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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Postcard Perfect

The appeal of the province of Palawan may be mainly its being a largely untouched place. But as Michael David C. Tan discovers, there’s more to this place than meets the eye.

PHOTOS BY O. ROMERO, COURTESY OF JINGJING ROMERO

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The goodness of El Nido, Palawan

The first time Australian D.J.M. Winters stepped on the shores of Miniloc Island, in El Nido, north of Palawan, to visit the country’s “Last Environmental Frontier,” as well as “check out what business ventures may be there,” he noted that “it was like stepping on a photograph come to life,” he says. “Everything seemed too good to be true. Palawan is almost surreal for its beauty.”

Winters’ amazement is understandable, what with Palawan long considered a land of clichés, at least as far as the image of a stereotypical tropical paradise is concerned. Sandy white beaches stretching for miles, incessantly kissed by the crystal clear waters that mirror the blue sky, or reflect rolling clouds as they pass, seemingly lovingly blown by the whistling wind, just as they make the tall palm trees by the beaches bend, dancing to a tune only they can hear – all of them are in Palawan. And so much more, actually.

“It most certainly is full of surprises,” Winters says.

NATURE’S BEST

RICH HISTORY
Not largely known is the province’s rich history, best exemplified by the antiquities that abound there. Underwater or on the ground, however, Palawan has something to offer everyone.

Named after the nests of swiftlets (the main ingredient in the world-famous Nido Soup), El Nido (Spanish for the nest) is a 50,000 hectare-town of 18 barangays populated by some 27,000 people “very overprotective about their settlement,” notes Winters. “Rightly so, though, what with the place’s ecological treasures – all deserving of superlatives, but all fragile, and seemingly always in threat.”

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Among Winters’ “favorite occurrences that are bound to be reminisced time and again” include kayaking from island to island, “my concentration broken only by the flapping wings of sea hawks, sighting unseen preys as they circle limestone cliffs formed millions of years ago;” bird watching, especially since El Nido’s forests are home to over 100 species of birds, many of them endemic to Palawan; stargazing, “realizing how small we are in the scheme of things;” island hopping to “see that here, seeing beauty never stops;” and simply admiring nature, such as “observing the peculiar looking pitcher plants that, to better their chances of survival, evolved to hang ever so low, almost touching the waters as they dangle from the rocky cliffs, waiting for whatever it is that will get trapped in their cavernous carafes to sustain them,” Winters says. “Nature 101.”

Amazement is, indeed, everywhere in Palawan.

In Miniloc Island, right off the pier is a rich marine world teeming with life, so that those snorkeling are literally inundated by swimming groupers, fusiliers, parrot fish, and other fish species that are normally only seen in, say, Animal Planet. In Lagen Island, mangrove tours, especially before at the break of dawn, right before the sun starts bathing with golden color everything under it, wild birds, many of them migratory, fly from their nests, their graceful motions mirrored by the waters under them.

In Matinloc Island, there’s the not-so-secret Secret Beach, worth visiting for a “glimpse of the sense of total seclusion,” Winters says, even if it is only accessible by snorkeling through a small crack in the limestone walls that envelope it.

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And then there are the Big and Small Lagoons, both welcome retreats, with their pristine waters seemingly contradicting the roughness of their source, the “unruly sea” right outside their confines. There, it’s a different world altogether, filled with rock formations that resemble elephant tusks, a praying Virgin Mary, the caped crusader Batman hiding behind some rocks, phallic idols – “whatever,” Winters says. “It’s more like a cloud, actually, wherein you see them as what you want them to be. Like a fantasy, you can tailor-fit it to suit what you want. El Nido’s cliffs are like that, too. A hark back to the times when nature was magical.”

TASTING PALAWAN
From the fresh harvests from the seas to homemade delicacies, the province is certain to have something to cater to every taste.

