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Training on community-based HIV screening held for Deaf community in Mnl

To empower members of the Deaf community in the Philippines to start helping other Deaf Filipinos know their HIV status, and thereby – if they tested HIV-positive – access available treatment, care and support, a training on community-based HIV screening was held for Deaf community members in Manila.

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To help empower members of the Deaf community in the Philippines to start helping other Deaf Filipinos know their HIV status, and thereby – if they tested HIV-positive – access available treatment, care and support, a training on community-based HIV screening was held for Deaf community members in Manila.

The training is actually one in three that will be provided by a project by the Bahaghari Center for Research, Education an Advocacy, Inc. (Bahaghari Center), backed by collaboration between Youth LEAD and Y-PEER (Asia Pacific Center), which eyed to address Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR)needs of Young Key Populations (YKPs) In Asia and the Pacific.

Disney Aguila, who heads the project, and is the concurrent president of Pinoy Deaf Rainbow, is first to admit that “problems regarding access to HIV-related services (particularly in this case) by Deaf Filipinos remain numerous.” This is why, for Aguila, “every effort to immediately help deal with these issues count.”

These challenges are multi-pronged, yet interconnected.

On the side of the Deaf Filipinos:

1) Knowledge about HIV remains low.

In 2012, Michael David C. Tan – publishing editor of Outrage Magazine, the only LGBTQI publication in the Philippines, and head of Bahaghari Center – conducted “Talk to the Hand”, the first-of-its-kind study that looked at the knowledge, attitudes and related practices of Deaf LGBT Filipinos on HIV and AIDS. The study had numerous disturbing findings.
To start, majority of the respondents (33 or 54.1%) were within the 19-24 age range at the time of the study, followed by those who are over 25 (21 or 34.3%).

Most of them (53 of 61 Deaf respondents) had sex before they reached 18, the legal age of consent in the Philippines. Many (36.1%) of them also had numerous sexual partners, with some respondents having as many as 20 sex partners in a month.

Only 21 (34.4%) use condoms, and – worryingly – even among those who used condoms, 12 (19.7%) had condom breakage during sex because of improper use.

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Perhaps the unsafe sexual practice should not be surprising, considering that not even half (29, 47.5%) of the respondents heard of HIV and AIDS, with even less that number (23, 37.7%) knowing someone who died of HIV or AIDS-related complications. And with not even half of the total respondents (29) familiar with HIV and AIDS, not surprisingly, only 19 (31.1%) consider HIV and AIDS as serious, with more of them considering HIV and AIDS as not serious (20, 32.8%) or maybe serious (22, 36.1%).

The study also noted that the level of general knowledge about HIV and AIDS is low, with 40 (65.6%) of them falling in this category. Only about 1/5 of them (12, 19.7%) had high level of knowledge about HIV and AIDS. Even fewer (9, 14.8%) may be classified as having moderate knowledge level.

2) Continuing neglect of inclusion of Deaf community members in HIV-related discussions.

For instance, there may have been HIV-related projects including Deaf Filipinos in the past, but these have been very limited to Deaf LGBTQI people.

It is worth noting that this issue is not limited ONLY to the LGBTQIA members of the Deaf community. This issue also affects the SRHR of the Deaf community, as a whole.

For the World Health Organization (WHO), health is a “state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Specific to reproductive health, WHO stresses that it “implies that people are able to have a responsible, satisfying and safer sex life and that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so.”

It is nonetheless unfortunate that various studies – including Tan’s – highlight how the Deaf community continues to be left behind because they are not able to access safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of fertility regulation/s of their choice.

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For instance, a study carried out by Deafax (EARS Campaign, 2012) revealed “higher than average levels of STIs, pregnancy and inappropriate behavior within the Deaf community.” This study specifically showed that: 35% of Deaf people did not receive any sex education at school; 65% said that sex education was inaccessible; and 36% learned through direct sexual experience.”

