Transcending Self

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About two years ago, I began photographing transgender and “gender-expansive” children and young adults in the United States and Europe. I wanted to ask this question: “Who are we beyond ideas tied to our gender?” The answer is critical not only to the transgender community, I believe, but to everyone.

In the younger participants, I have found self-assuredness and confidence; they are clear about who they are. In the older youths — especially the nonbinary ones who identify as both genders, or neither — I see a willingness to break free from boxes society puts us into. In all of them, there is creativity and compassion for peers and strangers alike. — Annie Tritt, photographer

Zak, 13 | Isle of Wight, England. Transgender boy.

“When I was 12, I realized that transgender was a thing. It made sense. I’m straight — I’m a straight guy in a girl’s body. I had very distorted expectations, though, and thought that I would be able to have hormones and operations straightaway. The process is too long. I hate looking like this, I hate the body that I have. I want it to transform, and it is wrong that I have to wait until I’m an adult.”

Max, 13 | Bay Area, California. Nonbinary.

“I asked my mom if I could text her something. I texted her that I am attracted to boys and that I feel more girl than boy. Later that year, I found the term nonbinary. It just felt right. I still am often scared of the reactions of people when I tell them. As a trans person who has experienced hate, I want people to understand that nobody deserves to be hated. Everyone deserves love, regardless of race, gender, sexuality.”

Azaj, 17 | Oakland, Calif. Transgender girl.

“It is really different living as myself. Before, I felt like I was always trying to squeeze into jeans that were six sizes too small, but now it feels like I am in jeans that were made just for me. I no longer wake up hating myself or this world that does not understand me. I want to make sure the world does not take as long as it did to be open to gay and bi people. I hope that I am able to help girls like me, so they don’t go through what I did. I want to slay the gods 100 times over doing things that trans girls have never done. I want to be the face of equality.”

More on the photographers website…

Enforced Common Sense: How Iceland keeps its Teens healthy

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In Iceland, teenage smoking, drinking and drug use have been radically cut in the past 20 years. How did they do it, and why won’t other countries follow suit?

It’s a little before three on a sunny Friday afternoon and Laugardalur Park, near central Reykjavik, looks practically deserted. There’s an occasional adult with a pushchair, but the park’s surrounded by apartment blocks and houses, and school’s out – so where are all the kids?

Walking with me are Gudberg Jónsson, a local psychologist, and Harvey Milkman, an American psychology professor who teaches for part of the year at Reykjavik University. Twenty years ago, says Gudberg, Icelandic teens were among the heaviest-drinking youths in Europe. “You couldn’t walk the streets in downtown Reykjavik on a Friday night because it felt unsafe,” adds Milkman. “There were hordes of teenagers getting in-your-face drunk.”

We approach a large building. “And here we have the indoor skating,” says Gudberg. A couple of minutes ago, we passed two halls dedicated to badminton and ping pong. Here in the park, there’s also an athletics track, a geothermally heated swimming pool and – at last – some visible kids, excitedly playing football on an artificial pitch.

Young people aren’t hanging out in the park right now, Gudberg explains, because they’re in after-school classes in these facilities, or in clubs for music, dance or art. Or they might be on outings with their parents.

Today, Iceland tops the European table for the cleanest-living teens. The percentage of 15- and 16-year-olds who had been drunk in the previous month plummeted from 42 per cent in 1998 to 5 per cent in 2016. The percentage who have ever used cannabis is down from 17 per cent to 7 per cent. Those smoking cigarettes every day fell from 23 per cent to just 3 per cent.

The way the country has achieved this turnaround has been both radical and evidence-based, but it has relied a lot on what might be termed enforced common sense. “This is the most remarkably intense and profound study of stress in the lives of teenagers that I have ever seen,” says Milkman. “I’m just so impressed by how well it is working.”

If it was adopted in other countries, Milkman argues, the Icelandic model could benefit the general psychological and physical wellbeing of millions of kids, not to mention the coffers of healthcare agencies and broader society. It’s a big if.

