Mental illnesses are conditions that affect a person’s thinking, feeling, mood or behavior, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. Such conditions may be occasional or long-lasting (chronic) and affect someone’s ability to relate to others and function each day.
What is mental health?
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices.1Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
Although the terms are often used interchangeably, poor mental health and mental illness are not the same things. A person can experience poor mental health and not be diagnosed with a mental illness. Likewise, a person diagnosed with a mental illness can experience periods of physical, mental, and social well-being.
Why is mental health important for overall health?
Mental and physical health are equally important components of overall health. Mental illness, especially depression, increases the risk for many types of physical health problems, particularly long-lasting conditions like stroke, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Similarly, the presence of chronic conditions can increase the risk for mental illness.2
Can your mental health change over time?
Yes, it’s important to remember that a person’s mental health can change over time, depending on many factors. When the demands placed on a person exceed their resources and coping abilities, their mental health could be impacted. For example, if someone is working long hours,Cdc-pdfcaring for an ill relative or experiencing economic hardship they may experience poor mental health.
How common are mental illnesses?
Mental illnesses are among the most common health conditions in the United States.
More than 50% will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime.3
1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year.4
1 in 5 children, either currently or at some point during their life, have had a seriously debilitating mental illness.5
1 in 25 Americans lives with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression.6
What causes mental illness?
There is no single cause for mental illness. A number of factors can contribute to risk for mental illness, such as
The battle is heating up over Referendum 74, which will ask voters to decide if the new law allowing same-sex marriage in Washington should be upheld. The people who will be most immediately affected by the outcome of this vote, naturally, are gay men and lesbians.
So just how many people would that be here in Washington and in Seattle?
It would be nice if there were good, solid data to answer that question, but there really aren’t. The Census Bureau doesn’t ask about sexual orientation directly. There are some surveys of the gay population, but the best they can do is approximate an overall figure for the country, not for individual states, counties and cities.
However, there is a relevant question that the Census Bureau does ask, and it at least hints at an answer.
Since 1990, the Census has asked Americans if they are in a same-sex partner household. Theoretically, we can assume that there is a correlation between the percentage of same-sex partner households and the overall gay population of a particular place; in other words, the more gay couples, the more gay people.
A think tank based at UCLA, the Williams Institute, crunched the Census data to derive the percent of same-sex couples in states, counties, cities and towns across the nation.
So what do we learn from the Census about the current state of gay Washington?
We have about 16,000 same-sex couple households statewide. That comes out to a rate of 7.3 same-sex couples per every 1,000 households.
More than half of Washington’s same-sex couples live in King County, which has not only the largest number of these couples, but also the highest percentage — there are 12.1 same-sex couples for every 1,000 households in the county (or 1.2 percent of all households). That ranks King as the county with the 19th highest percentage of same-sex couples of all counties in the United States. Three other Washington counties rank in the top 100 nationally: Jefferson, San Juan and Thurston, in that order.
There is a wide gulf between eastern and western Washington when it comes to gay and lesbian couples. In the state’s top 15 counties for same-sex couples, the only one from the eastern side of the state is Spokane, which comes in at 14th place.
There is one county in Washington that actually has no gay couples at all — Garfield (any volunteers to move out there and make county history?).
And what is Washington’s gayest community?If you’re thinking it’s got to be Seattle — close but no cigar.
The Castro of the Northwest? Gay little Vashon Island (Photo by Joe Mabel via Wikimedia Commons)
The answer: Vashon Island! 3.3 percent of Vashon households are a same-sex couple, which not only ranks it first in the state, but 22nd in the entire country. Seattle has to settle for 2nd place in Washington, with 2.3 percent of households being same-sex partners. That ranks the Emerald City as 38th nationally, but it should be noted that among America’s large cities (250,000+ population), Seattle ranks 2nd only to San Francisco.
So here they are — Washington’s top 5 gayest cities:
# GAY COUPLES
% GAY HHLDS
Lake Forest Park
Note: The source for this data is the Williams Institute report on Census 2010 for Washington, which can be found by clicking here. To come up with their numbers of same-sex couples, the researchers combined two Census categories: “same-sex unmarried-partner” households, together with same-sex couple households in which the partners chose to identify themselves as “husband/wife” rather than same-sex unmarried partners.
Nearly half of all Americans today say they are lonely. Why is that so, and what are the consequences? Here’s everything you need to know:
How is loneliness defined?
Loneliness isn’t determined by the actual number of friends or social contacts a person has. Social science researchers define loneliness as the emotional state created when people have fewer social contacts and meaningful relationships than they would like — relationships that make them feel known and understood. Essentially, if you feel lonely, you are lonely. One out of two Americans now falls into this category. In a recent study of 20,000 people by the health insurance company Cigna, about 47 percent of respondents reported often feeling alone or left out. Thirteen percent said there were zero people who knew them well. The U.S. is not unique in this respect: Loneliness is reaching epidemic levels throughout the developed world. Forty-one percent of Britons say the TV or a pet is their main source of company, and the U.K. has created a cabinet-level minister to deal with the problem of rampant loneliness. A government study in Japan found that more than half a million people spent at least six months at home with no outside contact. “During my years caring for patients, the most common pathology I saw was not heart disease or diabetes,” said former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. “It was loneliness.”
What impact does loneliness have?
It makes people sick. A 2010 study by Brigham Young University found that loneliness shortens a person’s life by 15 years, about the same impact as being obese or smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Other studies have found connections between loneliness and a wide range of health problems, including increased risk for heart attacks, stroke, and cancer. Lonely people are more likely to suffer from insomnia, depression, and drug abuse. They are also more likely to suffer from more rapid cognitive decline in old age.
Why is physical health affected?
Stress. The feeling of loneliness, scientists say, is an evolutionary phenomenon. Just as hunger encourages animals to find food, loneliness forces humans to seek out the protection of the group, increasing the chances of survival. To produce this behavior, loneliness triggers the release of stress hormones, particularly cortisol. In small doses, these hormones help make solitary humans more alert to danger. But they damage health if the body is exposed to them over long periods of time. Stress leads to high blood pressure, increased inflammation, and a weakened immune system. Without an emotional support network, lonely people are also more likely to slip into unhealthy habits, such as substance abuse, overeating, and not exercising. For seniors, isolation can be especially deadly in the event of an emergency like a bad fall or a heart attack. “Denying you feel lonely makes no more sense than denying you feel hunger,” said John T. Cacioppo, a neuroscientist who studied loneliness at the University of Chicago.
Is isolation more common?
It appears to be. Between 1985 and 2009, the average American’s social network shrank by more than one-third, defined by the number of close confidants. One reason for this is the aging of the Baby Boomers, who had fewer children and more divorces than their parents, leaving many without companions in their old age. About 1 in 11 Americans age 50 or older doesn’t have a spouse, romantic partner, or living child. That’s roughly 8 million people. One in six Boomers lives alone. The increasingly transient nature of work is also making people lonely, as Americans leave family and hometowns behind in search of paychecks. Surprisingly, young people are actually most at risk of being lonely in modern society. In the Cigna study, Generation Z members ages 18 to 22 and Millennials ages 23 to 37 scored the highest for loneliness.
Why are so many young people lonely?
Americans are getting married and having children later in life; there are now more single people in the U.S. than at any time in the past 140 years. Not being part of a regular workplace also plays a role, with freelancers and “gig economy” workers reporting higher levels of loneliness. And despite seemingly infinite opportunities to connect online, social media may actually be making the problem worse. Scrolling through an endless stream of curated photos of parties, vacations, family gatherings, and weddings may increase feelings of being left out or dissatisfaction with one’s own life. In one study of Americans ages 19 to 32, the top 25 percent of social media users were twice as likely to report feeling lonely as the people using it least. Some researchers say loneliness began becoming widespread long before the internet, when the Industrial Revolution broke up tightly knit agricultural communities. “I do think it speaks to one of the dilemmas of modern, mobile society,” said Stephanie Coontz, a historian at Evergreen State College. “As we gain the freedom to become whatever we want to be, we’ve lost the sense of belonging.”
Alone, angry — and intensely partisan
Some researchers believe that America’s increasingly polarized politics — and the partisan viciousness on social media — may be at least partly the product of increasing loneliness. Psychiatrists Richard S. Schwartz and Dr. Jacqueline Olds describe loneliness as the “elephant in the room” of American politics. Social isolation, they say, makes people less empathetic and more likely to view the world in terms of “us” and “them.” “I think comparing notes in a civil way is the antidote to a polarized society in which we don’t understand a point of view other than our own,” Olds says. “If we are so lonely that we have no one to compare notes with, we tend to become more polarized.” Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska believes that Americans are turning to political tribalism for the sense of community they used to get from simple connection to those around them. “The local, human relationships that anchored political talk have shriveled up,” Sasse writes in his new book, Them: Why We Hate Each Other — and How to Heal. “Alienated from each other, and uprooted from places we can call home, we’re reduced to shrieking.”
For a while, I thought I was gay. And maybe I was for some of that time – there’s nothing wrong with being gay. But I’m definitely not now.
I thought I was gay because I thought I was a man, and I thought I was only and always attracted to other men.
I don’t know what gender I am anymore, if any. I knew before coming to that particular realization that I’m also not only, and haven’t always been, attracted to men. Additionally, I realized I don’t know what exactly “attraction” means.
I know for certain I’m not heterosexual – without a stable gender, I’m not even sure I could be. And when I first began to have these self-revelations, I also knew that I needed space to explore all of these complications.
As I spent time figuring out what they meant, I discovered that if I must have an identification that makes sense to others who need to see me with some sort of stability, it would be “queer.”
But that’s only because, for me, “queer” inherently defies stable identification.
Some use it to encompass all non-heterosexual, non-cisgender identities. That’s an understandable use of the term – like I mentioned, I interpret it to be partially about giving space for exploring gender and sexuality, and including so many different groups of people demands that space, demands a challenge to stability.
Certainly a wide variety of non-heterosexual, non-cisgender folks are queer.
But though queer might cover some part of that spectrum, it is not limited to it. I am not gay nor lesbian nor bisexual nor transgender. I am not anything other than just queer.
There are people who some of you might call “straight” if you looked at them and their partners and impose genders onto them, but who are actually “queer.” And many gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals do not identify as queer.
Like plenty of the names marginalized people call themselves, queer has a fraught history of reclamation, many controversial political implications, and a universalizing aspect that is too contradictory for some.
Yet, even here at Everyday Feminism, we sometimes use gay and queer interchangeably. Not to set the two in opposition or even to say they cannot sometimes overlap, here is why I think distinguishing the two might help people who are still exploring their gender and sexuality.
1. Queer Is a Slur for Some and a Reclamation for Others
I’m not a queer historian and I’ve still got a lot to learn, so I’ll stick to the basics. Here’s what I know so far: queer literally meant just “strange” or “peculiar,” indicating a deviation from the norm. It was turned into a pejorative to describe those with non-heterosexual desires and behaviors about a century ago.
For some, there’s simply too much pain associated with the word for so many people. I understand that.
