Garden State Equality Action Fund Releases 2022 Election Endorsements

Today, Garden State Equality Action Fund released its list of endorsed candidates for the upcoming 2022 elections. Each election cycle, we endorse candidates based on their support for our mission of lifting up the diverse voices of LGBTQ+ communities to advance the movement for equality in New Jersey.

Educators for Equality: Reminding our Educators We Have Their Back

Damien Alan Lopez, Project Manager & Trainer

It’s back to school time and educators are navigating back to their districts. As a result, we are seeing an increase in needs assessments regarding the LGBTQ+ curriculum mandate and more. Board of Education meetings have turned into a battleground where we have to continue to advocate for our students when they are facing constant bullying and backlash with no support. The inclusive curriculum mandate has become highly politicized, with misinformation campaigns to sweep the state and causing parents to mistrust what is being taught.

The Inclusive curriculum mandate is exactly what it says in the name: inclusion. It allows for all students to see themselves reflected in what they are taught. It is just as important as Black boys seeing Black Panther, Black girls seeing Ariel, and LGBTQ+ families seeing Peppa Pig and Heartstopper. We often underestimate the power of visibility and representation. Research shows that rates of bullying and ideations of self-harm drastically decrease for students who see themselves reflected in their curriculum.

We urge educators to join our Educators for Equality network, brought to you by Garden State Equality and Make it Better for Youth. This is a social network of over 500+ LGBTQ+ and allied educators across NJ where we offer resources for navigating topics like book bannings, the curriculum mandate, social justice talks, and law and public policy. We know as educators right now, things can be overwhelming. Garden State Equality just wants to remind you that we have your back and can offer the support you need, with a whole community that supports you.

Kiss & Tell Workshop: The Continued Work around HIV/AIDS in New Jersey

Aleyah Lopez, 2021–2022 Fellow

On September 28, Garden State Equality partook in a workshop called Kiss & Tell. This workshop involved the facilitation of an educational group discussion that highlighted key topics such as partner communication styles, HIV risk reduction, HIV 101, a condom demonstration, and prevention via PrEP/PEP (which is free from most providers). The ultimate purpose was to offer empowerment via knowledge, improve access to vital healthcare resources in our community, and to increase the number of participants who know their HIV status.

Garden State Equality was honored to be a part of this workshop, as having HIV decriminalized in New Jersey back in January was only the beginning of the work that needs to be done. Continuing to be informed, breaking down stigma and barriers, and learning ways to keep our community members safe are steps we will continue to take as an organization. The timing of this workshop was perfect, as two of our team members will be attending the United States Conference on HIV/AIDS in San Juan, Puerto Rico this October.

If you, your organization, or your workplace are interested in partaking in the Kiss & Tell Workshop, please contact Prince Johnson:

Understanding Erectile Disorder

Jahmila Smith, Project Manager & Trainer

Erectile dysfunction, also known as erectile disorder (ED), is a common experience which can impact those who identify as cisgender and transgender. ED occurs when a person is unable to have or maintain an erection. It is important to highlight and discuss this topic, which is common but often under-discussed due to shame and stigma.

Sexual health impacts one’s psychological, social, and mental wellbeing and self esteem. ED can be linked to and stem from physiological and medical issues like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, nerve injury, high blood pressure, kidney disease and more. Stress and external factors like hormones, lifestyle, medications, and mental health can also impact those experiencing ED. Psychological distress is a major influence, and those who may be or are experiencing ED can commonly report feelings of stress, low self-confidence, anxiety, and relationship issues and concerns.

For diagnosis, it is recommended to be evaluated for any physical or psychological causes that could be resulting in ED. ED usually occurs within older people. Studies have shown that ED affects approximately 40% of men by age 40 and nearly 70% of men at age 70. The prevalence of complete ED increased from 5% at age 40 to 15% at age 70.

After ruling out underlying causes, practitioners may recommend medications and other assistive devices to aid in functioning. Minimally invasive surgeries and injection therapy are also options for more severe cases. Other holistic self-care practices can also be used to manage or treat patients living with ED, such as dietary and lifestyle changes, weight management, and cardiovascular exercise. Reducing lifestyle behaviors like smoking and drinking can also reduce ED symptoms.

ED can affect gay men differently from straight men. ED’s impact can include increased stress around disclosing and sharing with their provider about potential ED because of increased fear of homophobia, discrimination, and bias. Reducing the stigma of ED is one of the ways others can feel encouraged and supported in seeking treatment if this is affecting them. Health topics like these are why Garden State Equality works to promote LGBTQ+ health equity and continued learning about topics that can affect all people in our community.

Overdose, Enough

Deidre Belinfanti, Project Manager & Trainer

Oftentimes, those who suffer from addiction are shamed and looked down upon. However, those who suffer from addiction are often battling trauma, so it is apparent that there is great need for healing. Addiction is not limited by age, ethnicity, or sexuality. In honor of International Overdose Awareness Month in August, Triumphant Life, Prevention Coalition of Monmouth County, and Preferred Behavioral Health held their first annual Recovery Fest to deliver healing to New Jersey.

The Recovery Fest was a two-part series. On its final day, Garden State Equality attended as a resource vendor alongside 15 other recovery networks, rehabilitation services, and health care representatives. We provided resources on tobacco prevention, cessation tools, and recovery services provided by our local quit centers.

Learning sessions were held throughout the day, beginning with a one-mile walk of remembrance. Workshops topics included family addiction, the impact of stigma, and navigating legal systems. Russell Dawson, outreach supervisor of Monmouth County Psychiatric Emergency Screening Services (PESS), Brian McGillivray, facility director at NJ Reentry, and Stephen Willis, co-founder of HOPE Sheds Light, shared details about their programs and their accessibility to the community and providers alike. As I attended these sessions, I was enlightened with new ideas, information, and strategies around meeting the needs of all of our community members.

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