This Is How To Have The ‘Masturbation Talk’ With Your Tween Or Teen, According To Experts

masturbation talk with tweens and teens
Steven Gottlieb/ Getty Images
While we all joke that we wish we could keep our babies in a bubble of childlike innocence forever, the universe has other plans. So, here you are, pondering a question all parents must face at some point: How do you talk to your tween or teenager about masturbation? And while this topic may make you feel uncomfortable, give yourself credit. The fact that you’re here shows that you’re committed to raising your child in a way that encourages a healthy understanding of sexual behavior and their body. That’s a big deal, Mama.

It goes without saying that growing up is natural, and a part of that evolution is exploring our bodies. Yes, our… as weird as it may be for you to think about, your parents were once at this very crux, wondering what sort of self-exploration is quote-unquote normal and how to talk to you about it. But since you likely don’t remember that convo, you’re probably looking for a refresher.

Now that you have kids of your own and they’ve reached a certain age, the likelihood that you could walk in on your child self-touching increases exponentially. You need some talking points, right? To help navigate this conversation, Scary Mommy reached out to several experts and sex educators about what to do if you walk in on your child (boy, girl, or non-binary) masturbating — and how to foster important dialogue about self-touching.

masturbation talk with teenager
Hero Images/ Getty Images

What do you do if you catch your tween or teen “in the act”?

We tapped licensed marriage and family therapist Jill Whitney, who blogs about these very kinds of conversations at, to find out. In speaking with her, she pointed out that it’s first important to quite literally check yourself at the door. “If you walk in on your preteen or teen playing with themselves, the first thing to do is to apologize and walk back out,” she told Scary Mommy. “The second thing is to catch your breath. It’s weird to think of your kid as having sexual feelings and masturbating, but there is absolutely nothing wrong about that. It’s completely normal for any child who’s gone through puberty — and even ones who haven’t — to self-pleasure.”

Whitney also noted that parents should be aware of their own internalized biases about this sort of behavior. “Thinking of the situation as ‘catching’ your kid masturbating implies they’re doing something wrong. But they aren’t. The American Academy of Pediatrics is clear that masturbation is normal and healthy for kids of any age and gender. The only problem with teens self-pleasuring is that it may freak parents out — but that’s our problem, not theirs.”

Still feeling a bit squeamish about the whole thing? Think of it this way, says Whitney: “Masturbation is the safest possible outlet for normal sexual feelings. No one can get pregnant or catch an STI. No one is being pressured or coerced.”

Why else should parents be okay with their tween or tween self-pleasuring?

This one’s simple, according to Whitney — it teaches young people that (a) they have agency over their own bodies and (b) what they’re comfortable with. “It’s a great way for teens, especially girls, to learn about what feels good for them. That’s useful information when the time comes that they’re considering sex with a partner. If they know that sex should feel good and what that means for them, they’re more likely to expect that in a partner, rather than acquiescing to something that doesn’t feel good to them.”

How soon after walking in on them should you broach the subject?

If you think you’re too upset to talk to your kid about what you just walked in on, it’s best to shelve the conversation until you’ve had time to process and recalibrate your feelings. But even if you think you’re ready to have that convo right this second, put a pin in it. You’re probably a little embarrassed. Your tween or teen is definitely embarrassed. “Give yourself and your kid a couple of days to recover from the worst of the embarrassment,” Whitney advised.

What specifically should you say to your teen or tween about masturbation?

Are you ready? Good. Take a deep breath, find a quiet moment when your kid is relaxed and no one else is around. Then, open a dialogue. Whitney recommends tweaking these talking points in a way that feels organic to you:

“About what happened [insert day]… I’m sorry I walked in on you. Next time lock the door, okay? [smile] So, this is awkward, but I just want to say that it’s completely normal to touch yourself. I’m sorry if I looked freaked out; it’s just weird for me to see how you’re growing up. But you haven’t done anything wrong.”

According to Whitney, your kid will likely (and not surprisingly) groan and leave the room, but that’s okay. “You’ve addressed an emotionally charged issue and normalized what’s really normal behavior,” she said.

Should you approach the conversation differently with a tween than a teen?

Maybe you have a tween and teen living under your roof and are wondering whether you need to adapt your approach accordingly. As it turns out, you don’t need to stress about that too much — the central focus here should simply be on conveying to your child the normality of their behavior, and that intersects any age demarcation.

“There doesn’t need to be any difference in how you approach the situation based on the age of your child. Masturbation is as normal for preteens as it is for teens. Once kids have hit puberty, it’s normal to have sexual feelings, and self-pleasuring is the logical, safe way to deal with them,” explained Whitney.

Should you approach the conversation differently with girls than boys (as well as non-binary kids)?

According to Whitney, gender is also secondary to the central message of destigmatizing masturbation for your child. “Self-pleasuring is perfectly healthy for kids of any gender, male, female, nonbinary, whatever,” she reiterated. “It’s a normal human thing. You don’t need to approach the situation differently depending on your child’s gender.”

Having said that, there are a few ways that gender can impact the conversation. Namely, kids sometimes differ in when they start masturbation, largely for anatomical reasons. “People with penises often start playing with themselves as soon as they mature sexually. Once they’ve started having wet dreams, it’s obvious that orgasms feel really good, and it’s not hard to figure out how to achieve them,” said Whitney.