As for me, I’m all about reclamation and taking power from oppressive systems whenever and however I can.
You can’t tell me that you get to change a word with a meaning as beautiful as “peculiar” and I don’t get to take it back from you.
I’m also young and haven’t lived through the widespread use of queer as a derogatory term, so my feelings are admittedly biased.
The movement to reclaim it as an affirmation caught on relatively recently, as did queerness as a theoretical framework, or “queer theory.” Queer’s not too distant past as a slur explains a lot of the continued resistance to its use.
Queer theorists, influenced in part by the work of French philosopher Michel Foucault, usually deal with sexuality not removed from gender but simultaneously, and questioned them both. Many push back against the essentialist idea that sex and gender are different and question the limitations inherent in a binary gendered perspective.
Recognized alongside the likes of Judith Butler and Eve Sedgwick as one of the most influential queer theorist, José Esteban Muñoz explained in the book Feeling Utopia, “We have never been queer, yet queerness exists for us as an ideality that can be distilled from the past and used to imagine a future. The future is queerness’s domain.”
Queerness was a political question that asked but didn’t necessarily see answers to the questions: “What is sex anyway? What is gender? What is sexuality? Can we ever truly know?”
And some non-heterosexual, non-cisgender people choose not or have yet to invest in that political question as is their prerogative — and that’s okay, too.
2. There’s So Much Erasure of People of Color, Gender Nonconforming, Non-Binary, and Other People In “Gay” and “Queer” Spaces
As a Black person in America, my experience with gender and sexuality is going to be vastly different than a similarly situated white person. That’s all good and doesn’t mean we can’t find solidarity as we fight our different but still gendered struggles against cisheterosexism.
It’s white. It’s male. It’s cisgender. It’s committed to the gender binary of only men and women existing. It’s not me.
And don’t get my started on “gay” nightclubs in any cosmopolitan city outside of an “ethnic” night. My last time at one was not only an experience of being surrounded by a sea of white faces, dancing to music to which I find no connection, and swarmed by a maleness I don’t have.
It was white faces that can’t perceive Black ones, blatant cultural appropriation, and people with no interest in recognizing my lack of maleness.
That doesn’t mean non-white, non-male, non-cisgender folks can’t find a connection in that space, or make their own spaces within it. I’m a fan of reclamation, after all, and if it were to technically describe me (it doesn’t), I maybe would embrace it differently.
I find myself in non-white, non-male, and non-cisgender affirming gay spaces often, and they are lovely. But queer spaces also provide me with something that is vitally different.
Queerness, as I said, is specifically (supposed) to give room to move outside of the narrowness that is “normal” concepts of identity. It is specifically (supposed) to embrace the vastness of difference, which would ostensibly include more than white, cisgender men.
But white supremacist cisheterosexism is invasive, and is nearly impossible to escape in the world we live in today.
It’s worth noting that queer is an English word, so the limitations of this language in defining pre-colonial nonwhite cultures and nonwhite cultures that move away from their colonized histories abound.
Those who became the prominent leaders in the movement to reclaim queerness were still predominantly white as well.
They are, however – or should be – exploring what it means to be more than just white if truly operating with a queer framework. But when that exploration is “not yet” complete, as Munoz implies it can never be, who is hurt in the meantime?
I recently had a white queer person tell me I was “taking up space” from non-binary people by claiming my identity as non-binary because I am often perceived as male.
This person could only conceive of a queer “space” that looked like what they were used to, and my Black body which they read as male could not fit even in their queer world.
Many people of color, gender non-conforming people, or non-binary folks reject labels altogether. The label fight is just not for them. Based on my understanding of queerness, I interpret even that rejection a queer action, regardless of how one is identified, and it too has great importance.
We should give room to folks to follow their journey however it comes to them (as long as it doesn’t stop others from following theirs). That is queerness, after all.
3. Gay and Queer Have Unique Relationships with the Concept of Sex
I am unashamed of sex. I have it frequently, and I love it. But my queerness is not limited to the question of sexuality.
Gayness, homosexuality, is inherently a question of sexuality. It’s not a wrong question. In fact, it’s an important question for queerness, too, which is why gay and queer are compatible. It just isn’t the only or central question.
When I thought myself gay – it was an identity that had everything to do with the gender of whom I was sexually attracted to.
But as a queer person, I don’t even know what my gender is. I don’t even know what genderis. How could I know how the gender of people I like relates to mine? How could I know if I am “homo” or “hetero” or “bi” if I’m not the same as or opposite of anyone?
My relationship with gayness was defined by what I thought I knew myself to like. But I no longer know how I know what I like. Is “liking” based on sex or intimacy? What is sex without intimacy? Intimacy without sex?
If intimacy means more to me than sex, does having intimacy with someone without having sex with them define my sexuality? Does having sex without intimacy?
What is sex?
What is intimacy?
None of those things are defined enough for me to identify in any way other than in a way that allows them to be undefined. Exploring my queerness, those are questions I ask myself every day. And maybe there is no one answer to any of them. Maybe they change from year to year or day to day and person to person. Maybe I’ll never know.
And for some people, they are defined enough to be both gay and queer in a given moment. Maybe that will change for those same people like it did for me. And if it does or doesn’t, that’s okay. That’s the peculiarity of queerness.
Gayness and queerness are two different things, but sometimes gayness is a part of queerness and vice-versa.
Ultimately, this language is limited, and so it follows that there are limitations to how we describe ourselves. I’m still figuring out how to describe myself.
But I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to figure that out if I didn’t know that there were other ways.
If I didn’t know that queer was different than gay. If I knew that one size didn’t and doesn’t have to fit everyone.
There are other ways – there are always other ways – for me, you, and everyone else.
Be queer, be gay, be both, be neither, but be you.
The more we expand what “being” could mean, the more this is possible.
We at vpnMentor conducted a survey in which we asked 695 LGBTQ+ people worldwide about their experiences online as they relate to their sexual orientation and gender identity. The results – referenced throughout this article – illuminated the unique challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community.
Here are some of our key findings:+
73% of all respondents in all categories of gender identity and sexual orientation have been personally attacked or harassed online.
50% of all respondents in all categories of gender identity and sexual orientation have suffered sexual harassment online.
When it comes to sexual orientation, asexual people feel the least safe online, and gay men the safest.
When it comes to gender identity, transgender women feel the least safe online, and cisgender men the safest.
Transgender women are the most likely to be outed against their will online, while cisgender men are least likely.
As experts in the field of cybersecurity, it is our mission to provide practical strategies for coping with adversity, bigotry, and abuse on the web, which is why we created this guide.
Whether you are part of the LGBTQ+ community or are an ally, we hope you find this guide helpful.
Finding Community Online
Navigating a heterosexual and cisgender society can be difficult for members of the LGBTQ+ community. Alienated from their family, condemned by their community, and isolated from their friends, many LGBTQ+ people turn to the internet for solidarity.
With just the click of a button, they can escape their physical surroundings and immediately be transported to a place filled with like-minded, accepting people. There, they can seek guidance about coming out, ask questions about queer specific topics, and better understand their sexualities and gender identities.
Simply put, the internet facilities a sense of community among LGBTQ+ people, regardless of their physical proximity to one another.
“The internet and social media are essential to connecting individuals to information and people of the LGBT+ community,” states Mara,* who’s bisexual/pansexual.** “[It provides] spaces for them to find acceptance, community, and support. It is extremely important to keep these connections alive.”
Since the suicide rate for LGBTQ+ youth is substantially higher than that of their heterosexual and cisgender peers, the internet can literally become life-saving.
“There are so many wonderful support groups that help so much, they seriously saved my life and made my search for my identity so much easier,” recounts Mariela, a lesbian.
“[The internet is] definitely a great information sharer for our sometimes disjointed community, especially in rural areas,” says Blair, who’s genderqueer/non-binary.*** “Lots of my trans identity was discerned through language I accessed online as well as looking at other trans narratives online.”
The Dark Side of the Web
However, the internet can also be an intimidating and dangerous place. Just read the comments on any viral social media post and you’ll see a slew of insults and misdirected aggression.
Considering the fact that a large portion of these hateful comments include homophobic and sometimes even biphobic slurs, the internet is especially threatening to the LGBTQ+ community.
“I feel like there is a significant amount of intolerance from within the LGBTQ community” explained Gill, a genderqueer lesbian. “I’ve honestly been attacked more from within the community than outside of it.”
Given this ugly reality, we believe it is essential that all LGBTQ+ people know how to defend and protect themselves online. Therefore, we created this guide to minimize your personal exposure to online bullying and harassment.
It’s important for us to note that some of the advice here is aimed at people who do not feel safe enough to come out, or who prefer not to reveal certain aspects of their identity if they feel threatened. It is by no means an encouragement to stay closeted.
We also want to acknowledge the downsides of playing it safe. According to our survey, while self-identified gay people responded that they felt safest online, some believe it’s because they’re overly cautious about their internet activity.
“I haven’t experienced anything negative online,” explains Harris, who’s genderqueer and gay. “[But it’s] because I’ve worked very hard to not put myself in situations where I might be vulnerable to attack. This sort of extra mental effort keeps me safe online, but it does come at a price.”
It is our hope that one day none of this will be relevant, and all people, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity, will feel free to express themselves online in any way they see fit, without fear.
Cyberbullying is a Near Universal Experience
According to our study, 73% of LGBTQ+ people have reported being personally attacked or harassed online. These incidents frequently revolve around attempts to alter or criticize a person’s sexual or gender identity. (Click to share on Facebook)
Shauna, a lesbian respondent recalls, “some lady commented on a post I made on social media that my being gay was a phase and that if I found Jesus, I would be converted just like her.”
“Back before Facebook filtered messages from people you aren’t friends with, I would often receive messages calling me a dyke or similarly abusing me,” adds Dylan, a non-binary respondent.
And the abuse isn’t always just verbal. Sometimes, it can even lead to physical violence. According to Zsófia, a genderqueer/non-binary lesbian living in Hungary, “In 2012, my whole Facebook profile was published (with several other [members of the] Hungarian LGBTQ+ community) on a far-right group’s website. The list was called “fagot-list” (“köcsög lista” in Hungarian).”
In addition to these assaults by bigots and religious and political extremists, we found that most of the online harassment respondents experienced was sexual in nature.
“I’ve gotten dick pics when looking for a roommate or when posting my phone number after my cat went missing. I’ve also been told by a few guys’ [that] bisexuality is a phase and I need a good dick to cure me,” explains a Jamie, who’s non-binary and bisexual.
Jamie’s sentiment was echoed throughout the survey, with dozens of people reporting that they have received unsolicited pornographic photos or vulgar, sexually explicit messages.
“I posted a photo saying I wish I could just keep my mouth shut, and multiple people offered their dick to keep it full,” recounts Tamika, a genderqueer lesbian.
“I have had death threats against myself and my family,” discloses Nova, an asexual transgender woman. “Bullying from outside and inside the community. [I’ve] been creeped out so much that I have left social media.”
