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Note: Its election time across the University of the Philippines System. The article talks about how a Transgender student from UP Diliman campus is vying for the post as Chairperson of the University Student Council. This is a press statement from UP Alyansa ng mga Mag-aaral para sa Panlipunang Katwiran

For the first time in the student council elections history of the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, a candidate is running against two fraternity men and a woman to become the first transgender Chairperson of UP Diliman’s University Student Council (USC).

Speaking before hundreds of supporters at the historical Palma Hall Steps, Gabriel Paolo “Heart” Diño vowed to bring genuine change in UP Diliman if she’s given the chance to win as USC Chairperson.

“I came here not only to speak about what changes we want in our University Student Council. I also stand before you to remind that you, yourselves, are the change this university and this nation needs,” Diño said.

Diño then recalled how her experiences as a transgendered woman have motivated her to run as USC Chairperson and lead the student in making change in the university’s student institutions.

“As a teenager, I endured stigma and discrimination from my classmates and peers because of my gender. And when I entered college, it is in UP where I got the opportunity to be accepted and grow. So serving the students in the student council for the past two years has been my way of thanking UP for embracing who I am,” Diño said. She is the current Councilor and Gender Committee Head of the USC for the Academic Year 2011-2012. Previously, she was the Councilor of the UP College of Science Student Council from 2010-2011.

“UP has never been the university of the status quo. With issues such as gender discrimination, transparency and accountability in the USC’s finances, and the strings of fraternity-related violence in campus this year, it is high time that we become the change for a better UP,” Diño concludes.

The Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP) recently expressed its support for the candidacy of Diño.

“While we are aware that much more still needs to be done towards the equality of men and women in the Philippines, the candidacy of Heart is a testament to the progress that has been gained in the struggle for sexual rights in our country. As smart, highly capable and exemplary young leaders, they embody the best of the transpinay,” STRAP said in its statement.

In a separate statement, UP Babaylan, the biggest LGBT organization in UP Diliman, also released a statement in support of Diño. “Transgenders like Heart are oftentimes treated unfairly because of who they are and because of their gender and sexuality. As a leader, Heart embodies the soul of UP – the Iska who can excel to catalyze change, one who could bring about change, if we are willing to accept our differences,” UP Babaylan said.

Diño is running under the banner of UP Alyansa ng mga Mag-aaral para sa Panlipunang Katwiran at Kaunlaran (UP ALYANSA).

Re-post from: blogwatch.tv/2012/02/transgender-chairperson-candidate-vows-to-make-history-in-up-diliman/

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by Bianca Laureano

This February marks the 2nd anniversary of an virtual online project that I co-created called The LatiNegr@s Project.  I’ve been reflecting on how this project has grown and evolved and wanted to write a 2-year review of the project. It seemed fitting that I post this reflection here on the Media Justice column because it was here that I very publicly started to think and work  on how to create and implement such a project. Because of this website, column, and the interaction with readers in the comments I was able to work with a good friend and create The LatiNegr@s Project.

Three years ago I was so frustrated! My main frustration was with a story about Latin@s and the ending events for Latin@ Heritage Month and how one-dimensional these discussions, presentations, and festivities were. It really stuck with me until the end of the year in a way it had not before. This was at a time when social media was evolving rapidly and people were creating spaces for Black and Latin@ communities but not for Black Latin@s. I felt overwhelmingly excluded, isolated, like I had to pick a part of me, but it couldn’t be all of me. I also felt tired. Tired of always having to “school” Latin@s on our Black and African roots, reminding them that their anti-Black exclusion of us is very much a racist act. I also felt the same irritation and exhaustion with Black communities and spaces often not including us as members of the community because our ethnicity is one that is connected to Latinidad.

It was from this space of exhaustion, anger, frustration that I went to Twitter and wrote something such as “I’m going to do something about the underrepresentation of LatiNegr@s in Latin@ and Black spaces” (I can’t remember the exact thing I wrote, but this captures the essence). One person responded. That one person is Anthony, a homeboy that I had yet to meet in 3D but had followed online and whose blog I read. Anthony blogs under the name Latinegro and he said he would be interested in doing something similar and we should definitely collaborate. A few other folks demonstrated some interest in creating a project and were present with some of the initial posts we created on our respective blogs for Black History Month (BHM). When BHM ended it was still Anthony and I committed to the project.

Afrolatinos from Marlene Peralta on Vimeo.

That first month we reached out to everyone in our network. We shared with them that we were working on a project to include LatiNegr@s, Blaktin@s, Afr@Latin@s in Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Pride Month, Latino Heritage Month, and basically year round! Our goal was to use the virtual platform of Tumblr, which at that time was very heavily based on visual content such as images and fotos. It was a huge learning curve, but I found guidance and encouragement from the work that my homegirl Maegan Ortiz of Vivir Latino had done in creating a Latino Heritage Month tumblr in 2009. 

Surprisingly, (or not?) only a few of my friends I reached out to agreed to participate. It took a lot of work to get content, post calls for submissions, and get to know the tumblr platform. There were even some of our friends who we reached out to who told us that they were not going to contribute because our ideas were not new, other organizations were already doing what we were hoping to do, and that there was no leadership.

What can I say, Anthony and I dream big in a collective non-hierarchical way.

And we kept dreaming. We worked our tails off, posting often during BHM to our blogs, interviewing folks, and providing highlights on LatiNegr@s to know about. Before BHM was over, we were asked to be on a TV series discussing the work we were doing. This was to be on CUNY TV’s Independent Sources, a television show that focuses on issues and topics that impact people living specifically in NYC. Producer Marlene Peralta asked us to participate in her series on Black Latin@s. Preparing for the exchange was a bit of a challenge, we had a snow storm that day, I was not sure how to dress or what make-up, colors, or jewelry to wear that would be best captured on film. Marlene’s team was amazing. They never attempted to change or alter my appearance in any way, and they were very professional, supportive, and all people of Color which made me feel even more at ease to see that this story was really a community effort. When her segment was created our virtual project received some amazing support and views! Below is the segment:

Those folks who had told us our ideas and goals were less than exceptional all of a sudden wanted to participate. Go figure! I share this because at that time I thought to myself “of course they want to jump on the wagon now that we thought about it, put it together, got it moving, and now it’s being appreciated. They want ‘in’ when all the hard structural work is done!” Now, after working on the project for 2 years, I realize that there are folks who will come and go and share what they can. That each of us plays a role and that I can value them for the role they are present to provide.

Last year The LatiNegr@s Project grew. We had two new members join our team  and The LatiNegr@s Project has moved in directions that both Anthony and I find exhilarating. Kismet and Vio have given The LatiNegr@s Project new energy, fresh ideas, security, and has helped us dream even bigger. We are talking non-profit organization bigger (not there yet but it’s one of the big dreams for now)! We have a Twitter account,  a Facebook page,  and opened up our Ask feature  on tumblr and have been receiving amazing questions. We have also begun our first survey,  have over 2000 items posted and over 850 followers!

We are doing radio shows, receiving invitations to speak at events, and will be discussing our evolution, challenges, and successes at the Southeastern Women’s Studies Association People of Color Track  on Friday March 30, 2012 (stop by and say hello if you are in the area!).

A few things that I think make The LatiNegr@s Project stand out from the other amazing projects focusing on Black Latin@s, Afr@Latin@, pride, and inclusion are the following:

• The platform is virtual. We offer the opportunity for folks to contribute what they believe is important by submitting http://www.lati-negros.tumblr.com/submit an image, video, quote, link, or writing something that connects to the LatiNegr@ identity. This makes our space interactive all the time and not just on special occasions or events. Plus, it helps to reach folks from all over the world who have access to the internet, not just those in the areas where Anthony and I are physically located.

• The LatiNegr@s Project centers social media and elements of youth culture where young people are at the center of their usage and evolution. I would not have heard of tumblr if the students I work with not mentioned the platform to me. I would also not have learned about the options and opportunities that existed using the platform had it not been for young people. Many of the items on The LatiNegr@s Project are primarily from youth (under 25 years old), about youth, for youth, or discusses youth and how much we value them. I can’t remember the last time an organization focusing on Afr@Latin@s centered young people. And not just centering what our challenges are, but how we learn and evolve from the youth in our community and how their contributions are vital to all of us.

• The LatiNegr@s Project was built on the ideas of inclusivity. We have always focused on including various aspects of our identities that are often ignored. For example, we actively seek to support, challenge oppressions, and have represented LatiNegr@s with different abilities, who identify as transgender, who have various socio-economic statuses, are more than artists or entertainers, are youth, single mami’s and papi’s, local activists, various sexual orientations and gender expressions, and that are not just from the US. The LatiNegr@s Project shows all of our complexities.

Some challenges or areas for improvement from my perspective include:

• More content that in other languages besides English. Right now the site is predominately English-based and I’d love to have translations, more inclusive languages we speak beyond Spanish and Portuguese included. Sometimes this is a difficult task to accomplish as many of our items are user submitted, but I have confidence we’ll find a solution to this very soon.

• Approving and posting “controversial” topics. This goes back to our complexities. We’ve had users submit some content that some of us may not agree with personally. At the same time it’s important to have a dialogue about gender roles and expectations and how they impact us, how sex tourism and sex trafficking impact our homelands and families, and what immigration policies and border security means for LatiNegr@s. IT’s not all fun and jolly posts we have. There are many that speak out against the systemic racism, sexism, xenophobia, transmisogyny, ableism, and anti-immigrant hate (to name just a few). For many of us seeing these stories and images reminds us we are not alone and that there are others who witness our lives. For others these stories are triggering, devastating, or affirming. It’s all about promoting the dialogue and pushing ourselves to really examine what self-determination, self-identification, and liberation means.

I encourage you to check out The LatiNegr@s Project  and consider how you may use some of our content in your Black History Month, Women’s History Month, etc. observations and celebrations. There is so much to see, read, and hear and I hope each visitor leaves finding something new out about themselves, their community, and LatiNegr@s.

