancestral condition in animals and have persisted because they have few — if any — costs and perhaps some important benefits.
“We propose a shift in our thinking on the sexual behaviors of animals,” says Julia Monk, lead author and F&ES doctoral candidate. “We’re excited to see how relaxing traditional constraints on evolutionary theory of these behaviors will allow for a more complete understanding of the complexity of animal sexual behaviors.”
Typically, research into these behaviors has rested on two assumptions, the authors state. The first is that same-sex behavior has high costs because individuals spend time and energy on activities that have no potential for reproductive success. The other is that same-sex behaviors emerged independently in different animal lineages.
They argue that a combination of same-sex and different-sex sexual behaviors (DSBs) is an original condition for all sexually producing animals — and that these tendencies likely evolved in the earliest forms of sexual behavior.
They also dispute the assumption that because different-sex behaviors are essential for sexual reproduction selection — or the tendency of beneficial traits that promote increases in population, size, or resilience — will eliminate sexual behaviors that do not immediately result in reproduction. On the contrary, they suggest that SSB is not always — and maybe even seldom — very costly. This would suggest that this behavior is actually what evolutionary biologists call “neutral,” meaning that it has neither negative nor positive effects and therefore persists because there’s no reason for natural selection to weed it out.
Moreover, the authors suggest that not only are same-sex behaviors often “not costly,” but can be advantageous from a natural selection perspective because individuals are more likely to mate with more partners. Many species aren’t inherently monogamous but instead try to mate with more than one individual. In many species it can be difficult for individuals to even discern between different sexes.
“So, if you’re too picky in targeting what you think is the opposite sex, you just mate with fewer individuals. On the other hand, if you’re less picky and engage in both SSB and DSB, you can mate with more individuals in general, including individuals of a different sex,” says co-author Max Lambert, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California-Berkeley’s Departmental of Environmental Science.
For example, scientists have found that male burying beetles engage in increased same-sex behavior when they perceive a higher cost of missed mating opportunities with females. This suggests that engaging with different-sex behaviors exclusively is actually disadvantageous because it reduces chances to display mating potential when mating opportunities are rare.
Such examples only hint at what scientists don’t know about same-sex behaviors in animals, Lambert said. There are thousands of examples of SSB in animals, he said, yet most of these observations occurred by chance and scientists rarely if ever actively study how often these behaviors occur compared with different-sex sexual behaviors.
“So far, most biologists have considered SSB as extremely costly and, consequently, something that is aberrant,” he says. “This strong assumption has stopped us as a community from actively studying how often and under what conditions SSB is happening. Given our casual observations suggests that SSB seems to happen pretty commonly across thousands of species, imagine what we would have learned if we had assumed this was something interesting and not just a rampant accident.”
Other co-authors include Erin Giglio from the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Texas at Austin; Ambika Kamath from the University of California Berkeley; and Caitlin McDonough from the Center for Reproductive Evolution at Syracuse University.
For the paper, the researchers explained that they use the terms “same-sex behaviors” and “different-sex behaviors” rather than terms such as homosexuality or heterosexuality to avoid conflation with terms for human sexual identities.
Nonetheless, Monk notes that scientific questioning into the persistence of same-sex sexual behaviors has long been observed through the lens of a human society that has historically judged some behaviors to be “normal” or “abnormal.” This tendency, she says, has hindered our understanding of animal behavior in that it has promoted research that only confirms pre-existing assumptions or even averts important steps in the scientific process.
“Once you really dig into the research on the behavior of animals you can’t help but be impressed by the diversity of life and how animals are out there defying our expectations all the time,” she says. “And this should lead us to question those expectations.”
Among transgender children, gender identity as strong as in cisgender children
The similarities among transgender and cisgender children on the various measures were somewhat surprising, researchers said, because transgender children, unlike their cisgender counterparts, were early in life treated as a gender other than the one they currently identify as.
Children who identify as the gender matching their sex at birth tend to gravitate toward the toys, clothing and friendships stereotypically associated with that gender. Now a study found that transgender children do the same with the gender they identify as, regardless of how long they have actually lived as a member of that gender.
New findings from the largest study of socially-transitioned transgender children in the world, conducted by researchers at the University of Washington, show that gender identity and gender-typed preferences manifest similarly in both cis- and transgender children, even those who recently transitioned.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, followed more than 300 transgender children from across the US, as well as nearly 200 of their cisgender siblings and about 300 unrelated cisgender children as a control group. It is the first study to report on all of the participants in the TransYouth Project, launched in 2013 by UW professor of psychology Kristina Olson.
