On bi-erasure and coming out

On sexuality

Its pride month again! Last year I wrote this post explaining why Pride is still celebrated. I stand by what I said there, but over the past year I have grown, as has my experience. This year for pride month I will be getting a little more personal, not because I feel the need to share my story, but because I feel that my story is one many people can relate to and everyone can learn a bit from.

About two years ago I came out to my close family and friends as bi. Coming to terms with my sexuality was a complicated and personal journey and because of that, its not one that I will not be getting into here. I will talk about it a little bit, but more importantly I’ll talk about my experiences after coming out.

To start out, my coming out story is nothing exceptional. I’m lucky to have an accepting family and group of friends. After coming out, I no longer tried to suppress my identity and now the vast majority of people that know me know about my sexuality. That being said, I still experience some of the struggles faced by queer people and would like to share that experience to you. In this blog post I’m mostly going focus on bisexuality, as that’s obviously what I have the most experience with. Keep in mind that each sexual identity faces different challenges and I’m unable to speak to them all.

When I came out to my dad, the first thing he said was, “How do you know?”. It wasn’t said with malice and looking back on it, I know it was a completely innocent question. At the time though, I was defensive. My response: “How do you know you’re straight?”

This question goes beyond just me and my experience. Often queer youth are questioned on how they know they are gay or bi or asexual or anything in between. Queer people are routinely assaulted or raped in an attempt to “turn them straight” (this is referred to as corrective rape and is super common in South Africa). Before becoming cemented in their sexuality, queer people are expected to experiment with heterosexual experiences. Straight youth on the other hand are never questioned, they are not raped or assaulted in order to be corrected, and aren’t expected to experiment before coming to a conclusion. The lack of questioning straight youth face is illustrative of something about sexuality: it’s inherent.

It’s known inherently, too. Sexuality is an extremely personal thing.  Someone’s sexuality may not be obvious to you. This is especially prevalent for bisexual people. For example, I am currently in a relationship with a boy. That being said, I am still bisexual. My sexuality isn’t dependent on who I am currently seeing. The binary mentality many people have towards sexuality leads to what is called “bi-erasure”, or the lack of representation for bisexuality.

Both the queer and straight community play a part in this. Bisexual people in a committed relationship are often seen as choosing sides. If they are in a heterosexual relationship, they are just seen as straight and not a real part of the queer community. If they are in a queer relationship, they are seen as gay and not a part of the straight community. As a result, neither community is particularly accepting of bisexuality as a valid sexuality.

Fetishism and representation play another huge part in the difficulties faced by bisexual people. Bisexual women in the media are portrayed as a personification of the male gaze and provide an opportunity to play out threesome fantasies. Bisexual men are almost never represented. I could go on and on about representation (not just for bi people), but will just save that one for another post.

These are just some of the problems bisexual people face in coming out. Each person has a different experience and each identity faces different challenges. I encourage you to keep an open mind. Be understanding, be kind, be accepting and have a happy pride month!

Every good wish,

Julia

For Anchorage PrideFest schedule go here!

 

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On post truth america

On politics, Uncategorized

The issue of fake news is relevant and scary concept in the current US political climate. In fact the spread of information has led to many experts to refer to the world we are living in as “post truth”, meaning that the line between truth and lie is blurred. This blurring generally happens in the realm of news and information. The effects of the post truth world are often painted as a horrible dystopian society. This extreme is not as likely as it may seem, but is possible. More immediately, the post truth world can lead to the rise of isolated political groups (identitarian groups), political disengagement (low voter turnout), and ultimately a power structure that is harmful to the masses (fascism). An understanding of how fake news is spread and how we can work against the post truth world is vital for the survival of the democratic process and an EQUAL society.

Like I mentioned before, there has been a recent rise in “fake news” or “clickbait”, meaning headlines and articles that mislead or misinform the general public through emotional appeal, pandering, and controversial subjects. Facebook is a prime of example of a clickbait environment. The spread of information can be explained using Richard Dawkins’s viral memetic infection theory and I’ll attempt to do that. The theory was first introduced in 1976 and (fun fact!) was the first use of the term meme. You’re probably thinking about meme as a funny bit on the internet, but Dawkins’s definition of meme has more to do with units of information. A meme is a unit of information synonymous to a gene. The theory equates the spread of information through a society to the spread of a virus through an immune system. Memes use society as a way to replicate and spread with slight variations just like a gene does in an immune system. These variations lead to evolution in both cases. The memes that are able to survive are best adapted to the society they live in.