LAND OF BOUNTY

No wonder, thus, that “I’m looking at staying here for good,” Winters says with a laugh. The same appeal has actually already made ”regular inhabitants out of many who visited Palawan,” says Mickey Castaño of Belcas Realty Corp., which “recognizes the place’s great potential.”

Enterprise Magazine earlier reported (Paradise Found, March 2006) that there are opportunities to buy beachfront properties, or even entire islands, in the various towns of Palawan – and all at very affordable prices. In El Nido, for example, lots sell for about P1,500 per square meter, while small islands can be bought for as low as P200 to P300 per square meter. Adds the online publication Offshore and Real Estate Quarterly (escapeartist.com), beachfront properties with a frontage of approximately 300 feet (90 meters), and a total area of under two hectares cost less than P175 per square foot – roughly equal to 20 US cents, or less than $2.25 per square meter.

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“This makes it an ideal time to invest,” says Castaño, who stressed that there is, however, “an urgency in investing since local officials (recognize) that in order to preserve Palawan’s beauty, over-development should be avoided, (and so) only a limited number of developments are allowed.”

Again in El Nido, only 32 resort developments are allowed, “making it good for those who invest in the place, what with less competition, but, more importantly, preserving the place’s appeal, which is its largely untouched beauty,” Castaño says.

On the bangka (dinghy) that carried him from Miniloc Island to the pier right by the local airport, where some brightly-clad locals were singing farewell songs in the local Cuyunin language, Winters was already “in a nostalgic mood,” he says. “You just want the experience to last.”

As if catching himself from turning mawkish, he laughs. Palawan, Winters says with a hearty laugh, is cliché personified. “It’s almost poetic, I tell you. And even that (claim) is admittedly cliché, too. Just as I tell you you’ll keep coming back here once you’ve already been here.”

The founder of Outrage Magazine, Michael David dela Cruz Tan is a graduate of Bachelor of Arts (Communication Studies) of the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia. Though he grew up in Mindanao (particularly Kidapawan and Cotabato City in Maguindanao), even attending Roman Catholic schools there, he "really, really came out in Sydney," he says, so that "I sort of know what it's like to be gay in a developing and a developed world". Mick can: photograph, do artworks with mixed media, write (DUH!), shoot flicks, community organize, facilitate, lecture, research (with pioneering studies under his belt)... this one's a multi-tasker, who is even conversant in Filipino Sign Language (FSL). Among others, Mick received the Catholic Mass Media Awards (CMMA) in 2006 for Best Investigative Journalism. Cross his path is the dare (read: It won't be boring).

LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

It’s 2020, time to teach teens ‘safe’ sexting

This is not about encouraging sexting behaviors, any more than sex education is about encouraging teens to have sex. It simply recognizes the reality that young people are sexually curious, and some will experiment with various behaviors with or without informed guidance, and sexting is no exception.

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Photo by Cristofer Jeschke from Unsplash.com

Preaching sexual abstinence to youth was popular for a number of decades, but research repeatedly found that such educational messages fell short in their intended goals. Simply telling youth not to have sex failed to delay the initiation of sex, prevent pregnancies, or stop the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases. Since the advent of photo- and video-sharing via phones, children have received similar fear-based messages to discourage sexting – the sending or receiving of sexually explicit or sexually suggestive images (photos or video) usually via mobile devices. Unfortunately, messages of sexting abstinence don’t seem to be reducing the prevalence of adolescents sharing nudes.

Consequently, in a new paper published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, researchers from Florida Atlantic University and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, say that it is time to teach youth “safe” sexting.

“The truth is that adolescents have always experimented with their sexuality, and some are now doing so via sexting,” said Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D., co-author and a professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice within FAU’s College for Design and Social Inquiry, and co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center. “We need to move beyond abstinence-only, fear-based sexting education or, worse yet, no education at all. Instead, we should give students the knowledge they need to make informed decisions when being intimate with others, something even they acknowledge is needed.”