For kids with female anatomy, it’s sometimes a more gradual learning curve. “It may take girls longer to figure out how to touch themselves and even to realize it’s something they might try. If you’ve walked in on your daughter, she’s obviously figured it out, so nothing needs to be said.”

Is there something you can say to your daughter (or non-binary child) to help them feel more comfortable?

You know your child better than anyone. If you feel like they might be unsure about self-pleasuring or whether it’s okay to try it, you could always address it in a way that underscores its normality. Whitney recommends something such as:

“So, this is kind of awkward, but I just want you to know that many girls and women find it can feel really good to touch their private parts [or vulva, if that’s the language you use]. If you decide to do that sometime, you’d be absolutely normal.”

masturbation talk with teen
Sally Anscombe/ Getty Images

What if your tween/teen is masturbating to pornography?

Granted, this could add another layer to your discomfort level. If your child is masturbating to porn, though, you probably should address that in your conversation — not because it’s wrong, per se, but because it is complex and certain considerations should be made. “It’s common and normal to view porn while self-pleasuring, but it’s important for kids of any gender to know that what they see in porn is a far cry from the sex most people have in real life. It’s a performance. Most people’s bodies don’t look like the actors’ bodies. Most women don’t like being treated the degrading and violent ways often shown in porn,” elaborated Whitney.

This is obviously a complicated topic and one that will probably be informed by your personal opinions about pornography. If it aligns more with your beliefs and comfort level, you can simply encourage your child to masturbate without porn (without making them feel bad about doing it in the first place).

“[Masturbating without porn] used to be common, but research has found that porn is so accessible that young people may not ever have simply used their own imagination as part of their sexual experience. Relying exclusively on stylized visual stimulation leaves young people with a limited arousal repertoire that can be unhelpful when the time comes for sex with a partner,” explained Whitney.

Of course, if pornography is something that you recognize as relatively unavoidable, you can always discuss with your tween or teen the idea of ethically sourced pornography and why it’s important. Sites like The Porn Conversation — a project offering tools for parents to discuss pornography with their kids in age-appropriate ways — can help with direction.

Is masturbation at these ages ever not normal?

Short answer? No. And the implications of making your child feel that way could be long-lasting. Traci W. Pirri, MSW, LCSW-S, and owner/director of the counseling group Hope for the Journey, gave us an example. “Masturbation, even in young children, is normal. If you are able (with both your words and your body language) to show that you are calm about this, your kid will be more likely to come to you with questions about sex down the road and be less likely to internalize something negative in themselves — like, ‘I’m a bad kid.’ These kinds of negative beliefs become self-fulfilling meaning if a kid believes they are bad, they will act bad,” Pirri said.

She continued, “Shaming or punishing kids for normal exploration of their bodies leads them to those negative beliefs and also makes it pretty sure that they will not come to you in the future to talk about sex, sexuality, or anything relationship in nature. Additionally, most people who have been shamed about masturbation end up feeling ashamed about sex even when they are married or in committed relationships. Shaming healthy sexuality can cause long-term problems and is best avoided.”

But does it ever warrant a more serious conversation or outside intervention?

Well, you may have to circle back around to the subject if you feel like your tween or teen isn’t adhering to healthy boundaries. “By the time your child is a tween or teen, they should know that masturbation is a private affair,” Pirri noted. “Some healthy rules for masturbation include: Do it in private; don’t do it because you’re angry, sad, or anxious (this sets up for an unhealthy pairing of negative emotions and sexual release); don’t do it too much (masturbation should not cause a rash, for example, and should not get in the way of normal activities).”

If you find that your tween or teen isn’t maintaining those boundaries even after you’ve addressed it with them more than once, it might be time to seek an expert’s advice. Said Pirri, “A professional counselor can help them explore what is going on. Additionally, if any sexual orientation or gender issues become apparent, a therapist can give them the support they will need to negotiate this tricky developmental stage while also dealing with these big identity issues.”

It’s also not a bad idea to seek counseling for yourself if you are struggling with regards to your child becoming more sexually active.

Is there any way to make these conversations less awkward?

Let’s be real: Talking to your kid about masturbation will probably always be a little awkward. But by making it a priority in your household to have regular conversations about sex and relationships, it will undoubtedly be less awkward than if you avoid the subject altogether.

“Walking in on your tween/teen masturbating is just an embarrassing reminder that your kids need some support and guidance to develop healthy sexual habits and attitudes. Most parents want their kids to say no to things that are uncomfortable and to use birth control once they do decide to start having sex. When you help kids to talk about these things at home, you are prepping them to do this in their romantic relationships,” said Pirri.

But, as any parent of a tween or teen can tell you, your kid probably isn’t going to listen to you proselytize about the sexual behavior for an hour — which is why Pirri suggests creating an ongoing and ever-evolving narrative. “Try to ask them questions that will get them thinking about things,” she suggested. “Value their opinions. Let them challenge your ways of thinking about things and know that they will be exploring and changing as they grow.”

Written by Julie Sprankles.


London Mayor Calls for Broader Access to PrEP at Global HIV Conference
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has called for broader availability of pre-exposure prophylaxis drugs in his welcoming speech at the Fast-Track Cities 2019 conference. Concluding today, the conference has brought together leaders from 300 cities around the world to discuss municipal responses to HIV, tuberculosis, and viral hepatitis.1

London and the United States have both set ambitious goals for solving the HIV epidemic. In the United States, the “Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America” goal is to reduce new HIV infections by 75% in 5 years and by 90% in 10 years.2 During his speech, Khan reiterated London’s goal to eliminate new HIV infections, deaths, and stigma by 2030.1

The Fast-Track Cities 2019 conference aims to highlight and share successes achieved across the cities in the network, address challenges faced by local stakeholders, and share best practices in accelerating HIV/AIDS responses.

