Body Ownership

Carmen Cordis is a rad CHATpdx Sexpert, Activist and Leader in Portland, OR. 

I’ve recently encountered a lot of people, whether they identify inside, outside, or on the fringe of the alphabet soup community (LGBTQQAAPIT-S and any I missed, in no particular order), who have given me an ultimatum, namely that I must make some kind of physical or surgical alteration (of other people’s choosing) to my body or appearance in order to “earn” their acceptance, approval, respect, charity, or support.

I am taking a stand against our culture of non-binary-gender-phobia, body-shaming, photographic alteration, unrealistic body image fixation, cissexism, transphobia, and discrimination based on gender identity, gender presentation, sexual orientation, or bodily appearance.

Carmen Graphic

I am a living, breathing, feeling human being with a heart, a brain, a plethora of dreams, a past, a future, and a story.

I am not someone else’s narrow vision of a quickly-labeled “other” identity that ceases to exist outside of those narrowly imposed boundaries.

I was born with human dignity.  My gender is my own; it does not belong to anyone else.  It cannot be ripped away from me and reshaped by someone else, because no one else owns it.

Likewise, My body is my own. No one the right to make serious, irreversible, potentially harmful or deadly decisions regarding MY BODY but me – and those I designate as my agents in the event that I desire assistance.

Because of the culture of fear, my body has been made into my worst enemy for as long as I can remember.  I also tend to avoid conflict and prefer mediation or compromise in order to diffuse conflict.

Unfortunately, at times I have lost the control of my own body because someone other than myself decided to own my body or change it to suit their desires.

Willingly, or unwillingly, I surrendered my body to someone else, sometimes to avoid external conflict, and found myself waiting for the hell to be over when I began to drown in the internal conflict I created by capitulating.

Carmen Own Post

Too many times, I have tried to destroy my body, in order to satisfy the demands of a fear-hatred culture, and to escape from the hell of conflict by giving up and throwing in the towel, saying, “Okay.  You win.  Are you happy now?”

I no longer wish to propitiate those people who would delight in my destruction.

I deserve to be happy, and one step toward my happiness is to own my own body.

Please consider my words the next time you notice someone (perhaps yourself, even) making serious entitlement claims to someone else’s body, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Please consider my words the next time you notice someone else making serious entitlement claims to your own body, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Do not surrender to anyone who would delight in the destruction or invalidation of your essential self, the self of your definition and determination, the self of your life experience.

No one is infallible, but maybe by educating each other we can make a better world, one step at a time.

Carmen Dignity Post

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The desexualization of bullying – A deeper look at bullying’s sexual undertones

Posted on February 16, 2012

by: Kris Gowen, originally posted on Kris Gowens Blog

 

Kids Bullying

You Can Stop Bullying

I was going to try to come up with a fancier more accessible title, but I can’t right now. But I sure better by May! I’ve been invited to speak at an bullying awareness event in Austin Texas this May. While I jumped at this opportunity to share my work (and support my friend who is organizing the event), I quickly realized that I am no bullying expert. But, for better or for worse, not being a total expert on a topic as not stopped me before…

I am an expert on adolescent sexuality and sexual development. I also have a pretty good handle on youth and technology and how that impacts their development (hence, this blog). So, how to use my strengths in the context of this upcoming event? Tie all of these issues together — sexuality, technology, and bullying. I have found my comfort zone!

What’s odd is that while so much of bullying has a sexual undertone or is blatantly about sex or sexuality or at least gender, most bullying curricula, anti-bullying campaigns, etc., do not acknowledge this important association. Bullying is seen as harassment, teasing, isolation, and assault. But under no circumstances should one put the word “sexual” in front of any of those terms and call it bullying.

Why this separation? Why not discuss sexual harassment while discussing bullying? Where is the conversation about sexual respect and self-worth in curricula that addresses the need to be nice to others? Are (anti) bullying experts afraid to talk about sex? Does it complicate things too much? Does it narrow their message?

Whatever the reason, I think it’s important to accept the fact that a lot of bullying has to do with sexuality. An obvious example is about name-calling due to sexual orientation and/or gender expression (and the “Think Before You Speak” campaign does a good job of calling this out). But what about sexting under pressure? Spreading rumors? Calling someone a ho or slut? These are unfortunately very common ways to bullying another, but where’s the conversation about the sexual components?