The memes that are best adapted to a society are ones that are perceived to be beneficial to a society. They help to establish values. The influence that memes have on a society are exactly what makes them dangerous. Just like a virus, a meme’s goal is to survive. Just like an immune system, society’s goal is to stay functional and healthy. A weak immune system is unable to fight against harmful genes. The post truth world is like this. Information of all types and with conflicting motives are all accepted, weakening the society.

This deteriorates the concept of truth. Without truth, people and organization introducing memes can more easily influence information and ultimately public opinion. Like I was saying, fake news is usually controversial and easily digestible. Because of the emotional response this creates, research is not done, critical thinking skills are not exercised and misinformation is spread. As fake news becomes more prominent, the idea of inconsistent truth starts to seem normal. It is then possible for larger policies to follow the model of fake news.

For example, take the controversy surrounding football players kneeling during the  national anthem. According to the players, the action of kneeling is in response to police brutality and, by extension, institutionalized racism. Prominent sources on the political right have been spinning the story to appears as though protesters are kneeling to protest the armed forces or the flag itself. To many Americans, the idea of disrespect of armed forces is more powerful than the idea of institutionalized racism, and therefore the reason behind the athletes’ protest has been distorted. As has been illustrated by viral memetic infection, the meme of police brutality is misrepresented. This misrepresentation becomes accepted and it is no longer clear if the meme is advantageous or not. Institutionalized racism is then sustained through society, intentionally or not.

Okay guys, so here its going to get a bit more dense. I will try to explain terms and things, but sorry. Hang with me!

I’m going to use a few philosophers to explain the things that fuel viral memetic infection theory. First off, Friedrich Nietzche’s ideas on cultural evolution and the will to power. Then I’m going to get in to Charles Taylor’s ideas on value and significance. After that I’m going to talk about Michel Foucault and his ideas on the creation of value. Then will be out of the woods and I’ll tell you how to fix it! (hopefully)

So in terms of Nietzsche’s philosophy, memes create reality.  A meme is created to communicate about a unique experience, for example an honest person. Similar experiences are categorized under a single meme as their distinguishing characteristics are forgotten. As time goes on these memes are cemented into universally held truths within a society. The meme of honesty is then created. A collection of memes, or metaphors then determines the reality of said society. In that way, a values are created.

Advantageous memes, or truths, are ones that benefit society. Sometimes these truths do not align with golden rule, which is the underlying principle of western ethics. People allow themselves to be deceived, as long as the deception is not determined to be harmful. Similarly, truths that are determined to be harmful are not accepted and therefore deemed lies. The only memes a society accepts as truth are ones that are perceived to be advantageous.

The acceptance of only advantageous memes and the refusal to consider those which encourage societal advancement promotes the post-truth world previously discussed.  In a post-truth world, the most comfortable meme is accepted no matter what, prompting a slide away from the most objectively advantageous truth. It is then acceptable to promote truth memes to benefit the individual instead of society.

The second of Nietzsche’s theories that can be applied here is the will to power. Will to power is akin to the will to survive in a virus. Nietzsche uses the example of the religious class gaining power. In medieval European societal structure inverted itself, establishing priests as the most important. The inversion of class structure was done through the promise of salvation through suffering. The gain and maintenance of power became memetic instead of physical. Instead of power being enforced through armies or executions, power is enforced through relics. Relics are representative of memes that allowed for the rise to power. By introducing a meme that was the best adapted to the environment, the religious classes in both societies were able to gain and maintain power. The introduction of memetic power allowed the ruling class to manipulate the masses to best fit their needs.

A modern application of the will to power is the presidential election. The Trump campaign promised a change in administration. It condemned the previous administration for mistreating white lower class workers. It rewarded suffering and promised improvement. Just as the idea of salvation appealed to the working class in medieval Europe, the idea of a change appealed to today’s working class. The general public took hold of the idea. Trump was elected and now has power, because his campaign provided a meme well adapted to the needs of the public.

