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Pavel Durov is no hero

Now on the run from the Russian govt., Russia's "Mark Zuckerberg" has been enabling anti-gay neo-Nazis for years.


Transgender health disparities studied

trans, transgender flag, gay news, Washington Blade

A new study compared methods of collecting and analyzing data to assess health disparities in a clinical sample of transgender individuals. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. — Transgender individuals are medically underserved and their health care needs incompletely understood in part because they represent a subpopulation whose health is rarely monitored by U.S. national surveillance systems, Health Canal reports.

To address these issues, a new study compared methods of collecting and analyzing data to assess health disparities in a clinical sample of transgender individuals, as reported in an article published in LGBT Health, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. The article is available free on the LGBT Health website. 

Sari Reisner and coauthors at the Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital, and Fenway Health in Boston, compared transgender and non-transgender patients on health measures such as substance abuse, HIV infection, lifetime suicide attempts and social stressors including violence and discrimination. They report their findings in the article “Transgender Health Disparities: Comparing Full Cohort and Nested Matched Pair Study Designs in a Community Health Center.”

“Clinic-based samples and patient-related data are under-utilized sources of information about transgender health, particularly in community-based, urban health centers that typically serve large numbers of transgender patients,” says Dr. William Byne of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.


Despite advances, poverty persists for Baltimore’s LGBT residents

Baltimore Black Gay Pride, Carlton Smith, gay news, Washington Blade

Carlton Smith, executive director of Center for Black Equity-Baltimore. (Photo courtesy of Carlton Smith)

Courtney, a 20-year-old transgender woman from Maryland’s Eastern Shore, has been trying to get a job for more than a year but has been unable to do so because of her gender identity and expression.

She said during a recent interview that she has been able to work odd jobs and received some money from her parents. Courtney, who spoke on condition that her last name not be used, is working with Free State Legal Project, a Baltimore-based organization that advocates on behalf of low-income LGBT Marylanders, to legally change her name.

“I don’t have a job,” said Courtney. “I can’t afford to do it myself.”

Courtney is among the estimated 50,000 to 75,000 Marylanders who live in poverty, according to Free State Legal Project Executive Director Aaron Merki. LGBT rights advocates with whom the Blade has spoken indicate the problem is most acute in Baltimore.

The U.S. Census notes 23.4 percent of Baltimoreans lived below the poverty line between 2008-2012, compared to 9.4 percent of Marylanders during the same period.

A Williams Institute analysis of the 2000 Census notes LGBT people of color are more likely to live in poverty than their white counterparts.

The report notes black same-sex couples are “significantly more likely” to be poor than African-American married heterosexuals. The Williams Institute also found these couples are three times as likely to live in poverty than white same-sex couples.

Free State Legal Project handles several hundred cases each year. Merki told the Blade his organization’s case load is growing at least 50 percent annually.

“It’s a large population,” he said.

Merki said the “concept” that African Americans are “more homophobic than white people” is largely a stereotype. He acknowledged there are many black Baltimoreans who are members of homophobic religious congregations.

New Harvest Ministries, Inc., in Baltimore in October 2012 hosted a rally against Maryland’s same-sex marriage law during which a California pastor described gay men as “predators.” Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Congressman Elijah Cummings, Rev. Donté Hickman of Southern Baptist Church in Baltimore, Rev. Delman Coates of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Prince George’s County and state Del. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City) are among the prominent people of color who backed the gay nuptials law that voters approved in November 2012.

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Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Polls released before the vote indicated a majority of black Marylanders backed the same-sex marriage law that Gov. Martin O’Malley signed.

“For many people, the church is the foundation of their livelihood and their family,” said Rev. Meredith Moise, who has been an ordained minister in Baltimore for a decade. “If you’re hearing negative messages about homosexual persons or transgender persons, it is more likely to impact negatively how you see transgender people. Even if a black person is not religious, people may use religious texts or dogma to support their homophobia.”

