Survey on Sex Education in MT Schools

Click on this link https://umt.co1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_a3La6F7oXfOgFlH to take an ANONYMOUS 15 minute survey and have the opportunity to contribute to the movement for inclusive, comprehensive sex education and put your name in a drawing for one of TEN $25 Amazon gift cards.

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I have been asked to invite my LBGTQI+ friends, to take a survey asking about their perceptions of high school sex education classes in Montana. The University of Montana and the Montana State Public Health Department are interested in whether sex education classes are providing LBGTQI+ (sexual and gender minority) students with the information and skills they need to stay safe and healthy.

If you consider yourself to be part of the sexual and/or gender minority community, are between the ages of 18 and 24, and attended a high school in Montana we need your input.

This is an equal opportunity survey, so If you do not identify as a member of the sexual and/or gender minority community, but are between the ages of 18 and 24 and attended high school in Montana, we welcome your participation as well.

THE GREAT TRANS LAMENT (AGAIN)

In a landmark moment for lesbians and gays in America, another amongst many over the last few years, “the Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down the 1996 law blocking federal recognition of gay marriage, and it allowed gay marriage to resume in California.” http://nbcpolitics.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/06/26/19151971 As the LGBT world’s collectively held breath exasperates in a crescendo of joy, it is difficult still to catch a glimpse of perspective. It is hard to know, as the euphoria winds down, just what it all means and what I should feel.

I am of course elated for Edith Windsor, and hope she feels the sense of vindication that I feel. I hope also that the IRS is forced to pay her estate taxes back, together with penalty and interest in a like amount to what she would have to pay had the tables been turned. I am tickled pink-er, for gay friends in Butte, America, who announced their engagement only this week. I am ecstatic for the LGBT Equality Movement, and its ever escalating advancement toward full justice and inclusion.

Yet, for me, something is missing. I have this niggling sense that for all the good that is happening around me, and the excitement that it brings me, it is not really meant for me. While I may share the joy, I may not reap the blessing. For it brings to mind yet again the great trans-lament, and just how far we still have to go. Who will accept me enough into the full fabric of society to love me? Who will lie next to me, hold me close and keep me safe? Who will share their life with me? Who will marry me?

It is a struggle that not even the LGBT community collectively can get their head around, let alone the broader world of which I am equally a part. For example, some of the larger world remains blissfully ignorant of even the larger LGBT struggle. In my exuberance this morning I burst in on a co-worker and said, “DOMA is unconstitutional!” In truly Ozzie-esque fashion she replied, “What’s DOMA?” If the larger world is not even aware of the LGBT struggle for marriage equality, how on earth will they understand the trans struggle to even get a date?

It begs the question: What is equality? And just what is its genesis? We can say that we seek to be equal in our application of the laws of the land, and we should. We should scream it from the rooftops. But, what about ideas, philosophies and judgements? Should we not seek an even playing field with these too? Let me put a finer point on this that might sting a little.

I have been playing the field of the on-line dating scene off and on for the last year or so – with absolutely no degree of success. That’s right – not a single date from the on-line sites including Planet Sapho, Cupid, Tagged and Are You Interested. Planet Sapho is more like planet scamo. Cupid and Sapho are related I’m pretty sure. Tagged is for people who take vicarious pleasure through sending e-porn back & forth, and for foreigners who look for love in all the wrong places (like 1000s of miles away where dates are literally impossible). Are You Interested is yet another way for Mark Zuckerberg to suck the ever living advertising dollar out of the world before we all get fed up with Facebook.

The faults and foibles of these sites notwithstanding, my experience has been remarkably repetitive on way too numerous occasions. I have been scammed, slammed, avoided, evaded , judged and condemned – everything but loved. Here’s what happens. Gay guys may think the world of me, but they are gay, okay. Straight guys always call me dear right off the bat – I mean in the very first message. And I know immediately where it is headed. They will profess great and enduring love for me, for my picture, my smile and my wondrous beauty, then evaporate when I reveal my transgender nature. And reveal it I must for the tragic potential of omission. Plus, all I have to do is Google my name to see that there is absolutely no potential to live in stealth.