Asexual people described feeling threatened by their non-asexual counterparts who refuse to accept asexuality as a valid orientation. Some of these men, women and non-binary or genderqueer people would accuse asexuals of having a latent or “not yet developed” sexual interest.
“People think they can cure my asexuality by sending me their nudes or just repeatedly telling me everyone has a sex drive you just need to wait for yours,” says Elijah, who’s genderqueer and asexual.
Despite reporting frequently receiving sexually inappropriate content or comments, many respondents downplayed their harassment and even excused this behavior as “just the usual.”
But you don’t have to accept “just the usual.” There are ways to filter out the abuse.
Cyberbullying on Social Media
Today social media is our main form of communication on the internet, and for LGBTQ+ people – especially those who are not supported by their families or friends – social media may be the only place they can find a loving, supportive community.
Unfortunately, social media is also rife with bullying. Studies have even shown that, due to the fact that not having to face their victim in person emboldens many abusers, bullying is much more widespread online than in real life.
Research has also shown that cyberbullying causes depression, and many victims turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drugs, alcohol, and self-injury.
While there is no way for individuals to stop the harassers from bullying in the first place, there are ways to shield yourself from them, making the repercussions of cyberbullying less severe.
Sometimes it’s as simple as blocking and reporting abusive users, so you don’t have to interact with them at all.
If problems persist, you also have the option of reporting the abuse to the platform – though unfortunately, site administrators don’t always take the necessary action to shut bigots down.
Other Ways to Silence Haters When blocking someone online is not an option, there are other steps you can take to limit your exposure to them. Any of the following tactics can help you take control online:
Manually remove comments on your posts.
Most sites allow you delete specific comments, so you can remove the offensive responses quickly.
Report the incident to the platform.
If you don’t want it to be obvious that it was you who took action, reporting allows you to anonymously flag the issue, so the company can take action.
Create private lists and groups.
Most social networks have a feature to make messages, posts or groups private. By doing this, you can choose to include people you trust and keep potentially sensitive conversations away from harassers.
Cyberbullying on Online Forums
Online forums are a fantastic way to interact with your community, but they can often be a catalyst for arguments and discussions that can turn nasty. It’s not uncommon for LGBTQ+ people to be unfairly targeted on public boards, just because of how they identify.
LGBTQ folks should never be forced to mask their identity, but unfortunately, the world can be a very ugly place, and some people may choose to keep certain information private in order to keep themselves safe.
The following are all details that you should consider avoiding when talking to people you don’t know.
Address and Contact Information: Cyberbullying is one thing, but having an aggressor know where you live – or how to contact you – can put you in physical danger. Never share these details with anyone online, unless you know them personally and it’s via an encrypted chat. Even general information, such as your town or city, can be used to locate you, so keeping it to yourself is the safest option.
Real Names:People can quickly connect the dots to work out who you and your friends are, so some choose to use pseudonyms for themselves and people to whom they refer in their posts. This simple habit is easy to adopt and will afford you considerable privacy, while still allowing you to share your experiences and opinions.
Links to Social Media: If you’re commenting in forums, consider not linking your social media account, or at least keeping your social media settings private. While being verbally attacked on a thread is one thing, your social media account usually has a lot more personal information about you that could escalate harassment to a different level.
Closeted People Risk Being Blackmailed
Although more and more people are comfortable coming out of the closet, there are still many who unfortunately do not feel safe enough to do so. And there are cyber criminals out there who are ready to take advantage of that and are actively looking for victims to blackmail and extort. Therefore, it is important to know how to keep certain information private if you so choose.
Most online platforms have started to take privacy seriously and offer settings to hide parts of, or all, profile information from some users.
Controlling Your Identity During and After Transition
For many transgender people, the period of transition can be an extremely vulnerable time. For those who prefer to keep some or all of their transition private, the possibility of being outed is one of the biggest threats to their online safety. In fact, 26% of transgender women and 21% of transgender men report having been outed against their will.
Some of the respondents to our survey shared stories about how their friends and classmates maliciously revealed their gender identity on social media platforms – or even blackmailed them.
According to Dante, a bisexual/pansexual trans man, “The person [blackmailing me] said they will share my personal information (gender identity and sexual orientation) if I [didn’t] do some certain things.”
In order to avoid being outed, which could potentially create a hostile family dynamic, cost them their job, or instigate a barrage of hateful messages, many choose to live in secrecy.
As Jolene, a transgender lesbian woman recalls, “I live stealth. I hide my sexual orientation and gender identity online.”
Because most people transition as adults, they very likely have an online presence that presents them with the gender they were assigned at birth. As a result, those who fear being blackmailed or involuntarily outed will often choose to remove their previous identity from the web.
For instance, Bianca, a trans blogger, created an online community where she was able to help others in the same situation as her. However, it eventually led to an inability to secure employment and feed her child. According to her, “Then came reality. The world does not like trans – does not understand the cause or the effect.” Because of this, she made the decision to remove traces of her trans identity from her online presence.
Similarly, Yahel, who’s a trans man, first came out in an online forum he worked for, and was immediately met with harassment: “They started opening topics about me saying I’m a girl and that I have a mental illness; they used ‘she’ pronouns.”
Fortunately, because he was a staff member, he could block the offending users.
However, he also noted the limits to his abilities, observing, “when I left my position as a staff member in order to focus on my grades at school, the harassment continued, and I couldn’t do anything about it. When I reported it, no one did anything about it.”
If you are in a similar situation, and are afraid of the consequences of exposing your assigned gender or transition, you have the option of modifying your online persona.
How to Reinvent Your Online Identity
Delete your social media accounts and create new ones that reflect your true gender. Start posting more photos, so you have memories to pad it out with!
Contact websites that present you with your assigned gender, and ask them to remove or update their information on you – you can find out what’s on the web by Googling yourself.
If you don’t want to take these steps because you’ll lose your online following or contact list, you could just update your current accounts.
If you changed your name, update it on every account.
Delete or untag old photos from your social media accounts.
Contact websites, friends, and followers to delete or untag any images that you can’t untag yourself.
Create new photos, videos, and posts that reflect your true self.
It’s also good to know that some social media platforms, like Facebook, have the option to choose a custom gender.
Fortunately, with greater trans visibility, more and more people are open about and proud of their journey. Alex is a trans woman, who found it was easy to come out online. According to her, “Changing my identity online was very simple for me mainly because I already surrounded myself with supportive people. So, like, when I did change everything, everyone was already on board.”
Although she did experience some hate – particularly on dating sites – by being open and finding support among her friends, she found it easier to filter out the noise. Furthermore, she chose the keep posted photos that presented her with the gender she was assigned at birth, and even said that it seemed to help her parents adjust to the idea of her transition.
The decision about how open to be online is deeply personal, and no one should be pressured to reveal more or less than they feel comfortable with. You should decide what’s best for you.
Dating While Queer
Online dating is a huge part of modern relationships. Apps, dating websites, and social media all provide a platform for folks of any gender or orientation to meet, hook up, or fall in love. And they can be especially helpful for sexual minorities looking to find partners in a largely cis-hetero world.
Many of the people we interviewed who are in happy, long-term relationships met their partners on the web.
Ronnie found the love of her life online. “Once I decided to just talk to someone who I had judged was way out of my league. After a couple of weeks she asked me on a date […] now 6 months later, I’m so unbelievably in love.”
Unfortunately, however, online dating sites can be hives for sexual harassment.
In the survey we conducted, more than 50% of respondents who identify as gay, lesbian, queer, asexual, or bisexual/pansexual suffered sexual harassment online.
Similar studies revealed that sexual harassment affects a third of LGBTQ youth – four times as many as cis-hetero youth.
That’s why it’s so important to protect yourself online. Dating should be fun. In order for it to stay that way, check out the tips below.
Safety Tips for Online Dating
Meeting someone you first connected to online could potentially be risky. Even if they appear legitimate, there’s no way to guarantee the authenticity of their identity, and – even if they are the person they say there are – you don’t know how they might act or behave in a face-to-face encounter.
While this shouldn’t stop you from meeting new people, it’s important to maintain a strategy to staysafe, should the situation take an unwanted turn.
Don’t meet at home because you don’t want strangers to know where you live until you’ve vetted them. It may seem inconvenient, but it will make you much less vulnerable.
Tell a friend all the details of the arrangements, including who you’re meeting, where you’re meeting, and when you should be back.
‘Ask For Angela’ or use a similar scheme. Across the world, codes exist that allow you to discreetly ask for help at bars or restaurants should you feel unsafe during a date. Research the options used in your locale beforehand.
Use police apps such as SafeTrek (see below), which allow you to notify the police of your location and alert them to danger, without having to make a call. By pressing a single button, you can dispatch authorities without your date knowing.
Do your research before you meet. Most people have an extensive social media presence that you can use to validate their identity. If they don’t, then you know to be extra cautious during your date – or you might decide to skip the meeting altogether.
Safe Dating Apps
As more and more people rely on their smartphones, dating apps have largely taken the place of traditional dating websites. Some of these attract users who are looking to just hook up (and if that’s what you want, great!), while others are geared more towards those looking for long term relationships.
In either case, users are vulnerable to the same dangers, including sexual harassment or assault.
Fortunately, there are a plethora of apps designed to make your dating experience safer. These include online dating platforms with built-in security measures, as well as intuitive programs that can track your safety while you’re out.
Taimi: Cited as the biggest and safest dating app for men seeking men, Taimi lets users “make friends, find the perfect guy, or form meaningful relationships.” It uses secure login features, such as fingerprints and two-factor authentication, and has an AI bot to verify accounts and detect fraudulent users.
LGBTQutie: This simple app promotes cultivating meaningful relationships and friendships, rather than impersonal hookups. It’s aimed at inclusivity, supporting asexual, non-binary, pansexual, and intersex users, alongside other LGBTQ members.
Scissr: Catering specifically to lesbians, Scissr promises to be a safe space for women. It prioritizes finding fake profiles by weeding out and deleting them before they can cause problems. Alongside its dating service, it also offers users a community where they can share and discuss different topics with likeminded people.
Chappy: Chappy aims to change the stigma around gay-dating apps. They require each user to verify themselves via Facebook and they auto-delete any pictures that do not include a face. They also require users to each select one another before any messaging can happen, which significantly reduces the chance of harassment. Furthermore, they’ll alert you if anyone tries to screenshot your profile or photos.
With the rise of dating apps, sexting has become a common phenomenon. As a result, many have nude pictures stored on their phones.
Whether you take these pictures for yourself or for others, you can’t ignore the possibility that if they fall into the wrong hands, the result could be embarrassing – or in some cases – have devastating effects on your personal or professional life.
But swapping cheeky photos can be a fun and fulfilling part of your romantic life, and we want you to have fun. Just make sure you take precautions.
Apps to Secretly Store Your Photos
There are certain apps that you can use to increase security and store your intimate photos in a locked part of your phone. The following all provide this feature:
KeepSafe: KeepSafe provides an easy way to protect your pictures. Just transfer your intimate photos into the app, and it will lock them with a password.