Hinduja and co-author Justin Patchin, Ph.D., a professor of criminal justice at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center, acknowledge that although participating in sexting is never 100 percent “safe” (just like engaging in sex), empowering youth with strategies to reduce possible resultant harm seems prudent.

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Hinduja and Patchin collected (unpublished) data in April 2019 from a national sample of nearly 5,000 youth between the ages of 12 and 17, and found that 14 percent had sent and 23 percent had received sexually explicit images. These figures represent an increase of 13 percent for sending and 22 percent for receiving from what they previously found in 2016.

The authors do want youth to understand that those who sext open themselves up to possible significant and long-term consequences, such as humiliation, extortion, victimization, school sanction, reputational damage, and even criminal charges. But they also want youth who are going to do it anyway to exercise wisdom and discretion to prevent avoidable fallout.

“This is not about encouraging sexting behaviors, any more than sex education is about encouraging teens to have sex,” said Hinduja. “It simply recognizes the reality that young people are sexually curious, and some will experiment with various behaviors with or without informed guidance, and sexting is no exception.”

Simply telling youth not to have sex failed to delay the initiation of sex, prevent pregnancies, or stop the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases.
Photo by Jack Sharp from Unsplash.com

Hinduja and Patchin provide suggested themes encapsulated in 10 specific, actionable messages that adults can share with adolescents in certain formal or informal contexts after weighing their developmental and sexual maturity.

  1. If someone sends you a sext, do not send it to — or show — anyone else. This could be considered nonconsensual sharing of pornography, and there are laws prohibiting it and which outline serious penalties (especially if the image portrays a minor).
  2. If you send someone a sext, make sure you know and fully trust them. “Catfishing”– where someone sets up a fictitious profile or pretends to be someone else to lure you into a fraudulent romantic relationship (and, often, to send sexts) — happens more often than you think. You can, of course, never really know if they will share it with others or post it online, but do not send photos or video to people you do not know well.
  3. Do not send images to someone who you are not certain would like to see it (make sure you receive textual consent that they are interested). Sending unsolicited explicit images to others could also lead to criminal charges.
  4. Consider boudoir pictures. Boudoir is a genre of photography that involves suggestion rather than explicitness. Instead of nudes, send photos that strategically cover the most private of private parts. They can still be intimate and flirty but lack the obvious nudity that could get you in trouble.
  5. Never include your face. Of course, this is so that images are not immediately identifiable as yours but also because certain social media sites have sophisticated facial recognition algorithms that automatically tag you in any pictures you would want to stay private.
  6. Make sure the images do not include tattoos, birthmarks, scars, or other features that could connect them to you. In addition, remove all jewelry before sharing. Also, consider your surroundings. Bedroom pictures could, for example, include wall art or furniture that others recognize.
  7. Turn your device’s location services off for all of your social media apps, make sure your photos are not automatically tagged with your location or username, and delete any meta-data digitally attached to the image.
  8. If you are being pressured or threatened to send nude photos, collect evidence when possible. Having digital evidence (such as screenshots of text messages) of any maliciousness or threats of sextortion will help law enforcement in their investigation and prosecution (if necessary) and social media sites in their flagging and deletion of accounts.
  9. Use apps that provide the capability for sent images to be automatically and securely deleted after a certain amount of time. You can never guarantee that a screenshot was not taken, nor that another device was not used to capture the image without you being notified, but using specialized apps can decrease the chance of distribution.
  10. Be sure to promptly delete any explicit photos or videos from your device. This applies to images you take of yourself and images received from someone else. Having images stored on your device increases the likelihood that someone — a parent, the police, a hacker — will find them. Possessing nude images of minors may have criminal implications. In 2015, for example, a North Carolina teen was charged with possessing child pornography, although the image on his phone was of himself.
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Health & Wellness

Having less sex linked to earlier menopause

Women who reported engaging in sexual activity weekly were 28% less likely to have experienced menopause at any given age than women who engaged in sexual activity less than monthly.