Then there is the lesbian reaction which is perhaps the most deflating and discouraging of all because, for reasons we shall see, I identify as a lesbian. First, the story. I have loved women all of my life, and I have felt in heart and soul for just as long that I am a woman. Before I ask you to do the math, let me ask you to consider what determines our gender? It is physical or, God forbid, merely our genitals? Or does it include the way we think, feel and believe? Can a manly woman be a man despite the lack of a penis? Can I be a woman despite the lack of reproductive organs? I do not hold the answers to these questions, but this I know; If I was not always a woman I defy anyone to deny me that description now. I have at the very least become a whole woman in body, mind and soul. Yet, when I come out to a would-be suitor, she turns me down flat every time, unless of course, it’s a scam. I do not get it.

I know my way around a woman, really! As a dude, I was all that and a bag of peanuts, or something. I always had dates. I dated many girls in high school and college, even married a couple. Once, with my ex-wife, we counted up the number of people we had made love to. I suppose it was in the interest of full disclosure prompted by the pre-marital blood test. I do not think that I have made love to fifty women, but, I know it was more than thirty. This is not about conquest, and I write this just to say that I do know how to make love to a woman. I know what works, and what does not. I know how to give and take love, to have, hold and help her . . .and the weird thing for me is that I was always a woman even though she thought she was with a man.

Yet, though I live and love as a woman in all respects and am capable of great emotional support and attachment, and sexual pleasure, I am somehow off-limits to lesbians. I cannot figure it out, and that is the trans-lament. I belabor this point to demonstrate an even greater and more fundamental point – discrimination and prejudice lie much closer to the heart than most of us are willing to admit, for to do so would mean that we must cast it aside. I suspect few of us are prepared to do so.

My greatest fear as we secure marriage equality (it appears ever increasingly certain that we will) is that many if not most LGB activists will abandon the movement. They will stop pressing for other rights and greater equality. So, I write this rant. I reveal myself to the possibility of disagreement and perhaps ridicule, not out of self pity but as a plea. Please do not let the pendulum stop swinging.

“Where Would I Begin?” Reflections on the Historic filing of the Crawford Case

The historic litigation in the case of M.C. has profound significance for many in the intersex community. Advocates for Informed Choice (AIC) is publishing a series of personal responses to the M.C. litigation. The first in this series is by longtime intersex activist and former AIC staff member Jim Ambrose (formerly Jim Bruce). This piece originally appeared on AIC’s blog, June 5, 2013.

“M.C. will spend the rest of his life paying for his caretakers’ actions.” – Erica K. Landau, Huffington Post

Where would I begin? I asked myself that question every other hour after AIC asked me to submit my reaction to the filing of the Crawford case. Hell, I’m asking it right now. I worked for AIC from 2009 to February, 2013 so I knew this case was coming for a while. That said I had a feeling it wouldn’t get filed, that it’d slip away or rather be taken away. I wasn’t alone in feeling that simply filing the lawsuit, just filing it, would be monumental. Looking back it was kind of like when an 8 year-old thinks Christmas is an oasis (7 months away!), too far off to comprehend day-to-day and so the kid resigns himself to childhood drudgery. Because, come on, nothing exists that far in the future least of all everything you ever wanted.

But, on the morning of May 14, 2013 The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Advocates for Informed Choice issued a press release detailing how a group of professional adults irreparably harmed a child in South Carolina. I gazed at my laptop as a press conference took place right in front of some giant brick courthouse. Attorneys representing a child called M.C. stood in a semi-circle behind a podium, and there was Anne! Anne, who will argue breathlessly that ‘They Might Be Giants’ was the greatest band of the 20thcentury, was right there on the Primetime Live at 5 Eyewitness News! Ever-measured Anne gently explained what she knows she can prove: That what happened to M.C. was unnecessary, arrogant and brutal.

You see, for me, the most difficult aspect of intersex advocacy is making this complex issue understood by any audience. Intersex stuff is nothing but sprawl. It gets everywhere: sex, genitals, going to the bathroom, hormones, clothing, fitting in, not fitting in, showering, sports, inclusion/exclusion, sex again, interpersonal connection, how we all sleep at night, self-determination, the opportunities we give ourselves and take from others and contentment. You know, the basics. These items are hardly approachable because most educated folks often fail to even understand the difference between sex and gender. So tell me how a kid is to know what a numerator is if they struggle to count to 10?

So, then two of the bravest people I may ever know did something most intersex advocates (myself included) thought could never happen. They stood in front of cameras, on record, in their son’s hometown and demanded justice. Pam and Mark Crawford denounced the needless removal of their son’s genitals and reproductive organs as “a careless and reckless action,” and that the State of South Carolina “disfigured (M.C.) because they could not accept him for who he was.” When I glanced down to watch the seconds peel away on the web clip I noticed my hands and knees were trembling. No. I was shaking all over. That’s when I realized Pam bears a passing resemblance to my own mother. My mother has that red hair, those sturdy-yet-stylish eyeglasses, and a voice that tells a careful listener suffering is something you do alone.