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I was a Girl Scout for several years in grade school, and while vacationing with my mom a few years ago in Savannah, Georgia, we visited the childhood home of Girl Scout founder Juliette Gordon Low, which now, as Savannah’s first National Historic Landmark, functions as a museum. I loved being a Girl Scout. We went camping, made crafts, sang carols at a retirement home, did community service projects, put on a fashion show of styles from different decades, all working together with our troop leaders on what we wanted to do next. I was always quiet and shy then, but I sold my share of Girl Scout cookies door-to-door and in front of the supermarket, and you know I rocked my 90s look in the fashion show. I learned how to build a camp fire, how to sew, and how to write a check and balance my checkbook. It was definitely an experience I’d encourage girls to participate in.

But Indiana State Rep. Bob Morris views the Girl Scouts as a “radicalized organization.” As the only Indiana lawmaker to refuse to sign the state’s nonbinding resolution to honor the Girl Scouts on their 100th anniversary, Morris is furthering the current harmful and irrational dialogue we find ourselves in about the rights and freedoms and women and girls. Gathering his information from ultra-conservative, not-actually-news sites such as World Net Daily, he has scared himself into believing the following lies:

1) The Girl Scouts sexualize young girls and encourage sexual activity.

2) They promote homosexuality, especially between women.

3) Their role models include Communists.

4) They ban praying.

5) They are a “tactical arm of Planned Parenthood.” (Even though the organization takes no position on birth control or abortion.)

He is also threatened by the following facts:

1) The Girl Scout’s education seminar’s list of role models include feminists and lesbians, while “only three have a briefly listed religious background.”

2) They welcome girls of all biological sexes, including transgender girls.

3) Michelle Obama, as First Lady, is the Honorary President of the Girl Scouts. Rep. Morris finds this to be “reason to give lawmakers pause before they endorse the Girl Scouts,” because, according to him, President and Mrs. Obama are “radically pro-abortion.”

One of my favorite bloggers, Amanda Marcotte, describes the sexism surrounding this issue as “the death throes of male dominance.”

The escalating hysteria around modern Girl Scouts is due to the increasing polarization in this country around the concept of women’s equality. In an era where the right is putting contraception back on the table as a controversial topic, girls getting together to build self-esteem and learn skills that might make them competitive with boys and men in school and the workplace is bound to get the right wing freak-out treatment. …
Of course they look at little girls gathered around the campfire and fill in lurid fantasies bordering on the Satanic. We’re watching the death throes of male dominance, and no one should expect such a thing to look pretty.

The Girl Scouts is a wonderful organization for young girls to work together, learn new skills, and give back to their community. In an election season where every single one of the Republican candidates for President would deny women the basic right of use and access to birth control; when not one woman is allowed to participate in the congressional hearing on birth control coverage in health insurance reform; when a woman’s constitutional right to choose an abortion is consistently undermined and increasingly scorned; the battle we are inexplicably fighting so that grown women’s medical decisions are as accessible, as affordable, and as respected as men’s, has now reached the point of attacking eight-year-old girls trying to organize a community soccer game or fundraise for a local women’s shelter. The Girl Scouts are not the radical ones here.

Rep. Morris has said that he will “pull his two daughters from their Indiana Girl Scout troop” because of the allegations someone who was threatened by the idea of empowered young girls made up. I’d wager that he didn’t even ask his daughters whether their scout troops were just fronts for lesbian sex and abortions, and even if he did, there’s obviously no way that anyone could misinterpret “We sell cookies,” as “I may be ten years old, but we’re all sex-crazed lesbians who sit around the camp fire praising satan with our godless camp fire songs.”

How is it possible to believe that the Girl Scouts is anything but beneficial for girls? How is it possible that community service, team work, and self-esteem are things that are deemed “radical”? The only way that makes sense is if we live in a society that does not value women and girls as much as men. The Girl Scouts aren’t the problem. Girls working together, guided by women, to believe that themselves and their sisters are capable of doing great things and feeling great about themselves is not threatening to any society that values what those girls can do and be and give when they’re 7 and when they’re 57. For 100 years, the Girl Scouts have empowered girls to grow into empowered women. I am proud to be one of those women.

~ Samantha
Community Editor

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 It seems like we’ve seen more and more stories of teen suicide in the media recently, and most of them revolve around a teenager who was gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. All these kids feel like they’re not heard, accepted, or understood. The only difference is that for whatever reason, the way they are is not accepted by society and by societies idea of "normal". It doesn’t even have to be someone from the LGBTQ community, it can be the black kid, the latino, or the overweight girl down the street.

I was recently "outed" by someone I considered a friend. He took it upon himself to tell people that I was gay… knowing very well that I wasn’t even comfortable with my own sexuality. If i’m not fully comfortable with who I am, how am I supposed to be comfortable with others knowing about my sexual preferences? I can’t.

People are starting to ask me about it, and the only choice I have is to put my head down and say yes… even if I don’t want to put my head down. If it weren’t for the support of my mother, brother and friends, I don’t know where I would be right now. I can’t imagine having to go through this alone. How can someone be so cruel as to deliberately ruin someone’s life like this?

So many kids don’t feel like they belong and like they have no source of support. I’m lucky enough to have that… I only wish everyone going through what i’m going through now, or anything similar had the same: a group of loving friends and family to be there for them.


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 Hey guys I was having so much trouble trying to decide  what I wanted my first blog to be about because there are so many topic’s to choose from on this website but the one.  That really got to me was gender and stereotype. I choose to write about this topic because everywhere you go if you look somewhat  different from all the rest . People tend to criticize you. And to be honest  I never really understood that. I mean if your in high school or college or  even an older person and someone  finds  out  that you are Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, or transgender . They always have to  make you feel like an outcast.  I mean  why do they  have to pick on the us just because of our sexuality.  My opinion is that hey need to stop picking on us and stop trying to make us feel bad just because you’re not happy with themselves. Sometimes I believe that they only pick on us because they know that we accept ourselves for who we truly are .


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by Bianca Laureano

There are so many stereotypes that people have about Latin@s, our sexual experiences, practices, and decisions. As a member of this community and someone from the Caribbean I have a few ideas on how these stereotypes have emerged and how they have been linked to reproductive health and justice. It is clear from reports by the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health  and the California Latinas for Reproductive Justice  that we are collectively working to change and challenge these stereotypes. A recent report by the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health http://latinainstitute.org/Latinopoll demonstrates that a majority of Latin@s (over 70%) believe that a woman has the right to make her own personal, private decisions about abortion without politicians interfering.

Remembering how I was trained, by racially white professors and Latin@ ones, the idea of “cultural values” that Latin@s have and hold true I continue to struggle with. Some of these “cultural values” are connected to ideas that stem from colonization, others from social sciences such as anthropology and sociology where our communities were “observed” and have become truth we are continuing to deconstruct, challenge, and recreate. If you’re not clear on what some of the texts that created this about us consider Oscar Lewis’ La Vida, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s The Negro Family (because Latin@s come in all colors!) to start.

And yes, there are times when I’m being flip in this article, something I don’t often do, so hopefully you can pick up on the sarcasm (a coping mechanism for many of us myself included) and differentiate between that and the larger topic/ideas.

Top Stereotypes On Latin@s connected to Reproductive Health

Stereotype: Latin@s are all Catholic.

No we aren’t. Many of us may identify with and practice Catholicism, but many of us do not as well. Latin@s are a diverse group and assuming we all hold the same spiritual beliefs and practices is erroneous. The history of Catholicism in the Americas is connected to exploration, conquest, colonization, and revolution.  This is why we see many religions that are connected to Catholicism but also connected to indigenous and African ritual practices (when this occurs it’s called syncretism) and religions, such as Candomblé, Santería, and Vodou.  All of these religions Latin@s are known to practice. We also practice a range of spiritual belief systems that many of you have heard before such as Judaism, Islam, and some of us are even atheists. Not all of these religious belief systems have the same perspective on the body, reproduction, family, contraceptives, pregnancy, termination, and power. To ignore this is to ignore our humanity.

Stereotype: Latin@s value family soooooooo much.

Sure we do, but not any more than any other ethnic group. The fact that this has been labeled a “cultural value” and the terms familialismo and familialism has been overly used to understand and connect with Latin@s is a testament to how this has become a stereotype that is systemic. What this “cultural value” ignores is the chosen family that many of us create and the extended family we go to seeking support and help because we are under-resourced. It also ignores the abuses, assaults, violence, rape, and throwing-away* of children that does occur in some Latin@ families. This stereotype is the reason why we rationalize the high teen birthrate among Latin@s without being critical of systemic issues at play. There is also limited examination into how a pregnancy for a young Latin@ may be connected to safety. Some youth do carry a pregnancy to term so that they can give the illusion they are heterosexual as so many people assume only heterosexual people become pregnant and want families.

Stereotype: So many Latin@s are (undocumented) immigrants.

And so many of us are not. How quickly we forget that what we know today as the US-Mexico border was more Mexico than US. To this day I meet people who have no clue that Puerto Rico is a colony of the US and thus we are “granted” US citizenship. Plus, many folks have no idea that Cuban immigrants are granted refugee status which offers benefits some US citizens have a tremendous challenge accessing. All the stories of  “terror babies”  and “anchor babies”  portrays undocumented immigrants in the US are primarily Latin@s. What this stereotype is really connected to when it comes to reproductive health and justice are ideas that people who migrate from the Americas or Caribbean are so “traditional” (read: conservative, primitive, and sheltered) in comparison to folks in the US. If these are the stereotypes (as if none of the cities in any of the countries in the Americas have wealth of any sort similar to capitalist ideas found in the US, or that people don’t evolve if they live in a particular part of the world) that people hold and connect to our ideas of reproductive health and justice, the “rational” connection would be that ideas of abortion, contraceptives, and family planning are what we in the US would consider “oppressive” and “patriarchal,” and “un-feminist” which automatically means anti-choice. This is also where an assimilationist perspective would chime in and say “Latin@s are pro-choice because they’ve lived in the US and been exposed to modern ideas.” Yeah, this is condescending and leads to the next stereotype.

