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Taiwan shows LGBTQ-friendliness doesn’t mean equality for all

In Taiwan, public attitude towards LGBTQ citizens are non-violent, at best. The rate of hate crimes is relatively low compared to other countries. Be that as it may, there are still a lot of tweaking to do when it comes to having a truly respectful and empowering environment for LGBTQ citizens.

Photo courtesy of Ketty W. Chen

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Taiwanese society, in general, is pretty accepting of diversity. The country is known to have the largest Pride Parade in Asia and leads in LGBTQ rights in the region.  Some queer-centric hang-out spots can be seen around its capital, Taipei – from gay-friendly clubs and cafes, a weekly social activity for LGBTQ folks to the existence of a welcoming Christian church and, presently, being home to the only Taoist temple in the world that hears the prayers of LGBTQ individuals seeking romantic love.

Public attitude towards LGBTQ citizens are non-violent, at best. The rate of hate crimes is relatively low compared to other countries. Be that as it may, there are still a lot of tweaking to do when it comes to having a truly respectful and empowering environment for LGBTQ citizens.

Working on SOGIE (mis)education

At face value, the Taiwanese government endorses LGBTQ rights through its public announcements, bills and policies. But actual implementation is another story. In the same way that the Ministry of Interior fails for years to deliver on its promise to do away with discriminatory requirements on legal gender change, the Ministry of Education (MOE) also disappoints with its crude implementation of the Gender Equity Education Act, which supposedly should promote comprehensive SOGIE awareness and education in schools.

Wayne Lin, consultant for Taiwan Tongzhi (LGBT) Hotline Association, shared that, In year 2004, Taiwan passed a very advanced, pioneering Gender Equity Education Act. So conceptually, schools need to teach [gender equity education] 4 hours every semester, supposedly. But what’s ‘gender equity education’? That has been the battlefield for the past years… When the government or some professional teachers try to draft a guideline for the teachers… the opposition tries to manipulate fear with misleading information [about gender equity education], and the government doesn’t really take a strong and clear stance [on this policy]… But some teachers still want to do that [impart SOGIE education] so the hotline is [sometimes] invited to schools to talk about gender equity education.”

Wayne added, “I think the MOE doesn’t want to take any political risk… It’s always asking the two sides to fight each other, and the government doesn’t make any decision.”

Anti-LGBTQ groups continue to figure out ways to get into the school system in order to influence policies. For example, they run for the head positions in the parent groups/associations in schools while hiding their identity as anti-LGBTQ. There are organizations dubbed as “parent groups” but are actually an offshoot of conservative religious groups opposing LGBTQ equality. Moreover, anti-LGBTQ groups spread misinformation that schools are teaching students how to have sex and converting them into homosexuality. They would stop at nothing to get Gender Equity Education off of schools’ curricula.

“Several years ago, one Christian legislator asked MOE to let anti-LGBTQ people to get into the Gender Equity Education Committee. They said that anti-LGBTQ opinion is also part of the diversified opinion; therefore, they can get into the committee… So now the Gender Equity Education Committee has a few seats for anti-LGBTQ members, which is very ironic,” Wayne lamented.

Presbyterian Church in Taipei offering its support for LGBTQ+ rights
Photo courtesy of Ketty W. Chen

Establishing an LGBTQ-inclusive environment isn’t only needed in educational institutions. Aside from empowering queer youth, Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association works on providing support to the elderly demographic as well. Wayne shared, “The other thing we also pay quite a lot of attention to is the Long-Term Care Policy Taiwan is forming at this moment… For example, in Taiwan, some long-term care institutions actually are religious, like Muslim or Christian, so we already know some people are so afraid of going into that institution because they don’t know how they will be treated.”

The indifference towards LGBTQ issues, which is also why their rights are not taken seriously enough to be prioritized, can also be felt in the workplace. For example, even though there are work regulations against discrimination, in reality, a lot of queer employees are still not that comfortable to be open about their sexual orientation or gender identity for fear of it affecting their career development. Sexual harassment or discrimination cases are also not properly addressed. Basically, as Wayne put it, “You probably would not hear really harsh discrimination, but typically you are ignored. LGBTQ’s are kind of invisible.”