The Clinton campaign used similar techniques in an attempt to gain power. The campaign promised to continue the policies of the previous administration. The campaign emphasized identity politics. Minority groups were promised more equal rights. Again, this was similar to the meme of salvation to the lower class. It rewarded suffering with the promise of an end to oppression. The public grabbed onto the idea, but Clinton did not rise to power.

This is an example of the most powerful meme infecting the public. To the majority of people, the idea of a change in administration was more appealing than the idea of decreased oppression. Similar to the way a virus best adapted to take advantage of a system survives, the ideas of the Republican Party were best adapted to the voters.

About a year after the election, one can see that the meme of truth has shifted away from the administration’s policies. The memes introduced during the campaign did not come to fruition. The administration has reversed its stance on many issues. The new memes presented by the Republican Party are no longer seen as advantageous truths. Instead they are seen as harmful. For example, compare campaign promises about health care to what is happening now. The memes presented by the opposite end of the political spectrum are seen as advantageous for the same reason that the Republican party originally was. They promise a change in administration. Change is still the meme best adapted to the environment, and therefore it is able to survive.

Charles Taylor’s argument concerning significance supports the argument against the post-truth world. According to Taylor, the spread of information is one of the aspects of an authentic society. He explains this through the idea of dialogical identity, or identity formed through interactions with others. Attempts to remain monological, or form an identity independent of outside influence, encourage a post-truth world, or in Taylor’s words the debased ideal of authenticity.

Taylor also discusses “horizons of significance”. These are the limits by which society determines what is significant. Taylor argues that one cannot determine by oneself what is significant, supporting his argument for dialogical identity. Horizons of significance create limits by which one can define the way ideas evolve and spread. They operate in the same way environmental limitations for viruses, determining the environments in which survival is possible.

In Taylor’s ideal of authenticity, horizons of significance are determined through moral reasoning, meaning that a meme must be supported by commonly held truths. In a strong immune system, bad viruses are destroyed because they harm the system. In an authentic world, values are determined in a similar fashion. Memes that are not advantageous are not allowed to survive. Additionally, this creates a large environment for an advantageous meme to survive in.

In the debased form of authenticity, horizons of significance are not supported by moral reasoning. Soft relativism allows horizons of significance and values to become subjective to the individual. This slide to subjectivism leads to fragmentation. A meme held within the horizons of significance of a fragmented group cannot survive easily outside of it.

For example, Alt-Right groups hold race to a higher significance than the rest of western society. The significance of race is not supported by moral reason. While some systematic racism is still present in western society as a result of historically held horizons of significance, overt racism is no longer accepted. It is condemned on the grounds that race no longer holds significance. As a result, the meme of white supremacy does not survive outside of the Alt-Right groups.

The information system of the post-truth world is changing this. Significance, or truth, is not determined by commonly held memes due to a lack of moral reasoning. Horizons of significance backed by moral reason create environmental limits in which a meme can survive. Placing value on memes that cannot survive outside of groups promotes the slide towards subjectivism and social atomism which in turn quickens the fragmentation that leads to a post-truth world.

Michel Foucault’s ideas build on the previous argument. He argues that discourse is the organization of memes within a society. Power then lies in the ability to influence discourse. The viewpoint of a society then determines the meme, leading to punishment or control.

An example of this would be the current number of public figures being accused of sexual assault and/or harassment. The determination of a meme is done through observation. Societies and the people within them observe behavior and then create a norm. Differences between similar behaviors are shed and an expected behavior is determined.  In the creation of a norm, there is also the formation of the harmful meme. Abnormal behavior is discouraged through fear tactics (generally scientific or medical) and the exclusion of those who exhibit said behaviors. Through observation of oneself and attempts to avoid punishment, the norms are perpetuated. Through observation of societal behavior, sexual assault is a bad meme.