Stereotype: Assimilation and/or Acculturation is why we see Latin@s more pro-choice

Yeah, not really. This ignores the fact that people all over the world, not just Mexico, Central, South America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean have been practicing herbal remedies and care for terminating a pregnancy. Maybe they don’t call it “abortion” or “terminating a pregnancy.” Maybe they call it “making your period/menstruation come.” Let’s not try to start history when the US comes into play. Let’s remember that many countries existed long before they were “discovered” and that starting history at a particular time/place may erase and ignore a long history and legacy of supporting women, families, and choice. Many folks resist and actively challenge assimilation and acculturation because they choose to hold onto what they know and value. Others openly begin the assimilation and acculturation process and that is their choice, but it must not ever be a requirement, especially for self-determination.

Stereotype: Latin@s are curvy and voluptuous and “naturally” built for giving birth.

Our bodies must be made for breeding if we are built in a particular way. Aside from this being so closely connected to eugenics, it’s ridiculous. Just as we are diverse in belief systems we are also diverse in body shape and size. This stereotype assumes that a “real” Latin@ looks a particular way, which always leads to a problem of exclusion. Through migration, slavery, exploration, and travel there has been inter-mixing of communities and cultures and to assume we look a particular way erases this history.

Stereotype: Latin@s get sterilized so they don’t have to worry about pregnancy, so why would they care about abortion?

Now this idea may not be the most popular, but the stereotype is connected to many things: sterilization rates in the US (forced and consensual), assumption that sterilization is an approved from of contraception (which connects to stereotype one about religion), and a disconnect to the topic of abortion. Without going too in depth on the history of forced sterilization in the US in communities of Color and those with different abilities,  I will share that longitudinal research has been conducted with Puerto Rican women who have grandmothers and mothers who were forcibly sterilized and daughters have chosen this method as a form of contraception. Author and scholar Iris Ofelia López uses the term “agency within constraints” in her book Matters of Choice: Puerto Rican Women’s Struggle for Reproductive Freedom, to describe how our various identities are connected to the systems of oppression we live in and how we find self-determination to survive and live the lives we desire for ourselves. Some people do choose sterilization as their contraceptive method of choice, but that does not mean we all do. Choosing this method also does not mean we completely disconnect from the communal struggle and desire to live life on our own terms and to experience pleasure and happiness. Just because someone chooses a particular option does not mean they are instantly no longer a member of their community.

Stereotype: Latin@s are hyper-sexual and passionate.

No wonder we have so many high rates of unplanned pregnancies because it is believed we are always having (unprotected) sex all.the.time. Just look at the way we dance, or how we get dressed to go out, we are exuding sensual passion we want to share consensually with another person. These stereotypes make Latin@s seem as though we are always already sexually available (and consenting). Some of us do have active sexual experiences on a daily basis; some of us are still virgins; and some of us experience times of celibacy and abstinence throughout our lives (which is closer to a inter/national “norm” if there is one). I struggle to think of one current media representative that is Latina that we see who does not support this image. Now, this may be true for many, but offering only a one-dimensional representation supports this stereotype and some may read that as permission to base ideas on our reproductive health and choices.

Stereotype: Latin@s are mostly heterosexual, that’s how people get pregnant anyway!

It’s a struggle for many providers, educators, and those of us working in the field of sexuality and sexual health to actively remember that we do not need to identify people based on their behaviors alone. Asking folks to self-identify also contributes to providing them care and support. This stereotype is connected to ideas that the Latin@s who experience pregnancy are exclusively heterosexual and thus they are not questioned beyond current partner status. This stereotype impacts the services Latin@s (and all pregnant people) experience and need. Yes, sperm and a mature egg are needed for pregnancy to occur, but assuming that those people who contribute those are always going to be male and identify as men and female and identify as women is wrong. This excludes intersex people and creates more barriers for transgender people and those who identify as gender queer to really find quality reproductive health care.

*”throw-away” is a term used to describe youth who are homeless or in the foster care system who were “thrown out” of their home of origin. This may happen for various reasons which may include an unplanned pregnancy, coming out as not heterosexual, identifying as transgender, identifying a family member as an abuser, to name a few.

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1. Elect prochoice candidates. 

Reproductive rights impact the economy, educational attainment and public health of our country. It is a cornerstone of the American dream for not only women, but all people. It is not a single issue, it is essential for the betterment of all people. Therefore, we must promote candidates that support reproductive justice.

2. Elect women. Women, run.

If we want the issues that most intimately impact women to be addressed, the perspectives of women need to be brought to our legislative bodies. This is like diversity 101 people. I love my prochoice men and will do everything I can this year to re-elect Sherrod Brown in Ohio, but that does not negate the need for women elected officials, include state and federal legislators and judges.

This rings true for other communities as well. For the advancement of people who are transgendered, queer, disabled and so on we need to people from these communities. I feel Harvey Milk sums this up best.

3. Move away from abortion as a partisan issue through election reform.

Abortion will remain a partisan issue until we reform our election systems throughout the country. Abortion is a deeply personal issue, and therefore politically is divisive. There really is not a political party that champions reproductive justice, so voters are left to choose between a party that rabidly attacks reproductive justice or another that passively lets reproductive justice crumble. An election system that allows for more discourse and less talking points would spur not only better legislative outcomes from reproductive justice, but all issues added in government.

Some starting points to improve our election systems includes the use of independent commissions to draw district lines, better campaign financing regulations and ending burdensome regulations on voters (voter ID bills, and other attacks we have seen this year).

4. Make spaces for young people to grow as leaders in this movement.

“Establishment” prochoice organizations need to make space for young people to become leaders in the movement. Young people (not just young women) bring fresh energy, innovation, and perspective to the movement. If we want to win this war, we need to continuously work to expand to ensure there are leaders for the movement for generations to come. Shelby Knox explains this philosophy well in her post honoring Gloria Steinem.

Shelby Knox’s wonderful blog

5. Seeing reproductive justice as more than access to abortion.

This weekend I watched the film, “The Business of Being Born,” a documentary about home births and the “business” of child birth. It really opened my eyes to how little freedom women have when it comes to the birthing process. It reminded me that reproductive justice is broad, and impacts all people. If you choose to delay becoming a parents, avoid becoming a parent, or become a parent (birthing a child, adoption) you should care about this issue. Wait, that is everyone. Point made.

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Each week, I’ll be posting a list of the most news-worthy and/or inspirational, informative, well-written, thought-provoking, and/or unique posts of the week. While every post and every contributor is valuable to our community, these are the blogs that I feel are must-reads.

January 22- January 29

Stats this week: 26 posts by 14 writers

Trust Women Week: Bianca’s story- by Media_Justice

Inside this post:

Bianca describes her work as an abortion doula.

Dying of Red Tape: Ban on Federal Funding for Syringe Exchange Programs Reinstated- by one_for_all

Inside this post:

HIV prevention groups will no longer be able to use federal funds to buy needles—thus limiting one of the most effective ways of stopping the disease. By cutting funding for needle exchange programs specifically, they condemn women, people of color, poor people, queer people, and sex workers to disease and death.

Tennessee Bathroom Bill…Down, But Not Out- by Jordan

Inside this post:

A Tennessee bill that would ban transgender people from entering the bathroom or dressing room of the gender they identify as was thankfully put aside in the state’s Senate because (correctly) “there were other issues to be addressed.”

Thank you to everyone who posted a blog this week! You are part of what makes this community great!

~ Samantha
Community Editor

My posts this week:
Survey Results: How We Describe Others
Target card calls pregnant girls whores

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Hello Everyone!

Disclaimer: I am using queer as an overarching term for the LGBTQ etc. Spectrum

This past weekend was the start of The Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Creating Change Conference on LGBT Equality.

Youth Resource (I’m in sequins)

This was my first time going to a national queer conference. I have been attending the Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference since 2010 but never a conference as large as Creating Change.

I was not sure what to expect from a national queer conference. I was not sure who was going to be there or what was going to happen. All I knew was that the conference was a place where anyone who is a part of the overall queer community could go to feel free. Attendees could show support and be who they are without judgment that often comes from the “outside community”.

I met people from all across the country who are all doing their piece in helping the movement. Whether it be behind the scenes doing accounting for non-profits, to lobbyist marching up the capitol, to a resource for youth to create GSA’s in the south, to entertainers who are vocal about our cause. This conference brought everyone together with their piece of the puzzle. Each one was making ground in a unique way. Each one had a mission to fight for.

Participating from 8am-9pm may have prevented countless hours of sleep, but, I felt recharged because of all the amazing stories I heard of what people are doing to make change for their communities, schools, houses of worship, states, and counties. I was inspired. Each one reminded me that as individuals we cannot change the whole national climate on LGBT issues, but we can each make progress for Creating Change in our own way. And this is clearly what keeps our community going strong.

Just because the conference is over it does not mean that Creating Change itself is over. I will take the momentum the conference has provided me and use it to create change in my own world.

Remember, regardless of what you’re fighting for whether it be LGBT related causes, sexual health causes, or any other cause that is of importance, keep doing what you do regardless of the size of your work. Always have progress because you too are a part of the puzzle in making our world a better place.


Shaily of Youth Resource

Be the change you want to see in the world.

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

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 This past weekend, I attended the LGBT Equality Conference: Creating Change. I must say that it was one of the GREATEST experiences of my life. I learned a lot, I listened even more and the things I saw were incredible. On my flight going to Baltimore around this time last week I was hoping to find something to dedicate my passion to and as I expected I came back home to North Carolina full of inspiration and motivation. The human rights movement is an amazing one. Hearing Ben Jealous, President of the NAACP, spoke volumes to me. I realized I have responsibility to my NAACP chapter at home and the greater community to speak up on the issues of education, jobs, housing, immigration, marriage, and the right to love, dignity, and respect. All these things affect all of us regardless of whether we are black, white, purple, gay, transgender, rich, poor and everything in between. Once we start to realize that we are one human race, I guarantee we will be better off. But honestly, if we knew that I wouldn’t be posting this blog nor would there be a need for Creating Change.

To anyone reading this, you don’t have to go to a conference or travel anywhere to get involved in a movement. Find something to be passionate about whether its LGBT rights or the DREAM Act. Make sure that it comes from the heart and I promise everything will fall into place. There are an abundance of organizations, that specialize and do advocacy work in ALL areas. We live in an era where the world is literally at our fingertips (those who have that privilege… conversation coming in my next blog). Don’t let ANYONE deter you from your goal… the work isn’t easy nor will it happen overnight but it can be done. Like my mother tells me all the time “The world is yours, take it”

Go out and Create Change.