Much ado about marriage equality

Currently, Taiwan lets LGBTQ couples have civil unions, but which is evidenced only by a piece of paper that brings zero spousal protection or benefits. They are not granted medical visitation rights, joint property rights, parental rights, adoption rights or any of the hundred or so rights given to married couples under the law. Surprisingly, even their national ID cards would still state their status as being “single”, not married. However, according to Reese Li, Secretary of Taiwan LGBT Family Rights Advocacy, although such civil unions are only done symbolically without any substantial partnership rights, one goal of this is to let government realize that there is actually a mass of LGBTQ couples who yearn for the right to marry. Hence, they must be given this basic civil right as citizens of the country.

In the past year, Taiwan’s Constitutional Court has declared that banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. It was ruled that marriage equality would be implemented after 2 years from May 2017. The options involve amending the Civil Code or, the less appealing route, by crafting a separate law for same-sex marriage. Despite the past media hype, Taiwan’s road to marriage equality is still actually stagnating in legislation. Without a clearly defined law protecting LGBTQ couples’ right to marry, as well as guaranteeing all their rights and benefits in marriage, the future for same-sex matrimony remains vague.

Taiwan’s prominent gay civil rights activist, Chi Chia Wei (祁家威), waves a rainbow flag atop a building.
Photo courtesy of Ketty W. Chen

While the government is being lax on this issue, anti-LGBTQ groups are continuously devising ways to block the progress of marriage equality. Early this year, opposing groups have passed a referendum proposal diluting multifaceted LGBTQ issues into 3 questions: (1) Should homosexuality be taught to primary and high school students? (2) Should marriage be defined as solely between a man and a woman? (3) Should same-sex couples have a different kind of union from marriage?

“Same-sex marriage must be implemented since the Constitutional Court already proclaimed it. It should not be overruled by the referendum. But the main question is ‘How?’… The aim of the anti-gay groups is for legislation to make a ‘special’ law for same-sex marriage, instead of amending the Civil Code [for marriage] because they believe that the Civil Code is theirs”, said Reese Li. “Special laws are written for disadvantaged people in society- for example, indigenous people or children. The purpose is to provide special protection… But the purpose behind anti-gay groups wanting a special law [for same-sex marriage] is from blatant discrimination, not to protect a minority group.”

Anti-LGBTQ protestors in Taiwan join hands as they stand menacingly.
Photo courtesy of Ketty W. Chen

In response to this, a pro-LGBTQ referendum was initiated by Social Democratic Party member Miao Po Ya. They are fighting against well-funded, threatening attempts to trash both the Gender Equity Education Act and marriage equality ruling. Reese shared that the coalition of opposing groups are quite strong since, aside from getting financial and mobilization support from local political and religious organizations, they are also backed by conservative groups in the US and Hong Kong.

At the end of August, the opposing groups’ referendum proposals have been submitted to election authorities. The last stage would involve placing the referendum on ballot in the coming local elections in November 2018. If anti-LGBTQ sentiments were to succeed, government might take this as a sign that Taiwanese society is not yet ready for the progress of LGBTQ rights; and thus, such atmosphere of discrimination could lead to the continuation of curtailing their civil rights.

The sign reads, “In Canada, we are a married couple. Under Taiwanese law, we are mere strangers.”
Photo courtesy of Andrea Toerien

Indeed, same-sex marriage stirs a lot of discussions not just in Taiwan but also in different parts of the world, which can be a good thing for advocating less discrimination for a minority group. However, it’s also getting slammed as a bourgeoisie movement that has strayed away from its roots, furthers inequality and ignores the struggles in structural intersectionality (the same goes for exorbitant celebrations of Pride parades) especially when, at times, it takes a huge slice of attention and funding at the expense of other important socio-politico-economic struggles experienced by LGBTQ’s (e.g. poverty, disability issues, homelessness, HIV-related issues). All this mainstream focus on marriage rights as the helm of LGBTQ advocacy can be rather dismissive and shortsighted.

In a nutshell, critics assert that since the flawed neoliberal institution of marriage tends to emphasize the gap between the privileged and less privileged, between those with a family and those without a family, not to mention its historical subjugation of women, “marriage equality” then comes off as a misnomer that is not really pushing for equality in its truest sense.

