Monthly Archives: November 2012

‘coming out’ helps improve health

Coming out (of the closet) is a figure of speech for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people’s disclosure of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Framed and debated as a privacy issue, coming out of the closet is described and experienced variously as a psychological process or journey; decision-making or risk-taking; a strategy or plan; a mass or public event; a speech act and a matter of personal identity; a rite of passage; liberation or emancipation from oppression; an ordeal; a means toward feeling gay pride instead of shame and social stigma; or even career suicide. Author Steven Seidman writes that “it is the power of the closet to shape the core of an individual’s life that has made homosexuality into a significant personal, social, and political drama in twentieth-century America.”

Coming out of the closet is the source of other gay slang expressions related to voluntary disclosure or lack thereof. LGBT people who have already revealed or no longer conceal their sexual orientation and/or gender identity are out, i.e. openly LGBT. Oppositely, LGBT people who have yet to come out or have opted not to do so are labelled as closeted or being in the closet. Outing is the deliberate or accidental disclosure of an LGBT person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, without his or her consent. By extension, outing oneself is unintentional LGBT self-disclosure. Lastly, the glass closet means the open secret of when public figures’ being LGBT is considered a widely accepted fact even though they have not “officially” come out.

National Coming Out Day

National Coming Out Day (NCOD) is an internationally observed civil awareness day celebrating individuals who publicly identify as bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgendercoming out regarding one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity being akin to a cultural rite of passage for LGBT people. The holiday is observed annually by members of the LGBT community on October 11.

Identity issues

When coming out is described as a gradual process or a journey, it is meant to include becoming aware of and acknowledging one’s same-sex desires or gender identity. This preliminary stage, which involves soul-searching or a personal epiphany, is often called “coming out to oneself” and constitutes the start of self-acceptance.

Many LGBT people say that this stage began for them during adolescence or childhood, when they first became aware of their sexual orientation toward members of the same sex. Coming out has also been described as a process because of a recurring need or desire to come out in new situations in which LGBT people are assumed to be heterosexual or cisgender, such as at a new job or with new acquaintances. As Diana Fuss (1991) explains, “the problem of course with the inside/outside rhetoric…is that such polemics disguise the fact that most of us are both inside and outside at the same time.”

LGBT identity development

Every coming out story is the person trying to come to terms with who they are and their sexual orientation. [14] Several models have been created to describe coming out as a process for gay and lesbian identity development, e.g. Dank, 1971; Cass, 1984; Coleman, 1989; Troiden, 1989. Of these models, the most widely accepted is the Cass identity model established by Vivienne Cass. This model outlines six discrete stages transited by individuals who successfully come out: identity confusion, identity comparison, identity tolerance, identity acceptance, identity pride, and identity synthesis. However, not every LGBT person follows such a model. For example, some LGBT youth become aware of and accept their same-sex desires or gender identity at puberty in a way similar to which heterosexual teens become aware of their sexuality, i.e. free of any notion of difference, stigma or shame in terms of the gender of the people to whom they are attracted.[citation needed] Regardless of whether LGBT youth develop their identity based on a model, the typical age at which youth in the United States come out has been dropping. High school students and even middle school students are coming out.

Transgender, transsexual, and intersex communities

LGBT people tend to share a feeling of relief that coming out can provide. However, the act of coming out differs for transgender, transsexual, and intersex people in some fundamental ways:

  1. By coming out, trans and intersex people disclose their gender identity and, if applicable, their decision to transition to the gender role with which they more closely identify. However, in many cases, coming out for intersex people does not involve gender identity. For trans people, the transition is to the gender opposite their biological sex and for intersex people, to the fact that they were born intersex.
  2. Coming out is a pre-requisite to transitioning particularly if the transition later includes undergoing sex-reassignment surgery.
  3. For some trans people who pass and are mistaken for being cisgender, coming out occults important parts of their full sense of identity or their complete gender history.
  4. Conversely, coming out can be viewed as inauthentic or as a self-betrayal for some trans and intersex people who have chosen to live in stealth because the disclosure is at odds with their true gender or in the case of being intersex, the fact they were born intersex.
  5. When trans or intersex people come out, it impacts how they label their sexual orientation and how they interact with communities to which they feel they belong or in the case of intersex, the label other communities attach to them.
  6. Backlashes or other negative reactions to a trans person’s coming out are caused by transphobia and sexism, with additional homophobia and heterosexism in some cases.
  7. Backlashes or other negative reactions to an intersex person’s coming out are caused by internalized hatreds that threaten people’s sense of self, identity, and worldview. Denial that some people were born with a mix of female and male anatomy and/or chromosomes is also a factor.

coming out’ is good for your  health

Coming out” may be good for your health, particularity when your parents support the decision, according to a new study published in the Journal of Homosexuality.

