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April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Welcome to the month of April. Spring (at least in theory!), new beginnings…and Sexual Assault Awareness month. The quirky thing about equality? We are all equally HUMAN. That means no matter the letter on the LGBT spectrum, there are those of us who make mistakes. Who make poor choices. And who are the victims of the people who make those choices. So what does this have to do with the LGBT community? Well, if 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. 12% of girls and 5% of boys reported having been sexually assaulted before the 12th grade. (RAINN.org). A lot of those victims are LGBT youth and adults. Also, LGBT victims may be less likely to report their assault, less psychologically able to process their assault, less medically knowledgeable about caring for themselves and/or have fewer family, community or financial resources to deal with the aftermath of the assault.

What are some of the common after affects that a victim may experience after being sexually assaulted? When compared to those who have not been victimized, victims of sexual assault are:

3 times more likely to suffer from depression.

6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

13 times more likely to abuse alcohol.

26 times more likely to abuse drugs.

4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.

Check out these great articles about Sexual Assault in the LGBT community below AND if you are a local Yorker, we are blessed to have a fantastic proactively LGBT supportive agency in our area that specifically provides services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, ACCESS York, a part of the YWCA of York. As a comprehensive victim service center, their services include:

  • 24-Hour Confidential Hotline – Call 800.262.8444 if you think you are in an emotionally or physically violent relationship to talk to a staff member about your situation and your options.  For concerns about sexual violence or other violent crime with you or someone in your family, call 1.800.422.3204.
  • Emergency Safe Shelter – Available any time of the day or night for victims of domestic violence and their children who are in fear of abuse.  Meals, clothing, and other support are available.  Call 800.262.8444 for the support group schedule.
  • Support Groups – Available for victims of domestic violence. Call 1-800-262-8444 for the support group schedule.
  • Transitional Housing in York and Hanover – Survivors of abuse can live for one or two years in affordable housing as they work towards their goals.  Call 800.262.8444 for information.
  • Hospital Response/Medical Advocacy – Volunteers or staff meet with victims at the hospital any time of the day or night to offer support and services.  Staff also collaborates with the health care community to ensure quality services to victims.
  • Legal Advocacy – Staff offer options for victims (and their significant others) of domestic violence, sexual violence, or other violent crimes.  Staff will assist with securing a Protection from Abuse Order and will accompany victims to court.  Call 717.846.5400 for an appointment.
  • Individual and Group Counseling – Available to victims of all ages to assist in healing from violence.  Call 717.854.3131 for an appointment.
  • Community Outreach and Violence Prevention – Awareness and educational workshops offered at schools and in the community regarding warning signs of abuse, teen dating violence issues, sexual violence prevention, sexual harassment, workplace violence, and bystander intervention.  Call 800.262.8444 for more information.

Speak out. Get help. Know that no matter what you wear, where you go, who you are with, what you drank, what you said – sexual assault is NEVER your fault. You are not alone and there are people who care and are willing to help. Please let them.

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Sexual Assault & LGBT Survivors from the University of Michigan Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center – http://sapac.umich.edu/article/58

Sexual Assault in the LGBT Community from the National Center for Lesbian Rights – http://www.nclrights.org/sexual-assault-in-the-lgbt-community/

Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence in the LGBTQ Community from the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs – http://www.wcsap.org/lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender-queer-community

 

Stepping OUT with Mother Tarantula

Deborah Rinehart (also known in poetry circles as Mother Tarantula!), 21, of York PA, has been a friend of mine from the poetry scene for several years now. I ran into her last night during a lecture I was doing at a local college and I was thrilled with the chance to catch up with her and see how her writing has evolved. Turns out she as a person has evolved tremendously in just a few short years, and not just in her writing!

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I have been blessed, but not every story has a similar happy-go-loving family vibe of acceptance. Deby has done an amazing job of creating a ‘family of heart’ but as she admits, it can be a challenge when you don’t come from a supportive background.