Reese Li gave her two-cents on this particular critique.  “I think we have to look at the situation of each country. First, do the poor in Taiwan not think about marriage? Actually they still look for marriage, and this might be passed down from the conservative thinking in the past of need to marry to have children for manpower. I think many Asian country are like this… advancing marriage equality is not to oppress people or pressure gay people to marry. It only offer an option, a choice…When our organization supported marriage equality, it’s not because a lot of us want to have a wedding, but because a lot of same-sex couples already have kids…. A lot of protection, benefits, rights in society can be obtained through being registered as family. When it comes to single parent, there are less resources provided… Right now, we can only at least make baby steps to deal with the current situation. Personally, I, myself, don’t have any desire for marriage. But marriage can change our legal status and this can guarantee relevant rights and provide more resources. This is our reality now. We can’t just make a gigantic jump and demand government to provide subsidy on an individual citizen basis. That is impossible at this time.”

Wayne Lin is of the same tune with Reese. “Actually even within Hotline we have this kind of debate as well before we decide to work with other groups and the legislators to propose our bill. Yes, we all know that marriage cannot solve all the issues for LGBTQ. Of course, it’s better for everyone to enjoy the rights without getting married under certain circumstances… In the short-term, there’s no way for us to break the current marriage system in Taiwan… So for me it’s [marriage equality advocacy] more practical, just step-by-step… As long as this policy-making can benefit someone in our community, we should do that.”

According to Wayne, marriage equality can be a good talking point for society to start thinking about LGBTQ rights, as well as the concept of marriage and family. “I think majority of society probably doesn’t know LGBTQ that much, especially for the elder group. But this is an opportunity, you can talk to them, you can come out and showcase some story, so that they can better understand… I still believe the movement is really about how you make others understand our situation, and marriage equality is one easy way to open a dialogue. [If] They understand what’s the meaning, benefit or drawback of marriage,…as a beginning, then get a feeling of LGBTQ issues… it’s a methodology or way of doing public education… not everyone can still get married even if [same-sex marriage is] legalized due to economic status or not coming-out to family. So there are still so much work to be done.”

Anti-LGBTQ groups protest against amending Civil Code 972 on marriage.
Photo courtesy of Ketty W. Chen

What makes a family

Another human rights organization known as Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights (TAPCPR) is working on advocating a multi-family system that aims to provide, not only a legal option for marriage for the LGBTQ community, but also the proper rights and protections for different family structures in Taiwan.

TAPCPR has 3 different proposals which include marriage equality. The second proposal pertains to a partnership system whereby two individuals can enter into a civil contract that customizes the obligations and rights that they would mutually agree on, such as those relating to inheritance, property and so forth. The third one proposes a multi-member family system that allows individuals to have a contractual option to live and be registered as a family with friends.

However, opposing groups argue that the multi-family system proposal would be dangerous to society as it would destroy traditional relationships and families. It is too radical of an idea to be discussed as of now.

Photo courtesy of Ketty W. Chen

Just with same-sex marriage alone, the voice of opposition can be virulent. While marriage equality advocates are merely fighting for LGBTQ’s right to enter into a monogamous married life and to build a family, anti-LGBTQ groups stretch the imagination beyond ridiculousness. Now, rather than posturing as messengers of God and using battlecries based on subjective interpretations of Bible verses, opposing groups – in an attempt to extend their influence – have rebranded themselves to be ordinary parents or citizens concerned about the future of families in Taiwan.

Aside from the usual conservative religious rhetoric, opponents are also operating out of misguided fear that marriage equality’s agenda is to erode monogamous relationships and family values, as well as to cause people into marrying animals or inanimate objects. They also posit that marriage equality would only worsen the country’s declining birth rate. Another extremist view is that same-sex marriage will lead to the eventual extinction of the human race. Unfortunately, the power of fear-mongering and misinformation over human emotions can never be underestimated.

Such antagonistic perspectives against same-sex marriage cannot be further from the truth. On the contrary, Reese explained that one crucial aspect of the legalization of same-sex marriage is for the protection of children under the care of same-sex parents.

“In legal papers, a kid raised by same-sex couples is indicated as being raised by a single parent only even though the kid is raised by a couple. This can lead to a lot of issues and insecurity when it comes to raising the child as a couple because the other ‘parent’ is considered a stranger under the eyes of law… Even with artificial reproduction done in other countries, when the gay couple comes back to Taiwan, they are not recognized as both parents.”, said Reese.