While the meme is widely accepted,  the advent of the post-truth world is calling the validity of it into question. This is illustrated in the recent election to replace Alabama senator Jeff Sessions. Republican Roy Moore is accused of having sexual relations with minors. In addition to being accused of child molestation, Moore violated the constitution by erecting a statue of the Ten Commandments in a courthouse. This was ruled as establishing religion and was therefore a violation of the First Amendment. His democratic opponent in the election was Doug Jones. Previously a US attorney, Jones is best known for prosecuting two Klu Klux Klan members for bombing a church. In addition to this, Jones is known for being pro-choice. Many people would still rather vote for Moore than Jones, purely on the grounds of Moore’s political affiliation and stance on abortion. Jones won the election with a 1.5 margin of victory. The outcome of the election is a result of competing discourses, or memes, that is indicative of the post-truth world.

The recent attempts to remove net neutrality are one of the greatest symptoms of the post-truth world as it allows for a tighter regulation of discourse. Without net neutrality, large corporations will be able to control the flow of memes. Certain sites may be promoted or sped up. Others may be slowed or even blocked. Entertainment sites and social media may cost more to access. This is can be perceived as a power play by those in control. A loss of net neutrality leads to a control over discourse. This then allows those in power to better determine which memes the general public has access to. Ultimately, these corporations will be able to heavily influence the values and opinions of a society, as well as the information citizens are receiving.

So the argument part is over and now onto potential solutions for the post truth world.

One of Nietzsche’s most famous claims is that  the creation of woman as God’s second mistake. The context of this is often missing. He makes this claim because Eve ate the apple and gained knowledge. In other words, she taught people to think. By learning to think, people were then able to see past the metaphors or memes presented by those in power. He cites both the Renaissance and the Reformation as an example of this, as they are time periods of critical thinking, the tool he argues is needed to abandon the post-truth world. By having this skill, man is able to see through the memes presented by those in power.

To return to an authentic society that is more impervious to negative viral memes, Taylor promotes a return to horizons of significance supported by moral reasoning. The reduction of competing discourses fights against fragmentation. A slide away from social atomism and subjectivism allows for more advantageous memes to survive and promotes a shift away from the post-truth world.

In short, a post-truth world is defined as one in which memes of truth are subjective, meaning that the line between objective truth and lie is blurred. This failed distinction makes a society more susceptible to harmful memes and power structures in the same way that a compromised immune system is more susceptible to disease. Viral memetic infection theory is a theory proposed by Richard Dawkins that equates the spread of information, or “memes”, through a society to the spread of a virus through the body. The will to power described by Friedrich Nietzsche is the vehicle which fuels the spread of harmful memes in the previously mentioned post-truth world. Charles Taylor’s writings on the slide away from authenticity in the western world and Michel Foucault’s investigation of the role of discourse both support the existence of the post-truth world.

Growing up and becoming politically active in the post-truth world has made me hyper-aware of the role viral memetic infection theory plays in the spread of information and ideas, as well as the will to power that motivates our leaders. As truth is no longer reliable, you have to be aware of the origin of memes. Most information is either fueled by a will to power or is introduced in response to the contradicting discourses. To combat this, there must be a return to morally reasoned truth. By supporting truth with morals, citizens of the post-truth world are able to better determine what memes are truly advantageous. This creates solidarity which implies morality and empirically supported truth.  Those who introduce memes perceived as advantageous only do so in order to gain power. Just as Nietzsche argues, the memes create suffering so those in power can provide relief. A return to morally supported truth allows for a better understanding of advantageous memes and encourages a more authentic society.

 

Every good wish,

Julia

 

On the women’s march

On feminism, On politics, On sexuality

Yesterday I participated in the second  annual women’s march. It was powerful, empowering and inspirational, but I didn’t want to be there. A protest for human rights should not be an annual event. Still, we came together and we marched.

Thousands of people gathered around 11 at the Park Strip. After hearing from a few speakers, we moved to Williwaw. On the way we only passed one counter protester, blocked by wall of women’s march organizers. At the end of the march we gathered for chants, music, and information. Organizations supporting women in office, reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ rights, voting, the environment, and gun legislation were handing out sign ups, stickers, and flyers. The amount of people and information was overwhelming.

