Thursday, September 29, 2011

Transgender kids: Painful quest to be who they are

By Madison Park, CNN updated 10:34 AM EST, Tue September 27, 2011 Reposted at

Gender identity: A change in childhood
• Transgender children feel a disconnect between their biology and gender
• Some children said they felt uncomfortable with their assigned gender as early as they could remember
• Not all gender nonconforming behavior for kids mean they will become transgender
• Hormone treatments exist to help kids transition to the opposite gender

Berkeley, California (CNN) -- One of the first things Thomas Lobel told his parents was that they were wrong.

The 3-year-old had learned sign language because he had apraxia, a speech impediment that hindered his ability to talk. The toddler pointed to himself and signed, "I am a girl."

"Oh look, he's confused," his parents said. Maybe he mixed up the signs for boy and girl. So they signed back. "No, no. Thomas is a boy."

But the toddler shook his head. "I am a girl," he signed back emphatically.
Regardless of the fact he was physically male, Thomas has always maintained that he is a girl. When teased at school about being quiet and liking dolls, Thomas would repeat his simple response, "I am a girl."
Thomas, now 11, goes by the name of Tammy, wears dresses to school and lives as a girl.

Her parents have been accused by family, friends and others of being reckless, causing their youngest child permanent damage by allowing her to live as a girl.

When children insist that their gender doesn't match their body, it can trigger a confusing, painful odyssey for the family. And most of the time, these families face isolating experiences trying to decide what is best for their kids, especially because transgender issues are viewed as mysterious, and loaded with stigma and judgment.

Transgender children experience a disconnect between their sex, which is anatomy, and their gender, which includes behaviors, roles and activities. In Thomas' case, he has a male body, but he prefers female things likes skirts and dolls, rather than pants and trucks.

Gender identity often gets confused with sexual orientation. The difference is "gender identity is who you are and sexual orientation is who you want to have sex with," said Dr. Johanna Olson, professor of clinical pediatrics at University of Southern California, who treats transgender children.

When talking about young kids around age 3, they're probably not interested in sexual orientation, she said. But experts say some children look like they will be transgender in early childhood, and turn out gay, lesbian or bisexual.

Gender nonconformity is not a disorder, group says

There is little consistent advice for parents, because robust data and studies about transgender children are rare. The rates of people who are transgender vary from 1 in 30,000 to 1 in 1,000, depending on various international studies.

Like Tammy, some children as young as 3, show early signs of gender dysphoria or gender identity disorder, mental health experts who work with transgender children estimate. These children are not intersex -- they do no have a physical disorder or malformation of their sexual organs. The gender issue exists in the brain, though whether it's psychological or physiological is debated by experts.

One of the most recognizable transgender celebrities is Chaz Bono, who currently competes on "Dancing with the Stars." Born female to entertainers Sonny and Cher, Bono underwent a transition to become a man in his 40s. He wrote in his book "Transition" that even in his childhood, he had been "aware of a part of me that did not fit."

Many transgender kids report feeling discomfort with their gender as early as they can remember.

Proud to be 'Born This Way'

Mario, a 14-year-old Californian who asked his full name not be used, was born female. He dresses and acts like a boy, because, he said, since he was 2 years old, he never genuinely felt like a girl.

"I feel uncomfortable in female clothes," said Mario. "I feel like why should I wear this when it's not who I am? Why should I be this fake person?"

But when a child starts identifying with the opposite gender, there is no way to determine whether it's temporary or likely to become permanent.
"It's important to acknowledge the signs of gender dysphoria, especially for children," said Eli Coleman, who chaired a committee to update treatment guidelines for the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, an international medical group meeting this week in Atlanta, Georgia. "By not addressing it, it could be really more damaging for the child than not."

"It's a very difficult area and there are a lot of children who have gender nonconformity. They will simply grow out of that. Many of them later on identify as gay or lesbian, rather than transgender."

The American Psychological Association warns that "It is not helpful to force the child to act in a more gender-conforming way." When they're forced to conform, some children spiral into depression, behavioral problems and even suicidal thoughts.

Since age 3, Thomas Lobel has told his parents that he is a girl. The journey of gender

Thomas Lobel's metamorphosis can be told in pictures.

After his parents, Pauline Moreno and Debra Lobel, adopted Thomas at age 2, they observed that he was aloof. Shy and freckle-faced, he usually sat in a corner reading a book.

Unlike his two older brothers who were boisterous, athletic and masculine, Thomas was unusually quiet. Because of his speech impediment, he had to go to special education. Despite developing better speech skills, he didn't want to engage in conversation or socialize.

"He seemed so depressed and unhappy all the time," Lobel said. "He didn't enjoy playing. He sat there all the time, not interacting with anybody. He seemed really lonely."

In photos, Thomas appears small with a clenched smile and a glazed and distant look in his eyes.

Throughout his childhood, Thomas wanted to read Wonder Woman comics rather than Superman, wear rhinestone-studded hairbands instead of baseball caps and play with dolls rather than action figures. And, his parents said, he kept insisting he was a girl.

His personality changed from a very sad kid who sat still... to a very happy little girl who was thrilled to be alive.

His situation worsened when Thomas told his parents he wanted to cut off his penis. His parents tried to rationalize with him, warning him that he could bleed to death. But his request was a signal to them that this was serious and required professional help.

After seeing therapists and psychiatrists, the mental health specialists confirmed what Thomas had been saying all along. At age 7, he had gender identity disorder.

The diagnosis was hard for Moreno and Lobel to accept.

"The fact that she's transgender gives her a harder road ahead, an absolute harder road," Moreno said.

They have been accused of terrible parenting by friends, family and others, that "we're pushing her to do this. I'm a lesbian. My partner is a lesbian. That suddenly falls into the fold: 'Oh, you want her to be part of the lifestyle you guys live,' " Moreno said.

But that couldn't be further from the truth, they said. People don't understand how a hurting child can break a parent's heart.

"No parent wants to be in this situation," said Lisa Kenney, managing director of Gender Spectrum, a conference for families of gender nonconforming children. "Nobody had a child and imagined this was what would happen."

Transgender kids do not come from lax parenting where adults "roll over" to their kids' whims, said Olson, who treats transgender children.

"The parents are tortured by it," she said. "These are not easy decisions. Parents go through a long process going through this."

Moreno and Lobel allowed their child pick his own clothes at age 8. Thomas chose girl's clothing and also picked four bras. Then, Thomas wanted to change his name to Tammy and use a female pronoun. This is called social transitioning and can include new hairstyles, wardrobe. Aside from mental health therapy, this stage involves no medical interventions. Social transitioning is completely reversible, said Olson, a gender identity specialist.

Every step of the way, her parents told Tammy, "If at any time you want to go back to your boy's clothes, you can go back to Thomas. It's OK." Tammy has declined every time.

She continues to see therapists.

Tammy's room is painted bright golden yellow, decorated with stuffed animals and cluttered with pink glittery tennis shoes. At home, Tammy dances through the hallway, twirling in her pink flower dress.

"As soon as we let him put on a dress, his personality changed from a very sad kid who sat still, didn't do much of anything to a very happy little girl who was thrilled to be alive," Moreno said.

'I am transgender, and I want my voice to be heard'
The hormone question

This summer, Tammy began the next phase of transition, taking hormone-blocking drugs. This controversial medical treatment prevents children from experiencing puberty.

Girls who feel more like boys take hormone-suppressing medications so they will not develop breasts and start menstruating. Boys who identify as girls can take blockers to avoid developing broad shoulders, deep voice and facial hair. The drugs put their puberty on pause, so they can figure out whether to transition genders.

The hormone blockers are also reversible, because once a child stops taking the drugs, the natural puberty begins, said Dr. Stephen Rosenthal, pediatric endocrinologist at UC San Francisco.

But if the child wants to transition to the other gender, he or she can take testosterone or estrogen hormone treatment to go through the puberty of the opposite gender.

This transgender hormone therapy for children is relatively new in the United States after a gender clinic opened in Boston in 2007. Programs for transgender children exist in cities including Los Angeles, Seattle and San Francisco. The kids are treated by pediatric endocrinologists after long evaluations by mental health professionals.

No statistics exist on the number of transgender children taking such medical treatments.

Medical practitioners have to be careful with children with gender identity issues, said Dr. Kenneth Zucker, head of the Gender Identity Service in the Child, Youth, and Family Program and professor at the University of Toronto. Giving children hormone blockers to kids before the age of 13 is too early, he said.

Zucker conducted a study following 109 boys who had gender identity disorder between the ages of 3 and 12. Researchers followed up at the mean age of 20 and found 12% of these boys continued to want to change genders.
"The vast majority of children lose their desire to be of the other gender later," he said. "So what that means is that one should be very cautious in assuming say that a 6-year-old who has strong desire to be of the other gender will feel that way 10 years later."

