Breakthrough for Intersex Rights

Finally, the mystery, intrigue and, in fact, shame that has historically been associated with what is now known as “intersex” is beginning to come out of the closet.  Recently a intersex-awarenessmilestone in this important shift happened recently when Sara Kelly Keenan successfully had her birth certificate change to indiate “intersex”  in the little “sex” box that appears on all birth certificates (see The Guardian, January 11, 2017).  Even in the LGBT community, notice how seldom we include “I” in the alphabet.  But the Intersex movement is out there, growing in numbers worldwide, and celebrating every October 26 with “Intersex Awareness Day” (see Facebook “Intersex Awareness Day) and November 8th with “Intersex Solidarity Day (see Intersex Day Blog).

As feminist writer Charlotte Bunch noted way back in her 1980s essays, the most important thing that people must know is another person’s gender.  I have even experienced this with my beloved dogs – people who stop to admire my furry companions they typically use the pronoun “he,” and apologize profusely if I correct them to indicate my dog’s preferred pronoun of “she.” So when a child is born with genitalia that are not gender-specific, everyone is typically thrown into a tizzy!

This tizzy is explained in the excellent article by Jenny Kleeman that appeared in the Guardian last July.  In the medical world, where this typically comes to light in the first moments after the birth of a baby, sometimes now predictable on the fetal ultrasound, the condition is now referred to as a disorder of sexual development (DSD). Instead of gleefully hearing the announcement or confirmation “its a boy!” or “its a girl,” someone in the room nervously whisk the newborn off, or wraps the infant before handing over to the mother, and in myriads of ways try to stall dealing with what is taken in the moment to be a serious problem.  What now follows is a long series of genetic tests to determine the genetic profile of the child, and a challenging period during which parents make decisions about any surgical procedures offered to them, and how they want to present their child to the world and help them grow and develop as a healthy human being. Before genetic testing, and even today in some communities, providers and parents make hasty decisions, sometimes resulting in surgical intervention to force a particular identity on the child.

The social and cultural challenges of beginning life or growing up as intersex is beginning to change, particularly in areas of the world where more and more people are beginning to identify proudly as “gender queer,” and the transgender movement has opened conversations about what gender identity means. Still, people who are intersex struggle to find an identity and as yet the movement to claim “intersex” as an identity is small, and it is hard to find support, information and affirmation of this experience.

So here at LavenderHealth, we pledge our support for the Intersex Community, welcome more discussion, and join with all who proclaim, with Sara Kelly Keenan – “There is power in knowing who you are!

Posted in Coming out, Intersex, Join the discussion, Overcoming "isms", Resilience | 2 Comments

Invitation to participate – how is marriage equality and the election affecting you?

This is a study being conducted by our LavenderHealth colleagues! The study has been approved the San Jose State University Institutional Review Board.  Here is the invitation to participate from the study team!

We are a team of researchers (Tonda Hughes, Laurie Drabble, Ellen Riggle, and Cindy Veldhuis) – and we have just launched an online survey to learn about the effects of marriage equality and the election on queer women and trans* individuals and their relationships. Anyone over age 18 who identifies as a lesbian, bisexual, queer, or same-sex attracted woman, and/or who identifies as trans* (for example, genderqueer, trans woman, trans man, nonbinary, gender fluid) is eligible. We are interested in everyone’s perspectives, regardless if you are single, dating, in a committed relationship, or married. Visit our website to learn more about the study, about our team, and to complete the survey!

Study overview and FAQs 

Complete the survey


Posted in Call for participants, Join the discussion, Marriage Equality | Leave a comment

LGBT Voices: Perspectives on Health Care

Posted in Best practices, LGBT Health, LGBT Services | Leave a comment

No Home for the Holidays?

Revised December 16, 2016

The holidays present particular challenges for many LGBTQ people, particularly the many who have no home for the one holiday during the year when almost everything in the U.S. and many other countries are completely closed. Leaving religious explanations aside, the assumption that underlies the wholesale closure of all community services and businesseshome-63-copy is that all people have families to go to, and that they welcome the opportunity to do just that!  But for many LGBTQ folks, one or the other is not true – many who even have families have been shut out entirely, and many who could go to their family home find the experience so stressful that they would rather do almost anything else.  But the alternatives are few and far between on December 25th.

All of this is not to mention the basic fact that even if “home” and “family” are not major issues, many LGBTQ people experience the holidays as not the “good cheer and peace” time of year that is broadcast through the relentless music streams in almost every public space.  So it is time to take a look at some tips to consider – ways to help yourself and to help others who are struggling with holiday stress.  Here are some ideas that I can offer – if you have others, please use the comments below to add to this list!

