Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Studying LesBians: homophobia is bad for your health

Studying Lesbians is a monthly column about recent (and not so recent) research about lesbians or the LGBT community as a whole. This time I want to talk to you about yet another very surprising and shocking research finding: homophobia is bad for you!

More specially, several studies have recently linked having experienced homophobic incidents or being in a hostile, homophobic environment to negative health consequences. In other words, these studies are showing that being around homophobia is bad for our health!

This is yet another line of research that makes me go DUH! but I do really appreciate all these researchers taking the time to look into this, because I am sure their are many (homophobic?) people who actually think a little homophobia doesn't do any harm, and they are just "letting people know what they believe in", or something.

Let's have a closer look at these studies. The study that got the most exposure in the (gay) media the last few weeks was a doctoral thesis in clinical psychology by Michael Benibgui from Concordia university entitled Mental Health Challenges and Resilience in Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Young Adults: Biological and Psychological Internalization of Minority Stress and Victimization.

In his thesis, Benibgui looked into psycho-social and neuroendocrine factors that may contribute to mental health in LGB youth and young adults. In other words, he followed a number of young LGB people and looked at what kind of environment they were in and what kind of experiences they have had and he also assessed what their mental and physical health was like.

The reason for this research was that it is often found that LGB youth experience more depression, anxiety and have higher suicide rates (although let's not forget some studies have actually shown LGB youth are just like everybody else), but not much is known about exactly why this is. Therefore, Benibgui examined a number of environmental risks and protective factors that he tried to link to (mental) health outcomes.

And guess what he found? Those LGB teens who lived in a homophobic environment, that is to say, who had a lot of arguments about their sexual identity, who were bullied or discriminated against, had higher levels of internalized homophobia and an increased production of cortisol, a stress hormone. In turn, internalized homophobia and high levels of cortisol were connected to things like depression and suicidal thoughts.

In other words, being in an environment that makes you feel bad about yourself, makes you feel bad about yourself! It is interesting though, to see what kind of influence the environment can have on the body and consequently ones mental state.

Luckily the influence works both ways. It was also found that those LGB young people who had very positive, supportive environments, didn't have any problems. Even when LGB youth encountered discrimination or bullying, if they had friends and family who supported them in their sexual orientation, they didn't get depressed or experienced internalized homophobia.

It seems like homophobia can do more harm than some people seem to think, although reading through this thesis I couldn't help but make the occasional duh sound. Just like all young people, no one likes to be bullied or discriminated against, LGB youth are no different in this regard.

It's a shame it can have such negative consequences, and I feel more should be done to make it ok for young people to not only be queer, but to be able to be out and proud, without getting hurt too much in the process.

Even though it is important the situation for LGB youth is improved, I'm also happy to read that as long as you have a good support system in place, if your friends and family have no problem with you being gay and they are there for you whenever you need them, it seems like you are going to be just fine! Now that's at least a positive note to take away from all of this.

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What do you think of these study results? Do you think it's good this kind of research is being done? Do you agree all it takes is a good social support system and homophobia can't really hurt you? Or do you think we should seriously try to protect our LGB youth against homophobia? Let me know in the comments.

This post was first published on eurOut.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

I love looking up at the sky. My favourite thing, next to sunsets are pretty clouds. Here are some of the pretty skies I captured on film the last few years.

Groningen, the Netherlands (Summer 2009)

Peer, Belgium (Spring, 2010)


Maastricht, the Netherlands (Summer 2010)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Fiction-ish blogging from a kids' perspective: Young and Innocent

Are you tired of just reading about lesbians and other gay stuff? Did you wish I would write about something else, perhaps even fictional? Then do check out one of my other blogs Young and Innocent. 

In Young and Innocent I delve into the mind of my kid self, and I blog about my thoughts and experiences as if I was still young and innocent. Because my childhood was rather boring, I tend to make a lot of stuff up. My latest post is all about my former love of playing with fire:

I like playing with fire, with matches to be more precise. I love how simple it is to make a flame, to watch it, to wave my finger through it without getting burned. It’s even more fun when you light many matches at once, and build a little bonfire. Just a tiny one though, tiny fires are fun. Ok maybe not only tiny fires are fun, but I would not make those up in my bedroom. Read more here.

Monday, February 7, 2011

10 European LesBian and LGBT websites you should be visiting

Lists are hot is a monthly column for all those that love lists. This time I want to share with you some of the coolest European LesBian websites around.