Dealing with SRHR vis-à-vis HIV is obviously just as tricky in the Philippines.

From January 1984 to July 2018, sexual contact among men who have sex with men (MSM) was the predominant (84%, 44,929) mode of transmission among males. Just as that moniker suggests, many of these MSM are not necessarily gay/homosexual, but also engage in sex with opposite sex partners.

This is connected to the population of those most vulnerable to risks associated with sexual activity getting younger, including HIV. But while this has been noted in the Hearing population, the Deaf community is largely ignored, with no existing data on HIV prevalence among them.

In fact, also from January 1984 to July 2018, 16,074 (28%) of the reported cases were 15-24 years old; and broken down, 1,813 were infected through male-female sex, 9,031 from male-male sex, and 4,662 from sex with both males and females.

This means that so long as the HIV infection rate among MSM increases, so do the risk for infection among women.

As it is, the number of diagnosed HIV infections among females in the Philippines has already increased. Females diagnosed with HIV from January to July 2018 (362) was almost three times the number of diagnosed cases compared to the same period of 2013 (126). Ninety-three percent (3,426) of all female cases were in the reproductive age group (15-49 years old) at the time of diagnosis.

With the dearth – if not complete absence – of information for the Deaf community in the Philippines about HIV, Deaf Filipinos (irrespective of their SOGIE) continue not to be informed of and have access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of birth control; as well as appropriate health care services of sexual, reproductive medicine and implementation of health education program.

READ:  What influences how parents and their gay adolescent sons discuss sexual health at home?

3) Lack of HIV-related materials in Filipino Sign Language (FSL).

According to Aguila, still many people – including service providers – do not know that the Deaf community has its own language (with its own grammar and syntax). And so HIV-related materials are often produced with the assumption that “everyone can already immediately understand them, which is not necessarily true.”

Aguila recommends the development and production of materials specifically targeting the Deaf community to ensure “that the messages being relayed are truly understood,” she said.

Already, Bahaghari Center has released PSAs on the basics of HIV.

PSA on HIV basics released in Filipino Sign Language

On the side of Filipino Sign Language interpreters:

1) There is still a lack of interpreters in the country (particularly in far-flung areas.

2) Also, even among the available interpreters, not many actually know about HIV.

3) There is also the lack of interpreters who can accompany Deaf Filipinos who end up testing HIV-positive when they access treatment, care and support services.

4) And there – currently – are no HIV-related programs being offered to ensure that willing interpreters are also given HIV-related knowledge and skills.

Aguila admitted that “we definitely still have a long way to go; but we do what we can, and starting with one step – such as training Deaf community members to start testing other Deaf Filipinos is but one good step.”

The training in Manila – as well as in Cebu City in the Visayas and Davao City in Mindanao – is provided by The Red Ribbon Project, Inc.

Other supporters of the project include: Outrage Magazine, Fringe Publishing, Pinoy Deaf Rainbow, TransDeaf Philippines, Deaf Dykes United and Pinoy Deaf Queer.

Call him A.M. (short for Albert Magallanes, obviously; though - he says - also to "signify being on the go, as people tend to be in the mornings"). A graduate of BS Physical Therapy (in DLS Health Sciences Institute), he found his calling ("Sort of," he laughed) attempting to organize communities ("While having fun in the process," he beamed). For instance, in Las Piñas where he is based, he helps helm an MSM group that has evolved from just offering social events to aiding its members as needed. He now writes for Outrage Magazine as the Las Piñas (and southern) correspondent.

NEWSMAKERS

Validation may be best way to support stressed out friends and family

In uncertain times, supporting your friends and family can help them make it through. But your comforting words can have different effects based on how you phrase them.

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In uncertain times, supporting your friends and family can help them make it through. But your comforting words can have different effects based on how you phrase them, according to new Penn State research.

The researchers studied how people responded to a variety of different messages offering emotional support. They found that messages that validated a person’s feelings were more effective and helpful than ones that were critical or diminished emotions.