Read on…

An American Trans Life

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Many people wouldn’t be surprised to learn that transgender people experience discrimination in the United States (see: North Carolina’s HB2), but now there’s a 300-page report to back up that gut feeling, and the levels of inequality are far more than many people would expect.

The study, released by the National Center for Transgender Equality, shows that transgender people face a shocking amount of discrimination. The study involved a survey of almost 28,000 people across the U.S. The researchers found devastating levels of discrimination in every aspect of life, from work, family, housing and general safety.

“The findings reveal disturbing patterns of mistreatment and discrimination and startling disparities between transgender people in the survey and the U.S. population when it comes to the most basic elements of life, such as finding a job, having a place to live, accessing medical care, and enjoying the support of family and community,” the researchers said.

Family Life and Support

Respondents reported varying levels of support from family members. 60% of the respondents who were out to their families said their families were supportive of their gender identity. 18% said their family was unsupportive and the remainder said their family was neutral.

For transgender people, family support can have a significant impact on the rest of their lives. Those with supportive families were less likely to experience other forms of discrimination and hardship or to experience them to a lesser extent. Those with supportive families were almost 20% less likely to experience homelessness and less likely to attempt suicide.

Unfortunately, not all families are supportive. One in ten transgender people reported that a family member was violent toward them for being trans and 8% were kicked out of the house by their family. Another 10% ran away from home.

Mistreatment in School

Discrimination against transgender people starts at an early age. Almost 80% of people who were openly or believed to be transgender while in school experienced mistreatment. More than half experienced verbal harassment, a quarter experienced physical assault and 13% were sexually assaulted. 17% of transgender K-12 students left a school because the experienced severe mistreatment.

Workplace Discrimination

Discrimination against trans people doesn’t end when they get their diploma. In fact, discrimination at work can be so serious for them that many end up unemployed and even homeless. For example, 13% of the respondents had lost a job because they were transgender and 19% had been fired, denied a promotion or not been hired for a job because of their gender identity. In the past year, 15% said their were verbally harassed or physically or sexually assaulted while at work because they were transgender.

Experiences in Bathrooms

The survey took place before North Carolina’s discriminatory bathroom bill, HB2, was legalized. And yet, transgender people already faced discrimination and violence in public restrooms so great that 59% avoided them altogether. As a result, they often experienced urinary tract infections, kidney infections or other kidney-related issues. About one-third of respondents limited what they ate and drank during the day so they wouldn’t have to use public restrooms.

9% said they’d been refused access to a public bathroom because of their gender identity and 12% reported being verbally, physically or sexually assaulted in a public bathroom. Despite what North Carolina’s lawmakers believe, it’s trans people who are in danger in public restrooms.

Harassment, Violence & Homicide

The survey found that transgender people face horrific levels of  harassment, sexual assault and physical violence. Almost half of respondents had been sexually assaulted in their lifetime, with 10% reporting they’d been sexually assaulted in the year prior to the survey. More than half had experienced intimate partner violence. In the past year, almost half had been verbally harassed for being transgender and 9% had been physically assaulted. These experiences were even more common for respondents who had experienced homelessness or who had engaged in sex work.

While not included in the research, transgender people also face alarming rates of homicide, with black transwomen being specifically targeted. According to Mic, if everyone faced the same risk of murder as a black transwoman, the murder rate would increase from 15,696 to 120,087 in the Unites States.

Of all the transgender murders in the U.S. between 2013-2015, not one was prosecuted and none were reported as hate crimes. To make sure these lost trans lives are not forgotten, Mic created a database called “Unerased” which includes over one hundred murdered trans people.

via care2

The Queen is not aroused

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…because if she’d be, she would probably get arrested. You’d think the British government would be kind of busy right now. The war in Syria. The economical disaster that the Brexit will bring. Homeless kids. There are plenty of  important issues to deal with. But alas, these things will have to wait because we have another crisis on our hands: People are having sex! They’re watching porn! They’re masturbating!