London has been praised as a leader in the global fight against HIV and AIDS, having already met the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets by 2019. The targets specify that within a city or country 90% of people living with HIV are aware of their status; that 90% of people who know their status are accessing HIV treatment; and that 90% of people accessing HIV treatment are achieving viral suppression. London had reached these goals by the time it joined the Fast-Track Cities initiative in January 2018, but Khan said there is still a long way to go.

“I’m also proud of the work London is doing to tackle HIV and inequality, and am pleased that we will be able to share our knowledge and experience with others,” Khan said. “But despite our progress, there is still much more to be done as too many people continue to catch the virus.”

Urban environments—such as London—can significantly increase the risk of contracting HIV, due to dynamics such as social behavior, migration, unemployment, and social and economic inequalities. However, according to The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), a partner host of Fast-Track Cities 2019, urban centers have inherent advantages and opportunities to improve the health of their residents.1

“To truly end all new cases of HIV in London, it’s high time the government made PrEP available via the NHS [Strategic Health Authority] for all those who need it,” Khan continued. “No ifs, no buts, and no more pilots—we know it works, it stops the spread of infection, and saves money in the long run.”

The official opening of the conference, a session on “High-Level Panel on Health Inequalities,” included elected officials from around the world. Officials from the United States included Svante Myrick, mayor of Ithaca, NY; and Robb Pitts, chairman of Fulton County in Atlanta, GA.

Author: Aislinn Antrim

Researchers tackle Queer body image issues through Art

Dalhousie researchers tackle queer body image issues through art

'Rainbow Reflection: Body Image Comics for Queer Men' focuses on health and body image issues facing queer men.

‘Rainbow Reflection: Body Image Comics for Queer Men’ focuses on health and body image issues facing queer men.

Three Dalhousie University researchers are using art in an effort to help queer men open up about their health.

Phillip Joy, a dietician who identifies as a queer man, is one of three researchers who recently created a new comic book called Rainbow Reflection: Body Image Comics for Queer Men. The comics focus on health and body image issues facing queer men.

“Sometimes, gender’s not always considered within nutrition so it’s nice to explore and have those conversations,” said Joy.


The team started the project a year and a half ago after the Canadian Institutes of Health Research put out a call to researchers to “hack the knowledge gap” and help make academic literature more accessible.

“Me and my team decided a comic book anthology would be an interesting and fun way to kind of take academic research and make it more user-friendly,” said Joy.

Dalhousie researcher Phillip Joy speaks to Global News.

Dalhousie researcher Phillip Joy speaks to Global News.

Ashley Field/Global News


Joy said his team put out a call to artists, asking for personal art tackling issues of emotional and mental health, sexual health and nutritional or physical health.

“We can have the science and we can have the knowledge but we also need the life stories of people,” he said.

According to Joy, the team received a “great turnout” and eventually narrowed its list down to 40 artists from around the world.

‘It felt liberating’

Three Halifax artists contributed work to the project, including James Neish. He drew the cover art and contributed a personal comic strip.

“I tried to make it really true to life so I drew my old university and my old home and even the person I was with,” said Neish.

“I’d never done that before. It actually felt really good. It felt liberating.”

WATCH: Helping youths deal with body image

Neish is a freelance artist who has been creating art since he was a kid. His work was published by the time he was in the fifth grade.


“Comics have always been an avenue for me to tell stories,” he said.

“The reason why I love comics is because they really helped out when I was growing up.”

He’s now happy to leave his mark on a project aimed at helping others.

“It feels very good to be part of this project — fulfilling,” Neish said. “I feel connected. I feel like I said something that really matters to me and I just hope that somebody can relate or feels like they connected after they read the comic.”

‘It was kind of like Christmas Eve’

Joy said the anthology features a range of talent — from black-and-white to colour illustrations, some hand-drawn and others done digitally.

“It was kind of like Christmas Eve when the art came in,” he said.

“Some of them struck really close to home and dealt with issues I’ve dealt with myself. There’s a good range of personal stories that many people can relate to.”

Freelance artist James Neish works on his computer.

Freelance artist James Neish works on his computer.

Ashley Field/Global News

Health inserts featuring academic research will accompany the art. Joy hopes the anthology will not only be used as a teaching tool but as a way to “start talking about the issues and what are the impacts on our health from all of these body standards that we have.”

‘Rainbow Reflection: Body Image Comics for Queer Men’ will officially launch on Friday, Sept. 13 at the Halifax Central Library. Five hundred copies have also been printed and will be donated and distributed to sexual health centres across Canada.



Facebook might know the last time users had sex, study finds ….

Facebook might know the last time users had sex, study finds

At least two menstruation-tracking apps were sharing intimate details of users’ sexual health with Facebook and other entities, a new report finds

Several period- and pregnancy-tracking apps have had been called out for sharing health data with women’s employers and insurance companies, as well as for security flaws that reveal intimate information.Getty Images

Your best friend may not know when you last had sex, but it’s possible that Facebook does.