Obviously, when it comes to favourite European lesBian websites, eurOut is and should be on top of the list. But since you are already familiar with our site, let's have a look at some other great European lesBian and LGBT websites.

During the time I wrote the website of the week segments, I came come across many very interesting lesBian and LGBT websites, of which I selected 10 European ones that I think are worth checking out. These websites are in no particular order, and I have also tried to select websites from as many different countries as possible.

1. G3 Magazine (UK)

G3 magazine is a UK based online magazine for lesbians and bisexual women. The magazine has been around since 2001 and, according to their website, has an estimated readership of around 140,000 people a month. Readers include both women who buy the printed magazine in the shops and those that read it online.

On the G3 website, besides an online copy of the magazine, you can also find lots of other stuff including the latest LGBT news, polls on various subjects, features and columns not in the magazine, travel suggestions and relationship advice. Their online magazine looks great and is a fun read, and also the general website offers a lot of different things to hold your interest.

2. Pink Pearls Amsterdam (the Netherlands)

Do you like travelling? Do you like dating? Do you like lesBians? If you answered yes to those questions, Pink Pearls (formerly known as Garbo Amsterdam) might be just the thing for you!

Pink Pearls is a social network site for European lesbians and bisexual women. It was originally only focused on the Netherlands (and Amsterdam, hence the name), but they are hoping to extend their network and appeal to lesBians from all over Europe. Some of the stuff Pink Pearls gets up to includes organising European holidays especially for lesBians. This includes regular holidays, as well as trips to events and parties.

3. Lesbisk On Screen (Norway)

Lesbisk OnScreen, the Norwegian website for anything that is lesbionic in entertainment. Lesbisk Onscreen covers stuff like where the lesbians are on television, what all the hottie handball players get up to, and what events are taking place around Norway.

If that isn’t enough for you to check out their website, they also have lists of queer movies and television programs and they show tweets from everyone they deem interesting that follows them on Twitter.

4. Yagg (France)

Yagg is the French media site catering to the LGBT community. The site was created in 2008 by a group of four experienced journalists, three gay guys and one lesbian (Judith Silberfeld).

Yagg started with the goal to be a source of information for every LGBT-person in France which makes the site very diversified. Their articles span topics from coverage of press conferences by politicians, reviews of art exhibitions and theatre plays, a cruising guide for gay men, a “Revue de web” offering links to articles of LGBT interest from all over the world, to video footage of kiss-ins, pride marches and many more.

5. Stupenda (Spain)

Stupenda is a Spanish online magazine aimed at lesbians in Barcelona, Spain. The magazine first started in 2002 and they cover all sorts of things of interest to queer women, like books, movies, music, fashion, gossip, The L Word, events and anything else about women that might be worth covering.

Besides the magazine, Stupenda also holds a monthly party by the same name during which former eurOut writer Clarix usually DJs.

6. Kweens (Germany)

Kweens is a lesbian entertainment website in German, which was created in 2008. What kind of things can you find on their website? Well, they report on things like the latest movies, music videos, and events.

They also have features like 'Lovely Saturday', which features lovely and hot ladies, and they also write about more serious stuff like articles on gender and sexuality, gay marriage and insemination.

7. Jong & Out (the Netherlands)

Jong & Out (Young and Out) is an online community for Dutch gays, lesbians and bisexuals age 18 and under. It provides the opportunity for gay teens to meet like minded others both online and in the flesh, and it's also a great resource of information.

On the website information is provided about being young and out, including how to deal with homophobia and coming out in high school. There's even a section for parents to be reassured about their sons and/or daughters visiting the website.

8. Gaelick (Ireland)

Gaelick is an award-winning Irish website for LGBT news, whose news and entertainment posts we often feature on eurOut.

They have been around for a number of years, and provide the latest news of what queer related things are happening in Ireland, as well as in the rest of the world. Besides great informational posts, they also offer a number of opinion posts, which are always my favourites.

9. Wel Jong Niet Hetero (Belgium)

Wel Jong Niet Hetero (Young, but not straight) is the Belgium website for LGBT youth. Even though their main focus is young LGBT and questioning youth, their website really appeals to me.

They don't just focus on stuff interesting for teens, like information about coming out etc., but they also provide the latest LGBT news both in Belgium and around the world. This includes political stuff, as well as entertainment news and fun events taking place in the country.

