ClexaCon Fundraiser: Disability Representation Panel

ClexaCon Fundraiser: Disability Representation Panel

Clexacon logo (rainbow infinity symbol on its side with '2018' at the most righthand side) with ClexaCon written in rainbow below against a black background

If you haven’t already heard, I’ll be heading to ClexaCon this April! I’m incredibly excited as I’ll be on two panels. One is about sex ed for queer peeps called Let’s Get Cliterate! The other panel is about disability representation in queer media.

For the latter one, we’ve set up a GoFundMe to raise funds for those of us traveling to Vegas for the conference.

This panel is so needed. The fundraiser will go to cover travel and lodging during the conference for our panel peeps. One of our panel peeps has, unfortunately, had to drop out due to health, and we’re hoping to have some surprises from them at our panel at least.

Please consider donating. I’m driving and staying at an Airbnb to save on costs. Still, with having to get a new car sans planning, having any money to cover our travel and lodging would be very much appreciated. And that’s just me! There are others attending that could use the help as well.

Please consider sharing even if you’re unable to donate.

What Matthew Shepard Means To Me

What Matthew Shepard Means To Me

photo of Matthew Shepard's memorial bench on the U of Wyoming campus - plaque reads "Matthew Wayne Shepard * December 1, 1976 - October 12, 1998 * Beloved son, brother, and friend * He continues to make a difference * Peace be with him and all who sit here"; under photo is a black text box with white text "What Matthew Shepard Means To Me" and "Chronic Sex"

TW: death, murder, homomisia, hate crimes.

When I was ten years old, I had already been through a lot of rough stuff. I knew that I didn’t feel as girly as I ‘should,’ and knew I liked both boys and girls.

In October 1998, I heard about a man who was beaten and nearly dead. As more news came out, I learned that Matthew Shepard had been harmed because he was gay. To this day, there are conflicting reports about this, but I believe this played a part.

It felt like the whole world was watching. As a baby queer growing up in a conservative household, this attack hit me hard. I didn’t have the words to express my feels, but kept crying – something I absolutely hate doing.

I realized why people felt they had to hide their sexuality. Even today, when things really haven’t changed as much as we like to think, it’s understandable. I still feel a bit of fear when I go out dressed more manly – and won’t ever go out with my packer.

I wanted to go and attend a vigil or go counter-protest the WBC jerks. There are many reasons that couldn’t happen, but I’ve felt this pull to go there for a long time.

Matthew was HIV positive, something that wasn’t well-known until he was in the hospital following the attack. The reason this got notoriety was mostly out of concern for the responding officer. She had faulty supplies and so worked on saving Matthew sans gloves. There was a good amount of ableism around HIV afterward. I didn’t understand why people were so harmful, so judgmental. After all, I had already been tested as a child due to my doctors taking forever to find my diagnosis of Still’s Disease.

I will always wonder what kind of HIV and AIDS advocate Matthew would’ve become had he survived.

By the time he died the following week, there was already a movement started to improve hate crime laws. By 2009, President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. This officially added sexual orientation and gender to then-existing hate crime laws.

In high school, I watched as classmates put on The Laramie Project – a play based on interviews with Laramie residents following Matthew’s death. I cried nearly the entire time. By the time I was in college, I was fortunate enough to attend a speech Matthew’s mother Judy gave about the events and her subsequent work on LGBT+ rights and hate crimes through the Matthew Shepard Foundation. Again, I cried for much of that.

As I’ve begun navigating my own queerness, it seems that there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of Matthew or his family. It’s such an odd thing to say since I didn’t and don’t know them. His attack and death taught me so much about the world, though, and the way it views us.

In June of last year, the husband and I drove his old car from Wisconsin to California to give it to my sister. Our route took us through Laramie, and I knew we needed to stop at the University of Wyoming campus to visit Matthew’s memorial bench. I sat on the bench, crying, and ‘talking’ to Matthew.

This was in the middle of me figuring out my gender identity, but before I’d come out to anyone. It was comforting to sit there, to be in a spot that was set aside specifically to remember Matthew and his life. I felt so peaceful afterward.

With rollbacks happening to our rights, we have to remember these fights. It’s been 19 years, but we are by no means done with fighting for our fellow LGBTQQIA2+ or disabled/chronically ill siblings. Matthew reminds me how much one person can impact others. He inspires me on days when I’m tired of constantly fighting bills and asking Congresspeople not to harm us.

Maybe he can help you keep fighting, too.

Are You Tired of Cishet Studies on Relationships and Pain, Too?