All of this leads to unsettling answers for families trying to understand their children. No one knows whether a child's gender dysphoria will continue forever or if it is temporary.

The unsatisfying answer repeated by experts is that only time will tell.
Despite the murky science and social stigma that confound adults, Mario, who has lived as a boy since fourth grade, has a simple answer.

"Don't change for nobody else," he said. "Just be you and be happy."

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

National Latino Aids Awareness Day Oct. 15, 2011

National Latino Aids Awareness Day is Oct. 15, 2011! You can participate in this important community awareness project by organizing, supporting and participating in events in your community.

• To register as a participant, visit
• By registering you will receive up-to-date information about the campaign
• You will be listed as a participant on the NLAAD website
• ALL participating organizations are required to register before you add your NLAAD event(s) and so that you can request NLAAD campaign materials and supplies
• Please keep in mind that you must register each year, so that your past registrations will not transfer

• We would love to know what you are planning in commemoration of NLAAD!
• Register your event(s) at
• Log in with your user name and password, and look for NLAAD Events tab on the top right hand side of the page
• If you are having multiple events, please register EACH event and list each SEPARATELY
• This gives us opportunity to also recognize the great efforts you are putting forward for NLAAD

Reposted at

It’s time to register for Creating Change 2012!

You want to build power and take action. Whether that means building a stronger movement for safer schools, or working for full equality for trans people, or better representation by our elected officials and full recognition of ALL our families. You want to create change!

This means you need to attend the 24th National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change, our movement’s pre-eminent political and leadership conference. Registration is open now.

Join activists, allies and the Task Force at the Hilton Baltimore, January 25-29, 2012 for five days of skills-building, inspiration, celebration and fun!
Posted at
What are you waiting for? Register now to join 3,000 folks putting their shoulders to the wheels of social and political change. See you in Baltimore, America’s Charm City.

Your Creating Change Team

ARC Receives New CDC Award to Reduce HIV Transmission in Central Ohio

Activities will focus on young gay/bisexual men of color

DAYTON, OH-A new grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) aimed at reducing HIV transmission in Central Ohio has just been awarded to AIDS Resource Center Ohio (ARC Ohio).

The multi-year grant will support the activities of the new Greater Columbus Mpowerment Project. The initiative's activities will focus on empowering young gay and bisexual men of color to reduce their sexual risk taking and establish healthy peer relationships.

Nearly 600 young gay and bisexual men of color will also be tested for HIV through the project. Those individuals who test positive will be linked to supportive counseling to help them access treatment and adopt strategies to reduce transmission of the virus, thus enhancing both individual and community health.

Recent data show that young men who have sex with men (MSM) of color are at particularly high and increasing risk of HIV infection. According to CDC estimates released in August, between 2006 and 2009, the annual number of new HIV infections increased 48 percent among young black MSM. Among Latinos, men who have sex with men are by far the most severely impacted, accounting for nearly two-thirds of all new infections. Nearly half of these infections among Latino MSM occurred in the youngest age group (aged 13-29). Transgender people are also severely affected by HIV. It is estimated that 28 percent of transgender people are HIV-infected.

"This grant is extraordinary news and a much-needed resource for HIV prevention in the Columbus area," states ARC Ohio Chief Executive Officer Bill Hardy.

Columbus has the highest rate of HIV in Ohio, and the 25th highest in the nation. Already, nearly 3,200 HIV-positive individuals are known to be living in Columbus, and another 600 are estimated to be infected, but not yet diagnosed. Based on health department data, it is estimated that every 25 hours someone in Central Ohio is newly-infected with HIV.

According to Ohio Department of Health data, of total living cases of HIV/AIDS in Franklin County, 2,601 are men, and 65.6% of those men are known to have acquired HIV infection through male-male sex, sometimes referred to in public health circles as Men who have Sex with Men (MSM). An additional 3% of Franklin County males living with HIV/AIDS report risk from male-male sex and sharing of drug injection equipment.

ARC Ohio has been a leading advocate for a public health approach to HIV/AIDS, one that directs scarce resources toward those most impacted. According to Hardy, "Gay and bisexual men still bear an enormously disproportionate burden of this epidemic. Two-thirds of all new HIV cases in Ohio are among this population, but less than a third of state HIV prevention dollars are allocated to HIV prevention programs specifically designed to reduce HIV among gay and bisexual men."

ARC Ohio Chief Operating Officer Peggy Anderson agrees, citing a recent federal study concluding that Men who have Sex with Men are 44 times more likely to be living with HIV infection than heterosexual men. Anderson will oversee the new project, which includes the establishment of a new Mpowerment Center in Columbus. The Center will function as both a central site to serve the needs of program youth, and as a hub for participant outreach activities. "In the Columbus region as across the nation, HIV is spreading most rapidly today among gay and bisexual youth of color," states Anderson. "This new program provides the critical funding needed to truly respond to the needs of these youth in our community."

Earlier this year, ARC Ohio released Two Steps Forward, One Step Back, a policy brief addressing the problem of inadequate funding for HIV prevention efforts to reach gay and bisexual men in Ohio. In addition to changes in funding priorities, increased funding for HIV prevention efforts overall; expanded utilization of evidence-based interventions in HIV prevention for MSM; and assurances that agencies receiving public HIV prevention funds are sensitive to, and inclusive of, the needs and experiences of gay and bisexual men.

The brief, which was endorsed by major local and statewide HIV/AIDS and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender organizations, also called upon state and local governments to ensure that HIV prevention efforts for gay and bisexual men receive an equitable share of public resources-one that corresponds to the continuing impact of HIV on gay and bisexual men.

Since July 1, AIDS Resource Center Ohio, the Columbus AIDS Task Force and the Ohio AIDS Coalition have merged to become Ohio's largest HIV/AIDS service, prevention education, and advocacy organization. With offices in Columbus, Dayton, Lima, Mansfield, Cleveland, Toledo, Athens, Chillicothe, and Newark, ARC Ohio will provide linkage to care, financial assistance and supportive services to more than 2,500 HIV-positive Ohioans in 2011. Thousands more will be reached with evidence-based prevention, HIV testing, and advocacy activities.

For more information, log on to

A Call for Unity to Address HIV/AIDS among All Gay Males

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the National Latino AIDS Action Network (NLAAN) recognizes the fourth annual National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NGMHAAD). This day serves as a call to action for the urgent need to refocus attention on a community that has long been and continues to be disproportionately impacted by the HIV epidemic in the United States and around the world.

Data released in the peer-reviewed journal last month confirm that HIV incidence among gay men remains high, many HIV-infected gay men are unaware of their status, and minorities continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV. The CDC estimates 48,100 new infections occurred in the U.S. in 2009, with gay and bisexual men remaining the population most severely impacted by HIV and the only population in which new HIV infections have been increasing steadily since the 1990s. Furthermore, NLAAN continues to be alarmed by the new estimates which identify Latino gay men as moving from the fourth to third most impacted population.

"Last month’s release of new HIV incidence estimates clearly indicates that our nation needs to reexamine and better understand the landscape of the HIV/AIDS epidemics among gay and bisexual men,” stated Patricia Canessa, Executive Director of Salud Latina and NLAAN Leadership Committee member. “Despite living in times of limited resources, we must strategically scale-up efforts that holistically address and support the lives of gay and bisexual men. We must view this time as an opportunity to have targeted discussions on the local impacts of prevention investments and how to maximize what we preserve to generate the most beneficial outcomes for gay men,” she further stated.

“We have a wealth of research that proves that treatment works to control HIV and that by diagnosing people earlier in their disease they have a stronger chance of living long, healthy lives,” noted Sergio Farfan, Co-Founder of the Louisiana Latino Health Coalition for HIV/AIDS Awareness and NLAAN Leadership Committee member. “However, we also know that Latino and Black communities are being diagnosed with AIDS within one year of testing positive due to late testing, low health literacy and lack of consistent health insurance. We must find solutions to change this reality, such as promoting routine HIV testing and timely linkage to and retention in care and treatment,” he concluded.

NLAAN strongly believes that the success of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (the Strategy) depends on the leadership of the community. We must sustain efforts aimed at building partnerships across sectors and racial lines, strengthening capacity of community service providers and enhancing the infrastructure of public health. Only through those efforts can we change the course of the HIV epidemic. We must collectively answer the Strategy’s call for a new era of collaboration and innovation.

“Communities must unite to effectively address HIV/AIDS,” stated Francisco Ruiz, Senior Manager at the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD) and co-chair of NLAAN. “The epidemic does not silo itself. It impacts everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, and immigration status. History has proven that the strength of our nation is built on the foundation of diversity and inclusion. Let's make sure our HIV/AIDS efforts are guided by that same vision and that our diversified capabilities are key to a decisive victory over this epidemic,” he added.

