LGBT Wellness Roundup: October 5

As published on Huffington Post’s new LGBT Wellness blog, see original at: http://ow.ly/DhVNO

Each week HuffPost Gay Voices, in a partnership with bloggers Liz Margolies and Scout, brings you a round up of some of the biggest LGBT wellness stories from the past seven days. For more LGBT Wellness, visit our page dedicated to the topic here. The weekly LGBT Wellness Roundup can also now be experienced as a video — check it out above.

BLACK HEALTH: FINAL THOUGHTS ON CONFERENCE ON LGBTI HEALTH RESEARCH

Dr Herukhuti-Lambda 2014

Herukhuti, Ph.D., M.Ed.

Professor, Goddard College

Founder and CEO, Center for Culture, Sexuality and Spirituality

“Are you sure, sweetheart, that you want to be well? I like to caution folks, that’s all. No sense us wasting each other’s time, sweetheart. A lot of weight when you’re well. Now, you just hold that thought…. Just so’s you’re sure. sweetheart, and ready to be healed cause wholeness is no trifling matter. A lot of weight when you’re well.” – Minnie Ransom in Toni Cade Bambara’s The Salt Eaters

The health and wellbeing of Black people. Who will take the weight of the wholeness and wellness of people who Europeans brought to the Western hemisphere as chattel slaves, marked as sub-human in scientific journals, made to live in dehumanizing conditions up to and including the present moment? In 1977, the members of the Combahee River Collective, stated, “We realize that the only people who care enough about us to work consistently for our liberation are us. Our politics evolve from a healthy love for ourselves, our sisters and our community which allows us to continue our struggle and work.”

The articulation of self-determination in Black communities has not been unique to Black women. Essex Hemphill, in his poem For My Own Protection, answered the question thusly, “I want to start an organization to save my life…. the lives of Black men are priceless and can be saved. We should be able to save each other. I don’t want to wait for the Heritage Foundation to release a study saying Black people are almost extinct…. I don’t want to be the living dead pacified with drugs, sex and rock-n-roll…. If we have to take tomorrow with blood are we ready?… All I want to know for my own protection is are we capable of whatever whenever.”

As we discussed the IOM report recommendations for research training, it became obvious that there is currently no research training center dedicated to LGBT health research run by Black people or even with Black people in significant positions of power and authority in the United States. Zero. The Conference on Current Issues in LGBTI Health Research, which the organizers characterized as an international conference and had presenters and attendees from Asia, Latin America and the United States, had one Black presenter.

Recommendation Six of the IOM Report made the following assertions:

“To create a more robust cadre of researchers in LGBT health, NIH should expand its existing research training framework for both intramural and extramural training. Three audiences should be targeted: researchers who are working with or considering working with LGBT populations, other researchers who may not be aware of LGBT health issues, and NIH staff.” p.304

“In its intramural training program, NIH should develop postdoctoral training opportunities in the area of LGBT research (for example, research on youth and families). Similarly, NIH should expand the curriculum of its postbaccalaureate NIH Academy to include LGBT-specific issues in addition to the racial and ethnic disparities that are currently studied within the program. To implement these research training activities, NIH should increase its capacity to provide on-site experts as mentors for researchers examining LGBT health issues.” p.304

“Within its existing extramural program, NIH should increase the number of individual awards offered to researchers studying LGBT health issues, including postdoctoral, graduate student, and career awards. In addition, the current loan repayment program should be expanded to assist students who choose to study LGBT health issues. In particular, the development of researchers of color who will study LGBT health should be encouraged.“ p.305

If these recommendations are to be implemented in ways that lead to tangible, material improvements in the health, wholeness and wellbeing of Black people, they have to be implemented in a different context than has been attempted previously. The Eurocentric and white-dominated systems, structures and mechanisms can not be the vehicles for implementation because they have proven to be ineffective in addressing the tangible, material conditions of Black people–despite the good intentions of well-meaning white allies.