The proof that one truly believes is in action. –Bayard Rustin

With Black History Month, quickly approaching (tomorrow)… take the time to attend events highlighting the achievements of African-Americans not the Martin Luther Kings or Malcolm X’s. But those who helped them get where they are in history. Find your passion and find a spot for yourself.

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We are 27 days into 2012, another 338 days left to go. There is much than can happen in a minute, one’s life may change dramatically in an hour and it only takes a matter of days for there to be a paradigmatic change.

As 2012 unfolds, international partners and stakeholders in the global youth movement are presented with the opportunity to press on earnestly to continue to increase awareness, recognition and respect for adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights in all circles. But even though time marches on and civilisation should naturally follow the same progression, there are many countries which continue to lag behind in their public recognition of the rights of all adolescents whether male, female, gay, straight or transgendered. Jamaica, our island in the sun, is one example of those countries. It is my desire that 2012 will usher in a more inclusive common-sense approach to these matters; a desire I hope is not too presumptuous. 

In 2012 we will continue to knock fists with HIV/AIDS, especially in circles which continue to maintain laws that present themselves as virtually insurmountable hurdles in this knock-out fight. The 2011 World Aids Day theme ‘Getting to Zero’ is particularly instructive and should be forever etched in our minds as we aim for the targets of Zero New HIV Infections, Zero Discrimination and Zero AIDS-Related Death. These targets must be the primary focus of all our strategies as the youth continue to contribute to development in these areas in their individual countries and certainly across the world.

On a much more fundamental level, we are given yet another opportunity to be respectful to and of each other. As the years pile on, globalisation becomes more entrenched. We must all, therfore, seek to develop mutual respect of our differences and diversities in what will largely become a homogenous society. This is the ultimate opportunity that lingers in 2012. One that should be caught like a bull by the horns and one that augurs for all of our benefits as a global society.

2012 will present threats, challenges and opportunities. We should seize these opportunities and minimise the threats and challenges to make 2012 a very fruitful and historic one through our individual and collective efforts.  

Jermaine Case,
International Youth Speak Out Project (iYSO) 

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 In 1984, Roger Gail Lyon spoke in front of Congress asking that more efforts be made to combat the new disease that was killing him. In Congress, he made an iconic statement: “I came here today with the hope that this administration would do everything possible, make every resource available—there is no reason this disease cannot be conquered. We do not need in fighting, this is not a political issue. This is a health issue. This is not a gay issue. This is a human issue. And I do not intend to be defeated by it. I came here today in the hope that my epitaph would not read that I died of red tape.”

Roger Gail Lyon died later that year. In the early years of the epidemic in America, HIV prevention methods were poorly understood. Today, through the incredible efforts of researchers and activists, HIV is a completely preventable disease. The most vulnerable and oppressed people in America, though, continue to “die of red tape.”

One of the most effective ways of preventing the transmission of HIV and other blood-borne infections is syringe exchange programs, in which intravenous drug users turn in used needles and receive clean ones in exchange. This prevents addicts from sharing needles with others who already have the disease. One-third of HIV positive people in the United States contract it directly from IV drug use, and many more from sexual contact with infected drug users.

Syringe exchange programs are also one of the most cost-effective HIV prevention methods. Syringes cost less than ten cents, while lifetime anti-retroviral HIV treatment on average costs $385,200. According to The Harm Reduction Coalition, this is enough to prevent 30 HIV transmissions through syringe exchange programs. Additionally, six government studies and much outside scholarship have found that syringe exchanges do not promote increases in drug use rates. In fact, as they provide safe, non-judgmental space for users, they are often a path to rehabilitation and recovery.

In light of this, it was shocking when the FY2012 Budget reinstated a ban on federal funding for syringe exchange programs that President Obama had lifted in 2009. With a single sentence, the budget slashed one of the most important tools in HIV prevention. According to The Drug Policy Alliance, 32,000 people in the US are infected with HIV and Hepatitis C from sharing dirty needles each year. Without federal funding for syringes, each and every one of these people’s lives will be in danger.

This, though, is not merely a health issue: this is a feminist issue. The people who will suffer most from the reinstatement of the ban are women—particularly poor women, queer women, and women of color. Feminists must make syringe exchange a key political issue in the upcoming year. Vocally and actively opposing the ban is a necessary facet in the ongoing fight for social justice.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that in the United Sates, 61% of HIV cases in women are caused by drug use or sexual contact with someone who contracted HIV from sharing needles. In 2009, women comprised 23% of Americans newly infected with HIV. The incidence of HIV in women of color is staggering: 1 in 32 African-American women will contract the virus in her lifetime. The CDC goes on to state, “from 2000–2007, HIV infection was among the top 10 leading causes of death for black females aged 10–54 and Hispanic/Latina females aged 15–54.” The funding ban, then, will only serve to exacerbate the challenges women of color face.

Sex workers are also disproportionately affected by HIV and drug use. A study of sex work among women at US syringe exchange programs found that the percentage of women who were sex workers ranged from 15% to 40%. Sex workers are also very likely to have sex with drug users, and may not be able to negotiate condom use, thereby potentially leaving themselves open to HIV infection from clients, especially in light of the ban.

Poor women are more likely to be drug users, and their addictions exacerbate their poverty. The same study indicated that 53.8% of women at syringe exchange programs who frequently sold sex had lived on the streets in the last six months. Only 42.5% had graduated high school. The ban, then, will heavily impact these vulnerable populations, who are rarely able to afford HIV treatment.

Queer people of all genders will also disproportionately suffer as a result of the federal funding ban. The National Network for Youth estimates that up to 40% of street youth identify as gay or lesbian. When transgender and queer people are included, the figures are even more staggering. A National Gay and Lesbian Task Force study indicates that 26% of surveyed gay males became homeless the day they came out. Unsafe schools, unwelcoming families and discriminatory workplaces leave LGBT young people with few options, making them turn to drugs and sex work in disproportionate numbers; 46% of transgender youth reported sex work. Much like in the case of women sex workers, syringe exchange programs are one of the only barriers between these young people and blood-borne diseases.

Transgender people are also at particular risk as those who buy black-market hormones rarely have access to safe, clean needles. For many transgender people, hormone treatments are essential for good mental health and to help prevent violence against them in the work place and elsewhere based on gender presentation. A San Francisco Transgender Health Project study found that over 50% of clients had injected hormones outside of traditional medical settings. As 29% of transgender people have experienced harassment in medical settings, and as transgender people are four times as likely to have an annual income of under $10,000 than the general population, it is unsurprising that the hormone black market is flourishing. Without needle exchanges, these many transgender people will have struggle even more to find safe access to the hormones that they need. They, like so many other impoverished and excluded populations, will have a vital health measure removed.

The federal government made a cowardly decision at the end of last year. The language of the ban does not cut any money—it simply makes it impossible for groups to apply the funding in the best way that they see fit. HIV prevention groups will no longer be able to use federal funds to buy needles—thus limiting one of the most effective ways of stopping the disease. By cutting funding for needle exchange programs specifically, they condemn women, people of color, poor people, queer people, and sex workers to disease and death.

Albert Camus once stated, “It is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners.” As feminists, as progressives, as activists, we must not stand by as the federal government sentences people to death for their poverty, their work, their gender, their color. We must speak for the politically voiceless. Feminists have changed the world a thousand times over before—and we can do it again.

If we believe that discrimination is wrong, we will stand in opposition of the ban. If we want to claim the “AIDS-Free Generation” our president so optimistically speaks about, we will push him to not include the ban in his FY2013 budget and to push Congress to remove the ban.

Roger Gail Lyon died of red tape. He died because to the federal government, he was unimportant—after all, he was a homosexual sufferer of a disease of difference. The ban on federal funding for syringe exchange programs will only perpetuate the myth that some people are disposable, and that it is not our obligation to prevent disease whenever possible. Feminists, as leaders and “thinking people,” must apply our skills, our energy, and our passion to this issue. No one should have to die of red tape.

This post was originally published in Broad Recogniton, an online feminist magazine at Yale.

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by BIanca Laureano

By now you’ve heard of the ABC television show “Work It.” A triflin’ and low rating show that features two middle aged men (one racially white another Latino) who dress up as women to secure employment in the US. Yes, you read that correctly; at a time when women still don’t make as much as men (and where transgender people don’t make as much at all!), when the feminization of poverty is still a part of our society and world, and when transgender people are still the most oppressed, underemployedmurdered, invisible and erased members of our communities.

ABC Chief Paul Lee states he “doesn’t get” the big deal about how harmful “Work It” is based on GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign’s activism around the show and their efforts to challenge it coming to air. Lee states he doesn’t “get it” because he loved the movie “Tootsie.”

What Lee and others fail to see is that these are characters that are created so that we can laugh at them. These characters are performing stereotypes and misconceptions of what we assume to be a challenge when people “dress up” as the opposite gender. The characters perpetuate a gender binary. These characters are making a choice to dress up which gives the illusion that sex and gender are choices that people can simply change their mind about.

Others that fail to see this problem: some Puerto Rican activists. For the past week I’ve received so many emails about how Puerto Ricans are represented on “Work It” by Latino character Amaury Nolasco, who plays a Puerto Rican character. The “dehumanizing” and “blatantly offensive” comment where the “culture was attacked by an insensitive stereotype”  by Nolasco’s character who states: “I’m Puerto Rican, I would be great at selling drugs.”

This statement took less than 10 seconds to say and hear. Because of that 10 seconds a huge storm of protest has erupted among Puerto Ricans.

My heart breaks here. All of this mobilizing and protesting for one line by a character, yet NOTHING from any of the grassroots organizations, such as Boricuas For A Positive Image, celebrities or community activists that have jumped on this protest about how Puerto Rican and Latin@ transgender people are impacted by this show. There is an overwhelming silence. Where is the alliance building with transgender activists? Where is the joining with GLAAD and HRC? Where is the mobilization beyond targeting me as a Puerto Rican, but not as a human being that values all members of our community, especially those who are harmed the most?

