3.10.12

The Fight for Gay Marriage: A New Civil Rights Movement?




Most individuals enter early adulthood with the hope of finding a suitable partner.  They go on dates and enter into relationships which for the majority result in marriage and eventually childbearing. Married couples take for granted certain rights that come along with matrimony.  For example, married people assume that if their spouse becomes ill, they will have full say in what happens to them during their stay in the hospital, or even their end of life decisions.  They also assume that if their spouse dies, they will be financially stable because they will retain their house and bank accounts that were accumulated during their marriage.  They have the right to adopt children.  They have the right to hold their spouses hand or to show affection to their spouse in public without shame, ridicule, or fear of harm. They have the right to marry the person that they are in love with and can spend their lives together without being judged.  They can live where they choose and not be denied housing or a job because of their sexual preferences. Same sex couples are not afforded these same rights that most straight people take for granted.  The fight for same sex marriage goes way beyond just a religious battle.  It is a battle for equal rights on a political level.
Unfortunately most anti-gay marriage supporters turn the debate into a purely religious argument and neglect to mention or to examine all of the rights that are denied based solely on sexual preference.  They argue that homosexuals are tampering with what God defines as marriage, a union between a man and a woman. For most gay and lesbian people, the focus is not on changing a religious right; it is about gaining equal human rights.  In the United States, there are over 1,100 rights associated with heterosexual marriage that gay people are not entitled to (National Organization for Women, 2012). . Partners in same-sex relationships cannot receive these important benefits that range from Social Security survivor benefits to federal tax benefits to federal employee health and retirement benefits. For example, married heterosexual couples are afforded a financial boost from Social Security benefit programs that same sex couples do not qualify for.  For some, the denial of these benefits can mean spending retirement years in poverty (Michon, 2012). . Same sex couples are denied spousal survivor benefits, spousal retirement benefits, and lump sum death benefits. There are dozens of tax breaks and benefits that same sex couples are disqualified for which result in the loss of thousands of dollars for the individuals who are denied (Michon, 2012).  For example, same sex couples cannot file a joint tax return which means that they cannot enjoy the same tax breaks that married couples can.  Federal employment benefits are also denied because most of them are tied to marital status.  Examples of a few of these benefits that are denied include health insurance for spouses, and wages, worker's compensation, health insurance, and retirement plan benefits for the surviving spouse of a deceased federal worker (Michon, 2012).
The denial of rights to same sex couple does not stop at a financial level.  It also has medical and legal implications. The right to make end of life decisions about a terminally ill loved one or even the right to visitation during a hospital stay is not the same for same sex couples.  Gay people are not permitted to make serious medical decisions for their partner in an emergency. Instead, hospitals are often forced by state laws to consult the families even though they may be estranged or hostile to the individual.  Gay people also have virtually no right to determine how a person’s ends of life wishes are carried out.  Rights may be overturned by the family even though a person’s will has clearly defined their wishes (Michon, 2012). These rights can include custody decisions, funeral arrangements, and real estate ownership decisions. Same sex couples may also be denied visitation rights at a hospital or even at a loved one’s grave site or funeral if the patient’s family wishes to do so.  Heterosexual couples do not face these situations because they are guaranteed these rights by federal law. There are also major differences in the legal arena as well. The concept of “legal testimony” is different for gay couples versus legally married heterosexual couples. In the legal system there is protection for heterosexual couples from having to testify against a partner if he or she is on trial. . The other difference is validity of defense testimony. Often a non-legal spouse’s testimony carries no more weight that a stranger’s (University of Missouri, 2011).
While there are a few states that now allow same sex marriages, the majority of the United States still does not recognize marriage between partners of the same sex. Some states, such as California, allow same sex couples to register as domestic partners.  This distinction makes no difference when it comes to most federal laws.  Gay or lesbian couples, whether married, unmarried, or registered as domestic partners are still not permitted protection by the same rights that are afforded to heterosexual couples. According to Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal government only recognizes marriage between a man and woman.  This means that even if a couples union is recognized by their state of residence, it is not recognized at a federal level and therefore does not qualify for access to those laws that grant marriage benefits (NOLO Press, 2011).
As one can clearly see, the often religiously tainted battle for gay marriage goes far beyond just a fight for religious acceptance and change.  It is a battle for the right to equal human rights and for the right to survival, dignity, and for equal protection by federal laws. Being able to walk down the street with a loved one without fear of harm or ridicule and being able to enjoy the same financial and legal rights as every other person is the real focus.