Moise, an alumna of Morgan State University, told the Blade that President Obama’s support of marriage rights for same-sex couples and the Baltimore-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s advocacy in support of the issue prompted “sustained conversations” around LGBT people in the black community.

“There was a lot of kitchen table talk, barber shop talk about this,” said Moise, referring to black gay couples, a “tom boy” who lost her job when she came out or a gender non-conforming man whose neighbors only see him late at night on the stretch of East Baltimore Avenue known as the Block where prostitution is common. “This literally changed the face of how we see gay and trans people.”

Criminal justice system exacerbates poverty

Other advocates with whom the Blade spoke attributed LGBT poverty in Baltimore to the city’s criminal justice system.

A study that Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health graduate students conducted in early 2005 found 33 percent of the 148 female inmates at the Baltimore City Women’s Detention Center surveyed identified as lesbian or bisexual; 70 percent of the respondents identified as black, compared to only 16 percent who said they are white.

Five percent of those who took part in the Johns Hopkins survey said they are living with HIV; 7.4 percent of inmates at the Baltimore City Women’s Detention Center had the virus in 2004.

A fifth of respondents who participated in the Johns Hopkins survey said they make less than $400 a month. More than a third of respondents said they had engaged in sex work for money, drugs or a place to stay within a month of their arrest.

The study also noted bisexual women were four times less likely to have a place to live upon their release from jail than heterosexual inmates.

Jacqui Robarge in 2001 founded Power Inside, an organization that serves more than 300 women each year who are either in jail or have had experiences with the criminal justice system.

She told the Blade that a third of her clients are lesbian, bisexual or trans. Robarge referenced an American Civil Liberties Union report that said black Baltimoreans were 5.6 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.

She noted some of the young lesbians with whom her organization works have been homeless for up to a decade because their families threw them out of their homes because of their sexual orientation. Robarge said they enter the criminal justice system because they engage in prostitution, shoplift, sell drugs and other “survival strategies.”

“In our experience, African-American women who are masculine expressing or transgender are disproportionately and specifically targeted by law enforcement for harassment, searches, arrests and incarcerations,” she told the Blade. “Once released from jail, these women are routinely denied access to basic supports, driving them deeper into the street economy and often back to jail.”

“Violence, whether interpersonal or institutional, is often ignored if the survivor is black — and particularly if she is a lesbian or transgender,” added Robarge.

Carlton Smith, executive director of the Center for Black Equity-Baltimore who founded Baltimore Black Gay Pride in 2002, noted young and older LGBT Baltimoreans remain particularly vulnerable to poverty.

“When parents and guardians find out a young person is coming out, they tend to be thrown out and are not usually able to stay with relatives,” he said.

Smith said a low-income LGBT person may face discrimination in a city-run senior housing development in which he or she lives.

“If you’re LGBTQ, they’ll put you right back into the closet,” he said. “It makes people introvert and puts them back in the closet because they don’t feel safe.”

Baltimore City is among the five Maryland municipalities that have added gender identity and expression to their anti-discrimination laws.

The Maryland House of Delegates last month approved a measure that would ban anti-transgender discrimination throughout the state. The Free State Legal Project and the Center for Black Equity-Baltimore are among the members of the Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality that worked with Equality Maryland and other advocacy groups to increase support for Senate Bill 212 that state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) introduced in January.

Robarge told the Blade there are “more subtle” forms of discrimination that take place against the backdrop of laws and other measures that officially prohibit it. These include dress codes and criminal background checks.

“It protects you against outright discrimination, but most isms aren’t outright,” she said.

5 percent of Baltimoreans with HIV homeless

A survey of the metropolitan area that includes Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford, Howard and Queen Anne’s Counties the Greater Baltimore HIV Health Services Planning Council conducted last year found 85 percent of the 374 people with HIV/AIDS who responded identified themselves as “non-Hispanic black.” Nearly 60 percent of those who took part said their annual income that was less than the federal poverty line.

