Celebrate International Pronouns Day 2020

Did you know that October 21 is International Pronouns Day? Many people may not think much about pronouns, but this is an opportunity to increase awareness about how important it is to use the pronouns people determine are correct for them. This is especially important for people who identify as transgender or gender nonconforming. You can use this day—and, ideally, everyday—to acknowledge and learn about pronouns!

Pronouns Matter

People are not always conscious of others’ pronouns. But it’s important to honor the pronouns someone identifies with. What if you were assigned male at birth but identify as a girl or woman? Or maybe you were assigned female at birth but you identify as a guy? Someone may make an incorrect assumption about your pronouns based on physical appearance.

Or, what if you identify outside of the binary of girl/woman or boy/man altogether when it comes to gender? For example, some people use nonbinary pronouns like ze/hir or they/them. People often depend on that gender binary to make a judgment about someone else. But it’s important to recognize that gender identity is more fluid than just masculine or feminine. Check out this Gender Identity & Expression Map.

You Can Ask

Unfortunately, some people refuse to switch to a more inclusive system due to discrimination or a lack of understanding. But honoring someone’s pronouns shows respect.

What helps is asking for someone’s pronouns. Rather than asking someone what their gender is, ask what pronouns you should use to refer to them. By asking, we acknowledge how we will honor their gender identity.

What You Can Do to Share Your Pronouns

    • Add your pronouns to your digital and social media bios.
    • Include your pronouns in your email signature.
    • Share your pronouns when introducing yourself to new people. This makes space for everyone to share their pronouns, if they feel comfortable.
    • Use name tags with pronouns.
    • Speak up if someone misgenders you.

Tips for Honoring Others’ Pronouns

    • If there is no opportunity to ask someone, use gender neutral pronouns such as “they/them” until you know for sure. However, try to find a time as soon as possible to get clarification on what someone’s pronouns are.
    • If you get it wrong, don’t feel terrible. Just allow yourself to be corrected (or correct yourself), apologize for your error and move on in the conversation.
    • Make sure you get clarity about which pronouns to use in specific spaces. Some people prefer to use the pronouns they were assigned at birth in certain situations to avoid conflict with family members. Unfortunately, it may not be safe for them to be out when it comes to their gender identity.

 

No matter where you are in your own pronoun journey, be part of a supportive community by making others feel welcome. Whether it’s by sharing your pronouns on social media or starting a conversation by asking for someone’s pronouns, you can work to support diverse identities and make spaces comfortable for others.

Have a great International Pronouns Day and check out this resource for more info!

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Is UBI the Key to Fixing Everything?

What would YOU do with a guaranteed monthly income? 
The Covid-19 pandemic has made the benefits of a universal basic income much more obvious to most people. As a political pragmatist I’ve been in favor of some kind of UBI for a long time. In this episode I talk about the many reasons why I think having a cash UBI would be better than the miserable patchwork of our current social “safety net”. A guaranteed UBI would lead to a society that not only has less poverty, but also fosters more innovation, does a better job of supporting its citizens as they care for each other, and is better prepared to meet the challenges of the future.

World Contraception Day 2020

Happy World Contraception Day! Part of the international Your Life campaign, World Contraception Day takes place every year on September 26. It was launched with the aim of helping young people around the world make safe and educated decisions about sex.

Why This Matters to Teens

This is especially important for teens, who often don’t receive education about contraception in school. Just “16 states require instruction on condoms or contraception when sex education or HIV/STI instruction is provided,” according to SIECUS: Sex Ed for Social Change. Plus, “35 require schools to stress abstinence when sex education or HIV/STI instruction is provided.”

But, the reality is that there are teens who choose to have sex and not remain abstinent, and this lack of information has an effect on them. “By the time they are in twelfth grade, the majority of high school students have had sexual intercourse,” says a report done by the Guttmacher Institute using data from the U.S. Youth Risk Behavior Surveys done in 2013, 2015 and 2017, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Contraceptive Choices

World Contraception Day seeks to educate teens about the importance of safer sex. When it comes to preventing unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), the campaign introduces teens to information and resources about their contraceptive choices.

Currently, there are numerous forms of contraception available and finding one that works for you can seem like a daunting task. This campaign can help teens decide which method is best for them and what steps to take to access different contraceptive methods, including finding a health care provider if needed.