Compared to last year, the women’s march was less of an event. Palmer hosted one last year, but this year the closest was in Anchorage. Not as many people attended and there was less publicity. Walking back to the car from the march, people asked what all the crowd was about.

While the march was less popular, the issues are growing in importance and number. Silence gets nothing done. This is why I march.

I march for access to affordable birth control, accurate sex ed, the right to choose, and medical screenings. I march so everyone can have access to healthcare. I march for and end to violence against women and trans people, an end to victim blaming, and credibility for male victims. I march against systemic racism, sexism, transphobia, ableism, ageism,  and homophobia. I march for land rights. I march for my right to love who I want and for others to use the bathroom safely. I march for parental leave and baby changing stations in all bathrooms. I march so all can vote. I march for clean water and air. I march against fascism. I march so everyone has equal opportunity and equal rights.

For me the women’s march is not in protest of the president. It’s a march against policies that oppress in the US and worldwide. The problems we are facing are not isolated to January 20th and they are not isolated to this country. We face these problems on the daily and no matter where we are. We must be everyday activists to overcome. Your gender, race, sexuality, political beliefs, religion, age, and ability do not dictate your ability to make a change. The power is with the people.

Get involved with any (or all!) of these organizations:

Register to vote in Alaska here.

The organization listed above are just few of the options available. As always, exercise your rights, stay informed, and stand together.

Every good wish,

Julia

On LGBTQ+ sex ed

On sex ed, On sexuality

Recently I attended a kind of top secret research project about LGBTQ+ sex ed. It taught basic sex ed info (STI and pregnancy prevention, violence prevention, etc) and talked about self-advocacy (which I talk about in this blog post). As most of you know, I’m super passionate about sex ed, especially when its inclusive. This project brought the issue back to light.

The thing that stood out to me was the binary (phallic?) focus of sex ed even when it was geared towards LGBTQ+ youth.

I’ve posted a couple times about the need for inclusive sex ed and the need reevaluate the model. Seeing a sex-ed program for LGBTQ+ youth was fantastic. Don’t get me wrong, the curriculum is a HUGE step in the right direction. While it fixed some problems, it brought others to my attention.

So back to the binary bit I brought up earlier. Sex ed being taught in schools is generally heteronormative, meaning it focuses mainly on heterosexual relationships and penetrative vaginal sex. Even within the cirriculum geared towards people that don’t identify with this, there was still focus on penetration. This is super great for men having penetrational sex with men, but leaves a solid chunk of the community out of the conversation.

Women having sex with women is the most obvious example. External or male condoms don’t work for this group of people. There was absolutely some discussion of dental dams, how to use them, and how to make them. At the same time, there was no discussion of the safe use of sex toys or finger cots (finger condoms!).

For other groups of people there was even less information. People who did not identify as male or female, were transitioning, or who are not interested in sex at all got little to no information. Pregnancy and STI’s can be hard to navigate and discuss if someone does not fit traditional ideas of gender identity or biological sex.

Again, its wonderful to see more LGBTQ+ inclusive sex ed. As more steps are taken in the right direction, its important to make sure that everyone is included in the conversation. There are so many different ways of identifying, expressing, and practicing when it comes to sex and gender. All people should have the information and education they need to be safe and healthy.

Usually this would be the place where I propose some sort of solution, but for this one there isn’t much action we can take. So, as always keep your eye out for opportunity, stay educated, and support those around you.

Every good wish,

Julia

On self advocacy

On health

First off, apologies for the long hiatus. These past few months have been an undertaking, bringing me to the subject I want to talk about: self advocacy.

In short, self advocacy is the ability to advocate, or stand up for oneself and ones own beliefs. I think it runs much deeper than that. For me, self advocacy is pretty synonymous with self care. Without being able to stand up for myself, I’m not able to take care of myself. As a teen, and talking to people my age, it’s become obvious that self advocacy is ridiculously important. Its valuable politically, in your professional life, for your health, and in your personal life.

I’m gonna start off with politics. Often times, our ideas aren’t seen as valid. The younger someone is, the less informed people assume they are. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. I know 17 year olds who have organized protests and who read the proposed tax bill for fun. As the people inheriting everything that is happening right now, our ideas are just as valid as those of the people creating the problems.

