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Queer youth found creative approaches to self-care during pandemic

From taking a bath to developing new workout routines

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The pandemic forced millions to ditch their gyms and create new workout routines as a means of self care.

Isolation, whether because of the pandemic, physical or mental health issues, or a combination of those, has affected everyone this year. For LGBTQ youth, already marginalized by society and often lacking support in their own families, it has been especially difficult.

A Trevor Project survey conducted at the end of 2020 found “more than half of transgender and non-binary youth seriously considered suicide.”

In July of 2020, a group of Irish doctors and a representative from a student group called for immediate research and dissemination of self-help resources for young people, stating that “youth, whilst less susceptible to severe COVID-19 infection, is more at risk of the negative psychosocial effects of the pandemic.”

Urban Health Media Project, a D.C.-based nonprofit that helps train high school students in health journalism, surveyed youth about the mental health impacts of the pandemic in April. They wanted to know how LGBTQ youth had been taking care of themselves and about the importance of Pride as society emerged from isolation.

Pandemic life changed the way most people socialize, forcing people to learn how to cope with their own struggles. The concept of “self-care”— practices and methods for maintaining mental and physical health without the aid of the medical community — has become even more important when COVID-19 forced people into lockdown.

But pandemic-era self-care doesn’t look the same for everyone. For some, it’s about taking a bath, taking extra care of their physical health, or developing a new workout routine that doesn’t require a gym.

For many, therapy offers an opportunity to discuss emotions and get feedback and help from a trained professional. Many young people don’t have this option, unfortunately, and COVID has made some reluctant to seek out that type of care.

When therapy or friends are not enough or when they are inaccessible, people have found other ways to release their emotions.

Jada Johnson, a Baltimore writer and social justice advocate who graduated from high school last year, said on the Urban Health Media Project’s “Therapy Thursday” Instagram Live on May 6 that she is considering making more frequent appointments with a therapist. When things get too overwhelming for her, Johnson said she often just does “nothing.” She detaches until she feels strong enough to keep going.

Hot showers also help, she said.

“Hot water, it just relaxes me,” said Johnson. “Like, it just refreshes me, keeps me on the go.”

Radiah Jamil, a rising high school senior at Brooklyn Latin School, who is an LGBTQ ally, uses daily journaling and creative writing: “Writing in general is something I love to do and the activity enhances my quality of life so I like to do all types of writing from creative writing to journalism about any issues and topics on my mind.”

Young Elder, 19, a rap artist and activist from Baltimore, uses music and poetry to cope with the feelings of depression that she has experienced. “It really helped clear my mind and helped me find a different way to put how I was feeling,” she said on UHMP’s May 20 Instagram Live. “Music is how I heal, so it’s a process. So it’s kind of like I’m writing a diary and I’m choosing to share it.”

Teens and young adults surveyed by Urban Health Media Project about self-care also mentioned that favorite songs and movies help them to relax.

Dangers of social media

Turning to social media, however, when feeling anxious or depressed can sometimes add to stress. Social media is not nearly as transparent as some may think; a personal feed can often be just a collection of the best moments of a person’s life, and can sometimes be exaggerated or even fabricated.

Lexi Shepard, 18, of Kokomo, Ind., attested to the impact of social media on her mental health on a May 13 Instagram livestream: “Social media does impact how you view your own accomplishments because it’s very easy to fall into the niche of comparing yourself and what you’ve achieved to what other people are achieving.”

Having just graduated from high school, the college acceptance experience was fresh in her mind. “It’s very easy to sit there and compare and say, ‘wow, I could have done better and I could have done more,’ and have a very negative outlook on it,” she said. “I realized that I needed to be proud of my own accomplishments and realize what’s best for me. I’m making these decisions for myself, not to please people around me.”

Not everyone has that level of perspective and emotional self-awareness, though.

In situations of anxiety or stress, or feeling overwhelmed, the most important thing to do is to acknowledge your emotions and take a moment to yourself, said Calix Vu-Bui, a queer Vietnamese-American licensed therapist for Amwell.

“One of the things I think is so simple is to just tell yourself, or tell someone who’s asking something from you in an anxious moment, ‘I need a moment,’” Vu-Bui said in a May 13 Instagram Livestream organized by UHMP. “How are you going to regulate anything, [or] be able to think and respond to people if you’re not like, ‘wait a second, I’ve gotta breathe.’ And then you actually have to do it!”