References
Equal marriage now. (2012). National Organization for Women, Retrieved from
                http://www.now.org/issues/marriage/points.html
Exploring constitutional conflicts: The gay rights controversy. (2011). Unpublished manuscript, University
                of Missouri, Kansas City, Mo, .
Michon, Kathleen (2012). Federal marriage benefits denied to same-sex couples. NOLO Press, Retrieved
                30326.html

12.9.12

Gay Bullying: Whats the Big Deal?



Michael Bell
Carlow University
Professional Counseling Program
Bullying: What’s the Big Deal?
  In the fall of 2011, a Rutgers University student was videotaped by his roommate while having sex with another male student and then leaked to the internet.  The student’s suicide brought national attention to the risks and effects of bullying.  Bullying is a very large issue in the gay and lesbian community, particularly among youth, and it has widespread negative, and potentially lethal, effects on its victims. In the past, not much was done to protect children from its effects and we are just now starting to see much needed legislation aimed at changing this.  As a victim of bullying myself, and as a member of the gay community, I can attest to its negative effects. I was harassed quite frequently during my middle and early high school career for being gay.  I was not only verbally harassed but physically as well.  I did not do as well as I could have in school and I suffered from school phobia.  I also suffered from low self-esteem even into early adulthood and battled with depression and relationship issues because of it. While my teachers were aware of the bullying, nothing was done to stop it.  In the past, not much was done to protect children from its effects and we are just now starting to see much needed legislation aimed at changing this.
Bullying is universal; however GLBT youth is particularly at risk. According to research, 61 percent of students asked claimed that they knew someone who was called gay or lesbian and 31 percent said that they themselves had been called gay or lesbian as a form of harassment (American Association of University Women [AAUW], 2000).  In another study, which included more than 7,500 adolescents between the ages of 14 and 22, the results were similar. Forty four percent of gay male participants said they had been victims of bullying, compared with 26 percent of heterosexuals. For girls, 40 percent of lesbians indicated they had been bullied, while just over 15 percent of heterosexuals reported the same (Bryner, 2010).
The effects of bullying can be quite profound because bullying often occurs during critical social development periods of an adolescent’s life.  Children who are rejected by their peers often display physical and relational aggression, tend to be hyperactive, inattentive, and exhibit impulsive behavior (Berke, 2010).  Bullied children often do poorly in school because they more often than not have poor attendance (Pearson Video). Bullying not only affects its victims academically and developmentally, it can also lead to violence and even suicide (Brody, 2011).  Gay and lesbian youth who are harassed because of their sexual preference are nearly three times more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual peers (AAUW, 2000).  The risk is not only to the victim it is also to the person doing the bullying and to others who are innocent bystanders. Children who have been harassed or physically attacked because of their sexual preference are six times more likely to carry a weapon to school (AAUW, 2000). If we examine past cases of school violence, such as incidents like Columbine, we see that most of the aggressors were rejected by their peers and were often the victims of bullying. Other incidents, like the murder of Matthew Shepherd, illustrate how deadly bullying can become. 
There are recognized patterns for both bullies and their victims.  Typically a victim of bullying often is introverted, suffers from low self-esteem, and does not conform to the typical accepted gender role set by society.  A recent article in the New York Times states that bullying is not as much about sexuality as it is about gender non conformity.  It goes on to claim that heterosexual youth is just as much at risk as homosexual youth if the victims display any type of atypical behavior (Brody, 2011). The person doing the bullying also exhibits certain characteristics. Most children who are bullies tend to also suffer from low self-esteem and exhibit ongoing social difficulties (Pearson Video).
Much can be done, and should be done, to stop bullying in schools. Studies done by the AAUW show that laws, policies, support programs, and inclusive curricula all seem to make a difference.  Students from schools with an inclusive policy report that others are less often harassed in their school, because of their sexual orientation or their gender expression (AAUW, 2000). Students who attend schools with inclusive curricula also report less absenteeism and students say that they feel safer while at school (AAUW, 2000). Studies also show that states that enacted antidiscrimination laws reported a reduction in suicide rates relative to the rates reported prior to enactment (AAUW, 2000). School based gay-straight alliance groups also have a positive effect on adolescents. Studies suggest that membership to these groups improve academic performance, increase comfort levels with sexual orientation, create a sense of safety, and create an enhanced sense of belonging to the school community (AAUW, 2000).
Bullying is a very large issue, which up until now, has been primarily ignored and its effects minimized.  Much work needs to be done to create laws and policies to protect today’s youth from its harmful effects.  Society is now only starting to take it seriously and hopefully the momentum will continue to put a stop to this very harmful and damaging act that so many children, not only in the GLBT community, but in the community at large, fall victim to.