A Great Resource

The Your Life website guides teens on the usage and function of various contraceptive methods, teaching them things like which methods prevent STDs in addition to unintended pregnancy and the effectiveness of each. In addition, the website includes answers to commonly asked questions in order to enable teens to make decisions that benefit them most.

For many teens, high school is the time they begin to consider having sex for the first time. That’s why it’s so important to have campaigns like World Contraception Day that raise awareness and give them the opportunity they deserve to make informed decisions about their bodies and sexual health.

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How Do I Tell If Someone Is Into Me?

You can read a book. You can read a map. But reading people, that’s difficult in any situation. Reading people to figure out if they’re actually into you romantically or sexually is even more difficult. Douglas Laman is here to give fellow autistic readers a little help.

You can read a book. You can read a map. But reading people, that’s difficult in any situation.

Reading people to figure out if they’re actually into you romantically or sexually is even more difficult. It’s a harrowing part of developing any sort of crush on another person. That sensation of your mind ping-ponging back and forth between the ideas that your crush is infatuated with you and that your crush probably doesn’t even know you exist. The difficulty of navigating this scenario is only exacerbated for many autistic people. After all, it plays into a struggle found among many of us, myself included, dealing with reading people’s subtle social cues.

If somebody is trying to let you know if they “like” you or not, they’re often going to communicate those feelings through hand movements, raised eyebrows or vocal tone. Trying to navigate those signals has brought me plenty of frustration in the past. I’m surely not the only autistic person to feel that struggle.

There are ways to cut through all the confusion and get some clarity on if someone you like feels the same way about you. But first, let’s clarify if the water is safe to swim in before you go jumping in that pool. In other words, let’s examine why you think a person might like you back. What circumstances have led you to think a person feels this way about you? Is it just because they have been nice to you? Is there a deeper connection between you two? What kind of conversations have you shared in the past?

There is a great deal of difference between a person exhibiting basic kindness and exhibiting indicators of feeling something more passionate. Contemplate your past interactions with this person to figure out if there’s anything in their body language and vocals to even examine.

Once you’re sure there’s something deeper, then there are ways to figure out if your suspicions are correct. These subtle signals can appear anywhere and at anytime through subtle pieces of body language. Some people may explicitly say “I like you” or “I don’t like you like that,” but many people won’t be so direct. Particularly with the latter phrase, people tend to convey their interior desires through gestures.

Now, sometimes, a stretch is just a stretch. It’s important to not lapse into self-absorbed territory and think every move a person makes is a signal to you. But other times, what a person does with their bodies can indicate something greater. This is especially true when a person is trying to convey whether they like you or not. For example, a person may indicate they feel closer to you through means like frequently getting closer to you. Conversely, a person looking always looking off or moving further away when engaging with you is trying to indicate they’re uncomfortable in this social situation and don’t want to be closer to you.

Of course, not every piece of body language is as simple as looking away or moving closer. If you’re still struggling to figure out what their body language means, you can use context clues to help you figure it out.  An example of this could be if the person you’re attached to looks at the floor. Did you recently say something that would cause the other person to turn downwards? Did they indicate they wanted to look at the floor? Did behavior from another person cause this? There are all kinds of things all around you that can help lead you to the meaning behind body language. In the process, you can figure out how the other person is subtly communicating their feelings about you.

A similar process can be used to decipher the underlying meaning behind someone’s voice. The way a person says a certain phrase can indicate they feel comfortable around you and may reciprocate your feelings. However, a person can also use details about their voice to convey the opposite feeling. This is especially notable in the kind of words and subjects they use in a conversation. For instance, your crush may repeatedly refer to you as a friend or change the subject when you bring up more intimate subject matter. These function as a way of a person quietly letting you know they just don’t like you in a romantic way.

If you want to figure out a persons feelings about you, it’s important to also interact with them in the right environment. For this topic, check out my recent Scarleteen column looking at ideal places for a first date.  This location should strive for a balance between intimacy and comfort for the person you’re seeing. Somewhere like a museum, a restaurant or a thrift store can provide plenty of opportunities for one-on-one interactions. However, they also have lots of other people around, which can provide comfort for the other person you’re seeing. In these locations, you can examine your crush’s body language and vocal traits to figure out whether you’re they like you back.