At least two menstruation-tracking apps, Maya and MIA Fem, were sharing intimate details of users’ sexual health with Facebook and other entities, according to a new report from Britain-based privacy watchdog Privacy International. In some cases, those details, which are self-recorded by users in the app, included when the user last had sex, the type of contraception used, their moods and whether they were ovulating.

The findings raise questions about the security of the most private information in an age when employers, insurers and advertisers can use data to discriminate or target certain categories of people.

The information was shared with the social media giant via the Facebook Software Development Kit, a product that allows developers to create apps for specific operating systems, track analytics and monetize their apps through Facebook’s advertising network. Privacy International found that both Maya and MIA began sharing data with Facebook as soon as the user installed the app on their phone and opened it, even before a privacy policy was signed.

Facebook spokesman Joe Osborne said advertisers did not have access to the sensitive health information shared by these apps. In a statement, he said Facebook’s ad system “does not leverage information gleaned from people’s activity across other apps or websites” when advertisers choose target users by interest. BuzzFeed first reported the news.

Most people would want to make their own decisions about what’s known about their sex life, about whether it’s shared or not

Period- and pregnancy-tracking apps such as Maya and MIA have climbed in popularity as fun, friendly companions that provide insights into the often daunting world of fertility and pregnancy. They can also be used to track sexual health more generally, moods and other intimate data. But many apps aren’t subject to the same rules as most health data.

That has raised privacy concerns as some of the apps have come under scrutiny as powerful monitoring tools for employers and health insurers, which have aggressively pushed to gather more data about their workers’ lives than ever before under the banner of corporate wellness. Plus, it appears the data could be shared more broadly than many users recognize, as flagged by the Privacy International study.

Several period- and pregnancy-tracking apps have had been called out for sharing health data with women’s employers and insurance companies, as well as for security flaws that reveal intimate information. As a result, many women say they’ve devised strategies to use the apps without revealing all of their most sensitive information. Among those strategies: using fake names, documenting only scattered details and even inputting incorrect data.

Users and experts alike worry that the data could be exposed in security breaches, or used by employers and insurance companies to discriminate against women by increasing their premiums or not offering them leadership positions.

Deborah Peel, a psychiatrist and founder of the nonprofit Patient Privacy Rights, said people expect that their health data will be protected by the same laws that protect their health information in a doctors office, but many apps aren’t subject to the same rules.


“Most people would want to make their own decisions about what’s known about their sex life, about whether it’s shared or not,” said Peel. “Right now we have no ability to do that.”

Facebook, the world’s largest social media platform, with 1.2 billion daily users, is asking users to trust it with more and more sensitive information than at any time in the past. Last week, the company launched Facebook Dating in the U.S., a matchmaking service that suggests potential love interests to users based on preferences, interests and Facebook activity.

At the same time, Facebook has come under fire in recent years for scandals involving misinformation, fake accounts and breaches of trust. That includes the 2018 revelation from a whistleblower that Facebook had allowed political consultancy Cambridge Analytica to improperly access data from millions of users. In that case, the data was harvested through a third-party quiz app.

Facebook said its terms of service prohibit app developers from sharing health or sensitive data, and that Facebook has been in contact with both Maya and MIA to notify them of a possible violation of those terms, in statements from the companies included in the report. Facebook also said that while it has systems in place to automatically detect and delete information like Social Security Numbers and passwords from the information shared by apps, the company is “looking at ways to improve our system/products to detect and filter out more types of potentially sensitive data.”

Plackal Tech, which developed Maya, said in its statement to Privacy International that it would remove the Facebook Software Development Kit from a new version of its service. There was no published response from Mobapp Development Limited, the company behind MIA, and the company did not have immediate comment.

Author: Marie C. Baca


Facebook might know the last time users had sex, study finds


As someone who went without permanent housing for large swaths of his life, AJ Komperdo became resourceful in finding places to stay at night.


His most memorable spot was on the top of a skyscraper in Vancouver’s West End that he managed to access. “It felt safe because no one ever went up that far,” the 42-year-old outpatient at St. Paul’s Hospital recalls.

There was little chance of shut-eye on a hard rooftop, and his fatigue the next morning was bone crushing. But during the dark hours of night, he felt safe.

And safety always trumped sleep quality when he had no home.

Sleep deprivation among those without housing is “a public health crisis,” according to an American organization advocating for homeless people. Experts say chronic fatigue can compound existing health problems and create new ones, both physical and mental. Komperdo, for instance, suffered hallucinations during his time on the street, something that is common, according to literature on homelessness.

Komperdo came to Vancouver from Alberta in the mid-90s to flee a difficult foster home. He has stayed in group homes, with friends, couch-surfing, and in shelters and single-room occupancy (SRO) accommodations.

He says conditions in some of the temporary housing were deplorable. They were noisy, lacking in privacy, and filthy. Sometimes residents would prey on others, “the unaware and the weak,” he recalls.

So he came to prefer the street, rain or shine, winter or summer, even if that meant living in a chronic state of sleep deprivation. Life centred largely on where he’d stay during the night – and where he’d try to sleep in the day.

Sadly, many others in the city are familiar with this reality. Vancouver’s homeless population stands at 2,223 people, according to the City of Vancouver’s 2019 homeless survey.

Sam Gill, a Registered Nurse at St. Paul’s Hospital’s Rapid Access Addiction Clinic, speaks with a lot of unhoused people in the course of his work. “When people are sleeping rough, with housing insecurity, they’re living in constant survival mode,” he says.