It is time (as it has always been the time) for us to liberate and save ourselves. We need a national convening of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, same-gender loving, and queer organizations, leadership and researchers to generate a health agenda that addresses our needs, realities, and aspirations. It will mean recognizing the areas of common experience as well as the uniquenesses that exists across Black folks who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, same-gender loving, and queer. It will entail our embrace of our indigenous knowledge of our communities (both grassroots knowledge and scientific knowledge) as well as considering the value of the work that has been conducted outside of our communities such as the IOM report. It will require the cultural confidence evidenced in the Combahee River Collective Statement and Essex Hemphill’s poem to believe that we can take the weight and the cultural sophistication to realize that we are the only ones who ever could.

Dr. Herukhuti is founder and Chief Erotics Officer (CEO) of the Center for Culture, Sexuality and Spirituality and editor-in-chief of sacredsexualities.org. He is also a member of the faculty at Goddard College. Follow him on Twitter and Tumblr and like his Facebook Fan page.

 

#BWLGBTI Day 3 Part 2: Community-based research is still important

dwayne

 

 

Dwayne Steward

LGBTQ Health Advocate
Columbus Public Health

 

 

We’ve come to the end of the LGBTI Health Research Conference at Baldwin Wallace University. This has been a very life-changing experience, for which I am truly grateful. Being in the room with so many experts that have and are currently making groundbreaking changes in the country, and around the world, regarding the inclusion of LGBTI communities in health research has been phenomenal. I can’t thank the Network for LGBT Health Equity enough for this amazing opportunity.

Jacob Nash

Jacob Nash

The conference began it’s last half with two lively panel discussions. The first was “Community Perspectives Regarding LGBTI Health” featuring Jacob Nash (transgender activist and director of Margie’s Hope), Alana Jochum (Equality Ohio’s Northeast Ohio Regional Coordinator) and Maya Simek (program director for The LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland). Jochum made some very interesting points regarding how LGBTI health research has made historic advances in LGBTI rights possible. She referenced several court cases that have used the statistics compiled by researchers, several in the room, in major courtroom arguments for marriage equality. Her examples helped further illustrate the need for the work of those attending the conference. Nash and Simek put out calls to researchers for more specified research studies on marginalized populations and offered insights on the health issues they’re seeing among marginalized populations. They both reiterated the need for more collaboration between activists and health researchers.

The conference officially ended with “LGBTI Health and Human Rights in International Settings” with a very dynamic panel of LGBTI health community organizers from Latin America and India.

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“LGBTI Health and Human Rights in International Settings” Panel

Wendy Castillo, a community organizer from El Salvador who has done work providing safe spaces for lesbian and transgender women, spoke at length about the tragic murders that continue take the lives of transgender women regularly in El Salvodor and the struggles organizations there face with trying to keep transgender women safe. Daniel Armando Calderon and Alejandro Rodriguez, both community organizers around issues facing the MSM community in Columbia, discussed how they try to decrease barriers for “heterosexual MSM’ and other special populations needing HIV care and other health services.

Vivek Anand, of Humsafar Trust, closed out the conference with more detail regarding his efforts regarding the recent re-criminalization of homosexuality in India. His organization has courageously come to the forefront of attacking this law that was passed by the country’s Supreme Court after massive efforts from religious leaders. I thinks it quite admirable that the work he’s doing is heralding and sometimes dangerous, but he faces it head on with an upbeat attitude. He ended his presentation with a video of Gaysi‘s (an LGBT advocacy organization in Mumbai) #notgoingback campaign, one of the efforts to build awareness and garner support for repealing the law. The upbeat video, featuring Pharrell Williams’ massive hit song “Happy,” is a perfect representation of Anand’s bubbly activist spirit.

And thus we end our time together my friends. Please always remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King that I used to start this blog series, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Let’s never end this very important conversation!

#BWLBGTI Day 2 Post-Lunch: Revisiting sexual health

dwayne

Dwayne Steward 
LGBTQ Health Advocate
Columbus Public Health

After lunch at day 2 of the LGBTI Health Research Conference at Baldwin Wallace is all about sexual health. Historically this would have been the bulk of such a conference as this. As most of us know, pathology-focused research on homosexuality and gender diversity, along with the stigma associated with the HIV/AIDS epidemic forced LGBTI healthcare into a sexual health box for many years. It’s interesting to see that the pendulum is swinging back the other way in some ways as we as LGBTI healthcare workers/researchers are now having to convince certain communities that sexual health is still an important factor of the LGBTI health experience.