Reposted at

ABOUT NLAAN: The National Latino AIDS Action Network (NLAAN) was developed as a response to the HIV/AIDS crisis within Latino/Hispanic communities and is a participatory, collaborative and diverse network of community-based organizations, national organizations, state and local health departments, researchers and concerned individuals that identifies and prioritizes the key needs of Latinos regarding HIV/AIDS prevention, research and care and treatment. For more information on NLAAN, please visit us at or

Nadler, Pelosi and 67 Members of Congress Urge Immigration Officials to Consider LGBT Family Ties in Deportation Cases

Reposted at
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, September 27, 2011
CONTACT: Ilan Kayatsky, 212-367-7350

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and lead sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act, was joined by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and 67 additional Members of Congress in pushing to protect LGBT binational families from unnecessary deportations. The 69 Members sent letters to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder requesting that LGBT family ties be considered in pending deportation cases involving binational same-sex couples.

“The recognition of LGBT family ties as a positive factor is a critical step forward in identifying key family and community ties to implement common-sense immigration enforcement,” wrote the Members. “We ask that you ensure that this recognition is reflected in the work of DHS and DOJ employees and the newly-established working group in implementing your priorities for immigration enforcement….Without specific guidance, it is unlikely that agency officers, agents, and attorneys making decisions about individual cases will be aware that LGBT family ties are a factor for consideration for exercising discretion in closing or not initiating removal proceedings.”

The Obama administration recently announced a concerted effort to prioritize immigration enforcement. Identification of high-priority deportation cases would be based on the June 17, 2011 prosecutorial discretion memo released by the Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, John Morton. While that memo discusses the importance of recognizing family ties in analyzing immigration cases, it does not explicitly say that LGBT family ties, including those of spouses and partners of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, are to be included. The Obama administration also announced that a working group made up of officials with the departments of Homeland Security and Justice would be formed to review removal cases and prepare new guidance for the field on immigration enforcement.

The letters are attached as PDFs and included below:

September 27, 2011

The Honorable Janet Napolitano The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr. Secretary Attorney General
United States Department of Homeland Security
United States Department of Justice
Washington, DC Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20530

Dear Secretary Napolitano and Attorney General Holder:

We applaud the August 18, 2011 announcement that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plans to close many low-priority immigration deportation proceedings. We especially commend DHS for stating that it will consider the family ties of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people as a factor in determining cases that merit relief from deportation, including for gay and lesbian foreign nationals who are the spouses and partners of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. We write to you today with two requests that will further the enforcement of this important mandate.

The August 18 announcement made clear that the identification of high-priority deportation cases would be based on the June 17, 2011 prosecutorial discretion memorandum released by the Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, John Morton, and explained that a DHS and Department of Justice (DOJ) interagency working group would be created to review removal cases and prepare guidance for the field. Director Morton’s memorandum identifies “Factors to Consider When Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion.” These factors include “the person’s ties and contributions to the community, including family relationships” and “whether the person has a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse, child, or parent.” The memorandum does not, however, explicitly say that LGBT family ties, including those of spouses and partners of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, are to be included among the family relationships that weigh in favor of an exercise of discretion.

We ask that consideration of LGBT family ties be communicated in the guidance being prepared by the new DHS/DOJ working group. All field staff implementing the new policies in all relevant DHS and DOJ agencies must be made aware of this new consideration as they exercise discretion in deciding which new cases to place in removal proceedings and which current cases to close. Without specific guidance, it is unlikely that agency officers, agents, and attorneys making decisions about individual cases will be aware that LGBT family ties are a factor for consideration for exercising discretion in closing or not initiating removal proceedings.

Additionally, we ask that the working group include a member experienced in working with LGBT immigrants and their families to ensure that these factors are recognized and understood in the working group’s case-by-case review of all individuals currently in removal proceedings as well as its review of new cases placed in removal proceedings. The vulnerability of LGBT immigrants – the historical stigmatization of whom both within and outside the U.S. is well-documented – makes knowledgeable review a necessity.

The announcement on August 18 constitutes a major step forward in ensuring that immigration enforcement resources prioritize enhancing border security, national security, and public safety as well as in exercising discretion when warranted. The recognition of LGBT family ties as a positive factor is a critical step forward in identifying key family and community ties to implement common-sense immigration enforcement. We ask that you ensure that this recognition is reflected in the work of DHS and DOJ employees and the newly-established working group in implementing your priorities for immigration enforcement.

We appreciate your consideration of these two requests and look forward to working with you to address these important issues.


Jerrold Nadler, Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin, Jared Polis, David Cicilline, Gary Ackerman, Shelley Berkley, Howard Berman, Earl Blumenauer, Lois Capps, Michael Capuano, Andre Carson, Judy Chu, Yvette Clarke, Joe Courtney, Joseph Crowley, Susan Davis, Diana DeGette, Michael Doyle, Eliot Engel, Anna Eshoo, Sam Farr, Bob Filner, John Garamendi, Raul Grijalva, Luis Gutierrez, Alcee Hastings, Brian Higgins, James Himes, Maurice Hinchey, Rush Holt, Michael Honda, Steve Israel, Jesse Jackson, Jr., Hank Johnson, Rick Larsen, John Larson, Barbara Lee, Sander Levin, John Lewis, Zoe Lofgren, Carolyn Maloney, Doris Matsui, Jim McDermott, James McGovern, Gwen Moore, James Moran, Eleanor Holmes Norton, John Olver, Gary Peters, Chellie Pingree, Mike Quigley, Charles Rangel, Steven Rothman, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Jan Schakowsky, Adam Schiff, Jose Serrano, Adam Smith, Jackie Speier, Fortney Pete Stark, Edolphus Towns, Niki Tsongas, Nydia Velazquez, Henry Waxman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Peter Welch, Lynn Woolsey

Some background on the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA):

• UAFA would add the term “permanent partner” to sections of the Immigration and Naturalization Act that apply to married heterosexual couples.
• “Permanent partner” is described as an adult who is in a committed, intimate relationship with another adult in “which both parties intend a lifelong commitment.”
• This legislation would afford equal immigration benefits to permanent partners as exist for married heterosexuals, and it would impose the same restrictions, enforcement standards and penalties as are currently in immigration law.
• Because the U.S. does not legally recognize gay and lesbian couples and their children as families, many same-sex binational couples are torn apart.
• Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) also introduced UAFA in the Senate.
• At least 25 countries currently allow residents to sponsor gay and lesbian permanent partners for legal immigration, including Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Friday, September 23, 2011

HHS delivers guidance to state Medicaid agencies on states’ freedom and flexibility to offer financial protections to same-sex couples

HHS’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) provided guidance to state Medicaid agencies clarifying that they are able to offer same-sex couples many of the same financial and asset protections available to opposite-sex couples when a partner is entering a nursing home or care facility. In a letter sent today, CMS advised state agencies of their ability to ensure that same-sex partners can remain in shared homes without Medicaid liens being applied. The guidance also clarifies that states have the flexibility to protect same-sex partners under estate recovery and transfer of assets rules.
Posted at
Reposted at

View CMS’s letter to State Medicaid Agencies at

Dear Lady in the Women's Washroom

LOOSE END Ivan Coyote / Vancouver / Thursday, September 22, 2011
I can only surmise from our recent interaction that I startled you in the women’s washroom at the mall today. I guess I don’t look much like what you seem to think a female washroom user should.

This is not the first time this has happened to me; in fact, this was not the first time this happened to me this week. Forgive me if I was not as patient with you as you seemed to feel I should have been, but I would like to point out that your high-pitched squeal startled me, and I needed to urinate very badly. Perhaps I was not as gracious as I could have been.

To ensure that the next time this happens to you, or me, things go more smoothly for everyone involved, I have jotted down a couple of notes for your reference.

Not everyone fits easily into one of the two options provided on your standard public washroom doors. In my world, gender is a spectrum, not a binary. Just because an individual does not present as what you feel a woman should look like does not mean that person does not belong there.

Public washrooms are just that: public. This means that you do not get to decide whom you share them with. I would like to remind you that everyone, regardless of their gender identity or presentation, needs to pee.

For some of us, public washrooms are stressful places. We generally avoid them whenever possible. Please, rest assured that if I have chosen to enter a public washroom in spite of my long and arduous history with them, I have taken the time to note which door I am about to walk into, and that I am confident I have chosen the lesser of two evils.

I am, in fact, hyper aware of which bathroom I am in. It is not necessary for you to stare at me, pointedly refer to the graphic on the door or discuss my decision loudly with your companions. Gawking, elbowing your friend and repeatedly clearing your throat are also not helpful. Trust me, I will be in and out as quick as is humanly possible.

