One Equal World

A photo of a woman laying down on a couch, clutching her lower abdomen in pain.

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Periods, and the various side effects thereof, are often made light of on sitcoms and in movies, even in everyday life. Men in particular don’t understand just how disruptive menstruation can be. A lot of women don’t even understand it, because the experience varies from woman to woman. What is important to understand though is that 1 in 5 women suffer from painful menstruation that can be, in the words of one researcher “almost as bad as having a heart attack.”

That is nothing to joke about, and it’s something that we should be taking seriously, but modern medicine knows close to nothing about the problem. There’s a good reason for that though: medical science doesn’t put a very high priority on treating or even investigating the issue. For any number of reasons, we don’t like to talk about menstruation, and we don’t like to treat it like a real problem. The same field that will bend over backwards to help old men deal with erectile dysfunction, and treat that like a serious, life-threatening problem, doesn’t want to bother funding research into an actual painful, disruptive issue.

There are a handful of doctors and researchers who are taking the problem seriously and are trying to do something about it. The problem of erectile dysfunction might even help in the process, as one team has found that Viagra can help alleviate painful menstruation, but further research is needed before any final conclusions can be made. But getting funding for that research is proving to be difficult.

In the meantime, 1 in 5 women suffer, usually in silence. But for those women who do have painful menstruation, there is one thing they can do: they can talk about it. Menstruation is a part of life, and it’s not something that we should be embarrassed to talk about. We need to have a larger, world-wide conversation about the issue in order to start giving it the respect it deserves.

A photo of the  Salt Lake Temple church. Located in Salt Lake City, Utah, It is the largest Mormon church of its kind.

The Salt Lake Temple is the largest LDS Church. It is located in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Photo credit: Roger Asbury / Shutterstock.com

The Church of Latter Day Saints, also known as Mormons, don’t have the best track record when it comes to LGBTQ rights. They were instrumental in pushing California’s Prop 8, which limited marriage to heterosexual unions. The sting of those actions might have been reduced a bit by the Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage across the country, but there are other problems, too. Last November, the Church ruled that same-sex Mormon couples were “apostates” and forbade their children from baptism and other rites until they turned 18. That’s a pretty serious penalty for being in love.

But the LDS Church seems conflicted when it comes to the LGBTQ community. Despite this, they helped pass groundbreaking anti-discrimination laws in Utah as far back as 2009, and have been working with a local rights group, Affirmation, to improve the lives of LGBTQ people in Utah. One of the men who have been instrumental in maintaining that relationship is Bill Evans, who even worked on the Prop 8 campaign in his role as a lobbyist for the Church.

But Evans has retired from LDS Church Public Affairs and has gone on to join the board of Affirmation. He’s established a solid relationship with the group, and has parlayed that into a position that will allow him to continue working toward improving the relationship between the LGBTQ and Mormon communities. This turn of events illustrates two things that are important to keep in mind while continuing the struggle for LGBTQ rights. First, it shows that people can change, and it’s possible to work on Prop 8 one day, and work to expand LGBTQ rights the next. Evans has proven that people can change and revise their thinking. And secondly, it illustrates the patience and forgiveness of the community, that Affirmation was willing to work with Evans, and has invited him into the organization as an ally. It shows that the community can put progress before holding a grudge.

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It is a fact of life now that the worst mass shooting in the past century has been against the queer community. It will be on record forever in the history books. For years, maybe decades, queer people will be asked by straight people if they knew someone there, if they’d ever gone to Pulse Nightclub. The tombstone erected by that tragedy in the public mind, in all our minds, has only LGBT written across it.

Is it any wonder that so many of us, so many who have never so much as been to Florida or to any gay nightclub, are still reeling with grief that feels all too personal? ‘It could have been me’ is a reverberation that reaches out across the whole community with any kind of violence like this, and Pulse was only the loudest gong in a whole bell chorus.

According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 2015 saw 24 confirmed* hate violence homicides among LGBTQ people in 2015, a 20% increase from the year before.

We are traumatized.

Trauma is usually associated with injury, personal violence, or war. It’s easy, or perhaps only convenient, to overlook it in people whose injuries, violence and war happen at a remove like this. But the end results, the high rates of suicide among LGBT youth and adults, should be evidence for a definitive diagnoses.

That same population is at high risk for all of the other conditions often correlated with PTSD: diabetes, chronic pain or fatigue, addictions, heart or liver disease, and generally lower life expectancy.

A person does not have to be beaten or blown up to be traumatized. Living under the threat of a fist is inherently violent, and therefore traumatic. And in a country that has not even managed to wipe all of its anti-queer laws off the books, a country obsessed with where you go to the bathroom, a country that wants businesses to be able to refuse service to you, the entire community is, every moment, under threat.

A computer generated image of two rainbow hearts with interlocking gold wedding bands in front.

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Marjorie Enya, 28, is a volunteer manager at Deodoro Stadium, Rio’s Olympic Rugby stadium. It’s a temporary job, but she’s having the time of her life. Not because of the Olympics, but because of someone more special.

After the final match of women’s rugby sevens, in which Australia took the gold, before the other teams could leave the pitch, Enya walked out onto the field and asked Brazil player Isadora Cerullo to marry her. It was the first same-sex marriage proposal in the Olympics. And Cerullo, teary-eyed, said yes to applause from the stands.

Enya and Cerullo, who is twenty-five, have been together for two years, only a year less than Brazil has had legalized same-sex marriage. Same-sex civil unions have been legal since 2004, putting Catholic Brazil surprisingly ahead of the international progress curve.