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Dr. Anthony Silvestre, professor of Infectious Disease and Microbiology at the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh, opened with a lunch-time keynote on the history of sexual health research, reminding us how far we’ve come regarding the study of sex and sexuality in this country. He than joined Dr. Brian Dodge, Indiana University-Bloomington School of Public Health, for the “LGBTI Health Training” seminar track, which included a lively discussion on the changing landscape of HIV and intersectionality in public health research.

There was definitely a lot of talk about training program models in Indiana and Pennsylvania, but through the lens of sexual health research. Dr. Silvestre spoke on University of Pittsburgh’s LGBT health certificate program along with several other LGBT-focused specialized programs the university offers, including a post-doctorate program that specialized in MSM (men who have sex with men) healthcare.

Dr. Dodge made several interesting conjectures about the study of sexual health saying, much of the conversation regarding sexual health has been risk based. “We need to be including more about the actual pleasure of sex and begin taking a more sex-positive approach. It is okay for gay sex to be enjoyable,” he said. He went on to say that programs should take a more competency-based approach to better prepare students for their post-college endeavors.

My fellow Network for LGBTQ Health Equity scholarship recipients Heru Kheti (middle) and E.Shor (right).

My fellow Network for LGBTQ Health Equity scholarship recipients Heru Kheti (middle) and E.Shor (right).

Dr. Francisco Sy, director of the Office of Community-Based Participatory Research and Collaboration at the NIH/National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), took a moment to educate the audience on the NIH grant process and how to best navigate their grant application process. But the day’s real winner was Dr. Erin Wilson’s presentation, “HIV Among Trans-Female Youth: What We Now Know and Directions for Research and Prevention.” Dr. Wilson, who is a former NIMHD Loan Repayment Program (LRP) recipient and research scientist currently with the AIDS Office at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, quickly (due to time constraints) spoke on her ground-breaking NIH-funded research on the social determinants of health that led to high HIV-infection rates for transgender female youth in Los Angeles.

The statistics Dr. Wilson reported were pretty staggering. She prefaced much of her presentation by saying her studies were very specific to L.A. and she had no research to show that this was reflective of the national transgender female population. She reported finding that transgender females in L.A. were 34 times more likely to contact HIV than the general population and at the time of her study nearly 70 percent of transgender female youth in L.A. participated in sex work. As a result of her work The SHINE Study was created, the first longitudinal study of trans*female youth that still continues today. Though nearly 40 percent of transgender females in L.A. are living with HIV only 5 percent are youth. “We have a great opportunity to get ahead of this disparity and create some real change,” she said.

That’s all for today my friends. Check back tomorrow for a full report on Day 3 of the Baldwin Wallace University LGBTI Health Research Conference (#BWLGBTI)!

INTERSECTIONALITY REDUX AND REVISED: DAY 3 AT THE CONFERENCE ON LGBTI HEALTH RESEARCH

Dr Herukhuti-Lambda 2014

Herukhuti, Ph.D., M.Ed.

Professor, Goddard College

Founder and CEO, Center for Culture, Sexuality and Spirituality

“Race and ethnicity—Concepts of community, traditional roles, religiosity, and cultural influences associated with race and ethnicity shape an LGBT individual’s experiences. The racial and ethnic communities to which one belongs affect self-identification, the process of coming out, available support, the extent to which one identifies with the LGBT community, affirmation of gender-variant expression, and other factors that ultimately influence health outcomes. Members of racial and ethnic minority groups may have profoundly different experiences than non-Hispanic white LGBT individuals.” – The Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People: Building a Foundation for Better Understanding, Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences 2011

Saturday morning, we had  a very lively discussion of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) report on LGBT health. Drs, Walter Bockting, PhD, co-director, LGBTI Health Initiative, Division of Gender, Sexuality, & Health, NYS Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University,  Judith Bradford, director, Center for Population Research in LGBTI Health, Fenway Institute, and Rashada C. Alexander, special assistant to the deputy director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) led the discussion with presentations on their work. Judith and Walter were members of the committee that crafted the report. Rashada, the only presenter of African descent during the conference, provided an important perspective on the way forward for people interested in using the IOM report to engage the NIH.

