Social support may reduce heart, stroke effects of discrimination in transgender and gender conforming

From Medical X Press:

November 11, 2019

Higher levels of social support may help offset increased heart disease and stroke risk factors triggered by discrimination and gender expectations among transgender and gender non-conforming adults, according to preliminary research to be presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2019—November 16-18 in Philadelphia.

Researchers examined the link to discrimination in day-to-day life, such as job discrimination, difficulty finding housing and being threatened or harassed—and internalized transphobia (internalizing societal gender expectations and/or feeling shame towards one’s own gender identity) and behaviors known to influence risk, such as , drinking, low levels of physical activity, sleeping too little and being overweight or obese.

Participants included 288 adults (half assigned as female at birth, average age 34) taking part in Project AFFIRM, a three-city, long-term study of health in people who identify as transgender and gender non-conforming (those with outside the conventional notion of male or female).

Researchers found:

  • Higher levels of discrimination and internalized transphobia were linked with higher rates of risky drinking and lower sleep duration.
  • However, greater levels of social support raised the odds of getting enough sleep by half, increased odds of getting adequate exercise by almost a third and weakened the link between discrimination and sleep duration.

Hormone use did not influence heart disease and in this study. While previous studies have found hormone use to be associated with higher rates of clot-caused strokes in transgender women than in non-, this study analyzed risk factors rather than the occurrence of heart attacks or strokes.

“Our findings are important because they suggest that social support might protect against the negative heart disease and stroke effects of discrimination among transgender and gender-nonconforming persons,” said Billy A. Caceres, Ph.D., R.N., lead author of the study and assistant professor in the Program for the Study of LGBT Health at the Columbia University School of Nursing in New York. “It’s important for to ask these patients about their exposure to these types of stressors, hormone use and whether they have adequate social support.”

Because participants in Project AFFIRM lived in New York, San Francisco and Atlanta, these findings may not be generalizable to people in rural or suburban areas of the United States or to transgender and gender non-conforming people living in other countries.

The Real Problem With Cancel Culture

From The Tablet:

It’s not about celebrities. It’s about us losing trust in each other.

By Kat Rosenfield
October 16, 2019

Of all the terms to gain prominence in 2019, few have provoked more pontification, more pearl-clutching, or more caustic dismissal than “cancel culture.” Depending on where you get your discourse, you’ve probably already seen the phenomenon blamed on any of several culprits: technology (social media and the internet), pathology (the growing cachet of “victimhood” and its attendant incentives to claims of harm), or even one political tribe in particular (“So much for the tolerant left!”). Or, alternatively, you’ve heard that it’s not a phenomenon at all, and that all this talk of cancellation is just the world’s-tiniest-violin lament of a bunch of cultural dinosaurs, whining as they’re rightly crushed into irrelevance under the wheels of progress.

But the entire cancel culture conversation, including the debate over whether or not it exists at all, has largely missed a crucial point. While celebrities, successful artists, and other too-big-to-fail types can survive a cancellation (or even seek one out as a means of drumming up publicity), the rest of us are trapped in an increasingly deranged surveillance state fueled by the disappearance of our most essential resource: trust.

In a large, diverse country, trust is the thing that keeps us living in harmony and content to let other people live as they wish, but its erosion is an institutional problem as much as an interpersonal one. Three years after Donald Trump won the presidency with promises to “drain the swamp” of untrustworthy, corrupt D.C., Americans have very little faith in the systems that keep the country running, including government, business, and media. Between 2017 and 2018, trust in media, for example, dropped from 47% to 42%. Trust in government declined even more precipitously, with a 14-percentage-point drop in the number of people who said they trusted the U.S. to “do what is right.” While those numbers rebounded by a few points in 2019, Americans’ overall faith in the country remained dismal: A mere 20% of Americans agreed that the system was working for them.