The next time this happens to you, I would like you to think twice before screaming. I would like you to imagine what it feels like to be me. Imagine being screeched at by a perfect stranger. Now imagine being screeched at when you really need to pee, or your tampon gave out 20 minutes ago. Sucks, doesn’t it?

I want you to know that I understand wanting to feel safe from men while using the bathroom in a public place. This is, in fact, the primary reason I don’t just use the other bathroom. That, and I have a very delicate sense of smell and don’t like returning filthy toilet seats to the down position.

I also would like you to know that trans and genderqueer people suffer from many more bladder infections, urinary tract issues and general pee–related health problems than the general population. I humbly ask you to consider why this might be the case.

I would also like you to know that I have had the great pleasure of spending time with seven-year-old and eight-year-old tomboys lately. Both young girls have experienced serious bullying at school and day camp over their gender presentation, especially in and around the question of gendered bathrooms. They have both come home from school in tears, and one of them even quit science camp because of it.

Hearing that these two sweet, kind, amazing children have already experienced “the bathroom problem” that I so often face myself not only broke my heart, it enraged me. I feel that this type of bullying has impeded their ability to access a public education, and affected their desire to participate in valuable activities outside of school as well.

I would like you to consider how this might affect their self-esteem, their grades and their sense of self-worth. I remind you that they are just little kids. They are only in elementary school, and it has started already. Not such a little thing after all, is it?

I ask you to forgive me my impatience with you at the mall today. But how could I possibly not think of my two little friends and feel anything but rage?

See, when you scream at me without thinking in the women’s washroom, you are implicating yourself in a rigid, two-party gender system that tells others it is okay to discriminate against people like me. Even little children who are like me.

This is the very same attitude that results in queer youth suicides and high school murderers being acquitted because the dead boy asked for it by wearing a skirt and makeup. It is this same attitude that turns its head when trans women are shot at by off-duty police officers and denied services at women’s shelters. It is this kind of sentiment that says it is okay to deny us housing, or a job, or the right to adopt children or dance on a freaking reality television show.

If you think I am making any of this up, then I encourage you to open up your newspaper and have another look.

I would like to remind you that this very same two-party gender system is enforced on me and others like me every day, policed by people just like you. It starts very young, and sometimes is subtle, as small as a second look on the way out of a bathroom stall, but sometimes it is deafening, and painful, and violent — even murderous.

So, the next time you meet up with someone like me in the “ladies’ room,” please think twice before screaming. I am not there by accident. In fact, I spent a lot more time looking at the sign on the door than you ever have.
Reposted at

FOX News Doctor Says Chaz Bono Wants to Cut Off Shiloh Jolie-Pitt’s Breasts

Posted by Booty The Unicorn on Sep 21, 2011, reposted by
Even Bill O'Reilly is having a hard time swallowing what Dr. Keith Ablow is serving up.

Speaking of bullying… Fox News medical correspondent, Dr. Keith Ablow, is officially turning his hateful obsession with Chaz Bono into a full time job.

I mean, claiming that the simple act of even watching Dancing With the Stars this season will transform otherwise heterosexual children into transgender salsa dancers – that’s some part time hate. You can make statements like that, but still find time to walk the dog, catch up on correspondence, and enjoy a glass of merlot at the end of the day.

But telling Bill O’Reilly that Chaz Bono is personally calling Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and asking to speak with their five-year-old daughter, Shiloh, to instruct her to cut off the breasts that she won’t even have for another decade – that type of hate is a full time job.

Ablow is obsessed. These types of comments don’t just up and fall out of someone’s mouth over a bowl of Cheerios. Homeboy has clearly been simmering and stewing in his steaming pot full of transgender loathing for weeks. That somebody assumed putting a man with a three foot mad-on on live television was a good idea if just bananas to me.

If you can stomach it, watch the words straight from the homophobic horse’s mouth in the video.

First-Ever Gay 'Dear John' Letters Begin Reaching U.S. Troops Overseas

09.20.10 BAGRAM, AFGHANISTAN—Hailed as a monumental step toward equality by gay rights activists, hundreds of Dear John letters reportedly began reaching newly outed troops overseas this week, notifying soldiers for the first time ever that their same-sex partners back home were leaving them and starting a new life with someone else.

One of the many historic letters U.S. service members across the world are beginning to receive.

According to Pentagon observers, the torrent of brusque, callous letters—which followed Tuesday's repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy—has left romantically betrayed homosexuals in every branch of the service grappling with feelings of rejection and despair, a momentous milestone in U.S. military history.

"For too long, gays and lesbians in the armed forces were barred from receiving such letters, leaving them woefully unaware that the person they once called their soul mate had been cheating on them throughout their deployment," said Clarence Navarro of the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy group. "But now all troops, regardless of their sexual orientation, are free to have their entire lives ripped out from underneath them in a single short note."

"This is a great day for homosexuals," Navarro added. "Even those who now have nothing to return home to."

Navarro told reporters the Defense Department's willingness to embrace gay soldiers, including those suddenly plunged into gut- wrenching heartache in an unforgiving war zone 8,000 miles from home, was a sign the American military had finally moved into the 21st century.

A U.S. soldier finally experiencing what it's like to be emotionally destroyed in an 800-word note.

When contacted for comment, many troops who had received their first-ever gay or lesbian Dear John letters during mail call Tuesday acknowledged the historic significance of their crushing, coldhearted abandonment.

"This is what we've waited so long for," 1st Lt. Jared Tomasino said haltingly as he placed a photograph of his former partner—which he had just been able to tack up that morning without fear of discharge—facedown in his footlocker. "My boyfriend wrote that he didn't love me anymore, that he wasn't sure he ever really had, and that he never wanted to see me again. Those are words earlier generations of gay soldiers never had the opportunity to read. Frankly, I never thought I'd read them, either."

"It's an overwhelming feeling," Tomasino added. "I—I'm sorry, could you leave me alone now? This is a really difficult time for me."

In a statement, Pentagon officials confirmed the correspondence had caused no disruptions to planned missions, despite many service members having been informed their same-sex lover had moved out, taken custody of their adopted child, and begun a torrid sexual relationship with a close friend whom they had once trusted.

However, many in Washington remained opposed to the policy change, with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) claiming the influx of Dear John letters would weaken unit morale and preparedness. A longtime proponent of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, McCain stated he would personally feel uncomfortable knowing that "one of the guys next to [him] in the trenches" was not only gay, but also "heartbroken, vulnerable, and looking for comfort from his fellow troops."

"There's no place for homosexuals breaking up with one another via letter in the U.S. military," McCain said. "Allowing so many utterly lonely, dejected, and newly single troops to serve on the front lines would only impair our combat capabilities and place our nation at risk."

Added McCain, "We all know how messy things can get on the rebound."

Given recent casualty figures, LGBT groups said they were also well on their way toward achieving parity in the number of openly gay military widows and widowers.

The Onion is not intended for readers under 18 years of age. © Copyright 2011 Onion Inc. All rights reserved.
Reposted at Yes, this is humor.

Arthur Evans, Leader in Gay Rights Fight, Dies at 68

Published: September 14, 2011
Arthur Evans, who helped form and lead the movement that coalesced after gay people and their supporters protested a 1969 police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a Greenwich Village gay bar, died on Sunday at his home in San Francisco. He was 68.

Arthur Evans and others created the Gay Activists Alliance in an effort to present a more assertive front than other groups.

The cause was a heart attack, his friend Hal Offen said. Mr. Evans was found to have an aortic aneurysm last year.

Mr. Evans was not at the Stonewall disturbances, but they fueled in him a militant fervor and inspired him to join the Gay Liberation Front, an organization started during the wave of gay assertiveness that followed.
For Mr. Evans and other militants, however, the group was not assertive enough. They worried that it was diluting its effectiveness by taking stands on issues beyond gay rights — opposing the Vietnam War and racial discrimination, for example. So in December 1969 they split off to found the Gay Activists Alliance, choosing a name to suggest more aggressive tactics.

Based in New York, the alliance became a model for gay rights organizations nationwide, pushing in New York for legislation to ban discrimination against gay men and lesbians in employment, housing and other areas. Mr. Evans wrote its statement of purpose and much of its constitution, which began, “We as liberated homosexual activists demand the freedom for expression of our dignity and value as human beings.”

To attract attention the alliance staged what its members called “zaps,” confrontations with people or institutions that they believed discriminated against gay people. Among other incidents, they confronted Mayor John V. Lindsay of New York, went to television studios to protest shows perceived as anti-gay, demanded gay marriage rights at the city’s marriage license bureau, and demonstrated at the taxi commission against a regulation, since abolished, requiring gay people to get a psychiatrist’s approval before they could be allowed to drive a taxi.