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Women who engage in sexual activity weekly or monthly have a lower risk of entering menopause early relative to those who report having some form of sex less than monthly, according to a new UCL study.

The researchers observed that women, who reported engaging in sexual activity weekly, were 28% less likely to have experienced menopause at any given age than women who engaged in sexual activity less than monthly. Sexual activity includes sexual intercourse, oral sex, sexual touching and caressing or self-stimulation.

The research, published in Royal Society Open Science, is based on data from the USA’s Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN). It’s the largest, most diverse and most representative longitudinal cohort study available to research aspects of the menopause transition.

First author on the study, PhD candidate Megan Arnot (UCL Anthropology), said: “The findings of our study suggest that if a woman is not having sex, and there is no chance of pregnancy, then the body ‘chooses’ not to invest in ovulation, as it would be pointless. There may be a biological energetic trade-off between investing energy into ovulation and investing elsewhere, such as keeping active by looking after grandchildren.

“The idea that women cease fertility in order to invest more time in their family is known as the Grandmother Hypothesis, which predicts that the menopause originally evolved in humans to reduce reproductive conflict between different generations of females, and allow women to increase their inclusive fitness through investing in their grandchildren.”

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During ovulation, the woman’s immune function is impaired, making the body more susceptible to disease. Given a pregnancy is unlikely due to a lack of sexual activity, then it would not be beneficial to allocate energy to a costly process, especially if there is the option to invest resources into existing kin.

The research is based on data collected from 2,936 women, recruited as the baseline cohort for the SWAN study in 1996/1997.

The mean age at first interview was 45 years old. Non-Hispanic Caucasian women were most represented in the sample (48%), and the majority of women were educated to above a high school level. On average they had two children, were mostly married or in a relationship (78%), and living with their partner (68%).

The women were asked to respond to several questions, including whether they had engaged in sex with their partner in the past six months, the frequency of sex including whether they engaged in sexual intercourse, oral sex, sexual touching or caressing in the last six months and whether they had engaged in self-stimulation in the past six months. The most frequent pattern of sexual activity was weekly (64%).

None of the women had yet entered menopause, but 46% were in early peri-menopause (starting to experience menopause symptoms, such as changes in period cycle and hot flashes) and 54% were pre-menopausal (having regular cycles and showing no symptoms of peri-menopause or menopause).

Interviews were carried out over a ten-year follow-up period, during which 1,324 (45%) of the 2,936 women experienced a natural menopause at an average age of 52.

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By modelling the relationship between sexual frequency and the age of natural menopause, women of any age who had sex weekly had a hazard ratio of 0.72, whereas women of any age who had sex monthly had a hazard ratio of 0.81.

This provided a likelihood whereby women of any age who had sex weekly were 28% less likely to experience the menopause compared to those who had sex less than monthly. Likewise, those who had sex monthly were 19% less likely to experience menopause at any given age compared to those who had sex less than monthly.

The researchers controlled for characteristics including oestrogen level, education, BMI, race, smoking habits, age at first occurrence of menstruation, age at first interview and overall health.

The study also tested whether living with a male partner affected menopause as a proxy to test whether exposure to male pheromones delayed menopause. The researchers found no correlation, regardless of whether the male was present in the household or not. Last author, Professor Ruth Mace (UCL Anthropology), added: “The menopause is, of course, an inevitability for women, and there is no behavioural intervention that will prevent reproductive cessation. Nonetheless, these results are an initial indication that menopause timing may be adaptive in response to the likelihood of becoming pregnant.”

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Factors to consider in hiring a personal injury lawyer

If you don’t trust a lawyer from the get-go, then it’s most likely that they are not the right people to represent your case. With your gut feeling and the above tips, finding the best personal injury will be a walk in the park.