That is unacceptable of course but worry not, the Brits are on the case! First point on the agenda will be banning teens from sexting as suggested by health secretary Jeremy Hunt. That should be easy, kids are, after all, known for staying the fuck away from everything they’re not allowed to do. Especially during puberty. Good. The world will be a bit safer once we know the wee ones will jerk off to hardcore porn instead of pictures of classmates!

But wait, porn? Why not ban that as well while we’re at it? Because, actually, adults shouldn’t watch that either. Now you can’t clean the whole internet so instead we’ll shame people watching porn by forcing porn sites to verify the age of all visitors with methods that will let us identify them easily. And if that doesn’t work? Back to banning.

Also, let’s make all that super icky stuff illegal. Let’s ban everything that isn’t the missionary position. After all, only criminals are into such perverted acts as spanking or female ejaculation.

But we’ll have to make sure that people won’t secretly circumvent all these sensible measures. So let’s also store Every. Single. Website. any Brit visits for one year. Well, except when they’re politicians of course, they will be exempt from these spying laws since they’re all honourable, decent humans beings.

And don’t even think about using encryption or other security software to get out of this Orwellian nightmare because the UK will, force tech companies to put in a backdoor for them because they just love fucking their subjects in the butt.

Rule, Britannia! (no jerking off!)

Sleep Naked!

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sleep-naked

Why? Oh, there’s so many reasons… Sleeping naked keeps your body cooler than sleeping in clothes, obviously, but it’s that slight temperature difference that can lead to deeper, more restful, and uninterrupted sleep.

It’s not the only benefit to sleeping naked though. Sleeping naked can be especially good for reproductive health as well, it can minimise the chance of infections, it helps  with keeping the testicles cool and avoid low sperm count.

Of course, sleeping naked has other benefits, especially if you have a partner, as skin-to-skin contact is not only therapeutic, but a great form of medicine for both your mind and your body. Touching helps you build a stronger emotional bond with your partner, and kicks off the release of oxytocin in your brain, which helps regulate mood. The video below goes into a little more detail about each of these.

The List

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A ten-year-old pulling down a classmate’s pants would be considered a prank in most places. Not an excessively funny one, sure; but a prank nonetheless. Yet in some countries a mix of “zero tolerance” policies and the idea that our bodies are gross, disgusting things we have to hide and be ashamed of led to practise that ruins the lives of kids every day: They get placed on public sex-offender lists. And many of them will have trouble escaping that stigma for the rest of their lives.

15-year-old Christian from Alabama committed suicide after facing expulsion and registration on a sex offender registry for streaking during a high school football game

One morning in 2007, Leah DuBuc, a twenty-two-year-old college student in Kalamazoo, began writing an essay for English class that she hoped would save her life. She knew that people like her had been beaten, bombed, shot at, killed. The essay aired details about her past that she’d long tried to suppress; by posting it on her class’s server, where anyone who Googled her name could find it, she thought she might be able to quiet the whispers, the threats, and possibly make it easier to find a job. Her story, she warned, “is not a nice one, but hopefully it will have a happy ending.”

DuBuc had grown up in Howell, Michigan, a small town of berry and melon farmers. In high school, she had thrived. She had earned straight A’s, written for the school newspaper, led Students Against Driving Drunk (she voted to change the name to Students Against Destructive Decisions, she says, to stress that “there are lots of bad decisions that can get you killed”), and performed in “Grease” and “Once Upon a Mattress,” while working part time as a cashier at Mary’s Fabulous Chicken & Fish. “High school was bliss for me,” DuBuc said recently. “I tried not to dwell on the stuff that wasn’t good.” But, as she was about to start her freshman year at Western Michigan University, she got a call from a close childhood friend, Victoria, who asked, “Did you know you’re on the public sex-offender registry?”

Read on…

Syrian LGBTQ Youth: Finding Acceptance in Europe

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While most Syrian refugees are fleeing the war, others are escaping the persecution they face because of their sexual identities – and the violent punishments often inflicted on those who violate the Islamic State’s ban on homosexuality

hr-rainbow

As war rages on, Syria’s queer youth seeks acceptance in Europe.