In the fall of 1970, Mr. Evans and others showed up at the offices of Harper’s Magazine in Manhattan to protest an article it had published sharply criticizing gay people and their lifestyle. It was Mr. Evans’s idea to bring a coffee pot, doughnuts, a folding table and chairs for a civilized “tea party.” When the editor, Midge Decter, refused to print a rebuttal as the group demanded, Mr. Evans erupted.

“You knew that this article would contribute to the oppression of homosexuals!” he yelled, according to the 1999 book “Out for Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America” by Dudley Clendinen, a former reporter for The New York Times, and Adam Nagourney, a current Times reporter. “You are a bigot, and you are to be held responsible for that moral and political act.”

Arthur Evans was born on Oct. 12, 1942, in York, Pa. His father was a factory worker who had dropped out of elementary school, and his mother ran a beauty shop in the front room of the family house. Mr. Evans attended Brown University on a scholarship and there joined a group of self-styled “militant atheists.”

He left Brown after three years and headed for Greenwich Village, having read in Life magazine that it welcomed gay people. In New York, he transferred to City College and switched his major from political science to philosophy. Graduating in 1967, he entered the doctoral program in philosophy at Columbia, where he studied ancient Greek philosophy and participated in antiwar protests.

But, becoming disenchanted with academia, he withdrew from Columbia in 1972 and moved to rural Washington State, where he and a companion, calling themselves the Weird Sisters Partnership, homesteaded a small patch of forest land and lived in a tent.

When the Washington experiment failed, Mr. Evans and his companion moved to San Francisco. There, he and Mr. Offen opened a Volkswagen repair business they named the Buggery.

While living in Washington, Mr. Evans had spent his winters in Seattle researching the historical origins of the counterculture. After settling in San Francisco, he wrote “Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture,” a 1978 book tracing homophobic attitudes to the Middle Ages, when people accused of witchcraft, the book contended, were being persecuted in part for their sexuality, often their homosexuality.

He went on to write “Critique of Patriarchal Reason” (1997), arguing that misogyny and homophobia have influenced supposedly objective fields like logic and physics.

Mr. Evans is survived by his brother, Joe.

Growing up, Mr. Evans had hid his sexual orientation, though he himself was aware of it at 10, he said. By November 1970, when he was scheduled to appear on “The Dick Cavett Show” with other gay leaders, he had still not told his parents that he was gay. But, by his account, he did tell them he was going to be on national television. Thrilled, they told friends and neighbors to tune in.

Mr. Evans later said he regretted his handling of the matter.

EHEA Introduced in OHIO House

On September 27, Ohio State Representatives Ross McGregor and Nickie Antonio will introduce EHEA in the House. EHEA prohibits discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Check the event out on facebook!

Posteed by Equality Ohio. Reposted at

For the Freedom to Live, Work, and Play Rally

Join Equality Ohio on September 27 at 1:30pm for a rally, press conference, and Lobby Day at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus to support the Equal Housing and Employment Act (EHEA). Your representatives and the people of Ohio need to know that there is broad support for this bill, and your participation is very important!

Contact Equality Ohio at 61 Jefferson Ave. Columbus, OH 43215 614.224.0400

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Important Health Announcement for Men

The georgeous Model Rhian Sugden shows men how to check for testiticular cancer, courtesy of the cheeky "Male Cancer Awareness Campaign." This is how you produce a PSA!
Warning:this is not a vidoe for everyone.

Reposted at

Saturday, September 17, 2011

GLMA files Amicas Brief

Earlier this summer, GLMA submitted a friend-of-the-court brief presenting information about advancements in medical treatment of HIV in support of a lawsuit filed by an Atlanta police department candidate who was denied employment because of his HIV status.

The applicant, who is being represented by Lambda Legal, is appealing a federal trial court decision granting summary judgment to the Atlanta Police Department. The lawsuit claims the department refused to hire the applicant as a police officer because he is HIV positive, a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the federal Rehabilitation Act. Last week, Lambda Legal completed filing briefs in this appeal before the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

In lower court, the Atlanta Police Department justified its decision by contending that the applicant could not show he was qualified to perform the job, because it believed that a police officer with HIV presents a “direct threat” to the health and safety of others. When assessing whether an infectious disease presents a “direct threat” to others (i.e., presents a significant risk of harm), earlier 11th Circuit cases have stated that—though the chances of transmission may be extremely low—because an HIV diagnosis “inevitably entails death,” the “direct threat” standard had been met.

GLMA’s brief argues that given the current state of medical knowledge about HIV, the 11th Circuit should change its analysis of the “direct threat” standard. The brief details that, even as HIV prevention remains a top priority, HIV today is characterized as a chronic, treatable disease. Medical advancements in antiretroviral drugs have dramatically extended life expectancy for people living with HIV and the quality of life of those living with HIV has dramatically improved. Because of these advances in the treatment and understanding of HIV, GLMA’s brief argues that the court should no longer consider HIV as “inevitably entail[ing] death.”

The brief further explains that the scientific and medical communities know much more now about the risk of HIV transmission than they did 10-plus years ago, when the 11th Circuit ruled on previous HIV discrimination cases. The risk of transmission of HIV in the line of police duty is negligible, especially given the reduced viral load of a person who is on antiretroviral drugs. Consistent with this evidence, other police forces and courts have found no reason not to allow police officers living with HIV to serve in law enforcement.

GLMA extends a special thank you and recognition to the law firm Latham & Watkins, which generously provided its services pro bono in authoring the brief and serving as GLMA’s counsel.

reposted at

We need your help educating Congress about the Latino HIV/AIDS Crisis!

We need your help educating Congress about the Latino HIV/AIDS Crisis!
Congress needs to better understand the Latino HIV/AIDS Crisis.

Latinos/Hispanics in the U.S. represent 16% (U.S. Census Bureau) of the population but account for 20% of new HIV infections in 2009 according to the Centers for Disease Control. Support National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD) by getting your Congressional representatives to attend the D.C. Congressional Briefing – Tuesday, September 20th in Washington, DC, US Capitol Visitors Center, Room SVC202. Attached please find the invite for further information and please forward widely.

NLAAD needs your help ensuring that your Congress member and or Senator, and their staff attend the briefing. Many times it takes phone calls and e-mails from their individual constituents to motivate our elected officials to attend an important meeting like the one being held on September 20th.

To find the contact information for your senator please visit:

To find the contact information for your congress member please visit:

Sunday, September 11, 2011


We're pleased to share a new toolkit with you all: the LGBT HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES EVALUATION TOOLKIT 2011

This was put together by Strength In Numbers Consulting Group for the AIDS Institute of the New York State Department of Health who gave their permission for us to share here.

Here is more about the toolkit, which is described below:
“The Toolkit provides a sampling of selected, evidence-based survey scales for the measurement of outcome indicators. In addition to the outcome-indicator scales, the Toolkit also contains tools for gathering demographic data and measuring dosage (process indicators).

“A sound survey instrument may be constructed by selecting an appropriate survey scale relevant to your identified outcome and intended audience and combining it with your choice of dosage and demographic items. You will also want to assure the informed consent of participants through the use of a permission form, a sample of which is provided in the “Survey Nuts and Bolts” section.

“Also in the Nuts and Bolts, is some guidance on tracking individual participant responses. By assigning each participant a unique code, instead of using names, individual responses can be entered into a spread sheet or database for summary and analysis without risking confidentiality.

“We gratefully acknowledge the efforts and expertise of Somjen Frazer, Cathy Roche and Chloe Mirzayi in pulling this Toolkit together.”

When They Play Women, It’s Not Just an Act

Published: July 28, 2011 Reprinted at

FOR someone whose only acting experience was playing a Boy George lookalike in a high school production of the musical “The Wedding Singer,” Harmony Santana is having an incredible year. Ms. Santana is making her big-screen debut in Rashaad Ernesto Green’s coming-out drama “Gun Hill Road,” which had its premiere in January at the Sundance Film Festival. Last month the movie made a splash on the gay film-festival circuit, opening Outfest in Los Angeles and closing Newfest in New York. It opens commercially in New York on Aug. 5.

Harmony Santana, a transgender actress, stars in the new film "Gun Hill Road."

Laverne Cox a transgender actress with a role in a new movie.
But when Ms. Santana goes to sleep at night she does so not as a buzzed-about young starlet but as a resident of Green Chimneys, a group home in Harlem mainly for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth. Ms. Santana, who says she is in her early 20s, has been living full time as a woman only since last year.