Slightly more than 5 percent of respondents said they were homeless.

The study also noted the Baltimore metropolitan area in 2010 had the third highest rate of HIV among U.S. cities, with only Miami and New York having higher infection statistics. Maryland in the same year had the fourth highest HIV rate among states and territories that include D.C.

“There are men, many other persons who are HIV-positive like myself and LGBTQ who are struggling to get housing for themselves and their families,” said Smith. “Even though we have marriage equality, the laws are slowly coming through. If you’re not aware of what the policy is as an LGBTQ person, you don’t know.”

Mayor: Poverty in Baltimore ‘breaks my heart’

Rawlings-Blake told the Blade “it breaks my heart, in general, to know about the many challenges that our impoverished residents face.”

“It is even more complex when it involves a member of the LGBT community, as they often times face extra challenges,” she said.

Rawlings-Blake said her administration is “focused on improving the quality of life for all residents and ending homelessness in Baltimore altogether.” She noted she supported a bill the Maryland Senate approved earlier this month that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 by 2018.

Rawlings-Blake pointed out to the Blade she hired a new director and recruited a new board for Baltimore’s 10-year plan to end homelessness. She noted her administration also partners with city agencies and non-profits to expand access to health care, employment and housing for low-income Baltimoreans.

“Although a lot has been accomplished, the LGBT community still has many barriers to overcome,” said Rawlings-Blake, acknowledging racial disparities often exacerbate the problem. “I remain a committed, vocal supporter of the LGBT community and it is my desire that everyone has a roof over his or her head and is able to provide for his or her family.”

Free State Legal Project’s Transgender Action Group, which conducts outreach and other services to Baltimore’s trans sex workers, is among the ways it continues to work on poverty reduction in the city. The organization’s Youth Equality Alliance is a coalition of city and state agencies and non-profits that work with school personnel and foster parents to ensure they are providing a supportive environment in which LGBT children can learn and live.

“LGBT poverty is rooted in stigma and discrimination a lot of the time,” said Merki. “LGBT poverty also starts with youth.”


Gay rights group seeks to expand marriage caseGay rights group seeks…

A gay rights group wants to intervene in an existing case in hopes of getting a federal court to overturn Ohio's gay marriage ban and allow same-sex couples to wed in the state.


Lawsuit claims trans woman denied hormone therapy

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According to the suit, Naya Taylor requested hormone replacement therapy as part of her medically necessary, transition-related health care to treat her gender dysphoria but was refused by her primary care physician.

URBANA, Ill. — Lambda Legal last week filed a lawsuit claiming that an Illinois health care services group denied medical care to a transgender woman who requested hormone replacement therapy, LGBTQ Nation reports.

The lawsuit, filed April 15, alleges a violation of the Affordable Care Act’s non-discrimination provisions that require clinics receiving federal funds treat trans patients the same as others, the article said.

According to the suit, Naya Taylor requested hormone replacement therapy as part of her medically necessary, transition-related health care to treat her gender dysphoria but was refused by her primary care physician, the article said.

Taylor asserts that her doctor first claimed she was not experienced in providing hormones to transgender people even though hormone therapy is regularly provided to non-transgender patients in a variety of settings every day. Later the clinic told Taylor that it “does not have to treat people like you.”

“When they said, ‘we don’t have to treat people like you,’ I felt like the smallest, most insignificant person in the world,” Taylor told LGBTQ Nation. “The doctor and office provide hormone replacement therapy for others at the same clinic, they just refused to do that for me.”


Oregon gay marriage ban gets day in court

For all the tens of billions of dollars that the nation has spent on screening passengers and their bags, few airports made a comparable investment to secure the airplanes themselves.


Inside Bryan Singer’s Wild Hollywood World

Known for surrounding himself with beautiful young men, X-Men director Bryan Singer has found his private life under intense scrutiny due to a lawsuit alleging sex abuse.