I’m currently in school working on a business degree. I want to end up with a bachelor’s and open a business that allows me to help young people through their hard times by giving them somewhere they can truly be themselves. I might study psychology in the future as it has always been an interest of mine to understand other people and help them with their problems. I feel like being open to understanding different situations gives me better insight on how to deal healthily with my own problems. I want to publish a book of poetry and a novel about the crazy story that is my life someday. I like writing, working hard to support myself and being there for the people who need me.

I am bisexual. I first told my parents when I was about 15, but dated (or at least what 13-year-olds considered dating) a girl when I was 13. I knew I liked girls from about the second grade.. they were always much nicer and more attractive to me than boys. It was really scary because I wasn’t allowed to date at the time, let alone date a girl. My father was a strict religious man. When I did tell my parents, they laughed at me and told me to “go to my room” with that “nonsense.” It hurt really bad because it was then at 15 I knew that I could never truly be myself around the people that gave me life. I didn’t have very many friends at the time either.

My first boyfriend happened at the same time my first girlfriend happened. I wanted to have them both at the same time…this being way before sex got into the picture. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t have one of each… Whether that made me greedy or naive, I just wanted to love and be loved in return.  I made the decision to be with the boy to satisfy the scenario my parents saw fit. It back fired because that’s how I found out my dad was also prejudice, as the boy I dated was black.

None of my family really gets involved in my life enough to even know that I’m bisexual. I don’t think a single family member has ever had a conversation with me about anything as personal as something like that which is crazy because I feel like a family oriented person.. but I’ve come to know that blood is not what makes someone family to me

My friends love me for the caring, awkward, strange thing that I am and love me for me. I am not shy to exposing my orientation to anyone. If they don’t like it, they don’t like it. It doesn’t change who I am. If I could ever get one message across to everyone to understand, it would be this: who we have sex with does NOT make us who we are. Unless you’re in Hollywood. Then it totally matters who you’re knockin’ boots with. LOL.

I think the biggest thing I’ve learned since coming to know what bisexuality really is, is that for me, love is not about how we have sex or what we look like with someone. It’s how we feel when we’re with them. If it’s meant to be, you feel it. Same with race, religion.. all of that. If I’m happy with you, that’s the only place i want to be. I hate all the bad things that come with being a bisexual girl… you’re always looked at like you don’t know what you want or that you just want attention. I’m over here like man, I just wanna be loved. But everyone feels like that I guess.
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I think I’m just going to leave that one right there.

 

I’m Stepping OUT In Another Pair of Shoes…Peter Fair’s!

As delightfully charming as I try to be for the dinner guests, one of MY pet peeves is when people ask me how gay people feel about something. I want to put my index fingers to my temples, squeeze my eyes shut and then say “Oops, sorry. My psychic connection to the brains of all the few million LGBT folks wandering the globe is out of service today. Must be a tower down. Let’s try your question again later.” I have always found the best way to get insight into another person’s world is just to ask them. Respectfully, accepting that it may be none of my darn business and I will be told so, but asking.

I first met Peter at an Equality Fest planning meeting. Peter is a transgender teenaged college student. As Peter transitions from the female gender he was assigned at birth to the externally male self he always felt he was inside, I asked if he minded me walking a few steps along side him. I needed a translator a couple of times. (I totally admit, I had no idea that the word cisgender was now the hip term to use instead of saying ‘female-born’ or ‘natural woman’ or ‘biological male’ because to say that implies that men like Peter weren’t born the way they are too. I get it now.)

Cisgender is a word that applies to the vast majority of people, describing a person who is not transgender. If a doctor announces, “It’s a girl!” in the delivery room based on the child’s body and that baby grows up to identify as a woman, that person is cisgender. – Time.Com

Sooooo…ladies and gentlemen, with his permission and my gratitude for his courage, I introduce you to Peter.