References
American Association of University Women (2000). Hostile hallways: Bullying, teasing, and sexual
                harassment in school.  Retrieved from http://www.aauw.org/2000/hostile.html
Berk, L. E. (2010). Development through the lifespan. (Fifth ed.). Boston: Pearson Education Inc.
Brody, J. E. (2011, January 3). Gay or straight, youths aren’t so different. New York Times, Retrieved from
                http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/04/health/04brody.html
Bryner, J. (210, February 3). Gay and lesbian teens bullied more than heterosexuals. Live science,          
Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/6048-gay-lesbian-teens-bullied-    heterosexuals.html

*Pearson video retrieved from: http://wps.ablongman.com/ab_berk_lifespan_mydevelopmentlab_5/132/33977/8698261.cw/index.html


15.8.12

Money Does Not Imply Manners!


It has been a very long time since I have truly written anything personal on this blog.  I am not sure why.  I think it’s because I have been so busy with school.  Graduate school requires a tremendous amount of research, writing, and reading and this has occupied a lot of my time.  I thought it was time to sit down and do what I used to do.  Self-reflect and listen to myself and share those thoughts and feelings on paper (or screen in this case).  The personal writing on here is as much for my own benefit as it is for others to ponder.  Actually, writing is a very therapeutic process as well as a way to purge oneself of a lot of baggage.  When I write it puts things into perspective and often times things that I have been harboring for months come to the surface.  I hope that some of my ranting and ravings help others who might have the same issues or thoughts.
Tonight I watched an hour long interview with Lady Gaga and Howard Stern.  First off, Howard Stern can be a bit over the top with his interviews.  I know this because I have listened to Howard for probably the last ten years.  At first I thought he was the most arrogant and bigoted pervert that I had ever heard but then he grew on me.  He grew on me because he is honest.  Lady Gaga, on the surface, comes off as being sort of weird and very superficial but I have listened to enough of her interviews and music to know that under that fa├žade there really is a brilliant and genuine person. 
In her interview she talked about how she still lives in her small apartment in Brooklyn and how that all the money really has not gone to her head.  She is happy because she can finally be herself.  I thought a lot about that. 
David and I are invited to go to dinner this Saturday.  The people that we are going with are very wealthy and can be a handful to deal with.  It seems that the rule is that the more money you have the less censored you have to be and it gives you automatic licensure to treat people with disrespect. The discussion of what to wear came up in conversation.  I thought to myself, you know what, fuck it.  I will wear what I want to wear and if someone doesn’t like it, too bad. 
In the past, and I fully admitted this to David, I was a bitch.  I was into the club scene and the gay scene. It was about dressing to kill, putting on appearances, acting like you were somebody better than everyone else, being critical and mean to others outside of your core group of friends (and even they would knife you when you weren’t looking), and in general worrying about what everyone else thought of you.  I thought that I was happy when in reality I didn’t even know who I was.  I was what everyone else wanted me to be.  I was what my family wanted me to be, what my friends wanted me to be, what my boyfriend at the time wanted me to be.  I was never who or what I wanted to be.  This has changed greatly for me in the last few years. 
I am so tired of worrying about fitting in or about what other people might think about me.  Now, at almost 40, its time to be who I want to be.  I explained to David, that I meant no disrespect to his friends but I am done with being fake.  Often, when we go out, I feel like I shrink down to nothing when I am with them.  I cower and act reserved and I hide  myself to fit in and often times I have to put up with rude comments and poor behavior.  In the past, it wouldn’t have been an issue. Now it’s a big issue. I feel like I am selling myself short when I do this.  I AM an intelligent person and I do have a lot to say and offer.  I am more than someone’s social toy of the moment and I refuse to be treated as one. I also have learned that money does not equal intelligence or social grace. I measure a person by who they are and what they have done with life, not by what they have in their bank account.  It is so juvenile and in poor taste to throw ones money in other’s faces.  I almost want to say “big deal, so you have a lot of money.  Have you helped anyone?  Did you cure cancer?  Did you design the rocket that went to the moon? Have you done ONE thing to help anyone other than yourself, not for social gain or manipulation, but just because you wanted to do something good?  No?  Then shut the fuck up about your money!”