The transgender children in this study, all of whom enrolled between the ages of 3 and 12, had socially – but not medically – transitioned when they participated: They had changed their pronouns and often their first names, as well as dress and play in ways associated with a gender other than their sex at birth.
For this study, researchers met individually with participants and their parents at participants’ homes, conferences and camps. Participants were asked about specific aspects of life that are typically connected to gender – clothing, toys and friends. The researchers also evaluated participants’ sense of their own gender identity. While the team observed some variability in how strong children’s preferences and identities were, the transgender children showed, on average, strong preferences and behaviors associated with their current gender, just as the cisgender children with whom they were compared.
“Trans kids are showing strong identities and preferences that are different from their assigned sex,” said lead author Selin Gülgöz, who did the work as a postdoctoral researcher at the UW and will start a new position this winter as an assistant professor at Fordham University. “There is almost no difference between these trans- and cisgender kids of the same gender identity – both in how, and the extent to which, they identify with their gender or express that gender.”
In the study, this was evident in assessments of participants’ behavior. “While in both groups there were, for example, some tomboys, on average, most transgender girls, like their cisgender counterparts, wore stereotypically feminine clothing, chose toys such as dolls to play with, preferred playing with female playmates, and identified themselves clearly as girls, and not boys,” said Olson, the study’s senior author. “Thus the transgender group looked similar to the cisgender group in both the range of responses and the most common responses.”
Of the transgender and cisgender control group participants, about one-third were boys, and two-thirds were girls; the average age was 8. Among the cisgender siblings, the average age was also 8, with slightly more boys than girls.
The finding that transgender children’s gender identity was generally equivalent to that of cisgender children was based on analysis of the survey and behavioral data.
When asked to identify their gender, an equivalent percentage of cisgender and transgender children – 83% and 84%, respectively – named their current gender. (Researchers note that among the youngest participants in all groups, this question often resulted in a less definitive answer like “I don’t know.”)
The similarities among transgender and cisgender children on the various measures were somewhat surprising, researchers said, because transgender children, unlike their cisgender counterparts, were early in life treated as a gender other than the one they currently identify as.
As part of the study, researchers asked parents for photos of their child from birth through toddlerhood at typical social events such as birthdays and holidays to capture information such as what the child wore or what their room looked like. These images helped show that transgender children were initially socialized among families and friends as the gender associated with their sex at birth. However, years later there appears to be no impact of that early sex-specific socialization. These results suggest that years later, the impact of this early sex-specific socialization is not apparent on these measures of children’s gender preferences and identities.
This suggests that transgender children may be self-socializing to learn how to “be” their current gender, Gülgöz said.
“Kids aren’t passive about their environment. Once they have a sense of their gender identity, they will look for cues from their environment, noticing what society’s expectations are, and attending to information about the gender they identify as,” Gülgöz said.
How – and for how long – a transgender child was treated as their assigned sex does not appear to affect their current gender identity and expression, Gülgöz said.
“We’re not seeing any increases or decreases over time in how strongly transgender children identify with their current gender,” Gülgöz said.
This study did not include children who use nonbinary pronouns like “they” or who came out as transgender later in life. Further, all members of the study had at least some family support of their transgender identity. Whether the present findings would extend to these other groups of participants is currently unknown, Olson cautions.
This study adds to findings from previous UW research, which showed that transgender children’s sense of gender identity was consistent, whether tested before or after they transitioned socially.
“Our data thus far suggest that the act of transitioning probably isn’t affecting gender identity one way or the other,” Olson said.
Cebu Pacific hires transwomen flight attendants
Cebu Pacific Airlines, one of the two biggest airline companies in the Philippines, has hired its first transgender women flight attendants – Mikee Vitug and Jess Labares.
A move to recognize transgender women.
Since it was established 19 years ago to compete with Philippine Airlines (PAL), Cebu Pacific has flown over 100 million passengers; and now flies to over 60 destinations in Asia, Australia and the Middle East.
In a Facebook post sharing her “achievement”, Vitug said she was actually hesitant to apply at first, particularly because of the still-conservative view of Filipinos. But after some prodding, she relented.
“I hope it will spark a change sa kung paano ang pagtingin ng mga tao sa mga transwoman na hindi kami i-box or i-stereotype kasi tao din naman kami,” Vitug stated. “To those people who are afraid of going out of their comfort zone, to those people who want to make a change but keep on holding themselves back because of prejudice, judgement, and discrimination, just listen to your heart and make it happen because nothing is impossible.”