Of course, these tips, particularly ones regarding places to meet, are more applicable to traditional dating expectations than where we’re all at right now as I’m writing this. In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, everything is anything but traditional. People are connecting through virtual means rather than in-person scenarios. These tips about body language and vocal tics can still be applicable over a Zoom session. Additionally, this virtual reality offers new indicators whether a person is into you or not.

Let us look at a person constantly declining your requests to have a one-on-one videochat session. Though they may always say it’s because they’re “busy”, this recurring notice can be the other person trying to gently let you know they’re not interested in you in that manner. On a more positive note, recurring prolonged one-on-one Zoom or Skype sessions with another person can be a good indicator that they may have deeper feelings for you.

If you’re getting signals that they do, in fact, feel the same way about you, then you can start to gradually incorporate the topics like seeing each other regularly or having a more romantic or sexual date into your conversations. However, it is crucial to note that, whether you’re interacting in-person or virtually, you will never be able to read another person’s body language better than that other person. If the person you’re with is expressing discomfort or lack of consent, even if it doesn’t look like that to you, that overrides your interpretation.

Similarly, if a person ends up not reciprocating your feeling of affection, that’s totally okay. You can feel disappointed, of course, but them not returning your romantic intentions does not make them a villain. This is especially an important lesson to impart for heterosexual cisgender men. As a society, men are conditioned to think they’re owed women as romantic partners. If a woman deviates from a man’s affections, well, it gets chalked up to being a conspiracy against “nice guys” or other similar expressions of entitlement. We’re not entitled to women, their attention or affection.

Those toxic ideas reduce women from being people to objects. That’s why it’s important, even if you’re disappointed that your crush isn’t into you, to not diminish the humanity of that former crush. They are a person too and one perfectly within their own rights not to be enamored with you.

Reading a person’s body language is significantly harder than reading a map or a book. However, it is an essential process. Much like not demonizing a person because they’re not into you, understanding a person’s body language is a great way to recognize somebody else’s humanity. Relationships are not built on treating people like trophies to be obtained. Taking the time to assess a person as a human being who communicates needs through body language, that is what relationships are all about.

Soft illustration of a peacock with text "how do I tell if someone is into me?"











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Suicide Prevention Month: How to Find and Offer Support to LGBTQ Teens

It’s National Suicide Prevention Month and that got me thinking about how the world can feel brutal sometimes: mean comments, rumors, judgment. Research unfortunately has found that LGBTQ youth are at higher risk for suicide.

For their 2020 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, the Trevor Project—an organization focused on crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for LGBTQ youth—surveyed over 40,000 U.S. LGBTQ people ages 13 to 24. Among their key findings: “Forty percent of LGBTQ respondents seriously considered attempting suicide in the past twelve months, with more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth having seriously considered suicide.” Further, LGB youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual teens, according to the 2016 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance from the Centers for Disease Control.

These are disheartening and discouraging statistics. But LGBTQ youth are subject to a lot of discrimination and abuse. “Six out of 10 LGBTQ youth said that someone attempted to convince them to change their sexual orientation or gender identity,” according to the Trevor Project survey mentioned above. And “One in three LGBTQ youth report that they have been physically threatened or harmed in their lifetime due to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.”

But there are things you can do, whether you’re looking for support or wanting to provide it to others. For example, the Trevor Project’s survey found that transgender and nonbinary young people who reported having their pronouns respected or access to gender gender-affirming clothing had lower rates of attempted suicide. And the great news is that 86 percent of LGBTQ young people who took the survey reported high levels of support from at least one person. Let’s make that 100 percent!

Offer Your Support

1. Listen and care. Even the smallest amount of love and support can go a long way. A simple “How are you doing?” can really help with feelings of isolation and show that you care. Reach out.

2. Use your voice on social media. By sharing LGBTQ-friendly posts, you are supporting and advocating for those who are LGBTQ. This not only increases awareness but also may catch the eyes of many who need to know they have allies.

3. Get help. If you know someone who is struggling and may be contemplating suicide, let them know that they are not alone and they have many resources, such as the ones listed below.

As The Trevor Project says on their website, “One supportive person can prevent suicide.” Sometimes, that’s all it takes to help someone.