Gallery Lock Lite: This app is a locked photo vault. It also features a stealth mode, which hides the app icon altogether – you can then only access it through a specific sequence of key commands.
Best Secret Folder: This privacy app allows you to hide the app (and your photos) entirely, as it appears on your phone as a ‘Utilities Folder,’ which diverts any suspicion as to what it contains.
KYMS: KYMS provides the standard locked album features but takes it a step further by appearing as a calculator on your phone’s menu. As long as no one grabs your phone to do some math, your secret photos will remain hidden.
Vaulty: As well as providing your photos protection, Vaulty also comes with a plethora of editing features. Plus, if you lose your phone, you can restore your pictures from another device.
Have Your Photos Self-Destruct
Often no real need exists to store your nude photos on your phone at all. Once you’ve sent them to the desired recipient, you may not have a use for them. Many apps exist that allow you to take and send pictures, but will automatically delete them from both phones after a certain amount of time. These platforms allow genuinely stealthy sexting:
However, be aware that there are ways to get around this – meaning that the recipient of your photos could take a screenshot or save them in some other way. So never sext with someone you don’t trust.
How to Not Get Hacked
Unfortunately, it’s not just physical theft that could expose your private photos and information. Hackers are becoming incredibly sophisticated and can find your intimate information without you even knowing it.
The best way to protect yourself from hackers is to implement several layers of online protection.
Install antivirus software that will alert you if you accidentally download spyware onto your phone. Spyware intercepts your files, passwords, and online activity, and transfers them back to the hacker.
Only download apps from trusted users. Some unofficial apps are trojan horses for malware. If an infected program enters your phone, it can easily grant a third party access to your messages and photos.
Regularly update your apps, since updates usually include patches and fixes for security flaws.
Use two-factor authentication (2FA) on all your accounts to make it more difficult for cybercriminals to access your files via brute-force attacks. This setting requires an additional code from a third-party platform, like your SMS or email, so (unless someone has managed to hack into several of your accounts) they won’t be able to gain entry.
Always use a VPN when using unsecured public WiFi networks. Open hotspots do not encrypt data, so other users can see and access your files. Rogue connection points also exist to intentionally farm your data. Using a VPN will encrypt your traffic and bypass this issue altogether. If you’re not sure which to use, here are some of our favorites.
Avoiding Unwanted Advances
Unwanted sexual advances, from illicit photos to sexual requests, can happen to anyone. However, LGBTQ+ people often face specific perils.
For instance, if you’re trans, it’s not uncommon to be bombarded by intimate questions about your genitalia and sexual experiences, or be solicited for paid intercourse.
According to our survey, when comparing the experiences of people with different gender identities, transgender women felt the least safe online, and cisgender men felt the safest. It was also revealed that transgender people are frequently fetishized due to their gender. Many have the experience of being asked to expose themselves to their cis peers under the guise of learning about their transitions.
Dean, a transgender man recalls, “A high school classmate asked to see me naked so he could understand trans people… even after I told him to research on his own. Then he started making sexual advances.”
Similarly, lesbian couples might receive unwanted advances from straight men that have fetishized their relationships, and bi women are often perceived as being hypersexual and open to any sort of encounter.
“Usually it’ll be an ignorant ‘Want to be in a threesome?’ kind of sleazy comment,” said Priya, who’s bi.
Hannah, also a bisexual woman, noted the existence of ‘unicorn hunters,’ on platforms like Tinder. She defined them as “people who search for bi girls to have threesomes with,” and gave an example from her own experience:
“The one that stuck in my head the most was this email I got from a joint profile. They were looking for a girl to have a threesome [with], and I apparently checked all the boxes they were looking for. The email was really polite actually, asking if I’d be into it and if I’d want to meet up.”
However, she was acutely aware of the lack of social niceties and small talk before the offer, and it left her feeling slightly dehumanized.
It’s important to note that not all uncomfortable interactions rise to the level of harassment. Especially on dating sites, where many are looking for a hook-up, what might feel like crossing a boundary to one person could be a welcome proposition to another. If the interaction falls into that gray area, you’re going to have to make a call as to how to deal with it.
Also remember that it’s not your job to educate people if you don’t want to. While it’s true that some act from a place of ignorance, rather than malice, helping them see the light requires the type of emotional labor you don’t owe anyone.
With that in mind, here are some steps you can take for various scenarios in which you are made to feel uncomfortable:
If you do choose to engage, inform the problematic person that they’re causing offense and explain how. Who knows, they might see the error in their ways and apologize for having crossed a line.
If they’re being totally rude and unacceptable, but you still want to respond in some way, you can tell them that if they continue their behavior you’ll report them to the platform. Sometimes a simple threat is enough to make online trolls step down.
If you’re not interested in a discussion, just block their account and report them to the platform through which you’re communicating.
If harassment persists or escalates, and you fear for your safety, report them to the police. While the authorities often don’t adequately respond to online harassment, it may be worth a shot, and reporting an incident at least begins an official paper trail that may become useful down the road.
Navigating the Workplace While Queer
Despite growing visibility and acceptance, some LGBTQ people still face discrimination in the workplace.
In the US, in28 states, it’s still legal to fire someone based on their sexual orientation, and termination due to gender identity is still allowed in 30 states.
“I’m worried my sexual identity being in the open could hurt my future career,” exclaimed Courtney, a bisexual woman.
These figures are truly shocking, but they highlight why it’s so important to know your rights.
Connecting with Colleagues on Social Media
By no means should anyone ever feel pressured to stay in the closet. That said, those who fear harassment or discrimination should know how to keep their personal and professional life separate if they so choose.
But what if a coworker friends you on Facebook or follows you on Instagram? Do you block them or ignore their request, potentially leading to an awkward work dynamic, or even confrontation?
If you do feel pressured into a friendship with anyone you’re not comfortable with, there are ways to filter what they see. Most platforms let you customize who can see each post, so you can vary the information you share with certain people. Here’s how to do this on popular social network sites:
Combating Harassment & Prejudice at Work
If you experience harassment or discrimination at work, it can be emotionally overwhelming. Especially with everything online nowadays, you might experience online harassment from your coworkers. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get recourse. Here’s where to start:
Document every relevant interaction and collect evidence to take to HR or your lawyer.
Use your phone to record potentially problematic conversations, so you have first-hand proof of what happened.
If any evidence exists within your work email correspondence, be sure to copy and paste or screenshot the content elsewhere – because your employer can delete or edit messages that exist within the company’s internal system. This applies to Slack or other online chat groups as well.
Find someone you trust to help gather documentation. Having a witness will increase the credibility of your claims.
If HR doesn’t take your accusations seriously, find a third-party you can contact to push the case further.
Know your rights. Being able to refer to specific legislation and guidelines regarding discrimination will help you go to battle with confidence.
Tips for Parents of LGBTQ+ Youth
If you are the parent of an LGBTQ+ child, it’s essential to verse yourself in online safety.
Queer youth are especially vulnerable to abuse and depression, mostly because they have less of an ability than adults to organize their lives around finding a supportive community.
It is important to stay involved in your child’s life and be aware of their mental health. By maintaining an open dialogue and monitoring their online activity, you can help keep them safe.
Similarly, if you discover that your child is queer but has not disclosed that information to you, it is important that you do not confront them about it. Instead, have an open dialogue and incorporate statements about the LGBTQ community that will help your child feel safe.
Talk to them, but more importantly LISTEN. Ask what help they need and what tactics they’re using to protect themselves online. Many resources exist to support LGBTQ youth and their parents, so feel free to reach out and connect with others.
Below is a list of organizations that offer a plethora of resources for LGBTQ youth and their loved ones.
Support Organizations for LGBTQ+ Youth and Their Families
It Gets Better: Created by married couple Dan Savage and Terry Miller, It Gets Better started as a social media campaign to provide hope for young LGBTQ+ people who face bullying and prejudice. Today it is an international media network with numerous partners.
GLAAD: GLAAD was founded in response to the slanderous coverage of the 1980s AIDS epidemic. Today, it plays a major role in tackling problematic media narratives and encouraging essential conversation about LGBTQ+ issues.
Born This Way: This foundation was created by Lady GaGa and her mother, following the success of the song of the same name. The organization aims to support and empower young people through research and by connecting them to mental health resources.
FFLAG: Standing for Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, this registered nonprofit’s primary focus is supporting and sharing information with the friends and family of LGBTQ+ people. In addition to providing resources, they also connect members with local groups and contacts.
Helpful Blogs & Forums
You can also find an infinite number of blogs and forums that are used to discuss problems and share personal experiences. Popular blogs for LGBTQ+ youth and their parents include:
Gay Christian Network Forum
Exploitive Relationships Among LQBTQ+ Youth
Studies show that LGBTQ+ youth are presented with more relevant risk factors than any other group of young people.
Often this occurs when children or youth come from homophobic/transphobic families that don’t give them the support they need and deserve. Young people who are forced to stay in the closet due to fears of backlash from their parents are particularly at risk of sexual extortion.
“When I was younger, and the internet more ruthless, I had a man threatening to come to my house to tell my parents unless I sent him pictures,” recounts Giselle, an asexual transgender woman. “I had [nowhere] to go and thought that some stranger was going to tell my parents everything.”
In extreme (though unfortunately not uncommon) cases, youth without familial support end up homeless and often are forced to turn to sex work as their only means of survival. According to Gil Fishhof, the Director of the Human Rights Youth Organization: “these kids are engaging in sex as a means of acquiring the basic necessities that we take for granted like food, clothing, and shelter.”
And even those who don’t engage in sex work can be vulnerable to exploitation from adults who seek to establish a ‘sugar daddy/mommy’ relationship with someone who is young and easily manipulated. In explaining some of the potential reasons why young people who identify as LGBTQ+ might fall into unsavory relationships, Fishhof says, “youth are less likely to say no in these situations because they feel like they need to validate their sexual identities. It creates a fertile ground for sexual assault.”
In these situations, the responsibility falls to parents and caregivers to keep a watchful eye on the young people they care about. It’s particularly important to keep an open dialogue about internet use and ensure that minors stay away from the adult dating community.
The following are all 18+ apps that those who are underage shouldn’t be on:
If your child or a young person you care about is using one of these apps, have a conversation with them, and make sure they understand the risks of getting intimate with adults.
That said, while open and honest dialogue is always the best option for teaching your child about safety, if you think it necessary and have the ability to do so, you could also block their usage of these apps entirely.
One way to do this is by using parental control software.
These let you block apps, as well as track activity and messages. They can be as intrusive or unobtrusive as you want them to be, so you can find the balance between respecting your child’s privacy and keeping them safe.
The following are all highly-rated parental control programs:
Norton Family Premier: Available by itself or as an extension to the Norton Security Suite, this control app allows you to set ‘house rules’ for each device. These can determine time limits, app restrictions and under 18 filters.
FamilyTime: FamilyTime is available on most operating systems and allows you to monitor and manage your kid’s web use – giving you access to phone logs and location, and letting you block apps and implement geofencing.
Qustodio: This option allows you to set individual time limits for each app, or block them completely. It’s also simple to monitor your child’s texts and calls through the admin panel.
