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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Protest in the Age of COVID-19

We've got a million reasons to be in the streets. But not everyone is okay with — or even able to engage in — active protest right now. But because of COVID-19, many people, especially sick and disabled folks, may be hesitant to bring their bodies together as a show of force. Here's how to make in-person protest safer and how to pitch in from your living room or bed instead.

We’ve got a million reasons to be in the streets in the United States. White supremacist fascists are preparing for a civil war, Black folks continue to be targeted by law enforcement and vigilantes, ten million adults are unemployed while millions more are otherwise struggling to survive.

But not everyone is okay with — or even able to engage in — active protest right now. There’s one big reason why many people here, especially sick and disabled folks, may be hesitant to bring their bodies together as a show of force: COVID-19.

Our leadership has handled this pandemic predictably, and we’re now heading into another crest of the same unbroken hellwave we’ve been riding since February. The myth of young people’s low infection risk has been used as a pawn in the debate over schools and universities opening, while teens and emerging adults are actually dying and becoming disabled from this disease. The CDC has recently confirmed that the novel coronavirus is airborne, that it can spread beyond six feet and linger in the air, shifting the terrain of the pandemic.

It’s all exhausting and terrifying, but not less so than a fascist dictatorship with the current president at the helm. So, we continue on.

In the age of COVID-19, how can we make our voices heard without spreading the virus? If we are organizers, how do we organize actions that are as safe and accessible as they can be for as many people as possible?

Safe(r) Protest During the Pandemic

There’s some good news on both counts: Black Lives Matter protests from May-June did not cause significant spikes in infection rates. We also already know transmission outside is less likely than transmission in an indoor space with poor ventilation, so outdoor rallies and marches are at an advantage. Wearing masks, maintaining a distance of six feet or further from other people, hand sanitizing and washing hands when running water is available–these are basics that I hope everyone has internalized into our everyday routines by now, and these practices go double for active protest If you are engaging in active protest, take extra face coverings in case you are teargassed and need to change.

This is important because COVID-19 can be transmitted by surface contact — like the inner surface of your asymptomatic buddy’s mask. It just needs to touch your nose, eyes, or mouth, or close to them. You can also get it by touching something that has virions on it, like a shared water bottle, and then touching your face. Bring your own stuff to protests, don’t share stuff, and if you do, clean it with 70%-95% isopropyl alcohol before you use it again. You might also want to get some gloves, disposable or washable, that you can wear if you need to handle communal items. Just don’t touch your face or adjust your mask with your gloved hands, because that defeats the purpose.

COVID-19 has a 2-14 day incubation period. It’s possible to transmit the virus even if you don’t have any symptoms. Best practice is to quarantine for two weeks in between actions.

Even if everyone’s social distancing is perfect, it is still possible to get infected if someone is actively shedding the virus. Get tested if you can, but regardless, wait 14 days after you last protested to make sure you aren’t still in the incubation period.

For organizers, make sure you are very clear on your mask policy and your social distancing policy when publicizing your event. Consider using something like stomping, clapping, noisemakers, anything other than chanting, yelling, and singing when you’re trying to build energy. If someone is infected, those activities are the most likely to spread the virus to others.

Accessible Protest During the Pandemic

There are lots of ways we can protest that don’t involve any risk at all, and we’ll get to those in a bit. But before we do, let’s talk a bit about how in-person protest can be made more accessible specifically in the context of COVID-19.

Accessibility needs to be foundational to any action, as Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha teaches us in Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice, it can’t be an afterthought. You must include disabled and chronically ill people in the process of planning any protest. In lieu of that direct input, here are some perennial basics on accessibility, tailored for the outdoors:

  • Make sure any outdoor venue has ramps and pathways wide enough for wheelchairs
  • Provide ASL translation and CART transcription for speakers
  • Create audio and image descriptions for outreach materials
  • Provide written materials in large type and Braille
  • Make sure there are accessible and gender-neutral bathrooms nearby
  • Provide seating (folding chairs work–check weight limits on these)
  • Ban fragrances from the space
  • Designate an accessibility point person for disabled protestors to seek guidance from
  • Allow disabled protestors to set the pace if you are marching
  • If marching, describe the route verbally and with ASL translation before you begin
  • Use megaphones or other speech-amplifying devices to communicate instructions
  • Allow disabled folks and elders to drive cars along the route with marchers

Car caravans and other mobile protests are probably the safest form of in-person protest, and one of the more accessible ones. I attended one over the summer; it was necessary catharsis for me as a queer disabled Black person heartbroken over the death of their kin. But when I was a teenager and emerging adult, caravans wouldn’t have been accessible to me if I had to be a driver — I couldn’t drive due to the heavy medication I was on.