Sam Gill works in the RAAC

Sam Gill, Clinical Nurse Leader, St. Paul’s RAAC

That accurately sums up Komperdo’s experience. “You basically don’t sleep when you’re homeless. You’re scared of being robbed, or assaulted, or molested,” he says. All those things happened to him.

The homeless sleep during the day when there’s a slightly improved measure of security, he says, explaining that is why so many without shelter sleep in public places during daylight. He would sleep in public parks in an attempt to fly under the radar. “It looked to other people like I was sun-tanning.”

Another coping mechanism was to ride on public transit for long stretches, from downtown Vancouver to Surrey, to try for some shut-eye. But he rarely got quality rest.

To cope with the exhaustion and stay awake, he would use stimulant drugs like cocaine and crystal methamphetamine, which would create health issues.

And among the homeless, health problems are at risk of being left untreated, says Gill. “Being homeless and chronically sleepy has far-reaching medical consequences, including becoming disengaged from the health-care system,” he says. “The need for sleep can be so overpowering that nothing else matters, like appointments with health care professionals. When you’re in that situation, how can you think of anything else except sleep?”

Eight months ago, Komperdo’s life took a major turn for the better when he got placed in modular housing in the city. He loves the privacy and cleanliness of his room, two things new to him.  He is grateful for the supports and services he can access through this housing, which he thinks is a great start in addressing this pressing issue of homelessness.

One suggestion he has, influenced by his time in shelters, is to encourage an even distribution of all types of tenants. “Integrate everyone, so the hard-to-house tenants fall in line with the rules and are civil and obedient. That could lead to some sense of normalcy.” It might help residents get a better quality of sleep, he adds.

Komperdo is telling his story in the hopes it moves policymakers to push forward new models of affordable housing for those who need it. He also hopes sharing his experience helps people understand that there is a human being under the sleeping bag in the park, with hopes and aspirations like everyone else. “Judgments have no place. Some of us do have brains but we’ve fallen on hard luck.”

Sam Gill echoes this. “You must have gone through a lot to sacrifice sleep for safety,” he says. “I know one thing from my clients: people don’t choose to sleep on a park bench.”



Long-Term Trends in HIV Mortality Show Prevalence of Underlying Infection

A recent analysis examined long-term trends in HIV-related mortality among individuals living with the disease in New York City, revealing that deaths associated with underlying infection remain prevalent.

The review, which was published in the Archives of Pathology and Laboratory, also demonstrated an increase in longevity of life for individuals living with HIV from 1984 to 2010, which is due to the development of combination antiviral drug therapies, according to the study. Researchers conducted a retrospective analysis of 252 autopsies in adult patients with AIDS or HIV infection.

At the start of the HIV epidemic in 1984, the average age of death in New York City from AIDS was 36 years. By 2010, the average age had risen to 54, according to the findings. Although the frequency of AIDS-defining opportunistic infections increased from 1984, associated deaths declined, the analysis showed.

The leading cause of death among individuals with HIV in New York City continues to be associated with infections, such as pneumocystis pneumonia in the lungs, which can even impact patients who are treated for HIV, according to the researchers. These infections accounted for 100% of deaths from 1984 to 1987, 52% between 1996 and 1999, and 86% from 2012 to 2016.

As individuals with HIV are able to live longer, they are more likely to develop common comorbidities, such as hepatitis C virus (HCV), that can also contribute to death. The researchers noted that three-quarters of individuals autopsied between 2014 and 2015 had HCV and cirrhosis; however, advances in HCV drug therapies are expected to mitigate this.

Of note, the analysis showed a sharp increase in atherosclerosis among individuals with HIV, which increased from 21% between 1988 and 1994 to 54% from 2008 to 2011; however, the researchers noted that this finding has yet to be explained.

“Autopsy reports reliably tell the whole disease story and why people are still dying from it,” Amy V. Rapkiewicz, MD, an associate professor in the Department of Pathology at NYU Langone and vice chair of pathology at NYU Winthrop Hospital, said in a press release. “That is because there is often a difference between the immediately reported cause of death, such as heart attack, and the actual cause of death, whether from obesity, drug use, or HIV and AIDS.”

The findings suggest that despite advances in treatment, individuals with HIV are still dying predominantly from the underlying disease and not just factors related to old age, Rapkiewicz stated.

The researchers cautioned that the analysis only reflects HIV trends in New York City and not on a national scale.


Chilliwack homeowners have own rainbow crosswalk painted as a show of respect

Dismayed by council decision not to ok rainbow crosswalk, local family decides to paint driveway


The freshly painted rainbow crosswalk on a private driveway in Chilliwack spans 38 feet in length.

“To me, diversity is important.”

That’s how Chilliwack homeowner Marty van den Bosch explained in a Facebook post why he and his wife, Kristy, decided to have a brightly coloured rainbow painted on their property.

A photo of the new rainbow from Sept. 7 received a whopping 750 likes and other emoji reactions, along with 131 shares.

“We have a large cross-section of people that live in our country, and in our city,” wrote van den Bosch. “Each and every one of us are different, often in many ways.”

They watched with dismay as city council quashed the rainbow crosswalk proposal in a 5-1 vote at city hall last week, he said.

Council took the vote without allowing the advocates to speak, despite a petition signed by more than 800 people, and 100 letters of support.

“I do my best to treat people based on their actions, and their words, not on things like their sexual orientation, race or any other attributes they were born with,” continued van den Bosch.