Net Nanny: Net Nanny is an award-winning software that offers real-time analytics, and that monitors activity and prevents users from accessing age-inappropriate content.
Pumpic: Targeting mobiles specifically, Pumpic gives you remote access to your child’s device, and the ability to block or moderate the content they see. It provides logs of their activity, calendar, contacts, and messages.
We Hope This Helped
In a perfect world, LGBTQ+ people wouldn’t face a heightened risk online and would be free to express themselves however they wish. Sadly, social norms aren’t changing fast enough, and we still have a long way to go before that reality is realized. Unfortunately, this means that LGBTQ+ people have to be extra careful, especially online.
We hope our guide helps you take control of interactions online and makes you feel safer, while at the same time empowering you to fully enjoy the digital aspects of your personal, intimate, and professional life.
Cecelia Hayden Smith, 72, knows exactly how she wants to live out the remainder of her golden years: lounging lazily on the porch of a cozy house tucked along a quiet, treelined street in Washington, D.C.
She’d greet her partner each morning with a homemade country breakfast, and their afternoons and evenings would be filled with lively games of Spades and Bid Whist with a dozen or so housemates — all fellow LGBTQ elders.
“I’ve already picked out my rocking chair,” the retired substance abuse counselor quipped. “Just call me ‘Mama C,’ and make sure my room is in the front, so I can always see everything going on, and I’m happy.”
For now, her dream is in stark contrast of her reality. She and her partner of 30 years, a 78-year-old woman whose names she prefers not to mention, have had health challenges, forcing them to live on a fixed budget in pricey Washington, D.C.
They can only afford to live in a crumbling six-bedroom townhome, which they share with three middle-aged and older straight and lesbian women. After the basics, much of their income is spent on health care and, often, an ever-growing list of repairs for the house, which has been in her partner’s family for more than six decades.
Although economic, social, physical and mental health disparities are high among all LGBTQ older adults, the complexities of race, age, sexual orientation and gender identity are especially challenging for many black LGBTQ elders. And advocates say public policy changes, such as the Trump administration’s promised repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which in its most recent version includes deep cuts to Medicaid, will make their predicament worse.
“It gets to a point where you wake up and say, ‘Which fight am I going to fight today?'”—Dr. Imani Woody
“We’ve got LGBTQ [status] and age, so we really have two oppressions against us,” Dr. Imani Woody, 65, an African-American lesbian and LGBTQ activist in Washington, D.C., explained. “And when you put race and gender on top of that, it just gets harder. It gets to a point where you wake up and say, ‘Which fight am I going to fight today?'”
The sparse research available on this embattled group reveals chronic levels of discrimination, poverty, social isolation and physical and mental health disparities.
One-third of LGBTQ older adults live at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, including 40 percent of African American LGBTQ older adults, according to one groundbreaking report co-authored by Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), the nation’s oldest and largest advocacy group for LGBTQ elders, and LGBTQ think-tank Movement Advancement Project (MAP) released in May.
Advocates attribute the economic disparities of black LGBTQ elders to longstanding race, age and LGBTQ discrimination, which has been exacerbated by a lack of equal protection under the law and social stigma. Neglect and isolation are especially prevalent when their peers — the only support network many of them have due to family rejection — die off or age themselves, as research shows older LGBTQ adults are less likely to be partnered or married or to have children to depend on as caregivers.
“Our generation did so much [for LGBTQ and civil rights], we shouldn’t just be thrown away,” Hayden Smith said. “It’s sad, but so many of us feel invisible as we get older. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we’re going to get lost in the sauce.”
“African-Americans reported the highest levels of lifetime LGBTQ-related discrimination, and both African-Americans and Hispanics reported lower levels of household income, education, affirmation of their identities and social support compared to non-Hispanic white LGBTQ older adults,” said Dr. Karen Fredriksen-Goldsen, lead researcher on the “Aging With Pride: National Health, Aging and Sexuality/Gender Study.”
Though not focused exclusively on elders of color, her study, the largest ever nationally on LGBTQ older adults, found a common bond among African-American and Hispanic LGBTQ older adults.
“It’s sad, but so many of us feel invisible as we get older.”—Cecelia Hayden Smith
“[They both] reported higher levels of spirituality than non-Hispanic whites, and spirituality was found to be associated with their well-being. The findings indicate distinct challenges and resilience among LGBTQ older adults of color,” Fredriksen-Goldsen explained.
In addition, a 2014 SAGE report found African-American LGBTQ older adults were four times more likely than their Hispanic and white counterparts — 26 percent versus 8 percent — to consider people from their churches or faith as part of their support systems.
Jenna McDavid, of the Diverse Elders Coalition, said this information provides great opportunity: “Exploring more ways for faith communities to be inclusive could be monumental for so many elders in need of support,” she explained.
Discrimination and Isolation
While many advocates say the legalization of same-sex marriage has been helpful to the well-being of LGBTQ elders, many who have not married still struggle to receive the financial and family protections afforded to unmarried, different-sex couples – especially after their partner dies or suffers a chronic illness.
Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are especially problematic for black LGBTQ elders, according to Kenneth Mitchell, 62, a black gay man living in New Orleans. “The fear of abuse and discrimination [is so strong that many] end up going back into the closet,” he said.
“People need to be able to be their true selves; being fearful and stressed impacts your quality of life and your physical and mental health,” added Mitchell, who serves as a board member for New Orleans Advocates for GLBT Elders (NOAGE).
Cedric Burgess, 65, a black gay man in Washington D.C., agrees that a fear of backlash and discrimination pushes many to retreat. “It’s not the same as being a young gay person; there’s less to do, and many of our peers have died from the AIDS epidemic,” he said. “One of the biggest concerns is isolation and suicide. People need people to talk to.”
To that end, NOAGE, SAGE and GRIOT Circle, a nonprofit focused on the needs of older LGBTQ people of color, host regular social events to engage LGBTQ elders. NOAGE also provides free training for senior service providers in the New Orleans area on how to deliver culturally competent health care, adding that many service providers don’t realize LGBTQ discrimination is illegal in federally funded facilities.
Dr. Imani Woody is trying to do her part to help LGBTQ elders. One way the advocate is trying to do so is by making that cozy retirement house Hayden Smith dreams of a reality. She’s currently raising money to transform her childhood home into Mary’s House, an affordable, independent living home for LGBTQ elders in Washington, D.C.
The plans call for 15 efficiency units, a “stone wall” on the grounds commemorating the 1969 Stonewall Inn Riots and a yellow brick road — a nod to days past when gay men would clandestinely identify each other by asking, “Are you a friend of Dorothy?”
Hayden Smith and Cedric Burgess are ambassadors for Mary’s House, which they both eventually hope to call home for themselves and fellow LGBTQ elders of color for many years to come.
“It’s tough out there, but at least at Mary’s House they’ll have a family and a place to call home,” Dr. Woody said.
The Dorian Society was the first and only homophile organization in Seattle, officially founded in 1967. University of Washington Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures Nicholas Heer served as the first president. Heer had been active in the homophile movement in Boston before moving to Seattle. The Dorian Society’s membership was predominantly middle-class white men. The Dorian Society targeted heterosexual allies by portraying homosexuals as respectable citizens. While advocating the repeal of Washington State’s anti-sodomy law and increased services for homosexuals, Dorian Society members also encouraged members of the gay community to conduct themselves responsibly in public. In 1969, the organization established a “Dorian House” on Capitol Hill, which was the first gay institution in Seattle that was neither a bar nor a bathhouse. Seattle Counseling Services for Sexual Minorities began in the Dorian House the same year. The Dorian Society produced the newsletter Columns, the foundation of Seattle Gay News.
Queen City Business Guild
Gay bar and bathhouse owners formed the Queen City Business Guild in the 1960s. While relatively inactive prior to the gay liberation movement, the guild supported the creation of Seattle’s Imperial Court, a drag organization, and assisted the Gay Community Center in organizing a gay campground in the Cascades.
Freedom Socialist Party
The Freedom Socialist Party was an anti-racist, socialist feminist organization founded in 1966. The party supported the gay liberation movement, and included many gay men in its ranks in its early years. The Freedom Socialist Party met in Freeway Hall in the University District. Today, FSP is located at “New Freeway Hall” in Columbia City. Their website is www.socialism.com/drupal-6.8/seattle.
Radical Women is a socialist feminist organization founded in the late 1960s that grew out of the Freedom Socialist Party, but only included women. Radical Women identified the root of gay and female oppression in the heterosexual monogamous family, which they viewed as the basic social unit necessary to support a capitalist political economy. That is, they viewed capitalism and patriarchy as inextricably linked and sought the defeat of both. Radical Women continues today with socialist feminist politics that also take into account racial oppression and gender identity issues. Their current home is “New Freeway Hall,” located in Columbia City, and their website is www.radicalwomen.org/seattle.shtml
Seattle Counseling Services for Sexual Minorities
Founded by Bob Deisher as Seattle Counseling Service in the Dorian House on Malden Avenue in 1969 when homosexuality was still considered a mental illness, SCS provided a space for people to talk to volunteer counselors. In 1970, 264 people came into the SCS house for counseling while over two thousand phoned into the center for counseling. Today, Seattle Counseling Services for Sexual Minorities continues to provide counseling with a wider understanding of sexual minority and gender identity issues. Today, SCSSM is located on Melrose Ave and Pine Street on the southwestern slope of Capitol Hill. Their website is www.seattlecounseling.org/.
Seattle Gay Liberation Front
Formed in June 1970, the Seattle chapter of the Gay Liberation Front argued for societal change rather than the inclusion of gay people as respectable members of society. The organization stressed that people should have the right to choose their sexuality, sex, and gender and publicly express their gender and sexuality as they please. The GLF sought to end the nuclear family as the basic unit of social organization and argued that children be raised without assigning gender roles to them. Beyond sexual politics, the Gay Liberation Front included “the liberation of all oppressed peoples” in its political action statement, endorsing radical racial minority, feminist, anti-war and other activists challenging imperialism and sexism.
Gay Women’s Alliance
The Gay Women’s Alliance was born out of the Gay Liberation Front in December 1970 to address the specific concerns of lesbians, who did not feel fully at home in either women’s liberation or gay liberation. They asserted the need for coalitional activism particularly with the women’s movement and were supportive of gay liberation.
Gay Community Center
Founded by Paul Barwick, John Singer (later named Faygele benMiriam), and Robert Perry in 1971 on Cherry Street and First Avenue Seattle near the historical center of gay bars and bathhouses in Pioneer Square, the Gay Community Center offered a space where gay men and lesbians could socialize without alcohol. More than two thousand people came by the center by the end of 1971. Rising rent forced the center to close at the end of 1972, but a new Gay Community Center opened on 16th Avenue on Capitol Hill during Gay Pride Week 1974. The new center featured a library, job and housing notices, a twenty-four-hour hotline, and a food and clothing donation service.