What can I do to fight back if the only things that are accessible to me are my bed and a phone or laptop? 

For registered voters, city council meetings for many municipalities have moved online, so it’s a lot easier to let our local representatives know how we feel. Find out when your city’s next meeting is and what the procedure is for making a public comment. Prepare a short statement, for example, demanding that your local police department be defunded or supporting a rent moratorium during the pandemic, and read it when the time comes.

Everyone can follow abolitionist organizations on Twitter like Survived and Punished. They and other organizations amplify phone banking actions and phone protests against correctional facilities and police precincts. While you’re on Twitter, you can follow hashtags like #FreeThemAll, #BlackLivesMatter, and #CareForBlackWomen. And if you’re following that last hashtag and you have some extra cash, you can engage in some mutual aid.

What’s Mutual Aid? Mutual aid is what anarchists and other radicals call it when we claim responsibility for the material, spiritual, and political well-being of our community and its members. The system isn’t built for us, so we have to figure out how to take care of ourselves while we organize to bring it down. When we engage in mutual aid, we pool our time, money, knowledge, living space, skills, energy, or other resources, so that everyone can get their needs met.

We need cultural workers, too. Writers and artists, performers, singers, all are called to create work that uplifts and inspires the movement. If you’re a healer, an astrologer, if you have knowledge of first aid or herbalism or some drawings that you want to collect into a zine and distribute among your community, we need you. We do ourselves a disservice when we limit the spectrum of political activism to direct action and agitation. Building the new world first requires us to create a clear vision of it, a blueprint. That’s where cultural work comes in.

Education is also cultural work. For example, my political home, the Los Angeles Spoonie Collective, holds workshops and panels on disability justice and intersectionality in the hopes of educating our community into being a more hospitable place for its disabled and chronically ill members. Get out there and share your knowledge, what you’ve learned so far on this Earth, your lived experience. Don’t pay any mind to folks who tell you that you aren’t old enough to know what you’re talking about.

For more ways to engage with movement from home, read this excellent resource by Ejeris Dixon, Kay Ulanday Barrett, and others: 26 Ways To Be in The Struggle When We’re Not in the Streets. If you’d like more information on how to protest in general, check out Scarleteen’s guide Rebel Well: A Starter Survival Guide To A Trumped America.

Rebellion, always a risky proposition, is made even more so by this respiratory pandemic. But there are as many ways to be of service to the movement that don’t involve breathing the same air as there are different people breathing. And with care and consideration, actions where we do come together to breathe the same air can be made safer, more accessible, and more reflective of the world we want to live in — within and without this pandemic.

image of Black woman wearing mask and title text



The Top Myths about Lust and Love and How They can Ruin Your Sex Life (Part Two)

In this article, Certified Gottman Therapist Dr. Cheryl Fraser continues to debunk love life ideas that you’ve got to be in the mood and that great love “just happens.”

The post The Top Myths about Lust and Love and How They can Ruin Your Sex Life (Part Two) appeared first on The Gottman Institute.



How to Talk to Children and Teens About Uncertainty

Life can be unpredictable, but you can help the young people in your life learn how to cope.

The post How to Talk to Children and Teens About Uncertainty appeared first on The Gottman Institute.



The Art of Sensual Communication

When you put words to your desire for your partner, you can experience a satisfying relationship in and out of bed.

The post The Art of Sensual Communication appeared first on The Gottman Institute.



Five Ways to Be an Ally to Someone Who Comes Out to You

My best friend and I have known each other for over a decade, since we met in preschool. Yet it still took her some time to fully open up to me about her sexual orientation. She was scared of how it might impact our friendship and that I was going to judge her.