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My name is Peter Fair and I’m 19 years old. I’ve lived in York for almost two years now and I moved up here to live with my dad after I graduated high school in 2013. Right now I spend most of my days doing LGBTQ work like helping with events and other minor things. I am a queer identified gender non-conforming transgender man.

Obviously there are many stereotypes to being queer and transgender such as all trans people are trying to trick everyone else with their gender identity or clothing choice or the bathroom they use. Or that all queer people are promiscuous. None of these stereotypes are true. Which is very frustrating to have to explain to people over and over again.

I wish people would educate themselves about sexualities that are not lesbian or gay. I know some people are mildly informed about bisexual identities but most are not informed about the rest of the “spectrum.” I wish for people to have a vague idea of what I am talking about when I say I am queer identified. My orientation and gender are some of the most important aspects of my identity in my opinion. It is especially frustrating as President of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance at HACC York that people would overlook many people’s identities and mark them as unimportant or even “wrong.”

My friends and I spend a lot of time at local coffee shops and at Central Market and at local school sponsored events at HACC York and York College of Pennsylvania. We also attend a local LGBTQ+ youth group every Thursday at the Planned Parenthood. The Planned Parenthood and the YWCA are both great resources for LGBT issues in York and have many inclusive programs for LGBT people. I wish there were more transgender specific and transgender inclusive programs in York however. Especially a doctor who specialized in transgender issues.

Something possibly unexpected about me is that I spend a lot of time reading up on politics and specific policy both at the state and national level. Right now I am mostly working on a community level, which to me means helping students and youth reach the goals they want to – especially like starting their own Gender and Sexuality Alliance in their school or helping them emotionally if I can. Doing work on the state and national level is more policy work. I was working on getting an Act called The Pennsylvania Safe Schools Act passed in the State House of Reps. and in the State Senate. Another time I worked to lobby national representatives in D.C. for the Employee Non-Discrimination Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act. I miss that.

Things with my dad are good and all of my friends are very accepting of all aspects of my identity. My parents struggle with me being queer more than they struggle with my identity as transgender. York is a lot different from where I used to live because I grew up in Northern VA fairly close to DC and things seemed a lot more accepting there. I rarely faced quite as open homophobia and transphobia in the community and in school as opposed to here. Academia has been a bit more accepting of my identity as being queer but I think mostly because it isn’t something that is always relevant to most conversations. My gender identity is something that is much more relevant.

Since I came out in sophomore year of high school I’ve come out again and again when my identity shifts from one identity to another as is more common with young LGBTQ identified people. It’s hard for me to pinpoint one ‘coming out’ story as I’ve had quite a few over the years. Now I don’t feel the pressure to “come out”. I just identify as what I am and when it’s relevant to tell people, I share that information with them.

Thank you for choosing to share it with US Peter! You rock!

Family Trees & Good Apples

Tomorrow is my mom’s birthday. Mama Kate is a force, that’s for sure. She has been universally supportive of me though, no matter how she, her church members or even her clients felt. I still remember a day back in high school when I walked into her office wearing an electric blue tube dress and blue lipstick rocking blue streaked pigtails. I know for a fact she did NOT retain the client who was in the waiting room that day. I still got to keep my blue dress though!

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My mom’s first reaction when I came out to her at 18 was a looooong pause (yes, I chickened out and told her over the phone from far away college) and then the question “Do I still get grandbabies?” I know she loved being a mom and watching me grow, develop and learn new things. I can only imagine I was a feisty bundle to keep up with. I know she struggled at times with knowing that I was embracing a path that could lead to discrimination and limited opportunities, even if it was the only way I knew to be true to who I was and not be terribly depressed with trying to deny my own heart. I know some of the things I have asked her to understand over the years have been a lot harder to accept than euro-trash tube dresses. We have also gone head to head more than once over conflicting views. I also have known, every second of every minute of every day, that I am loved. I have had countless laughs, silly string battles, movie popcorn fights and ridiculous amounts of fun.