A comprehensive new study led by BUSPH researcher Emily Rothman shows that two-thirds of lesbian, gay and bisexual adults in a representative Massachusetts sample reported receiving positive support from their parents after coming out to them.

n the study, published in the Journal of Homosexuality, Rothman and colleagues surveyed 5,658 adults ages 18-64 years old in Massachusetts using a statewide surveillance system. They explored whether coming out—and the reaction that it received —was associated with better or worse adult health. The authors controlled for factors including age, race, education level and health insurance status, in order to focus as narrowly as possible on the association between coming out and adult health status.

“These results do not surprise me at all,” said Nicole Sullivan, a 22-year-old student at Bunker Hill Community College who came out as bisexual when she was 19 years old. “I struggled with mental health and drug problems during my adolescence, and I know that some of it is because I didn’t feel accepted at home. I am really grateful that I had cousins who supported me, and it’s because of them that I was able to get healthy.”

The authors found that the act of coming out (instead of remaining “closeted”) was generally associated with better health for lesbian and bisexual women, but that this was not similarly true for gay and bisexual men.

“It’s possible that the stress of not disclosing your sexuality to your parents affects men and women differently,” explained Rothman, an associate professor of community health sciences. “In general, gay and bisexual men may be able to conduct their sexual lives apart from their parents with less stress. On the other hand, it’s also possible that this was an artifact of our particular sample.”

Rothman added: “Given the high rates of suicide and self-harm among lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) youth — and the high costs of treating mental-health and substance-abuse disorders — it’s critical that we understand what we can do to promote better health for LGB kids.”

In the study, the authors propose that a low-cost but potentially far-reaching strategy to improve LGB youth health would be for national academies of pediatric medicine to develop and disseminate guidelines or recommendations to members. These guidelines would encourage pediatricians to provide all parents of adolescents with tips for supporting children if they come out as lesbian, gay or bisexual.

“The way that parents treat their LGB children when they come out is an important public health topic that has received too little attention to date,” Rothman said. “Our message is that parents should take note: The way we treat our LGB children, even from before the time they disclose their sexual orientation status, may have a long-term, significant impact on their health and ability to handle life’s challenges.”

Besides Rothman, researchers on the study were: Mairead Sullivan, of Emory University; and Ulrike Boehmer, associate professor of community health sciences at BUSPH.

The research was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

so the message is very clear that the better we treat our LGB children the more heather they grow up to be and in such cases we should pay more attention to that.

The full study is available here:

http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/wjhm20/59/2.

submitted by: Lisa Chedekel

chedekel@bu.edu

the Community and its significants too LGBT people

A sense of community is ‘important’ to LGBT people, a new study has found.

A sense of belonging was rated as a vital part of coming out by participants in the study performed by the Centre for Education and Inclusion Research at Sheffield Hallam University, and is claimed to have a ‘positive impact on mental health, emotional wellbeing and quality of life’.

LGBT people were found to have an ‘intangible’ feeling of connection to other members of the community through the feeling of having shared similar experiences, and felt they have less need to ‘regulate’ their behaviour among people of the same sexuality.

The study also highlighted the fact that, despite a feeling of solidarity, there was a great variety of experiences and needs within gay communities.

Senior research fellow Eleanor Formby, said that it was important that policy makers acknowledge the diversity and inequality that the research has shown is indeed part of LGBT communities.

‘The term ‘LGBT community’ is increasingly used in policy, practice and research, yet there is little explicit discussion of what the concept of ‘community’ means to LGBT people,’ she said. ‘This study found that generally LGBT people see the word ‘community’ as having positive connotations, whether it’s a physical space, or a sense of belonging.’

‘A sense or experience of community was linked to reported wellbeing, including combating isolation, heightening confidence and self-esteem, and sometimes improving or maintaining physical health.’

