Sep 23

Sep 22

Sep 21

YPC It’s the Network (for Change)

Police raids on gay and lesbian bars are no longer the status quo. A “beard” of the opposite sex isn’t a prerequisite for a worry-free night out on the town. Bars are no longer the only businesses that welcome LGBT people. In short, many of the outrageous challenges that spurred a generation of LGBT trailblazers into action are no longer factors.

It’s a very different world today. The freedom to marry has reached six states and many others (including California) recognize same-sex relationships in some way. A majority of Americans now say they know someone who is gay or lesbian. The military actually welcomes recruits who are gay, lesbian and bisexual.

Having made such great strides, it’s easy to understand how today’s LGBT youth could easily be overtaken with apathy. Instead, many talented, dedicated young people are investing tremendous time and energy as leaders of the LGBT movement.

One example: the Center’s Young Professionals Council (YPC), a group of dedicated volunteers under the age of 40 who give their time and money not only to support the Center but to encourage their peers to engage in the fight for full equality and to support the Center financially or as volunteers.

“I think we’ve learned a lot from earlier generations of LGBT people who faced different social views, challenges and struggles,” says Sabrina Beldner, 34, chair of the YPC’s membership development and retention committee. “Being involved with the Center, you learn how to take that knowledge, put it into action and make a real difference.”

Unwavering Dedication In order to ensure a healthy future for the Center, its leaders knew that having a strong, dedicated base of young supporters is key. The commitment of these young leaders is clear.

Every YPC member pledges to give at least $500/year and raise an additional $1,000 (most raise and give considerably more). They each serve on at least one of three committees (Fundraising; Promotions & Outreach; Membership Development & Retention). And many volunteer for Center programs above and beyond the time they give to the YPC.

“From the very beginning, the commitment to the Center and our community by YPC members has surpassed our expectations,” says Center Chief Public Affairs Officer Jim Key, one of the staff liaisons to the YPC. “I figured most of the founding members—all of whom were referred to us by people close to the Center—would want to help in some way, but none of us expected the group to develop such a formal structure, to commit so much of their time to the Center, and to be as wildly successful as they’ve been.” That success includes raising more than $680,000 ($343,000 of that in 2011 alone!) to support Center services through events such as PoolWatch and the YPC Beach Volleyball Classic. These popular events raise much-needed funds while promoting awareness of Center services—not just to potential supporters and volunteers but to people who can benefit from Center programs.

YPC members play an important role in making not just the YPC’s fundraising and outreach events so successful, but all Center events. Members of the YPC have volunteered at the Senior Prom and at the Models of Pride youth conference, and many have served on committees for fundraising events such as the anniversary gala, “An Evening with Women,” Simply diVine and Life Out Loud.

And this year YPC chair Ed Campbell, 32, pedaled from San Francisco to L.A. with AIDS/LifeCycle.

A Deep Impact

In just six years, the YPC has become a vital part of the Center. But its impact doesn’t stop there. It serves as a fertile training ground for powerhouse activists who leave an indelible mark on the world.

For example, the YPC has served as a model for similar groups that support other organizations, including the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center of New York and the San Diego LGBT Community Center.

“When we were in the process of setting up our YPC, we spoke with representatives from several other centers about their experiences,” says Amber Cyphers Stephens, Director of Communications for the San Diego center. “The chair of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center’s YPC was particularly helpful, offering us insight into issues such as structure and focus. That invaluable advice made our startup experience much smoother than it might have been.”

One former chair of the Center’s YPC was instrumental in helping establish a similar group, the Young Leaders Council (YLC), to support the New York LGBT Center. In fact, NY Center Executive Director Glennda Testone says the bylaws developed by the YPC served as the basis for the rules and structure that were adopted by the YLC.

Changing Lives

Like the Center itself, the YPC is dedicated to helping LGBT people and to fighting for LGBT equality. It touches the lives of countless LGBT people—including the lives of the extraordinary young people who form the group.

“Too often, young people feel overlooked or that our voices are not heard,” says YPC chair Campbell. “Many lack a sense of ownership and understanding of our place in the community as a whole. Actively participating and making a positive impact on the lives of LGBT people gives us that sense of ownership; it provides us with that understanding of our place in the community; and ultimately makes us aware of the impact our actions have on those around us.”