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All in all, my mom thinks that I turned out pretty good. She says she takes full credit for me at least! She has been completely delighted about my run for City Council. She has helped me grade papers and write contracts and rehearse for shows. She has helped me pick outfits and hair colors and helped me stay in relationships and helped me break them off when I needed to. She has embraced my partners and let them be part of the family and when I asked her to be a part of my big gay wedding she dusted off her Hebrew because dang it, SOMETHING about that ceremony was going to be traditional! She has helped me believe in and accept who I am, and through that, empowered me to help others accept themselves. Call me biased, but I think that’s what a parent is supposed to do. Whatever I was going to be, I was just taught to do it well and with my whole heart – even if it was loving another woman – and I have tried to live up to that every day of my life. Happy birthday mom. And thank you.

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It’s About to Be LGBT Health Awareness Week. Who Knew?

So it turns out that LGBT Health Awareness Week is March 23 – March 27, 2015. I admit, I am just catching up with the awesome trend. A lot of LGBT people hate going to the doctor because of awkward questions like “Are you sexually active? Because if you are we need to do a pregnancy test.” Then the doubtlessly well meaning nurse and her already not-thrilled-to be-there patient get to do the verbal tap dance of “Yes, I’m sexually active but I promise you, there is NO way I’m pregnant”. And let’s not forget the “You want to put that WHERE???” moment.

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 It can be even worse for our trans brothers and sisters who may or not be transitioning and very sensitive about their bodies, or for LGBT patients who have experienced rude or judgmental remarks or stereotypes from medical professionals in their past. The doctor’s office is a tough place to have your emotional guard up. Especially in a paper dress.

Thanks goodness Alder Health Services is in our region and is setting up cool awareness raising events like this. You should be checking this out maybe? I will help you. Yes, yes you should!

Alder Health Services Collaborates to Offer LGBT Health Awareness Programs, March 23 – March 27, 2015

LGBT Health Awareness Week is March 23 – March 27, 2015. Alder Health Services is collaborating with YWCA Harrisburg, PA Coalition Against Domestic Violence, LGBT Community Center of Central PA, PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency, and American Lung Association to present LGBT-specific programs on Health and Wellness, Partner Violence, HIV Prevention through PrEP, Tobacco Use, and support services for HIV individuals and couples.

Programs scheduled throughout the region include:

Mon., March 23, 6-7 p.m., Harrisburg, Partner Violence & How to Know If It’s Happening to You

A panel of representatives from YWCA Harrisburg, PA Coalition Against Domestic Violence, LGBT Community Center of Central PA, PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency, and Alder Health Services will discuss how to know if partner violence is happening to you. Free.

Speakers: Nick Hartman, PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency; Louie Marvin, LGBT Center of Central PA; MaryAnn Havalchak, Harrisburg YWCA, and Jan Davis, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Tues., March 24, 6-8 p.m., Harrisburg, Preventing HIV Infection – New Choice

Community Consultation on Preventing HIV Infection through Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis or PrEP, a panel discussion with audience Q&A by Alder Health Services at the LGBT Community Center of Central PA, 1306 N. Third Street, Harrisburg, PA 17102, 6-8 p.m. Free. No RSVP required. Panelists: Dr. Jarrett Sell, Medical Director, Alder Health Services, and Penn State Hershey Medical Center; and Dr. Charis James, MD, Resident Physician, Penn State Hershey Medical Center. AHS currently offers PrEP consultations on a one-on-one basis for those interested in PrEP as one form of preventing HIV infection. Dr. Sell is affiliated with Penn State Hershey Medical Center.

“PrEP” stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. PrEP is a way for people who do not have HIV but who are at substantial risk of getting it to prevent HIV infection by taking a pill every day. The purpose of the program is educate the community about this new approach to preventing HIV. The pill (brand name Truvada) contains two medicines (Tenofovir and Emtricitabine) that are used in combination with other medicines to treat HIV. When someone is exposed to HIV through sex or injection drug use, these medicines can work to keep the virus from establishing a permanent infection.

