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

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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.

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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]

Summer Camp for free Kids

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Every summer, Lindsay Morris goes to camp. She sits around a fire roasting marshmallows, she kayaks, she swims. On the last night of a relaxing week, she eagerly awaits what she believes is the camp’s highlight: a spectacular fashion show, where younger attendees strut down the runway sporting a look of their choosing. Kids of both genders zip up silky dresses and rock rainbow-hued gowns.

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The camp is for families that teach their children about gender fluidity, allowing them to choose clothes and pastimes based on genuine interest rather than societal expectations.

Morris, a photographer, has acted as the camp’s documentarian for years, hoping to log the friendships formed among campers and moments their parents want to relish. Her images were published byThe New York Times, but she vowed to keep the name of the camp and campers anonymous. “It was through this experience and several others that the parents came to the consensus that only through visibility was the conversation going to move forward,” she said.

Parents play an important role at camp. Here a father helps his son into a dress for the talent show.

A father helps his son into a dress for the talent show.

And move forward it has; the images have been compiled into a book, and will be featured in the artist’s first solo show this month in New York City.

Morris believes introducing children to gender fluidity is essential to raising kids who are open to difference. “Children are affected by anti-gay prejudice and adults have a responsibility to address it,” she says. “They have this innate ability and eagerness to have honest conversations, and when these discussions are presented in a non-judgemental fashion, the children benefit.”

The camp is organized and run by parents who support their children’s exploration of gender fluidity. It provides a haven devoid of the unexpected prejudices that can arise at school and in everyday life outside of the house. And Morris’ images make the laid back air of the camp palpable. In one of her most striking images, a young, blonde boy poses confidently in a halter dress; his stance can’t be described as masculine or feminine, but merely at ease. He gazes at the camera, smirking proudly.

Left: A child shows off his favorite nightgown. Right: Throughout the weekend make-up is applied, removed and reapplied and wardrobe change is constant.

Throughout the weekend make-up is applied, removed and reapplied by the kids and wardrobe change is constant.

“I hope that my images convey a narrative of what support looks like,” Morris says. “How beautiful and freeing and basic it is to be allowed to be one’s self.”

I’m homosexual and afraid

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Last week, the internet-famous New York City street photographer Brandon Stanton posted a poignant picture of an unnamed young boy sharing his fears about being gay. “I’m homosexual and I’m afraid about what my future will be and that people won’t like me,” the boy told Stanton for his wildly popular Humans of New York project. Read more…

“I’m homosexual and I’m afraid about what my future will be and that people won’t like me.”

A photo posted by Humans of New York (@humansofny) on

What good Sex Ed looks like

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Jansrud is a Norwegian celebrity and the 29-year-old host of the state-funded educational TV series Newton on Norway’s NRK TV. Recently, Newton aired a segment on puberty featuring Jansrud frankly discussing (and demonstrating) such topics as French kissing, masturbation, and how to give a hickey.

The segment begins with Jansrud explaining that puberty “gives you a new body that can make children if you have sex—otherwise known as fucking, screwing, shagging, getting it on, or making love”.  Jansrud then demonstrates where the clitoris and the sensitive nerves on the penis are located, on both live and rubber models.

“Now, what everyone starts with sooner or later, but rarely talks about, stroking your own sex parts. To masturbate,” she says. “Both the clitoris of the girl and the head of the penis on a boy is full of nerves that make it pleasant to touch.”

She then lubricates the vagina before demonstrating penetrative sexual intercourse on the rubber models, as well as how to use a condom. “For it to be pleasant, it’s vital that the vagina be moist enough,” she explains.”For the woman, you also have to rub the clitoris.”

Jansrud caps off the segment by showing viewers her pregnant belly. She found out she was pregnant on the air in February, and she plans to turn her pregnancy into a recurring segment on the series in the coming months.

This isn’t the first time that Newton has taken such a frank and educational approach to sex. Last month, the series landed in hot water on Facebook when the social network deleted a clip of Jansrud demonstrating where the uterus and fallopian tubes are located on a woman’s body by painting the organs on a naked model’s skin. Another clip showed Jansrud explaining menstruation by filming the blood trickling down a live model’s legs.

Such a straightforward approach to sex education seems to be par for the course in Nordic countries. Back in January, a Swedish TV children’s cartoon segment featuring a dancing penis and vagina went viral. The video featured the lyrics “Here comes the penis at full pace” and “the vagina is cool, you better believe it, even on an old lady.”

