Learn Your L, G, B’s

By Madeleine Clow

As a lesbian, I am a part of the LGBTQIA+ community, but there are micro-aggressions that I face as a lesbian woman that are different than those against each “letter” in the LGBTQIA+ community. I have lived as an out lesbian woman for the past four years, and previously identified as bisexual, as well as pansexual in my teenage years.

How can you know you are a lesbian for sure if you identified as those sexual orientations previously? How can you have identified as pansexual and bisexual in the past if you identify as lesbian now? The answer to both of these questions is that

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A variation of the Lesbian flag

sexuality is fluid, in that it is a spectrum and each individual falls on the spectrum of who they are attracted to. Who you are attracted to can change because people change; you are constantly growing. However, when you do find a label to identify with and that you find pride in, it is important to express that to the world. Continue reading “Learn Your L, G, B’s”

Intrauterine devices for all (in Colorado)

Two different types of Intrauterine Device (IUD), copper and hormonal, such as Mirena or Skyla.
Two different types of Intrauterine Device (IUD), copper and hormonal, such as Mirena or Skyla.
https://freestocks.org/search/birth+control+IUD+?cat=0

I have always wondered why birth control pills were the “easier” choice for women compared to other forms of contraceptives. In high school, I tried birth control pills and in college I attempted to wear the birth control patches, but all of these methods impacted my health and emotions. For some reason I am unable to handle synthetic hormones, so taking the pill is very harmful on my body. I looked into the copper IUD and decided that this was my best choice, but it is something that was never an option when I talked to doctors about my situation. Ever since I got my IUD inserted, I have been in the mindset that so many others would benefit from a copper IUD rather than relying on everyday birth control pills. My copper IUD is viable for the next ten years, I can literally leave it in until I am thirty-one years old. 

I came across a tweet about the state of Colorado’s choice to provide IUDs to teens and women in low-income situations. I researched it some more, and what they are doing is amazing and show advancement in the way we think about women’s reproductive health. The headlines about this topic read, “State IUD program leads to decline in pregnancies, abortions,” “Colorado teen pregnancies dropped 20 percent near these clinics,” they have seriously found a way to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies without sacrificing the rights of the women involved. 

The article titled, “IUD program leads to big decline in teen pregnancies, abortions in Colorado,” written by Jennifer Brown explained the basis behind the decision to provide teens with this option. Brown wrote, “Thanks to a grant from billionaire Warren Buffett’s family, Colorado spent $28 million during eight years supplying IUDs to 75 public health clinics throughout the state, several based inside high schools. From 2009 to 2016, the program provided 43,713 contraceptive implants to women.”

Their plan is simple, they provide teens and young women with free IUDs and $1 per pack birth control pills. Before this program, an IUD would cost someone around $350 to have it inserted, now women are given the option to have it put in for free. These are long-term contraceptives that allow women the choice to not get pregnant before their desired time, and they don’t have to stress about taking a pill every day. Colorado also has laws that allow teens under the age of eighteen to receive these IUDs and birth control without parental consent, so they are reaching a large group of women who probably would not have had access prior to these advancements. 

The results of this decision are so positive and have actually saved the state money, not to mention, prevented many young women from having an unwanted pregnancy. Colorado’s teen birth rate fell 54% and the teen abortion rate declined 64% within the past eight years. These women are being spared from having unwanted pregnancies, as well as not having to go through an abortion. The article stated that this program has saved the state of Colorado roughly $70 million dollars “for labor and delivery, well-baby check-ups, food stamps and child-care assistance because of fewer births to teen moms.”

This advancement in women’s reproductive health has been one of the best state decisions I’ve personally seen. In the news, I see articles about people against abortion, for abortion, articles glamorizing teen pregnancy, bashing teen pregnancy, which is all unhelpful in the scheme of a woman’s life. Providing teens with these long-term contraceptives eliminates all of the unwarranted opinions about a woman’s body and reproductive choices. They are provided with a free option to not have an unintended pregnancy, therefore putting their future in their own hands. 

This originally caught my interest first because I am a huge supporter of IUDs, but also because the funding was about to run out for the program. Brown commented on the current standing of the program, “The eight-year grant is gone, but Colorado lawmakers increased funding for the family planning program by $2.5 million per year, up to $4.1 million. Also, Colorado health clinics have received more Medicaid funding because of the Affordable Care Act, which expanded eligibility for government insurance for low-income residents. Medicaid reimbursements to the 75 clinics have risen from $500,000 to about $5 million annually.” So, it seems like this program is here to stay which is a huge benefit to teens in the future. 