There are already a huge number of same-sex couples in Taiwan who encounter several issues when it comes to raising their child. A task as simple as taking their children to the doctor or fetching them from school already proves to be such a hassle if the not-legally-recognized parent is the one doing the job. How much more when heavier parental responsibilities must be done for the children’s well-being?

Reese continued on to explain, “Worse comes to worst, if the legally recognized parent dies, the surviving partner can’t continue to take care of the kid. The kid will be separated from the surviving parent because s/he is not recognized by law as parent. By law, the child has to go with blood-related relatives of the deceased parent. But we have to consider that not everyone can still be in good terms with relatives… It will be a bigger problem for the child.”

Photo courtesy of Ketty W. Chen

LGBTQ rights are universal rights 

While Taiwan is an LGBTQ-friendly destination, there are still undoubtedly a lot of obstacles to hurdle through and conflicts to sort out on the ground. Neighboring and distant countries need to keep a close watch and offer an intimate support to the Taiwanese LGBTQ+ community’s clamor for widespread equality – not just for the sake of marrying the person they love, but also to advance SOGIE awareness and education, to foster legal protection for diverse families that exist beyond the outdated concept of a traditional family, as well as to address the myriad of less talked about yet similarly important issues that affect LGBTQ+ folks. After all, their fight is also the fight of every LGBTQ+ and human rights movement around the globe. Even as a small Asian island, its wins could still pack a punch and contribute to putting an end to discrimination and hate crimes against people of different SOGIE.

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Lifestyle & Culture

Three crucial steps for a thriving business

If your business is surviving, but not thriving, take these three crucial steps to get the most out of your company.

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If you’re a business owner, you may think that simply surviving the COVID-19 crisis, and the financial impacts it has had, is enough. Think again.

If your business is surviving, but not thriving, take these three crucial steps to get the most out of your company. 

IMAGE SOURCE: PEXELS.COM

Provide excellent customer service

While you likely set out to solve a problem that a customer was facing or provide a product that someone was in search of, it may have been lost somewhere along the road. It’s time to remember that. So, instead of just offering middling service at best, make sure your customer service is optimal.

Go the extra mile when you can; if a customer has a question that you don’t have the direct answer to, point them to an expert that might. Is your customer asking for an upgrade, a product, or something that you don’t offer yet but might? Don’t forget to reach out directly to them as soon as you do have it available, whether that means salted chocolate chip cookies if you own a bakery, or a new way to track receipts if you offer a SaaS solution to finances.

Offer the type of customer service that you want when you frequent a business. Each customer you interact with has their own unique customer experience, so remember that when providing them your solution or product. 

Do not cut prices even during a crisis

Don’t underestimate your company’s worth. Many start-up businesses under value their product, solution, or service. When this happens, they don’t charge enough. And do you know what happens? People don’t think they’re getting a great deal when they work with you. They just expect that you are providing them the price that you see necessary to charge them.  Investigate your pricing strategy and make sure it aligns with your product. 

There is evidence that shows when two identical services are offered at different prices, people will often go with the higher price. Why? They simply assume it’s better. If your product is good, do not cut prices, offer coupons, or boast that you’re the cheapest in the area. Not only are you attracting the wrong customers by doing this, but you’re also likely to lose customers when you raise prices that weer previously unsustainable. 

IMAGE SOURCE: PEXELS.COM

Stop overpromising and under-delivering

If a car mechanic tells you that they can fix your car by that evening, you expect it to be finished by the end of the day, right? When you go to pick it up, only to find that it actually won’t be done for three more days, you’re probably more than a little miffed. What would happen though if the mechanic initially told you they’d let you know a timeframe, but expected it to be finished in about three days, and actually had it done in two? You’d think, “Wow, that was fast!”

Instead of overpromising and under-delivering, be honest with your customers. If you are planning to have an update for your app by the end of the month, be realistic. Don’t promise them more than you can actually deliver on in the allotted amount of time, and your customers will learn to trust you. 

Growing your business takes work

Growing a business isn’t all rainbows and cupcakes. It takes years of hard work and dedication, but if you want your company to thrive, not just survive, it’s time to kick it up a notch. 

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Lifestyle & Culture

Surviving COVID-19: 5 Strategies hotels should implement ASAP

Even when the pandemic ends, the practice of social distancing, fear of large crowds, and quarantining may continue to linger for months or even years. This means that business owners need to keep up with this drastic shift in consumer behavior.