I hope to be able to speak more eloquently about this topic in the future. For now, I will continue to explore this rift and see if I can’t begin to bridge the gap between my interests and the important work done to decrease bullying among youth.

 

It’s your turn, what do you think we should do to change this? How has society removed Sexuality from bullying? Is this a bad thing? Comment and share your thoughts and then share this blog with someone you know.

Bully Victim Bystander

Stand Up Against Bullying

 

How Breast Milk Can Transmit HIV and Why We Should Inform Women

As one of the last fluids we think about when we think about HIV, I thought it might be helpful for us to learn a little more about the 4th fluid that transmits HIV. Since blood, semen and vaginal secretions have gotten all the attention, why not take a moment and learn a little more about how breast milk can transmit HIV.

What a brief review of the research shows:

  • Infant feeding is estimated to be responsible for anywhere from 5-20% of mother to child transmission. If a child is born HIV-negative to a positive mother who is not on antiretroviral treatment, the risk associated with prolonged breastfeeding is estimated at 10-20%.
  • HIV RNA is found in breast milk and the risk of transmission is directly related to the viral load in the mother’s milk.  Some mothers may have a specific gene (SDF1 3’A allele) that causes increased viral replication in breast milk and therefore increases transmission risk.
  • Although breastfeeding from an HIV-positive mother poses a risk of HIV transmission to the infant, there is also evidence that it provides better health outcomes for the child than formula feeding (protective against other infectious diseases)
  • The World Health Organization promotes alternative (formula feeding) only when it is  “affordable, feasible, acceptable, sustainable and safe.” When ARVs are widely available and breastfeeding is a social norm, they recommend that HIV-positive mothers breastfeed until 12 months of age.
  • Women who are on antiretroviral treatment while breastfeeding have a lower risk of transmitting HIV to their infant. (about 3.5% in one study in Kenya)
  • Exclusive breastfeeding has been associated with a reduced risk of late HIV transmission as compared to mixed feeding. Mixed feeding practices (breast milk plus other liquids or solids) and prolonged breastfeeding (more than 6 months) are associated with increased risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
  • Exclusive breastfeeding is hard. Barriers include low milk production, lack of control over the feeding situation, and both perceived and enacted stigma.
  • Infants can develop resistance to HIV medications independent their mother’s resistance – that is, the mother is not necessarily passing on a resistant virus, but if the infant becomes infected while breastfeeding and the mother is on ARV, the infant is being exposed to small amounts of the drugs through breast milk and may therefore develop resistance to them.

The more we can inform women about the risks and benefits associated with breastfeeding, as well as things that can reduce the risk, the better able they will be to make the best decision for themselves and their infants.

Some of the articles/abstracts, if you want to read more in-depth:

WHO Guidelines:

A systematic review of a number of publications on HIV and breastfeeding:

How genetics may impact transmission rates:

Drug resistance:

Large Breastfeeding study in Kenya:

Difficulties of exclusive breastfeeding:

Viral load:

If anyone is still reading,

To kill HIV in breast milk, flash-heating breast milk can inactivate HIV without destroying too many of the vitamins or immunoglobulin in the milk that make it beneficial to the baby. The WHO recommends it as an option to reduce vertical HIV transmission in resource-poor regions. Of course, to do this the mother has to express the milk first, then heat it, then feed it via bottle – so it’s kind of a compromise between breastfeeding, which could transmit HIV, and bottle feeding formula, which has other nutritional/gastrointestinal risks.

What do you think? How has this changed how you think about HIV? Has it changed any of your thoughts?

What the Planned Parenthood Stings don’t show

In Portland we’ve seen a little of the anti-abortion activism that goes on in this country, but only a small amount. I remember driving by the empty space on Martin Luther King Boulevard where a Planned Parenthood was going to be put in and seeing a small group of people protesting with their picket signs. And from time to time I would also see them on Fremont and 15th, near an already opened Planned Parenthood. This was already scary enough to me, to see people simply protesting against an organization that I really like.

The recent sting operations against Planned Parenthood definitely scare me more, and this is the second time something like this has happened to them.

Just this January, an anti-abortion group called Live Action had 12 men acting as pimps go into Planned Parenthoods in 6 different states and ask about receiving medical care, birth control and abortions for their prostitutes, giving ages as young as fourteen. The experiences the men had were recorded. Two videos have been released since, though analysis shows they were doctored before being released. One Planned Parenthood Manager in one video was fired for her upsetting behavior and comments that were recorded, while the other woman recorded is said to have accurately represented Planned Parenthood’s values. Live Action is trying to “expose” Planned Parenthood for breaking state and federal laws and for covering up abuse against young girls that the organization says they protect. They are ultimately trying to cut Planned Parenthood’s funding.

