History Is Sexy: Queer gender expressions in the military

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Gender can be a complicated matter to deal with, both for an individual and the society they live in. In recent years historians began to unravel the complex relationships humans always had with sex, gender and social expectations.

Looking back it’s not always easy to tell the difference between diverse expressions of gender but it’s definitely an area that can be a lot of fun to explore. Emma and Janina from the History Is Sexy podcast take a closer look at the history of gender expressions in the military.

If you’re interested in the subject check out the two articles mentioned in the podcast: Monstrous Regiment on History Today and How Not To Erase Trans History on History Matters.

How the struggle for queer rights has shaped the 2010s

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As your iPod nano gathers dust in the corner of your room somewhere, perhaps next to your Blackberry Bold, Silly Bandz and all the other relics of yesteryear, it’s easy to forget that 2010 was only 10 years ago. But there’s more to progress than the relentless march of consumer technology – and this past decade has seen seismic cultural and social shifts, especially for the queer community.

It’s hard to believe, but in 2010 same-sex marriage was only legal in seven countries. And in terms of representation, we only ever seemed to appear in movies as the comic, ever-single sidekick ready to give the protagonist her much needed makeover. At the time, the EU released guidelines laying out the ways in which the global LGBTQ+ community still needed support. They came up with three key aims: promoting decriminalisation, fighting for equality and non-discrimination, especially in the workplace, and protecting human rights activists.

So, almost 10 years on, how successfully have these goals been met? Well in truth, the majority of change in criminalisation laws happened in the 1900s. Landmark advances did happen in 2018 when India dismantled colonial era laws punishing homosexuality, and in 2019 when international outcry halted Brunei’s attempt to end its moratorium on the death penalty for homosexual acts, but most countries across the world had already decriminalised homosexuality, with exceptions in Africa and the Middle East, and little changed this decade.

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Teen boys with progressive views on gender are a lot less violent

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Not teaching boys absurd interpretations of what it means to “be a man” does not only make them feel less insecure about themselves, their bodies and their sexuality, it can also help prevent violence both at home and at school.

Teenage boys with more progressive views about gender are half as likely to engage in violent behaviors as their peers with rigid views about masculinity and gender, according to new research.

The research, which was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine Friday, also found that boys who witnessed their peers engaging in two or more verbally, physically or sexually abusive behaviors — such as making disrespectful comments about a girl’s body or makeup — were two to five times more likely to engage in violent behaviors themselves.

Although previous studies have shown a connection between holding rigid views about gender and masculinity and intimate partner violence, the new study sheds light on a trickle-down effect that those views might have on other forms of violence.

“We have for too long siloed sexual and partner violence in one place, youth violence and bullying in another,” said Dr. Elizabeth Miller, lead author of the study and chief of the division of adolescent and young adult medicine at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. The new study forms a foundation to begin “focusing on gender equity as a mechanism to use for violence prevention across the board,” Miller added.

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Queer kids don’t feel safe at school

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A report on queer teens in Ireland has revealed that almost three quarters of them feel unsafe at school. The research by the activist group, BeLonG To Youth Services, is the largest survey ever conducted on queer youth in the Irish education system. It involved nearly 800 LGBTQ+ people between the ages of 13 and 20 from all Irish counties.

The alarming findings show that 77% of queer teenagers experience verbal harassment, and 38% experience physical harassment. 11% experience serious physical assault because of their sexual orientation or gender expression. The study suggests that bullying is worst for transgender students.

“I was sexually abused by the guys in the PE changing room age 14 to 17 on a weekly basis,” reads one anonymous response to the survey. “They would slap my ass, put their fingers up my ass, grope me and pull at my penis. I was terrified of PE and this affected my attendance on PE days.”

Another said: “I told my friends I was gay in first year and they outed me to everyone. It was horrible. People scribbled slurs on my photos around the school and wrote a slur on my locker in marker. I told my teacher and she basically told me I shouldn’t have come out then, as if it was my choice in the first place.”