Lesbian Resource Center
Founded by the Gay Women’s Alliance as the Gay Women’s Resource Center at the University District YWCA in 1971, the center provided services for gay women and offered a space for lesbians to socialize without alcohol, much like the space the Gay Community Center had provided for gay Seattleites, though predominantly gay men. Lesbians had access to lists of sympathetic doctors and businesses friendly to gay women at the center. “Rap groups” formed at the center, following the model of the consciousness raising groups that were at the heart of the women’s liberation movement at the University of Washington and the surrounding neighborhood.
Founded by Bill DuBay and David Baird in 1971, Stonewall served as a treatment center for gay drug addicts. Stonewall used group therapy and strict supervision to ensure recovery from addiction and other emotional trauma specific to the experiences of gay men and lesbians at the time. Stonewall fought for the right to serve as a center for gay parolees from Walla Walla State Penitentiary. The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services certified Stonewall as a drug treatment center in 1972. Stonewall moved into a former Carmelite nunnery in 1974, but the cost of repairs to the nunnery proved too great, and Stonewall dissolved in September 1976 after two failed attempts to find a new home in the greater Seattle area. Stonewall served about 500 patients before it dissolved.
Seattle Gay Alliance
Founded by Dorian Society members who were more open to the strategies of the Gay Liberation Front, the Seattle Gay Alliance brought members of the older generation and younger generation of gay activists together beginning in 1971. SGA publicly contested sexual double standards, advocating that gay couples should have the same right to public displays of affection as straight couples.
Metropolitan Community Church
Evangelical preacher Robert Sirico founded a branch of the Metropolitan Community Church in Seattle after coming out in 1972. Troy Perry had founded the first Metropolitan Community Church in Los Angeles in 1968 for gay Christians. The MCC shared space with a United Methodist congregation near the Dorian House in the 1970s. Today, the Emerald City Metropolitan Community Church holds services at the University Temple United Methodist Church in the University District. Their website is mccseattle.org.
Office for Women’s Rights
Established by the City Council Council with the passage of the city’s 1973 Fair Employment Practices Ordinance, the Office of Women’s Rights was responsible for adjudicating cases of discrimination against women and sexual minorities. When sexual minorities were added to Seattl’e housing nondiscrimination ordiance in 1975, the Office of Women’s Rights took on cases of housing discrimination against women and sexual minorities too. Inititiative 13 threatened to disband the Office of Women’s Rights in 1978, but Seattle voters defeated the initative. The Seattle Commission for Lesbians and Gays was first housed within the Office for Women’s Rights.
The Stonewall Committee was a coalition of gay men and lesbians that organized Seattle’s early Gay Pride Marches. These early marches held in Downtown Seattle stressed the importance of gay men and lesbians making their voices heard in solidarity with all oppressed peoples, including workers and people of color.
Lesbian Mothers National Defense Fund
Founded by Geraldine Cole in Seattle in 1974, the Lesbian Mothers National Defense Fund provided aid to lesbians involved with child custody cases. Since most cases of lesbian motherhood in the 1970s involved women married to men who came out as lesbians, it was difficult for lesbian mothers to win custody battles with their husbands given the negative views of gay people in most parts of the country at the time.
The Dorian Group
Founded by Charlie Brydon in 1975, The Dorian Group mobilized predominantly white, professional class gay men and lesbians to articulate a civil rights politics that did not critique society-at-large in the way gay liberationists and lesbian feminists did up to that point. The Dorian Group quickly became the most visible gay rights organization at City Hall. By 1977, The Dorian Group was engaging in Washington State politics, seeking the passage of a statewide nondiscrimination bill covering sexual minorities in housing and employment. By 1980, The Dorian Group had become a member organization of the New York-based National Gay Task Force and the Washington, DC- based National Gay Rights Lobby.
Union of Sexual Minorities
The Union of Sexual Minorities carried the politics of the Gay Liberation Front into the late 1970s, raising awareness around a variety of issues that its members viewed as related to a racist and sexist society. They openly discussed and publicized critiques of the United States as the primary source of imperialism and capitalism in the twentieth century. Their newsletter The Other Side raised awareness around issues affecting sexual minorities as well as issues affecting racial minorities and colonized peoples. A conversation among members of the Union of Sexual Minorities and Mujer, a Chicana feminist organization in Seattle, prompted Mujer to openly oppose Initiative 13 and assert that gay people existed in all racial groups.
Washington Coalition for Sexual Minority Rights
The Washington Coalition for Sexual Minority Rights formed as a coalition to replace the Seattle Gay Alliance after its dissolution with a more radial perspective than The Dorian Group in the late 1970s. The coalition did was made up of constituent organizations, including Seattle Counseling Service, the Gay Community Center, the National Organization of Women, the Feminist Coordinating Council, the Freedom Socialist Party, Radical Women, and the Union of Sexual Minorities. WCfSMR meetings regarding David Estes and Dennis Falk’s petition for an initiative to overturn Seattle’s nondiscrimination clauses covering sexual minorities spawned the Seattle Committee Against Thirteen and Women Against Thirteen.
Founded as the Seattle Municipal Elections Committee in 1977, SEAMEC has worked to register gay people to vote and has developed a candidate ranking system to publicize were candidates fall on LGBTQ issues. Today, the organization calls itself the Seattle Metropolitan Elections Committee, ranking candidates from the greater Seattle area rather than just the city itself. Their website is //voteseamec.org/.
Citizens to Retain Fair Employment
Citizens to Retain Fair Employment (CRFE) formed in 1978 to fight what became Initiative 13, an effort to repeal Seattle’s nondiscrimination ordinances covering sexual minorities in housing and employment. Closely associated with The Dorian Group, CRFE recruited allies in City Hall and in the state legislature in Olympia in its efforts to convince Seattle voters to vote “no” on Initiative 13. CRFE’s campaign literature stressed that everyone’s privacy was at stake if Initiative 13 passed, making the campaign less about discrimination against people and more about the universal right to privacy.
Seattle Committee Against Thirteen
The Seattle Committee Against Thirteen (SCAT) formed in 1978 to fight what became Initiative 13, an effort to repeal Seattle’s nondiscrimination ordinances covering sexual minorities in housing and employment. Attracting activists rooted in or sympathetic to gay liberation, SCAT sought to make discrimination against gay people central to the campaign to defeat Initiative 13 unlike CRFE. They stressed that everybody knew someone who was gay, whether they knew it at the time or not, and that taking away the rights of sexual minorities was a slippery slope toward taking rights for all minority groups. Their grassroots campaign targeted minority neighborhoods and forged a connection between Initiative 13 and Initiative 15, which granted police officers greater discretion to use firearms with its passage.
Women Against Thirteen
Women Against Thirteen (WAT) formed in 1978 to defeat Initiative 13. WAT’s activism focused on the initiative’s proposal to disband Seattle’s Office of Women’s Rights, which enforced cases of discrimination against women and sexual minorities in housing and employment. Their outreach did not only target women, however. By eliminating the Office of Women’s Rights, cases of discrimination against women were to be placed under the purview of the Office of Human Rights, which already handled cases of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, age, political beliefs, religion, and ability. Like SCAT, WAT targeted racial minorities, arguing that the Office of Human Rights already had a large enough caseload without adding cases involving women.
Seattle Gay Clinic
The Seattle Gay Clinic was founded in 1979 as a safe space for gay men to get screened for STDs. Prior to its founding, many gay men in Seattle had unpleasant experiences with Seattle-King County Department of Public Health’s VD clinic, reporting instances of moral judgment from nurses there. The volunteers at SGC were predominantly gay men who were sympathetic to gay patients and sex positive. Many local AIDS organizations were founded out of the Seattle Gay Clinic, including the Chicken Soup Brigade and the Northwest AIDS Foundation.
Ingersoll Gender Center
Founded by Marsha Botzer in 1979, the Ingersoll Gender Center has served transgender, trans*, gender variant, and genderqueer people as a support center ever since. The center incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1984. The center hosts an All-Trans Support Group every Wednesday evening and has helped members of the community find sensitive healthcare providers.
Greater Seattle Business Association
Organized by Stan Hill in 1981, the Greater Seattle Business Association formed to promote gay businesses in the Seattle area. Thirty-three gay business owners signed on as charter members. GSBA produced an annual directory of gay businesses to assist members of the gay community in patronizing gay-owned businesses. GSBA sought to foster the creation of a gay business district along Broadway in the 1980s. In the early 1990s, the GSBA board began to allow allied businesses to join the organization. Today, GSBA is the largest and most active LGBT business chamber in the United States, counting almost 1,000 businesses as members. GSBA’s offices are located on East Pine Street on Capitol Hill, and their website is www.thegsba.org.
Modeled after the original Shanti group in San Francisco, Shanti/Seattle formed in 1983 as an emotional support network for people living with AIDS. Volunteer counselors received training and were matched with patients and met at the patients’ convenience, usually in their home or at their hospital bedside. Shanti prided itself on providing counseling to patients regardless of how advanced their case of AIDS was.
Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence formed in San Francisco as a collective of queer nuns committed to erasing stigma, increasing queer visibility, and assisting marginal members of the LGBTQ community. Since the early AIDS epidemic, when a Seattle chapter formed, the Sisters have promoted safer sex practices while maintaining a sex positive attitude in the face AIDS. The Seattle chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence is the Abbey of St. Joan.
Modeled after the original Shanti group in San Francisco, Shanti/Seattle formed in 1983 as an emotional support network for people living with AIDS. Volunteer counselors received training and were matched with patients and met at the patients’ convenience, usually in their home or at their hospital bedside. Shanti prided itself on providing counseling to patients regardless of how advanced their case of AIDS was.
Northwest AIDS Foundation/Lifelong AIDS Alliance
The Northwest AIDS Foundation was formed out of the Seattle Gay Clinic in 1983 to raise money to help those affected by AIDS. After 1985, the Northwest AIDS Foundation began a “Rules of the Road” safe sex campaign to encourage condom use among gay men, the first of several safe sex campaigns in Seattle. Today, Lifelong AIDS Alliance performs the education and care functions of the Northwest AIDS Foundation and the Chicken Soup Brigade put together. Their website is www.llaa.org.
Seattle AIDS Support Group/Seattle Area Support Groups and Community Center
Founded by Josh Joshua, Stan Henry, and Ann McCaffray in 1984, the Seattle AIDS Support Group provided a space for people living with AIDS to meet and discuss their new lives living with the disease. SASG fostered a sense of camaraderie amongst those who attended meetings. Today, under the name Seattle Area Support Groups and Community Center, SAGS has expanded to offer various support groups targeting the LGBTQ community and people living with HIV/AIDS, including various Alcoholics Anonymous and groups, spiritual groups, social groups and events such as book clubs and game nights, and other substance abuse and addiction support groups. SAGS is located in a house on 17th Avenue East on Capitol Hill, and their website is sasgcc.org.
Blood Sisters was founded by in 1985 by a group of lesbian activists, organizing blood drives in solidarity with gay men suffering from AIDS.