I am so happy that she was able to come out to me. It not only made our bond stronger, but allowed us to experience a genuine moment of friendship and, for me, allyship.

October 11 is National Coming Out Day, a time to celebrate and support those who identify as LGBTQ. Coming out can be awkward and challenging, and for some, dangerous. But having a circle of supportive family and friends can make the difference.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, “one out of every two Americans has someone close to them who is gay or lesbian. For transgender people, the number is only one in ten.” They go on to say that, “When people know someone who is LGBTQ, they are far more likely to support equality under the law. Beyond that, our stories can be powerful to each other.”

Feeling confused about what to do or say if someone comes out to you? Here are some ideas.

    1. Recognize it is not about you. Do not turn the conversation immediately to yourself. Instead, be patient and let your friend/family member/partner say what they have to say at their own pace.
    2. Appreciate. A simple “Thank you for opening up to me.” communicates closeness and acceptance. When my best friend came out to me, it was no easy task for her. I felt special that out of all the people she knew, she felt she could confide in me.
    3. Ask (appropriate) questions. If you are unsure how to respond, ask how you can help or show support. If the person shares their gender identity with you, you can ask what name or pronoun they want you to use. You should also ask if other people know. Just because this person came out to you doesn’t mean they are out to other people.
    4. Listen and support. Listen attentively and offer support. Make sure they know you are there for them and everything they say will be kept confidential.
    5. Learn. Learning about LGBTQ people and history can be a genuine way of showing that you care and are an ally. LGBTQ individuals are often not represented when we learn about history, so this is important.

When someone comes out to you, it’s an honor. Being an ally means taking the time to listen and advocate for those who are LGBTQ.

My best friend and I are still building our friendship, now going on 13 years strong! I’m so glad she felt comfortable enough to trust me.

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Five LGBT Icons You Should Know

In honor of October being LGBT History Month, I thought we should celebrate the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender icons that you’re, unfortunately, probably not learning about in your history class. Let’s take a look at some of the people responsible for the progress celebrated today.

James Baldwin

Baldwin (pictured top left in the photo above) was a Black essayist, playwright and novelist famous for his writings about race, class and sexual orientation. Baldwin gave a voice to queer people by writing about characters who were gay and bisexual. In his works, he spoke of the experience of being both gay and Black in America. His insights on sexual orientation and race offered an intersectional perspective that people weren’t hearing much about at the time.

Baldwin was open about his homosexuality, and he believed sexual orientation was more fluid than just “gay” or “straight.” He never felt the need to fit into any rigid category and believed that a label would just limit his freedom.

For more information, you can read his works, including The Fire Next Time, Go Tell It on the Mountain, Giovanni’s Room and Notes of a Native Son, among many others.

Barbara Gittings

Gittings (pictured top center in the photo above) was an openly lesbian woman who advocated for gay rights before the LGBTQ movement had fully taken form in the U.S. In 1958, she started the New York chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB), the first U.S. lesbian civil rights organization. She organized numerous protests and demonstrations aimed at securing rights for queer people and worked hard to both raise awareness about and decrease stigma related to being gay, including challenging supporters of gay conversion therapy.

Gittings, alongside fellow activist Frank Kameny, also fought a long battle to change psychiatry’s classification of homosexuality as a disease in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed its designation of homosexuality as a disorder.

For additional information, you can check out the documentary Gay Pioneers.

Marsha P. Johnson

Johnson (pictured bottom right in the photo above) was a New York City (NYC), self-identified drag queen; a trailblazing transgender and gay rights activist; and an AIDS activist. Johnson noticed that an alarming number of gender nonconforming people, specifically people of color, were living on the street, so with her friend and fellow activist, Sylvia Rivera, Johnson founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (S.T.A.R.). S.T.A.R. established a residence for displaced transgender individuals, especially young people. It served as a safe space, away from violence, harassment and intolerance.

But even before that, Johnson was at the Stonewall Riots, when LGBTQ people clashed with the NYC police. This marked a turning point for the gay liberation movement in the U.S. and inspired Pride marches that still happen annually around the world today.

To learn more about Marsha P. Johnson, check out the documentaries Pay It No Mind:The Life and Times of Marsha P. Johnson and The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson.