 I always joke about some of the “benefit” parties that I have gone too.  The conversation always goes like this…”hi, nice to meet you.  Have you heard about all of my money?  Did I mention that I have money?  Can I tell you about all my money for hours and hours until you want to slit your wrists from sheer boredom? “If the conversation doesn’t revolve around them and money, it shifts to bitching, backstabbing, and clawing at others by whom they feel threatened. God forbid if they are upstaged.  Any attempt to have any sort of intellectual conversation (other than politics that revolve around money) will be quickly thwarted and the focus shifts back to talking about themselves, money, and how they HATE someone else because of their money.  The benefit is never beneficial to anyone other than the people there “donating” their money as some sort of political or social power move to attain status or financial gain. It’s sad and so so transparent.
Normally, when I meet someone I like to ask them about themselves.  What do they do?  What makes them passionate?  What kind of person are they?  In normal exchange, people reciprocate.  It’s normal to get to know one another to see if you click.  In the past, I have gone out with certain people with money and after an hour talking about their money and the aforementioned backstabbing and clawing, I was asked what I do.  I told them that I was a graduate student and explained what I do for my day job.  Normally, my response would have been “oh, tell me more about psychology” or “so, what made you want to do that?” “What do you aspire to do?” etc.  This never happens, the conversation shifts back to them and their money.  I am dismissed because I don’t fit into some sort of high society hierarchy. It is soooo infuriating!
I also had a conversation with my parents tonight which added fuel to the fire.  My Father was asking about school and how it was going and then went into finance mode.  He made a comment that sort of bothered me.  He said “well, I hope this all ends up getting you a job that finally makes some money.”  I know where he was coming from, but it still bothered me.  I finally, after 39 years, am dead sure about what I want to do.  I wanted to do this when I was 21 and let everyone else talk me out of it.  I want to help people and I want to be a clinical psychologist that works with the GLBT community.  There is a great lack of resources for our community and it is very frustrating.  I have always felt that this was my calling and I ignored it for many of the same reasons that I was worried about what to wear, or how to act. 
 This brings me to the Lady Gaga interview. I think that she speaks volumes and is honest.  She said one thing that rang truth to me….she said that you have to be very brave to be who you want to be.  Other people will criticize you, try to make you feel inadequate, and will make things rough for you.  I know exactly what she means.  For most of my life, I have never felt very understood.  My family never understood me because I was always different.  People in high school never understood me and often times my friends never did either.  I had two relationships, both of which were critical of me.  I was told that I didn’t make enough money, or that I didn’t have the right degree, or that I needed to do this and that and the other.  I realized that I am what matters and that I am all that I have in life.  It is up to me to succeed and to be what I want to be.  I learned that if you are not happy with yourself, that you will NEVER be happy with anything else.  Does money matter?  To some extent it does, because it sucks not being able to eat and pay the essentials.  Should it rule your life?  Absolutely not! I may never be a millionaire but when I die I will know that I did something good in life.  I helped other people and to me that means more than a giant bank account.
I also thought a lot about David and I shared this with him as well.  For the two years that I have known him he has NEVER criticized me, told me that I didn’t make enough money, or told me that I needed to change. At first, I took this as not caring and then I realized that this is how it’s supposed to work.  This is what true friendship is really about.  Accepting someone for who they are and letting them be free. I apologized to him because I have been the one saying you do this wrong and you need to change that.  I often times get upset because David is a very caring and generous person and a lot of the aforementioned people take pure advantage of that.  David is smart, even though he will argue that he is stupid, but he never gives himself any credit.  It makes me sad and angry at the same time to see someone that I care about feel like he has to put up with bad behavior and being taken advantage of to feel like he is accepted and that he is somebody.  I went through it…..now I realize how stupid it was at the time to sell myself short.  
Friendship and love are funny things.  It takes sometimes a lifetime to figure them out and some people never do.  It is so very important to enter into a relationship (friendship or otherwise) because you accept the person for who they are because they will most likely never change.  It took me years of banging my head off of a wall to realize that. 

