The Truth About Rape

The infographic below was created by The Enliven Project, a truth-telling campaign to bring sexual violence out of the closest and convert the most powerful bystanders to new allies. It appeared in the Washington Post yesterday and has since received some criticism for being misleading. Either way the truth of the matter is that nearly one in five women have been raped and over 50 percent of rapes go unreported which is depressing all on its own.





















Read more:

Discrimination In Helena: The Left-Handed And The Bald

You may remember Helena City Commissioner Dan Ellison’s flap over his “abstention” in the non-discrimination measure currently considered in Helena. In the Independent Record he ranted and squirmed publicly, comparing LGBTQ persons to the “bald and left-handed” in seeking protection from discrimination- while he unabashedly sought publicity at their expense.

First of all, WTF? This is the argument of an idiot, completely unaware of the difficulties LGBTQ persons face in this state- partly because of the ignorance of persons creating policy such as, say, Dan Ellison.

Second of all, the satire is deservedly starting. Helena Vigilante’s Shane Castle:

Fabulous! You can Email Mr Ellison here.  Maybe enlighten him a little.

Rehberg Leads Efforts To Defend Cylon, er, Corporate ‘Personhood’

, member of the United States House of Represe...

, member of the United States House of Representatives. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been watching Battlestar Galactica (Yeah, I know, I’m a little behind- but I’m a busy guy) and it occurred to me that the Cylon’s (machines masquerading as people) war with human beings is the perfect model for the Citizens United decision. Both Cylons and Citizens United were created by people- and both threaten to wipe out civilization as we know it. And for those of you who aren’t geeks (like me)- think Frankenstein.

From the Montana Democrats:

Congressman Dennis Rehberg is leading efforts in Montana to defend the notion that corporations have the same constitutional rights as people, calling efforts to undo the Citizens United decision “theater.”

Senator Jon Tester has been a leading opponent of Citizens United and the corrupting influence it brings to Montana’s elections.  Tester also supports Senator Max Baucus’ constitutional amendment, which would provide a permanent fix to the Citizens United decision by putting elections back in the hands of Montanans and preventing corporations from drowning out the voices of voters.

According to news reports, Congressman Rehberg, who agrees that corporations are people, is dismissing efforts to undo Citizens United, saying they have “no chance of passing.”

Rehberg is no stranger to campaign secrecy.

Earlier this week he got caught failing to disclose one in seven donors in his most recent fundraising report.  Earlier this year, he got caught hiding $25,000 he took from lobbyists in 2011. Rehberg also called measures to improve transparency in political campaigns  “unnecessarily difficult.”

Opposition to Citizens United in Montana has been widespread.  Montanans in November will vote on a ballot measure (I-166) to state that corporations are not people.  As expected, Rehberg won’t say whether he supports the initiative.

“Congressman Rehberg refuses to make our elections more transparent because he refuses to hold himself accountable to Montanans,” said Ted Dick, Executive Director of the Montana Democratic Party.  “After 12 long years in DC, Congressman Rehberg is now leading efforts to defend the broken system that lets special interests buy elections, because he knows they want to buy an election for him.”


Scar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last year, Congressman Rehberg earned an endorsement, and a $10,00 check, from the organization Citizens United.  Karl Rove’s secretive special interest group Crossroads GPS recently announced a major television ad buy in Montna to help Congressman Rehberg, and they can spend every penny with no transparency thanks to Rehberg’s Citizens United decision.

Yep, the metaphor works. And for those of you not up to speed, Battlestar Galactica is available streaming on Netflix…

8 Tips To Lower Holiday Stress

I wrote this a few years ago- but I think it’s still good information- so I revised a few things and thought I’d offer it again (Also published on The Bilerico Project)

Feeling stressed and/or depressed lately? You’re not alone. The Holiday Season is reported to be “problematic” for about forty-five percent of the general population, and there may be added concerns for LGBTIQ persons.

A Christmas tree inside a home.

There is often so much pressure to be joyous and to share “the most wonderful time of the year”. It can be especially hard for those of us who feel wounded by the various Ghosts of Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa Past. Family and work dynamics can be hard at the best of times, during the holiday season it can reach a torturous crescendo:

“I can’t stand so-and-so, and they’re going to be at Grandma’s for dinner.”