Sep 20

Upcoming LifeWorks Events

LifeIn – an Open House for people to come and learn about LifeWorks including screening of our new OutSet Shorts, a performance by our Outside Voices Chorus, a demonstration by our Mixed martial arts program and a performance by our new DanceWerkz program. 


Saturday, April 27
11am-2pm
The Village at Ed Gould Plaza
1125 N McCadden Place
Los Angeles 90038

LGBT Youth Scholarship Awards Night – Our $62,500 will be awarded plus another $15K from other organizations. Courtyard Reception at 6:30p with Awards at 7:30pm.


Wednesday, May 22 
6:30 – 9pm 
The Village at Ed Gould Plaza
1125 N McCadden Place
Los Angeles 90038

Sep 19

THEY’RE THE KIDS IN AMERICA

By Gil Diaz

“I cried every time I went to school. I thought they would kill me one day.”

Since coming out as transgender in seventh grade, Nichole* was bullied and assaulted so frequently by classmates that she tried—twice—to end the pain by killing herself.

“I was punched. I was spit on,” she recalls. “Even my teachers were rude to me. They would throw me out of class just for wearing eyeliner or skinny jeans.”

Naturally, the painful experiences did more than hurt Nichole emotionally and spiritually: They began to affect her studies and grades. But then she learned from a substitute teacher about a public charter school program, operated in partnership with the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, just for LGBT students and their allies.

Known as Opportunities for Learning (OFL), the charter school program offers students the opportunity to learn in small groups and at their own pace. And, of course, none of the students enrolled in the program who meet at the Center’s Village at Ed Gould Plaza ever have to worry about bullying.

HUMBLE START

OFL, headquartered in Pasadena, was founded in 1999 with a mission of “academic and social recovery” and the motto “Mutual Trust, Mutual Respect, Compassion and Integrity.” It’s a fully accredited public school program for students ranging from 7th to 12th grade, and graduates earn a diploma equivalent to the diploma from any other public high school.

“This is a safe space for LGBT students to continue their learning,” says the Center’s Life-Works Program Director Michael Ferrera, who oversees the Center’s OFL program. “They come to us struggling in their lives and studies, but they leave here stabilized.”

Launched in January 2010 with one teacher and two students, the Center’s OFL program now has more than a dozen students who fill the classrooms when they’re on “campus,” twice each week, to check in with their teacher.

“This school has a special place in my heart,” says Molly Sirchur, the program’s first teacher who still works there. “I believe in its mission and the idea that everybody deserves to feel safe while pursuing their education. The students’ successes are momentous because a lot of them have been through quite a journey in their lives before getting here.”

Before enrolling at the Center, 17-year-old Thomas was attending school in Little Rock, Ark., where he was accompanied by two security guards every day. The Board of Education mandated the use of the guards after he got beaten up by a group of classmates when he came out.

“My classmates attacked me from the back, punching my skull and temple,” Thomas recalls. “After that, my thinking became slower, and my memory got worse.”

For six months, in order to protect Thomas from anymore violence, the guards made him enter the school five minutes before the first bell rang, and they picked him up five minutes before school ended.

Thomas’s brother persuaded him to travel 1,700 miles to learn at the Center’s school. The brother—who’s also gay—had graduated from the very same school.

“My brother knew this program was what I needed, because of its endless possibilities,” says Thomas. “So many people here see so much potential within me—things I didn’t see myself. I’m happy coming to school every day because I’m constantly around people who are just like me.”

RULES TO LEARN BY

As an added advantage of attending the Center’s school, students have the opportunity to participate in the after-school offerings of the Center’s LifeWorks program, including its mentoring program, Creative Expressions curriculum and the hugely popular OutSet filmmaking class. 

OFL student Ceilidh (pronounced “Kaylee”), 17, participates in the Outside Voices choir and the Pen Pushers spoken word group—unpredictable choices for someone who once preferred to stay at home rather than attend school.

“Because of OFL, I’m doing better at school than I’ve ever done before,” says Ceilidh, who identifies as neither male nor female but rather as “agender.” “I’ve always had issues with motivation. Now, I’m able to work at my own pace.”

Ceilidh learned about the Center’s school purely by accident while attending an open house at The Village. “If I hadn’t found this school,” Ceilidh says, “I’d probably still be in regular school and struggling with all my classes.”

Although it was designed to meet the needs of LGBT students, any student under age 20 is accepted into the Center’s OFL program as long they’re committed to studying in an environment in which all people are welcome. A 19-year-old who enrolls in the program can stay as long as it takes him/her to graduate.