  • Assess what it is that you need – the positive things that could get you through this stressful time. It may not be easy, or even possible, to get exactly what you need, but identifying what you need will make you open, mentally and emotionally, to receiving something that comes close! If you need professional support, perhaps medication, focus on finding a way to get this support.  If you need a friend to help, or if you know of a friend who might need help, reach out.
  • Avoid self-medication with drugs and alcohol. While these bring about temporary relieve, they are not positive long-term solutions.  Instead, continue down this list and make specific plans to take positive, health-promoting ways to cope.
  • Start early to nurture a habit of reflection and meditation.  Use this habit to lower stress in the moment, but also to gain clarity about your situation.
  • Focus on thoughts about positive things you can do to lower your level of stress and anxiety.  Consider making a plan for something you can do each day for 2 or 3 weeks, and focus on doing each daily activity. I recommend a different activity for each day, so that you have something different to anticipate with each passing day.
  • Make promises to yourself about things you will avoid, and things you will say and do in those situations that are particularly stressful.  For example, if you feel you must go to your relative’s home, promise yourself that you will only stay for the amount of time that you believe you can handle – not the entire day.
  • Let go of relationships that no longer work well, or that are no longer possible – at least for the difficult holiday period. Letting go is a painful grieving process that cannot happen just because you want it to. But during this season that brings to the surface the pain of lost relationships, at least let go of thoughts that bring that pain to the surface by shifting your attention to the positive steps you can take to move forward – in other words, keep reading!
  • Make a plan with friends to do something together.  If your friends are not available for “the day” that everyone else is celebrating, make a plan for a special time the day before or the day after, and turn your thoughts to making that time special as a way to interrupt thoughts and feelings of loss or sadness. If you know of someone who has no place to go and no one to celebrate the holiday with, reach out and work out a plan to do a holiday alternative with them.
  • Realize that the hype around the December holidays is designed to play on sentiments, images and memories of family experiences that draw us all into a desire for material goods as a substitute for genuine human love and relationship.  I find that it is helpful to avoid places and spaces where these images abound, and minimize the material aspects of this time of year. Instead, turn to thoughts and plans for all possible opportunities you have to nurture your positive and current relationships and express love and appreciation with and for those you care about – without the aid of material excess.
  • Use the comments below to share your experiences, your ideas, and even requests for help!  We will respond!
Posted in Family, Helpful Hints, Holidays, Join the discussion, Minority Stress, Resilience, Social Support | 6 Comments

Giving Thanks for Human Rights

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday in the US, many of us are griped by uncertainty and fear as our country is facing the most egregious attacks on human rights ever seen in human-rights-in-actionthis country, fueled by the election of Trump as President.  It is impossible to claim a specific value or position that Trump himself holds relative to human rights, but in the days since the election, he has placed well-known white nationalist and anti-gay leaders in key government positions.  His choice of Mike Pence as his Vice President was an early sign of ensuing danger for LGBTQ human rights – Pence having already taken major steps in his home state of Indiana to threaten LGBTQ rights.

The good news is that there are important forces of resistance that have worked for decades to protect our human rights, and are now even more dedicated in their resolve to assure that our rights will be protected.  So I want to acknowledge here the many groups that have worked on behalf of the strides made in this country on behalf of LGBTQ rights,  It is now time for all os us to step up to show our appreciation, and to become involved in lending whatever support we can, in any of the many groups that welcome our membership, our volunteerism, and our donations, no matter how small.  Below is my initial list of the groups for which I am grateful, and links that you can use to become involved in any way you can. Even a brief click through these sites will be an inspiration as you see real evidence that there are a host of avenues already in place to fight on our behalf. If you see sometihing missing from this list, let me know and I will add it. This, my friends, is now vital for all of us!

GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality. Takes action on any issue that threatens or diminishes the health of LGBT people.

ACLU LGBT Project – Fights discrimination and moves public opinion on LGBT rights through the courts, legislatures and public education.

Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) – Promotes and ensures fair, accurate and inclusive representation of people and events in the media as a means of eliminating homophobia and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

GLAD: Legal Advocates and Defenders for the LGBTQ Community  –  A leading legal rights organization in New England and U.S. nationally, dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, HIV status and gender identity and expression.

Human Rights Campaign (HRC) – Works for equal rights for LGBT people by taking political action, education, and sponsoring action networks. The website has much important information on all aspects of LGBT civil rights, including healthcare.

Human Rights Watch – Dedicated to protecting the human rights of people around the world by standing with victims and activists to prevent discrimination, to uphold political freedom, to protect people from inhumane conduct in wartime, and to bring offenders to justice. Their work on behalf of LGBT rights is strong internationally; the HRW web site provides information about LGBT rights organizations in many countries around the world.

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund – Committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, and people with HIV/AIDS through litigation, education, and public policy work.

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force – Organizes and trains people at the grassroots level to lobby to defeat anti-LGBT ballot initiatives and legislation and pass pro-LGBT legislation and other measures. Analyzes and reports on the positions of candidates for public office on issues of importance to the LGBT community.

National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) – Committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.

Transgender Law and Policy Institute – A comprehensive transgender legal resource, providing up-to-date publications, cases, briefs and news on transgender legal issues.

Transgender Law Center – A civil rights organization advocating for transgender communities. TLC utilizes direct legal services, public policy advocacy, and educational opportunities to advance the rights and safety of diverse transgender communities.

The European Human Rights Centre (EHRC) – EHRC represents over 100 non-governmental and other not-for-profit organizations interested in the promotion of Human Rights throughout Europe and beyond.


Posted in Activism, Join the discussion, Legal Issues, LGBTQ Human Rights, LGBTQ rights, Political Process, Public Policy | Leave a comment