Vu-Bui uses a metaphor of a balloon to explain the need to vent and release emotions.

”We’re full of all these emotions and all these things that happen to us… and so all the things [that were] mentioned, from journaling, music, exercise, all these different ways and outlets that we have to just kind of release some tension from that balloon. We’ve got to let some of that air out or we are going to pop.”

Resources for LGBTQ youth

You are not alone. Numerous resources exist for LGBTQ youth. National organizations that provide a full range of support from information and education to individualized care include:

The Trevor Project

You can call the Trevor Lifeline 24/7/365: 866-488-7386.

They also offer a round-the-clock online confidential chat and a text messaging withTrevor counselors for youth in need. Their website includes resources such as “Protect your space and well-being on Instagram” and “A Coming Out Handbook.”

The National Alliance on Mental Illness also operates a Helpline 800-950-NAMI, or in a crisis text “NAMI” to 741741. They have state affiliates so you can find help wherever you are. You can find your local NAMI by scrolling to the bottom of their “about” page and putting your state into the designated search box. And their “Support and Education” page has information on support groups and even online discussion groups.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has compiled a list of resources for LGBTQ youth, and their educators and school administrators, and their parents and families.

For more localized resources, contact a comprehensive care hospital or a children’s hospital in your region.

The Youth Pride Clinic, for example, provides primary and specialty care services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning/queer (LGBTQ) young adults between the ages of 12-22 throughout the greater Washington, D.C., region. OR CALL 202-476-5744

Adrian Gibbons graduated from Boston University in May 2021 with a film degree. A trans male, he is an intern with the Urban Health Media Project.

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Md. biotech company’s HIV cure project clears first hurdle

‘We all have something to be excited about’

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HIV cure, gay news, Washington Blade
‘We all have something to be excited about,’ said AGT CEO Jeff Galvin.

American Gene Technologies, the Rockville, Md., biotech company, has announced that the first patient to receive its genetically engineered treatment therapy aimed at curing people of HIV/AIDS encountered no adverse side effects from the treatment.

In an Aug. 2 statement, AGT said that based on the data obtained from Patient One in its Phase 1 human trial of its HIV treatment called AGT103-T, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Data and Safety Monitoring Board voted unanimously to allow AGT to continue its HIV cure program without modification.

“The AGT103-T pipeline is a therapy for treating HIV disease,” the company’s statement says. “The therapy is designed to induce durable viral suppression by delivering therapeutic genes to the recipient’s immune cells,” it says. “The resulting immune cells are expected to survive attack by HIV and durably suppress the virus at undetectable levels without the need for antiretroviral treatment.”

The thumbs up decision by the Data and Safety Monitoring Board allows the company to continue its clinical trial with more participants to further confirm the HIV treatment’s safety outcome. The next phase in the trials will be to determine the treatment’s effectiveness in fully protecting the human body from HIV.

“We have six more patients,” said AGT CEO Jeff Galvin in referring to the patients who will be tested for possible adverse side effects in the coming weeks. Galvin spoke at a July 29 gathering to celebrate the success of Patient One at AGT’s headquarters offices in Rockville.

“If this works, they will be permanently immune from HIV,” he said. “Just think what this can do with the epidemic. We all have something to be excited about,” he told the gathering of about 100 people.

“Keep your fingers crossed. Let’s all keep hoping and praying,” Galvin said. “We will know by the middle of next year,” he said, referring to when the human trials will likely determine whether the AGT103-T treatment, which has successfully stopped HIV from infecting human cells in laboratory experiments, will work just as effectively on people with HIV.

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92% of LGBTQ+ adults have received at least one dose for COVID-19

59% of LGBTQ+ respondents reported Covid-19 made them feel socially isolated, & 50% reported that it impacted their mental health.

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

NEW YORK – A summary of data collected as part of the annual LGBTQ+ Community Survey by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation in partnership and supported by The Rockefeller Foundation in New York City, found that the vast majority – 92% – of LGBTQ+ adults surveyed in the United States had received at least one vaccination for Covid-19.