“I do not want to go to Midnight Mass with the family, but I’m more upset by the thought of dealing with the fallout of not going.”

“I just know that Bible-thumper at work thinks I’m going to hell. The office party is always a nightmare.”

“I’m going to have to fend off all the questions of why I’m not married.”

“If they knew the truth, I’d be fired (disowned, disgraced, etc.).”

“I don’t have enough money for gifts. Shopping is so much pressure. I feel inadequate compared to….”

“I’m bringing my partner, and this is the first time. I’m worried that they’ll say or do hurtful things.”

Yep. All familiar. But there are some things to keep in mind when dealing with the stresses of the Holiday Season….

First, remember, you’re not alone.

“Forced fun” with co-workers, family and extended circles of families and friends happens to everybody. Many people, straight, gay and otherwise feel that they aren’t part of the celebration because they don’t feel particularly festive or “in the Christmas spirit”. The pressure to have fun, be nice and ignore grudges and difficulties can result in the completely opposite effect.

Not out to family, co-workers or friends? This can dramatically increase holiday stress. Maintaining a front and keeping secrets is hard- especially at a time of year that focuses on kindness and generosity. Constantly protecting yourself can be exhausting. Constantly worrying about safety, acceptance, integrity and livelihood is excruciating- especially at a holiday party.

It can be even worse if you’ve been rejected by your family or friends because of your sexuality or gender identity.

For many of us, our day-to-day lives are lived with people who care for and support us emotionally. We’ve created our own families. We’ve created routines that encourage and nurture us. We’ve developed our own beliefs

The holidays can totally upset that.

Even the mentally healthiest among us can be challenged by relatives and parents, regardless of acceptance or support. Ram Dass once said, “If you think you’re enlightened, go spend a week with your parents.”

And even if we are out, during the holidays we’re often surrounded by people who may be biologically related or who share the same work, but who do not support us, or who are even openly hostile. Whether this is true or simply a suspicion or feeling, it still causes anxiety, which in turn causes increased stress levels- often leading to some very depressing thoughts. A very slippery slope mentally….

What to do? If your particular situation seems to be causing problematic stress or depression, please seek out professional help. But for those relatively-minor-once-a-year issues, below are a few suggestions I have found helpful.  Please feel free to add your own:

  • Be aware of your anxiety. Notice when your tension levels are rising, and let yourself feel them. Feelings never hurt anybody- the actions resulting from those feelings are the real kicker, and quite often those actions happen because feelings are so bottled up that the pressure forces an explosion. Often, simply noticing and naming the anxiety can calm it.
  • Breathe. Under stress, the breath is often shallow, keeping oxygen levels at a minimum which just adds more stress. As simple as it sounds, three deep, conscious breaths can bring instant relief, slowing the heart rate, reducing hypertension- and anxiety levels.
  • “Is that true?” That question has been my lifesaver in many situations. My brain can run amok with fantasies of what people will say or do in response to me- things that I can’t possibly know for certain. Anxiety levels rise in the face of uncertainty. This simple question slows my thoughts and brings me back to the facts.
  • Be here now. Most stress involves either the past or the future- both are perspective distortion agents. Staying in the here and now reduces stress.
  • Resist the urge to self-medicate. Most people eat and drink more and exercise less than they normally would at this time of year.  If you’re prone to depression already, (and even if you’re not) a hangover and love handles won’t help. Plus, alcohol, a depressant, may seem to help for a while, but usually worsens depression and stress symptoms later on. It also reduces inhibitions, making hurt feelings, disagreements and fights much more likely.
  • Give yourself an out. If you have to spend an extended amount of time with family, work some down time into the schedule. Removing yourself from the situation can be vital, and it can be done gracefully. “I just need some alone time” is something that almost anyone will respect. There are lots of reasons to be alone- get creative. A short walk, a hot shower, a nap, an AA meeting, or even extended time behind the locked door of a bathroom can do amazing things to renew self-confidence, perspective and energy.
  • Remember, this is temporaryMost of us can survive anything for a few days. If you’re in a situation that you feel you may not be able to handle well, by all means, get out! But if staying will do less damage to yourself and others than leaving, remembering the finite nature of the visit may help.
  • Take care of yourself. You know what you need to do to be healthy. Eat well, exercise, hydrate, rest, play and give yourself permission to be human.