AIDS Prevention Project
The Seattle-King County Department of Public Health established the AIDS Prevention Project in 1985. Bob Wood served as the Medical Director, and Tim Burak served as the Project Coordinator. The APP work closesly with the Northwest AIDS Foundation and the People of Color Against AIDS Network in reaching out to communities subject to higher transmission rates of HIV, including gay men and intravenous drug users. The APP worked with local bathhouse owners to distribute condoms and information about HIV transmission, viewing bathhouses as cites of education for men engaging in risky sexual behavior rather than sites of transmission that needed to be shut down as happened in other cities. The APP succeeded in obtaining many private and public grants to experiment with AIDS prevention programs. Most notably, the APP was one of five programs in the coutnry receiving federal funds for the Center for Disease Control’s Community Demonstration Project for AIDS Prevention and Risk Reduction.
Mayor’s Lesbian and Gay Task Force
The Mayor’s Lesbian and Gay Task Force was founded in 1985 to advise the mayor on issues relating to the gay community beyond AIDS. The MLGTF included eleven members representing the Greater Seattle Business Association, Stonewall Recovery, the Northwest AIDS Foundation, the Lesbian Resource Center, and other organizations and committees. When the City Council approved the creation of a Seattle Commission for Lesbians and Gays in 1989, the Mayor’s Lesbian and Gay Task Force ceased to exist.
Seattle Bisexual Women’s Network
The Seattle Bisexual Women’s Network was formed in 1985. The organization worked with service providers and city officials to increase awareness of bisexual issues. The testified in hearings of the Seattle Commission on Children and Youth and the Seattle Women’s Commission in 1988, and they began printing a bimonthly newsletter North BI Northwest that same year.
The Pride Foundation
Established through the Greater Seattle Business Association in 1986, the Pride Foundation has served as a donor-based philanthropic organization, funding community nonprofit organizations. While originally focused on supporting organizations in the greater Seattle area, the Pride Foundation now funds organizations across the Pacific Northwest, including Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska, and provides scholarships, grants, and fellowships to support LGBTQ students, scholars, and community organizers and advocates. Their website is www.pridefoundation.org.
People of Color Against AIDS Network
Founded in 1987, the People of Color Against AIDS Network has advocated on behalf of AIDS victims of color, including African Americans, Asians, and Latinos. They have fought for more equitable access to health care and resources for people of color living with AIDS and engaged in their own safe sex campaign targeting communities of color around Seattle.
Founded in 1987 by lesbian survivors of physical abuse, the Northwest Network is dedicated to assisting LGBTQ victims of abuse and domestic violence. They provide free and confidential services to all members of the LGBTQ community, regardless of gender identity, race, religion, or cultural background. Their website is nwnetwork.org.
AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACTUP)
A Seattle chapter of the New York-based AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power formed in 1988. ACTUP activities targeting local government were less prevalent in Seattle than elsewhere, given the proactive measures already being taken by the Seattle-King County Department of Public Health. They organized a protest when Vice President George Bush visited Tacoma to put pressure on the Reagan-Bush administration to do more to combat AIDS at the federal level. When the University of Washington Medical Center Board approved a policy to bar HIV-positive hospital workers from performing surgery with the patient’s consent in 1991, ACTUP protested. They began a needle exchange program to prevent the spread of AIDS among intravenous drug users before the Department of Public Health gained approval to do so, and ACTUP members distributed condoms and information on safe sex outside public schools in 1991 before the Seattle School Board voted to begin a safe sex program.
Seattle Commission for Lesbians and Gays
In 1989, the City Council approved the formation of the Seattle Commission for Lesbians and Gays, replacing the Mayor’s Lesbian and Gay Task Force. Today, the commission is called the Seattle LGBT Commission. The commission has 15 members, 7 appointed by the mayor, 7 appointed by the City Council, and 1 appointed by the commisssion. The commission advises the mayor and the City Council on all issues relevant to the LGBTQ community with the power to recommend policies, hold City of Seattle departments accountable for following nondiscriminaiton ordinances protecting LGBT employees, and engaging in projects to increase understanding of the LGBT community among the city’s population. The website for the commission is www.seattle.gov/lgbt.
Named after queer youth advocate Gray Lambert in 1993, the Association of Lesbian and Gay Youth Advocates was founded in the late 1980s as a support network for Seattle-area youth that seeks to empower gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth. Since 1991, Lambert House has sat on 15th Ave in Capitol Hill. About half of youth that visit the Lambert House are queer of color youth. In addition to providing social activities for LGBTQ members of the community under age 22, Lambert House has support groups, including the Transgender Group, Queer Young Females, and the Boys Group. Their website is www.lamberthouse.org.
BiNet Seattle is a chapter of the BiNet USA network, a gender-inclusive bisexual and bi-curious community. BiNet USA first formalized as the North American Bisexual Network in Seattle in 1990. Their website is binetseattle.org.
The Seattle Tribe of Queer Nation was active from 1990 to 1995. It was the seventh tribe formed and outlasted most others. Queer Nation drew insights from academic queer theory, allowing for more fluid definitions of gender and sexuality. Queer Nation/Seattle battled violence against LGBTQ persons while advocating queer visibility with the goal of expanding the general population’s knowledge of gender and sexuality. Internal discussions also addressed racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression. Queer Nation members fought heteropatriarchy through both art and activism. One campaign begun by Queer Nation was Bigot Busters/Decline to Sign, a campaign to counter petition gatherers for anti-gay Initiatives 608 and 610, to prevent the initiatives from qualifying for the 1994 Washington State ballot. Both initiatives failed to qualify, as did identical Initiatives 166 and 167 in 1995.
Established throught Seattle Counseling Services, Project NEON started in 1991 to combat methamphetamine addiction in the gay community and HIV transmission among intravenous drug users. Project NEON’s outreach campaign increased the visibility of the prevalance of methamphetamine use and abuse in Seattle and continues to offer services for users. Project NEON offers a harm-reduction approach with the goal of increasing awareness of the detrimental health effects of methamphetamine use, including increased risk of HIV and STI transmission, by providing honest information about how meth affects the mind and body. Counseling is offered at SCS for those looking to reduce their risk, manage, or cease their use of methampetamine. Find out more here: seattlecounseling.org/project-neon/.
Entre Hermanos was founded by LGBTQ Latinos in 1991 to address the specific social, educational, and health needs of the Latino LGBTQ community. They affiliated with the People of Color Against AIDS Network in 1993 and were incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 2001. They sponsor a weekly Latino night at Neighbours Nightclub on Sundays. Their website is www.entrehermanos.org.
Hands Off Washington – Equal Rights Washington
Formed in 1992 as anti-gay initiative made its way to the Oregon State ballot, Hands Off Washington began as an organization to prevent the anti-gay movement from making its way into Washington State. The organization has evolved into Equal Rights Washington, which has been a major lobbying organization for LGBTQ rights in Olympia. With the help of lobbying efforts by Equal Rights Washington, the Washington State Legislature passed civil rights protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Washingtonians in 2006, domestic partnership for same-sex couples in 2007, and same-sex marriage in 2012. Equal Rights Washington was actively involved in the 2012 electoral battle over same-sex marriage, campaigning to defeat Referendum 74. Their website is equalrightswashington.org.
Founded by Betsy Lieberman in 1992, the Bailey-Boushay House continues to provide both outpatient and inpatient hospice care for people with AIDS in Madison Valley. The house is named after Thatcher Bailey, who helped fight prejudice and ignorance in Madison Valley as plans for the house were made, and his partner Frank Boushay, who died of AIDS in 1989. Bailey-Boushay particularly serves those who cannot afford standard hospital care or are otherwise disadvantaged, including the homeless, mentally ill, and chemically dependent. Their website is bailey-boushay.org.
API Chaya was founded in the mid-1990s to support Asian, South Asian, and Pacific Islander survivors and families impacted by domestic violence and sexual assault, as well as human trafficking survivors from all communities. API Chaya engages communities to change societal conditions that enable domestic and sexual violence, human trafficking and all forms of oppression, especially violence against women and the most vulnerable in our society. The Queer Network Program at API Chaya works to engage the API LGBTQ community to address and prevent intimate partner violence. In order to do this, we work to build skills among allies and community members, raise the visibility of our community and concerns, and supporting survivors of violence. Their website is apichaya.org/.
HIV Vaccine Trials Unit
In 1994, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington teamed up to establish a national HIV vaccine trial. The joint Fred Hutch/UW HIV Vaccine Trials Unit is the hub for an international HIV Vaccine Trial Network, working to develop an effective vaccine against HIV infection.
Northwest Lesbian and Gay History Museum Project
The Northwest Lesbian and Gay History Museum Project was founded in 1994 to document the history of lesbian and gay life in the Pacific Northwest, particularly in Seattle. The organization has conducted oral histories, which have been deposited at the University of Washington Libraries’ Special Collections. NWLGHMP has also produced two publications. “Claiming Space: Seattle’s Lesbian and Gay Historical Geography” is a map of gay spaces in Seattle throughout the gay community’s history. Mosaic 1: Life stories from isolation to community is a book comprising excerpts from the oral histories conducted by NWLGHMP. Their website can be found here.
Legal Marriage Alliance of Washington
Founded in 1995, the Legal Marriage Alliance of Washington formed as conversations over same-sex marriage were heating up in Hawaii. Co-founder Roger Winters developed a petition, which became the basis for a statewide listserv to keep same-sex marriage advocates connected via email. The Legal Marriage Alliance of Washington advocated for same-sex marriage recognition at the state level, dissolving in 2007 as more and more organizations began joining the fight for gay marriage.
Gay City Health Project
Gay City Health Project was founded in 1995 to promote wellness in the LGBTQ community. Gay City serves as a de facto LGBTQ community center. Through donor funding, Gay City provides STI testing for members of the gay community at no cost. Gay City has expanded to include an arts program to promote healthy living in the LGBTQ community. Gay City sponsors a team for the annual Seattle to Portland Classic bike ride as well as a Seattle SNAP, a sober softball team. Gay City’s suite on Pike St. on Capitol Hill includes an LGBTQ library as well as a resource and referral service for community members. Their website is gaycity.org.
Emerald City Black Pride
Sponsored by the Center for Multicultural Health since 2011, Emerald City Black Pride is an initiative to foster pride, promote health, and build community among LGBTQ people of color. In addition to holding an annual pride party in late July, ECBP has programming throughout the year to achieve that goal.
Trikone Northwest is an organizaiton working to build a safe and inclusive world where LGBTQIA+ South Asians by building communiyt, increasing social and political visibility, and promoting racial and sexual equality. Their website is trikonenw.org.
Founded in 2012, Pride ASIA’s mission is to celebrate, empower and nurture the multi-cultural diversity of the LGBTQ communities through the Asian Pacific Islander lens. Pride ASIA is a proud member of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) and Social Outreach Seattle (SOSea). Pride ASIA’s website is prideasia.org.
Gender Justice League
Sponsored by the Gay City Health Project, the Gender Justice League is a non-profit collective founded by trans, queer, and allied activists to address the particular discriminations faced by trans, genderqueer, and gender non-conforming people in addition to homophobia, biphobia, misogyny, and racism. This includes combating fear and hate-driven attitudes and violence toward trans people as well as economic justice, as trans people are twice as likely to face unemployment as cisgender people. GJL activists work toward increasing trans and queer visibility and acceptance through grassroots activism in the community and elevating media representation of trans, queer, and gender non-conforming people. Their website is genderjusticeleague.org.