The images and video that have been created around the challenging of ABC by Puerto Rican activists are very single issue when we are not a single issue people! The messages being sent: Transmisogyny is alive and well. We don’t care about your gender we care more about your ethnicity (and only if it is Puerto Rican). We don’t care how something may harm and dehumanize the Puerto Rican transgender community unless it impacts us directly.

I understand this response especially since Puerto Rico has been struggling with drug trafficking, drug use and abuse, and drug related crimes for decades. One of my most vivid memories of Puerto Rico was in 1995 when armed US military would line the streets and randomly pull cars over and check for drugs. It was a scary time, and those times remain today, especially with the high murder rate in Puerto Rico  (and a number of those murders are of transgender Puerto Ricans and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer Puerto Ricans) and when the stop and frisk experiences of Latin@ and Black youth living in NYC and in-school arrests are ridiculously high.

What I don’t understand is how can “activists” separate these issues so easily? If we stood with our transgender community in fighting this show when it was being created and knew it centered a Puerto Rican actor who was misrepresenting Puerto Rican transgender women, would we be here today? It’s possible we would, it’s also possible our voices as Puerto Rican consumers, Puerto Rican media makers, and Puerto Rican people would have resulted in a similar apology and a more quick removal of the offensive show. When we partner together to support and make change for our most oppressed members of our community we all benefit.

My hope is that Puerto Rican activists today learn about the anti-oppression legacy that civil rights activist Sylvia Rivera,  a Puerto Rican-Venezuelan New Yorker, has left us. And then share her legacy and not keep it just for ourselves, but speak on it to youth, our elders, other Latin@s, everybody! To learn how you can support the Sylvia Rivera Law Project visit their website

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The content of sex education lessons varies wildly from state to state and even from district to district.  Some students receive no instruction about sexual health at all. Millions learn that girls shouldn’t have ideas and boys are like microwaves.   Only a small percent receive comprehensive and age-appropriate instruction throughout their time in school.

The National Sexuality Education Standards, released this week, attempt to change all that, providing clear, consistent, and straightforward guidance on the essential minimum,core content for sexuality education that is developmentally and age-appropriate for students in grades Kindergarten through grade 12. 

Advocates for Youth is part of the Future of Sex Education (FoSE) Initiative, the team that developed the standards.  Based on on both what science has proven and what every child has the right to learn, and modeled on the National Health Education Standards, the National Sexuality Education Standards focus on seven topics as the minimum, essential content and skills for K–12 education: Anatomy and Physiology, Puberty and Adolescent Development, Identity, Pregnancy and Reproduction, Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV, Healthy Relationships, and Personal Safety.

It’s hoped that the standards will help school districts identify areas in which sex education might be lacking and fill in the gaps for their students.   One example where many schools are failing is homophobic bullying.  From the Associated Press:

Despite awareness of bullying, for example, Debra Hauser, president of Advocates for Youth, one of the groups involved with creating the standards, said some schools don’t address it — or at least not in relation to sexual orientation or gender identity, which is where she said a lot of the bullying occurs.

"They should tackle it head on," Hauser said.

How can activists spread awareness of the new Standards and help get them implemented? 

You can tweet or post the link on Facebook: http://www.futureofsexed.org/fosestandards.html

You can blog about them here on Amplify or on your own blog.

Or if you want to go deeper, you can start organizing to support comprehensive sex education.

Widespread adoption of the National Sexuality Education Standards is one step toward achieving the Three R’s vision for youth sexual and reproductive health and rights. Click through to learn more about the Standards.

Questions and Answers about the National Sexuality Education Standards

How Is Sexuality Education Being Defined in the National Sexuality Education Standards?

The National Sexuality Education Standards recognize sexuality education as a broad term that includes a range of topic areas that impact a person’s sexual health and well-being. Although it has historically focused on sexual behaviors and the potential outcomes of those behaviors, in its more comprehensive form, sexuality education is about much more than that. The topic areas included in the National Sexuality Education Standards are:

• Anatomy and Physiology
• Puberty and Adolescent Development
• Identity
• Pregnancy and Reproduction
• Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV
• Healthy Relationships
• Personal Safety

Why Provide Sexuality Education In Public Schools?

The vast majority of young people in Kindergarten through twelfth grade in the United States attend public schools. As a result, these schools provide a logical venue for reaching the greatest number of young people possible with life-enhancing, life-saving sexuality information.

Years of research demonstrate the need for providing sexuality education in public school settings:

• Many comprehensive sex education programs help youth delay the onset of sexual activity, reduce the frequency of sexual activity, reduce the number of sexual partners, and increase condom and contraceptive use.

• Teens who received comprehensive sexuality education were 50 percent less likely to report getting pregnant or causing a pregnancy .

• Because so much bullying and harassment takes place in schools, it is imperative that school-based sexuality education address sexual orientation and combating harassment and bullying. Nearly 9 out of 10 lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) students report being harassed in school. LGBT students who report frequent harassment also suffer from lower grade point averages.

• Similarly, teen relationship violence continues to be a pressing problem. Although frequently under-reported, ten percent of teens are physically harmed by their boyfriend
or girlfriend in a given year. Much of teen dating behavior is played out within the school environment, and therefore the topic areas of communication, healthy relationships, boundary setting, respect and others must be included in school-based sexuality education programming.

• Parents nationwide overwhelmingly support comprehensive sexuality education in public schools. 

What Are Educational Standards?

• Educational standards define the knowledge and skills young people need to know in specific topic areas by the end of specific grades. They offer guidance to members of a school district, including teachers and administrators, on understanding what content and skills are age-appropriate at these grade levels.

• Many classroom topic areas have voluntary national education standards, including English Language Arts, History, Science, Mathematics and Health.

• The National Health Education Standards (NHES) were developed to establish, promote and support health-enhancing behaviors for students from grades pre-K -12. Nearly 75 percent of states require districts to follow national or state health education standards.

• When sexuality education is provided in school, it is usually part of the health curriculum. The National Health Education Standards, therefore, heavily influenced the development of the National Sexuality Education Standards: Core Content and Skills, K-12.

Why Are Educational Standards Needed For Sex Education?

Although sexuality education is most frequently taught within the health curriculum, the National Health Education Standards do not provide any guidance on how to teach specific topics, including human sexuality. How sexuality education is taught is determined locally, and outlined in each school district’s curriculum.

• Currently, the manner in which sexuality education is provided in schools is determined by individual school districts or instructors. The National Sexuality Education Standards: Core Content and Skills, K–12 provide sound guidance from educational experts across various disciplines on the minimum core sexuality-related knowledge and skills appropriate to each developmental level in a young person’s life.

• Educational standards help determine whether students have learned what they need to know in order to progress through school and into their futures successfully.

• Although the vast majority of school districts around the country have adopted the National Health Education Standards, these standards provide only general guidance without focusing on specific content areas, including sexuality education.

Who Developed These Standards?

• The National Sexuality Education Standards: Core Content and Skills, K-12 are being disseminated in partnership with the American Association of Health Education, the American School Health Association, the National Education Association–Health Information Network, and the Society of State Leaders of Health and Physical Education.

• Over 50 professionals representing a wide range of schools, school districts, educational organizations and more, contributed to development of the standards, which was a project of the Future of Sex Education (FoSE) initiative.

What Topic Areas Were Selected for the National Sexuality Education Standards?

Topic areas covered in the National Sexuality Education Standards reflect the essential, minimum core content and skills students need to learn by the end of specific grades. They were not designed to be truly comprehensive in scope, but to offer a baseline from which school districts can begin.

The topic areas included in the National Sexuality Education Standards are:

• Anatomy and Physiology
• Puberty and Adolescent Development
• Identity
• Pregnancy and Reproduction
• Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV
• Healthy Relationships
• Personal Safety

How Were These Specific Topic Areas Selected?

• The content for the National Sexuality Education Standards were informed by the National Health Education Standards, the work of the CDC’s Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (HECAT) , existing state and international education standards that include sexual health content and the Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education: Kindergarten – 12th Grade .

• The vast majority of schools that provide some kind of sexuality education limit their course offerings to pregnancy and STD/HIV prevention. Yet most professionals agree that just covering these topics is not enough to support young people’s healthy development. The National Sexuality Education Standards were designed to provide guidance in addressing the essential, minimum core content for sexuality education that is age-appropriate for students in grades K—12.

How Was Age-Appropriateness Determined for the National Sexuality Education Standards?

• The age-appropriateness of the content and skills of the National Sexuality Education Standards was informed by the National Health Education Standards, the work of the CDC’s Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (HECAT) , existing state and international education standards that include sexual health content and the Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education: Kindergarten – 12th Grade . In addition, guidance was also provided by over 50 experts in the fields of education, health, child and adolescent development and sexuality education.

How Should School Districts and Departments of Education Use These Standards?

The National Sexuality Education Standards represent the core, minimum content and skills for students grades K-12. School districts can use them in the following ways:

• School districts providing no sexuality education can consider them a roadmap for creating a scope and sequence that is based in available research and health behavior theories.

• School districts already providing some sex education, but seeking to expand the grade levels at which it is taught, can use the standards as guidance for age-appropriateness, particularly for students of younger ages.

• School administrators and curriculum supervisors can use the standards to outline what, based on research and extensive professional expertise, are the minimum, essential content and skills for sexuality education K–12 given student needs, limited teacher preparation and typically available time and resources.

• Schools can use the standards as a roadmap for designing and delivering sexuality education K–12 that is planned, sequential and part of a comprehensive school health education approach.

• The standards offer teachers and administrators clear, concise recommendations for school personnel on what is age-appropriate to teach students at different grade levels.

• The standards remove the guesswork from creating a sexuality education scope and sequence that is age- and developmentally-appropriate by translating an emerging body of research related to school-based sexuality education to ensure that it is evidence-informed and theory-driven.

How Do the National Sexuality Education Standards Support Parents?

• The National Sexuality Education Standards provide a clear, concise framework for parents to understand what the minimum, core content and skills are that their children need to know at different ages so that they can partner with schools to reinforce the school’s sexuality education program at home within the context of their family’s values.