No matter what the situation, my greatest stressor is this:

Worrying about something I have little or no control over.

Recognizing that is key.

People are going to think what they think, and my thoughts or actions will probably not change that- especially in the short amount of time I have to spend with them during the holiday season. Whether they approve of me or not is none of my business. My business is to be happy, honest, kind, and healthy.

And I can do it. I do it by knowing myself and taking care of myself- even under the pressure of Midnight Mass.

MSU-Northern to Present ‘The Laramie Project’

Montana Actors’ Theatre will present The Laramie Project in Havre, MT on October 21-22, 27-29, and November 3-5.

The Laramie Project play originated from a series of interviews conducted by members of the Tectonic Theatre Project following the tragedy of Matthew Shepard which transpired on the outskirts of Laramie, Wyoming. The creators of the play aimed to shed some light on specific faults in society regarding homophobia and hate crimes. If you’re curious about this play, come watch The Laramie Project on one of the previously mentioned dates. Please be aware: the play does contain adult themes and may not be suitable for children or young teens.

The play will be performed in the MSU-Northern/MAT Theatre. It will begin at 8 PM nightly. The doors and backstage lounge will open at 7:30 PM. Adults can view the show for $15. Students and seniors will be admitted for $10 while MSU-Northern students will be admitted free of charge with current student I.D.

Local news story here.

Common Lab Tests for HIV+ Persons- And Why You May Need Them

HIV-infected persons have a lot to deal with. There’s a lot to know about this disease- and it can be overwhelming. It can be hard to think about- and even harder to talk about. Because it can be overwhelming, we may often simply let our healthcare providers do what they think is best for us.

But I think and have seen- both as an HIV+ person and as a mental health professional- that a proactive stance by a patient is more likely to decrease feelings of depression, helplessness and fear, and increase feelings of strength, health and well-being.

Knowledge is power- and knowing about your disease only helps your healthcare provider give you more excellent care. Plus, knowledge of the truth can help defeat the head-gremlins that want to prey on our deepest fears…. Your medical provider may be an expert in diagnosis, but you are the expert on your own body. Unless you both work together, diagnosis and treatment can become extremely difficult- and frustrating for you both.

To that end, I’ve scoured the internet, and created a brief HIV lab test information sheet. This is a conversation starter- and perhaps, a self-education starter. There is also a link to the printable document at the end of the piece. Print it out, take it to your doctor (or PA or ARNP) at your next visit and ask them what they think.

Treatment is a team effort. So if you’re on the bench wishing you were anywhere else but here, maybe it’s time to get in the game with the rest of your team. The win may be up to you.

Types of Lab Tests for HIV+ Persons- and Why You May Need Them

Once you have tested positive for HIV, your HIV care provider will probably ask you to take a number of laboratory tests as part of your routine care. This sheet is only the beginning to a conversation with your healthcare provider. Please discuss all of these tests with your provider, and what role they play in your care.  (Feel free to copy and bring it with you to medical appointments) The list may include:

  • CD4/T-cell count*: A count of your CD4 cells gives a general measure of the health of your immune system, and is a good measurement of immunosuppression. A normal CD4 cell count is more than 500 cells per cubic millimeter (mm3) of blood. If you have a CD4 count of fewer than 200/mm3, you will be diagnosed as having AIDS. Why it’s important: This is a good measure of your risk of opportunistic infections and the strength of your immune system. It will give you and your healthcare provider the information you need to decide the best way to treat your HIV disease.
  • CD4 Percentage*: This measures how many of your lymphocytes (types of white blood cells) are actually CD4 cells. This measurement is more stable than CD4 counts over a long period of time, and, for most people, the CD4 percentage remains a more reliable measure of immune function than CD4 count. Why it’s important: This measurement is a more reliable snapshot and is less likely to vary in between blood tests than CD4 counts (which can vary from month to month or day to day).
  • Viral Load (VL)*: This test measures the amount of HIV in your blood.
Why it’s important: The goals of HIV treatment are to keep your viral load at undetectable levels and to keep your CD4 count high. A viral load test offers a good indicator of how well your treatment is working to achieve those goals.
  • Complete Blood Count (CBC)*: This is a measure of the concentration of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in a sample of your blood.
Why it’s important: A CBC is one of the most commonly ordered blood tests. It can reveal infections, anemia (abnormality in your red blood cells), and other medical issues.
  • Serum Chemistry Panel*: This test helps provide information about your body’s metabolism. It gives your doctor information about how your kidneys and liver are working, and can be used to evaluate your blood sugar levels, calcium levels, etc.
Why it’s important: Some HIV medications can have serious side effects, and this test helps your healthcare provider to monitor the impact of your medications on your body’s ability to function normally.
  • Fasting Lipid Panel (Cholesterol and Triglycerides)**: These tests measure your total cholesterol level, as well as give you information about the different types of fat proteins in your body.
Why it’s important: Some HIV medications can affect your cholesterol levels and the way your body processes and stores fat. This can make you prone to other medical problems, including heart problems.
  • Fasting Glucose (blood sugar)**: This test measures your blood sugar levels to check for signs of pre-diabetes or diabetes.
Why it’s important: Some HIV medications can affect blood sugar levels, potentially leading to complications like diabetes.
    (key: *usually every 3 months, **usually every 6 months)