God, the Gospel, and the Gay Challenge — A Response to Matthew Vines

Evangelical Christians in the United States now face an inevitable moment of decision.


If You Don’t Go Down, You Gotta Wonder Why

"Sweetheart, that's all very nice, but if you're not going to eat pussy, you're not a dyke," a lesbian character on Sex and the City famously tells Charlotte, who, upon being asked if she's a lesbian, has answered that she is not but loves the "company" of women.

I have to agree with the lesbian. Anything short of eating pussy is simply being besties. And that's all well and good, but girls, you gotta go down.

"Why?" you ask. "Who are you to tell me what lesbian sex looks like?"

And so I must reply, "Why wouldn't you?"

When it comes to lesbians and gays, the differences between the ruling stereotypes are amazing. The former are undersexed, the latter oversexed, the theory goes. The club scene and Grindr for the boys, and harrowing stories of lesbian bed death for the girls. Not OK. But where's the truth?

Well, lesbian bed death isn't my reality, and I have plenty of gay friends who spend more time watching Dora and driving carpool than minding Scruff and dominating the dance floor. So, as always, the truth lies somewhere in between.

But why does sex matter? That one's easy: because it's the difference between friends and lovers. Because it's good for you. Because it's one of the few true pleasures left in the world, no money or special equipment required.

It's become strangely chic to be a lesbian these days. And I wouldn't dare argue that that's a bad thing. Anything that helps bring us out of the darkness and into the light of normalcy is A-OK by me. But it also has the unfortunate effect of making a lesbian relationship look more like a pillow-fighting, hair-brushing, giggle-inducing sleepover than the truly sexual relationship it is.

Yes, yes, I know: You certainly can have a sexless relationship that works in its own way. But in general, a healthy, happy, more-than-friends relationship -- lesbian or otherwise -- involves sex, and when it comes to great lesbian sex, you're missing out if you're leaving oral sex out of the equation.

But more than that, it's hard not to wonder what's fueling the decision of lesbians who choose to remain on the dock rather than dive in. My fear is that it's some level of a lack of pussy pride.

The pussy is a wondrous thing, full of delicious nerve endings and able to be pleasured in a plethora of ways. In the name of not getting too naughty here, let's just say it's a feast for the senses. The thing is that if you're not feeling so secure about your nether regions, oral sex might become a problem.

And that's a problem.

There is little that is more intimate than oral sex. There's no way to do it at a distance -- not that I'm aware of, anyway. To eat pussy is to be enveloped in another person's body. Literally. If you don't want the woman you love ensconced in your bits or vice versa, it might be time to explore why.

Pussy pride is key for women, lesbian or otherwise, and we live in a world that doesn't always make it easy to love our lady parts. You can buy sprays to change the way you smell. You can pay a surgeon to change the way you look. You can learn how to wax and shave and pluck and primp every square inch to make your pussy "presentable."

All of that makes it increasingly difficult not to internalize the prevailing message that there's something inherently wrong with a woman's pussy. It's too wild, too ripe, to rich, too wet, smells too much, tastes too strong or weird or fill in the blank. But that's about selling products or keeping women "in their place." It has nothing -- nothing -- to do with reality.

The pussy is great. The problem is with the world.

You love your girl, right? Or at least you want her in some way or you wouldn't be with her. Your rejection is more devastating than you know. It either establishes or fuels a woeful lack of pussy confidence.

So if you're not letting your partner go down because you think you're gross, it's time to regroup. The same goes if you're the one refusing to be the eater as opposed to the eatee. It's time to get some positive pussy thinking going.

It's time to read about how glorious she is. It's time to get out the old mirror and have a look at your own parts. Maybe it's even time for a sex workshop to get you back in the zone. Or get thee to a therapist (no shame in that) and get out from under that negative rhetoric that's keeping you from getting under -- or on top of -- your girl.

The Little (Gay) Prince Who Wanted to Commit Suicide

One of the mottoes of Saint Francis of Assisi is "Tanto l'uomo è di scienza quanto opera," which is to say that what we know comes straight from what we do.