“Students won’t earn a grade lower than a C-minus because we don’t let them,” says Sircher. “If they fail a test, we work with them until they learn to master the materials.”

His teachers’ persistence is exactly what Austin wants from them. The 17-year-old, who identifies as bisexual, hated traditional high school so much that he began skipping classes during 10th grade and eventually failed nearly all of his classes. He thought his only educational options were traditional high school or homeschooling—two choices he detested—until he discovered OFL.

“Traditional school was too slow for me,” he explains. “I wouldn’t do the homework and ended up getting behind [in my studies]. I wasn’t trying.”

Since reenrolling in the Center’s OFL campus last year (he discontinued attending OFL for a moment to try another attempt at a traditional high school), Austin has grown into a responsible young man. He now has a part-time job at a fast-food restaurant.

“If it wasn’t for OFL, I probably would be a high school dropout by now,” he says.

BRIGHTER FUTURE

Since its launch nearly four year ago, the staff of the Center’s OFL campus has expanded to five teachers—including math, English and special education teachers—and a school psychologist. More than 65 students have participated in the program and many have gone onto college.

Nichole, the transgender student who tried twice to end her life, is now determined to be one of the program’s success stories. After graduating, she plans to get a degree in business administration while pursuing a part-time modeling career. Dreaming big was never a viable option for her until the Center’s OFL entered her life.

“I can wear pretty clothes and be who I am,” she says with a big smile. “I feel really happy here. This is the best gift the substitute teacher who told me about the program gave me.”

*Names changed to protect minors

lagaycenter.org

Sep 18

The T-word hasn’t changed. We have.

By Jake Finney

Like it or not, words have power.

That’s why the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network’s “Think Before You Speak” campaign decries using the word “gay” in a derogatory way.

Most of us acknowledge that the phrase “that’s so gay” is derogatory because it equates being gay with being stupid or strange. But what about the harm caused to trans* people—and especially trans youth—when people use the derogatory slur “tranny,” often equated with someone who’s a “mess” (as in the phrase “hot tranny mess” used by Project Runway star Christian Siriano).

There have been a few knockdown, drag-out fights within the LGBTQ community over the use of the word “tranny.” On one side, trans activists and their allies contend that the “T-word” is a slur used to dehumanize trans people. Others, frequently gay men (including drag queens), fire back with arguments like: “It’s just a joke.” “Don’t be so sensitive/P.C.”

Or my personal favorite: “It’s just a word.”

Words matter.

The T-word has a long history of being tossed around in both media and casual conversation.

Some wonder why it’s “suddenly” a slur, but the truth is that it has always been derogatory. A Google search of “tranny” brings up 169 million hits—the vast majority from online porn that is also tied with the equally derogatory term “she-male.” When someone says “tranny,” they’re
using a term frequently used to degrade women who happen to be trans.
And this hurtful word isn’t only being used to deride trans adults but also trans youth, as my colleague Sara Train, who has led workshops in schools all over California, can attest.

Train is the coordinator of Project SPIN, a multi-agency, Center-led collaboration with the L.A. Unified School District to make schools safer and more welcoming for LGBT youth. She says that students hear just as many put-downs related to gender identity as to sexual orientation. Trans
youth, or youth who otherwise don’t conform to social gender norms, are derided with terms such as “tranny” and “he-she.” They are even dehumanized by being called “it.”

While there is no proven direct link between bullying and suicide, it must be noted that trans youth face a tremendous risk. Half will attempt suicide at least once before their 20th birthday. We should strive to make these young people’s lives better and make sure they have access to the
support they need. And we shouldn’t excuse language that’s used to belittle and hurt them.

So what’s changed is not that “tranny” is suddenly a slur; what’s changed is that trans people are finally feeling empowered enough to stand up and demand that they be treated with human dignity.

It’s time to take “tranny” out of our lexicon.

Sep 17

Supreme Court Cases are Historic Milestone, but Judicial Review of our Equality is Cause for Continued Fight

Contact: Christopher Jones
323-993-7622
cjones@lagaycenter.org


Supreme Court Cases are Historic Milestone, but Judicial Review 
of our Equality is Cause for Continued Fight

LOS ANGELES, Mar. 26, 2013– Today and tomorrow, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on two landmark marriage equality cases. One will decide the fate of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act,” and the other will rule on California’s Proposition 8. In response, the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center’s Chief of Staff Darrel Cummings issued the following statement:

“No one knows how the majority of the U.S. Supreme Court will rule after hearing oral arguments in the marriage equality cases they’ll be reviewing today and tomorrow. There are more theories than are Justices, and the options range from a sweeping majority opinion that strikes down Prop 8 and DOMA as unconstitutional to one that could be very harmful to our long-term fight for full equality.