18.6.12

Anxiety and Depression Study Results




Anxiety and Depression Co-morbidity Rates
Michael Bell
Carlow University

















Anxiety and Depression Co-Morbidity Rates
Introduction
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV; American Psychiatric Association. [APA], 2000) depression is defined as a mood disorder.  The mood during a depressive episode is often described as sad, hopeless, and discouraged.  Other symptoms of depression can include insomnia or increased need for sleep, lack of interest in things that were once found pleasurable, low sex drive, decreased or increased appetite, agitation, tiredness, and fatigue (American Psychiatric Association, 2000).
Anxiety is defined as “an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs (as sweating, tension, and increased pulse), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one's capacity to cope with it” (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (11th edition), n.d., pg.107).  The DSM- IV states that the criterion for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) includes excessive anxiety and worry which occurs for at least 6 months.  GAD is characterized by the subject finding it difficult to control the worry and it typically presents the following symptoms: restlessness, fatigue, trouble concentrating, muscle tension, insomnia, and irritability (American Psychiatric Association, 2000).
Narrow, Rae, & Rieger, 1988 found that anxiety affects nearly 19 million Americans. A second study suggests that the incidence rate of anxiety is nine cases per 1000 persons per year (Murphy, Oliver, Monson, Sobol, & Leighton, 1988). The DSM –IV suggests that anxiety disorders are one of the most prevalent disorders diagnosed (American Psychiatric Association, 2000).
Anxiety and depression, if left untreated, can lead to serious psychological and health consequences. Untreated depression can increase the chance of risky behavior such as drug or alcohol addiction, can create issues with relationships, affect job performance, make it difficult to overcome serious illnesses, and even result in suicide (Liew, 2012).  A recent study suggests that the odds of having at least two chronic health conditions increases with the level of depression (Liew, 2012).  Rehna, Hanef, and Tariq,2012 found that cognitive errors have significant positive relationship with anxiety in both depressed and non-depressed samples. The results showed that depressed participants exhibited numerous types of cognitive errors.
 Studies suggest that cognitive behavioral therapy is very effective in the treatment of depression and anxiety and may prevent mildly depressed individuals from progressing to advanced stages of depression (American Psychological Association, 2010). Other treatment options for anxiety and depression include systematic desensitization, psychotherapy, and medication (American Psychological Association, 1997.)
 A recent study suggests that in 57% of people who have depression, anxiety disorders preceded the depression and that in 18%, depression preceded their anxiety disorders disorder ( Lamers, van Oppen, Comijs, Smit, Spinhoven, van Balkom, & Penninx, 2011).
There is also a suggestion of comorbidity with depression. Another recent study found that of subjects with a depressive disorder, 67% had a current and 75% had a lifetime comorbid anxiety disorder. Of subjects with a current anxiety disorder, 63% had a current and 81% had a lifetime depressive disorder ( Lamers et. al, 2011).
The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between anxiety and depression.
Methods
Participants
            Ninety-four friends and acquaintances of graduate students in a research methods class participated in the study. Participants were collected by a sample of convenience.  All participants were over the age of eighteen.  Participants had no known mental health concerns.
Instruments
            This study used the Costello-Comrey Depression and Anxiety Scales (CCDAS; Costello & Comrey, 1967). The purpose of the CCDAS is to measure anxiety and depression.  “The depression scale [of the CCDAS] has excellent internal consistency, with split-half reliabilities of .90; split-half reliability for the anxiety scale was .70” (Costello & Comrey, 1967, pg. 213). The CCDAS has fair concurrent validity.  “Its anxiety scale is correlated with the Taylor Manifest Anxiety Scales and the depression scale is correlated with the depression scale of the MMPI. There is a small to moderate correlation between the CCDAS and social desirability, suggesting some response bias may be present” (Costello & Comrey, 1967, pg. 213).
Procedures
Sixteen graduate students in a research methods class approached friends and acquaintances using a sample of convenience. Participants had no known health concerns and were age eighteen or older. Participants were provided with informed consent.  Participation in the study was used as consent. Participants were given the CCDAS and were instructed to complete it to the best of their ability. Students collected the CCDAS in a manner to insure confidentiality and anonymity. Scores were calculated according to the instructions provided.
Results
            Data was analyzed using a software package that calculated the Pearson correlation coefficient. The results of that analysis revealed a moderate relationship between depression and anxiety (r=0.41, p=.01, two tailed).  The results indicated a significant finding for this study of ninety-seven participants.
Discussion
            This study examined the relationship between depression and anxiety using a sample of convenience of ninety-seven participants. The results revealed a moderate relationship between depression and anxiety that was significant (r=0.41, p=.01, two tailed).
            The results of this study are somewhat consistent with previous research. Numerous prior research studies suggest that there is a strong positive relationship between anxiety and depression. Murphy, Oliver, Monson, Sobol & Leighton, 1988, found that nearly 50 percent of all depression cases also had anxiety associated with them. This study found a positive relationship with only a seventeen percent co-morbidity rate.         
            The limitations of this study include a small sample size, and a sample of convenience.  Participants were only administered one test per subject.  It is unknown if the participant’s anxiety or depression was due to situational factors because the measurement was used at one point in time.
            Future research should use a larger sample size as well as a random sample, and multiple measurements across time to attain a more accurate measurement of anxiety and depression.
            This study examined the relationship between depression and anxiety using a sample of convenience of ninety-seven participants. The results revealed a moderate relationship between depression and anxiety that was significant (r=0.41, p=.01, two tailed).