Although vaccination rates vary somewhat within the LGBTQ+ community, the rates across race and ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation, and age are well above the rates for various general adult populations where the data are available:

  • By race and ethnicity, 90% of Latinx respondents, 85% of Black respondents, 96% of Asian or Pacific Islander respondents, and 85% of Native American/Alaskan and Middle Eastern/North African LGBTQ+ adults, among other race identities have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
  • By gender identity and sexual orientation, 92% of cisgender lesbian and bi+ women, 93% of cisgender gay and bi+ men, and 92% of transgender and non-binary people have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
  • By age, 91% of LGBTQ+ respondents aged 18-34, 92% of LGBTQ+ respondents aged 35-5, and 94% of LGBTQ+ respondents aged 55 and older have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine

While vaccination rates are high, Covid-19 took a toll on well-being among respondents. The survey finds that 59% of LGBTQ+ respondents reported that Covid-19 made them feel socially isolated, and 50% of respondents reported that it impacted their mental health.

“Increasing vaccination rates among communities of color is a major focus for us, and working with the Human Rights Campaign Foundation gives us the opportunity to better understand the impact of Covid-19 on LGBTQ communities of color. We look forward to continuing our support and outreach.” said Otis Rolley, Senior Vice President of Equity and Economic Opportunity at The Rockefeller Foundation.

Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

The data finds the Covid-19 pandemic led to social and financial loss, especially among LGBTQ+ people of color:

  • 21% of LGBTQ+ adults surveyed reported that a close family member or friend has died from Covid-19
  • LGBTQ+ people of color surveyed reported higher levels of loss due to Covid-19 compared to white LGBTQ+ people:
    • 30% of Latinx LGBTQ+ respondents
    • 28% of Black LGBTQ+ respondents
    • 25% of Native American/Alaskan and Middle Eastern/North African LGBTQ+ respondents, among other race identities
    • 18% of Asian/Pacific Islander LGBTQ+ respondents
    • 17% of white LGBTQ+ respondents
  • 36% of LGBTQ+ respondents reported that a close friend or family member has become very sick from Covid-19
  • 24% of LGBTQ+ respondents reported that Covid-19 has negatively impacted their financial well-being
  • LGBTQ+ people of color surveyed are more likely than white LGBTQ+ people to have experienced a negative financial impact during the pandemic:
    • 33% of Native American/Alaskan and Middle Eastern/North African LGBTQ+ adults, among other race identities
    • 26% of Asian/Pacific Islander LGBTQ+ adults
    • 26% of Latinx LGBTQ+ adults
    • 25% of Black LGBTQ+ adults
    • 22% of white LGBTQ+ adults

“There are many reasons why LGBTQ+ vaccination rates may be higher than the general population, including higher percentages of the LGBTQ+ community being liberal, living in blue states, and living in urban areas,” said CMI Senior Director of Research, David Paisley. “While participants had strong education levels, those with no more than a high school diploma still had an 87% vaccination rate. We also see that Covid isolation significantly impacted LGBTQ+ people, which may have motivated quick vaccination to reenter the community.”

The new data build on the HRC Foundation’s previously released reports, including the most recent report, “Covid-19 and the LGBTQ Community: Vaccinations and the Economic Toll of the Pandemic,” which was released as a part of the HRC Foundation’s vaccine public education campaign: “For Ourselves, For Each Other: Getting to the Other Side of the Pandemic.” The HRC Foundation has also partnered with the Black Trans Advocacy Coalition on a resource, “Finding Financial Stability During Turbulent Times,” with steps and advice for those who may be struggling to make ends meet during these difficult times. Read more about the HRC Foundation’s efforts during Covid-19 here.

The Rockefeller Foundation is supporting the Human Rights Campaign Foundation on a number of Covid-19-related projects to support research and community education to reach LGBTQ communities of color during this crisis through The Rockefeller Foundation’s Equity-First Vaccination Initiative. Learn more here.

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Cornell University study on impact of discrimination on LGBTQ of color

Around 25% of LGBTQ youth have attempted suicide, but the rates are starkly higher for LGBTQ youth of color than their white counterparts

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McGraw Tower, Cornell University (Photo Credit: Cornell University)

ITHACA, NY. – Cornell University’s What We Know Project in conjunction with a coalition of leading LGBTQ rights groups last month published a comprehensive curation of data on studies that chart the intersection of anti-LGBTQ and racial discrimination.