He’s not trying to change anyone’s mind, but said they felt it was important to show that the acceptance and inclusivity effort was worthy, and the rainbow advocates should have been given a chance to at least address council with hundreds of people supporting them.

“Look, I am a middle-aged and heterosexual male who has no investment in this, and at first when I heard about the effort to get a rainbow crosswalk approved, I was neither strongly for or against,” van den Bosch said.

But he changed his view since then.

“If it wasn’t contentious, then something like this wouldn’t be needed,” van den Bosch said. “This is not about getting attention.”

It comes down to respect.

“I support the belief that everyone should be treated with respect, regardless of our differences,” he said.

He offered thanks to painter Lorna Seip, manager of Two Girls On A Roll, for providing the labour to paint the crosswalk at no charge.

It didn’t cost much for the project materials, about $410 for all the supplies including paint, van den Bosch estimated.

“It can be done inexpensively,” he said about painting on private property.

Of course for a city crosswalk it would cost much more, to pay for flaggers, signage, cones and other costs.



GLOW Season 3 and the Evolution of Queer Storytelling

GLOW season 3 steps up and addresses the queer and LGBT issues of the ’80s that had been simmering in the background.

GLOW Season 3 Queer Storytelling


GLOW’s spectacular, infectiously energetic first season was surprisingly devoid of LGBTQ characters. Yet in the intervening seasons, it has cultivated queerness in its storytelling in a way that feels organic, honest, and in line with the show’s sensibility. One of the best ways it does this is by having several different queer characters at different points along their journey of understanding their own sexuality and how it relates to the rest of their identity. Season 3, in particular, has allowed for a level of complex visibility that still feels all too rare, even in the era of peak TV.

In GLOW season 1, Bash’s faithful butler/best friend Florian was the only recurring LGBTQ character. In GLOW season 2, he died off-screen of what was most assuredly (though never explicitly confirmed to be) AIDS. As Bash (Chris Lowell) struggled with his grief, there was a beautiful story created almost entirely in gesture, facial expression, and other unspoken, quiet moments that showed him tussling with not only the loss but also what his feelings meant about his own sexuality, the stigma of HIV/AIDS, and internalized homophobia.

The specter of it HIV/AIDS haunts the series as a whole, and no doubt plays a role in the way Bash enacts self-hatred and homophobia in how he reacts to Florian’s death, his eagerness to marry Rhonda (Kate Nash) to keep her in the country, and his reaction to realizing his own sexuality. It’s heartbreaking to watch this come to a head in season 3 as both he and Rhonda feel isolated and unwanted in their marriage. Even once Rhonda understands what’s going and tries to give Bash the latitude to experience sex with men, his own fear and internalized homophobia gets in the way, leading to him discriminatorily not hiring Bobby, treating everyone around him horribly, and eventually crying on Debbie’s lap.

Bash breaking down with Debbie (Betty Gilpin) and confessing that he doesn’t want to die is one of season 3’s most moving scenes. Debbie is a big enough person and his emotions so raw that she recognizes that even though he has treated her horribly, in that moment, she can be mad at him for other things and still be there for him as a human being going through something on another level. After watching Debbie fail to be there for Ruth when an executive tried to coerce her into sex last season, it’s a positive development for Debbie. When he says he doesn’t want to die, Bash means HIV/AIDS, but his end-of-season decision to use his wealth to run away from who he is and pretend to be straight in another city is a different kind of danger. He may not be able to see it yet, but with the season of self-destruction from a once-buoyant character, GLOW makes sure the audience can: denying his identity is killing Bash Howard.

It’s entirely possible that a wealthy cis man like Bash, even if he eventually comes to terms with being gay, might always strive for assimilation. His only association with being LGBTQ is death and stigma, which while a real and terrifying prospect, is a one-dimensional look at a wide and varied community that GLOW shows us glimpses of through other characters.


Unlike Bash, Yolanda (Shakira Berrera) is clearly entirely comfortable in her own skin and only opts to “pass” as straight when it’s a matter of safety or financial necessity. As a lower income woman of color, she has fewer options to escape the potentially deadly or otherwise violent consequences of queerness in the 80s, whether illness or hatred, whereas Bash’s privilege and class insulate him in some ways. Of course, nothing can protect him from the sadness of denying who he is or losing a dear friend, something I hope to see season 4 explore further.

Arthie’s self-exploration of her sexuality in season 2 was a subtle slow-burn, with roots that could be seen as far back as the first episode of the series, when she was transfixed by Debbie, and repeatedly caught staring. A straight audience might have read that as awe, or a testament to Debbie’s beauty, but when Bash responded similarly to Debbie, it was automatically read as sexual attraction. Did GLOW choose to reframe their perspective on these events, or was the queerness always there, simply overlooked by the hetero gaze? GLOW’s decision to reframe important moments featuring Arthie (Sunita Mani) and Bash to believably explore their sexual identity is a great example of not just adding queer characters, but queering the narrative itself.

The heterosexual point of view, and the male gaze in particular, is something GLOW engages with directly for its show-within-a-show. In season 2 when Bash suggested a wedding in the ring, Sam (Marc Maron) laughed back, “who are they gonna marry? Each other?” Yolanda showed an astute knowledge for how Sam works: as he has said since the very first episode, who gets hired depends on whose face and ass he likes, and she likes her job. Whether it’s stripping or wrestling, Yolanda knows that Sam and other straight men want to project their own desires and fantasies onto her, so she lets them, while still living her life how she wants to, shame free. In season 3, a version of this subtext became text when she flirted with men and elaborated to Arthie that, “someone needs to keep us safe.”