The findings were recently published in the keystone paper of a virtual special issue of the Journal of Communication. The researchers said the results could help people provide better support to their friends and families.

“One recommendation is for people to avoid using language that conveys control or uses arguments without sound justification,” said Xi Tian, a graduate assistant in communication arts and sciences. “For example, instead of telling a distressed person how to feel, like ‘don’t take it so hard’ or ‘don’t think about it,’ you could encourage them to talk about their thoughts or feelings so that person can come to their own conclusions about how to change their feelings or behaviors.”

Tian said that previous research has shown that social support can help alleviate emotional distress, increase physical and psychological well-being, and improve personal relationships. But — depending on how support is phrased or worded — it could be counterproductive, such as actually increasing stress or reducing a person’s confidence that they can manage their stressful situation.

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Denise Solomon, department head and professor of communication arts and sciences, said they were trying to learn more about why well-intentioned attempts to comfort others are sometimes seen as insensitive or unhelpful.

“We wanted to examine the underlying mechanism that explains why some supportive messages may produce unintended consequences,” Solomon said. “We also wanted to understand how people cognitively and emotionally respond to insensitive social support.”

For the study, the researchers recruited 478 married adults who had recently experienced an argument with their spouse. Before completing an online questionnaire, participants were asked to think about someone with whom they had previously discussed their marriage or spouse. Then, they were presented with one of six possible supportive messages and were asked to imagine that person giving them that message.

Lastly, the participants were asked to rate their given message on a variety of characteristics.

“We manipulated the messages based on how well the support message validates, recognizes, or acknowledges the support recipients’ emotions, feelings, and experiences,” Tian said. “Essentially, the messages were manipulated to exhibit low, moderate, or high levels of person-centeredness, and we created two messages for each level of person-centeredness.”

According to the researchers, a highly person-centered message recognizes the other person’s feelings and helps the person explore why they might be feeling that way. For example, “Disagreeing with someone you care about is always hard. It makes sense that you would be upset about this.” Meanwhile, a low person-centered message is critical and challenges the person’s feelings. For example, “Nobody is worth getting so worked up about. Stop being so depressed.”

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After analyzing the data, the researchers found that low person-centered support messages did not help people manage their marital disagreement in a way that reduced emotional distress.

“In fact, those messages were perceived as dominating and lacking argument strength,” Tian said. “Those messages induced more resistance to social support, such that the participants reported feeling angry after receiving the message. They also reported actually criticizing the message while reading it.”

In contrast, high person-centered messages produced more emotional improvement and circumvented reactance to social support.

“Another recommendation that can be taken from this research is that people may want to use moderately to highly person-centered messages when helping others cope with everyday stressors,” said Solomon.

The researchers said people can try using language that expresses sympathy, care and concern. For example, “I’m sorry you are going through this. I’m worried about you and how you must be feeling right now.” Acknowledging the other person’s feelings or offering perspective — like saying “It’s understandable that you are stressed out since it’s something you really care about” — may also be helpful.

Kellie St.Cyr Brisini, postdoctoral teaching fellow in communication arts and sciences, also participated in this work.

Penn State’s Department of Communication Arts and Sciences helped support this research.

Support – or its lack – is a big issue for members of the LGBTQIA community.

In March, for instance, a study found that community LGBTQ supportiveness was found to be associated with lower odds of lifetime illegal drug use for sexual minority boys and girls and lower odds of lifetime marijuana use and smoking for girls. Living in a large population center was related to lower odds of lifetime alcohol use for boys.

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An earlier study, done in 2019, similarly noted that family acceptance seems to be crucial to ensure that LGB children develop a healthy sense of self while family rejection of LGB children can negatively affect their identity and well-being.

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With quarantine in place, Pornhub sees surge in traffic

Pornhub’s worldwide traffic was 5.7% higher than usual. Searches with “coronavirus” and “Covid” have also steadily grown since the end of January.

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It’s still all about sex.