The result of this targeted harassment is that queer kids are 27% more likely to miss school, and 8% less likely to pursue higher education.

Moninne Griffith, chief executive of BeLong To, said the research should be a “wake up call” for the government. She urged the Minister for Education to take immediate action to prioritise the safety and wellbeing of at-risk queer students.

Among the report’s recommendations are that the Irish government should review and update professional development supports for teachers, and encourage schools to develop school-wide LGBTQ+ inclusion policies. The report also calls on schools to implement a curriculum that supports diversity and respect for queer people, including an evaluation of social personal health education and sex education.

YouTube says it will finally crack down on homophobic harassment

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YouTube announced new policies yesterday which ban video creators from making direct and implied threats and forbidding racist and homophobic attacks against public and private individuals, including other video creators, politicians, and celebrities.

People are, understandably, sceptical though how serious YouTube is and how well these measures will work even if they are enforced. YouTube has an abysmal track record when it comes to discouraging fascists and homophobes from using their platform to spread their messages.

The new policies come six months after gay journalist Carlos Maza publicly criticized YouTube for allowing a right-wing vlogger to make repeated, overt attacks on Maza’s sexual orientation and ethnicity, inspiring the vloggers audience to target Maza for similar harassment on several social media platforms.

In addition to banning racist and anti-queer attacks, YouTube’s new policies will ban implied threats (such as a person holding a knife while addressing someone or putting a person’s face on a victim of violence), harassment campaigns that repeatedly target individuals over several videos, and will give video creators better tools for moderating hateful comments on their videos.

In response, Maza said via Twitter, “YouTube loves to manage PR crises by rolling out vague content policies they don’t actually enforce. These policies only work if YouTube is willing to take down its most popular rule-breakers. And there’s no reason, so far, to believe that it is.”

He added that YouTube already has an unenforced policy banning “malicious speech” and that demonetising creators breaking the rules doesn’t work because they “make money through merch sales and direct donations, not AdSense. As long as YouTube gives them a free platform to find new customers, they’ll keep breaking the rules.”

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Being asexual

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Asexuality isn’t a complex. It’s not a sickness. It’s not an automatic sign of trauma. It’s not a behaviour. It’s not the result of a decision. It’s not a chastity vow or an expression that we are ‘saving ourselves’. We aren’t by definition religious. We aren’t calling ourselves asexual as a statement of purity or moral superiority.

We’re not amoebas or plants. We aren’t automatically gender-confused, anti-gay, anti-straight, anti-any-sexual-orientation, anti-woman, anti-man, anti-any-gender or anti-sex. We aren’t automatically going through a phase, following a trend, or trying to rebel. We aren’t defined by prudishness. We aren’t calling ourselves asexual because we failed to find a suitable partner. We aren’t necessarily afraid of intimacy. And we aren’t asking for anyone to ‘fix’ us.

From “The Invisible Orientation” by Julie Sondra Decker

efinitions sometimes reveal more by what they don’t say than what they do. Take asexuality for example. Asexuality is standardly defined as the absence of sexual attraction to other people. This definition leaves open the possibility that, free from contradiction, asexual people could experience other forms of attraction, feel sexual arousal, have sexual fantasies, masturbate, or have sex with other people, not to mention nurture romantic relationships.

Far from being a mere academic possibility or the fault of a bad definition, this is exactly what the lives of many asexual people are like. The Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN), for example, describes some asexual people as ‘sex-favourable’, which is an ‘openness to finding ways to enjoy sexual activity in a physical or emotional way, happy to give sexual pleasure rather than receive’. Similarly, only about a quarter of asexual people experience no interest in romantic life and identify as aromantic.

These facts haven’t been widely understood, and asexuality has yet to be taken seriously. But if we attend to asexuality, we arrive at a better understanding of both romantic love and sexual activity. We see, for example, that romantic love, even in its early stages, need not involve sexual attraction or activity, and we are also reminded that sex can be enjoyed in many different ways.

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