The committee recommended four conceptual frameworks “be applied to priority areas of research in order to further the evidence base for LGBT health issues:” minority stress model, life course approach, intersectionality and social ecology. Intersectionality is quite unique among the four in that its roots are in the radical activist traditions of Black feminist community organizers. The committee chose of the work Bonnie Thorton Dill and Ruth Zambrana, Emerging Intersections: Race, Class and Gender in Theory, Policy and Practice, as the basis for their understanding and articulation of intersectionality. But its history can be found as early as 1977 Combahee River Collective Statement, in which the women articulated,

“We are a collective of Black feminists who have been meeting together since 1974. During that time we have been involved in the process of defining and clarifying our politics, while at the same time doing political work within our own group and in coalition with other progressive organizations and movements. The most general statement of our politics at the present time would be that we are actively committed to struggling against racial, sexual, heterosexual, and class oppression, and see as our particular task the development of integrated analysis and practice based upon the fact that the major systems of oppression are interlocking. The synthesis of these oppressions creates the conditions of our lives. As Black women we see Black feminism as the logical political movement to combat the manifold and simultaneous oppressions that all women of color face.”

While the attention to an integrated analysis of the role of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and class in social life are the same, the tone, energy and politics of that statement are different than how the committee framed intersectionality in the IOM report,

“Intersectionality encompasses a set of foundational claims and organizing principles for understanding social inequality and its relationship to individuals’ marginalized status based on such dimensions as race, ethnicity, and social class (Dill and Zambrana, 2009; Weber, 2010). These include the following:

  • Race is a social construct. The lived experiences of racial/ethnic groups can be understood only in the context of institutionalized patterns of unequal control over the distribution of a society’s valued goods and resources.
  • Understanding the racial and ethnic experiences of sexual- and gender-minority individuals requires taking into account the full range of historical and social experiences both within and between sexual- and gender-minority groups with respect to class, gender, race, ethnicity, and geographical location.
  • The economic and social positioning of groups within society is associated with institutional practices and policies that contribute to unequal treatment.
  • The importance of representation—the ways social groups and individuals are viewed and depicted in the society at large and the expectations associated with these depictions—must be acknowledged. These representations are integrally linked to social, structural, political, historical, and geographic factors.

Intersectional approaches are based on the premise that individual and group identities are complex—influenced and shaped not just by race, class, ethnicity, sexuality/sexual orientation, gender, physical disabilities, and national origin but also by the confluence of all of those characteristics. Nevertheless, in a hierarchically organized society, some statuses become more important than others at any given historical moment and in specific geographic locations. Race, ethnicity, class, and community context matter; they are all powerful determinants of access to social capital—the resources that improve educational, economic, and social position in society.” p. 21

Dr. Herukhuti is founder and Chief Erotics Officer (CEO) of the Center for Culture, Sexuality and Spirituality and editor-in-chief of sacredsexualities.org. He is also a member of the faculty at Goddard College. Follow him on Twitter and Tumblr and like his Facebook Fan page.

The Master’s House: Day 3 AT THE CONFERENCE ON LGBTI HEALTH RESEARCH

Dr Herukhuti-Lambda 2014

Herukhuti, Ph.D., M.Ed.

Professor, Goddard College

Founder and CEO, Center for Culture, Sexuality and Spirituality

“For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s the house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never allow us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master’s house as their only source of support.” – Audre Lorde, comments at “The Personal and Political” Panel of the Second Sex Conference, New York City, September 29, 1979

What is the goal of sexual justice?

Of LGBTI health equity?

Are we seeking access to the privileges and status system that oppresses us and those we love? Or are we seeking to dismantle that system–to give birth to a new world?

Over and over again yesterday these questions emerged for me in the presentations and discussions that took place at the Conference on Current Issues in LGBTI Health Research. In a society of white supremacist, capitalist heteropatriarchy has been radical to study things related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or intersex people. People have struggled to overcome professional obstacles and challenges to do that work. Many of them (some of whom were in the room) have sacrificed much.