She is the latest performer to join the tiny pool of openly transgender actors who are finding a place on screen. Her small cohort includes Candis Cayne, who appeared in the film “Stonewall” and the television series “Dirty Sexy Money,” and Laverne Cox, a reality-television star with a role in the coming Susan Seidelman film “Musical Chairs.” The most recognizable female-to-male personality today is probably Chaz Bono, the child of Cher and Sonny Bono who, while not an actor, is the subject of the documentary “Becoming Chaz.”

Cross-dressing on film certainly has a long tradition, dating to the silent era when Fatty Arbuckle and others put on dresses and wigs for laughs. And Oscar nominations have been given to actors who played transgender characters, including John Lithgow (“The World According to Garp” from 1982), Jaye Davidson (“The Crying Game,” 1992) and Felicity Huffman (“Transamerica,” 2005). Hilary Swank won an Academy Award for her role in “Boys Don’t Cry” (1999).

But transgender actors are for the most part left to watch from the sidelines. It doesn’t help that in some people’s minds being a drag queen and having a transgender identity are the same thing.

“I have such respect for drag queens,” said Ms. Cox, who has been living as a woman since the late ’90s and competed on VH1’s “I Want to Work for Diddy” before starring in a VH1 makeover reality show, “Transform Me.” “But what is troubling about the mainstreaming of drag, and people conflating drag and being transsexual, is that people think this is a joke. My identity is not a joke. Who I am as a woman is not a joke. This is my life.”

Ms. Cox said that many casting directors don’t know what they want when a script calls for a transgender character and think she looks too feminine to convincingly play someone who was born male. To her dismay, she said, she finds herself “in auditions with drag queens a lot.”

The heyday for transsexual actors on the big screen may have been the late ’60s and early ’70s. The director Paul Morrissey helped introduce America to Andy Warhol’s transgender “superstars” like Candy Darling, Jackie Curtis and Holly Woodlawn, subversive heroines in art-house hits like “Flesh” and “Women in Revolt.” Jon Davies, the author of the book “Trash” (2009), about Mr. Morrissey’s 1970 film of the same name, said the visibility of transgender performers in that era coincided with a mainstream vogue for pornography and exploitation films, and the attention paid to sexual identity after Stonewall.

“There was an idea that if you could show as much flesh as possible, you would be guaranteed good box office,” he said. “I think it was a period of realizing how incredible these actors were at selling or performing these identities that they had fashioned for themselves.”

For “Gun Hill Road,” Mr. Green said, he conducted an extensive search to find the right actor to play Vanessa (born Michael), a shy teenager trying to live openly as a girl while dealing with a disapproving father (Esai Morales) and a supportive mother (Judy Reyes). Mr. Green knew the role would be hard to cast: the actor had to look 16, convincingly convey a Hispanic background and play a transgender character without what he called “significant female development.”

“I looked at attractive gay males who might have had experience with drag to see if they might be able to portray the character,” Mr. Green said. “But they didn’t have the essence I was looking for. There’s a difference between someone who’s pretending to be female and someone who actually believes they are.”

He discovered Ms. Santana at the Queens gay pride parade. “She said she was at the beginning of her transition, which was like, ‘Bingo,’ ” Mr. Green said.

During an interview recently at a cafe in Harlem, Ms. Santana spoke about growing up in New York as a transgender teenager, much like her character.

“At one time I hated my father so much because he would always fight with my mother about me,” she said. “I would hear them through the cracks in the door that I shouldn’t be playing with my little sisters and doing girl things.”

Like Ms. Santana and other transgender actors many of the performers who appeared in Mr. Morrissey’s films led less-than-glamorous home lives. “In that period they were celebrities, but they were living in extremely poor conditions, hand to mouth,” Mr. Davies said.

Today the transgender people themselves are divided over self-representation. At last year’s Tribeca Film Festival, a movie called “Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives” was criticized by some transgender advocates as demeaning. In a phone interview the film’s director, Israel Luna, who is gay, called the film a “trans-ploitation revenge fantasy.”

“The only times you see trans anything represented is either in a documentary, and they’re usually depressing,” he said. “You also see transgender people as victims getting beat up and murdered. I wanted to make a not-so-serious film that would appeal to a larger audience.”

Mr. Green said he is also hoping for mainstream appeal. He has an advocate in Ms. Cox, who described Ms. Santana’s character as communicating “something that’s really unique to trans women.”

“What a difference it makes when an actual trans person plays the role,” Ms. Cox added.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: August 7, 2011
An article last Sunday about transgender actors in film misstated the decade that the transgender actress Laverne Cox began living as a woman. She has been doing so since the late 1990s, not the late 1980s.

Call to stop gay senior suicide

Posted on 27 July 2011 Reposted at

GLBTI seniors advocates have urged the Gillard Government to develop a national action plan to ensure GLBTI-friendly aged-care services and stop suicidal thoughts among GLBTI elders.

Gerontologist and GLBTI ageing expert Dr Jo Harrison said suicide among GLBTI elders needs urgent attention and a strategy for GLBTI aged care is critical.

“I can tell you things that have been said to me by elders in the course of interviews or discussions that refer directly to an expression of suicidal intent or having made what I considered much more formal preparations,” Harrison told the Star Observer.

There is no Australian study probing the rate of suicides or suicidal thoughts among GLBTI seniors, however, Harrison said the trend has been noticed by aged-care workers.

“It’s anecdotal but it absolutely can’t be ignored,” she said.

“Whenever suicide is raised or mentioned it’s very easy to go rushing to the statistics that do exist and can be quoted about gay youth suicide … but [suicide rates among GLBTI seniors] is not being researched.”

Suicide Prevention Australia reports, although there is an overall longterm decline, more elderly men die by suicide than any other age group.

“Once I found those statistics … this level which is unbelievably high of actual suicide amongst the elderly population generally, that immediately made me think what the hell is happening with our community in that mix,” Harrison said.

Last week the Star Observer reported the Department of Health and Ageing had allocated $1.1 million to tackle high levels of poor mental health and suicide risk in the GLBTI community.

The two-year funding will go to the National LGBTI Health Alliance’s MindOUT mental health and suicide prevention project.

Alliance Mental Health Working Group chair Dani Wright told the Star Observer while the MindOUT program will mostly tackle mainstream services for all ages, aged care will be included.

Alliance chair Paul Martin said a national action plan is needed to improve GLBT aged care across the board.

The calls come as the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into aged care, Caring for Older Australians, is due to be tabled in federal Parliament.

The draft report said the provision of aged-care services needs to be respectful and sensitive for GLBTI seniors, including training aged-care workers.

Harrison said any government action plan needs to involve GLBTI seniors.

“We have GLBTI elders who are out, who have incredible knowledge and ability and experience themselves as activists and advocates and leaders who established organisations,” she said.

“We need to make sure they are central and crucial to the decision-making about what happens.”

In the last 12 months the Department of Health and Ageing has funded ACON to develop a GLBTI aged care sensitivity training program and Queensland-based aged care support group Care Connect to assist GLBTI seniors.

The High Price of Looking Like a Woman

James Estrin/The New York Times
TRANSITION Zaira Quispe, a transgender woman, was determined to get curves, so she paid for injections of silicone.
By LAURA RENA MURRAY Published: August 19, 2011 Reposted at

ZAIRA QUISPE, 42, said she knew as a child that she was a girl, though she had been born male. She picked up a photo that she kept on the windowsill above her bed and held it out as proof. It’s a picture of herself as a smiling baby, naked and with legs crossed, concealing genitals. “Look,” she said, “even then I was trying to hide it.”

TREATMENT Dr. Anita Radix of Callen-Lorde with a patient.
Ms. Quispe, an Ecuadorean immigrant who came to New York at age 9, was determined to get the curves that would make her look more feminine. But she lacked health insurance or the money to pay for surgical procedures that would provide them; they can cost as much as $70,000. So she tried something else: she went to a so-called pumper, a person who illegally injects silicone to modify the body.

For her first injections, she said, she went to the Upper East Side, to an apartment with a view of the East River. In a small room she lay down on a narrow massage table, having paid $1,200 to get four cups of silicone injected into her hips and buttocks — without anesthesia.

When she slid off the makeshift surgical table, she saw bright red drops of blood staining the white sheet. The pumper, she said, dabbed Krazy Glue over each puncture — there were six on each side — to stop the bleeding. Then the pumper covered them with gauze and wound plastic wrap over the wounds before telling Ms. Quispe to get dressed.

Ms. Quispe was ecstatic with the results. Photos propped up on her desk depict a glowing young woman swathed in colorful dresses to showcase her new hourglass figure. Ms. Quispe smiled at the youthful images of herself surrounded by friends.

She has paid a heavy price for her joy. In time, the silicone in her body calcified and began to migrate, causing her a seemingly endless series of hospitalizations. At the beginning of July, she was hospitalized for an infection. Her body has been left scarred and misshapen. The skin on her buttocks and legs is discolored, and a lump of hardened silicone the size of a golf ball hangs behind her left knee.