Enya had planned her proposal carefully, but with pure confidence. Like anyone making a public proposal should, she already knew what the answer would be. Cerullo, who grew up in North Carolina and holds dual citizenship in Brazil and the United States, had already moved with Enya to São Paulo to focus on her Olympic try.

“As soon as I knew she was in the squad I thought I would have to make this special,” Enya said in an interview with BBC Sport. “I know rugby people are amazing and they would embrace it.”

Embrace it they did. In the video of her speech and proposal, which went viral the moment it aired, there were nothing but happy reactions, the two surrounded by cameras and teammates and cheers as they kissed.

The Rio Summer Olympics have over 40 out athletes across more than two dozen disciplines, a record number for the games and especially satisfying after the 2014 games in Sochi, Russia, where anti-LGBT laws interfered with some athletes competing.

A photo of an athletic man standing on the beach. He is wearing a blue tanktop and a rainbow wristband with Olympic medals around his neck.

Never before in the history of the Olympics has there been as many openly gay/lesbian athletes as this year’s 2016 Rio Olympics.
Image: lazyllama / Shutterstock.com

 

Athletics is not an easy to field to be out in, especially in the high-visibility, high-scrutiny world of the Olympics. This is a year when the Olympics is a braver place than most, with at least 42 visibly out LGBT competitors on the board.

Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh, married women from Great Britain, are competing together in field hockey. This is Helen’s third Olympics and Kate’s fourth, and they’ve been married for three years. Susannah Townsend, also on the same team, has been out as a lesbian since before the 2008 Olympics.

In Rugby, Isadora Cerullo from the Brazil team was proposed to by her girlfriend on the pitch. Jillian Potter, from the U.S. team, cheered her on with her own wife at her side.

Maartje Paumen from the Netherlands, again in Field Hockey, has been out since 2009. She’s also one of the top Olympic scorers in her sport, with 14 goals in both the Beijing and London Olympics.

Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel of the Dutch national team, took home the gold metal and came out as a lesbian during the 2012 Olympics in London.

The list goes on and on. 32 women and 9 men from 14 countries are presenting the gay, lesbian, and bisexual communities on the fields, the water, and on horseback. Some of them are newly out, some have never been in the closet at all.

And perhaps most groundbreaking of all is Caster Semenya, a runner from South Africa. She is a strong hopeful to win the gold at the 800 meter run. Perhaps she does not fit the definition of out, as she does not use the word intersex to describe herself, but the controversy around her qualifies this woman for inclusion. Just two years ago, she would not have been allowed to compete due to the arbitrary rules about naturally occurring testosterone in female athletes. But this season, those rules are in limbo pending arbitration, and so she will run.

Image: Shutterstock

Image: Shutterstock

Sir Elton John’s recent statement that he understands the severe limitations of effecting political change worldwide was underpinned by him putting his money where his mouth is. $10 million dollars, to be exact, to fund medical and legal support to an LGBT community sorely in need, in Africa.

He made the announcement at the International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa that the money came from his AIDS Foundation. But his goals are broader than only the AIDS crisis. His goals and hopes are to effect political change in the African nations that still discriminate against or outright criminalize their LGBT populations, but he acknowledges soberly that he has little political power.

“I know that certain governments in Africa will not respond to someone like me telling them ‘you should do this, you should do that.’ I count for nothing as far as that goes,” said Sir John at the announcement. “What I can do is ensure that people who are LGBT … we can give them medicine. If they are arrested, we will get them legal aid.”

There is some criticism perhaps to be leveled at Sir John for his focus on Africa. There are also European nations where it is illegal to be queer (Russia most notably). This is not a uniquely African prejudice, not by far. But he is going about it in the right way.

“We will help them on the ground,” he said. Supporting the LGBT community in these countries is important so others have the opportunity to effect their own change. People who are fighting for their health or their lives have little time or energy to do more than that. If his program and his funds can help them on their feet, can shield them from consequences for speaking for themselves, then that is the right kind of platform for him to offer.

Image: Shutterstock

Image: Shutterstock

California is in the middle of a major overhaul of their history and social-science curriculum, mostly to address criticisms in the way previous coursework has represented minorities. At a major meeting with the State Board of Education on July 14th, speakers took the pulpit to talk about the need for better coverage of Muslims, Hindus, and Jews. A major minority was silent at that meeting, but they will be part of the reform.

For the first time, California educational standards will include schooling about LGBT history. In second grade, kids will be taught about diverse families. In fourth, they will begin learning about gay activisim alongside immigration and civil rights.

Not only new to California, this is the first US law requiring public schools to include LGBT milestones in their overviews of history.

These changes didn’t come out of nowhere. Five years ago, California lawmakers passed legislation that added both LGBT people and people with disabilities to the list of social and ethnic cultures that merit mention in textbooks and history lessons. The half-decade since has been spent slowly fighting opponents. Multiple attempts have been made in the state capital and the courtrooms and the budget books to overturn the law, but with Thursday’s decision, the law is now enacted.

The biggest benefit of the new law will be to bolster teachers who have always wanted to teach about the diversity that already exists in their own classrooms, but have been afraid of pushback from parents. Now, in the case that they do get that pushback, they have support not only from their own administration but also from state law.

Educators will have some extra work to do in keeping up with this one – laws for and against gay rights and protections are passing every month in states across the country, many of them landmark decisions with broad ramifications. The history that they are now to teach is still being written. But it will be worth it, as their students graduated prepared to take up the pen.

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