But that work is not in and of itself the foundation for dismantling the system of oppression and the revolutionary transformation of the world. Studying the impact of our oppression (i.e., health disparities) without a direct link to the means to end that oppression (i.e., community mobilization and organizing, policy advocacy and social change) is useful for individual, personal professional mobility and advancement. It does not do the necessary work of dismantling the master’s house. Conducting and publishing research, leaving the anti-oppression work to “the community,” “activists,” or “advocates” is a convenient way to cultivate a sense of security and comfort.

For those of us who committed to dismantling the master’s house, it is a struggle to obtain resources for that work. Not only will the master’s tools not dismantle the master’s house, but also the master will not fund the dismantling of the master’s house. How do you fit revolutionary change in a grant proposal? What’s the research question for revolutionary change? If, as Gil Scott Heron declared, the revolution will not be televised, can we expect that it will at least be conducted on a grant?

Several conference attendees discussed the idea of working within the system as a subversive act. I am often curious as to how that works practically. My only reference for it in literature is Sam Greenlee’s novel The Spook Who Sat by the Door. In the novel, the protagonist used the knowledge obtained working with a government agency to teach, train, organize and mobilize members of the community in which he grew up with the same knowledge that used to oppress them. But that’s the only example of subversion that I have seen in detail. I’d love to have some of real-life subversives provide the details of their practice and how it has led to tangible, material advancement of the dismantling of the master’s house.

Dr. Herukhuti is founder and Chief Erotics Officer (CEO) of the Center for Culture, Sexuality and Spirituality and editor-in-chief of sacredsexualities.org. He is also a member of the faculty at Goddard College. Follow him on Twitter and Tumblr and like his Facebook Fan page.

NAMING AND CLAIMING LEGACY: DAY 2 AT THE CONFERENCE ON LGBTI HEALTH RESEARCH

Dr Herukhuti-Lambda 2014

Herukhuti, Ph.D., M.Ed.

Professor, Goddard College

Founder and CEO, Center for Culture, Sexuality and Spirituality

(His)stories like our first lovers can be very seductive when we engage them from the place of nostalgia and memory. What we remember or don’t, the highlights and the gaps in memory tell us so much about the person(s) engaged in the telling of the history/story. The Conference on Current Issues in LGBTI Health Research started today with a keynote address by Dr. Eli Coleman, director of the program in human sexuality in the department of family medicine at the School of Medicine of the University of Minnesota.

He dedicated much of the time of his powerpoint presentation to sharing with us his story of LGBT movement history, health policy, and culture in the United States. The story was, he admitted, primarily Eurocentric and middle class. With a few keystrokes in Google Search, one can engage and consider the stories of the role of African-Americans in the Stonewall Riots and the response to HIV/AIDS. Dr. Anthony Silvestre, professor of infectious diseases and microbiology at the Graduate School of Public Health of University of Pittsburgh, in the afternoon keynote address provided a surprisingly similar understanding of the history of LGBTI health research.

Nestled between these talks was a presentation by Vivek Anand, executive director of Humsafar Trust (Mumbai, India). Based upon his presentation, Humsafar Trust appeared to be a study (as in exemplar) in indigenous mobilization and community-based participatory action-research. Drawing upon ideas from the West but honoring their knowledge of their own local context and retaining their commitment to indigenous control, Humsafar Trust has been working to address the opportunities and challenges they face.

Inspired by the stories of the presenters and having the value of knowing my history, ancestors, and genealogies reaffirmed for me in the absences present in several of the presentations, I want to create space in this article to name those people of African descent who have contributed to my understanding of sexual health and justice:

Who are the ancestors, elders and role models that contribute to your genealogy of understanding sexual health and justice?

Dr. Herukhuti is founder and Chief Erotics Officer (CEO) of the Center for Culture, Sexuality and Spirituality and editor-in-chief of sacredsexualities.org. He is also a member of the faculty at Goddard College. Follow him on Twitter and Tumblr and like his Facebook Fan page.