“I knew she didn’t have any training, but I couldn’t go to a doctor to get the implants,” she says of the pumper and what drove her to get the injections. “I just wanted to look beautiful.”

PUMPERS and their desperate transgender clients operate in an underground world rarely glimpsed by most New Yorkers. But the practice is commonplace, especially among immigrant and poor women, according to dozens of transgender women, social-service providers and doctors interviewed in recent months. Although there are no reliable statistics on the number of transgender people in the city, a recent study prepared by the health department estimated it at 12,500. And according to the same study, 22 percent of transgender women have had silicone injections.

For these women, yearning to appear more feminine, and unable to afford gender reassignment surgery, pumping can seem like a relatively cheap and easy shortcut. The names of pumpers travel by word of mouth, handed down from older women to younger ones just beginning the process of transition. Some operate in teams, renting a hotel room and holding a pumping party to inject 10 or 20 women at a time.

It is a dangerous, and sometimes fatal, practice. Most plastic surgeons say silicone is safest when used as enclosed implants, but pumpers use loose silicone, which can migrate and cause disfigurement or significant scarring. Because medical-grade silicone can be hard to come by without hospital connections, some pumpers even inject cooking oil or industrial-grade silicone intended for cars and airplanes, said Dr. Anita Radix, a physician at Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in Manhattan, which primarily serves the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Cutting medical-grade silicone with baby oil, Crisco or other substances makes it cheaper. Although a number of pumpers say they have been trained as nurses, most have no medical training and are not licensed to perform surgical procedures, said Dr. Paul R. Weiss, a plastic surgeon and professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University. They often operate in rooms that are not sterile, increasing the risk of infection, Dr. Weiss said.

If silicone is injected into the bloodstream in error, it can cause a laundry list of serious medical problems, including acute respiratory distress, severe autoimmune or connective tissue disorders, pulmonary embolism or death, Dr. Radix said. Because of the underground nature of pumping, it is impossible to know exactly how many women have died from it, though deaths have been reported across the country.

Among the most recent was a case in Philadelphia, where in February, a 20-year-old woman who had flown in from London for injections died shortly after receiving them. In July, a transgender woman named Gabrielle Aguilar died at Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens, days after visiting a pumper, said her cousin, Sheyla Gomez.

Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the city’s medical examiner’s office, said Thursday that test results to determine the cause of death were still pending, but that an investigation was under way.

“Pumpers are preying on desperate people who are poor,” said Pauline Park, president of Queens Pride House, an organization that provides services to lesbian, gay and transgender people. “They’re basically killing people and profiting from it.”

The process of transitioning from one gender to another is a long and complicated one that can take years and cost tens of thousands of dollars in hormones and surgical procedures; it is hard enough for people who have the money to pay for it. The majority of transgender women don’t. They are either enrolled in Medicaid, which does not cover the transition process, or are uninsured, as Ms. Quispe was.

Dr. Radix has been treating transgender women since 1989, and at least a quarter of her patients have had silicone injected into their breasts, buttocks and faces, she said. Most believe the trade-off is worth the risk, she added, “for all the years that they had the body they want to have.” They also feel shut out of the medical establishment, a situation that heightens the appeal of pumpers. “If folks had access to medical care, they wouldn’t have to go for the silicone,” Dr. Radix said.

That was true of Ms. Quispe, who said she desperately wanted to possess curves but could not afford to see a plastic surgeon.

Ms. Quispe decided to build her buttocks and hips incrementally, visiting a pumper whenever she could afford a liter of silicone. She estimated that she was injected 10 times by three pumpers from 1989 to 2000, spending close to $20,000.

“If I collected all the money I used for silicone,” Ms. Quispe said, “I would have enough money to do my sex-change operation.”

Six months after receiving her last two liters of silicone, in 2000, Ms. Quispe began to experience chronic stabbing pain in her legs and stomach, she said. The silicone turned hard and began to migrate down her legs and through her body.

Many share her experience, said Ronica Mukerjee, a nurse practitioner who does medical outreach in Queens with transgender women. “Silicone isn’t always deadly, but injecting free loose silicone is very dangerous in large quantities,” Ms. Mukerjee said. “Silicone drifts. I’ve seen silicone injected in their hips end up in their ankles.”

In 2002, Ms. Quispe’s primary-care doctor referred her to a plastic surgeon at Beth Israel Medical Center who, she said, told her the last injections she received had been industrial oil rather than silicone. Trying to remove it surgically could be life-threatening because the oil was embedded in the muscle tissue and the entire muscle would have to be excised from her buttocks and hips. Removing the tissue would leave her with massive cavities, altering her body weight and metabolism drastically, and increase her suffering.

He advised her, she said, to take medication for the pain instead of risking surgery. Since then, she has visited several other plastic surgeons with the hope that one might have a different answer — but none have. Five of her friends were injected by the same pumper, she said, and are experiencing similar problems.

Now, Ms. Quispe spends most of her time in her tiny apartment in Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn, in the Farragut Houses. Ms. Quispe’s home is decorated with miniature Buddhist statues and several plastic Chinese tapestries tacked on the wall for good luck. The front door opens to a small kitchen with a narrow table and two chairs squeezed next to an old refrigerator. A short corridor leads to her bedroom, most of which is dwarfed by a queen-size bed, where she spends most of her time safely removed from the jeering comments of strangers.

“I’d rather be inside my place because everyone looks at me like I’m an alien,” she said, wincing and shifting uncomfortably on the chair. “I’m a human being just like everyone else.”

STORIES like Ms. Quispe’s wouldn’t be possible without women like S., a pumper who agreed to be interviewed only on the condition that she be identified by her first initial because what she does is illegal. Born male, S. said, she ran away from home at 15. She met an older transgender woman at a nightclub who helped her begin her transition. The same woman also introduced her to prostitution, and S. used that money to pay for female hormones when she was 15 and for silicone injections that she began receiving at 24, in 1985, from Dr. David R. Wesser, a New York surgeon then well known in the transgender world.

S. said she learned to inject silicone herself 17 years ago by informally training with an Upper East Side doctor from Spain who performed surgical procedures without a license in New York. S. said she worked out of his office for a year, but began injecting women without his supervision because she did not like having to split the profits. When he realized she was pumping on her own, the doctor agreed to sell her equipment and silicone, she said. She continues to buy supplies from medical distributors because of the relationships she developed through him and Dr. Wesser, who died in 2008.

Sometimes, S. said, she buys silicone abroad; sometimes she gets it from hospital connections. She currently pays $2,700 for a half-gallon of loose-flowing medical-grade silicone, which she can use to inject 10 people, charging $400 to $1,000 for each treatment.

SHORTCUT Zaira Quispe has been hospitalized after receiving injections from an untrained woman called a pumper.

“It could take from three to four treatments before you get a perfect image of a feminine face,” S. said. “You have to do it a little at a time because you don’t want to turn somebody into a monster.” She injects up to 20 people a week, making about $10,000 each week, she said.

The evidence of her success crowds the spacious two-bedroom apartment she rents in Brooklyn. The exterior of her building fits in with the dilapidated neighborhood. The front door is missing a doorknob, and the windows are boarded up and painted a mud brown, concealing the opulent interior. Inside her apartment, gold candleholders, ceramic vases, crystal and gleaming white cherubic angels sparkle under elaborate chandeliers. Thirteen Tiffany-style lamps clutter her shelves, and dozens of porcelain plates hang in rows on her walls.

One corner of her dining room contains 10 bird cages stacked in two columns from floor to ceiling, the sides of the cages covered in tin foil and each cage holding three to six canaries, finches and other small birds.

The living room is crammed with stacks of boxes containing items that she plans to move to a house she said she recently bought in Puerto Rico.

S. sees herself as helping the women she injects. “I try to help the girls because they want to look feminine,” she said, caressing the contours of her face to demonstrate. Her overly plump apple cheeks and smooth pink lips are telltale signs of the silicone injections she has given herself over the years. They dwarf her small, sculpted nose and dark brown eyes, which gleam under the thin eyebrows she carefully draws on. “I try to guide them because the majority of these girls are young,” she continued. “They come to me with holes, dimples; they don’t have no cheeks, and their face is long.”

Indeed, a majority of transgender women begin the process of transitioning, as Ms. Quispe and S. did, while teenagers: 62 percent of the transgender women surveyed by the city’s health department identified themselves as female before the age of 18.

Transgender youth cannot be treated by a doctor without parental consent, and many of them are estranged from their families because of their gender identities. According to a 2011 discrimination report released by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 19 percent of transgender people experienced homelessness because of their gender identity, 57 percent were rejected by their families, and 41 percent had attempted suicide.