To read a full article on the situation, go here. You can also read about Live Action, the doctoring of the tapes, and Planned Parenthood’s reaction on their website here.

This extreme scenario of trying to access services for underage prostitutes is a perfect way to get Planned Parenthood in trouble – one wrong word in a situation like this and you are the bad guy. It’s also perfect because it would be making them out to be abusing a group of people they want to protect, young women being coerced into prostitution. This is harassment against individual workers, however, not a productive way to fight Planned Parenthood’s values. Instead of gaining social momentum and using people as power behind their movement, they are using shallow tactics to try to disrupt or end Planned Parenthood. Also, since the videos were edited, then who knows how the exchange even happened? It’s clear that what occurred in these videos do not represent what Planned Parenthood truly stands for. As for the manager that got fired, it is quite unfortunate she acted the way she did (though again, it would be useful to see the unedited footage), and her firing is an appropriate response. Planned Parenthood reacted quickly and how their supporters would want them to, showing they are still protecting their own values.

This is a different approach to undermining and trying to exterminate Planned Parenthood, one that is scarier than protesters. What else are these groups willing to do to end this organization? And what does it mean to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood? It means taking away a huge resource for women, for men, for young people, for us. I use Planned Parenthood’s services, as do many of my friends. I knew the name Planned Parenthood before I ever knew what birth control was. Threatening a leader organization in reproductive rights is expected, but it doesn’t mean it’s not scary. Planned Parenthood stands for so much to so many people; this is a threat to more than the workers that were recorded and the specific locations that were targeted. This is a threat to the entire movement of reproductive rights, healthy sexuality, and access to cheap, safe and affordable reproductive healthcare.

To me this was a reminder that I need to protect Planned Parenthood and organizations like it when I can. As established as Planned Parenthood may seem, there are those who still fight against them. I don’t want to fight against the fighters, but I want to protect what they are attacking.

What does Planned Parenthood mean to you? What would it mean if these sting operations were ever powerful enough to affect their funding? What can you do to protect things like Planned Parenthood? Remember to vote if you can, and take action through volunteering and talking with your peers.

 

Angela Carkner

 

Save A Life, It May Be Your Own: An NLAAD Blog

By Ariel Cerrud, youth blogger for Amplifyyourvoice.org

On October 15th, the last day of Hispanic Heritage Month, I alongside my many peer activists, educators and friends recognized the National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD).

Organized by the Latino AIDS Commission in 2003, “NLAAD has been established as a national community mobilization and social marketing campaign that unites the Hispanic/Latino community in efforts to raise HIV awareness, promotion of HIV testing, prevention and education; in addition to other critical health issues such as Viral Hepatitis, Sexually Transmitted Infections and Tuberculosis…”

This year’s theme, Save a Life, It May be your Own. Get Tested for HIV, challenges us to educate ourselves about our own status and get tested, recognizing that regular and consistent testing is perhaps the best tool to combat this disease.

Every 9 ½ minutes, a person in these United States is infected with HIV… every 9 ½ minutes! All of us who work in this field recognize that more and more these days, the faces of those infected are that of our people, young Latinos and Latinas like me.

In the shadow of the day to come, I stopped and thought about what got me started in this field and why I continue to do what I do today.

In 2004, I had the privilege of attending the 11th Annual Ryan White National Youth Conference on HIV/AIDS held here in Portland, Oregon. The conference was a gathering of over 600 young activists, educators, students, and health professionals. In essence, RWNYC was a gathering of anyone and everyone who worked around, was interested in, or impacted by the issues of HIV/AIDS in young people.

For me, this was the first time I had ever attended an event of this type. Quite honestly, going to this conference was a bit outside my comfort zone! I don’t recall if it being my first time was what made me nervous or whether simply because I went to it alone, at the last minute request of a mentor. What I do remember, quite vividly, was sitting in the opening session of the conference, meeting and talking with a young man who was in attendance.

This young man was so charming with quite the lively personality. He was Latino, he spoke Spanish and he was young so we pretty much hit it off during that entire session. I remember conversing with him during the whole hour long plenary. He made it, being there…comfortable, he made it…relatable to me.