Even though some of us can’t vote, our voices are valuable. Stay informed about issues that concern you, back up your opinions with facts, and stay levelheaded. Your passion and your ideas are valid. Use them for good.

Professionally it can be hard to stand up for yourself. Young people usually don’t have a lot of work experience and most likely you haven’t been at a job for too long. We’re new to the workforce and that can be scary. It can be hard to say no, or know when you’re being taken advantage of. Again, educate yourself and know your rights.

Self-advocacy is super important when it comes to your health as well. Again, we’re new to making our own opinions and these new things like figuring out insurance can be scary. That being said, its still super important that you have a say in your healthcare. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. In fact, its probably better that you do. You have the right to get a second opinion if you feel like it. If you feel like you are not being treated with respect, you can always change providers.

For any LGBTQ+ (or not) youth out there, there is something called a Q card. These can be lifesavers in a doctors office. All they are is a business card you can fill out that has your sexual orientation, gender identity, and any questions that you might have. All you have to do is fill it out and hand it to your healthcare provider. Most misunderstandings are avoided. You can find them here.

Finally, and most importantly, your personal life. You have the right to say no and you owe it to yourself to practice self-care. The ability to understand what your needs are and communicate them to others is the most important skill you will learn. Your health and wellbeing should be top priority. Remember: self care is never selfish.

Stay safe and educated out there!

Every good wish,

Julia

On meditation

On health

With all of the excitement about meditation lately, I decided to jump on the bandwagon. In case you haven’t tried it yet, I would strongly recommend starting. It’s just as great as everyone says. Not only do you get the street cred of being able to say you meditate, but there’s also some pretty great self-care benefits as well.

The first one that I’ve really experienced is better focus. Some forms of meditation involve focusing on breath or sensations in the body. Its surprisingly harder to do than one might think. Once you learn to be able to focus on your breath or your toes, you can apply the focus to daily life. Tasks will be easier to complete, you’ll be able to quiet the constant inner chatter, and work better in environment with lots of distractions.

The second is stress management and sleep. Meditation is often used as a coping mechanism. Again, meditating can teach you to quiet the constant stream thoughts. This can be used to gain perspective on stressful projects or situations and quiet your mind before going to bed.

Meditation can also make it easier to deal with people. It can also make you a bit easier to deal with, as well. Just like with learning a musical instrument or getting in shape, meditation takes practice. The results, on the other hand, are not as obvious or immediate. Meditation teaches patience and understanding so you are kinder to others as well as yourself.

Practicing meditation helps with anxiety and depressive disorders as well. Teaching the patience, focus, and mindfulness techniques I touched on earlier gives tools to help when you are struggling. Again, you learn to be patient with yourself, tend to sleep better, and have increased focus on yourself, your needs, and what might be the cause of your anxieties.

Meditation has even been shown to help treat chronic pain, headaches, and other chronic illnesses.

The best part of meditation is that its not a huge time suck. Meditating for just five or ten minutes a day can result in some of the benefits.

No matter how busy you are, I would recommend trying meditation. Integrating the practice into your life helps to make you a happier, healthier human. It can be confusing and intimidating at first, but like with anything, the longer you do it, the easier it gets. The more meditation you do the more benefits you will see in your daily life.

I suggested a few meditation apps in my health apps post. The one I have been using to get started is called Calm, which is great for beginners. I have also started using an app called Insight Timer, which is more for people who have a bit of meditation under their belt.

Every good wish,

Julia

 

 

On pride month

On politics, On sexuality

As most of us know, June is LGBTQ+ Pride month. The first official pride celebrations started in 1970 in honor of the 1969 Stonewall Riots. The first pride march, called the Christopher Street Liberation Day March took place in 1970. Since then, the movement has expanded to week long festivals all over the world. Since the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same sex marriage many people question why Pride is still celebrated. For the same reason that there is International Women’s Day and Black History Month, there is Pride Month; groups that have been oppressed and discriminated against rise up to celebrate themselves and to show the world that they will not be silent.