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The coronavirus outbreak that started in Wuhan, China has spread like wildfire throughout the world. With the world on hold, global travel has been put to a stop, causing a huge blow to the hospitality industry, particularly hotels. Travel bans mean less tourists, and less tourists mean lesser hotel guests.  

Even when it ends, the practice of social distancing, fear of large crowds, and quarantining may continue to linger for months or even years. This means that business owners need to keep up with this drastic shift in consumer behavior. Keep in mind that many of your potential guests may develop a lasting stigma against crowded places, including hotel lobbies, busy restaurants, schools, offices, and more. 

According to the STR and Tourism Economics, the hotel industry is projected to suffer a 50.6% decline in revenue per available room (RevPAR) in 2020 due to COVID-19. In another research from CBRE, since the outbreak began in January 2020, it will take approximately 6-10 months for hotel demand to increase and 12 to 16 months for average daily rate (ADR) and RevPAR to gain footing. 

With that said, hoteliers need to take proactive measures to prepare for recovery once this dies down. Here are five strategies hotels should implement to survive the effects of COVID-19. 

1. Inform Your Customers of Critical COVID-19 Information

Be sure your customers know of the changes in hotel operations due to COVID-19. Inform them whether your hotel is open, as well as cancellation policies for reservations made before the outbreak. Also, don’t forget to let them know that you have a prevention plan in place. 

You can connect with your customers via website, social media, emails, and local listings. Your website and social media platforms should contain the following necessary information in which to put your customers at ease:

  • Cancellation Policy – the best route is to waive cancellation fees or allow guests to rebook.
  • Address Frequently Asked Questions About COVID-19
  • Comprehensive Prevention Plan
  • How Your Hotel is Helping the Community
  • Contact Information

2. Recognize the Efforts of Front liners

Doctors, nurses, hospital staff, security guards, cashiers, garbage collectors, medical technicians – these are just some of the people who work in the frontlines to fight the war against COVID-19. Recognizing their efforts is the least we can do to repay their service. 

For hoteliers, you might consider offering discounted rates for front-liners and first responders. Some hotels are now offering complimentary rooms for healthcare professionals with the help of the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s Hospitality for Hope. 

If you want to give a little something to the first responders, you can donate food from your restaurant to local hospitals, offer more affordable rates, offer complimentary rooms, or donate to relief and recovery funds. 

3. Connect with Existing and Potential Guests on Social Media

Since everyone is quarantining, the use of social media has drastically increased over the past few weeks. It’s a great opportunity for business owners, especially hoteliers, to stay connected with your guests and engage with them through posting travel and destination content. 

You can ask previous hotel guests to share a picture from their past stay, share photos of your hotels, post pictures of your area, share virtual tours of tourist spots, or ask your clients to share their favorite touristy activity in your city. 

If your hotel has a gym, you can post at-home workout videos. You can create videos or instructional guides to keep your guests fit while they’re confined to their home. These are just some of the ways to stay connected amid a global pandemic. 

4. Try Upselling

As travel and dine-in demands are being put on hold, every hotelier’s strategy should include looking for strategies to build additional revenue. For it to be effective, you need to figure out what your customers need and want. 

You can encourage guests to book in advance by offering them premium rooms at a discount. You can also offer longer stays for a lower price. For example, book a four-night stay and get the fifth at 50% off. 

This inspires business travelers to extend their stay and encourages potential guests to enjoy a relaxing stay post-pandemic. If your hotel has a dining area or a wellness spa, you can maximize your revenue by offering gift cards. For your restaurant, you can offer delivery or pickup orders. 

5. Personalize Your Marketing Campaigns

Pandemic or no pandemic, personalizing your marketing campaigns is vital to your success. By doing this, your customers will feel important. Whether you want to reach out to business travelers or encourage advance bookings, it always helps to send personalized messages to potential guests. 

With so much on your plate, it can be tempting to generate an automated marketing message. However, you can use this time to get to know your audience and connect with them. You can also try using campaign management software to schedule posts in advance, which will keep your messages aligned. 

Combat the Effects of COVID-19 with These Hotel Financing Options

The effects of COVID-19 in the hotel industry are inevitable. However, as the saying goes: “Those who fail to plan – plan to fail.” 

