Lesbian ‘lifestyle’ creates higher risk of breast cancer: Important info lost in sea of insensitive language

An article published today on the website “Medical News Today” explains that research indicates lesbians and bisexual women may be at a higher risk of dying of breast cancer, listing a number of factors that could lead to the increase in risk.

The No. 1 reason is that lesbians and bisexuals (spelled “bi-sexual”) women tend not to see a doctor as often, not to get routine mammograms and not to be as open and up front in talking to their doctor about their health. The article quotes Liz Margolies, executive director of the National LGBT Cancer Network, who says that lesbians and bisexual women tend not to seek medical treatment and get routine health checkups because the healthcare system is insensitive to, and sometimes even hostile to, lesbians and bisexual women.

And the MNT article makes that blatantly obvious, just in the way it is written. For example, the article — written by Rupert Shepherd, who I am willing to bet is a straight man — starts off this way: “Whilst in no way a condemnation of lifestyle choices, new research is showing that Lesbian and Bi-sexual women tend to engage in more high risk behaviors that can lead to them being more at risk from breast cancer.”

Can you guess what irritated me right away? And that’s not the only time it happens in the article. Shepherd uses the terms “lifestyle” and “sexual preference” throughout.

To be honest, the article contains a lot of very important and useful information. For instance, according to the American Cancer Society, 230,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, and each year, an estimated 40,000 women die of breast cancer. And it includes information on things that can increase a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer — like smoking, alcohol use, obesity and not getting pregnant before age 30.

(According to the article, studies show that lesbians and bisexual women tend to smoke more, drink more, weigh more and, believe it or not, get pregnant less than straight women. So lesbians and bisexual women tend to have more risk factors for breast cancer.)

Unfortunately all that important and helpful information tends to get lost in the sea of Shepherd’s poor choices when it comes to language. And that’s really too bad.

Of course, there are options. And the National LGBT Cancer Network website looks like a really good one. So if you or someone you love has cancer or is at risk for cancer, check out this website instead. You can “create a personal cancer risk report,” “find local LGBT-friendly screening facilities,” “sign up for electronic screening reminders” and more. And on this site, if you see the word “lifestyle,” I bet it is referring to things like whether you smoke or drink, not whether or not you are LGBT. And I’m also willing to bet that the National LGBT Cancer Network isn’t going to confuse “sexual preference” with “sexual orientation,” either.

—  admin

House panel hears bills to remove ‘homosexual conduct’ law, add trans hate crimes protections

Daniel Williams

By DANIEL WILLIAMS | Legislative Queery

Four bills that would improve the lives of LGBT Texans were heard by the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on Tuesday. The Committee is responsible for making recommendations to the state House of Representatives on bills that effect the Texas Penal Code. The first step in that process is to hold a public hearing. Any member of the public may testify for, or against, a bill during the hearing.

The first bill, House Bill 1909 by Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, amends the state’s law against “indecency with a child” to provide LGBT teens with the same protections as straight teens. Currently, the law contains a provisions that allows consensual sexual contact between a person under the age of 17 and a person who is no more than three years older. Dubbed the “Romeo and Juliet” rule, the exception recognizes that teenagers engage in sexual behavior with their boyfriends/girlfriends and that prosecuting “heavy petting” by high school sweethearts serves no purpose.

However, there’s a catch! When the Romeo and Juliet rule was created in 1973, “homosexual conduct” was still an enforceable crime in Texas. The authors of the exception were very careful that it only apply to couples “of the opposite sex.” Coleman’s bill removes the opposite sex requirement to give “Juliet & Juliet” the same protections as their straight contemporaries. Dennis Coleman, executive director of Equality Texas, testified in favor of the bill. There was no opposition.

Next, the committee heard House Bill 2227, also by Coleman. Texas law allows prosecutors to seek tougher sentences for crimes committed due to the perpetrator’s bias against people with specific attributes, including “race, color, disability, religion, national origin or ancestry, age, gender, or sexual preference.” HB 2227 would add “gender identity and expression” to that list.

—  admin

Born this way

Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why by Simon LeVay Oxford University Press, 2010; $28; 412 pp.

We all have our quirky preferences: Some don’t like it when food touches other food on their plate, or when socks don’t match up. But are our selves shaped by outside influence, or did we enter the world this way? Was our behavior learned or innate? In Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why, you’ll find answers to similar questions of a more intimate sort.

Nearly two decades ago, Simon LeVay published a scientific paper asserting that gay men differed from straight men in their brain structures — specifically, a cluster of nerve cells controlling sex drive in gay men were the same size observed in straight women’s brains. Since publication of that paper, vast amounts of research have probed same-sex attraction and the nature/nurture debate. Here, LeVay takes a deeper look at some of the newer findings.

While some gays and lesbians are surprised later in life by feelings of same-sex attraction, LeVay says that sexual identity, while not always immediately apparent, is present at birth (although women, throughout life, appear to be more fluid). He points to several cases in which male infants were, for one reason or another, “assigned” to live as the opposite sex. In most cases, upon adulthood, the “assignment” turned out to be wrong.