While it is a celebration of sexuality and openness, Pride month is also a political statement. Almost every festival will have a memorial for LGBTQ+ people that have died or been killed because of hate. We honor those who commit suicide because they can’t find acceptance, those who are disowned for their sexuality, those who are attacked because of who they hold hands with, and those who die for who they love.

Pride celebrates the rights that have been won: marriage, workplace rights, military service, adoption. The marches also call for the rights we still don’t have and an end to violence.

The celebrations provide a safe environment for people to be open and comfortable with their sexuality. It gives people of all ages, races, genders, abilities, and orientations resources to be safe and healthy.

Finally, Pride shows that you shouldn’t be ashamed. For people who live in places that aren’t supportive of the LGBTQ+ community, Pride lets them know that they aren’t alone. Their sexuality is normal and valid and doesn’t have to be hidden.

Pride celebrates perseverance in the face of extreme adversity and the freedom to be you.

Whether you are part of the LGBTQ+ community or not, Pride is a wonderful way to show your support, meet inspiring people, and make a stand for what you believe in.

Every good wish,

Julia

Anchorage PrideFest is this week! Schedule here.

On the talk

On sex ed

Harvard’s Making Caring Common Project  recently came out with a new study exploring the stereotypical teen experience. The findings reveal that most people, teens included, assume that hook-up culture is huge in high school and college. This is not the case. This focus on hook-up culture eclipses two more relevant issues: sexual harassment and healthy romantic relationships.

According to the study, the lack of information stems from parents, teachers, and other key adults in a teen’s life. The project surveyed around 3,000 people 18-25, asking questions about sexual harassment, misogyny, love, and sex.

The first key finding was that teens and adults both tend to overestimate the size of hook-up culture. Both teens and adults assumed that the percentage of teens hooking up was almost double the actual numbers. Those surveyed were more interested in sex in a relationship. The misunderstanding is harmful. Teens feel as if they are failing or lacking because they haven’t had a certain number of sexual partners. The hook-up myth puts pressure on them to have sex even if they aren’t comfortable, potentially leading to unsafe sex. The pressure to hook-up and the stereotypes often lead to substance use which can lead to sexual violence.

Hook-up culture encourages teens to be emotionally distant from their partner(s). To fight this tendency, it is important to talk about romantic feelings and love.

It is assumed that romantic feelings and relationships will just work themselves out and everything will be okay. Again, this is a misunderstanding. Of the people surveyed, 65 – 70% responded that they wanted more guidance on the emotional side of relationships from the adults in their lives. The lack of information leads to stunted emotional health and growth, unhealthy relationships, higher divorce rates, and marital problems. Talking with teens about romantic feelings, cheating, arguments, love, breakups and all the emotional aspects of a relationship is just as important as talking with teens about their sexual health. The two go hand in hand.

Lastly, the study explores the failure to address sexual harassment. Many of the phrases used to talk about sex are violent: “I’d hit that”, “Would bang”, you get the gist. Other phrases are misogynistic: “bros before hos”, etc. Both of these things are used by most everyone, but we don’t realize the implications. These phrases and attitudes lead to the misunderstanding of what sexual harassment is. Most people realize that groping a stranger on the train is assault, because people speak out against it. Catcalling on the streets is just accepted as a fact of life, because it isn’t discussed.

Some porn supports internalized sexual violence. It isn’t realistic. To teens who may not have experienced sex, it is assumed that what is happening on the screen is how sex should go. Most people are desensitized to the violence inherent to they way we approach sex and the negative effect that this has.

So now comes the call to action. These problems often fly under the radar. When they are brought to attention, we don’t know how to address them. Its difficult to communicate the emotional side of relationships. Hook-up culture and the way we approach sex is internalized, and therefore hard to combat. The study has a few steps to starting conversations about these issues and links to many different resources and curricula for teachers, adults and teens. Introducing some of these conversations in the home and classroom starts to fight against the problems facing teens. Loveisrespect.org, Break the Cycle, blogs, and just an open dialogue between teens and adults, can be a huge help. So, when having “the talk” be sure to talk about it all.

Every good wish,

Julia

On getting tested

On sex ed, On sexuality

Fun fact: 1 out of every two people will contract an STI at some point in their life.

