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Bisexual TV characters 'improving'

Casey Quinlan on the improving portrayal in TV drama of people who are neither straight nor gay: "The quantity isn’t there, to be sure. But the quality of bisexual television characters is, on the whole, improving." [The Atlantic] Rob 22

'Oddly Normal,' by John Schwartz: A family's struggle to help their teen son come to terms with his sexuality

New York Times correspondent John Schwartz shares an excerpt from his book “Oddly Normal: One Family’s Struggle to Help Their Teenage Son Come to Terms with His Sexuality,” which was released in a new paperback edition this week. The book is about his son Joe, who is shown in the snapshot above, outside the NYC LGBT Center.

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Human development at the edge of sexual ambiguity


Image: Mopic via Shutterstock.com.

"If you look carefully at the research, sexual diversity, on the level of genital appearance, hormones and chromosomes, is present and predictable in humans," writes Cory Silverberg, who is the Sexuality Guide at About.com.

"To use the language of normativity, the fact that some of us don't fit into one of two boxes is as normal as the fact that some of us do."

Cory was writing about a new piece of science that examines "what it is that makes us think about bodies as being either one sex or another, only male or only female." He tells Boing Boing:

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Report: Transgender people serve in US military at a rate double the general population

Amid much talk of Chelsea Manning's transitional status, this interesting factoid shared by Boing Boing pal Andrea James: a Williams Institute study says trans people serve in the US military at rates double that of the general population. Despite the math, "they nonetheless face discrimination during and after service."

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Coming soon: More than one data point on the transgender experience in the military

Part of the problem with the Chelsea Manning situation is that it's spawned a lot of not-terribly-well-informed discussion about the roles and experiences of transgendered people in the military. There's a risk of this one big anecdote coming to represent the whole. Enter the Kinsey Institute — America's favorite source of sexuality science — which just got a grant to do actual research on the lives of transgender service members. Maggie 1

Manning’s gender hell: Shades of gray in a black-and-white world

We asked writer, film director, Boing Boing contributor, and transgender educator and activist Andrea James what she thought about the media confusion following Private Manning‘s gender transition revelation. Below, Andrea’s thoughts.

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Serotonin found to influence sexual preference in mice

"When Yi Rao of Peking University in Beijing, China, and his colleagues genetically engineered female mice so that they could no longer make or respond to serotonin, it appeared to affect their sexuality. Although they would still mate with males if no other females were present, given the choice, the rodents preferred sniffing and mounting females." [New Scientist] Rob

Crime Against Nature: Beautifully illustrated children's book explores what "natural" really means

This is a book about "doin' what comes naturally". Which is to say, sex. But what kind of sex? With whom? And to what purpose? At what point do things like gender expression, sex, reproduction, and child-rearing stop being "normal and natural" and start being something weird that humans do because we are diverse/perverted/sinful/creative (depending on your personal point of view)?

In reality, the word "natural" is mainly how we tell each other which behaviors and traits are the socially correct ones. Calling something natural is often more about specific human cultural standards than it is about what actually happens in nature. Crime Against Nature is artist Gwenn Seemel's attempt to correct that mistake. Filled with gorgeous, Klimt-esque illustrations, Seemel's book shows readers just how diverse nature can be and just how often it fails to conform to our ideas of what is normal — from girls who are bigger and tougher than boys; to boys who give birth; to boys and girls that don't have sex or reproduce at all (and don't seem to mind one bit).

The issues at play here are hefty and potentially uncomfortable, but the book itself is light, playful, and pleasantly un-preachy. It's also set up in a way that allows it to evolve with kids as their reading skills improve — pairing simple statements like "Boys can be the pretty ones" with longer but still easy-to-read paragraphs explaining, for instance, the most recent scientific theories about why male peacocks are so much more colorful than females.

Overall, the book is a great reminder that there are lots of ways to be a girl and lots of ways to be a boy. Nature is chock full of role models for every kid (and every adult). Just because you don't conform to the version of your gender that you see on TV it doesn't mean that you're defective. Last month, my husband and I navigated aisle after aisle of noxiously gendered toys, trying to find things for our niece and nephew that reflected those individual kids, rather than telling them who they were supposed to be and what they were supposed to like. In a world where even Legos come in pink boxes (with instructions for building cute little houses) and blue boxes (with instructions for building race cars), Crime Against Nature is a much-needed breath of fresh air.

You can buy a print version of Crime Against Nature from Gwenn Seemel for $32.

Alternately, you can download the digital version for free (or for a donation of your choice!)

LovePalz teledildonic sex toy


An early 1990s magazine called Future Sex was all about teledidonics - devices that allow people to have sex with each other even when they weren't close enough to have sex. But in the early 1990s, there weren't any real teledildonic devices. Future Sex closed down after a few issue

In 2012, a couple of designers are hoping to make teledildonics a reality with LovePalz, an iPhone sex toy that allows you to "remotely control your partner's device through your body movement." They were rejected from Kickstarter (Kickstarter won't say why), so the designers have launched their own Kickstarter-esque website. They've received 2223 pre-orders so far.