Towards the end of the plenary, there came a point where folks had a chance to introduce themselves and share a bit about his story. This young man got up and shared a bit about himself.

To this day, I honestly don’t remember what his name was or any other details about him for that matter. All I remember was one thing; him getting up to that microphone and saying four simple words: “I am HIV positive.”

For a young closeted boy like me who grew up in a small suburban neighborhood of Portland, HIV/AIDS was probably one of the last things on my mind. Looking back at it, this young guy, a guy I simply talked to for an hour at an opening plenary of a conference, probably changed all that!

Attending the RWNYC and meeting that young guy represented a fundamental shift for me personally. Attending that conference was the hook that started my work as a peer educator and activist in the field of HIV/AIDS. Getting to spend those days there made me realize just how prevalent HIV/AIDS is, how impactful it is on communities I am a part of: my Latino community, my young people community, my LGBTQ community just to name a few.  The conference got me to see and understand the many issues and problems that impact those affected by this disease including stigma, misinformation and fear.

More importantly though, getting to meet this young man who in many ways was just like me, was life changing. In many ways I saw myself in him. We match every perceivable demographic yet our lives were very different in one way: our statuses .  Getting to meet him and know him humanized HIV/AIDS. Getting to hear his story and know who he was allowed me to see how real and significant HIV/AIDS is in our community and in our lives.

It has been six years since I attended that conference and in a way I am saddened to see these numbers of infections and the number of folks affected by this illness continue to rise. More worrisome is the notion that within our communities this illness is still not talked about nor understood. I am very lucky to be afforded the opportunity to travel around the country and speak about this very illness and the faces of those in the forefront of this battle give me inspiration to continue.

Young, powerful activists of color are leading the fight for education and understanding of HIV.  Young people are leading the battle by speaking out in their communities, encouraging others, and forging allies all in the goal of ending this struggle. Adolescents with HIV/AIDS, Allied Advocates, HIV/AIDS Activism, Prevention and Support; all of these things are on the rise and are tools in the battle against HIV/AIDS.

The National Latino AIDS Awareness day  is designed to shed light into these issues and so many more. NLAAD is designed to be the spark for someone else like me, as a young boy, to get involved in this struggle and finally bring it to an end. So, with that said, every October 15 (and every day for that matter), take a moment or two  and share this message with someone you care about. Take a moment or two and talk about HIV/AIDS, educate, inform, and pass the message along!

-Ariel

Introducing Tessara

Name: Tessara/Mayhem

Age: 21

Gender Identity: Genderqueer

Preferred Pronoun: “they/them/their”

Sexual Orientation: Pansexual

Location: Portland, Oregon

Likes: Reading, writing poetry & fan-fiction, knitting, educating around youth sexuality

Dislikes: Street harassment, unearned privilege, bigots, politicians who prevaricate, stigma

I have some poetry coming up on the blog- keep an eye out for it! Some of it’s pretty gritty, and stems from personal experiences that have been hard… I write fiction a lot, but I also channel anger and frustration into my work. I write about my experience of the world as a female-bodied person transitioning into a male presentation, my experiences with stigma and harassment, and my encounters with the –isms of the world.

I moved to Oregon from San Jose, CA at the age of 13. Shortly after getting here, I found SMYRC and got involved with Bridge 13, the community education project there. I spend a lot of time—both through Bridge 13 and on my own time—educating friends and strangers about gender and sexuality. Youth sexuality is oft-misunderstood, and education is easy. I use Gender Gumby and other awesome resources to show people how broad the range of sex and gender minority can be—it opens a lot of eyes!

I have had my experiences discounted time and again because of my age, and that is an awful feeling. My solution? Education! There are so many people who would be queer allies and adults who would be youth allies if they knew how, and that’s where we come in. The youth who stand up and talk, who share their experiences so that others can be aware and informed. Education is also important in Curbing HIV/AIDS Transmission among at-risk and racial/ethnic minority youth! Teaching that sex is dirty and shameful, or that condoms are evil, or that only gay people get AIDS are all things that contribute to the continued transmission of a preventable disease.

This blog is an awesome tool for educating, but it is also a great way to share community. Sometimes it can be so easy to feel isolated. CHATmosphere helps us see that there are others facing the same struggles we are, that we are not alone.

-Tessara(Mayhem)