Monday, June 30, 2014

Imagine A World Where Being "Gay" The Norm & Being "Straight" Would Be The Minority!

What if heterophobia was prominent in our society? What if a young girl was bullied for holding hands with a boy on the playground? K. Rocco Shields explores this idea in his short film, Imagine A World Where Being "Gay" The Norm & Being "Straight" Would Be The Minority! The YouTube film, with more than 5 million views, depicts the life of a young girl dealing with the struggles of being heterosexual in a largely homosexual world. Bullying, self doubt, self harm, and suicide are just a few of the relevant issues shown in this film.

Take a look! Watch 5 minutes or the whole 20 minutes. The link is below.

After watching, reflect on the way this film made you feel. What are your thoughts about this world where homosexuality is the norm? What kind of thoughts do you have about your own sexuality?

If you want to talk to another teen about your sexuality, or anything that's going on in your life, feel free to call Teen Link from 6 PM to 10 PM any day of the week at 1-866-TEENLINK or at 866-833-6546 or chat with a teen by logging on to the Teen Link website and clicking the "Chat" button.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Asexuality! The "Fourth Sexuality"?

The GLBTQ (...+ many other representative letters) acronym is usually shortened to about these 5 letters, which represent the most commonly known non-heterosexual orientations, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender or sexual, and Queer or Questioning.  However, a joke that I've heard many times about the GLBTQ community is that this acronym should really just be made of the whole alphabet because there's at least one different kind of sexuality represented by any given letter.  The A, for example, has at least three.  I used to think that it stood for Allies, but it can also stand for Agender or Asexual.

I, personally, didn't even know that Asexuality was a thing until one of my close friends came out to me as Asexual and brought its awareness into my school's Queer Straight Alliance. Though it seems pretty clear to me now, I've realized that a lot of people still really don't know about asexuality and that there are a LOT of misconceptions about it. I've recently come across a video on Youtube, by Laci Green, that talks about asexuality and breaks it down for those of us who've never heard of it before, and so I'm sharing the knowledge!  Laci Green is known on Youtube for her sex positive channel that is geared toward providing humorous sex education  that covers topics that aren't usually covered in most high school programs.  

The video on Asexuality is linked here, and I encourage you to check it out as well as the rest of Laci's channel! 

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Struggle to Find Non-Binary Health Care

I’m not crazy, just non binary.

At one point in their life, most people have to find a primary doctor. This may come when you move to a new city, when you gain access to insurance, or when you’re just too old to be seeing a pediatrician. I’m about to be too old to be seeing my pediatrician.

Several years ago I found myself using one of Teen Link’s “Where To Turn For Teens” guides, I was able to find a counselor in my area. Accessing counseling has been a bit of a breeze for me, but the thought of finding a new doctor was somehow different. In my mind, my mental health and physical health can be related, but require two different doctors. So here came my dilemma; I have always seen this doctor. All of my siblings have seen this doctor until they were too old as well. And at my last check up, I sat awkwardly next to a play area with toys for toddlers and was jokingly handed a sticker on my way out. I knew that I needed to find a doctor of my own, but the thought loomed over my head.

Since the check up, I have seen half a dozen doctors looking for, what my mom has been calling “the right fit”. Each and every time I walk down those sterile hallways with a little less optimism, because I know that sooner or later someone will hand me the form.
So far most of the doctors that I’ve seen have boasted safe space emblems. Yet every time I have been handed a form that inquires about gender, when giving only two options: male or female. This is where the conversations begin to go south. Either the doctor or a nurse will try to return the form, thinking it was a mistake. I’ll grit my teeth, and explain that my gender does not fit in either of the two options provided, and they will lean back in confusion. I may live in the progressive city of Seattle, but people are still being diagnosed with a mental illness for being trans*. Believe it or not, the diagnosis remained in the DSM when it was last updated in 2013.

There seems to be confusion between identity and mental illness in the medical community. While I do not think all medical professionals are transphobic, I believe that identities are being silenced all too often from the fear of being stigmatized. Having to fight to separate physical health from mental health care can be really disempowering, and being nonbinary is only one of many factors that can provide barriers to accessing healthcare. Over the years, I have found incredible support from a variety of agencies in the field of mental health, and almost all have been incredibly supportive of my gender identity. My current task is to find a physician that is as open as them.