Wed., March 25, 6-7 p.m., Harrisburg, Tobacco & Your Health

Join the American Lung Association and Alder Health Services for a discussion about tobacco use and your health at Alder Health Services, 100 North Cameron Street, Suite 301, Harrisburg, PA 17101, 717.233.7190. Free. Speaker is Brandon Miller from the American Lung Association.

Wed., March 25, 5:30 p.m., 6-7 p.m., Lancaster, HIV and Your Partner

Alder Health Services hosts a support group on “HIV and Your Partner” at Grace Lutheran Church, 517 N. Queen St., Lancaster, PA. Facilitator is Sakinna Alston, Alder Health Services. Individuals and couples may attend. Participants will learn about HIV basics, how infection occurs, how infection may be prevented, what is and what is not a safer sexual practice. Participants are invited for a 5:30 p.m. free dinner provided by church.

Thurs., March 26, 6-8 p.m, Lancaster, Bridging the Gap, LGBT Health and Wellness

Bridging the Gap, an LGBT Health and Wellness panel discussion with Q&A on health and wellness issues unique to the LGBT community by Alder Health Services at AHS Lancaster Office,

1891 Santa Barbara Drive, Lancaster, PA. Topics include Behavioral Health, Physical Health and Relationships. Free. Presenters are Cassandra Weber, CRNP; Susan Thornsley, MD; Jessica Weiss-Ford, LCSW, Adjunct Professor, Millersville University; Jayleen Galarza, PhD, LCSW.

Thurs., March 26, 5:30-7 p.m., Harrisburg, HIV 101: Health Education and Safe Sex Practices

Alder Health Services presents the basics of HIV, how infection occurs, how infection may be prevented, what is and what is not a safer sexual practice. Facilitator is Samantha Dock, Alder Health Services, 100 North Cameron Street, Suite 301, Harrisburg, PA 17101, 717.233.7190.

For more information on LGBT Health Awareness Week programs, call 717-233-7190. www.alderhealth.org

 

Look Who’s Out?!?!

I’m Carla. I’m a poet, a teacher, a former therapeutic foster parent, a surprisingly good soul food chef and a small-business owner. I’m a Jewish-Black-Pennsylvania Dutch-hint of Mexican and Creole-American. I sing Christmas carols in the shower all year round, I speak passable French and riding a hot air balloon is on my bucket list. Oh yeah, I’m also dancing happily on that LGBT rainbow.  A passionate activist, marriage equality promoting, Pride flag bumper sticker on my car even though the kids tell me that’s “soooo 90s!!!” kinda chick. I was so excited when Pennsylvania passed marriage equality here at home that I recruited some friends and threw a party for it. A 2,000 person or so party. Check it out – www.equalityfestyork.com.

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You can even see some great wedding pictures there from the group wedding that Mayor Bracey herself officiated. I got me a great wife that day and a whole lot of new friends. Want to know the best part? Many of those new friends WEREN’T part of the LGBT community. They were part of the EQUALITY movement. You know, those strange people who believe that no matter who you love, a family is a family? The ones who believe that regardless of your sexuality, gender expression or identity, race, economic status, ability, age or WHATEVUH, that you should be able to fully participate in all aspects of civic life? Yeah, there are more of us here in York than I dared to hope.

Now, I’m excited about finding them. The GSA starting transgender students and the bisexual artists and the fabulous drag queens and the conservative gay business owners and the kids of gay and lesbian parents and the straight-but-not-narrow awesome folks who are in the trenches working to make sure that EVERYONE gets to live, love and have a great time here in PA. There is a lot going on here in delightful York. Lots of fascinating people, fun adventures and necessary resources available for LGBT folks and their super-cool allies. Let’s find them together, shall we?

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