• Research shows that sexuality education programs that teach about abstinence as well as other topics can have a positive impact on young people’s behaviors and practices.3 In communities where no or insufficient sexuality education is being offered, parents can use the National Sexuality Education Standards to advocate for the inclusion of content and skills that are based in research and best practices.

The Future of Sex Education (FoSE) initiative is a collaboration between Advocates for Youth, Answer and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) to promote the institutionalization of sexuality education in America’s public schools. For more information, please visit www.futureofsexed.org.


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December 25- December 31

Stats this week: 9 posts by 8 writers

Being An Activist- by abril_flowers

Inside this post:

An activist with the Texas Freedom Network at the University of Texas at Brownsville talks about her work educating her fellow students about the state’s current sex ed policies and what they can do to make sure their peers have the information they need to stay safe.

Mobilizing 4,000 for LGBT Rights- by AFY_Nikki

Inside this post:

Ernesto shares his experience organizing a solidarity event after an LGBT hate crime in his city with the skills he learned from training sessions with Advocates for Youth.

Trans* People in Philly Hold Clothing Bank- by Jordan

Inside this post:

Jordan talks about donating old clothes to a transgender-focused clothing drive.

807,615 Voter Signatures- by rikkiyouthresource

Inside this post:

Rikki talks about an initiative in California to gather signatures around the state to get a proposition on the 2012 ballot to repeal Prop 8.

Thank you to everyone who posted a blog this week! You are part of what makes this community great!

~ Samantha
Community Editor

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The 16th International conference on AIDS and STI’s in Africa ICASA 2011, jointly organized by the government of Ethiopia in conjunction with the society for AIDS in Africa and various institutional and community partners as well private sector, brought together over ten thousand delegates from around the world who from the 4th -8th December put their heads together, bringing to the table, their experiences, good practices and looked for a way forward, 30 years into the fight against the AIDS pandemic.

As per the tradition of ICASA, this year’s conference was divided broadly into three areas of focus, which included the scientific, Non-abstract driven sessions and the community programs. Themed around Own, Scale-up and sustain, the conference chair Dr.YigeremuAbebe from Ethiopia explained the conference was so designed to ensure international standards with excellent submissions from what the world is doing to respond to HIV in Africa. Also the choice of speakers and various facilitators also a reflected the organizer’s resolve to ensure high level of interaction during the conference.

This conference however started with a youth Pre-conference which was in a bid to better prepare young people for the main conference. It was hosted by Talent Youth Association (TAYA- Ethiopia) 1-3 December 2011 in Addis Ababa Ethiopia, at the Ghion hotel. This Pre meeting had over 250 delegates with over 80 of them from Ethiopia. The official opening was done by H.E AlemawMengistu, State Minister for the Ministry of Women and children and Youth affairs who called on young people to get involved in the ICASA proper and ensure that their voices are heard. Also present was Dr. YigeremuAbebe from the Clinton foundation who called on all African people to take ownership of the issues, be accountable and responsible for the response.

It is worth noting that the theme for this pre-conference was accountability and the breakout sessions were structured to achieve these goals. The pre-conference -ended with a declaration and call to action from the young people on sexual reproductive health and rights to be channeled to the main conference and this call to action highlighted amongst many other things the need to include young people more in the HIV/AIDS response process, getting the governments to commit, or better still be accountable for the money they receive for HIV/AIDS funding, and to proportionately distribute the funds to all the target populations not prioritizing one over the other. Also there was a call for the inclusion of young people living with HIV/AIDS and also children born with HIV in the whole response process and improve the quality of Youth friendly centers to better accommodate young people and also include them as staffed officials in such centers and also accommodate for the heterogeneity of their sexualities.

The conference proper that began on the 4th of December saw especially the rare presence of two former US presidents (Bill Clinton and George W. Bush) at the opening ceremony which was very contrary to public opinion as they asked why no single former African president or even the current ones were not invited, also asking ‘’why they were mourning more than the bereaved’’

This year’s ICASA had about 407 presentations which were covered in 150 plenary, parallel skill building and Non-abstract driven sessions and an additional 59 oral presentations, bringing the number to a total of 466 presentations. These abstracts and presentations covered and provided information on current research around the continent and best practices upheld by the different stake holders.

The uniqueness of this year’s ICASA is that it provided awards to the best abstracts presented by young investigators below the age of 35.this recognition was in a bid to encourage scientific research in Africa which is facing challenges at the moment and it is hoped that by so doing, many will be motivated to take upon themselves to further research on the Pandemic and possibly find a cure in the nearest future. It is now just rhetoric to repeat the fact that Africa is the most affected, especially Sub-Saharan Africa By this Pandemic.

Aside the sessions and very formal side of ICASA is the community village. It comprises of highly creative and focused programs ranging from the youth Pavilion to the community dialogue spaces. There is plenty here to digest as it shares plenty of best practices in Africa and most young people for ICASA hang out here since it gives them a unique opportunity of learning while having fun. The place is animated by an array of culturaldances ,performances and presentations from youth networks and other networks, distribution of condoms and t-shirts and other didactic materials which can be helpful in sensitization and general networking amongst ICASA participants.

This year’s ICASA registered a huge success all together as it brought together disabled persons, people living with HIV/AIDS, LGBTQI’s(Lesbian gays, bisexuals transgender, queer and intersex) who in one way or the other are contributing to the fight against HIV/AIDS all networking together.

The major outcome and the most applauded is that African leaders committed to engage in strategies that will ensure home grown responses to the AIDS pandemic, given the fact that at this crucial time of worldwide economic recession, they need to own , scale-up and sustain.
Overall, it is widely accepted that ICASA 2011 pointed the way forward to accomplishing the common vision of ‘zero new infections, zero discrimination, and Zero AIDS related deaths in Africa."

The major shortcoming from a personal point of view is that, too much money is spent organizing a meeting like ICASA.Sad to say but some people are getting enriched by the havoc this pandemic is causing. The resources allocated, from the printing of badges, conference papers,accommodation and other logistics was money that could have been channeled otherwise for better use maybe for some research or that remote place in the world where there is little or no response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
My recommendation will be to have fewer people attend the ICASA 2012 in South Africa and we should not make it a profit making forum with the commercialization that has engulfed the organization and running of ICASA.

Also as activist in the fight against HIV/AIDS it is very recommendable that we adopt healthy sexual practices as I could not help but notice some unscrupulous interactions amongst delegates especially the young people.

In conclusion I will like to thank the African Union and especially the Youth Division Headed By Dr. Raymonde Agoussou Advocates For Youth and UNFPA for giving me this unique learning opportunity to participate at ICASA and also to report via blogging on amplify/AU-YVC facebook pages for the duration of the conference.

By Abongwa Victor
International Youth Journalist

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The 16th International conference on AIDS and STI’s in Africa ICASA 2011, jointly organized by the government of Ethiopia in conjunction with the society for AIDS in Africa (SAA) and various institutional and community partners as well as private sector, brings together over ten thousand delegates from around the world who in the course of the next few days will put their heads together, bringing to the table, their experiences, good practices and look for a way forward, 30 years into the fight against the AIDS pandemic.

As per the tradition of ICASA, this year’s conference has been divided broadly into three areas of focus, which include the scientific, Non-abstract driven sessions and the community programs. Themed around Own, Scale-up and sustain, the conference chair Dr.Yigeremu Abebe from Ethiopia explains the conference has been developed to ensure international standards with excellent submissions from what the world is doing to respond to HIV in Africa. Also the choice of speakers and various facilitators is also a reflection of the organizer’s resolve to ensure high level of interaction during the conference.

As I go through the Abstract book, I can’t help but to plead the Devil’s advocate to ask if it is feasible that in five days 407 presentations will be adequately covered in 150 plenary, parallel skill building and Non-abstract driven sessions talk less of the additional 59 oral presentations, bringing the number to a total of 466 presentations? Well we are left to find out. The good thing however about the abstracts and presentations is that they are expected to cover and will provide information on current research around the continent.
The uniqueness of this year’s ICASA is that it will provide awards to the best abstracts presented by young investigators below the age of 35.thsi recognition is in a bid to encourage scientific research in Africa which is facing challenges at the moment and it is hoped that by so doing, many will be motivated to take upon themselves to further research on the Pandemic and possible find a cure in the nearest future. It is worth noting that Africa is the most affected, especially Sub-Saharan Africa.

So here I am, at the millennium hall conference centre where the ICASA is being held, completely lost, and everyone is so busy going up and down as if on Broadway. I try really hard to figure out where I want to go…and what strikes me the most to visit is the community village. It comprises of highly creative and focused programs ranging from the youth Pavilion to the community dialogue spaces. There is plenty here for me to digest as it shares plenty of best practices in Africa.

So I visit from stand to stand, ranging from organizations working with the handicapped in the response to HIV/AIDS pandemic, those working with out of school youths, commercial sex workers, young people born with and living with HIV(YPLHIH) those working with young people and children orphaned by HIV, and others with girls that are victims of female genital mutilation and victims of rape and others more specifically on developing and advancing research in antiretroviral drugs .

It is a very rich blend of ideas and best practices and can’t help but to be absorbed in all of this. Did I mention there is also the people living with HIV (PLWHIV) and also that of Lesbian gay bisexual transgender, queer and intersex lounge? Provided in a bid for them to network and support each other.

Last but not least there is a rich display of the Ethiopian culture in the form of arts and craft many of which are from organizations that support PLWHIV, and of course there is warm tea to heat people up as Addis is particularly cold at this time of the year.

I make my way through one or two parallel sessions and I am quite impressed with what is going on, but what strikes me the most is the official opening ceremony which saw the presence of several dignitaries and one of the least expected…George W . Bush former president of the United States of America.

This ICASA is unique and we are hoping by the end of it, someone maybe from the Scientific area will tell us a ground breaking discovery that will alleviate the plight this Pandemic has caused since the first cases were discovered some 30 years ago. By the time the day officially closed, I was no longer MIA, at least I now know my way around and hopefully day two will be a better day. Stay tuned!