Of course, we won’t know before June, but what we know now is that as arguments are being made over the next two days, we’ve reached another historic milestone in our quest for equality and justice. Polls show 58% of Americans support our freedom to marry and there’s a national conversation about marriage equality that was unimaginable when I became an activist in the early ’80s.

Recent milestones have been plenty. In just the last year we witnessed a sitting president’s evolution in support of marriage equality. Former President Clinton, who signed DOMA into law, endorsed its repeal. And former Secretary of State—and likely 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton—publicly endorsed full marriage rights for same-sex couples. Major corporations and powerful Republicans filed briefs to the Supreme Court to support our freedom to marry. Even a Republican Senator from Ohio, Sen. Rob Portman, has now endorsed marriage equality. 

These milestones aren’t solely related, or in response, to the cases before the Supreme Court this week. They are the result of decades and decades of courage and commitment by LGBT activists. The fact that nine people will argue and decide whether the Constitution applies to us, and that a majority of voters in any state can deny us our rights, are stark reminders that there is more to be done.

Until the day comes that our full equality is no longer the subject of legal and political debates—whether in the courts, at the ballot box or from the pulpit—we should take this moment to celebrate our achievements, those of our predecessors and the historical nature of these court cases. But we must also keep fighting until the topic of whether LGBT people deserve full equality under the constitution is no longer considered to be a legitimate debate.”   

- 30 –

About the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center 
For more than 40 years, the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center has been building the health, advocating for the rights and enriching the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Our wide array of services and programs includes: free HIV/AIDS care and medications for those most in need; housing, food, clothing and support for homeless LGBT youth; low-cost counseling and addiction-recovery services; essential services for LGBT-parented families and seniors; legal services; health education and HIV prevention programs; transgender services; cultural arts and much more. Visit us on the web at: lagaycenter.org.

Sep 16

Snapshot of a Center Volunteer

Youth and seniors. Besides turning to the Center for support, these two groups might rarely cross paths. However, each year participants from the two vastly different generations have an opportunity to work together and learn from each other during the Center’s Senior-Youth Photo Project.

Students of this multi-week photo project—LGBT youth who often feel rejected by their families or lack role models and LGBT seniors who frequently have no family—inevitably realize they have more in common than they would have guessed.

The project’s volunteer leader, accomplished photographer Mary Grace McKernan, draws on her extensive experience photographing everything from wildlife to rock bands to shape the experience of Senior-Youth Photo Project participants.

Vanguard sat down with McKernan to talk about the project.

Vanguard: How did you first connect with the Center?

MGK: I first came to the Center nine months ago when I had the opportunity to display some of my work in the art gallery at The Village. That’s when I learned the Center was looking for someone to lead the Senior-Youth Photo Project, a multi-week photo workshop for LGBT youth and seniors. I was thrilled to take it on.

Vanguard: What’s special about the Senior-Youth Photo Project?

MGK: You get to see students form connections that transcend generations. I saw one of the seniors bond with one of the youth over their mutual love of art and poetry—they became fast friends.

A lot of the youth who participate in the class don’t have supportive families—some are even homeless. They’ve been bullied, harassed, rejected… they haven’t had a lot of adults they could trust. The photo project creates a space where they can be creative and where teamwork helps to build trust with one another.

My students were all so creative, and I loved helping them uncover their potential!

Vanguard: What kind of work did your class produce?

MGK: We focused on self-portraits. I loved the results! After the class, we exhibited the students’ work in the gallery. It wasn’t all about the assignment though. We went on some outings to explore L.A. and students took photos in different parts of the city. And I encouraged the students to follow their instincts and explore. One young woman created art using her favorite pair of shoes. I told her Andy Warhol would be proud! The same student told me the class had inspired her to pursue her dreams of being an interior designer.

Hopefully, what the students take with them after the class is the desire to express themselves, to keep the creative juices flowing for the rest of their lives.

Vanguard: It sounds like your students left feeling inspired. What about you?