References
American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental
            Disorders (Revised 4th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
American Psychological Association (1997). Understanding depression and effective treatment.  
            Washington, DC: Author.
Costello, C.G. and Comrey, A.L. (1967). Scales for measuring depression and anxiety, The
            Journal of Psychology, 66, 303-313.
Lamers, F., van Oppen, P., Comijs, H. C., Smit, J. H., Spinhoven, P., van Balkom, A. M., &
            Penninx, B. H. (2011). Comorbidity patterns of anxiety and depressive disorders in
            A large cohort study: The Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety (NESDA).
Liew, H. (2012). Depression and Chronic Illness: A test of Competing Hypothesis. Journal Of  
            Health Psychology, 17(1), 100-109.
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.). (2005). Springfield, MA: Merriam Webster.
Murphy, J. M., Oliver, D. C., Monson, R. R., Sobol, A. M., & Leighton, A. H. (1988). Incidence
            Of Depression and Anxiety: The Stirling County Study. American Journal of Public
            Health, 78(5), 534-540.
Narrow, W. E., Rae, D. S., Reiger, D.A., NIMH epidemiology note: prevalence of anxiety
            disorders. One-year prevalence best estimates calculated from ECA and NCS data.
            Population estimates based on U. S. Census estimated residential population age 18
            to 54 on July 1, 1998. Unpublished.
Rehna, T., Hanif, R., & Tariq, S. (2012). Cognitive Errors and Anxiety: A Comparison of
            Depresed and Non-Depressed Adolescents. European Journal Of Social
            Sceince., 27 (2-4), 309-318.




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