Noor is an all-inclusive LGBTQI and Questioning confidential meeting space for individuals in the greater Seattle area that have ever identified as Muslim. Noor keeps a private Facebook group to protect the privacy of its members. If you have ever identified as Muslim and would like to know more about Noor, you may contact the Facebook group administrator here.
Queering the Museum Project
The Queering the Museum Project was founded by two University of Washington graduate students, Erin Bailey and Nicole Robert, in an effort to queer museum practices. They successfully organized a community-based exhibit at the Museum of History and Industry called “Revealing Queer,” which was on display in 2014. The exhibit featured artifacts from the history of LGBTQ activism in the Puget Sound region. Part of the project was the Digital Storytelling Project. You can find the videos for the Digital Storytelling Project here: queeringthemuseum.org/.
We Are 1
We Are 1 is a coalition of community health-oriented organizations to promote wellness and health for gay men, bi men, trans people, and straight men who have sex with men in Pierce, King, and Snohomish Counties. We Are 1 does not merely focus on sexual health but is taking a holistic approach to health and wellness, including diet, exercise, use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco, mental health, and combatting violence. Sponsoring organizations include the Washington State Department of Health, Seattle-King County Department of Public Health, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, Snohomish Health District, Lifelong AIDS Alliance, Pierce County AIDS Foundation, Evergreen Wellness Advocates, Seattle Counseling Service, NEON Project, Gay City Health Project, Center for Multicultural Health, and Entre Hermanos. Find out more at we-are-1.com.
The population of older adults living with HIV is increasing for the following reasons:
Many people who received an HIV diagnosis at a younger age are growing older. Life-long treatment with HIV medicines (called antiretroviral therapy or ART) is helping these people live longer, healthier lives.
Thousands of older people become infected with HIV every year.
For these reasons, the population of people living with HIV will increasingly include older adults.
Are the risk factors for HIV the same for older adults?
Many risk factors for HIV are the same for adults of any age. But like many younger people, older adults may not be aware of their HIV risk factors. HIV is most commonly spread by:
having sex without using a condom with someone who is HIV positive or whose HIV status you don’t know; or
injecting drugs and sharing needles, syringes, or other drug equipment.
Some age-related factors also put older adults at risk for HIV infection. For example, older adults who begin dating again after a divorce or the death of a partner may not use condoms if they are unaware of the risk of HIV.
Age-related thinning and dryness of the vagina may increase the risk of HIV infection in older women. In addition, women who are no longer concerned about pregnancy may not use a female condom or ask their partners to use a male condom during sex.
Talk to your health care provider about your risk of HIV infection and ways to reduce your risk.
Should older adults get tested for HIV?
CDC recommends that everyone 13 to 64 years old get tested for HIV at least once and that people at high risk of infection get tested more often. Your health care provider may recommend HIV testing if you are over 64 and at risk for HIV infection.
For several reasons, older people are less likely to get tested for HIV:
Health care providers may not think to ask older adults about their HIV risk factors, including sexual activity, and may not recommend HIV testing.
Some older people may be embarrassed to discuss HIV testing with their health care providers.
In older adults, signs of HIV infection may be mistaken for symptoms of aging or of age-related conditions. Consequently, HIV testing is often not offered to older adults.
For these reasons, HIV is more likely to be diagnosed at an advanced stage in many older adults. When diagnosed late, HIV is more likely to advance to AIDS.
Treatment with HIV medicines is recommended for everyone with HIV, and HIV treatment recommendations are the same for older and younger adults. However, age-related factors can complicate HIV treatment in older adults.
Liver and kidney functions decline with age. This decline may make it harder for the body to process HIV medicines and increase the risk of side effects.
Older adults with HIV may have other conditions, like diabetes and heart disease, that can make it more difficult to manage HIV infection. In addition, HIV may affect the aging process and increase the risk of age-related conditions such as dementia, bone loss, and some cancers. Taking HIV medicines and medicines for other conditions at the same time may increase the risk of drug-drug interactions and side effects.
The immune system may not recover as well or as quickly in older adults taking HIV medicines as it does in younger people.
Despite these age-related factors, some studies have shown that older adults are more adherent to their HIV medicine regimens—meaning they take their HIV medicines every day and exactly as prescribed—than younger adults.
Where can I find more information about HIV and aging?
GenPRIDE is hosting a workshop on February 27th @ 5:30PM, located at the GenPRIDE Center: 401 Broadway E #223, Seattle WA 98102
Speaking for my gender, there are two qualities that define most men: we seldom like to ask for help, and we do not like to talk about our feelings. Combining the two — asking for help about our feelings — is the ultimate affront to many men’s masculinity.
We like to think of ourselves as strong, problem-solver types. But when it comes to emotional and mental issues, men need to quit trying to bottle up their feelings and tough it out, says Dr. Darshan Mehta, medical director of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. “Your mental health is equally as important as your physical health. Not addressing negative feelings can carry over to all aspects of your life and have a profound impact.”
When to see a therapist
Depression is the most common reason men should seek professional help. Many life situations — jobs, relationships — can trigger its trademark symptoms, such as prolonged sadness, lack of energy, and a constant feeling of stress. For older men, it can also be brought on by financial anxiety about retirement, the death of a spouse or friend, or even the loss of independence, like losing the ability to drive. Left unchecked, these feelings could cause other health problems, such as rapid weight loss, insomnia, declining libido, and changes in memory. They may even lead to destructive behavior like alcohol or opioid dependence.
“While men may recognize these changes when they occur, they may not know the root cause, or if they do, what they can do about it,” says Dr. Mehta. This is when a therapist can lend a hand — or ear. “A therapist can help identify the source of your problems and then help resolve them,” he adds.
How to find a therapist
First, talk with your doctor about your situation, how you feel, and your symptoms. He or she will no doubt know therapists who can help with your specific issues. There are other places to start besides your primary care doctor, too. For example, many employee health care plans offer confidential help lines where you can ask questions and find therapists in your network. Another source is the National Alliance on Mental Illness Helpline (1-800-950-6264).
There are many kinds of professionals who offer many different types of therapy. Their individual approaches are based on their particular training and experience. The main ones include:
Psychiatrist. A doctor with a medical degree who can prescribe medication. He or she often helps with more severe issues, such as major depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.
Psychologist. A professional who has a PhD or a PsyD in clinical psychology. He or she can treat a full range of emotional and psychological issues, such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, but in most states cannot prescribe medication.
Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC).He or she has a master’s degree plus 2,000 hours of supervised psychotherapy experience. This type of mental health professional focuses on the problems of everyday living, like stress and anxiety, relationship conflicts, and mild depression.
Clinician Nurse Specialist. Like psychiatrists, he or she can prescribe medication. This type of professional works either independently or in collaboration with a supervising physician.
Licensed Social Worker/Licensed Clinical Social Worker/Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker. These mental health professionals assess and treat people living with mental illness and substance abuse issues. By providing group therapy, outreach, crisis intervention programs, and social rehabilitation, social workers help to ease clients back into their communities and daily lives. Clinical social workers provide care through numerous avenues, including hospitals, family service agencies and organizations like the U.S. Veteran’s Administration.
What to expect
Your therapist should help you establish goals of care and then outline a strategy to meet them. This may include a combination of therapy during regular sessions as well as “homework” to follow in between visits. Weekly visits are typical. Yours may be more or less frequent than that depending on how you respond to the therapy. After your initial treatment sessions, you might return periodically for “booster” visits to prevent a future relapse.
Do not give up if you do not feel a strong connection with the first therapist you try, says Dr. Mehta. “Try someone else and do not get discouraged. The goal is to find the right person who can guide you.” While therapy may feel awkward at first, most men soon recognize its value, he adds. “Once they make that connection with a therapist, they are quite receptive to therapy and welcome what it can offer.”
Watch the video below to learn more about depression in men:
While it is obvious that your feelings can influence your movement, it is not as obvious that your movement can impact your feelings too. For example, when you feel tired and sad, you may move more slowly. When you feel anxious, you may either rush around or become completely paralyzed. But recent studies show that the connection between your brain and your body is a “two-way street” and that means movement can change your brain, too!
How exercise can improve mood disorders
Regular aerobic exercise can reduce anxiety by making your brain’s “fight or flight” system less reactive. When anxious people are exposed to physiological changes they fear, such as a rapid heartbeat, through regular aerobic exercise, they can develop a tolerance for such symptoms.
For people with attention-deficit disorder (ADHD), another study showed that a single 20-minute bout of moderate-intensity cycling briefly improved their symptoms. It enhanced the participants’ motivation for tasks requiring focused thought, increased their energy, and reduced their feelings of confusion, fatigue, and depression. However, in this study, exercise had no effect on attention or hyperactivity per se.
Meditative movement has been shown to alleviate depressive symptoms. This is a type of movement in which you pay close attention to your bodily sensations, position in space, and gut feelings (such as subtle changes in heart rate or breathing) as you move. Qigong, tai chi, and some forms of yoga are all helpful for this. For example, frequent yoga practicecan reduce the severity of symptoms in post-traumatic stress disorder to the point that some people no longer meet the criteria for this diagnosis. Changing your posture, breathing, and rhythm can all change your brain, thereby reducing stress, depression, and anxiety, and leading to a feeling of well-being.
The surprising benefits of synchronizing your movements
Both physical exercise and meditative movement are activities that you can do by yourself. On their own, they can improve the way you feel. But a recent study found that when you try to move in synchrony with someone else, it also improves your self-esteem.
In 2014, psychologist Joanne Lumsden and her colleagues conducted a study that required participants to interact with another person via a video link. The person performed a standard exercise — arm curls — while the participants watched, and then performed the same movement.
The “video link” was in fact a pre-recorded video of a 25-year-old female in a similar room, also performing arm curls. As part of the experiment, participants had to either coordinate their movement or deliberately not coordinate their movement with the other person’s arm curls. They filled out a mood report before and after each phase of synchronizing or falling out of synchrony. They also reported on how close they felt to the other person.
The results were interesting. When subjects intentionally synchronized their movement with the recording, they had higher self-esteem than when they did not. Prior studies had shown that synchronizing your movement with others makes you like them more. You also cooperate more with them and feel more charitable toward them. In fact, movement synchrony can make it easier to remember what people say and to recall what they look like. This was the first study to show that it makes you feel better about yourself, too. That’s probably why dance movement therapy can help depressed patients feel better.
Movement therapies are often used as adjunctive treatments for depression and anxiety when mental effort, psychotherapy, or medication is not enough. When you are too exhausted to use thought control strategies such as focusing on the positive, or looking at the situation from another angle, movement can come to the rescue. By working out, going on a meditative walk by yourself, or going for a synchronized walk with someone, you may gain access to a “back door” to the mental changes that you desire without having to “psych yourself” into feeling better.