For her part, Labares said that she hopes “this will be an inspiration not just to the LGBTQ community but to everyone who dreams and has goals in life to never give up on something you really want… Perseverance, positivity, determination and loving what you are doing are some of the perfect formula to achieve your goal and will definitely lead you the way to success and happiness.”
While this development is noteworthy for Cebu pacific Airlines, the company’s hiring policy is still not exactly completely non-discriminatory – e.g. it continues to be ageist and lookist. As per cabincrewhg.com, the airline company only hires those between the ages of 18-25, and to succeed, applicants should have “weight proportionate to height”, “clear complexion” and “catchy smile.”
The shameful practices promoting outdated visions of what a flight attendants should look like – and how they should behave – continues to be dominant. For instance, the national airlines of Saudi Arabia and Oman – Saudia and Oman Air – closely follow the Cebu pacific Airlines recruitment format by hiring only female cabin crew members aged to 30. Candidates should also be slim and free of any marks or scars.
But overseas, other progressive developments have been happening in the airline industry. In 2017, for instance, in Russia, a Moscow court ruled in favor of a flight attendant who said Russia’s flagship airline stopped assigning her to work long-haul international flights because of her weight. And in April 2019, Aer Lingus and Virgin Atlantic modified their dress codes and no longer required female flight attendants to wear makeup. Pants were also given to all as a standard uniform option.
Also, earlier, Khrise Castro was hired by American Airlines, proving – as she stated in her Facebook post – that “I am living proof that dreams do come true no matter how impossible it seems.”
Sexual minorities continue to face discrimination, despite increasing support
While sexual minorities are not inherently more vulnerable to health concerns, their experiences with anti-LGB stress, stigma, and discrimination across the life course may lead to poor and complicated health patterns.
Despite increasing support for the rights of people in the LGBTQ+ community, discrimination remains a critical and ongoing issue for this population, according to a study published in the Journal of Homosexuality.
Researchers found that adults who identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual — as well as people who reported same-sex attraction or same-sex sexual partners, referred to as sexual minorities — experienced discrimination and victimization at different rates across age.
Cara Exten, assistant professor of nursing at Penn State, said the findings are a reminder that discrimination is still a significant issue for sexual minorities, which is key for policy, prevention and intervention.
“We conducted this study because we wanted to better understand discrimination experiences affecting sexual minority populations,” Exten said. “We wanted to examine whether there were adults at particular ages who were more likely to have experienced discrimination in the past year — and if so, what types of discrimination. We aimed to call attention to the continued high rates of discrimination that LGBTQ+ individuals are experiencing — because we know that these experiences affect their health.”
Collaborator Stephanie Lanza, professor of biobehavioral health and director of the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center, noted that “a better understanding of recent experiences of discrimination among adults across a wide range of ages is necessary so that we can add to the national discourse on LGBTQ+ disparities in physical and mental health. Importantly, examining specific types of discrimination experienced by sexual minorities across age can indicate where there is greatest need for intervention — both to support individuals and to address stigma more broadly.”
According to the researchers, previous work has found that sexual minorities tend to experience poorer health than non-sexual minorities. Exten said that while sexual minorities are not inherently more vulnerable to health concerns, their experiences with anti-LGB stress, stigma, and discrimination across the life course may lead to poor and complicated health patterns.
“Research has linked discrimination and poor health outcomes among minorities, but we didn’t have a clear picture of whether sexual minorities may be more or less vulnerable to experiencing discrimination at certain points during their life,” Exten said. “We might, for example, find that older adults are more likely to experience discrimination in health care settings as they age, given that older adults are more likely to need medical care.”
The researchers used data gathered from a nationally representative study of U.S. citizens on 2,993 sexual minorities between the ages of 18 and 65. Participants answered a questionnaire about how often they had experienced discrimination in the previous year due to being perceived as gay, lesbian or bisexual.
The survey included questions about whether they had experienced six different forms of discrimination. The researchers grouped the different types of discrimination into three groups: general, like in public places like shops or restaurants; victimization, such as being called names, pushed or threatened; and healthcare discrimination, such as trouble obtaining healthcare due to sexual orientation, or discrimination during treatment.
After analyzing the data, the researchers found that 17% of participants had experienced some form of discrimination in the previous year. In total, 13% reported general discrimination, 12% reported victimization and 7% reported healthcare discrimination.
The researchers also broke down the data by age, gender, and sexual identity. In general, discrimination experiences were most common in early adulthood, with another increase in middle adulthood. Males were generally more likely to report having experienced anti-LGB discrimination and victimization in the last year. Healthcare discrimination peaked among individuals in their early 50s.