With over a billion people now under quarantine (as of March 25), people are finding ways to… spend their time. And apparently, one of those ways is to enjoy sex, not necessarily engaging in the act but as consumers of what’s available online.

Pornhub reported that nowadays, approximately 120 million people visit its site on a daily basis, with the company noting that “perhaps more interesting, we found that people were choosing to visit Pornhub at different times.”

Wednesdays marked the biggest traffic growth, with the worldwide traffic surging 5.7% higher than usual.

At 2 a.m., traffic was 11% higher than usual, but dipped 9% below average at 8 a.m. This difference was noted by Pornhub because usually, 8 a.m. is one of the most popular times to visit the site. But the change may be because “people who did not need to commute to work the next day stayed up later and slept in longer than they normally would.”

Throughout the day, Pornhub noted that traffic was 11% above average at 1 p.m., then dipped 6% at 4 p.m., with another increase of 8% at 7 p.m.

Here’s an interesting thing: a new kink may be emerging.

Pornhub reported that searches containing “coronavirus” first appeared on January 25 and have continued to grow. In the past 30 days, more than 6.8 million searches containing either ‘corona’ or ‘Covid’ were reported; so enter “Covid porn”.

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Teens who feel empowered are less likely to bully, harass, commit sexual violence

The findings suggest that bullying, harassment and sexual violence can be reduced when adolescents learn to cope with stress, build community connections, engage with individuals from diverse backgrounds and feel empowered and able to build a positive future.

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Teens who feel personally empowered are less likely to bully, harass or commit acts of sexual violence, according to a study by Rutgers University, the University of Nebraska, and the University of New Hampshire.

The study, published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, also found that teens who think their friends support violence prevention and healthy relationships are less likely to mistreat their peers.

“Coping mechanisms that help adolescents thrive and do well, even in the face of stress and adversity, are important to preventing interpersonal violence. This is an important finding, as studies of bullying typically examine risk factors rather than protective factors,” said lead author Victoria Banyard, professor and associate director of the Center on Violence Against Women and Children at the Rutgers School of Social Work.

The findings suggest that bullying, harassment and sexual violence can be reduced when adolescents learn to cope with stress, build community connections, engage with individuals from diverse backgrounds and feel empowered and able to build a positive future.

Adults can help young people develop these strengths, said Banyard. “Positive conversations with teens about healthy relationships support the positive social norms we know are important.”

Adolescence is a high-risk age for perpetration of different forms of peer-based violence including in-person and online bullying, harassment, racial bullying, and unwanted sexual contact, the researchers explained.

The researchers surveyed a set of 2,232 middle and high school students online during the school year by seeking their level of agreement or disagreement with statements including “If I am feeling sad, I can cheer myself up,” “My opinion is important because it could someday make a difference in my community,” “I work hard now to make a good future for myself,” “I am comfortable being with people who are of a different race than I am,” and others. They were asked about bullying and harassment, alcohol use, positive social norms related to violence prevention, and a combination of interpersonal strengths.

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The teens were surveyed again six months later.

The findings are part of a larger study on involving youth as leaders in order to help prevent sexual violence among middle and high school students.

Banyard partnered with the University of Nebraska Lincoln Center on Children, Youth, Families, and Schools and the University of New Hampshire.

Bullying affects many in the LGBTQIA community.

For instance, in July 2019, a study found that bullying is more prevalent in birth-assigned females and in out individuals, commonly consisting of homophobic/transphobic (particularly in socially transitioned individuals) or appearance-related (particularly in out individuals) name calling.

A November 2018 study also found that 35.2% of gay/bisexual men who had experienced frequent school-age bullying experience frequent workplace bullying. Among lesbian women, the figure was 29%.

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Health & Wellness

Access to identification documents reflecting gender identity may improve trans mental health

A study finds that possessing gender-concordant IDs is associated with reduced psychological distress, and a lower prevalence of suicidal thoughts and suicide planning.