Colorado can be a model for other states, they provide teens with the tools to make a conscious choice about their reproductive health at no cost. They are allowing teens to be teens and not have to worry about taking a pill every day. IUDs provide a sense of freedom that is unmatched to other forms of birth control. Hopefully this will show other communities that there are more avenues to take instead of cutting off options for women. 

 

 

 

 

 

How Easy is it to Get a Hysterectomy?

Picture of a drawn reproductive system with flowers growing out of it.
A Female Reproductive System. Image taken from: Shuttershock

By Katrina Arellano

When it comes to the bodily autonomy of someone with a female reproductive system, there are certain hoops they have to go through in order to obtain certain medical procedures, such as sterilization. There are various reasons as to why a person would want to undergo the varying kinds such as a hysterectomy or tubal ligation, like not wanting children, being a transgender man, cancer and/or to escape a painful uterine condition. Regardless of why people want to have these procedures, it seems the journey is profoundly long. People under 35 do not typically have a hysterectomy, and while there is no strict minimum age for people to be in order to have the procedure, depending on the insurance and the opinion of medical professionals, people under 35 are not usually accepted. For example, people who utilize Medicaid and seek sterilization for non-medical reasons will not be covered. Since it is federally funded, people who do have serious medical conditions are inclined to wait 30 days between signing the consent form and having the procedure. While private insurance is more willing to help cover the cost of hysterectomies, I talked with a couple of people who said their private insurance will not help cover it despite immense suffering. Even for having private insurance, my dear friend Anai Bell, 23, insurance provider will not help cover the cost of a hysterectomy and despite have undergone alternate procedures, she said. “I’ve been fighting to get one due to my endo and adeno and I can’t until I have at least 3 children.”

Three examples of what parts portraying where a partial, total, and radical hysterectomy take place. Partial is is removal of the uterus, total is the removal of the uterus and some of the vaginal canal and radical is the removal of uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries.
Three of the 5 different types of a hysterectomy. Image taken from: Shuttershock

My old friend Zade Coronado, 27, was rejected by a surgeon who said she was not comfortable performing the surgery because even though he is transgender he could still want children of his own later. Zade switched providers, went through a series of counseling, signed a waiver stating he does not want children, and then was approved for a hysterectomy. He said, “This surgery was one of the most important surgeries… I was at higher risk for ovarian cancer because of the hormone treatments I am on.” He even mentioned how the surgeon and staff of St. Luke’s took very good care of him and were all around professional of the whole situation. Hearing of Zade’s experience as a transman was very interesting because I think it reflects a progressive world of doctors accepting dysphoria. On the other hand, it makes me question the lack of opportunity for young women to go about doing something they also feel is the answer to their discomfort. Of course, it is a good idea to thoroughly think about the risks when it comes to any procedure, for there are always side effects no matter the severity, but I also believe it’s important to respect someone’s choice to do whatever they want with their body. If someone is physically suffering for years and keeps going through the pain of trying to have a child, then why make them go through that because of that small chance they may have a child later? I asked Anai if she thought this reflected an internal bias and she said, “Yes and no. Goes back to really understating the circumstances of having a hysterectomy. Many people think it’s due to the ability to have children, but it goes more in-depth like how it affects your body and your mental well being.” I think the backlash emanates from a patriarchal stand point as well as a lack of understanding the mental and physical pain people go through at the hands of their uterus.

Hysterectomies are considered a last resort for all people considering or seeking one because of how invasive these procedures are, as well as the potential mental or physical side effects that could develop afterwards. Because of the potential physical and mental risks of undergoing sterilization, doctors try to encourage patients to seek other avenues that may not be as invasive, especially if someone is under 35. People who want a hysterectomy or their tubes tied are denied for these risks, but I think it’s deeper than wanting patients to be safe. The main reason people with or without serious medical issues are denied appears to be because of the notion of regret that might come later, for that person may want children in the future. My dear friend Jean Kel, 24, explained how some of her female family members are sterile, but have become pregnant and end up miscarrying and she believes she is the same way. She said, “I miscarried twice in my life, both times at 2 months in. The second time caused me to have my first ever seizure from losing so much blood. It was so traumatizing and hormonally I was a mess.” Jean is not alone in her experience of excruciating mental and physical pain of trying to go through a pregnancy, miscarrying, and then having her doctors still deny her sterilization. The collective of stories make me think of how much weight is put on people to have children of their own. It’s as if people and doctors do not want to accept that people, let alone women, are confident in their decisions to not want to conceive.