If you need financial assistance, there are different hotel financing options you can choose from. Taking out a loan may seem counterintuitive, but fortunately there are lending companies that offer flexible repayment terms. 

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Technology

Know thy history; revisit the first 10 years of San Francisco’s Pride

Even Pride gatherings are getting confused nowadays – e.g. Is it still to protest, or (even if the organizers claim it’s a “protest”) is it really just one big party? A revisit to Pride’s history – at least of San Francisco’s, in the US – has opened to help every-all see how everything was in the early days.

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Third World Gay Caucus contingent, San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade, 1977; photograph by Marie Ueda, Marie Ueda Collection (2006-12), GLBT Historical Society.

Even Pride gatherings are getting confused nowadays – e.g. Is it still to protest, or (even if the organizers claim it’s a “protest”) is it really just one big party? Should events highlight the not-that-pretty/sexy yet still ongoing struggles, or just focus on the glamour (and while at it, earn organizers big bucks)? And part of this confusion stems from the lack of awareness, if not appreciation of Pride’s history.

A revisit to Pride’s history – at least of San Francisco’s, in the US – has opened to help every-all see how everything was in the early days.

Organized by the GLBT Historical Society, with the support of San Francisco Pride, “Labor of Love: The Birth of San Francisco Pride, 1970–1980” showcases how San Francisco’s LGBTQIA community in the 1970s forged the annual celebration that would come to be known as the San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Parade.

On June 27, 1970, a small group marched down Polk Street, and the following day staged a “gay-in” picnic in Golden Gate Park. Over the course of the decade, Pride became an annual San Francisco event, growing by leaps and bounds. Initially referred to as Christopher Street West — to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Riot on that street in New York City — and then as Gay Freedom Day, Pride drew some 250,000 participants and spectators in 1980. 

“Labor of Love” revisits the first 10 years of San Francisco Pride using historic photographs, ephemera, artifacts, and film and sound recordings from the archives of the GLBT Historical Society and from community members. The exhibition explores the goals, the controversies, the hard work, the desires and the sometimes-competing spirits of struggle and celebration that laid the foundation for one of the city’s best-known public festivals. 

The exhibition is co-curated by Gerard Koskovich, a public historian and rare book dealer; Don Romesburg, professor of gender and women’s studies at Sonoma State University; and Amy Sueyoshi, dean of the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University. They emphasize that Pride has traditionally deployed both frivolity and protest to promote a positive cultural shift in how society views LGBTQ people. 

The exhibition is organized around four themes.

“Why Pride?” considers how organizers and community members explained the purpose of the annual gathering.

“The Work of Pride” explores the ever-increasing commitment to planning, fundraising, volunteer support and governance that the event required.

“Pride Fights” grapples with the debates over what Pride should be, who should be included, who should make the decisions and how they should be made.

Finally, “Big Gay Family” highlights how the creation of San Francisco Pride brought diverse people into a collective, yet often contested kinship. 

POSTER 1: “Christopher Street Liberation Day Gay-In,” offset flyer, 1970; Charles Thorpe Papers (1987-02), GLBT Historical Society.
POSTER 2: San Francisco Gay Pride program, 1972; Ephemera Collection, GLBT Historical Society.

The interactive final section of the show, “Pride: From Past to Future,” invites visitors to reflect on the history, then look ahead by submitting their responses to two questions: “How will the future of Pride be shaped? How should it be shaped?” The answers will be posted in the online gallery to spark an ongoing dialog about the heritage of Pride.

“Labor of Love” will also be installed as a physical exhibition at the GLBT Historical Society Museum at 4127 18th Street in San Francisco’s Castro district at a future date.

For more information, visit the GLBT Historical Society website at www.glbthistory.org.

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Lifestyle & Culture

Skin pigmentations: Types and treatment options

You should seek medical advice from experts to manage hyperpigmentation conditions. It is advisable to seek skin protective measures for a healthy and happy lifestyle.

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Skin pigmentation is a health disorder that affects the normal appearance of your skin. It is easily noticeable because of the change in color in the area with the disorder. The melanin gives your skin its color. Hyperpigmentation occurs when the color pigment cells of the melanin get damaged or when the cells are unhealthy.

In this article, we take a quick review of some of the hyperpigmentation conditions, treatment options, among other related issues.

Let’s begin…

Types of skin pigmentation

Some skin pigmentation like birthmarks act as beauty spots for some people, while for others it affects their self-esteem or poses health risks.