“The overall rates were quite high,” Exten said. “This was particularly true in some subgroups of the community. Among 18-year-olds, one in five males experienced victimization in the past year. Experiencing victimization can be quite traumatic, and certainly acts as a stressor for these individuals. We hope these findings will be a call to action.”
Exten said the findings suggest the need for continued work in reducing discrimination.
“Reducing discrimination in the United States will require broad approaches within our communities, schools, workplaces, healthcare facilities, and families,” Exten said. “It is critical that we continue to recognize that discrimination is happening and that we continue to work to develop more inclusive policies and spaces in our communities.
Jessica N. Fish, University of Maryland; and Stephen T. Russell, University of Texas at Austin, also participated in this work.
Facial recognition software has a gender problem
A study found that facial analysis services performed consistently worse on transgender individuals, and were universally unable to classify non-binary genders.
With a brief glance at a single face, emerging facial recognition software can now categorize the gender of many men and women with remarkable accuracy.
But if that face belongs to a transgender person, such systems get it wrong more than one third of the time, according to new University of Colorado Boulder research.
“We found that facial analysis services performed consistently worse on transgender individuals, and were universally unable to classify non-binary genders,” said lead author Morgan Klaus Scheuerman, a PhD student in the Information Science department. “While there are many different types of people out there, these systems have an extremely limited view of what gender looks like.”
The study comes at a time when facial analysis technologies – which use hidden cameras to assess and characterize certain features about an individual – are becoming increasingly prevalent, embedded in everything from smartphone dating apps and digital kiosks at malls to airport security and law enforcement surveillance systems.
Previous research suggests they tend to be most accurate when assessing the gender of white men, but misidentify women of color as much as one-third of the time.
“We knew there were inherent biases in these systems around race and ethnicity and we suspected there would also be problems around gender,” said senior author Jed Brubaker, an assistant professor of Information Science. “We set out to test this in the real world.”
Researchers collected 2,450 images of faces from Instagram, each of which had been labeled by its owner with a hashtag indicating their gender identity. The pictures were then divided into seven groups of 350 images (#women, #man, #transwoman, #transman, #agender, #agenderqueer, #nonbinary) and analyzed by four of the largest providers of facial analysis services (IBM, Amazon, Microsoft and Clarifai).
Notably, Google was not included because it does not offer gender recognition services.
On average, the systems were most accurate with photos of cisgender women (those born female and identifying as female), getting their gender right 98.3% of the time. They categorized cisgender men accurately 97.6% of the time.
But trans men were wrongly identified as women up to 38% of the time.
And those who identified as agender, genderqueer or nonbinary – indicating that they identify as neither male or female – were mischaracterized 100 percent of the time.
“These systems don’t know any other language but male or female, so for many gender identities it is not possible for them to be correct,” says Brubaker.
The study also suggests that such services identify gender based on outdated stereotypes.
When Scheuerman, who is male and has long hair, submitted his own picture, half categorized him as female.
The researchers could not get access to the training data, or image inputs used to “teach” the system what male and female looks like, but previous research suggests they assess things like eye position, lip fullness, hair length and even clothing.
“These systems run the risk of reinforcing stereotypes of what you should look like if you want to be recognized as a man or a woman. And that impacts everyone,” said Scheuerman.
The market for facial recognition services is projected to double by 2024, as tech developers work to improve human-robot interaction and more carefully target ads to shoppers. Already, Brubaker notes, people engage with facial recognition technology every day to gain access to their smartphones or log into their computers.
If it has a tendency to misgender certain, already vulnerable, populations that could have grave consequences.
For instance, a match-making app could set someone up on a date with the wrong gender, leading to a potentially dangerous situation. Or a mismatch between the gender a facial recognition program sees and the documentation a person carries could lead to problems getting through airport security, says Scheuerman.
He is most concerned that such systems reaffirm notions that transgender people don’t fit in.
“People think of computer vision as futuristic, but there are lots of people who could be left out of this so-called future,” he said.
The authors say they’d like to see tech companies move away from gender classification entirely and stick to more specific labels like “long hair” or “make-up” when assessing images.
“When you walk down the street you might look at someone and presume that you know what their gender is, but that is a really quaint idea from the ’90s and it is not what the world is like anymore,” said Brubaker. “As our vision and our cultural understanding of what gender is has evolved. The algorithms driving our technological future have not. That’s deeply problematic.”