Resources

• Call the TrevorLifeline at 1-866-488-7386, where trained counselors are available 24/7. It’s a safe and judgment-free place to talk about what is on your mind.

• Not feeling like talking? Well, TrevorChat is also available online 24/7 where you can message a trained counselor from your computer. Conversations are confidential.

TrevorText is confidential and will also connect you with a trained Trevor counselor 24/7. Text START to 678-678.

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Menstrual Discs: A Unique Option for Back to School

After a week of constant ads for menstrual discs on my Snapchat, I finally gave in and tried them. The prospect of a 12-hour, no-(or-low) leak, potentially cramp-reducing product with the option of mess-free sex on your period? Enough to get me interested!

Even though the product isn’t brand-new, most people I know haven’t heard of it. I thought it could be a great option for dealing with your period in the upcoming school year. It’s always good to have more choices!

What Is a Menstrual Disc?

A menstrual disc is a flat, flexible plastic disc that collects menstrual flow around the cervix. Unlike a menstrual cup, which sits lower in the vaginal canal, the menstrual disc goes around the cervix, sitting higher in the vagina.

Before I learned about menstrual discs, I used tampons and pads. They were OK, but even after a year of using tampons, they were still uncomfortable for me when I put them in. So, when I heard about an alternative option, I was eager to try it out.

There are a couple of different kinds. I’ve only tried the Softdisc, which has worked well for me.

Why I Love It

One of the things I love about the menstrual disc is that when you pinch it in the middle, it folds down to a size even smaller than a tampon. The plastic material slides in easier for me than a cotton/rayon tampon.

It took me a few tries to get it in correctly, but once I figured it out, it lasted around eight to 10 hours. Sometimes I forgot I was on my period at all!

There were very few leaks, no hanging string or any visible signs of the disc. And I had barely any cramps (though the jury is still out on if menstrual discs really can reduce cramps since cramps are caused by contractions in the uterus, not the vagina).

I think what draws a lot of people to discs is that they don’t block the vaginal canal, so you can have penetrative sex with one in. This is awesome, but menstrual discs don’t provide any form of protection from unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, so you should still use condoms, which prevent both.

Are They for You?

Menstrual discs are another option for dealing with your period, but they are not for everyone. They’re more expensive than tampons or menstrual cups, and aren’t very eco-friendly. You’ll also need to be comfortable handling your menstrual fluid, because you’ll have to insert and take the disc out with your fingers. Also, it collects menstrual blood, rather than absorbing it, so you’ll see more when you take it out. This took some getting used to.

Despite those potential downsides, menstrual discs are my new favorite menstrual product! They make that one dreaded week out of every month more tolerable.

There are a lot of different options for dealing with your period, but until recently I’d only heard of tampons, pads, menstrual cups and period underwear. If you’re looking for an alternative option for the upcoming school year (whether you’re going to school or doing remote learning), you might want to give menstrual discs a try!

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Abigail Maher

Registered Mental Health Counseling Intern

Abby earned her Masters degree from Northwestern University where she specialized in working with the LGBTQIA+ population. In addition to her clinical work Abby is an active volunteer with The Trevor Project, a national organization dedicated to suicide prevention for LGBTQIA+ youth. She is a volunteer member of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQIA+ advocacy and civil rights organization in the United States. Abby also belongs to the Florida Association of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender issues in Counseling (FALGBTIC).

Abby uses a variety of treatment styles, theories and interventions in her work, but underneath it all her main focus is providing a safe, empathic environment for you to truly explore yourself and every facet of your experience. This includes both exploring sources of pain and hurt, and celebrating sources of hope and joy. Abby believes that one of the most powerful things we can do is truly learn to understand ourselves, accept ourselves, practice compassion for ourselves, and move forward in life allowing ourselves to be as authentic as possible.

Making relationships and sex education work for children with SEND

Media release – 1 September 2020

To coincide with relationships and sex education (RSE) becoming compulsory on 1st September, the Sex Education Forum, together with Image in Action and Mencap, have published a new guide for teachers about how to teach RSE in an accessible way to ensure pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are not left behind.