While the occasional invisibility of passing might sometimes keep Arthie and Yolanda safe, it does take a toll on their relationship. They break up due to Arthie’s fear around what it means to publicly and unapologetically label herself. It seems Arthie isn’t ashamed of her relationship with Yolanda, but she was more hesitant about the permanence and stigma a label might bring. Beyond that, there’s the reality that some people can’t pass or won’t want to, and passing won’t always keep anyone safe. The season ends with homophobic violence against the gay nightclub during the HIV/AIDS fundraiser, which serves as a wakeup call for everyone, but seems to hit Arthie especially hard.

Unlike the show they’re creating, GLOW doesn’t rely on a male gaze-y “girl-on-girl!” style of representation, instead opting for naturalistic sex scenes that move the story forward. Arthie and Yolanda actually have sex on screen, just like the heterosexual couples on the show, avoiding a longstanding trope of extreme on-screen chastity. Rumors of shows with maximum PDA levels or numbers of kisses for LGBTQ couples are fueled by the likes of Modern Family, to the point where it’s noticeable when a show like Schitt’s Creek breaks that mold and shows a natural amount of affection within a couple.

One of the highlights of GLOW’s season 3 is Bobby Barnes (Kevin Cahoon), a drag performer, played with great depth by Kevin Cahoon. With drag captivating the mainstream American zeitgeist right now, it’s easy to just add drag queens as mere set decoration. GLOW dances with this fact knowingly, one the one hand using Bobby to usher along Sheila and Debbie’s plots and spice up a lagging season with too little wrestling, which is a shallow form of inclusion to capitalize on a trend. On the other hand, the show engages directly with real life issues drag queens face and lampshades the frustrating reality of a bunch of straight women showing up to an underground drag ball for a good time, giving that excellent quip to Yolanda, a queer woman of color.

Bobby is visibly queer and as a result faces a higher degree of discrimination which keeps him from playing any of the main stages in Vegas, in spite of the obvious financial benefit he would bring to an investor, given his ability to pack a theater. In Bash’s case, internalized homophobia and a fear of “guilt by association” is the culprit. Bobby is still largely an auxiliary player and drag still feels more like a setting for the regular characters to play in, but I’m hopeful that he’ll be back next season and will continue to challenge Bash, the gorgeous ladies of wrestling, and the audience, to think more deeply about what they expect from him and why they feel entitled to it.

Author: Delia Harrington


Conversion Therapy Founder Comes Out Publicly as Gay After 20 Years of Leading Homophobic Program

McKrae Game
McKrae Game

McKrae Game, the man who founded one of the largest conversion therapy programs in the country and led the homophobic organization for 20 years, has come out as gay.

Back in 1999, Game, 51, started Truth Ministry, a faith-based conversion therapy program in South Carolina, which aims to suppress or completely change a person’s LGBTQ+ sexuality through counseling, interventions, or ministry. The organization was eventually rebranded and renamed as Hope for Wholeness in 2013.

Two decades after its founding, however, Game — who once vehemently preached that being gay would send someone to hell — has now come out as gay to the world.

His decision to go public with his truth comes a little over two years after he was abruptly fired from the organization that he spent a great deal of his life dedicated to. In those 20 years working for them, Game also wrestled with his true identity.

“I struggled more so trying to deny [my attraction to men] than being able to accept my attractions and say, ‘I am a gay man,’” he said in a recent interview with the Post and Courier. “I was a hot mess for 26 years and I have more peace now than I ever did.”

A spokesperson for Hope for Wholeness did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

His public announcement was a long time coming for Game, who received counseling when he was young in an attempt to overcome his attraction to men and who eventually married a woman to suppress his feelings.

“When I started truth ministry, I believed the gay community and the world was lying about homosexuality and this whole subject,” he told the outlet. “I felt like it was this big ruse and there was a lot of deceit. I was trying to tell the truth.”

“Now, I think its the complete opposite. I believe ex-gay ministry is a lie; conversion therapy is not just a lie, it’s very harmful,” he continued. “[Especially] when it takes it to the point of, ‘You need to change and here’s a curriculum, here’s how you do it, and you haven’t changed yet, keep at it, it’ll happen.’”

Born and raised in a Southern Baptist home in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Game always felt isolated from other boys his age and found a fascination with his sister’s clothes, according to the Post and Courier.

His classmates often picked on him, calling him “McGay” for his feminine qualities, leading Game to deny to himself and others he was attracted to men until he was 18.

McKrae Game

At 18, Game had his first intimate relationship with a man and started to embrace his sexuality by going out to gay bars and clubs, but his decision to do so led him to develop debilitating anxiety, insecurities, and mental breakdowns.

“I was having ongoing panic attacks, and I had never experienced that before,” Game told the outlet. “Emotionally, I was freaking out. I was crying. I was internally pained.”

“My brain was telling me, ‘You’re going in the wrong direction,’” he recalled. “But my body was telling me otherwise.”

He eventually sought out help through his faith and his mother introduced him to a counselor who claimed that he could rid him of his attraction to men and determine why he felt this way, going so far as to suggest his dad had not been invested enough in him as a child.

In 1996, Game married his wife Julie — whom he met at church — but he remained attracted to men, which he says he was honest about in his marriage. On several occasions, he was caught watching gay pornography and even admitted to having an affair with a man.