Meanwhile, the proliferation of fake news, along with political polarization, makes it difficult even to establish an agreed-upon set of facts from which to draw conclusions when we talk about this trust problem. We aren’t sure what’s real or true; we don’t know who’s wrong. But increasingly, we suspect that everyone is.

And that’s the insidious thing about a culture where trust is eroding: A majority of people don’t even have to support or participate in cancel culture for it to wreak havoc on society at large. In a recent New York Times article about political polarization, psychologist Jonathan Haidt explained how small pockets of concentrated outrage can produce immense destructive force: “You can tell me that 70 percent of Americans don’t participate in the culture war, but it doesn’t really matter,” he wrote. “Events today are driven by small numbers that can shame and intimidate large numbers. Social media has changed the dynamic.”

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Arlo Guthrie | Alice’s Restaurant | PFF 2015 | 8/14/2015 |

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WKRP “As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly” Thanksgiving

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Happy Thanksgiving

Thursday is Thanksgiving Day. My feed has had a number of posts on it reminding me of the plight of the Native Americans.

Lincoln made Thanksgiving Day a national holiday during the Civil War.

As I have grown older the Native American and Pilgrim narrative has become meaningless in my celebration of Thanksgiving.

What has become far more important is it being a day on which I give thanks for having made it through another year. Tina is 80 and I am 72. Life was never easy for either of us. Sometimes we made it harder for ourselves and sometimes life has just been hard and mean.

Yet I am thankful for having found the strength to hold true to my values, for not having lost sight of the importance of doing what I can to make the world a better place.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

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If we want to save American democracy, we must have a very difficult conversation about evangelical Christianity

From The Conversationalist:

Launched with a hashtag, a new movement seeks to raise awareness of how fundamentalist Christianity is polarizing the national discourse.

Chrissy Stroop
November 14, 2019

In thousands of evangelical elementary schools across the United States, children begin each day by reciting three pledges — one to the American flag, another to the Christian flag, and a third to the Bible. The latter two might come as a shock to people who are unfamiliar with white Christian fundamentalist subculture, but they are standard practice in these schools, approximately 2,000 of which are subsidized by taxpayer funds.

The version of the pledge to the Christian flag typically recited in fundamentalist and evangelical schools, which usually self-identify simply as Christian schools, ends with “one Savior, crucified, risen, and coming again with life and liberty for all who believe.” This is hardly a pluralistic sentiment. One wall in the elementary building of the K-12 Christian school I attended in the 1980s and ‘90s was emblazoned with part of Psalm 33:12, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” We schoolchildren knew exactly what those words meant. We were raised to be the generation that would take back America for Christ, “saving” the country from the godless liberals who, we were told (explicitly and often), killed babies and were destroying the institution of the family, and whose preferred policies, we were told, would bring divine punishment on our nation.

Eighty percent of white, born-again Christians — that is, white evangelicals and fundamentalists — voted for Donald Trump in 2016. More than 90 percent of them object to his impeachment, and polls consistently show him at over 70 percent in their favorability rating. If you want an answer to the question of where President Trump’s white evangelical base was radicalized, it’s right here. And while this demographic is down to 16 percent of the population, it remained 25 percent of the electorate in the 2018 midterms and is advantaged by gerrymandering, voter suppression, and the Electoral College.

Ex-evangelicals (or “exvies”) like myself have been trying to draw attention to the problem of evangelical authoritarianism in recent years, bringing the insights that come with lived experience to the table. Using hashtag campaigns like #EmptyThePews,  #ChurchToo, #ChristianAltFacts, and #ExposeChristianSchools to achieve collective visibility we have, in conjunction with the efforts of researchers who have been monitoring the Christian Right for decades, made some progress in changing the national conversation around evangelicalism. A change in the discourse is essential if we are to shift the Overton window back from the extremes to which the Right has taken it over the last few decades.

