Love Hurts (Other People), New Study Finds [livescience.com]

by Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer

SAN DIEGO – The singers who croon “Love Hurts” are right — but it’s not just jilted partners and unrequited romantics who are at risk. It turns out that romantic love can also burn innocent third parties to a relationship.

People who are primed to think about how madly in love they are with a partner put down other appealing members of their own sex, and are even more aggressive toward them, compared with people who are instead encouraged to ponder sex with a significant other, according to new research presented here last week at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.

“Love, arguably the most positive of all human emotions, also comes with a dark side,” study researcher Jon Maner, a psychologist at Florida State University, told reporters at the meeting.

Rating others

In a trio of studies involving 130 people in long-term relationships, Maner and his colleagues found that to protect their own commitment to their partner, people would lash out at potential threats. In the first study, researchers asked students at Florida State University in long-term relationships to write about either a time when they felt intense love for their partner or a time when they felt intense sexual desire for the person — both positive relationship-related experiences. Next, the students looked at pictures of either an attractive or an unattractive man or woman, followed by a picture of a Chinese character. They were then asked to rate the appeal of the character; since the Chinese character is neutral, this question was meant to gauge the participants’ leftover feelings about the real target of the study — the pictures of the men and women.

The students also filled out questionnaires about their basic levels of jealousy, answering questions such as, “How likely are you to surprise-visit your partner to see who is with him/her?”

The results showed that jealous sorts and more laid-back types rated the characters as about equally attractive when they’d thought of intense sexual desire for their partner. But when they thought about intense love for their partner, the jealous sorts suddenly became very negative about other attractive people, rating them much less appealing.

In a second study, the researchers upped the ante. They again had people in long-term relationships reflect on their love or sexual desire for their romantic partner, or some other nonrelationship-related story. But this time, the participants were told they were going to play a computer game with a partner in another room. Whoever lost got blasted with painful, but ultimately not harmful, bursts of white noise through headphones. The winner got to pick how long and how loud those blasts would be.

The researchers then showed the participants pictures of their alleged partners, who were always attractive and the same sex as the person in the experiment. Again, high-jealousy types who were reminded of their love for their partners treated this outside person harshly, blasting their eardrums with louder and longer stints of white noise.

Hey, jealousy

At this point, the researchers wondered if low-jealousy people were somehow different than jealous types. So they created something designed to really freak people out. [7 Personality Traits That Are Bad for You]

The students were told that researchers needed their help evaluating prospective daters for a new university dating site. The students then saw a number of profiles of “attractive, interesting, outgoing, fun-loving” people of their own sex, Maner said.

These photos were designed to be as threatening as possible, said Jennifer Leo, a study researcher and graduate student at Florida State. “Not only are they very attractive, and interesting, they’re on their campus, they’re single and they’re on the prowl for a mate,” Leo said.

This time, the students who were reminded of their deep, romantic love for their partner responded harshly to the potential daters, rating them as unattractive, unfriendly and other insulting adjectives. The results held regardless of students’ levels of jealousy.

“The surge of romantic love leads them to derogate these people,” Maner said. “The more love they felt for their partner, the more negatively they tended to evaluate these objectively attractive members of their own sex.”

In fact, the jealous types even said nasty things about the daters when they weren’t reminded of their love for their partners, suggesting that the threat was so strong thatlove’s dark side kicked in without help.

The takeaway, Leo said, is that there may not be a difference between low- and high-jealousy people. All that matters is the level of threat.

“Ultimately, love works in the service of protecting the relationship and maintaining it into the long term,” Leo said. “Even if that means acting out.”

http://www.livescience.com/18194-love-dark-side-jealousy.html

Are Your Annoying Friends Making You Physically Ill? [jezebel.com]

by Cassie Murdoch / jezebel.com

We all have those friends who are competitive or are constantly causing drama for one reason or another. It’s tempting to just put up with them, but a new study has found that conflicts with those kinds of people could actually be irritating you physically—as in causing your immune system to fire up. This leads to your body to become inflamed, a state which has been associated with things like cancer and diabetes.

The study investigated whether stress from personal conflicts or sports competitions would cause the body to release cytokines, which are molecules linked to inflammation. The researchers saw cytokine levels rise after negative interactions like arguments, but people’s cytokine levels did not rise when they were playing a competitive sport. Co-author psychology professor Shelley Taylor explains the consequences of her findings, “What this tells me is that people should be investing in socially supportive relationships, and they should not court relationships that lead to a great deal of conflict.”

It’s probably a lot more complicated than that, but let’s just take this for what it’s worth: a good excuse to break up with your obnoxious friends and suspend contact with irritating workmates. No one will be able to argue with your scientific reasoning.

