Meghan Markle is Engaged to Prince Harry

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (E! Online)

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (E! Online)

It’s finally happening! Former “Suits” actress Meghan Markle got engaged to her boyfriend Price Harry (heard of him?), and they announced their engagement a week ago. The two attended a photocall in the morning at Kensington Palance’s Sunken Garden, and sat down for an televised interview revealing more details with the BBC later that day.

This engagement is big for a lot of reasons, but mainly because it’s breaking barriers: Markle will be the first biracial person (and first biracial woman) to join the royal family. (Markle’s mother is Doria Ragland, an African-American woman, and her father is Thomas Markle, who is Caucasian. Markle self-identifies as a “strong, confident mixed-race woman.”) Many are excited because Markle will be the first “Black Princess” (though technically she’s more likely to end up with a Duchess title), but there are more nuances to the situation. “Elle” has a a great piece where 16 Black women aired their reactions to the engagement news; it’s well worth reading in full, so go check it out!

The engagement is also a powerful step towards revolutionizing the British monarchy and the public’s perception thereof. Princes Harry and William have spoken out about their mental health and its importance, and seem to want to make the monarchy more progressive. Along with the fact that Prince Harry will be marrying a biracial woman, he’ll also be marrying a divorcee: Markle was previously married to film producer Trevor Engelson from 2011 to 2013. The last time a British royal married a divorced woman, he had to abdicate the throne. This happened in 1937 when the Duke of Windsor married Wallis Simpson, which caused quite a scandal.

One thing is for sure: this engagement is hurtling the British royal family into the 21st century. As “The New York Times” puts it:

With one heady announcement, it seems, Harry and Ms. Markle have thrown out generations’ worth of quietly repressed tradition and presented a new royal model to a country that will have to adjust to it, whether it wants to or not.

 

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New York City Issues the First U.S. Intersex Birth Certificate

Sara Kelly Keenan (LGBTQ Nation)

Sara Kelly Keenan (LGBTQ Nation)

In December 2016, New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene re-issued a birth certificate to Sara Kelly Keenan. The action made history: Keenan’s corrected birth certificate denoted her intersex identity. (Keenan uses female pronouns.) The new birth certificate is the first one ever in the U.S. to note the gender identity.

The term “intersex” refers to a physical condition where one’s anatomy does not fully line up as either male or female. Keenan is “genetically male with female genitalia and mixed internal reproductive anatomy.” When Keenan was born, her birth certificate originally read “male,” but was changed to “female” three weeks later.

This change has been a long time coming, seeing as Keenan is 55 years old. She’s seen a lot of changes, especially within the fields of reproductive health and anatomy: When Keenan was born, “hermaphrodite” was the commonly accepted term for her condition.

Previous to the birth certificate change, Keenan had self-identified as non-binary (that is, neither male nor female).

Gonorrhea Will Become Untreatable Soon

Cosmo Kramer, 'Seinfeld' (Pinterest)

Cosmo Kramer, ‘Seinfeld’ (Pinterest)

Here’s some downer news to start your day: Sexually-transmitted disease (STD) gonorrhea has become resistant to certain antibiotics.

Earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) released new treatment guidelines for the STD. Gonorrhea isn’t the only STD that’s become drug-resistant; strains of chlamydia and syphilis have also begun resisting treatment.

The common STD most affects women ages 20-24, with 820K new cases throughout all demographics cropping up per year. Worldwide, 78M people contract gonorrhea each year.

Gonorrhea is becoming drug-resistant at the same time that STD rates are rising. In 2014, the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) reported that rates of gonorrhea rose 5%+, which was the first increase in the U.S. in eight years.

The STD now cannot be treated with penicillin and doxycycline, among other drugs. The WHO estimates that completely new drugs will be needed for treatment within the next five years.

Zika Virus Linked to Birth Defects

Mosquito (NPR)

Mosquito (NPR)

Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) released a travel warning for pregnant women. They’ve issued the warning for 14 countries where the Zika virus has been confirmed to be transmitted.

Transmitted through bites of infected mosquitos, the Zika virus symptoms include fever, rashes and red eyes. It’s also been linked to birth defects.

Brazil was the first country to report birth defects linked to Zika. Specifically, the virus manifests as microcephaly, where newborns will have an unusually small head that leads to abnormal brain development. Over 2.4K cases of newborns affected by Zika were recorded in 2015, up from only 147 cases in 2014. This was a 1,532%+ year-over-year increase.

And the U.S. is no longer exempt from Zika’s reach: A baby with microcephaly was confirmed to have the virus. The baby was born in Hawaii last week.

 

Planned Parenthood Endorses Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton (The Washington Times)

Hillary Clinton (The Washington Times)

Planned Parenthood has endorsed a candidate for the primary election: Hillary Clinton, the only woman running for the Democratic nomination. This is the first time in Planned Parenthood’s 100-year history that the organization has endorsed a candidate.