‘Caution is needed, however, when the term community is used in the singular or when it is assumed that LGBT people are more alike than not – use of LGBT communities in the plural is just the start to acknowledging this diversity.

The research, which was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, was performed with the help of 627 survey respondents and 44 participants who were involved in in-depth interviews and discussion groups.

The research, which was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, was performed with the help of 627 survey respondents and 44 participants who were involved in in-depth interviews and discussion groups.

An Open Letter to the President of Republic of Sudan

[The following letter was originally published on Young Professionals in Human Rights on 30 June 2012.] 

Dear Mr. Omer Elbashier:

When you took over power, it was uncomfortable. When you fired skilled workers in civic service, it was unreasonable. When you introduced Sharia laws, it was painful. When your regime announced war against South Sudan, I feared for my family and friends.

But now, after 23 years under your governance, after 23 years of discriminating, forcing, abusing and killing, now it is personal.

Here I am in London watching the uprisings in Sudan exploding all around our country. People are fed up with seeking permission from your government just to survive. We were already struggling with your authoritarian system and restrictive laws, but the recent dramatic increase in the cost of living and fuel prices has pushed our country to the brink. We are angry and have reached the point of no return. Nothing is going to shut us up and we will not back down.

Following the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, the Sudanese people are now speaking out and protesting in cities across the county including Khartoum, Eljazeera, Elobaied, Portsudan, Kasala and Gadarif. Women, children, students, workers and the whole nation are out in our streets at the moment. We are calling for change and for you and your regime to step down.

Don’t think that you can get away with arresting and torturing hundreds of thousands of our citizens, some of whom we might see after they have been tortured and others whom we might never hear of again. We have been watching in horror for the past 12 days. Sadly, here in London, I barely see any mention of the protests in the news, in TV or newspapers. It seems a few hundred dead and thousands arrested cannot compete with the death record of Syria or Afghanistan.

Don’t worry, Mr. President, we will soon have an “accepted” death record for the media to happily pay attention to!

Before today, I never took the crimes of your regime personally, although I have been subjected to discrimination as a woman, an atheist and an activist.  Four days ago, I was devastated when I got word that six of my university classmates were arrested. Five years ago at University of Khartoum, Amro Azhari, Fayiz Abdullah, Haj Ahmed, Kifah Osman, Fahad Mohamed and dear Mohamed Salah and I were friends. Now they are all arrested. No one knows where they are or what’s going to happen to them.

Now it is personal, Mr. Elbashir. It is very personal. And now is when you should be very worried because we have an entire country of individuals just like me who are taking this personally. It is not only my friends who are threatened by your regime: there are hundreds of our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, cousins, and friends who must be let free.

I cannot imagine what it is like in your prisons or “Biut alashbah” (torturing/ghost houses).There are few people who have lived to tell their stories, but Wail Taha and Naglaa Sid-Ahmed’s stories are among the most recent and terrifying. Your regime’s crimes continue to pile up: the case of Safia Ishag caught many people’s attention as she was arrested and gang-raped by three of your policemen. Safia is now somewhere outside of the country after being threatened for pursuing her case.  Unfortunately, the situation may be repeating itself. Three days ago, two feminist and human rights activists (Kareema Fatih-Alrahman and Sarah Daif-Allah) were just arrested while protesting. Nothing is clear yet because your officers won’t allow visitors or give them access to lawyers. From what we have seen in similar situations, I would guess that the least they will be subjected to are sexual assaults and I won’t allow myself to imagine what could happen after.

Mr. Elbasir, what you have done to our country is deplorable. It breaks my heart to see this happening there. But if you look around you at the protests and the activity of my fellow citizens you will understand that these are more than angry, hungry, hopeless people causing problems in streets. We want our children to have access to education, women to gain rights equal to  men, rural areas to receive health care and everyone to have a room in Sudan. We want change, we want real change.

Finally, as a Sudanese, an activist and a human, I will join with my fellow citizens to use every available platform to push you out of power and change your regime. I call on every individual in the Sudanese diaspora in London and the world to act. I call on the international community to help and support the Sudanese nation to overthrow Mr. Elbashir’s authoritarian government and achieve civic and democratic change.

Mr. President, now it’s personal for the Sudanese people. Your regime’s time is coming to an end.

Nahla Mahmoud
London, UK

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