The thing is M.C. and I (along with many intersex people) share a similar childhood narrative. We both endured early years of ghastly cosmetic genital surgery, the loss of our reproductive organs and silence. But, M.C. was adopted by the Crawford family. I never saw the inside of an orphanage. M.C. has a sense of self and of his safety. My sense of self was gray, disoriented. I did not feel safe. M.C. has a voice that he uses. I had a voice too, but if I’d shared that voice with my parents I would have told them I was lost. M.C. used his voice to inform his family that he is a boy.

Pam projected her voice. I can hear it as I type: “The adults involved are sending him the message that your body is not acceptable and has to change in order for you to be loved.” I know how true those words are. I, and many intersex advocates, have articulated versions of them to those in power for the past 20 years. But, hey, why should highly-educated clinicians listen to a handful of surgical ingrates? History tells us that appeals for mercy through testimonials of truth and suffering have never been enough to effect institutional change. Those words from a proud and committed mother of an intersex kiddo in front of most of the world are not an appeal for mercy. They are a shot across the bow.

Pam’s unshakeable words found a spot in me I thought I’d grieved out. Out and away. I’d say it was unbearable save for the fact that I knew thousands of other intersex people were witnessing the Crawfords’ demonstration of love and belief in their son. I shared May 14, 2013 with many people, especially the ones no longer with us. And, frankly that experience reminds me how alone I was for so long, how alive I am now and, finally that resilience brings liberation to those residing on the right side of history.

Jim Ambrose is a worker bee at The Interface Project. #justice4mc

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Drug-Resistant Gonorrhea: New Facts

"WARNING - VENEREAL DISEASES" - NARA...

“WARNING – VENEREAL DISEASES” – NARA – 516044 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From The National Association of STD Directors (NASTAD) comes a new fact sheet, which begins with this:

For several decades, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has closely monitored gonorrhea and its potential to become resistant to available antibiotics. Gonorrhea is one of the most commonly reported communicable diseases in the United States. In 2011, there were 321,849 reported cases and another 400,000 estimated unreported cases. If left untreated, the illness can cause infertility in both women and men, dangerous pregnancy complications and can be passed on to newborns, possibly causing blindness or pneumonia. Gonorrhea can also facilitate HIV transmission.

The CDC now reports that gonorrhea has become resistant to all but one of the antibiotics recommended to treat it, and resistance to the remaining antibiotic is increasing. If no new antibiotics become available, gonorrhea has the potential to become a serious epidemic. However, by increasing public health infrastructure investment and encouraging pharmaceutical companies to create new antibiotics, we can prevent a public health emergency.

Read the full fact sheet here: ncsd.astho_antibiotic_sheet

Authenticity is The Best Policy

(click to see the book)

(click to see the book)

I was moved today by the story of a young (30) trans woman who wants be a mother.  Not surprisingly, she is plagued with fears of the unknown.  Her parents have disowned her because she had the courage to reveal her truth.  What if her child did the same?  Can she find a man who can embrace her and walk with her and a child as a family?  Though she has much love to give, she searches for someone to give it to.  It is a familiar story, tragically repeated amongst so many trans persons.

It is one that daily resonates with me.  (Only, it is my children who have disowned me.)  “Who will love me?”  I often wonder.  “Who can love me?” is the great trans lament.

“I realized that gender transition, even under the best of circumstances, is unequivocal and unforgiving.  It required of me everything I had, and then some.  I was still paying for it.  Yet, there was no compromise, no half measure.  I had to make my way in the world as a woman or not at all. I had been blessed and fortunate to have done so as quickly as I had and with relative ease.  Still, I was resigned to accept the fact that some pieces would never be complete.  I doubted that I would overcome gender identity discrimination in Montana, and it did not seem likely that I would find a man who could accept me and love me as the whole person that I am.  I had a whole heart, and I wanted the person who could take the hard part and love that too.  (The “Hard Part” by Dave Wilcox).  I wanted the person with whom I could share every secret so that secrets would be no more.  That person was not to be found.