As luck would have it, the New York Times has also just offered up a hideously detailed explanation of how to dump your friends when the need arises. It takes them a remarkable three pages to conclude what we all already know: The easiest way to put a friendship out of its misery is to just let it slowly fade away with a series of declined invitations, severed social network ties, and unreturned texts. But if you really need to do a direct, in-person execution, theTimes points you to the advice of psychologist Erika Holiday, who is totally legit because she’s been on Dr. Phil:

Schedule a time where you can sit down with them. It’s not about putting the other person down, but telling them, “You don’t fit into my life, you’re not on same path as me.”

But the great thing is that now you don’t even need to do the bit about fitting into your life, you can just say, “I’m sorry we can’t hang out anymore, but studies have shown you make me sick.” And with those magic words your toxic friendship will most certainly be dead, and you can live healthily ever after.

Study shows how stress triggers immune system [USA Today]
It’s Not Me, It’s You [New York Times]

http://jezebel.com/5880386/are-your-annoying-friends-making-you-physically-ill

Cynthia Nixon says she’s gay by ‘choice.’ Is it really a choice? [latimes.com]

By Karen Kaplan, Los Angeles Times/For the Booster Shots blog

Former “Sex and the City” star Cynthia Nixon says she is gay by “choice” – a statement that has riled many gay rights activitists who insist that people don’t choose their sexual orientation.

Here’s what Nixon, who recently shaved her head to play acancer patient in a Broadway production of “Wit,” told the New York Times Magazine:

“I gave a speech recently, an empowerment speech to a gay audience, and it included the line ‘I’ve been straight and I’ve been gay, and gay is better.’ And they tried to get me to change it, because they said it implies that homosexuality can be a choice. And for me, it is a choice. I understand that for many people it’s not, but for me it’s a choice, and you don’t get to define my gayness for me.”

The question of whether sexual orientation is subject to nature or nurture – or some combination of both – has been hotly debated for years. If it is not an immutable characteristic, that would imply that a gay person could be somehow transformed into a straight one. In other words, homosexuality could be “cured.” Which in turn implies that being gay is some sort of illness.

Hence, the offense taken to this point of view.

Nixon seemed to anticipate the controversy her remarks might generate. She also told the New York Times:

“A certain section of our community is very concerned that it not be seen as a choice, because if it’s a choice, then we could opt out. I say it doesn’t matter if we flew here or we swam here, it matters that we are here and we are one group and let us stop trying to make a litmus test for who is considered gay and who is not.” Her face was red and her arms were waving. “As you can tell,” she said, “I am very annoyed about this issue. Why can’t it be a choice? Why is that any less legitimate? It seems we’re just ceding this point to bigots who are demanding it, and I don’t think that they should define the terms of the debate. I also feel like people think I was walking around in a cloud and didn’t realize I was gay, which I find really offensive. I find it offensive to me, but I also find it offensive to all the men I’ve been out with.”

As expected, this did not go over smoothly with everyone. Writing on AmericaBlog Gay, John Aravosis wrote that Nixon “needs to learn how to choose her words better, because she just fell into a right-wing trap, willingly. When the religious right says it’s a choice, they mean you quite literally choose your sexual orientation, you can change it at will, and that’s bull.”

So, what’s the scientific evidence that sexual orientation is either a biologically determined trait or an actual choice?

Spanish study published in 2009 in the journal Investigacion Clinica summarizes the evidence forgenetic influences. Based on research comparing identical twins, fraternal twins and even siblings who were adopted, scientists have determined that 27% to 76% of the chance that one is gay is determined by DNA. The genetic influence appears to be greater for men than for women, according to the study.

Other stuff is probably happening in utero that influences one’s sexual orientation. As a review articlepublished last year in the journal Endocrinology explains, exposure to atypical levels of testosteroneand other steroids in the womb is probably responsible for some people being gay. Another review article, published last year in Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, makes the same point:

“The evidence supports a role for prenatal testosterone exposure in the development of sex-typed interests in childhood, as well as in sexual orientation in later life, at least for some individuals. It appears, however, that other factors, in addition to hormones, play an important role in determining sexual orientation. These factors have not been well-characterized, but possibilities include direct genetic effects, and effects of maternal factors during pregnancy.”