By Abongwa Victor
International Youth Journalist

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On the second day of the International conference on STI’s and AIDS (ICASA ) Pre- conference December 2nd in Addis Ababa- Ethiopia, hosted by talent youth association TAYA, which is in a bid to prepare youths to have a head start as per the expectations of ICASA, young people attending have already familiarized themselves with the environment and people can now talk more freely, perhaps the reason why the session on Inclusion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex(LGBTQI) Youth in HIV and Sesual reproductive Health and rights (SRHR() interventions is kept to be dealt with on this day.
The session is facilitated by Steve Letsike working with “OUT”, South Africa which is an organization dedicated to the promotion of the rights of LGBTQI’s and giving them the specific health services they require in an enabling environment. She begins the session with the projection of a good practice video which showed the evolution of demands for equal rights by the gay community of Pretoria and the subsequent evolution to the point when LGBTQI’S are legally recognized and can officialize their marriages in both churches and family affairs centers. See www.M2M.com and www.W2W.com for more on this organization.

I came to the realization that most people who have been working in the field of SRHR and even sexual diversities did not really understand some basic terminologies even down to the definitions of LGBTQI’s. So for the benefit of doubt, I will give the most basic of these definitions but for more clarity you can always check out the above mentioned websites. For the purpose and length of this article LGBTQI’S will be defined as:

L-Lesbian is a woman who has emotional, sexual, intellectual and romantic attraction towards another woman.
G-Gay is a man who shares emotional, sexual, intellectual and romantic attraction towards a man.
B-Bisexual is a man or woman who shares emotional, sexual, intellectual and romantic attraction towards both men and women.
T-Transgender is a man or woman who identifies differently from the gender assigned to She/he.
I-Intersex is someone who has an indeterminate sexual organ and needs a decision to be made.
Q-Queer is someone who is flexible and will rather not be labeled as either gay, lesbian, bisexual, or any such labels and lives his sexuality as she/he pleases.
The discussion focused around three basic questions.
1. How do we use our expertise where we come from to further integrate LGBTIQ’s?
2. What is your role in addressing this issue?
3. What are the resources required to better meet the needs of these people.
In Response to these questions, after much deliberation, participants came up with the following ideas.
For question one, the responses were as follows;

• Integration of LGBTQI issues in national and strategic health plans first by understanding the dynamics around LGBTQI issues.
• Conducting ample research to provide concrete statistics with which governments can be held to commit on the basis of the realities these statistics present. for example there are over 1 million known LGBTQI’s in Africa and 40% of them are HIV positive, this kind of information therefore will be very useful when pressure is mounted on governments to enable such people access health facilities without being discriminated upon on the basis of their sexual identities.
• Training of health practitioners and revising the develop manuals to enable them provide services meet the needs and aspirations of LGBTQIs
• Advocacy for their rights using other unexplored venues like new media.
• Engaging with policy makers.
• Revising awareness of the needs of these people and advocating for them to be met.

For the second question, the responses were as follows.

• Discourage discrimination and change existing attitudes
• Raise awareness of the rights and also responsibilities of these people through a human rights based approach for example International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) Sexual rights declaration handbook made in conjunction with the United Nations(UN) Universal Human Rights declaration.
• Values clarification
• Identifying key entry points and gate keepers (parliamentarians) working with those who are understanding to push the change at a higher level (PARLIAMENT)

As regards the last question, ideas gathered were;

• Creation of youth friendly and drop in centers for LGBTQIs
• Provision of commodities and resources which meet their specific needs and aspirations(lubricants, condoms suited for anal sex etc)
• Policy documents
• Finally removing punitive laws on LGBTQIs.

I will like to conclude this blog by mentioning that even though Ethiopia is host to the ICASA conference, with the ministry of health directly involved, things have not been made particularly easy for the LGBTQI community that will be attending this event. The public opinion is that ICASA is a gay conference and most people are bent on making the process a failure as much as they can. People are particularly skeptical about giving out the joints or meeting places out for fear of being condemned they are promoting gay activities and even the Pre-conference cocktail party was cancelled because the owner of the place declined giving it out when she found out those hiring it were for the ICASA program and a meeting of LGBTQI s in one of tthe hotels was cancelled on the same premise!

By Abongwa Victor
International Youth Journalist

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The international conference on AIDS and STI’s in Africa ( ICASA), the long awaited and must attend international conference will bring together youth activists, health practitioners, government representatives, stake holders and every other person engaged in the fight against . To better prepare young people for the main conference, a Pre-conference for young people, hosted by Talent Youth Association (TAYA- Ethiopia) 1-3 December 2011 in Addis Ababa Ethiopia, kicked off December 1st at the Ghion hotel. This Pre meeting has over 250 delegates with over 80 of them from Ethiopia. The official opening was done by H.E Alemaw Mengistu, State Minister for the Ministry of Women and children and Youth affairs who called on young people to get involved in the ICASA proper and ensure that their voices are heard. Also present was Dr. Yigeremu Abebe from the Clinton foundation who called on all African people to take ownership of the issues, be accountable and responsible for the response.

Next stop we heard from Dr. Ademola Olajide who echoed Dr. Abebe’s view on accountability but urging young people on their part to lead the way. He said “we need to make the change we need and need to do it now” and to make that changeso, Dr. Akinyele Dairo on his part highlighted that UNFPA was particularly committed to young people and applauded UNFPA and other partners in their response which has yielded some results in terms of reduction in new infections. He said however that the target is the Zero infection point and to reach this young people must either Abstain from Sex completely until they are married and while they are stay faithful to their partners or CONDOMIZE! .The country representative for UNFPA Ted Chabien reiteritated the need for young people to be visible at the ICASA proper , taking the lead, facilitating sessions and making presentations.

Last but not the least speaker in the opening ceremony was Paddy Masembe from Africa Young Positives Association who bore witness to the challenges young people living with HIV/AIDS are facing on a day to day basis which included amongst others stigmatization and discrimination, lack of access to adequate health facilities and programs designed to meet the specific needs of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHIV) especially Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) living with HIV.

It is worth noting that the theme for this pre-conference is Accountability and the breakout sessions are structured to achieve these goals. I have taken the liberty of summarizing some of the sessions that held on this first day (DECEMBER 1st)that way my readers can get a idea of what went on.

The first session which focused on empowering young people for HIV prevention-challenges and opportunities done by Rick Olson from (UNICEF) explained that there are challenges in the effort to getting to the zero new infection target ,stating that there is increased teenage pregnancy and more young girls and women are getting HIV. He highlighted that this is coming mostly from the lack of information, condom use although increasing, figures still show young people disconnect between young people knowing where to get and actually use them and Voluntary counseling and testing in youth friendly centers, asking how friendly they really are. He made a call to young people to get involved in more condom programming particularly accountability and acceptability.

The other session I found particular interest in was that which focused on reaching unmet needs of sexual reproductive health and rights services of young people living with HIV.(YPLHIV). The speaker called for the status of children born with HIV to be normalized by society. He said so because current family planning does not target YPLHIV, including lack of information on contraception. He stated that YPLHIV needed more support in education and from stigma and discrimination meted upon them for a fault which is not theirs and that they are merely victims of circumstances. He concluded with a call for more work on advocacy, more access to Anti retroviral treatment (ART) more research on 15-19 year olds to be conducted and for the budget to be distributed more fairly amongst the different age groups.
Other sessions included documenting experiences, challenges and new approaches in the fight against HIV/AIDS amongst young people, another was the challenge of Youth in HIV/AIDS prevention policies, programs and fundraising.

Last but not the least was the session on Open societies and rights of PESSP (Gays and Lesbians) and sex workers and the speaker bore witness to the discrimination and stigma that sex workers suffer. The main issues highlighted were male and transgender sex workers and saw the need of services to sensitize thee sex worker and also for society and governments to treat them and their families equally. There was equally a call for support for rape victims especially male rape victims who are usually victimized more afterwards.

By Abongwa Victor
International Youth Journalist

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Each week, I’ll be posting a list of the most news-worthy and/or inspirational, informative, well-written, thought-provoking, and/or unique posts of the week. While every post and every contributor is valuable to our community, these are the blogs that I feel are must-reads.

November 20- November 26

Stats this week: 14 posts by 11 writers

General Consensus On Trans Rights: Or Is There?- by Jordan

Inside this post:

Jordan details promising poll data about acceptance for equal rights for transgender people.

Occupy Philippine Congress- by leovlauzon

Inside this post:

For thirty days until December 14, 2011, young people and RH Advocates will go door-to-door to the offices of the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate of the Philippines to talk and engage with them in debate with the RH Bill.

Thank you to everyone who posted a blog this week! You are part of what makes this community great!

~ Samantha
Community Editor

My post this week: 
California Supreme Court rules that Prop 8 proponents have standing to appeal

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Parades are always fun but difficult to organize yet if you can go in any order then its altogether a different ball game. Parades generally signify the republic day for me because that is the day that you the population of the town out on the roads to see the three hour parade which makes you proud of your nationality but of recent some new parades have come into existence. People who until now were living in closets or couldn’t declare their sexual identities are now coming out during these parades to proudly declare who they are and what they believe in.

The fact that the society is not ready to accept/ recognize some sections like gays, lesbians, bisexuals, queer and transgender makes them utilize whatever opportunity that they can get with vengeance. And why shouldn’t they specially when the society loves acting as if they don’t exist or are our dirty secrets?

Personally, I believe that a person’s sexual identity is their private business and society should leave sexual and religious identities out of equation because it is difficult for one to come to terms with who they are and how that might be different for them when compared with other people and to top it off with pressure of being accepted by close ones, society and the world makes life all the more difficult. But on occasions like Gay Pride parades when people dress up to broadcast themselves, I never really know whether to applaud their guts or feel scared.

A normal question would be, why scared? Well, it takes me back in time to one of those events which one doesn’t want to witness, remember or have repeated in life. I have a friend. She had recently started exploring her identity as a lesbian because she was seriously attracted to women and until then she hadn’t had the guts to do anything about it because her family back home was very orthodox. For them this would be an impossibility and if they accepted that this was possible then the ultimate sin. Last gay parade made the lady want to celebrate her sexuality. She was warned but she dressed up for the occasion.