The findings found that discrimination inflicts profoundly greater harm on LGBTQ people of color in a wide range of areas, including grossly disproportionate rates of: experiencing discrimination over  the past year, poorer mental and physical health, greater economic insecurity, and attempts to die by suicide.

 In addition, LGBTQ people of color are more likely than white LGBTQ people to live in states without protections  against discrimination and that state anti-LGBTQ laws harm LGBTQ people. 

“This research brief makes clear the tangible harms that discrimination inflicts on LGBTQ people of color,  and the urgent need for public policy that reflects what the research tells us about how we can reduce those  harms,” said Dr. Nathaniel Frank, the study’s author.

Highlights of the research brief’s findings include

LGBTQ people are more likely than non-LGBTQ people to be people of color, and Black LGBTQ  Americans are disproportionately likely to live in states without protections against discrimination. For  example, 42% of LGBT people are people of color compared to 32% of non-LGBT people and the majority of  Black LGBT Americans live in the South (51.4%, more than twice the share of any other region), where most  states lack anti-discrimination protections. 

LGBTQ people of color face higher odds of discrimination than both non-LGBTQ individuals and LGBTQ  white people. For example, LGBTQ people of color are more than twice as likely to experience anti-LGBTQ  discrimination (slurs or other verbal abuse) when applying for jobs than white LGBTQ individuals (32% vs.  13%). LGBTQ people of color are more than twice as likely as white LGBTQ people to experience anti-LGBTQ  discrimination when interacting with the police (24% vs. 11%). 

Black LGBT Americans are more likely to experience economic insecurity than Black non-LGBT Americans.  For example, the majority of Black LGBT people (56%) live in low-income households (below 200% of the  federal poverty level) compared to 49% of Black non-LGBT Americans, and Black LGBT adults are also more  likely to experience food insecurity than Black non-LGBT adults (37% compared to 27%). 

Hundreds of studies conclude that experiencing anti-LGBTQ discrimination increases the risks of poor  mental and physical health, including depression, anxiety, suicidality, PTSD, substance use, and  psychological distress. 

LGBTQ people of color face disproportionate odds of suicidality, which is linked to discrimination. For  example, while 12% of white LGBTQ youth attempted suicide, the rate is 31% for LGBTQ Native/Indigenous  youth, 21% for LGBTQ Black youth, and 18% of LGBTQ Latinx youth.  

While supportive laws, family, and peers lower the risk of poor health outcomes for LGBTQ people of  color, anti-LGBTQ state laws inflict tangible harm on sexual minority populations. For example, states  with “denial of service” laws that give license to discriminate against LGBT residents between 2014 and  2016 were linked with a 46% increase in LGBT mental distress. Black LGBTQ youth who reported high levels  of support from at least one person, or who had access to an LGBTQ-affirming space, reported attempting  suicide at lower rates than those who lacked such support (16% vs. 24%). 

Supportive laws, family, and peers lower the risk of poor health outcomes  for LGBTQ people of color. 

• Suicide attempts by LGBT youth dropped by 7 percent in states that legalized same-sex marriage.22 

• The corollary is that anti-LGBTQ state laws inflict tangible harm on sexual minority populations. States with “denial of service” laws that give license to discriminate against LGBT residents were linked with a 46% increase in LGBT mental distress.23 

• Black LGBTQ youth who reported high levels of support from at least one person, or who had access to an LGBTQ-affirming space, reported attempting suicide at lower rates than those who lacked such support (16% vs. 24%). Those with high levels of family support had rates of past-year attempted suicide nearly one third as high as those who lacked such support (22% vs. 8%).24 

• Protective measures that have been found to help reduce anxiety, depression, and suicidality among LGBTQ youth include: Establishing inclusive practices and anti-discrimination policies; peer, community, and family support, including dedicated school groups; access to affirmative mental health and social services; societal confrontation of attitudes and norms that exacerbate minority stress; and practitioner training and interventions designed to disrupt negative coping responses and build resilience.

Experiencing discrimination is associated with greater odds of harm to  psychological and economic well-being, which is reflected in data on  disparities for LGBTQ people of color. 