Birthmarks

Birthmarks are abnormal skin colorations that appear at birth or a few days after birth. Most of the birthmarks are normal while others are cancerous and may pose serious health risks for individuals.

Pigmented birthmarks

Nevus of Ota

They are gray or blue discolorations on the skin which appear on the face or in the eyes. They result from excessive production of melanin on the skin causing discoloration. Many people with the disorder are prone to conditions of skin cancer such as melanoma cancer of the eye, cancer of the central nervous system, and others. They may also cause glaucoma on the individuals.

Treatment:

You can use prescribed bleaching agents for this kind of discoloration, such as laser, hydroquinone, and others.

Hemangiomas

They are birthmarks that appear as growths on the face, arms, trunk, and legs. They are a bunch of tiny blood vessels concentrated on one spot. Some hemangiomas are easily visible on the skin, while others appear bluish since they are deep in the body. The level of severity of this condition depends on if it reduces as your child grows up. Treatment is recommendable to avoid consequential health issues such as bleeding, ulcers, and others.

Treatment:

Use of corticosteroid medication, laser treatment, surgery, use of topical or oral beta-blocker medications. You should first consult an expert on the treatment required to avoid various serious side effects of these treatment methods.

Other pigmented birthmarks include Macular stains, Port-wine stains, and others.

Skin pigmentation disorders

Albinism

Albinism results from a lack of melanin in the skin, hair, or eyes. The condition is inheritable because of the presence of a gene that prevents the production of the pigment melanin.

Treatment:

The condition has no cure. The people with the condition should use sunscreen to prevent them from skin cancer. A visit to an ophthalmologist is recommendable to avoid eye problems.

Vitiligo

Vitiligo is a condition caused by pigment loss. The body’s immune system attacks color pigment cells which cause white patches on the skin. It can cause other health issues such as anemia, diabetes, and others.

Treatment:

There is no cure, but you can get treatments such as the use of topical steroid preparations, topical immunomodulators, excimer laser, and others.

Other pigmentation disorders include; Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, Ashy dermatosis, Melasma, Lentigo Solaris, among others.

You should seek medical advice from experts to manage hyperpigmentation conditions. It is advisable to seek skin protective measures for a healthy and happy lifestyle. Hyperpigmentation may bring about other health issues, hence it is crucial to ensure that your condition gets checked by a health expert.

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Health & Wellness

Covid-19 affects adolescent and young adults sexual and reproductive health

LGBTQ youth have also been impacted. And for some youth whose families are less accepting, being quarantined for months can lead to significant tensions and confidentiality concerns, which could make LGBTQ youth more isolated.

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Photo by Sweet Ice Cream Photography from Unsplash.com

Social distancing and limited access to contraceptive and abortion care during the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the sexual and reproductive health of adolescents and young adults, according to a new study by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and Rutgers University. The researchers address how these challenges, as well as peer and romantic relationships, are being navigated.

The finding are published in the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.

Huge changes for adolescents and young adults, include school closures, potentially much more time with family, the interruption of the normal trajectory toward increased independence and, for many, very limited or no physical proximity to sexual and romantic partners.

Even though the pandemic may lead to less opportunities for sex for some young people, disruptions in access to contraception and abortion can be extremely problematic for adolescents and young adults who are still able to be physically close to their partners during the pandemic, note the authors. “The good news is that some services, including obtaining many forms of contraception and receiving testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases can be handled through telemedicine,” said Leslie Kantor, a professor and chair of the Rutgers Department of Urban Global Public Health. “If telemedicine remains as widely available as it has been during the coronavirus pandemic, access to sexual and reproductive health care may actually improve for young people.” However, Kantor and colleagues say that lack of privacy and confidentiality, which many adolescents and young adults are experiencing while living at home with family, can also hinder the ability to get necessary sexual and reproductive healthcare.

In terms of testing for sexually transmitted infections or seeking abortion care, there is not a lot of data specifically on young people. But many states have tried to restrict abortion access by arguing it is not an essential service despite the fact that abortion clearly is essential and needs to be timely. There also have been very concerning declines in vaccinations for all children older than age 2 and the use of the HPV vaccine, which prevents cancer-causing infections and pre-cancers, has plummeted.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Unsplash.com

LGBTQ youth have also been impacted, although fortunately, many LGBTQ centers quickly moved support groups and other services online. And for some youth whose families are less accepting, being quarantined for months can lead to significant tensions and confidentiality concerns, which could make LGBTQ youth more isolated.