When I was 18 I asked my mother to put me away in a mental hospital. I told her to do this so that thoughts of homosexuality and suicide would not cross my mind. This had to be done, for I was in unbearable pain. But my mother did not do what I had asked; she did not want to see me go back into that horrid place.

Instead she sent me to a doctor near our home. Her name was Luce, which means "light" in Italian, and she lived in a house that was built on a high hill. It was beautiful, and I couldn't take my eyes off it. It reminded me of the castle from the movie Edward Scissorhands where Edward lived with the old inventor.

My first encounter with Luce was a direct one. She looked me straight in the eye and made me a promise that if we failed in our mission, which was to get to the root of my problem and figure out what I was hiding underneath my skin, in my brain, then I would have her permission to become a patient in that asylum where I dreamed of going.

Our therapy sessions began in August, and I felt protected and in good hands. I began by telling her all about my relationships with family, food, nature, and of course sex. During these sessions I realized that I had a bit of a problem discussing these topics, and that's when three magical words came to mind: gender identity disorder.

For Christmas Luce gave me a book that would change my life forever. It was called Animus et Anima and was written by Emma Jung. Within the first couple of pages, I was hooked. I can still remember the smell of pages 7, 21, 27, and 32, mixing folk legends, totems and archetypes. In these pages the author tries to explain that men and women have an element of both the masculine and the feminine inside them. This opened my eyes and captivated me, because I too have these features inside me. But there was just one problem: I could not accept it. That was the moment when I found her again: my female part, which has a body and a soul, veins and blood. She is an eternal 9-year-old child named Stella.

As I grew older, Stella always remained the same. She has kept me company since I was a little prince in Luxembourg, living in a home that my maternal grandfather had built on Rue Ermesinde. It looked like a home where a prince would live, and there I was born, in a turret where I was immersed in toys, ancient books, maps of lost islands and scale models of the town where we lived. I, a young boy growing up in a castle, was fascinated by the idea of being the fucking king of that street, with a friend only I could see.

When my parents decided that we would move to Italy, I asked Stella to come with us. I don't recall her answer, but I do recall seeing her disappear right in front of my face, like a goodbye.

We traveled from Luxembourg to Marche by car, driving for hours and hours. When we were going over the Gotthard Pass, I rolled down the window and made my father stop the car so that I could get out. Stella was following us, flying. I begged her to come inside the car. She resisted at first, but then she said to me, "Take me with you, but don't tell anyone. What we do is our secret."

I kept this secret bottled up for years, and when Luce met Stella, I felt really sick. I insisted on being institutionalized, and that's when I started visiting mental institutions. I would talk to doctors and patients, whom I almost envied for being there instead of me. But I understood that my time was never to come, so at night I would read all about the asylums, studying their weekly calendars and imitating the lifestyle, from the rules to the therapies to the meal hours and even the times for prayer. I don't believe in God, but because I saw that prayer was one of the activities on the calendar, I began to study the Bible and attend church in the early morning. Stella was always with me. Little by little, we were isolating ourselves in our own world.

After Luce, the first person to learn about Stella was my then-boyfriend Pietro. He arrived in my life after having accepted all that matters to me. After all my years of therapy, when I finally considered myself "healed," Pietro was one of the first people I could trust and share my secrets with, including the secret of Stella. Pietro didn't get scared, and he too had secrets. He'd run away from the seminary after realizing that he was gay, but instead of embracing a life of freedom, he built himself another cage: He chose to be with a woman, but then he would come back to me, then go back to her, and so on. Eventually he married her, on my birthday.

Need help? In the U.S., visit The Trevor Project or call them at 1-866-488-7386. You can also call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Filippo is an Italian journalist who wanted to become a wizard. Stella is his imaginary friend. Filippo and Stella live in New York after having escaped from Italy. These are their (silent) adventures in the Big Apple.