Some theorize that childhood abuse has influenced gayness, but survivors deny it as a factor. Some theories claim that older siblings or domineering parents hold sway. And as for “choice,” LeVay cites several quasi-claims of “conversions” in which therapy reportedly changed sexual preference.

Overall, LeVay says, nothing is cut-and-dried, but the probable reason that someone is gay has to do with genetics, hormones and stress that individuals receive in utero. Studies show, for instance, that mice are influenced by chemicals secreted by their mothers and by littermates. Humans, likewise, are affected in similar ways, which could lay to rest many questions. And one of the hints may literally be at your fingertips.

While there’s no doubt Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why is an intriguing book that makes sense on several levels, there’s one big problem with it: you almost need a Ph.D. to follow much of what LeVay says. It’s steeped in medical lingo, and while LeVay includes a glossary and substantial notes to explain the scientific terms and acronyms, this book is a challenge.

But if you’re up for that challenge, you’ll be rewarded with a thought-provoking examination of a private subject that has a very public focus. LeVay leaves no hypothesis unexamined, which leaves readers satisfied that every corner of this argument has been thoroughly dusted off.

Give yourself some time if you decide to tackle this book, because it’s nowhere near light reading, but it is fascinating — and ultimately a plea for tolerance.

— Terri Schlichenmeyer

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 26, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Rep. Marc Veasey again files bill seeking study of hate crimes act but says it’s ‘not going anywhere’

For the third consecutive legislative session, State Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, filed legislation last week calling for a study on the implementation of Texas’ hate crimes statute.

Veasey wants to know why, despite thousands of hate crimes reported to law enforcement since the statute was passed in 2001, only about a dozen cases have been prosecuted in court as hate crimes. If you’ll remember, the statute covers “sexual preference” but not gender identity.

In an interview the other day with KXAN (video above), Veasey cited homophobia as one of the reasons why the statute isn’t being used:

While Veasey understands that it’s hard to prosecute hate crimes he believes there’s another, underlying reason why prosecutors are rarely using the law.

“You have some people on the right that have said that it is a bill that protects gays and so they are against it for that reason,” Veasey said.

And Veasey told The Star-Telegram that the outcome of this year’s elections means the bill is likely doomed again in next year’s session, which begins in January.

“I’m going to try it, but quite frankly it’s not going anywhere,” Veasey said. “A lot of these folks that got elected were elected on opposition to the president and probably feel that being for anything pro-civil rights would hurt them in their political careers.”

Wait a second, is Veasey suggesting they’re going to completely ignore this memo?

—  John Wright

WATCH: Lubbock station flubs DADT; Texas Tech activist Nonnie Ouch says ‘It Gets Better’

Nonnie Ouch

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit put a stay on a lower court’s ruling allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.

Explaining the stay,  Fox 34 in Lubbock said, “As of right now anyone who is gay and in the military must keep that sexual preference under wraps.”

Nonnie Ouch, a Texas Tech student from Dallas, does help explain any confusion in her “It Gets Better” video below. She describes Lubbock as “the second most conservative city in the country.”

Getting sexual orientation wrong is the least of the Fox story’s problems. They’re a little fuzzy on the “don’t ask, don’t tell” issues.

For example, they quote a Texas Tech law professor saying he had a long, distinguished career as a JAG and knows “don’t ask, don’t tell” quite well.

So well, in fact that he claimed that he defended the policy in the 1980s. Wow. A whole decade before anyone even dreamed up the discriminatory DADT policy, this “expert” was out there defending it. He must really, really like it.

Or maybe not so much because the professor calls the policy an anachronism.

But the military needs time to work out some privacy issues, he says. Well, it seems the only privacy that’s been violated is the privacy of gay and lesbian military personnel. Their privacy is regularly invaded and they are thrown out.

The former JAG and legal expert Fox quotes thinks the military, not the courts, should be making the policy. Interesting since it was Congress who created the policy that was signed into law by the president. And I don’t remember anyone criticizing Congress or President Bill Clinton about interfering with military policy when they instituted it. And isn’t the president the commander-in-chief?

Ouch’s comments to Fox are a lot clearer than those of the policy’s sort-of defender who doesn’t seem to like the policy much anymore.

“It’s a huge deal, I have friends that are serving in Afghanistan right now that are gay and I couldn’t wait to tell them the news,” she told the Fox station before the stay was placed on the ruling.

In her video, Ouch tells gay youth that if they can get by in Lubbock, you can get by anywhere else in the country.

—  David Taffet

Woman brutally beaten after suspect learns she’s transgender; San Antonio PD says no hate crime

How could this not be a hate crime?

A male suspect brutally beat a woman in San Antonio after learning she was transgender, KENS Channel 5 reports. The story doesn’t provide much detail, but police told KENS the suspect and the victim had an “arrangement” and that he expected to “have a good time with her.” But after he learned she was transgender, he beat her badly in the face and dumped her off outside an apartment complex, where she knocked on a door begging for help.

Texas’ hate crimes law includes “sexual preference” but NOT gender identity. However, the new federal hate crimes law passed last year does protect transgender people and presumably could be used in this case. If the man beat the victim because she is transgender and not cisgender, then yeah, we’d say that’s a hate crime. Let’s get with it, San Antonio police.

—  John Wright