I was really excited to see a new study come out saying that a touch from our partners can help relieve pain. It’s one of those obvious things, especially to anyone who knows about how our brains release oxytocin. The hormone has long been known to relieve pain as well as being the ‘love’ hormone.

It increases bonding between people, especially when they’re physically close to each other. For example, it’s released during sexual activity!

I wanted to know more about the study, so I turned to their free journal article on NCBI.

Write-ups don’t tell the whole story

One thing I found interesting was that the study is also heavily focused on empathy. Sure, a loved one hugging you while you’re in pain may help – but it helps more if they care you’re in pain, too.

Additionally, they studied both respiratory and cardiac response in both partners as well. Heart and breathing rates in the non-pain partners tended to try to match those of the pain partners when touch was involved. When pain happened without touch, this didn’t happen.

Anyway, I was excited to see that someone verified something a lot of patients and providers have known for a long time…

Until, you know, I realized this study was only done on cishet couples.

Why are studies always on cishet couples?

From the study write-up:

Dr. Goldstein and colleagues gathered 22 heterosexual couples for their study, who were all aged between 23 and 32.

The researchers asked the couples to participate in a range of tests that replicated the experience of being in a delivery room.

The female participants were assigned the role of “pain receiver,” while the men were “pain observers.”

There’s some good ol’ fashioned sexism in here, too, right?

Barf.

In their limitations section in the journal article, researchers discuss how only females underwent pain and males were the outside partner. They do suggest that there need to be similar studies on same-sex couples, but neither address any other LGBTQIA+ community nor why they chose only cishet couples to begin with.

It’s 2017. Why is it that LGBTQIA+ people still aren’t being involved in research? How meaningful is research when it leaves out an increasingly sizeable chunk of the population?

We need inclusive research

KLB Research logo with tagline: valuing diversity in academic research

I had the pleasure of seeing Dr. Karen Blair of KLB Research speak at the Guelph Sexuality Conference.

Karen was in college when she discovered she was a lesbian. As a result of taking sexuality courses, she began wondering why cishet couples were always the ones in research and books. So, like all great innovators, she started doing the research that needed to happen.

Dr. Blair even did a study right after the Pulse massacre to understand how this was affecting the LGBTQIA+ community. Listening to her speak about the Pulse study was incredibly profound. There’s even a follow-up study accepting participants.

What can we do?

We need more people like Karen – and more awareness of the work she and others do on inclusive research.

Share studies looking for participants whenever you can. Support or participate in The Pride Study. Stay tuned for when ORCHIDS gets going.

Demand more representation. When studies come out and don’t include anyone other than white cishet abled middle-class Americans, we have to speak up and share that this is not reality. This is not inclusive research.

Edit: Our pals over at Clara Health just wrote about the lack of LGBTQQIA2+ representation in studies. Check it out.

It’s the Pulse Anniversary

Before I go any further, I want to point this out: As a white person in a heterosexual marriage living without religion, I am protected from a lot of these issues. I certainly don’t face the obstacles that queer Muslims of color,  Latinx people celebrating Latin night at Pulse, or my friend Benjamin who used to frequent Pulse do on a regular basis. I recognize that privilege as I write this.

I’m having some feels today about Pulse and the LGBTQIA+ community.

This time last year, I hadn’t fully come out. Hell, I didn’t understand my gender identity yet.

Hubs and I were on a road trip from where we live to California, taking our extra car to my sister. The day before the Pulse shooting, we stopped in Laramie, Wyoming, to visit the Matthew Shepard bench.

bench with a placard: "Matthew Wayne Shepard December 1, 1976 - October 12, 1998 Beloved son, brother, and friend he continues to make a difference peace be with him and all who sit here

I had to stop there. I wrote the following on Facebook:

In the last 20 years, so much has happened to push ahead equal rights for the LGBTQIA community, but this one sticks in my head the most. I was ten when it happened and I just remember crying for days. No one deserves to be treated the way Matt was. I’ve seen his mother speak and it’s clear that his death was a loss to our world.

We sat there for a while. I cried and sent good thoughts into the world. I wanted to wish so badly that we were past these kinds of acts.

To wake up literally the next day and have T tell me the little we knew about the attack in the morning… it was surreal. We know now that the Pulse shooting was the deadliest mass shooting in the United States. 49 people were murdered and nearly 70 wounded.

As I read more, it felt like I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t place my feels or give them names at the time. I’m still not sure that I can. Grief and sorrow were there. Fear was definitely there.

Knowing that I could easily be at Pulse should I have been in Orlando during Pride? That was there, too.