Game then went on a retreat for people who were gay and didn’t want to be, led by a group named Exodus, who eventually backed an offshoot he named Hope for Wholeness in Spartanburg.

The organization has since been attended by thousands of people around the area.

Beyond those numbers, nearly 700,000 LGBTQ+ members in the U.S. have undergone conversion therapy treatments or counseling, according to a 2018 study by UCLA’s Williams Institute.

“Early in my years, I used to get a lot of death threats … a lot of hate mail on a constant, continuous basis,” he told the Post and Courier. “At the time, I took a level of satisfaction that I was getting all this hate mail, it was kinda proving like I was doing the right thing.”

But Game said those hurtful words “eventually had an effect” on him that caused him to believe he should “back off.”

And so he finally did. In 2017, Game officially cut ties with Hope for Wholeness and this past June, came out publicly as gay. In the time since that day, Game said he has struggled to come to terms with the pain he has caused so many.

“I was a religious zealot that hurt people,” Game explained to the outlet. “People said they attempted suicide over me and the things I said to them. People, I know, are in therapy because of me. Why would I want that to continue?”

Game is also struggling with his desire to advocate for a community that he once swore so heavily against but is hoping that by now speaking out, he can prevent this from happening again.

“So much of it is trying to change people and fix people. It’s a lie and we have harmed generations of people,” he said. “We’ve done wrong, we need to admit our wrongs, and do what we can do to stop the wrong from continuing to happen.”



Indigenous, two-spirit couple from Alberta wins The Amazing Race Canada


Amazing Race Canada contestants Anthony Johnson, left, and Dr. James Makokis, Team Ahkameyimok, are photographed in Toronto, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

TORONTO — Anthony Johnson and James Makokis hoped being the first Indigenous, two-spirit couple to compete on The Amazing Race Canada would give them a national platform to highlight issues close to their hearts.

Over weeks of intense challenges that saw them criss-cross the country, the pair donned outfits meant to call attention to specific topics: handmade red skirts and a bandana for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, blue shirts emblazoned with “Water Is Life” to show the cultural and ceremonial importance of water.

Now that they’ve been crowned the winners, the married couple — who identify as two-spirit, a term used by some Indigenous peoples to describe their gender, sexual and spiritual identity — said they want to use their fame to continue fundraising for a cultural healing centre in Alberta’s Kehewin Cree Nation.

But first, they want to celebrate their groundbreaking victory, get some sleep and maybe go on vacation, they said Tuesday in an interview just hours before the show’s finale was set to air.

“We want a week on the beach somewhere hot because we had no summer. We need a tan,” Makokis said with a laugh.

The show’s seventh season, which hit the airwaves in July but was filmed earlier this year, started in Toronto and ended in central Ontario’s Muskoka region. Each episode saw the teams face off in challenges, such as a mock press conference or a game of sledge hockey.

Makokis, a family physician originally from the Saddle Creek Cree Nation in Alberta, and Johnson, a project consultant born in Arizona’s Navajo Nation, said it was important for them to use the spotlight to raise awareness.

“Representing missing and murdered Indigenous women was important because it happens, it happens and people don’t talk about it,” Johnson said.

Many Indigenous communities were matriarchal before colonization and the couple felt it was important to show support for the women leaders in their community, Makokis added.

They also wanted to show two-spirit and transgender youth “that it’s OK to be different,” he said.

“If there’s two guys wearing a dress, they want to express their identity differently than the norm, then why does that matter? How is it hurting somebody else?” Makokis said.

“Because I have a large transgender population in my medical practice and I see the results of social isolation, it sends a strong message when their doctor is saying that…and we wanted to do that, we thought it was really important.”

Some moments were particularly emotional for the pair, including a challenge that Makokis said stirred up intergenerational trauma and led him to tears.

While Makokis did not go to a residential school, many others in his family did, including his father, who was the first to later attend an integrated school with French-speaking children, he said. Every day, his father faced slurs and violence, and Makokis said a challenge in which he was forced to speak French brought up those family memories.

Other moments stood out for more pleasant reasons. While racing to get on a plane in Kamloops, B.C., the two — who were wearing their red skirts — made eye contact with an Indigenous baggage handler, who broke into a huge smile, Johnson recalled.

When the race brought them to Calgary Pride, they saw someone from the Blackfoot Nation had made dolls of them, a sign of honour, he said.

The pair said they have received many personal messages from viewers happy to see more diversity in television. “That was one of the main reasons why we chose to go on the show is to demonstrate that publicly,” said Makokis.

The fact that their participation has attracted so much attention suggests more can be done to ensure a broader representation of voices in media, he said, noting they are the second Indigenous couple to compete in the show.

The couple has faced some criticism for their advocacy on the show, however, with some accusing them of making the program too political.

The fact is, who they are is political by nature, Johnson said. “By being a queer person, by being a person of colour, by being an American-Canadian couple…”

“…By being Indigenous born with an Indian status number…” Makokis added.

“…By default your existence is political and so we’re not doing anything different that what we do in our lives on a daily basis,” Johnson continued.

“So any naysayers, I’m happy, because that means they’re being educated, that means they’re being exposed, that means they’re listening to something that we have to say and whether or not they agree with it is not my concern.”

The win comes with a $250,000 prize, a trip for two around the world, and two new vehicles.

Author: Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press


Indigenous, two-spirit couple from Alberta wins The Amazing Race Canada