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A study finds that possessing gender-concordant IDs is associated with reduced psychological distress, and a lower prevalence of suicidal thoughts and suicide planning. And the authors suggest policy changes to increase access to gender-concordant IDs. For example, by reducing fees, administrative hurdles and eligibility requirements, and also by either expanding gender options beyond male or female, or by removing gender markers entirely.

Results from a survey of over 20,000 American trans adults suggest that having access to identification documents which reflect their identified gender helps to improve their mental health and may reduce suicidal thoughts, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The authors note that the survey only questioned respondents at one time point, making it difficult to confirm whether lack of gender-affirming IDs caused psychological distress or the other way around. It is possible that trans people suffering from psychological distress might find it harder to obtain IDs. However, a previous Canadian study found that having at least one document showing a trans person’s preferred gender marker was associated with fewer suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts, and previous research has found that mental health risks in transgender adolescents are reduced when their preferred name is used socially.

“Our results suggest that governments and administrative bodies can play an important role in helping to reduce psychological distress for trans people, simply by making it easier to access identity documents that reflect their identity,” says Dr Ayden Scheim from Drexel University, USA.

Of the 1.4 million Americans who identify as transgender, over half are estimated to have clinical depression, compared to around 30% over a lifetime in the general US population, while 31% to 41% attempt suicide at some point during their lives, compared to less than 9% generally in the US. These mental health disparities can be attributed in part to a lack of recognition and acceptance of trans people’s identified gender. Lack of gender-concordant official documents can prevent access to services such as healthcare, education, and employment, and increase exposure to verbal harassment and violence.

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The authors suggest that at the moment, the ID change process can be difficult to impossible. For example, in most US states updating a name on government-issued ID first requires a court-ordered name change, which can cost several hundred dollars. Most states require medical letters or affidavits to validate reclassification requests, and some may require gender transition surgery. In most jurisdictions, gender markers reflecting non-binary gender identity (such as an ‘X’ marker) are not yet available.

To explore the impact of access to IDs on psychological distress, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts, researchers analysed data from 22,286 trans people, who were surveyed in 2015. Respondents were asked whether all, some or none of their IDs – including birth certificates, passports and driving licences – listed their preferred name and gender marker. Psychological distress was measured using a validated scale with a score between 0 and 24, with 13 or greater indicating serious psychological distress. To assess respondents’ suicide risk, they were asked whether they had seriously considered suicide in the previous 12 months, whether they had made any plans to kill themselves and whether they had attempted suicide.

To ensure that the analysis was able to pick up any association between mental health and access to updated IDs, the authors of the current study adjusted the results to account for other variables that could contribute to psychological distress and suicidal thoughts – such as age, ethnicity, medical transition status and years living full-time in the identified gender.

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The results found that 45.1% of respondents (10,288 out of 22,286) had no IDs with their preferred name and gender marker, 44.2% (9,666/22,286) had some ID that matched their name and/or gender, and only 10.7% (2,332/22,286) had their preferred name and gender on all their documents. The authors weighted the sample to reflect the age and ethnicity of the US population, although they note that trans demographics may not mirror broader US population demographics.

The reasons for not changing gender markers included a lack of suitable gender options (in the group with no concordant ID, people with non-binary identities were over-represented), cost, and perceived ineligibility (for example, believing that additional medical treatment was required). The authors also identified geographic variation in the results, with participants in western states more likely to have gender-concordant ID, while those in the Midwest were less likely.

Those with all gender-concordant IDs had a 32% lower prevalence of serious psychological distress than those with no updated documents. They were also 22% less likely to have had suicidal thoughts in the past year and 25% less likely to have made plans to kill themselves. Those with some updated IDs had smaller reductions in distress and suicidal thoughts (e.g., 12% reduction in distress). The results did not indicate an association between access to IDs and suicide attempts, once the authors had adjusted for other influences on mental health.