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Hiring a personal injury lawyer is one of the most important decisions you can make after being involved in an automobile accident, workplace-related injury, a slip-and-fall, or an animal bite. When choosing a lawyer, you want to make sure that they’ll have your best interests at heart and that they’ll work diligently while using a proactive approach to investigate all the facts in your case. With so many law firms tightly concentrated within major cities, it can be an uphill task to find the right lawyer to work with. 

To help you out and make the process less daunting for you, below are factors you need to consider in hiring a personal injury lawyer.

Reputation

It’s very important that when looking for a personal injury lawyer, you consider getting a lawyer with a solid reputation. If it’s your first time hiring a personal injury lawyer, consider asking for referrals from past clients and looking at some reviews on their website as well as from other online sources and asking around from friends or family members. You want to work with a lawyer who garners respect from their peers, judges, insurance companies, and clients alike. One thing to note is that the quality of services offered by a lawyer will be determined by how exceptional they are in their line of work. Personal injury lawyers who have a good reputation will have distinct characteristics such as competence, commitment to quality, accountability, and loyalty, to mention but a few.

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Experience

An experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to analyze your case and provide you with reliable insights and counsel that will be beneficial in your case. Before hiring a personal injury lawyer, it’s imperative to ensure that they have enough experience in handling your case. Personal injury cases are complex and in addition to this, they are very demanding. For this reason and more, it’s also important to ask all the right questions when determining your prospective lawyer’s experience. Ask them whether they’ve taken on similar cases in the past and how successful they were. Additionally, you also want to take their focus on practice into account since personal injury law is broad with various subcategories. For instance, medical malpractice laws are different from those that involve animal bites and work-related injuries. Your personal injury lawyer should, therefore, have a lot of experience specializing in the particular area of personal injury law your case falls under. Additionally, it’s also important that the lawyer in question has trial experiences. You don’t want your lawyer to use your case to refine their skills. They need to know what they are doing and have the acumen it takes to find you the best settlement.

Cost

Before hiring a personal injury lawyer, it’s important to consider how much they charge for their services. Some personal injury lawyers charge a specific fee to their clients depending on the services rendered. On the other hand, you have a personal injury lawyer who works on a contingency basis, which means that you’ll only pay them if they win your case. These lawyers come highly recommended because they are highly motivated and you can expect them to work on your case in the best possible way.

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Personality

Before you select a particular injury lawyer, it’s important to ensure that the two of you get along. Their overall personality should be likable and they also need to be people you can get comfortable with. Consider hiring a lawyer who’ll be willing to take your calls whenever you need them; one who will not blow you off whenever you need help. Avoid lawyers who are out looking for a quick fix in your case so that they can move to the next client. Lawyers with the best attributes have good communication skills and will deliver the best services.

Credentials

The best personal injury lawyers will be willing to show you their certifications and other credentials. Actually, these are among the first things you will see hanging on their walls. A fancy office and sleek suits are not enough to represent your case in a court of law. A personal injury lawyer needs to have the lawyer qualifications it takes to represent your case. This includes holding a practice license in addition to pre-law and law school certifications. They should have passed the bar exam to continue to hold their practice license.

Finally, it’s important that you also trust your gut feeling. While it’s a good idea to ask around and talk to referees, you should always trust your gut feeling when making the final decision. If you don’t trust a lawyer from the get-go, then it’s most likely that they are not the right people to represent your case. With your gut feeling and the above tips, finding the best personal injury will be a walk in the park.

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

How does foreign exchange market work?

If you haven’t heard of Forex trading before, you might be wondering how the foreign exchange market works.

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The foreign exchange market or Forex trading operates through online brokerages. These brokerages, trade international currencies and operate comparably to stock market exchanges. The foreign exchange market offers a large amount of liquidity compared to the stock market and this attracts some investors to this form of trading.

If you haven’t heard of Forex trading before, you might be wondering how the foreign exchange market works.