LovePalz

(Via HuffPost)

Anderson Cooper: "I'm gay"

TV's first out news anchor Anderson Cooper explains why he's making it official: "It’s become clear to me that by remaining silent on certain aspects of my personal life for so long, I have given some the mistaken impression that I am trying to hide something - something that makes me uncomfortable, ashamed or even afraid. This is distressing because it is simply not true." [Andrew Sullivan] (Update: Don Lemon came out last year! And Rachel Maddow beats them both by years.) Rob

Man gay after stroke

Lucy Wallis tells the story of a man whose personality changed after a stroke: "Chris Birch struggles to remember or identify with his old self. He used to be a 19-stone, beer-swilling, party-loving rugby fan from the Welsh valleys, the life and soul of a party. He worked in a bank and loved sport and motorbikes. After a freak accident in 2011, he says he underwent a big change to his personality. He believes that he has gone from being straight to gay." [BBC] Rob

Science, sex, and your hands

Here's an interesting fact about sexual dimorphism: On average, if you were born a male, your hands are a little bit different from those of someone who was born a female. Most men have a pointer finger that is a little bit shorter than their ring finger. Most women have a pointer finger that's about the same length as their ring finger, if not a little longer.

People have noted this differences between the sexes for centuries. But what's it mean? Truth is, we really aren't sure yet. But it is correlated to a lot of awfully interesting things. In fact, some scientists think "the finger thing" (as I like to call it) is a hallmark of prenatal hormone exposure. Because of that, in the scientific literature, you'll find lots of examples of studies that try to find a connection between the finger thing and seemingly disparate traits, such as sexual orientation and gender expression.

We talked about the finger thing on a recent episode of the Sex is Fun podcast—what it's all about, what fingers could be telling us about people, and why it's maybe all just a bunch of hooey. Take a listen!

Also, for the record: My right hand has lady fingers. My left hand does not. How about you?

Sex is Fun

Image: Hand, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from teleyinex's photostream

Family Restaurant, film for kids with gay / lesbian parents

Boing Boing pal and periodic guestblogger Andrea James sends word of a cool and worthy project she's doing, and raising funds for via Kickstarter: "Family Restaurant," a film for children whose moms and/or dads are LGBT.

"There are very few family-friendly films where kids with gay or lesbian parents can enjoy a fun story that reflects their own lives," Andrea says, "I think it's going to be pretty cute and a teensy bit controversial. All art is political!"

From Andrea's project description:

"Family Restaurant" celebrates young children with gay or lesbian parents. It shows them a magical world filled with cute characters who reflect their family lives. Set in a family restaurant, it features talking ketchup and mustard bottles among the colorful residents of the diner. It has a mix of puppetry and actors, including a number of real children with gay or lesbian parents.

I serve on the Board of Directors of Outfest, a prominent LGBT film festival. Each year, Outfest has a family day for children to watch movies, but there are very few family-friendly films where these kids can enjoy a fun story that reflects their own lives. It's time to make something specifically for these wonderful children, with a story that's charming enough to appeal to all young people.

Pitch in or learn more here.

Will you be ours? Valentine's Day for the polyamorous

This Valentine's Day, enjoy a classic essay by Annalee Newitz about celebrating differently-defined love.

(image: Shutterstock)

Anatomy of an unsafe abortion

Dr. Jen Gunter, who is an OB/GYN and a pain medicine physician, writes a harrowing account of receiving a patient who has undergone an unsafe abortion, and is bleeding to death:

On the gurney lay a young woman the color of white marble. The red pool between her legs, ominously free of clots, offered a silent explanation.

“She arrived a few minutes ago. Not even a note.” My resident was breathless with anger, adrenaline, and panic.

I had an idea who she went to. The same one the others did. The same one many more would visit. A doctor, but considering what I had seen he could’t have any formal gynecology training. The only thing he offered that the well-trained provers didn’t was a cut-rate price. If you don’t know to ask, well, a doctor is a doctor. That’s assuming you are empowered enough to have such a discussion. I was also pretty sure his office didn’t offer interpreters.

I needed equipment not available in an emergency room. I looked at the emergency room attending. “Call the OR and tell them we need a room. Now.” And then I turned to my resident. I was going to tell him to physically make sure a room, any room, was ready when we arrived, but he had already sprinted towards the stairs. He knew.

Read the entire account here: Anatomy of an unsafe abortion.

Required reading in this year of presidential elections in America, in which so many candidates would have us return to the dark era in which abortion was illegal. Outlawing abortion doesn't end abortion, it just makes scenes like this more common.

And here's a follow-up post worth reading, by Dr. Gunter.

(thanks, @Scanman / image: Shutterstock)