• Hundreds of studies conclude that experiencing anti-LGBTQ discrimination increases the risks of  poor mental and physical health, including depression, anxiety, suicidality, PTSD, substance use,  and psychological distress. 

• LGBT people of color have work-place experiences that are more negative than those of white  LGBT employees, reporting that their success and work-life balance are fostered less extensively,  they have less transparent evaluations, and they are respected less by supervisors. 

• Among LGBTQ people surveyed, 51% of Black respondents say discrimination harms their  ability to be hired, compared with 33% of white respondents; 41% say it has an impact on  their ability to retain employment, compared with 31% of white respondents; 77% of Black  respondents report that discrimination impacts their psychological well-being, a rate nearly 50%  higher than the total LGBTQ survey population. 

• While racial discrimination on its own is not associated with mental health disorders, the  combination of racial discrimination with gender and/or sexual orientation discrimination is  significantly associated with increased odds of a past-year mental health disorder.

LGBTQ people of color face disproportionate odds of suicidality, which is  linked to discrimination.  

• Around 25% of LGBTQ youth of all races have attempted suicide, but the rates are starkly  higher for LGBTQ youth of color than their white counterparts: While 12% of white LGBTQ  youth have attempted suicide, the rate is 31% for LGBTQ Native/Indigenous youth, 21% for  LGBTQ Black youth, and 18% for LGBTQ Latinx youth. 

• In a 95%-non-white LGBT sample, those who report experiencing anti-LGBT victimization (such  as bullying and harassment) are 2.5 times more likely to report a past-year suicide attempt  compared to those who do not report victimization. 

• Black LGBTQ youth who experience anti-LGBTQ discrimination face twice the rate of past year suicide attempts compared to youth who do not (27% vs. 12%). Black LGBTQ youth who  experience race-based discrimination also face higher odds of attempting suicide than those  who do not (20% vs. 14%).

• Black LGB adults are over 40% more likely to have made a serious suicide attempt in their  lifetime than white LGB adults. 

• Latinx and Native American/Pacific Islander LGBT youth are 50% more likely to attempt suicide  than white LGBT youth. Latinx LGBT girls are nearly twice as likely to attempt suicide than  white LGBT youth.

• LGBTQ students who experience discrimination “based on multiple social identities” report more  use of deliberate self-harm compared to LGBTQ students who experience racial discrimination  alone or who do not experience significant discrimination of any kind.

Reflecting on the study’s findings, key executives from participating LGBTQ Advocacy groups weighed in:

“These painful figures highlight an indisputable link between discrimination, economic security,   mental and physical health. People with multiple stigmatized, marginalized social and political identities, particularly Black LGBTQ+/Same Gender Loving people, bear a disproportionate amount  of the weight illustrated by the data in this study. Statutory equality for LGBTQ+ people nationwide is a necessary foundation to remove the gaps in existing civil rights laws if we are to ever live up to  our country’s founding promises of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all,”  said David Johns, Executive Director, National Black Justice Coalition.

The majority of Black LGBTQ people live in the South, with nearly half (44%) of all Black women couples raising children. Even today, most of these states still do not protect LGBTQ people from discrimination and have overtly discriminatory laws on their books. It is no wonder the disparities are so profound and it is a testament to the strength and resilience of our people that they are doing  as well as they are. For our community and for our children it’s time for federal action!” said Kierra Johnson, Executive Director, National LGBTQ Task Force.

“This important brief only further solidifies what we have known for a very long time—the combination of racism and anti-LGBTQ discrimination has serious and long-lasting effects for the health and well-being of LGBTQ people of color. This research highlights why federal non-discrimination protections are overdue and vital to protecting the most some of the most underrepresented and vulnerable members of our community. Federal anti-discrimination protections are absolutely necessary in protecting and supporting all LGBTQ people, and this is especially true for LGBTQ people of color,” said Imani Rupert-Gordon, Executive Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights.

“Study after study shows that nondiscrimination protections improve economic opportunities, public  safety, and physical and mental well-being of LGBTQ people. It is well past time for the essential protections available only in some of our states and cities to be extended to all LGBTQ Americans, especially LGBTQ people of color, who are disproportionately burdened by the lack of protections, ” said Kasey Suffredini, CEO and National Campaign Director, Freedom for All Americans.

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