The Basics – Baby Steps

Foreign exchange markets are essentially markets that operate the same way that stock market exchanges do, but they are traded in international foreign currencies. Geopolitical circumstances can make currency values fluctuate, so you’ll want to pay attention to the news and global ongoings. The online currency is generally traded on online platforms or through online brokerages which may charge commission rates/fixed fees. Foreign currency exchanges may carry a higher amount of risk than national stock trading, but this volatility may be something to be taken advantage of.

With a Forex broker, you’re able to set up automatic transactions or have them alert you when currencies hit a certain value. Foreign currency exchange can be confusing, so set up with a platform that offers a demo account that will allow you to trade “dummy” money to get a feel for the markets.

Getting Started On A Platform

Many platforms will only require you to invest an initial amount of 100$ or less in order to start trading. As mentioned previously, you will likely want to find a platform that offers a demo option so you can learn the ropes without losing any money. You can track how other traders are trading via a platform, and investigate the historical value of different currencies. The professionals from forextrading-online.com mention that you should also seek a Forex broker who is searching for clientele who also meet your demographic. Investing a large sum of money into a trading exchange you’re just getting into maybe too risky if you don’t want to lose your investment.

If you haven’t heard of Forex trading before, you might be wondering how the foreign exchange market works.

Never Stop Learning

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Research an excessive amount about what currencies you should be investing in prior to involving yourself in trade. Always keep up with the news regarding the currencies that you’re trading in, and attempt to develop a personal strategy. Pay attention to previous changes in the currency market and its history to see if you think any event will have a major impact on value.

The great thing about the foreign exchange market is that you’re able to buy and sell quickly due to the large volume found on the market. Once you develop a consistent and profitable flow, there’s no real reason to divert from these strategies. Gauge your win and loss percentage and ensure you’re staying above a profitable amount. If not, reassess and review where you should make your next move. You do not necessarily need to generate a profit every trade that you may, but you want your overall rates of trades to represent “wins”.

What You Need To Know

You’ll also want to look into your local regulation regarding profits made from the foreign exchange market. Just like the stock market exchange, there are taxes associated with Forex trading. Speak to a taxation lawyer if you’re worried about what taxes you’ll be expected to pay.

Also, don’t just settle on any Forex trading platform, do some shopping around. Find a platform with commission rates you find tolerable, and initial fees that won’t put too much of a dent into your finances. If you’re using this on a regular basis, you won’t want to feel like it’s a headache when you’re trading currencies. You might want to keep in mind some trading platforms may charge you an inactivity fee with use, so cancel any accounts with platforms you don’t think you’ll continue to use in the future.

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As you can see, there’s a lot of information to take in when it comes to the foreign exchange market. You won’t learn everything all at once, but if you keep researching you’ll get a handle of the ins and outs of Forex trading. Remember the initial costs of utilizing a Forex trading platform through a broker and ensure you review your investment goals prior to placing money into your online account. Trialing demo trading on platforms is really going to help you get a grasp on how to adjust to Forex trading. Make sure you’re constantly researching and learning in order to develop a better understanding at all times and be aware of taxation laws within your region. After some time and strategy enhancement, you’ll develop a better understanding of how foreign exchange markets operate.

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Health & Wellness

Transgender students face higher levels of substance abuse

This misuse of drugs by transgender individuals is thought not to be anything to do with their non-gender conformity but with the discrimination that they, as transgender individuals, face on a daily basis.

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A study by The Journal of School Health has found transgender students to be 2.5 times more likely to try and use drugs such as methamphetamines and cocaine than their non-transgender peers. Transgender students were also found to be twice as likely to misuse prescription medication than other students their age. 

This misuse of drugs by transgender individuals is thought not to be anything to do with their non-gender conformity but with the discrimination that they, as transgender individuals, face on a daily basis, with stigma being one of the primary drivers of transgender mental health issues across the world. 

In the US more than 50% of transgender individuals report suffering from depression or anxiety and LGBTQ individuals are also 7 times more likely to consider death by suicide than heterosexual gender-conforming individuals. 