One thing that has really helped me in my process of feeling more comfortable with a doctor, has been the Q card. The Q Card was developed to help empower LGBTQ youth to become more active participants in their healthcare and to start real and important conversations with health care professionals on how they can better support queer youth with their medical/mental health needs. The card has a tri-fold design with blanks for people to fill in their name, pronouns, sexual orientation, gender identity, and list any concerns or questions they have for their health care professional. It goes over youth rights of confidentiality and gives providers tips on how they can provide better, more inclusive, and supportive care to queer youth. I filled mine out and just gave it to my doctor when she walked in. It helped get a lot of unnecessary and triggering questions out of the way and we were able to talk about how I wanted to be treated. To learn more, check out the Q Card Project.
Finding a doctor or counselor can be stressful. Luckily, Teen Link has many resources for youth serving agencies in the King County area. If you want more information about counseling or local public health clinics, or just want to talk it out, you can call or chat Teen Link any night of the week from 6-10pm. Teen Link is anonymous, confidential, and nonjudgmental. Anyone who answers calls or chats is a local teen, and no problem is too big or too small. The number is 866-TEENLINK and our website is

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Repairing the Damage of Reparative Therapy

“But I’m a Cheerleader” - the campy lesbian cult-classic of the 1990’s - tells the satirical story of Megan Bloomfield, a cheerleader who gets diagnosed with homosexuality by her friends and family and sent away to camp be cured of this embarrassing malady. The movie portrays the “pray the gay away” facility that Megan is sent to as a ridiculous collection of clearly closeted instructors forcing gay teens into absurd gender-norm role plays in an attempt to illustrate the absurdity of trying to cure someone of their sexuality.

Lesbian teens practice stereotypical feminine tasks in an attempt to rid
 themselves of their homosexual urges in “But I’m a Cheerleader”

Watching this movie as a 13 year old who was coming to terms with my own sexuality, I was exposed to the concept of conversion therapy (correctional therapy with the intention of changing an individual’s sexuality) for the first time. I was horrified that such a thing actually existed, but the satire and playful tone of “But I’m a Cheerleader” made me feel like this so-called “ex-gay” therapy was safely in the past; that the reality of anyone trying to “fix” someone’s gayness was as archaic as it was terrifying. And while it is true that extreme methods such as using electroshock therapy on gay teenagers in an attempt to straighten them out are not as prevalent today as they were in past decades, the unfortunate truth is that conversion therapy still very much exists all over the country.

Only a few months ago, lawmakers rejected a bill that would have made conversion therapy illegal for patients under 18 in the state of Illinois. In fact, only two U.S. states have laws banning conversion therapy for minors (California and New Jersey), meaning that in any other parts of the county this kind of damaging treatment is entirely legal. These therapies often use methods such as nausea-inducing drugs, spiritual intervention, and psychoanalytic therapy, all of which have been rejected by all creditable mental health professionals.

There are many problematic aspects of the methods used in reparative therapy and the motivations of those promoting it, but the core of the damaging nature of this type of conversion therapy is the idea that being queer is a mental disorder. Not only is this idea not scientifically supported (the APA officially declassified homosexuality as a disease in 1973), it is extremely damaging to teens and young adults who are struggling to justify and accept their own sexualities. It is easy to think about conversion therapy as an outlier that only affects a small percentage of queer youth, but this extreme example is a big part of creating a culture that regards LGBTQ people as sick or broken.

Speaking as a queer teen, the idea that it is legal to tell young people all over the country that their sexuality is something that needs to be fixed is terrifying. It only reinforces the destructive influences that I internalized growing up. I’ve had to fight continuously against a bombardment of societal and media portrayals of queerness as sick or broken in order to accept all the different parts of my identity. In this age of growing acceptance and respect for LGBTQ people and communities, outlawing conversion therapies is an important step towards creating a safer country for queer youth and making it clear that our sexuality and our identities are no less healthy than those of our straight peers.