“When a trans person changes their gender on their official documents, it can be a critical step towards gaining social acceptance and legal recognition, and our findings suggest that policy changes to support trans people with taking this step should be considered, in order to help improve their wellbeing, reduce their exposure to discrimination and reduce suicidal thoughts,” says Professor Greta Bauer from Western University, Canada.

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The authors note that other variables not covered in the study may mediate psychological distress, for example access to social support.

Writing in a linked comment, lead author Dr Monica Malta (who was not involved in the study) from the University of Toronto says: “The cross-sectional study design prohibits causal interpretation of the identified relationships, and reverse causation is plausible–those with better mental health might be better able to navigate the difficult bureaucratic requirements to obtain gender congruent IDs. Even with those limitations, the large dataset and careful inclusion of potential confounders strengthen the study design. Thus, the authors’ findings support the need to increase the availability of and streamline the processes to obtain gender congruent IDs. Gaining gender-congruent IDs should be easy, affordable, and quickly completed by adequately trained officials at TGD-friendly environments.”

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NEWSMAKERS

Sexual minority adolescents consistently more likely to report physical, sexual violence

Given the substantial physical and emotional consequences of violence for those subjected to it and the large existing health disparities among sexual minority adolescents, addressing both physical and sexual violence against sexual minority adolescents should become a public health priority.

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Physical and sexual violence are known public health hazards, imposing physical and emotional burdens on those who experienced such violence; and adolescent members of the LGBTQIA community are believed to be at higher risk than their heterosexual peers for violence.

This was stressed in “Physical and Sexual Violence Among Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Questioning Adolescents”, a study by Theodore L. Caputi, MPH, Chelsea L. Shover, PhD and Ryan J. Watson, PhD that appeared in JAMA Pediatrics.

For this cross-sectional study, the researchers used pooled data from USA’s 2015 and 2017 YRBS public use files to broaden the sample size and scope of the analysis. The survey in each of these years had a response rate of 60%.

The YRBS uses a three-stage cluster sample of US counties within all states, schools within counties, and classrooms within schools to achieve a nationally representative sample of American adolescents. Participants in the YRBS in each year were asked to indicate their sex (female or male) and sexual orientation (heterosexual, gay or lesbian, bisexual, or not sure) and whether they had experienced any of three types of physical violence (past-year physical violence committed by a romantic partner, past-year physical fights anywhere, or past-year physical fights at school) and two types of sexual violence (lifetime forced intercourse, past-year sexual assault by a romantic partner). In 2017, participants were asked an additional question: whether they had experienced past-year sexual assault committed by anyone.

Of the 28 ,811 participants in the 2015 and 2017 YRBS, 87.1% reported their sexual orientation as heterosexual, 2.2% as gay or lesbian, 7.0% as bisexual, and 3.7% as not sure.

Sexual minority female adolescents were at an elevated risk of physical violence relative to the risk to heterosexual female adolescents.
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Twelve percent of sexual minority adolescents reported physical violence committed by a romantic partner, 27.6% engaged in a physical fight, and 11.1% engaged in a physical fight on school property. Furthermore, 20.6% of sexual minority adolescents reported experiencing sexual assault, 18.0% reported experiencing forced intercourse, and 12.5% reported experiencing sexual assault by a romantic partner.

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After adjusting for confounders, sexual minority adolescents were consistently more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to report physical and sexual violence, including physical violence committed by a romantic partner (adjusted risk ratio [aRR], 1.97; 95% CI, 1.65-2.34) and sexual assault committed by anyone (aRR, 2.10; 95% CI, 1.68-2.58) in the preceding 12 months. Bisexual sexual minority adolescents were at a particularly elevated risk for violence, including physical violence committed by a romantic partner (aRR, 2.22; 95% CI, 1.82-2.67) and sexual assault committed by anyone (aRR, 2.36; 95% CI, 1.76-3.10).