And then, because of my background in religious studies and Islam, I feared the backlash that came – the bigotry against Muslims in addition to the bigotry against our community.

Most of all, I was feeling harmed. It was the first time that I felt I was a part of the queer community.

Clubs and Pride – these are supposed to be safe places for us.

Pride is about celebrating who we are. It’s also about remembering the struggles of those who came before us in the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights, like Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. We have to figure out how to carry on the legacy of the lives lost to hate.

This is why we must take action when we see something wrong. Volunteer. Donate. Raise funds. Call out others on their hate. Use your privilege to elevate marginalized voices. Vote against hateful rhetoric. Educate others. Give blood if you’re able.

Don’t allow hatred to blur how you see the world. Let it, instead, push you to love more, laugh harder, and fight for each other.

Today, let’s remember those who were murdered in a safe space, and push progress forward in their names:

Stanley Almodovar III
Amanda Alvear
Oscar A Aracena-Montero
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala
Antonio Davon Brown
Darryl Roman Burt II
Angel L. Candelario-Padro
Juan Chavez-Martinez
Luis Daniel Conde
Cory James Connell
Tevin Eugene Crosby
Deonka Deidra Drayton
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez
Leroy Valentin Fernandez
Mercedez Marisol Flores
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz
Juan Ramon Guerrero
Paul Terrell Henry
Frank Hernandez
Miguel Angel Honorato
Javier Jorge-Reyes
Jason Benjamin Josaphat
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla
Christopher Andrew Leinonen
Alejandro Barrios Martinez
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez
Kimberly Morris
Akyra Monet Murray
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo
Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera
Joel Rayon Paniagua
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez
Enrique L. Rios, Jr.
Jean C. Nieves Rodriguez
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan
Edward Sotomayor Jr.
Shane Evan Tomlinson
Martin Benitez Torres
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez
Luis S. Vielma
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon
Jerald Arthur Wright
Stanley Almodovar III
Amanda Alvear
Oscar A Aracena-Montero
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala
Antonio Davon Brown
Darryl Roman Burt II
Angel L. Candelario-Padro
Juan Chavez-Martinez
Luis Daniel Conde
Cory James Connell
Tevin Eugene Crosby
Deonka Deidra Drayton
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez
Leroy Valentin Fernandez
Mercedez Marisol Flores
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz
Juan Ramon Guerrero
Paul Terrell Henry
Frank Hernandez
Miguel Angel Honorato
Javier Jorge-Reyes
Jason Benjamin Josaphat
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla
Christopher Andrew Leinonen
Alejandro Barrios Martinez
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez
Kimberly Morris
Akyra Monet Murray
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo
Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera
Joel Rayon Paniagua
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez
Enrique L. Rios, Jr.
Jean C. Nieves Rodriguez
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan
Edward Sotomayor Jr.
Shane Evan Tomlinson
Martin Benitez Torres
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez
Luis S. Vielma
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon
Jerald Arthur Wright

Learn about the stories of those who lived through the shooting at DearWorld.org.

Consider donating to the onePULSE Foundation today.

What is the Pride Study?

The Pride Study is the first large-scale and long-term study of health in the LGBTQIA+ population.

In the end, doctors and scientists at the University of California-San Francisco are going to use the Pride Study to better understand – and then work to improve – the health of the LGBTQIA+ community at large.

One of the biggest problems in tracking health within our community is that gender identity and sexual orientation are often removed from our data – if they’re even collected. That means there’s just no way to find those in our community and track their health over time.

Eligibility

To be eligible, you have to live in the United States and identify as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. You can check your eligibility status here. If you know someone who would qualify but does not have internet access, they can call 855-421-9991 to sign up.

What do I have to do?

All you have to do is fill out a survey that takes about half an hour once a year. That’s it!

If you are not a member of the LGBTQIA+ community and would like to support this study financially, please visit their donate page. If you live in the United States and want to volunteer for Pride Net – regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation – check out their volunteer page.

How easy is it?

I signed up since I’m genderqueer and pansexual. I found that it was really easy and very accessible. You can even connect a FitBit, Withings, or Jawbone Up to provide even more data.

Your dashboard also gives you statistics on how the research participant pool looks right now in relation to your own identities. As of June 3rd, 16% of people in the study identified as genderqueer and 15% identified as pansexual.

I have to say, though, 77% of participants as of that date are white. Let’s get some diversity!

You can learn more about PRIDENet, the team, and find answers to many questions at pridestudy.org. For more info on the study, check out this PDF.