MGK: My students were so inspiring. That motivated me beyond anything imaginable to be there for them however I could. It was a great personal journey and it even informed some of the work I did in the course of my master’s degree program.

The rewards of volunteering with the Center are remarkable! More than 3,000 active volunteers give their time and energy to help make possible everything the Center does for the LGBT community. 

The Senior-Youth Photo Project is an intensive, multi-week photography workshop that brings together LGBT youth and seniors each year. Students not only express themselves creatively, they form connections that span generational gaps.

The Center’s Advocate & Gochis Galleries feature art by emerging and well-known artists. Gallery admission is free! For information about upcoming exhibits, visit lagaycenter.org/art.

By Christopher Jones

Mary Zeiser isn’t your typical 24-year-old. While most people her age are busy dating, hanging out with family and friends, or building a career, the spunky L.A. native is focused on just one thing: making a difference in the quality of life for LGBT people for years to come.

From volunteering and recruiting for AIDS/LifeCycle to becoming the Center’s youngest ever Circle of Life member (a group of persons who bequest a gift to the Center from their estate), Zeiser doesn’t think twice about giving back to her community.

“Seeing the amazing people and the incredible things that the Center was doing, kept me coming back,” Zeiser says. “I wanted to do everything I could to help.”

Zeiser was first inspired to support the Center at age 17. As a newly out-of-the-closet teen, she signed up for AIDS/LifeCycle¬— the 7-day, 545-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles that raises money for the Center’s HIV/AIDS-related services.

“I had some preconceived ideas about people living with HIV,” Zeiser says. “I was fearful and misinformed. By riding in AIDS/LifeCycle, I knew I’d be able to connect with those in my community who were battling the disease and who could benefit from the money I’d raise for the Center’s HIV/AIDS services.”

She eventually joined the organizing committee for the Models of Pride youth conference, hoping it would provide an opportunity to connect with peers. Then she participated in ‘Change the Cycle’, raising more than $30,000 for anti-bullying initiatives in LAUSD schools and private schools across the county.

But two years later when gearing up for another AIDS/LifeCycle, it got very personal. Zeiser’s sister found out she was HIV-positive. “She inspires me, and I think of her during the most challenging parts of the ride,”

Zeiser says. “I think of all of the people I have met—people whose lives depend on the services of the Jeffrey Goodman Special Care Clinic. AIDS/LifeCycle is the largest fundraising effort to bring an end to HIV/AIDS in the world and I am so blessed to be a part of that. And I’m not done doing what I can.”

After hearing Nellie Sims, the Center’s Director of Planned Giving, speak at an AIDS/ LifeCycle event, Zeiser decided to take her giving a step further and made the Center the beneficiary of her life insurance policy, retirement plan, stock and even her car.

“There are no kids in my immediate family,” Zeiser says. “I consider the LGBT community and its youth to be my family. They need support from their elders. And while I may only be 23, I’m still an elder to some and I intend to do my part. “

That spirit of giving is what sets Zeiser apart, Sims says “Mary really is remarkable,” she says. “She’s passionate about supporting the community and has done so much for the Center. While most people in their 20s are not planning for retirement or considering who might benefit from their estate, Mary illustrates how easy it is to do this—and do it now.”

Sep 15

Should you be vaccinated for meningitis

Not quite a year ago there was a meningitis scare among gay and bisexual men in Los Angeles and now we’re faced with a similar situation.  I want to share with you the facts, as we know them, so you and/or your loved ones can make an informed decision about what to do.


Why did the L.A. County Department of Public Health issue an alert?

In the first three months of this year there have been 8 cases in Los Angeles of Invasive Meningococcal Disease (IMD) and 4 of them have been among gay or bisexual men, three of whom were HIV positive.  Three of those four men died, two of whom were HIV-positive.  

Every year Los Angeles has between 12 - 30 cases of this terrible infection. Though the number of total cases since January 1 aren’t outside the expected range, the number of gay men who have been infected is.

Looking back as far as October 2012, when the L.A. health department first began identifying the sexual orientation of those who were infected, there have been 32 cases, 11 of whom were gay and 4 of whom were HIV-positive.  So overall, one-third of the cases have been among gay and bisexual men. Clearly, we do not make up one-third of the population of Los Angeles; it’s more like 3 or 4 percent.  We also know that in recent years there have been disproportionate rates of infection among gay men in Chicago and New York.