This can lead to some pretty nasty consequences. Cancer, infertility, pregnancy complications, chronic pain, and even death. The problem with this is that our much loved high school sex ed programs forget one important detail.

Most STIs are asymptomatic.

That means symptoms don’t show up. HPV, for example, is asymptotic, but can lead to cervical cancer if left untreated. Undetected STIS tend to be a bigger problem for women as the urethra and the vagina are separate, whereas in men, painful urination makes STIs a whole lot easier to detect. Its still a valid problem for everyone. At first, most STIs don’t cause too much harm. Its when they are left untreated for long periods of time that they start to wreak havoc.

So how do you prevent getting an STI?

  1. Safe sex! That’s right, condoms prevent up to 98% of STI cases when used correctly. This includes all types of sex, whether it be penetrational, oral , or anything in between. STIs such as gonorrhea can infect any mucousy area of the body- throat, nose and eyes included.
  2. Communicate! Don’t be afraid to talk to your partner about any STIs you might have and ask them if they have anything. The conversation will probably be awkward, but its much better than having and STI.
  3. When in doubt, see a doctor. If you even suspect an ingrown hair may be something more, get it checked. Even if you exhibit no symptoms, get tested. Its recommended that you get tested at least every 3-6 months. Like I said before, most STIs are asymptomatic, so its better to be safe than have an untreated STI.

If you or your partner have an STI be sure to communicate it. First off, both of you should be tested to make sure everything is being treated. Second, communicate. I know I say this all the time, but communication is the foundation to a healthy relationship and healthy sexuality. Lastly, follow the doctors recommendations! They tend to know what they’re talking about

Before I leave you alone, here’s one last resource. iknowmine is one of my favorite resources for Alaska teens. They have a whole bunch of helpful information. Additionally, they provide free at home STI testing kits and condoms. For those of you who don’t have easy access to a doctor, this is a way that you can get tested. The whole process is anonymous and parental consent is not required in Alaska. The website also has information on your sexual health rights, as well as countless resources about basically everything involved with sexuality. Highly recommended.

Every good wish,

Julia

 

On health apps

On health, On sex ed

As the end of the school year nears, people start to panic about pretty much everything. This is especially true for those of you who are graduating. College kids are always stressed and broke. Here are a few free apps that can help with stress, clear up questions, and help you try and keep some of your sanity.

First off Pacifica. Pacifica is a stress and anxiety reducing app. It uses actual treatments and teaches you how to apply them to your daily life. It comes with a mood/health tracker, meditations and mindfulness, relaxation techniques, self-help guidance, goals, progress tracker and peer community support. You can get it here for iOS and android with paid upgrades.

Another stress relieving app is called Headspace. This is a guided meditation app that gives you the skills to be happier and healthier. Level one is made up of ten guided meditations to start you off, with a paid subscription to access all of their meditations. You can get it here for iOS and andriod.

Calm is another meditation app. Unlike Headspace, Calm has guided and unguided meditations, breathing exercises, soundscapes. Calm also features sleep stories, which combine music, soundscapes and nice voices to send you off to sleep. Get it here for iOS or android.

Yoga Studio is one of the most popular yoga apps out there. It comes with hundreds of poses, videos, and guides for people of every level out there. Get it here for iOS or android.

My Sex Doctor is an app all about sex ed in the real world. It talks about pleasure, safe sex, STIs, your body, relationships, dating, flirting and anything in between. Get it here for iOS or andriod.

For anyone who gets a period, Eve is a fantastic period tracker and sexual health app. It helps track your cycle, gives you health tips, teach you more about your body and sex, and provides science based information on birth control, your body, birth control and sex. You can get it here for iOS or andriod with paid upgrades.

Planned Parenthood recently came out with their own period tracker app called Spot On. It tracks your cycle, symptoms, and provides accurate information on sex, birth control and your body. Get it here for iOS and android.

Evernote is a great organization app. It lets you list, take notes and pictures all while allowing you to share across devices. You can also share with other users of the app, making it useful for group projects. You can get it here for iOS or andriod.

None of the health apps are supposed to replace a real doctor. While they have accurate, scientific information, always go to a professional if you have a real concern.

Every good wish,

Julia