10. Queeried (UK)

Queeried is a UK based website for LGBT entertainment and political news and is run by the lovely Michelle Penny.

Queeried offers the latest news from around the world, as long as it's LGBT related. In addition, you can find features there like music to check out, movies to see and even what underwear to buy.

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That concludes my top 10 of European lesBian and LGBT websites you should be visiting. What do you think of my selection? Do you agree or are some of your favourite websites missing?

This post was first published on eurOut.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Book review: Rereading Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite

"Nothing was born in horror and brought up in suburban Maryland. Even before he ran away to find his true home, he suspected he was different from other teenagers. And when he had his first taste of human blood, he knew he was right" (-from the back of the paperback).

Backstory:

When I was a teenager I went through a vampire phase. Not the Twilight kind of vampires, who seem rather boring to me, but vampires who were evil and spent their time killing and having sex. Sometimes they did contemplate their (evil) existence as well, and pondered about how hard/cool it is to be a creature of the night.

I went through quite a number of books dealing with vampires, including Anne Rice's vampire collection I just couldn't get enough off. One of the vampire themed books I picked up during that time was Lost Souls (1992) by Poppy Z. Brite.


Content & Opinions:

This book was so much more than the the vampire stories I had read before and it totally blew me away. The story had lots of vampires, sex, killing and other pointless violence. Or more precisely, it was about darkness and things that go bumb in the night, just like any good horror story.

Yet at the same time, it was a coming of age story, about not fitting in and trying to find your place in the world. It was about the power of friendship, about boundaries or lack of those, about unrequired love and so much more. Well, that's what I thought as a teenager anyway. I devoured this book in one sitting, and I reread it many times over the years that followed.

Now that almost 2 decades have past, I decided it was time I reread Lost Souls and see if it was still as great as I remembered it to be, or if I had become old and cynical. I guess both turned out to be true.

Lost Souls is a really good book. It is well written, fast paced, and draws you into this world that looks like your every day world, but is yet totally different. I love the story it tells, but at the same time it is a story that no longer appeals to me. At least, not the way it did when I was a teen.

In short, Nothing is a teenager who has never really fit in anywhere. Not at home with his adopted parents, not with the friends he hangs out with. He has always felt like he was different and he dreams of finding his real family and to have a place to belong in the world. He also really, really enjoys blood and anything to do with it, but he is not sure what this means.

One night he decides to run away to New Orleans and try to find his real parents. By accident or because of fate, he ends up finding out exactly who he is and where he belongs...



Besides Nothing's story, which is one filled with sex, blood, violence and tears, there are also other stories being told parallel to this one. These different stories all come together when the story is about to come to a close.

One of those stories is about the special friendship between Ghost and Steve, two characters that I really loved the first time around. These guys are so different, yet they have this great bond. I still loved the scene where they kiss, and just like 15 years ago, I still don't know what it did or didn't mean. I still like their combo, and just like when I was a teen I identified more with Ghost and thought Steve was quite a jerk.

Another thing I still love about this book (and about other books by Brite), is how she makes New Orleans to be out to be this magical, ghostly, extraordinary city. When I was a teen I thought it was the coolest city ever. Having since been there, I feel it is pretty great, but it doesn't compare to how it is described in this book.

Most of the (male) characters in this book, seem to love (or at least have sex) pretty indiscriminately, which apart from a few scenes at the beginning of the novel referring to bisexuality, is presented rather matter of factly and the topic isn't really addressed further. 

Besides the storyline, and the feel of the book, I also love how it is written. Like I said, it's really fast based and it also makes you feel like you are there in the moment, experiencing the same things the characters are. In addition, pretty gruesome stuff happens, but yet this book is so much more than that.

"Nothing held Laine close and drank his life, lost in the slowing pulse, in the taste of blood and salt. He never realized that most of the tears he tasted were his own." (-page 161)

Conclusion:

Lost Souls did no longer hold the same meaning, the same importance or the same excitement it did the first time around. Still, I thought it was a really good book, and a great horror/coming of age story worthy to be read.

This book is not for everyone. But, if you enjoy a good vampire/horror story, if you are a teen or like YAL, if a little bit of gore doesn't put you off, this might be the book for you.

This book was reviewed as part of the LGBT reading challenge 2011 and the GLBT 2011 challenge.