Unsurprisingly, Newton’s latest segment has been heavily criticized on a handful of foreign blogs, whose writers seem to think the segment is borderline pornographic and prurient. This is despite the fact that Jansrud also touches on such important issues as homosexuality, the age of consent, and the need to use contraceptives. She’s also quick to assure teens that “there’s no need to rush into having sex. It’ll happen soon enough.”

Yet sex-positive Norwegian commenters are applauding Jansrud for speaking about issues, like masturbation and penetrative sex, so frankly. “Great series, that I would like should have seen when I was in school!” one commenter wrote, while another chimed in: “I am genuinely proud of the fact that Norway is leading the way here. Stand on!”

Perhaps other countries should take a page out of Jansrud’s book and take a similarly frank approach to sex ed, or maybe we wouldn’t have things like chlamydia epidemics at public high schools in America to deal with.

Trans Nightmares

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Transgender Europe, a Berlin-based organization working on inclusion of transgender people throughout Europe, recently released a powerful video as a part of their #TransNightmare campaign.

The video portrays the nightmare that transgender people still face today in 34 countries in Europe [PDF]. Prior to changing name or gender in official documents, people in these countries must undergo forced sterilization, file for divorce, and/or receive a diagnosis or psychiatric opinion.

Transgender Europe works to change the situation for transgender people by:

  • Campaigning: In 2014, they launched the Europe-wide Access All Areas! Recognition Opens Doors campaign, calling for quick, transparent and accessible legal gender recognition.
  • Educating: They publish and share information and campaign materials, like this video or the Trans Rights Europe Map, to raise awareness about the problems with legal gender recognition. Learn more.
  • Changing laws: They inform politicians and policy makers about the problems with legal gender recognition and work with them to create better laws in Europe. Learn more.
  • Supporting the trans community: They work with and train transgender organizations across Europe to help them create political change at the country level. Learn more.

Many transgender Americans face the same struggles. Right now 32 states lack explicit protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of gender identity. The levels of violence and harassment transgender people face in the United States constitute a national crisis.

Hate as a Business Model

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Freedom is a precious thing but some people have a rather peculiar idea of what exactly freedom is. For them freedom means they should be free to decide who they can discriminate against, who they can bully, whose freedom they can take away.

Recently several US states introduced so called “religious freedom” bills that were supposedly meant to make sure that the citizens of those states can practise their religions freely. This becomes a problem though when someone’s religion says that being Lesbian, Gay, Bi or Transgender is wrong, a sin even. In that case these bills enable religious people and businesses to discriminate against queer people so we end up with less, not more, freedom.

“Critics of religious freedom laws need perspective, at least gays aren’t executed” — US Senator Tom Cotton

Maybe even worse are cynical business owners who take this opportunity to make a quick buck with their hate for queer folks. Like the owners of Memories Pizza in Indiana who received a mind-boggling $800,000 in donations for their public statement that they would not cater pizzas for a gay wedding–as if any of us would have a taste bad enough to consider pizzas as an option for a wedding anyway. All thanks to a donation rally on the website GoFundMe. On the same website fundraisers for cancer patients and the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing received a lot less money.

In other states refusing to serve customers based on their sexual orientation is still not legal but that doesn’t keep some business owners from turning their hate into cash. A florist in Washington who didn’t want to have anything to do with the queers was fined $1,000 but is now $100,000 richer after asking for donations.

The Gender Spectrum finally becomes Mainstream

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Young people are more likely to believe gender exists on a spectrum, according to a new study. 1,000 Americans aged 18 to 34 were surveyed on gender, with half believing the binary categories of male and female are too limiting.

They were asked: ‘Some countries, including India, recognize a gender that is neither male nor female. Which more closely aligns with your view?’ Options were ‘There are only two genders, male and female’, which in total received 46% support, ‘Gender is a spectrum, and some people fall outside conventional categories’, which received 50%, and 4% answered ‘Don’t know’.

The poll found 57% of female millenials believe gender falls on a spectrum compared to 44% of male respondees. Northeast 18-34 year olds were even more progressive, with 58% agreeing with that statement compared to the South where that number fell to 42%.

The survey comes as more people are coming out as genderfluid and genderqueer, universities offering gender-neutral identity cards & housing options that include ‘other gender-identity room-mate pairings, regardless of biological sex’ and gender-neutral restrooms becoming more and more common.

via Gay Star News, photos by Thiago Antonucci