One of those prenatal influences may be the number of males who have previously inhabited the mother’s uterus. It may sound strange, but Canadian researchers have found that “having one or more older brothers boosts the likelihood of a boy growing up to be gay,” as I explained in a 2006 Los Angeles Times story. As I wrote at the time, “The so-called fraternal birth order effect is small: Each older brother increases the chances by 33%. Assuming the base rate of homosexuality among men is 2%, it would take 11 older brothers to give the next son about a 50-50 chance of being gay.” Those findings were reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In addition, my colleague Shari Roan wrote about a fascinating controversy surrounding treatment for a rare condition called congenital adrenal hyperplasia. The disorder can cause girls to be born with genitals that look male, making it hard to tell the baby’s gender. One treatment is to give women hormones during subsequent pregnancies to reduce the risk for siblings. But doctors have found that this approach has an unusual side effect:

“The treatment might reduce the likelihood that a female with the condition will be homosexual,” Roan wrote. “Further, it seems to increase the chances that she will have what are considered more feminine behavioral traits.”

This is all just the tip of the iceberg. But the scientific consensus seems to be that there is indeed a biological basis for homosexuality – though it’s not necessarily 100% determined by either genes or by environmental factors.

http://www.latimes.com/health/boostershots/la-heb-cynthia-nixon-gay-by-choice-20120125,0,2504094.story

 

The Need to be Vigilant

Click to enlarge image

Our personal monsters, be they shame, guilt, guile, possession, envy, love, or doubt or more…
they can ensnare when we least expect it…
when we think we have them mastered…
when we think we understand ourselves…
that is when we need to be vigilant…

Our monsters are our greatest opportunities for personal growth and peace.

-hh

Gov signs transgender rights bill [wwlp.com]

by Christine Lee, 22News State House Correspondent

BOSTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Governor Deval Patrick hosted a ceremonial signing Thursday of a civil rights bill that extends protection from discrimination to people based on their gender identity or gender expression.

“I signed this bill as a matter of conscience. No individual should face discrimination because of who they are,” said Patrick

“And we intend to enforce that bill the way it is intended to do,” said Attorney General Martha Coakley.

Patrick formally signed the transgender rights bill quietly in his office late November, but the start-of-the-year ceremonial signing drew an overflowing crowd from the transgender community.

Legislative leaders praised the progress Massachusetts is making toward recognizing transgender rights.  “Allowing them to more easily find employment, housing, education, credit, and most importantly, a better quality of life,” said House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop)

The bill is big step for the Commonwealth, but activists note, their work isn’t over yet.

“These things are vital but we mostly need public accommodation,” said Danica Ali, an LGBT activist from Springfield.  “[It] must be added to the bill.”

Public accommodation refers to the right to stay at a hotel, ride a bus, or even use a bathroom without being discriminated against.  The bill signed by the governor falls short of extending those rights to transgendered people and activists feel their fight isn’t over until it does.

“Just because it’s such a basic right for people and the fact that it’s not protected is kind of atrocious,” said Kaylin MacNeil of Holyoke.

The governor acknowledged there’s work to be done but for today, he wants to relish in what they’ve accomplished so far.  The House Speaker said nearly 33,000 Massachusetts residents will now no longer face discrimination.

http://www.wwlp.com/dpp/news/politics/state_politics/Gov-signs-transgender-rights-bill

NAACP president says group supports extending rights to transgender residents in Maryland [washingtonpost.com]

NAACP President Benjamin Jealous said Thursday the civil rights group supports legislation in Maryland to extend rights to transgender residents.

Jealous spoke at a national conference on rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, the 24th national conference on LGBT equality.

“This striving for inclusion is not new,” Jealous told a crowded convention room at the Baltimore Hilton.

Under Jealous, the Baltimore-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People launched an equality task force for the LGBT community. The Maryland measure would extend rights relating to employment and housing to transgender residents.

Last year, legislation that would have protected transgender people from housing and employment discrimination passed the House of Delegates, but the bill failed to pass the Senate.

About a week after the legislative session adjourned in April, an attack on 22-year-old transgender woman at a McDonald’s restaurant in Rosedale highlighted the issue again.

First Lady Katie O’Malley, who also attended the conference, told a crowd outside the convention room where Jealous spoke that “cowards” prevented same-sex marriage legislation from passing in Maryland last year. The measure cleared the Senate but stalled in the House of Delegates.

“We didn’t expect the things that happened to the House of Delegates to occur, but sadly they did, and there were some cowards that prevented it from passing,” she said.

Still, she told the crowd she and her husband, Gov. Martin O’Malley, are hoping the votes will be there this year.

The governor has made same-sex marriage legislation a priority this session.

Katie O’Malley, who is a judge in Baltimore District Court, also told the crowd that religion should not play a role in determining state laws relating to civil rights.

“We’re all very diverse and that’s what makes us so strong, but religion should never play a part in what the laws of our state are, and that’s what we’re trying to convey to religious leaders who are opponents of the bill,” she said.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/naacp-president-says-group-supports-extending-rights-to-transgender-residents-in-maryland/2012/01/26/gIQAfBr9TQ_story.html