While social disruption resulting from the pandemic affects young adults’ sense of health and well-being, one positive aspect is that young adults are digital natives familiar with online platforms and social media. “Young people are supposed to be gaining independence at this time in life, so for those who have had to return home after a period of being away, maintaining relationships with friends and romantic partners at a distance may be particularly challenging. Our view that their constant digital connection was negative is now a positive for them at this time,” said David Bell, MD, MPH, Columbia Mailman School of Public Health associate professor of Population and Family Health and Pediatrics.

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Health & Wellness

Study finds gender-affirming health care good on paper; still lacking in practice

Fact: Many trans women, especially those in rural areas, couldn’t find a doctor trained to provide those hormones, and the doctors they could access did not know where to refer them for more specialized care.

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Unsplash.com

Good in reports; shitty in actual practice.

This is the state of gender-affirming policies and health care for transgender women, with many of pro-LGBTQIA polices actually still not fully realized in practice, according to a study from Oregon State University found.

In the US, the Supreme Court recently barred employment discrimination against LGBTQIA people, which brings national law more in line with laws that have been in place in various states for several years.

Oregon, for instance, has the Oregon Equality Act of 2008 that protects trans people against employment and housing discrimination, while the expansion of Medicaid in 2015 expanded health coverage to include gender-affirming care like hormone-replacement therapy and transition surgery.

However – and this is worth stressing – those legal protections are not enough to address social determinants of health such as financial status and access to housing, or the everyday discrimination still felt by many trans women in Oregon, said Jonathan Garcia, a researcher ins the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences said. The cumulative effect of those subtler forms of discrimination takes a significant toll on trans women.

“In spite of ranking so highly in terms of Oregon’s support for gender-affirming care, the impact of social discrimination is so great that it challenges policy implementation and the lived experience of people,” Garcia said. “This is how discrimination sort of gets in between the cracks – it plays out in more complicated and indirect ways so that you can’t really weed it out.”

Garcia’s study, published in the Transgender Health journal, gathered detailed interviews with 25 trans women in Oregon, ages 18 to 39. Of those 25, six had been homeless at some point in the 12 months prior and only 20% had full-time employment, though all had some form of health insurance.

According to the study’s findings, one of the biggest challenges facing trans women is navigating the health care system. At least in Oregon, though the law requires insurance to cover hormone-replacement therapy, many trans women, especially those in rural areas, couldn’t find a doctor trained to provide those hormones, and the doctors they could access did not know where to refer them for more specialized care.

In other cases, trans women had to undergo a psychological evaluation to obtain a diagnosis of gender dysphoria – the distress people feel when the sex they’re assigned at birth doesn’t match the gender with which they identify – before they could begin to access hormone replacement therapy. This route is much more time-consuming and cost-prohibitive than the “informed consent model,” wherein trans patients can attest that they understand the risks and benefits of pursuing gender-affirming medical treatment, without first having to prove psychological distress. For some study participants, the idea of gender dysphoria made them feel like they had a medical problem and invalidated their lived experience.

“All of that is really, really confusing,” Garcia said. “It requires them to become experts in their rights, in the law, in the availability of these services and where they are offered.”

Most trans women who were able to navigate that system credit their success to their social support network of other trans people. In addition to this informal network, Garcia said, the system needs to have trained and properly compensated health workers in place who can act as navigators, and they need to understand not just health care but the intersections with housing and the legal system that affect people’s access to care.

“We need help with navigating these systems and establishing trust, so that people are actually able to claim and enjoy the rights that they have, so that the rights don’t remain on paper,” he said.

The study was limited in that 21 of 25 participants were white women. Despite numerous efforts to recruit Black and Latinx trans women, Garcia said, they were unable to reach them through participant referrals and community center contacts. He attributed this to their extreme marginalization in queer spaces in Oregon.

“But we can tell that whatever this set of women is experiencing, I expect the experience of trans women of color to be far more challenging,” Garcia said. “Specifically because of structural racism and disenfranchisement from queer networks, which were a critical resource for the women who were able to navigate these systems.”

Garcia’s co-author was Richard Crosby at the University of Kentucky.

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