Following last year’s cluster of cases in New York City among gay and bisexual men, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that gay and bisexual men are at higher risk for meningococcal disease and speculated that the reason is because a larger proportion of men in our community are HIV-positive. But at this point, that’s just speculation.

So is this an epidemic? 
No. There are about a half million gay and bisexual men in Los Angeles and there have been 11 cases of IMD in the last 18 months.  However, for those who are infected, the consequence can be death. 

Well, should I get vaccinated?
If you’re HIV-positive, yes.  If you’re a gay or bisexual man in L.A. who’s not HIV-positive, we encourage you to consider getting vaccinated, especiallyespecially since meningitis can be fatal.  Below I’ve listed common risk factors for exposure.

The vaccine is well tolerated and is covered by most insurance plans.  And if you’re uninsured, we’ll vaccinate you for free at the Center and so will county health clinics.  Call us at 323-993-7500 to schedule an appointment or visithttp://publichealth.lacounty.gov/ to find a county health clinic near you.

How do I know if I’m at increased risk of infection?
Gay and bisexual men in Los Angeles appear to be part of a higher risk group.  But to estimate your personal risk, it’s important to understand more about the bacterium and how it’s spread.

Not all strains of the family of bacteria that causes IMD are dangerous, but even those strains that are dangerous may not cause disease in everyone. In fact, some people can carry either the bad or harmless strains in their nose and throat for prolonged periods with no symptoms at all.  So the fact that someone doesn’t have symptoms, doesn’t mean they can’t spread it.

Of course, the more people who carry the organism, the greater the likelihood it will spread to others and infect susceptible individuals.  This is also the reasoning behind the health department’s statement  that those who seek partners through mobile phone apps are at increased risk. Studies show that individuals who use these apps generally have more sexual partners, so are more likely to have infections they can spread to their new partners.  But technically, the bacteria that causes IMD isn’t a sexually transmitted infection.

These bacteria are spread through coughing, sneezing, kissing, sharing drink containers, cigarettes, marijuana joints, eating utensils or toothbrushes.Although these activities can occur anywhere, they are more likely to occur with greater frequency and have greater consequence in places like college dormitories, various residential facilities, or other spaces where many people congregate in close quarters for prolonged periods. This could also include large dance parties where people are sharing water bottles.

To put it bluntly, if you’re swapping spit with multiple people, you’re at increased risk.  The more people with whom you share oral fluids the more likely it is that you will be exposed if any of those people have the bacteria in their nose or throat. 

A person may also be at increased risk because they’re very young, they cannot produce antibodies to kill the infections, or because they’ve had their spleen removed, and probably—as we are learning—HIV infection. 

Then there are non-specific things like exposure to cigarette and marijuana smoke, or even having a cold, any of which can affect the mucous membranes of the nose and throat. So, if a susceptible person is exposed to one of the bad strains, they may become sick. However, there are always cases of IMD where no apparent increased susceptibility is found.

What are symptoms of IMD?

Symptoms of meningitis include fever, severe headache and stiff neck.  If the infection is only in the bloodstream there may not be meningitis symptoms but only high fever and a blotchy dark skin rash. If pneumonia is present there would be high fever and cough.

What should I do if I have symptoms?

If you believe you’ve been exposed, seek treatment immediately. Go to an emergency room if you have symptoms, including fever, severe headache and stiff neck, as well as nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light and altered mental state.

Meningitis is treatable with antibiotics if it’s caught early. So know the signs and symptoms, and be aware.

Are there side effects to the vaccine?

Although the vaccine is generally well tolerated, within 7 days of vaccination:

Why don’t we know more about the reason gay and bisexual men seem to be at greater risk?

That’s a good question.  In April, 2013 I wrote a letter to the CDC calling for a nationwide mandate that all local health departments henceforth be instructed on how to conduct culturally appropriate interviewing of cases, surviving family members and close personal contacts of cases of IMD so that more comprehensive and reliable epidemiological information could be collected.  If an increased prevalence of IMD among gay and bisexual men were to be found, then the vaccine recommendations should be changed.

I believe it is biologically quite plausible that gay and bisexual men may indeed be at greater risk of exposure to—and transmission of this organism—than the general population. Anecdotally, our community is more physically demonstrative at all ages with one another (hugging, kissing, and even deep kissing) than heterosexual populations.

Learn more about meningitis by visiting: www.cdc.gov/meningicoccal/

Sincerely,

Dr. Robert Bolan
Medical Director