    In addition, there are additional tests that may be done less frequently, but are still important for the maintenance of your health.  These include:

  • Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Screening: These screening tests check for syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia.
Why it’s important: Having an STD, can make it easier to pass HIV to others. Untreated STDs can also be damaging to your own immune system.
  • PAP Smear (Cervical and Anal): This is a screening test for abnormal cells that could become cancerous. It involves using a swab to take cell samples directly from the cervix and anus.
Why it’s important: For women living with HIV, abnormal cell growth in the cervix is common, and abnormal anal cells are common for both men and women who are HIV-positive. These abnormal cells may become cancerous if they aren’t treated.
  • Hepatitis A, B, and C tests: These blood tests check for current or past infection with Hepatitis A, B, or C…
Why it’s important: Some people who are living with HIV are also co-infected with hepatitis. Checking you for hepatitis A, B, and C can help your provider to determine if you need to be treated, or if you are a candidate for one of the existing hepatitis vaccines.
  • Tuberculosis (TB) Skin Test: This skin test checks for exposure to TB. A positive skin test does not mean you have active TB, but it means you will need further evaluation and possible treatment.
Why it’s important: Untreated TB can be a deadly disease for people living with HIV. Early screening and treatment will help limit your risk of severe illness, as well as lower your chances of transmitting TB to others if you do have it.
  • Toxoplasmosis Screening: This test checks for exposure to a parasite that can cause severe damage to the brain, eyes, and other organs in people with weakened immune systems.
Why it’s important: Toxoplasmosis can be a deadly opportunistic infection for people living with HIV. Your clinician needs to know if you have been exposed to the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis or are at risk for exposure. This will help your healthcare provider to decide if you need preventative treatment. If your CD4 count falls below 100/mm3, you will probably need to do another screening, even if your earlier screens were negative.
  • Vitamin D levels: This test checks for vitamin D levels in the blood. Why it’s important: Vitamin D is vital for bone health, and there is some evidence that people with HIV need more vitamin D. Some patients are at risk for bone loss from medication, lifestyle or both. Vitamin D levels can be checked easily and deficiencies can be simply treated.
  • Testosterone screening: This test checks for levels of testosterone in the blood. Why it’s important: Low testosterone can be an effect of HIV, HIV medications, or both. Some men remain relatively unaffected, but a baseline of testosterone levels at diagnosis can help with diagnosing a decreasing testosterone levels during HIV treatment. Symptoms of low testosterone include fatigue and low libido. Treatment is replacement therapy with patches, injections or gel.

In addition, you and your provider should talk about ANY symptoms you may be noticing or experiencing such as sleeplessness, fatigue, anxiety, loss of appetite. These may be signs of depression or other issues common to people with chronic illness which you can address together- and which can sometimes be easily alleviated. You do not have to suffer- and a good relationship with your medical provider is a great step to living with HIV- not suffering from HIV.

Give your healthcare provider this number for the UCSF WARMLINE for them to discuss HIV treatment issues, concerns or education with healthcare experts:
1-800-933-3413.   -Even doctors need support!


Click for a printable copy of  Types of Lab Tests and Why They Are Important