Larry Kramer

Kramer—who passed away earlier this year at the age of 84—was a writer and outspoken gay rights activist who fought to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS. Kramer (pictured bottom left in the photo above) co-founded the advocacy groups GMHC (Gay Men’s Health Crisis) and ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), which used the iconic SILENCE = DEATH image that became a symbol for the AIDS crisis. He insisted that the HIV/AIDS epidemic be acknowledged as the public health emergency that it was.

Kramer’s work dramatically challenged and changed public health policies related to HIV/AIDS. He was aggressive in his advocacy for public health and gay rights, in order to get attention for these important causes. He showed that LGBTQ people would fight to be seen and would not be wiped away by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

To learn more about Larry Kramer, watch the documentary How to Survive a Plague or the HBO version of his landmark play The Normal Heart.

Harvey Milk

Milk (pictured top right in the photo above) became the first openly gay or lesbian elected official in California when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. He used his position to advocate for marginalized communities who were facing widespread hostility and discrimination.

After almost a year in office, Milk was assassinated. But his legacy lives on. The doors he opened have led to increasing numbers of openly gay politicians running for office—and winning. Additionally, his plea for more people to come out has inspired many individuals to live their truth. In fact, in an audio recording released after his death, he said, “If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door in the country.”

For more information, watch the movie Milk or the documentary The Times of Harvey Milk. Or, read The Mayor of Castro Street.

These individuals are just a few important LGBTQ figures you should know about. There are many others who have helped give a voice to LGBTQ people, marched in protest and brought important aspects of the queer community out of the shadows.

Let’s take a moment to thank these five particularly inspiring, historical icons.

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Machismo: How Toxic Masculinity Harms Latinx People – an interview with Laura Carlsen

Machismo is an expression of exacerbated masculinity that has caused lingering pain and trauma to generations of Latinx people. Many young people are still struggling with it today.

“Machismo” has dreadful roots in Latin based cultures, and is strongly associated with many men’s identities, Latin society and its expressions. Its name derives from the Spanish and Portuguese word “macho” which means male. Machismo is an expression of exacerbated masculinity that has caused lingering pain and trauma to generations of Latinx people. Many young people are still struggling with it today.

Journalist and scholar Laura Carlsen directs the journalistic site Americas Program, focused in Latin America’s foreign policies and the countries’ relations to the USA. She has studied and lived in Mexico city since 1986. In her line of work, Carlsen has to deal with machismo from politics to femicides. She’s dealt with it as it’s spilled into newsrooms where female reporters are bullied and sexually harassed by editors and colleagues, and while gender violence as femicide are treated in some media channels as day to day “sexual assaults” or romanticized as “crimes of passion.”  Scarleteen spoke to Carlsen to further understand machismo and the damages it can cause.

Scarleteen (ST): Can you define machismo and its characteristics?

Laura Carlsen (LC): It is commonly considered an exaggerated expression of masculine identity, but I’d say it’s more a deformed expression of masculine identity constructed to perpetuate and strengthen male dominance over women. It is expressed in brute force, that is, violence against women that confirms a submissive and discriminated role and denies physical and emotional autonomy; in oppressive attitudes that belittle, intimidate, and humiliate women and children; and social characteristics that encourage all of the above, especially in groups of men.

ST: What differentiates machismo from sexism?

LC: Sexism refers more to the structural system and is not directly tied to male character expressions and identities.

ST: How is machismo in Latin America different from the rest of the world?

LC: It’s no coincidence that the word for a stereotypical male-dominated culture is “machismo,” derived from the Spanish word for male and originating in Latin culture. Today in Latin American cultures, machismo is still considered the accepted norm by most of society whereas in other countries at least there is a recognition that, like racism, it is a form of discrimination that should be overcome.

As a direct result of the acceptance of machismo, or male-domination, Latin American countries have the highest rates of violence against women in the world. Also, the world’s cities with the highest homicide rates in general are located here (According to a 2018 report from Igarapé Institute Latin America has 8% of the world’s population, but 33% of its homicides and four countries in the region – Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela – are home to a quarter of all the assassinations on the planet). When a heavily macho culture is combined with weak institutions, faulty justice systems and easy access to firearms, like it is in our region, the result is lethal – for women, children and men.