Jean Kel smiling behind a yellow sunflower in a bed of green shrub.

“I don’t want to conceive, I’d rather adopt. My periods are painful and heavy, and I don’t understand why I should have to go through this when I’m not trying to be pregnant. They always say, “you’re so young, what if you change your mind?” That’s okay but I don’t think I will. I know I won’t, actually. And I hate that I can’t just request it. I don’t understand why the government and medical industry has say over me and my tubes!”

Jean has not been diagnosed due to her financial situation, but hearing her experience alone is enough for me to believe something is wrong and she knows she wants/needs medical attention.

The National Women’s Health Network believes all other options should be exhausted before someone undergoes a hysterectomy, which is understandable, but how long must we make people suffer because of what could or could not happen? Even for all the backlash people hear and may continue to go through for their choice to undergo a hysterectomy, what ultimately matters is doctors listen to their patients’ concerns, doing the best they can without bias, and that the person undergoing the procedure is happy. Everyone’s relationship to their uterus is different and Allie Niemiec of HuffPost was glad to go through a hysterectomy. She wrote a piece on her mental and physical strain before she made it to the surgery table and she shared some powerful words that may help others who are struggling with what may feel like loss, “I want everyone to know I had a hysterectomy, and I am still just as much of a woman as I was before.”

Decriminalize Sex Work

By Madeleine Clow

Sex work has remained a prevalent part of our society’s culture, but has been stigmatized to remain on the fringes of our society as “criminalized prostitution.” Sex workers prefer the label of “sex worker” over prostitute, because it legitimizes that the sex work is indeed work. Whereas, “prostitution” has the stigmatization of dehumanization which leads to sex workers’ being criminalized and not receiving

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Sex Worker Rally in NYC (Courtesy of theintercept.com)

health, legal, and social services. The criminalization of sex work prohibits the sale and purchase of sexual services as well as management of these services. Criminalization decreases sex workers’ ability to report human rights violations due to fear of incarceration, where they face violence from police. Sex workers are also unable to effectively communicate with each other or their clients, and even fearing carrying contraceptives on the street, due to facing incarceration or violence by the police.

 

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Sex Worker Rally in NYC (Courtesy of npr.org)

Why should sex work be decriminalized? Sex work is the right to your own personal autonomy of how you wish to exchange consensual sexual services. The government should not be able to tell you when and how, you as an adult, want to partake in consensual sex. It is also a myth that decriminalized sex work will raise the rates of sex trafficking. Sex trafficking is a part of sex work whether it is legal or not. Illegal sex workers are the most at risk of being sex trafficked compared to the general population. Continue reading “Decriminalize Sex Work”

African American Women Have the Highest Pregnancy Related Morality Rate

Katrina Arellano

Going through a pregnancy is one of the hardest things a woman could go through, and depending on many factors, the process of giving birth can go on for 20 hours or more. The risks of pregnancy entail some things such as infections, gestational diabetes and even death. The 2019 data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports how women of color such as African-American, Native American, and Alaskan Native women are more likely to die of these pregnancy related issues in comparison to white women.

Continue reading “African American Women Have the Highest Pregnancy Related Morality Rate”

Women as Minorities in the Music Industry

By Katrina Arellano 

Music is something most of us can really connect with and bond over. Sharing our feelings and experiences through lyrics and sounds is an art form people have been actively taking part in for centuries, but women in the spotlight as producers are not heard of as often as male producers. There is a gender gap in the tech side of the music industry, which reflects how women make up only 5-7% of audio engineers and producers. Beyond the tech, the music industry are very low in comparison to their male counterparts. According to a study done by the researchers from USC Annenberg, women make up 21.7% of artists, 12.3% of songwriters, and only 2.1% of producers, which makes for a ratio of 47 men to 1 woman producing music. This interesting study also discovered how from 2013-2019, only 10.4% of Grammy nominees were female, while 89.6% were male. They brought s of a male dominated space through the experience of 75 females in songwriting and producing positions. 43% said their skills were discounted and 28% said they were dismissed. 39% said they were stereotyped and sexualized, which further instills this notion that women are only seen as one thing, something to look at vs someone to be listened to, let alone handle and distribute the logistics of making music.

Continue reading “Women as Minorities in the Music Industry”

China’s Ethnic Cleansing of Uighurs

By Madeleine Clow

You may have never heard of Uighurs, their religion, or where they live. I hadn’t until I saw a video from Now This, while scrolling on the internet. The video was of a woman explaining the stories that she had heard from loved ones who had survived these detention camps that the Uighurs are being detained in. It was only four minutes long, and I had learned about an extreme mass human rights violation that was currently occurring halfway across the world. How was no one talking about this? Did people know about this? Was it intentionally not being reporting on?