KALMAR, Sweden – Sara, a 22-year-old openly bisexual who was recently granted asylum in Germany, has seen her life change in remarkable ways since leaving Syria. She is also adamant: “I wouldn’t go back, not even for a visit.”

“Today, I am free on all levels. My new friends and even their families love me and support me. The whole society is on my side. People here are open-minded and accepting,” she said.

Nearly five years of war have forced millions of Syrians to flee their homes and their homeland, risking everything for the chance of a safer life in Europe. But there is a smaller group of refugees fleeing not only the day-to-day bloodshed and chaos, but a more targeted form of violence aimed at their sexual identity.

Discrimination against non-normative sexual and gender identities in Syria is nothing new. As in many parts of the Arab world, it is illegal to be homosexual in Syria and same-sex partners have long been the target of honor crimes, harassment and imprisonment.

But the arrival of Islamic fundamentalist factions such as the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) has radically intensified persecution across the country, pushing some Syrians to join the stream of refugees headed to Europe in search of sexual freedom and expression as well as safety.

“The Islamic State executes homosexuals by throwing them from the tops of high buildings,” said Logal Kako, a 21-year-old Syrian man who’s been openly gay since he was in high school.

Read on…

Young, attractive, and totally not into having Sex

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Screw promiscuity and free love—the sexual revolution has passed from freedom of sexuality to freedom from sexuality. It’s an orientation embraced by the 80,000 registered users of the Asexual Visibility and Education Network.

cake-sexThat’s where the conversation broadening the sexual spectrum started, back in 2001. Since then, it has sprawled across message boards and Tumblrs, as a way for people to identify themselves—and find each other—outside of the traditional sexual confines.

The taxonomy can be confusing: There are gray-asexuals, who identify somewhere between asexuality and more conventional interest; demisexuals, who only feel attraction in a close relationship; heteroromantics, for those who develop nonsexual feelings for members of the opposite sex; panromantics, who can feel a nonsexual crush for someone of any gender identity… Take a look at the sexual spectrum, and you’ll see that wanting sex at all—regardless of with whom—is just one part of it.

Kafka & the Teenage Nudies

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We live in a time in which some Western countries have to deal with major cases of legislative schizophrenia. They want to protect kids by teaching them that sex is something dirty and disgusting.

But on the other hand they seem to have a perverted passion for destroying the lives of the very same kids by adding pre-teens to public sex offender lists, charging 10-year-old girls with rape for playing doctor or telling a teenage boy that he’ll have to get his boner photographed by cops because he was sexting with his girlfriend.

selfiescut

The newest fad in this kafkaesque nightmare is to treat the same person as a child and an adult at the same time. This requires some mental gymnastics you’d think no sane person would be capable of.

So here’s what’s happening: A teenager takes a selfie of themselves while they’re naked. In the eyes of the Unites States legal system this means they just sexually exploited a child–themselves. But due to the seriousness of this crime they will be tried as an adult by the courts

After a 16-year-old girl made a sexually explicit nude photo of herself for her boyfriend last fall, the Sheriff’s Office concluded that she committed two felony sex crimes against herself and arrested her.

The girl was listed on a warrant as both the adult perpetrator and the minor victim of two counts of sexual exploitation of minor – second-degree exploitation for making her photo and third-degree exploitation for having her photo in her possession.

A conviction could have put the girl in prison and would have required her to register as a sex offender for the rest of her life. [source]

If sexting is a good idea in general is a debate worth having but trying a minor as an adult is an outright ridiculous premise. But in a system that literally hands out the death penalty to minors and mentally ill people all common sense must have been gone over board a long time ago.

A North Carolina 17-year-old caught in a sexting scandal faces charges of sexually exploiting a minor that could land him in jail for up to 10 years, since the law considers him an adult. But one of the minors he supposedly exploited is himself­—which raises an obvious question: how can a teen be old enough to face adult felony charges, but not old enough to keep a nude picture of himself on his phone? [source]