While the Department for Education guidance (1) stresses that RSE must be accessible to all pupils and may be a particularly important subject for pupils with SEND, over three-quarters (76%) of teachers consulted by the Sex Education Forum said that practical advice on how to deliver RSE to students with SEND would be ‘very helpful’ (2).

While the curriculum and topics covered in RSE should essentially be the same for pupils with SEND as for mainstream pupils (2), there are some specific practical considerations for schools, such as planning to revisit topics, involving the wide range of staff who may be involved in the teaching and care of pupils and using informal opportunities, for example queuing for lunch could be a chance to reinforce learning about personal boundaries.

The guide is also a timely reminder of good practice that applies to all schools, such as using correct language for private body parts, establishing partnerships with parents and carers, and listening to children and young people themselves. 

Lucy Emmerson, Director of the Sex Education Forum, said:

‘Relationships and Sex Education is an important subject for all children and young people, because it deals with matters that affect their everyday lives such as changing bodies, emotions, friendships, family and intimate relationships. Statutory RSE correctly sets high expectations for meeting the needs of all children, and with adequate support schools will be able to achieve this. The extent to which RSE meets the needs of pupils with SEND will be a test of successful implementation of the new legislation.’

Richard Lawrence, project support assistant and co-chair of the Relationship and Sex Steering Group at Mencap and who has a learning disability, said:

‘People with a learning disability can and do fall in love. But lots of people have told me that because I have a learning disability, I don’t understand what a healthy relationship, consent or safe sex is. It’s negative attitudes like this that mean that people with a learning disability don’t get to learn about these important things like others do. They end up finding out the hard way, and this isn’t right. People with a learning disability need to be given the chance to learn so they can find love or have friendships.

“We all need to learn about sex, relationships, consent and our bodies. But it’s a lot harder for people with a learning disability to do this because accessible information is hidden away. That’s why we at Mencap are proud to be working with the Sex Education Forum and Image in Action on this guide for teachers. It will help teachers make relationship and sex education accessible to everyone, by giving people more time, using images and avoiding jargon, to make sure pupils with a learning disability can better understand.’

‘RSE for disabled pupils and pupils with special educational needs’ is a free resource available from the Sex Education Forum. 

 

Footnotes

  1. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/relationships-education-relationships-and-sex-education-rse-and-health-education
  2. https://www.sexeducationforum.org.uk/resources/evidence/statutory-rse-are-teachers-england-prepared

About the Sex Education Forum
The Sex Education Forum, part of the National Children’s Bureau, is the national authority on relationships and sex education (RSE). We believe that good quality RSE is an entitlement for all children and young people and we are working with our 60+ partners, who all support statutory, inclusive RSE and include local authorities, children’s, religious, health and family organisations, to achieve this. Mencap and Image in Action are partners of the Sex Education Forum.

For further information visit: www.sexeducationforum.org.uk  

About the National Children’s Bureau
For more than 50 years, the National Children’s Bureau has worked to champion the rights of children and young people in the UK. We interrogate policy and uncover evidence to shape future legislation and develop more effective ways of supporting children and families. As a leading children’s charity, we take the voices of children to the heart of Government, bringing people and organisations together to drive change in society and deliver a better childhood for the UK. We are united for a better childhood.

For more information visit www.ncb.org.uk

AboutMencap     

There are approximately 1.5 million people with a learning disability in the UK. Mencap works to support people with a learning disability, their families and carers by fighting to change laws, improve services and access to education, employment and leisure facilities. Mencap supports thousands of people with a learning disability to live their lives the way they want.

For advice and information about learning disability and Mencap services in your area, contact Mencap’s Freephone Learning Disability Helpline on 0808 808 1111 (9am-6pm, Monday-Friday) or email [email protected]

For more information visit: https://www.mencap.org.uk/

What is a learning disability?

  • A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability which can cause problems with everyday tasks – for example shopping and cooking, or travelling to new places – which affects someone for their whole life; 
  • Learning disability is NOT a mental illness or a learning difficulty, such as dyslexia. Very often the term ‘learning difficulty’ is wrongly used interchangeably with ‘learning disability’;
  • People with a learning disability can take longer to learn new things and may need support to develop new skills, understand difficult information and engage with other people. The level of support someone needs is different with every individual. For example, someone with a severe learning disability might need much more support with daily tasks than someone with a mild learning disability.











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