ST: Are there social or cultural catalysts of that violence?

LC: There is a long history of not only acceptance of male violence and male domination, but of celebration of it. A man who has a more equal relationship with his wife or girlfriend is ridiculed as a “mandilón” (literally, “tied to her apron strings”). Motherhood is accompanied by reinforcement of traditional gender roles and strong barriers against women in the public sphere.

Men’s control of the family economy and often of women’s bodies creates decencies that maintain women’s submission. It’s a reinforcing cycle that despite greater awareness and some public policy to counter it, continues to remain strongly in place. In fact, we’re seeing many signs instances of regression, with the emergence of new fundamentalist movements and rollbacks in women’s legislative gains.

ST: Do you think the societies that lived here before the conquistadors were also sexist?

LC: It’s impossible to talk about all pre-Hispanic (indigenous) societies as one because they each have their own cultures and societies. Anthropologists generally agree that to portray the colonialists as the origin of machismo is wrong–that gender inequality existed in most pre-Hispanic societies.  However, there are also many ways in which women were less oppressed and there are many aspects of these societies that we are still learning about. One constant seems to be that with the rise of militarism comes greater subjugation and exclusion of women.

ST: Has it diminished as time went by or is it still very strong?

LC: It is still very strong and as I mentioned in some ways getting stronger. We have laws, such as electoral gender quotas that have increased the number of women in politics but the manipulation of these laws is widespread and cynical.

In Mexico, a large number of women candidates ceded their elected positions to their husbands after taking office and we had a recent case of parties registering men as transgender to fill women’s quotas despite the fact these people had never before identified as such.

ST: Is there any correlation between machismo and religion?

LC: Yes, the Catholic church hierarchy in many countries and evangelicals have initiated orchestrated offenses against women’s sexual and reproductive rights as part of what they call “family values” that by keeping women and girls from reaching their full human potential and encouraging violence do immeasurable damage to families.

ST: Can you talk a bit more about the correlation between machismo, the Catholic church, and the policing of women’s bodies (particularly their sexual and reproductive health)?

LC: I’m thinking of the Evelyn Hernandez trial, which had a relieving outcome but was still a vicious case nonetheless. (Salvadorian Ms. Hernandez was prosecuted for aggravated homicide based on an obstetric emergency she went through while birthing her child).

ST: During demonstrations in the USA of white male supremacy in 2018 we saw some men with T-shirts making references to the deadly helicopter rides done by the Chilean dictatorial government to throwsome of those who oppose them out of airplanes to hide their deaths. Is there an intersection between white male supremacy and machismo?

LC: Yes. What’s interesting here is that there is an assumption that opposition to white male dominance can and should be annihilated.

ST: How does machismo affect Latin American politics? 

LC: In a number of ways. It is a cultural current that serves to repress feminist movements and campaigns for women’s rights and justify male supremacy. It openly validates discrimination by creating cultural expressions in music, literature, film etc. that set out macho role models that assure its reproduction in the next generation, stunting the emotional growth and human potential of children both male and female. It operates on the basis of dualisms that construe differences as battles for dominance and require active suppression of any human expression that threatens male supremacy.

ST: How does machismo affect your journalistic work and observations of Latin America?

LC: Machismo poses a huge challenge to women journalists. Issues that mostly affect women are ignored or buried by editors, gender violence is trivialized as sexual assault and even assassination of women are justified in the language as “crimes of passion”. we have to struggle to be treated equally as reporters and analysts and face widespread sexual harassment on the job. With high levels of violence against journalists, women journalists face specific threats of sexual violence along with general threats, and not only against them, but against their families.

In Mexico, the tragic and unsolved murder of Miroslava Breach sent a chilling message to women reporters regarding the risks we face. Lately women have been organizing groups of women in journalism to confront these barriers and force the media to be more responsive and adopt protection measures. These groups are important but incipient and still striving to change an industry that is deeply sexist.

ST: Is there any way to extricate machismo from “family values”?

LC: They are completely the opposite. Machismo is statistically the greatest threat to the safety and health of families since rates of male violence affect children’s and mothers’ health, physical integrity, emotional well-being, economic stability, etc.


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