At home, 19% of transgender individuals have experienced domestic violence as a result of their gender nonconformity and at work, more than 50% of transgender individuals have experienced discrimination. 

With so much stigma at home, on the street and in the workplace it’s no wonder that some transgender individuals are turning to narcotics as a way to numb the pain and escape their realities. 

Dr. Pedro, a scientist who helped conduct the drug use study has said “When it comes to transgender teens, it’s the transphobia that impacts [their use of drugs], not being transgender. In order to reduce the likelihood of a kid to resort to drugs as a means to cope, there has to be some sort of social support mechanism,” 

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Evidence from initiatives in the US supports the idea that better support systems and less stigmatizing communities can have a positive impact on the mental health of transgender individuals. Simply providing transgender individuals with appropriate toilet facilities was found to reduce the likelihood of transgender teens committing suicide by a staggering 45% and the introduction of same-sex marriage saw a huge drop in suicide attempts by 134,000.

So what else can be done to help support transgender individuals and reduce their need to rely on narcotics?

The evidence provided by initiatives in the US proves that removing the stigma surrounding being transgender is key to reducing suicide rates and improving transgender mental health but this won’t happen overnight. We need to see an introduction of more support systems for transgender people in the form of support groups and access to counseling and we need to provide transgender people with access to inpatient drug rehab centers if they have already fallen too far. 

To remove stigma in the community, schools and governors need to focus on transgender awareness and education, helping friends, families, and co-workers to understand what it means to be transgender and how they can help to ease the weight that their loved one, friend or colleague is carrying. Education also needs to start far earlier and be taught in schools to help students grow up into compassionate individuals with a wider understanding of the LGBTQ community and the challenges it faces. 

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Health & Wellness

Hidden sexual-arousal disorder can compromise mental health

It’s important that people know of this medical condition and that it is primarily a neurological problem, not a psychiatric one.

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Persistent genital arousal disorder (PGAD)–which is almost exclusively experienced by females and characterized by spontaneous and unwanted sexual arousal unrelated to desire–can compromise individuals’ mental health and well-being and severely damage relationships with partners. Results from a new study by investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) indicate that PGAD can be caused by altered firing of nerves that carry sensations from the genitalia or by damage to the lowest parts of the spinal cord. The study also found that neurological treatments benefit many patients.

“It’s important that people know of this medical condition and that it is primarily a neurological problem, not a psychiatric one,” said senior author Bruce Price, MD, an MGH Department of Neurology investigator who is also chief of Neurology at McLean Hospital. “Many affected women are silent and undercover–it’s in no way a fun condition, and it is difficult for patients to address their symptoms with their doctors, who have typically never heard of PGAD.” The problem can be especially troubling for adolescents, causing confusion, shame, and fear.

The study, published in PAIN Reports, included 10 females whose PGAD symptoms began between ages 11 to 70 years. Although the study involved only a small number of patients, it’s still one of the first to carefully examine PGAD in a thorough and scientific manner.

Spinal nerve-root cysts were detected in four patients and generalized sensory nerve damage (neuropathy) in two. One patient with symptoms since childhood was born with a small defect in her lowest spinal cord, one had a lumbosacral herniated disc in the lower back, and another developed short-lived PGAD when she abruptly stopped a prescribed antidepressant medication.

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All psychiatric and gynecological treatments were ineffective, and injecting local anesthetics had no lasting benefit. In contrast, neurological treatments–such as cyst removal and treating nerve damage–were effective in 80% of patients.

“Physicians need to be aware of PGAD and inquire about it when patients experience other pelvic pain or urological symptoms that often accompany PGAD,” said first author Anne Louise Oaklander, MD, PhD, an investigator in the Department of Neurology at MGH. “It’s treatable, but the treatment depends on the cause. By identifying some common causes–and localizing them to specific regions of the sacral nervous system–our study provides direction on how to help patients and to guide future research.”

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