For this who’ve been living under a rock, Planned Parenthood provides a number of serves for womens’ reproductive health, including birth control, Pap smears and abortions.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that women’s issues will take up a prominent share of issues discussed leading up to this year’s election. Last week, Republicans in the Senate voted to defund Planned Parenthood. Thankfully, they didn’t get very far, since President Obama vetoed it.

I hope this endorsement brings out women (and men!) to the polls who might not’ve voted otherwise come November.

 

FDA Approves “Female Viagra” Addyi

The experimental drug flibanserin, made by Sprout Pharmaceuticals, is at the center of a regulatory controversy.

The experimental drug flibanserin, made by Sprout Pharmaceuticals, is at the center of a regulatory controversy.

Yesterday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Addyi (also known by its generic name Flibanserin) for public consumption. The drug, produced by Sprout Pharmaceuticals, is being touted as a “female Viagra,” a way to “even the score” sexually against men (who have many option to treat waning sexual desire). In some circles, it’s seen as a big breakthrough for women’s sexual health.

Interestingly, Addyi is the first drug to specifically treat waning sex drives for both men and women. (Viagra solved a purely medical/physical issue rather than a psychological one.) Addyi targets the central nervous system, putting it in line with an antidepressant.

Addyi purports to help women with hypoactive sexual disorder (i.e. lack of sexual desire.) But it works on a woman’s mind instead of her body. Rather than facilitating blood flow to the genital region, as Viagra does, the drug takes a two-pronged approach:

Flibanserin targets two neurotransmitters in the brain that can help inspire sexual desire. The first is dopamine, which helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers and could help drive up our interest in sex. The second is norepinephrine, which affects parts of the brain that control our attention and our response to things in our environment and could help direct our attention to a sexual partner.

The ultimate goal is that a woman’s level of desire would increase over time.

(Side note: Apparently, Viagra was marketed to women in 2004. The drug did increase blood flow to the women’s genitals, but didn’t affect their level of sexual desire.)

But the drug isn’t completely out of the woods yet: there are still some concerns regarding side effects. Doctors and pharmacists will need to undergo specific training of the drug before dispensing it, and will need to keep track of the women who take it. The biggest side effects include low blood pressure, sleepiness and “sudden fainting,” especially when taken with alcohol. (I have to say, I don’t really understand the point of making a drug to help with sex that can’t be paired with alcohol, but that’s just me.)

There’s also an argument that the drug “doesn’t work safely enough to justify its approval:” Women who took the drug during clinical trials reported a 37% increase in sexual desire, which averaged out to not even two more “satisfying sexual experiences” per month. The boost over the placebo group was even smaller.

It’s expected that Addyi will be covered under most health insurance plans, requiring a co-pay, and will inhabit a price range similar to that of Viagra. The drug should hit the market as soon as October (i.e. less than two months), with some outlets reporting an exact date of Oct. 17th.

I have to say, I’m really curious to see how this will do. I want to see how well it’ll perform (heh) sales-wise, and how many women report the side effects. But most of all, I want to see how this drug will influence the female-desire drugs that will surely come after it.

Ariana Miyamoto is the First Mixed-Race Miss Japan

Ariana Miyamoto, Miss Japan 2015 (We Are Wakanda)

Ariana Miyamoto, Miss Japan 2015 (We Are Wakanda)

The newly-crowned Miss Japan Ariana Miyamoto has made history: She’s the first mixed-race woman to win the title. She had previously won the Miss Nagasaki title.

The 20-year-old Miyamoto, born to a Japanese mother and an African-American father, will go on to represent Japan at the Miss Universe 2015 pageant.

This is huge for Japan, as the country is known being very racially homogenous. According to a July 2014 estimate, those who self-identify as Japanese comprise 98.5% of the total population. By contrast, “other” races (under which African-American falls) holds onto only .6%. The estimate puts the country’s population at 127M+, so that would mean “other” races would number around 762K+. (To put that in context, self-identifying Japanese would number around 125M+.)

“Hafu” (mixed-race) marriages have grown steadily since 1980, when the Japanese government recorded 5K+ “international” marriages. In 2004, mixed-race marriages numbered 39K+, which represented 5%+ of all marriages within the country.

Though it’s clear that the number of interracial marriages, and multi-racial citizens, are rising, it’s difficult to find because racial data isn’t collected in Japan (only nationality is acknowledged). But Japanese filmmaker Megumi Nishikura found that “20K+ half-Japanese are born in Japan each year, including both multiethnic and multiracial people” through her documentary “Hafu: The Mixed-Race Experience in Japan.”

Though Miyamoto is already getting backlash for “not being Japanese enough,” she’ll now be seen by the world as the new face of Japan.