Sexual minority female adolescents were at an elevated risk of physical violence relative to the risk to heterosexual female adolescents, including engaging in a physical fight anywhere (aRR, 1.74; 95% CI, 1.53-1.96) and engaging in a fight on school property (aRR, 1.91; 95% CI, 1.49-2.43). Sexual minority male adolescents had elevated risks of sexual violence relative to the risks to heterosexual male adolescents, including the risk of sexual assault (aRR, 4.64; 95% CI, 2.97-6.84) and the risk of forced intercourse (aRR, 4.70; 95% CI, 3.40-6.32).

Twelve percent of sexual minority adolescents reported physical violence committed by a romantic partner, 27.6% engaged in a physical fight, and 11.1% engaged in a physical fight on school property.
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The researchers noted that “sexual minority adolescents—particularly bisexual youth—are at an elevated risk for both physical and sexual violence. Given the substantial physical and emotional consequences of violence for those subjected to it and the large existing health disparities among sexual minority adolescents, addressing both physical and sexual violence against sexual minority adolescents should become a public health priority.”

And since the results suggest the existence of a crisis of violence against sexual minority adolescents, the researchers recommend working with policy makers and clinicians to design, implement, and assess interventions to reduce the risks and mitigate the harms of violence committed against sexual minority adolescents.

READ:  What influences how parents and their gay adolescent sons discuss sexual health at home?

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Education the key to equal parenting rights for same-sex couples

Same-sex marriage may have been given the green (or rainbow) light in many countries around the world, but it appears there are still some entrenched attitudes in society when it comes to same-sex parenting.

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Same-sex marriage may have been given the green (or rainbow) light in many countries around the world, but it appears there are still some entrenched attitudes in society when it comes to same-sex parenting.

Misconceptions about the impact on children raised by same-sex parents are harmful both in a social and legal sense, says University of South Australia psychologist Dr Stephanie Webb.

Same-sex couples are still struggling to gain equal rights to biological parents – particularly in the event of separation – and on a social level they want to address the fallacies about the impact of children growing up with parents of the same gender.

“The most common myths are that children will be confused about their own sexuality, be less resilient, experience conflict, and suffer other issues as a result of growing up in a same-sex family,” Dr Webb says. “The reality is, children raised in a same-sex family environment are no different to children raised by heterosexual couples. In some cases, they are far more resilient, tolerant and open-minded because they have seen their parents’ own struggle for acceptance and equality.”

To counter the misconceptions, Dr Webb and colleagues from the University of Canberra and Boise State University in the United States carried out an online survey to assess the impact of an educational campaign on people’s attitudes.

A total of 629 people – including 74 per cent who identified as heterosexual and 23 per cent bisexual or homosexual – were split into two groups and presented with fact sheets about smoking (control group) and same-sex parenting.

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Before completing the survey, they were asked about their attitudes to same-sex marriage and same-sex parenting.

The fact sheets dispelled many of the concerns that people had over the perceived negative developmental impacts on children with same-sex parents.

“Our study showed a significant reduction in prejudices held after reading the fact sheets,” Dr Webb says.

However, the sticking point is that many people believe the central purpose of marriage is to procreate. Since biological children cannot be produced by a same-sex couple, the role of marital equality is not seen as important by some.

This creates legal issues for same-sex couples in the event of separation involving children, where a third party (a biological parent) has legal rights that supersede that of the parent whose genes are not involved.

“Legal rights for same-sex parents are ignored by policymakers and the public alike,” Dr Webb says. “By making marriage policies inclusive, regardless of sexuality, it would validate same-sex families and protect them against discrimination.”

Dr Webb says education is a crucial step towards achieving legal equality for same-sex families.

Her findings have recently been published in the Australian Journal of Psychology. The survey is a follow up to a 2018 paper which examined the connection between gender role beliefs and support for same-gender family rights.

“Attitudes toward same-sex family rights: Education facilitating progressive attitude change” was co-authored by Associate Professor Phil Kavanagh from the University of Canberra and Associate Professor Jill Chonody from Boise State University.

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