Covering a secret makes one more inquisitive so it is always suggested that do whatever you like but don’t cover your eyes in a Gay Parade specially if you don’t want to attract attention. But then youth and inexperience are not easy horses to harness. The lady dressed up like Cleopatra with painted eyes and a veil. Her beauty attracted the media like bees. She was all over the next day’s newspaper as the face of the parade. Her parents saw this and she right now has no home to return to because they still haven’t accepted her or her sexuality. She is living in a hostel (thank god, for communal colleges with government subsidised fees).
However, that was another time and space. Lets get a sneak preview of the Gay Pride Parade in Delhi which took place on 27th November, 2011. I hope no other people face similar mishaps like the one told here.

Special thanks to Aditya Bandyopadhyay for the video.

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Each week, I’ll be posting a list of the most news-worthy and/or inspirational, informative, well-written, thought-provoking, and/or unique posts of the week. While every post and every contributor is valuable to our community, these are the blogs that I feel are must-reads.

November 13 – November 19

Stats this week: 22 posts by 18 writers

Transgender Children In The News: A Round-Up- by Jordan

Inside this post:

From wanting to join the Girl Scouts in Colorado to a family winning an award in Maine for working to end transgender discrimination, Jordan reviews five recent stories about transgender youth.

Mindless Behavior…Nuf Sed- by KarachiYWOCLC

Inside this post:

Karachi looks at a new “boy band” called Mindless Behavior.

Not only are we pushing our little boys to grow up too fast with all this mindless behavior, we’re also teaching them that it’s ok to objectify women. This video’s got the same M.O as most other hip-hop videos.

“Personhood” and Birth Control Demystified- by ashthom

Inside this post:

Ashley explains how pregnancy and birth control work and why “personhood” bills understand neither and attempt to redefine both.

Thank you to everyone who posted a blog this week! You are part of what makes this community great!

~ Samantha
Community Editor

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 For me coming out is hard because of the "what ifs" the "what will happen" and most importantly the"what will my friends say". I’m an overweight 14 year old girl who is bi-sexual. I at times think i am and except it but other time i lie to myself and say i’m straight.  I like being popular and on a scale of o to 100(0 being the worst and 100 being most popular) for my freshman class i would say i’m a decent 83. I think that for people like me(overweight) it’s even harder to come out. An example is two types of girls at my school. One group of girls are lesbian and are fat. The other is a girl who came out but she is skinny and pretty. Everyone talks about the "fatty lesbos" but the other girl gets left alone no one talks shit about her. I feel like if i came out that would be me the addition to the "fatty lesbos" even though i’m bi. And one of my friends is also bi and she is skinny. I feel like if we were to both come out i would be the one who gets shit talked about and she would get nothing. I will admit i’m shallow if i was a guy i’d go out for the skinnier chick( by this i mean like not overweight) who’s blonde(just a prefrence) rather than the fat chick . And i care a lot about being popular i woun’t do anything to be popular but it matters to me. I know some of my friends would still be my friends even if i came out but the thing is they aren’t super popular . I hate being different i mean in the sense of having to deal with not only being overweight and getting made fun of behind my back but the fact that i would have to deal with girls giving me weird stares in the halls for being bi. People finding out is my biggest worry. With the pressures of being popular and having the right friends makes me scared to loose the reputation it took me 4 years to build. My rep is the " funny, nice, and okay looking rounder chick" i don’t mind being called okay looking it’s better than being called ugly. ANd if i was to come out and have the same friends it would be awkward and then i would have to add finding hot bi-sexual girls to my long list of things i look for at school. For me coming out is risky and scary. You never know who your real friends are but if your bi or les or gay or transgender and you tell one of your "friends" your secret and they aren’t a real friend it’s the end of the life you knew because your set into the LGBT stareotype.

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Each week, I’ll be posting a list of the most news-worthy and/or inspirational, informative, well-written, thought-provoking, and/or unique posts of the week. While every post and every contributor is valuable to our community, these are the blogs that I feel are must-reads.

November 6- November 12

Stats this week: 13 posts by 11 writers

Proud to be Polish- by Jordan

Inside this post:

Jordan writes about the election of Anna Grodzka, Poland’s first transgender member of parliament.

Election Roundp: GREAT Night for Progressives- by AFY_Will

Inside this post:

Will summarizes some progressive victories from the recent election, including the election to town council of one of Advocates for Youth’s former youth activists, Lee Storrow.

What if Justin Bieber Has A Baby- by Media_Justice

Inside this post:

Bianca uses the scandal around Justin Bieber allegedly getting a young woman pregnant to discuss condom use, consent, and how society treats young mothers.

Thank you to everyone who posted a blog this week! You are part of what makes this community great!

~ Samantha
Community Editor

My post this week: 
Myths about Virginity in Glee’s "First Time"

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This past Tuesday was a momentous victory for the LGBT community in Houston. Among the victors were Mayor Annise Parker, Ellen Cohen, and the first gay man elected to city council, Mike Laster. There was, however, one loss that stood out. Houston Independent School District Board Member Manuel Rodriguez Jr had been in a tight race with challenger Ramiro Fonseca, when in a last minute attempt to put himself over the edge Rodriguez issued an anti-gay mailer to his constituents. The mailer highlighted Fonseca’s history of advocacy for the LGBT community and an endorsement given by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. Rodriguez’s brochure went on to claim that Fronseca had "spent years advocating for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender rights … not kids." As if the brochure was not enough, Rodriguez had been quoted as referring to the LGBT community as "those people." Seeing as how just this past year Rodriguez had voted in favor of changing HISD’s non-discrimination policy to better protect LGBT students, many within the community were shocked. 

Rodriguez won his re-election by 24 votes. The community was outraged. This past Thursday leaders within the LGBT community of Houston rallied HISD Gay Straight Alliance students and spoke before the Board Members. Along with others, I had decided it was my duty as an LGBT youth leader to speak up against this horrendous act. 

This is my speech. 

My name is James Lee, I’m a student leader at the University of Houston. Though my name may not give it away, I’m Latino. Here in Texas, especially in Houston, our community has a strong and respected presence but it wasn’t always this way. There was a time when Latinos were the target of blatant bigotry, and as you heard from students earlier, there are still those who discriminate against us today.

Though I am Latino I also identify with a second community, the LGBT community. Just as the Latino community continues to defend itself from those who seek to demean or degrade us by referring to us as "those people", so too does the LGBT community.

Growing up, my mother and father always taught me to be respectful of others and when in a competition “focus on the issues.” Earlier this week, a brochure that singled out the LGBT community was distributed to voters. Since the incident occurred, there has been questioning as to why it was perceived as offensive.

Just as it would be inappropriate to list his Latino identity as a reason for voters not to support your opponent, so too would it be inappropriate to list their identity as a member of the LGBT community.

This incident is exactly the type of petty politics our city should avoid. I can see this kind of behavior happening on the school yard but to have it occur between those who seek to lead our schools, that is unacceptable.
We must lead by example, and if we expect our students to respect one another in a city as diverse as ours we must start from the top. Members, I implore you, help unite our communities by becoming the solution, not the problem.

Many have called for his resignation and Board Members have called for modifications to their ethics policies in order to ensure this kind of behavior is never allowed on the Board again. The fate of Manuel Rodriguez’s political future has yet to be determined.

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This morning, 13 U.S. Senators unveiled a new video for the “It Gets Better” project.  In the video, they discuss the struggles of friends and classmates who were unable to come out when they were in school as well as the efforts they are undertaking today in the Senate to protect LGBTQ youth from discrimination and bullying.  Check out the video and be sure to thank Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) for their efforts.

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Today, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted the first-ever UN resolution on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons. Imagine that…LGBT individuals are finally considered worthy of human rights protections! Let’s ignore the fact that a longstanding principle of international human rights law is that human rights are universal and therefore apply to ALL individuals as an inalienable right of being human. Yes, that’s right, LGBT individuals were just not considered human beings, I guess.

Until today, that is. The UN resolution, offered by South Africa and approved on a vote of 23-19, does three things: 1) it expresses grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination perpetrated against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), 2) it calls for a study on violence and discrimination on the grounds of SOGI, and 3) it commits to convening a panel to discuss this study and the issue of discriminatory laws and practices as well as violence against LGBT individuals. For the first time EVER, LGBT individuals have an international mechanism to report discrimination and abuse, somewhere to turn to for assistance when their own governments refuse to acknowledge their existence or their inalienable human rights. This is a big deal, a really big deal, folks!

Reports to the Human Rights Commission that have come in just in the past year have documented executions of LGBT individuals via stonings, stabbings, and incinerations, as well as torture, gang rapes, so-called “corrective rapes,” and death threats. While the cases are numerous, one in particular just goes to show the extent of the torture and discrimination. It’s the case of Paula, a transgender woman in El Salvador, who was brutally attacked and shot by a group of men when she was leaving a nightclub. At the hospital, she was treated with disdain by health care providers because she was transgender and HIV-positive. Later, she was imprisoned in a male prison where she was put in a cell with gang members who raped her over 100 times, all the while prison officials turned a blind eye.

Of course, we know that many repressive governments have long denied the rights of LGBT citizens, including 76 countries that criminalize homosexuality and 5 countries that impose the death penalty on LGBT individuals. And many of those same countries not surprisingly voted against the UN resolution…see below for a full record of votes (only countries sitting on the Human Rights Council were eligible to vote, though any UN Member State can cosponsor a resolution). Changing these laws will not happen overnight, but this UN resolution will raise the stakes on LGBT rights and send an unequivocal message to repressive regimes that their discrimination will not be tolerated by the international community.

Voted FOR the UN Resolution: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Hungary, Korea, Japan, Mauritius, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, and Uruguay.

Voted AGAINST the UN Resolution: Angola, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Djibouti, Gabon, Ghana, Jordan, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Moldova, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, and Uganda.

Abstained: Burkina Faso, China, Zambia

Absent: Kyrgyzstan, Libya (suspended from membership on the Council)

Cosponsored the Resolution (including non-HRC Members): Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, South Africa (original sponsor), Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Timor-Leste, UK, USA, and Uruguay.