S. estimated there were 50 pumpers injecting silicone in New York City. While she acknowledged some dangers, she said the problem lay in bad work by other pumpers. She said all of her clients had been satisfied with her work and she had never had a complaint.

“You don’t have to go to school to be a doctor,” S. said. “It’s a gift from God. Sometimes, people have that gift: how to take something and create it, make it something else.”

BUT Jahaira Gonzalez, a 31-year-old transgender woman from the Bronx, said in interviews in the fall that S. had repeatedly injected her with silicone, to the point of discomfort. Ms. Gonzalez came out at 16 and left her home when she was 17 to begin her gender transition. She met S. at a club and lived with her for two years. During that time, she said, S. sold her bottles of estrogen and injected her chin, jaw line, cheeks, upper and bottom lips, calves, hips and buttocks with silicone. Ms. Gonzalez said that she regarded S. as a mother figure and that S. taught her how to be a woman.

“I wanted to be just like her,” Ms. Gonzalez said. “In the beginning, she created me, something beautiful.”

Ms. Gonzalez said, however, that S. injected her with too much silicone. Now, in the winter, it freezes like a bag of water placed on ice. “If it gets really, really cold, my lips become really hard and my cheekbones become really stiff,” she said. “In the summer time, it’s like I’m melting. I sweat a lot in my face and I can feel the heat heating up my sil.”

Worse, she said, is the unnatural look the injections have left her with. Ms. Gonzalez’s apple cheeks and swollen lips mimic S.’s face, meant to make her nose and chin appear smaller but giving her face a round and constructed appearance. “It’s even more worse when you have all this surgery done to feminize yourself and people still know what you are,” Ms. Gonzalez said. “So it kind of messes with your head mentally ’cause it’s like, ‘Why did I do all this work for if people are still noticing that I was born biological male?’ ”

IN mid-July, Ms. Quispe was released from the hospital. She returned home, although she still felt dizzy and weak. Then her hands, feet and lips began to tingle and she developed a fever. Days later, she was admitted to Beth Israel Medical Center, where nurses injected her with blood thinner daily to prevent blood clots from traveling to her heart. She peered wanly over her bloated stomach and swollen feet at the intravenous drip that was inserted in her vein. Her body is in a constant state of inflammation. Ms. Quispe’s doctors have told her they may have to try surgery to remove the silicone if steroids and antibiotics do not reduce the swelling.

“My life is in jeopardy,” Ms. Quispe said. She looked at the angry purple and scarlet marks that dotted her stomach from the blood-thinner injections, just above the stitches from her recent biopsy. “If I had known I would look like this, I wouldn’t have done it.” high price of looking like a woman&st=cse&scp=1

New Workplace Resource Available

"Gender Identity and Expression in The Workplace: A Pragmatic Guide for Lawyers and Human Resource Professionals"
This 71 page document is avaialble for download at:

Social Support Improves Well-Being of Those Who Come Out

The level of support that people perceive in their surroundings when they come out as lesbian, gay, or bisexual is closely related to their mental health and overall well-being, according to a new study. That may mean that for some people coming out is less damaging than has been believed.

Researchers surveyed 161 people between the ages of 18 and 65 roughly evenly split between those who identified as gay, lesbian and bisexual. The participants anonymously answered questions about how out they were and the level of support they felt. The study found that students who had come out were less angry and depressed and had higher self-esteem, but only if they were in supportive environments. In controlling environments, coming out was not associated with any of these benefits. (Los Angeles Times, 6/21/11)

Tobacco Cessation Offered by DC's Mautner Project

Mautner Project will be offering smoking cessation classes beginning October 5. This seven week course will be offered free of charge to DC residents 18 years of age and older with funding from the District Department of Health. For more information and to register, contact Riana or go to Mautner Project's tobacco page.

Want more information about how tobacco effects the LGBT community? Become an individual member of the SmokeLess LGBT DC coalition. Contact Riana!

Posted at

Friday, September 9, 2011

Surveys Shows LGBT Curriculum Lacking in Medical Schools

Medical students get only 5 hours of education on LGBT health and a third of medical schools reported no LGBT content was taught during clinical years, according to an article published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The article was based on a survey of LGBT curriculum in medical schools conducted by the Medical Education Research Group, which will present its findings at the 2011 GLMA Annual Conference in Atlanta later this month. GLMA Executive Director Hector Vargas was quoted in a Huffington Post article on the survey.

GLMA has long advocated for training of health professionals and students that addresses the specific health needs LGBT patient populations. GLMA has consistently worked to ensure that LGBT cultural competency training, including information about health disparities, is a standard component of all health professional training curricula. GLMA’s Medical Education Project, which convened experts in LGBT medical education last year, will be publishing a set of “effective practices” to provide resource information for schools considering revisions in and changes to current curriculum, policies, procedures and programs related to LGBT health.

HRSA Announces $248,000 LGBT Training Award to the Fenway Institute

Earlier in the week, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced it had awarded the Fenway Institute a $248,000 grant to create a national technical assistance and training center for LGBT health for community health centers. In a press release announcing the award, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said: “This award is an important step in HHS’ continuing effort to provide health care services to all people recognizing that different groups of people may have distinctive health care needs.”

GLMA congratulates the Fenway Institute for this significant award and project, which will improve the health and well being of LGBT people across the country. Several GLMA members have been invited to serve as Faculty and/or sit on the National Advisory Board for the project, including Past Presidents Jason Schneider and Christopher Harris, and Executive Director Hector Vargas.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

47 Years Ago: September 1964

A small group of activists picketed at the Army's Whitehall Street Induction Center in Manhattan in protest after the confidentiality of gay men's draft records was violated. The action was led by members of the New York Mattachine Society and is considered by many sources to be the first gay rights demonstration in America. Although the organizers had contacted reporters, none of them came to cover the demonstration. It was early LGBT actions like this — and the media indifference to them — that helped set the stage for the Task Force being founded in 1973.

From The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Newsletter. Reposted at

Start the Conversation

National Suicide Prevention Week
Kevin McHale for Trevor Project

Medicare steps up enforcement of equal visitation and representation rights in hospitals

Rules finalized last year empower patients to designate their own visitors, including same-sex partners

Today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced new guidance to support enforcement of rules that protect hospital patients’ right to choose their own visitors during a hospital stay, including a visitor who is a same-sex domestic partner. These rules, finalized by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in November, apply to all hospitals that participate in Medicare and Medicaid. The guidance also supports enforcement of the right of patients to designate the person of their choice, including a same-sex partner, to make medical decisions on their behalf should they become incapacitated.

"Couples take a vow to be with each other in sickness and in health and it is unacceptable that, in the past, some same-sex partners were denied the right to visit their loved ones in times of need," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "We are releasing guidance for enforcing new rules that give all patients, including those with same-sex partners, the right to choose who can visit them in the hospital as well as enhancing existing guidance regarding the right to choose who will help make medical decisions on their behalf.”

The rules updated the Conditions of Participation (CoPs), which are the health and safety standards all Medicare- and Medicaid-participating hospitals and critical access hospitals must meet, and apply to all patients of those hospitals even if they are not on Medicare or Medicaid. Among other things, the CoPs require hospitals to explain to all patients their right to choose who may visit them during their inpatient stay, regardless of whether the visitor is a family member, a spouse, a domestic partner (including a same-sex domestic partner), or another type of visitor, as well as their right to withdraw such consent to visitation at any time.

Existing CoPs also protect the rights of hospital patients to have representatives who can act on their behalf. HHS has updated the guidance for these rules to emphasize that hospitals should give deference to patients’ wishes concerning their representatives, whether expressed in writing, orally, or through other evidence, unless prohibited by state law. The guidance issued today is intended to make it easier for family members, including a same-sex domestic partner, to make informed care decisions for loved ones who have become incapacitated.

CMS today sent a letter to State Survey Agencies, which conduct on-site inspections of hospitals on behalf of CMS. The letter highlights the equal visitation and representation rights requirements and directs SSAs to be aware of the guidance when evaluating hospitals' compliance with CoPs.
“This announcement is another step toward equal rights for all Americans, and it is another step toward putting the patient at the center of our health care system,” said CMS Administrator Donald M. Berwick, M.D. “All patients should be afforded the same rights and privileges when they enter our health care system, and that includes the same opportunity to see their significant other.”

In other news of interest to the LGBT community, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), another agency of the Department of Health and Human Services, today announced a $248,000 grant to the Fenway Institute** to create a National Training and Technical Assistance Center to help community health centers improve the health of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) populations.

For more information on the CMS rules issued in November, please visit:

For the letter sent to State Survey Agencies, please visit:

Posted by The National Task Force. Reposted at