For too many pundits, commentators, and gatekeepers, the answer to “where were they radicalized” is found in taboo territory. Christianity as it is practiced by millions is not always a social good — indeed, it is sometimes downright harmful to both individuals and society. But the Americans who most need to have that conversation are often unable to engage with the idea that the Christianity they view as “authentic” is anything less than perfect. And so we continue to see hand wringing, pearl clutching, and an increasingly desperate barrage of unhelpful think pieces about the “crisis” of young people leaving the church and about evangelical hypocrisy.

Repeating that the “coastal elites’” reading of the Bible is “correct” and “heartland evangelicals’” reading of the Bible is wrong will not, despite the former’s best intentions, convince evangelicals to withdraw their allegiance from Trump. The vast majority of white evangelicals are not going to listen to mainline Protestant, liberal Catholic, moderate to liberal evangelical, or Jewish commentators who quote Bible verses exhorting readers to treat foreigners with kindness. And fellow conservative evangelicals like Michael Gerson, a George W. Bush administration alum who helped create the monster of which Trump is a symptom — but who now sees Trump as a liability — are not going to rein them in. And none of this does anything to reverse the normalization of Christian extremism that now dominates the American public sphere.

Hashtags like #EmptyThePews can harness the democratic potential of social media — which still exists, despite the anti-democratic forces that exploit it for nefarious purposes — to break through these barriers. Indeed, hashtags may prove critical in the fight for human rights and democracy, the greatest threat to which, in the United States, is undoubtedly represented by the Christian Right and the Christian nationalist ideology to which its members adhere.

In August 2017, I launched #EmptyThePews out of frustration with the response from conservative white evangelical leaders to the white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA, at which protestor Heather Heyer was killed. Prominent Christian Right voices either remained silent on Trump’s “very fine people on both sides” comments, or even went so far as to assert on Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network that there was “not a racist bone” in Trump’s body. Opining on how, as authoritarians, white evangelicals typically refuse to listen to any criticism, I observed that the only things they’re really afraid of are declining church attendance numbers and losing the youth. We should, therefore, throw their alienation of young Americans and their loss of members in their faces.

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Hungary pulls out of Eurovision amid rise in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric

From The Guardian UK:

No reason given for withdrawal from show, called ‘homosexual flotilla’ by pro-Orbán journalist

in Budapest and Flora Garamvolgyi
Wed 27 Nov 2019

Hungary will not participate in next year’s Eurovision song contest, amid speculation the decision was taken because the competition is “too gay” for the taste of the country’s far-right government and public media bosses.

While no official reason has been given for the withdrawal, the move comes amid an increase in homophobic rhetoric in Hungary, where the anti-migration prime minister, Viktor Orbán, has launched a “family first” policy aimed at helping traditional families and boosting birth rates.

Earlier this year, the speaker of the Hungarian parliament compared same-sex adoption to paedophilia, while a pro-government television commentator referred to Eurovision as “a homosexual flotilla” and said not participating would benefit the nation’s mental health.

A source inside the Hungarian public broadcaster, MTVA, told the Guardian that while no reason was communicated internally for the decision to withdraw from the contest, the assumption among employees was that Eurovision’s association with LGBTQ+ culture was behind the move.

“I was not surprised. It comes from the organisational culture of MTVA,” said the source, adding that positive coverage of LGBT rights at the media holding was discouraged, save for annual coverage of Budapest Pride.

Public media in Hungary is closely linked to the government and has been instrumental in spreading its messages around migration and other issues. Earlier, the Hungarian website quoted unnamed sources inside public media speculating that the reason for the withdrawal was likely to be that Eurovision was deemed “too gay”.

Orbán’s spokesman, Zoltán Kovács, described the story as “fake news” on Twitter, but did not specify any other reason for Hungary’s non-participation.

In an emailed statement to the Guardian, MTVA said: “Instead of taking part in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2020, we will support the valuable productions created by the talents of Hungarian pop music directly.”

In previous years, the winner of a series called The Song would go on to become Hungary’s Eurovision entry. This year the programme will continue but the prize will be a chance to appear on various domestic media outlets and at festivals.

MTVA did not respond to a question on the reasons for the decision.

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