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Headline from Uighur News aljazeera

Let’s start with who Uighurs are. Uighurs, also spelled; Uyghurs, Uigurs or Uygurs, speak Turkic, and are commonly Muslim. They live in the interior of Central East Asia. They are a Turkic minority ethnic group that originates culturally from, generally, the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in the northwestern part of the People’s Republic of China. Other, Muslim minorities including Kazakhs and Uzbeks also inhabit the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region and the Central Asian republics. More than 10,000,000 Uighurs lived in China, and at least 300,000 more in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan in the beginning of the twenty-first century. Although,Xinjiang only represents two percent of the Chinese population, it accounts for twenty-one percent of all their arrests two years ago, and has only grown. Since April of 2017, between 800,000 and 2,000,000 Uighurs, Kazakhs and Uzbeks have been detained by the Chinese government.

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China’s Repression of Uighurs in Xinjiang

Where are these millions of Turkic minorities being held? The Chinese government has worked hard to keep their existence a secret. They have created detention camps disguised as religious and political reformation schools. Most of the people they have arrested have been charged with crimes that have no legal evidence backing them. They are arrested for contacting people from and visiting the countries China considers “sensitive,” like Turkey and Afghanistan, attending Mosques, and having any affiliation with the Quran. The government has hidden their torturous practices by handpicking who sees these places. An anonymous visitor took a video of some of the torturous activities that occur within the camps. Watch here: https://youtu.be/inmP0LvZEhY

However, if a country is suspicious of China’s genocidal acts towards Uighurs and other minorities, then China threatens to cut off ties of peaceful trade and commerce. Once, a group of countries came together at the United Nations to address the mass genocide happening in Xinjiang. In Switzerland, this year at the UN Human Rights Council, around

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Headline from Uighur News aljazeera

 twenty-four Western countries, and Japan, created a call to action on China to close the detention camps in Xinjiang. China rebutted their call by banding together thirty-seven of their allies praising China’s, “contributions to the international human rights cause.” China’s state councilor and foreign minister, Wang Yi stated, “There has not been a single case of violent terrorism in the past three years,” when defending China at the UN summit. “The education and training centers are schools that help the people free themselves from terrorism and extremism and acquire useful skills.”

Nothing been done at an international level to address the mass genocide of these Turkic minorities. But, nothing has been done for decades. China has been slowly attempting to

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Headline from Uighur News aljazeera

enact a cultural genocide against Uighurs by targeting Uighur women. The Uighurs, Kazakhs and Uzbeks contained in the detention camps which are around, one and a half million. Only twenty-seven percent of those detained are women. Within the camps, women are sexually assaulted and medicated without consent. “Gulbahar Jelilova, a businesswoman and another Uighur internment victim who was held in a cell with 40 other women, also stated that female inmates were injected weekly with a substance that stopped their periods,” reported in an article for the Washington Post. The forced sterilization of women is one of the first steps towards cultural genocide along with mass genocide. “Sayragul Sauytbay, an ethnic Kazakh who was forced to work in one of the women’s camps in Xinjiang, told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that every evening, the guards would take the pretty inmates with them, returning them in the morning. She also saw incidents of gang rape, including of one female inmate while other inmates were forced to watch.” Women in prisoner contexts, throughout history, have been routinely taken advantage of sexually to the point of dehumanization. The sexual assaults and forced sterilization against Uighur women is inhumane.

 

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Headline from Uighur News aljazeera

Not only does the Chinese government take their fertility from Uighur women, they also take their children. Uighur children are taken from their families at young ages to be raised by the Chinese government in boarding schools to be raised in the communist party of China. An expert on gender studies, Leta Hong Fincher, noted “the government has offered incentives for Uighur couples to have fewer children and for Uighur women to marry outside of their race. A large number of Uighur children have also been removed from their families and placed in boarding schools, according to a recent report, leaving the Chinese state to raise them.”

 

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Headline from Uighur News aljazeera

As the situation in Xinjiang continues to escalate, it is important to think about what we can do. Educate others around you about the issue and the atrocities the Chinese government are committing against Uighurs and other Turkic minorities. Speak out to your local government representatives or even nationally. Ask them what they plan on doing to address what is happening. Stop buying products from China, in solidarity with the mistreatment of Uighurs. Continue to stay updated, this is an international crisis that will only be addressed when we call it out.