I began to accept that too, as I mused about just who would want a trans woman for a partner.  In the ordinary course, a heterosexual male is looking for a heterosexual woman, not a heterosexual trans woman.  Guys, with few exceptions, think it’s just too freaky for them to accept.  A lesbian woman likewise does not want a lesbian trans woman, as we are sometimes perceived as something less than a real woman.  And I get that.  Even though I have this hunger to be known, I’m not like the girl next door.”

TransMontana, pp 281-82. (I try here to write for the entire trans community – not just me.)

So, I try to stop speculating about what might or might not be.  I have no control over what is yet to come, so must try to let go of fear.  My life is now – not some distant point in the future.  It is right here, right now.  I must live it, even though not as full or complete as I might like.  I have peace and joy in whom and what I am.  I may be a social enigma, but I know in my heart that I am whole as a woman, even though born as a man.  I believe in myself.  That gives me great comfort and strength.  Thus, I am able to interact with the rest of the world with honesty, authenticity and integrity.  And if I may find someone who can love me like that, well, it will have been worth the wait.

The Girl Effect

The infographic below was created by the Girl Effect which is a movement about leveraging the unique potential of adolescent girls to end poverty for themselves, their families and the world. It highlights the problem of child marriage which leads to pregnancy and childbirth which can be fatal for young girls- not to mention damaging to a country’s economy.

Infographic_Girl-Effect

 
Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/6-infographics-about-being-a-woman-that-will-make-you-want-to-take-action.html#ixzz2Hrij8zMw

Identification of LGBT Needs in the Exam Room

A physician performs a routine checkup on a pa...

A physician performs a routine checkup on a patient at the medical clinic. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last time you were in an exam room, did you feel that the attending physician received all the information needed to gain an accurate perspective of your plight? Did you share everything you felt you should, no matter how personal? Did said physician even ask about anything, aside from the usual short list of inquiries we are all too familiar with in that particular setting?

If you are a physician, do you really get the answers you need from your patients? Or perhaps it is just too uncomfortable when talking about sexual health and behaviors. More likely, they do not disclose the details out of discomfort, or even fear.

LGBT persons have shown to have some unique healthcare needs, sometimes experiencing disparities in care. LGBT patients are often uncomfortable or inhibited from talking openly with healthcare providers about sexual orientation, gender identity, and sexual behaviors. Certain sexual behaviors do not automatically define that patient as LGBT, and not all LGBT patients are going to have similar sexual behaviors. Truthfully, it’s not about whether a person is a member of the LGBT community or not. It’s about the individuals choices and behaviors that could be putting their health at risk, as well as the health of others. In order to cover everyone’s needs, patients must speak openly with providers. Providers must delve into the patients behaviors and understand where the risk behavior is at for each patient. I am going to lay out a few examples, ideas, and suggestions for physicians, as well as patients.

In any healthcare position, you will find people from diverse backgrounds and lifestyles. Different interests, tastes, and mindset. The right approach will reassure patients that the provider is knowledgeable, genuine, concerned, confidential and accepting. This enables the patient to open up and discuss the very private matters of sexual behavior, often in this society a ‘taboo’ subject.

Ask the patient to tell a bit about themselves. As the patient, make sure you indulge your sexual partner(s), safe sex practices, and concerns. Some behaviors have an amount of risk attached to them that is often unknown to the patient.  A physician might ask “Do you have any questions or concerns about your sexuality, sexual orientation or sexual desires?”. Use gender-neutral terms and mirror the patient’s terminology to better understand how they identify. For example, asking “do you have a partner or spouse?” “Are you currently in a relationship?” “What do you call your partner?” are all good ways to decide how the patient will identify without offending them with clinical terms which may sound cold and ‘labeled’. From here the in-depth sexual questions begin: “Are you sexually active?” “When you have sex, do you have sex with men, women or both?” “Are you and your partner monogamous?” “How many sexual partners have you had in the past year?” “Do you have vaginal sex, anal sex, or both?”. These and many more are the key to finding out just what unique needs your particular patient might have.

It is important to differentiate between sexual identity and sexual behavior. Providers need to discuss sexual behavior with patients regardless of sexual identity in order to define risk-assessment, ascertaining what activities they engage in and to learn what they are doing to prevent the transmission of disease.

And for the majority of readers, as  patients we have a personal responsibility to find the courage to openly discuss in confidence all of our behaviors and desires with our doctors, nurses, therapists and counselors, etc. This is extremely important. We cannot rely on someone to read our thoughts and know the truth.

Stand up and be proud of yourself. I can almost guarantee that the person treating you has heard it all. And if they haven’t, they will soon enough.