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As with all marginalized communities and the constant prejudices they face, LGBTQ people experience harassment at a significantly higher rate than their heterosexual counterparts. Numerous studies have shown how these matters affect our psychological and physical well-being and increase the rate of mortality.
Until recently, being queer was listed as a mental illness by The American Psychiatric Association. Stigmatism continues to plague our community today, despite removing this classification in 1973. We continue to struggle against some communities, organizations and politicians who support discriminatory policies, especially targeting transgender individuals. This is why LGBTQ individuals must protect their sensitive information and cybersecurity because leaving it up to others is a costly mistake.
As Internet connectivity continues to rise, the digital world crosses boundaries into the physical world, and for LGBTQ individuals, there are many more concerns. Many issues that occur online stem from information oversharing, imposters (when someone deceives others by pretending to be someone else), stalking, extortion schemes, phishing, social engineering, and privacy matters from risky online applications and data breaches.
Though we made great strides and the public’s sentiment toward LGBTQ people has improved, the laws to protect our community, especially online, are shaky at best. Erring out of caution, many within the LGBTQ community remain skeptical with whom they share their sexual identity and gender. However, there is a disconnect. Many are not aware of how to safely share their information online, properly secure it, or the implications of not caring.
Prevalence and history
LGBTQ people are far more active online than their straight counterparts. The Internet offers a community for information and connection, especially where queer-friendly communities do not exist. LGBTQ individuals are more likely to use dating apps, engage on social media, and search for health information, while mobile technology makes it incredibly easy to access.
The Internet creates a lifeline for the disenfranchised, reaching communities beyond the physical boundaries that exist. It also presents a unique set of dangers.
There has been a long history of cyber incidents affecting LGBTQ people. As recently as October 2021, an Israeli dating app Atraf was hacked and released tens of thousands of private records. In April 2021, an adversary gained access to account credentials to Manhunt users, a gay male dating site with 6 million members. In 2020, Rela, a Chinese-based dating app for lesbians, exposed millions of members' private information. What about the countless times dating app Grindr experienced incidents, even warned of its security and privacy risks by researchers?
Why cyber security is an LGBTQ issue Photo by FLY:D on Unsplash
What can go wrong? Why you should be concerned.
A lot can go wrong with sharing your personal information with others or relying on an app to store it safely. Risky applications that lack data security and privacy are among the leading concerns that put members' data at risk of compromise.
Mobile devices are another concern. Over 80% of the world’s population have smartphones, and mobile devices are the leading security risk (due to their ability to quickly share and obtain information and the lack of security software enabled. Yet very few secure their mobile devices with the basics such as passwords and locks, let alone have security software to protect them adequately. That leaves an enormous surface area for cybercriminals to attack and obtain information.
Once obtained through ill-gotten measures, data is then sold on the Dark Web and used to plot an identity theft, exposed to embarrass someone, used to extort something, even the age-old game of cat phish (fake identity).
Since the Internet is one of the first places for LGBTQ to research important information and connect with others in the community, the consequences of this information landing in the wrong hands are far-reaching. The impact ranges from embarrassment, financial harm, judgment from family, friends, and colleagues to long-term mental health problems, even physical harm or death.
As hate crimes surged to the highest level in twelve years, according to the FBI’s annual hate crime statistics report, data exposures can have devastating consequences especially if someone is outed in small or remote communities where there is a lack of LGBTQ presence, or countries where being queer is stigmatized or illegal.
Staying Safe Online
There are plenty of ways to remain safe online. The easiest way to exercise caution is to break down cybersecurity into three distinct areas: people, process, and technology. These three main elements will help connect the dots and prevent many adverse events.
Remain aware. Do your due diligence before engaging with an unsafe application, suspicious individual, or meeting someone in-person.
Information oversharing. Guard your personal information when sharing with strangers and do not relay too much information, even on dating applications.
Cautiously connect. Remain cautious whom you connect with and allow into your environment. Often the same tricks and scams in the real-world stem from an initial online encounter. Use your best judgment and if something seems off, trust your instincts.
Safeguard physical access to your device. Never leave your device unattended and unlocked, especially in public. Be sure you lock the screen using a passcode and adjust the screen timeout. Disable notifications on the lock screen, as this is a good way for someone to gain information on you.
Understand your privacy settings. Each application is different, so familiarize yourself with the privacy and sharing settings and adjust them accordingly to your risk.
Search yourself online. Is there information you do not want out there? You can contact websites and remove the information that should not be public. Search people finding sites and remove your data.
Backup your data. Backup the data from your devices, even from the applications you use. Be sure that it is stored in a secure and encrypted digital storage service to the cloud. Avoid external hard drives or thumb drives to spare your data the event of theft or act of nature. Enable recovery options in each application in case you are locked out.
Good password hygiene. Passwords serve as keys to your digital kingdom, so keeping them secure is paramount. A good password consists of 10-15 upper, lowercase letters, numbers, and characters. Turn on multi-factor authentication (MFA) which will bolster your security if someone obtains your password. Think of MFA as a double door to your home that is locked and requires another key to gain access.
Apps with weak security. Think before you download. Even though they’re from trusted sources such as the app store, many applications are risky due to the lack of privacy and safety. Applications with weak security will compromise any device that has strong security. Be cautious granting permissions to your contacts and other data on your device. Also, read the privacy policies before downloading. These policies are typically confusing, so look for four main components: what data the company collects, what they do with that data, how they protect your data, and how you can control their use of your data. If you are not comfortable with how the company handles your information, do not download it.
Secure WiFi. Most people have connected to a public WiFi at one point, but doing so can allow others to obtain your data easily. Furthermore, criminals sometimes set up fake WiFI networks, and when users connect, they are connecting directly to the adversary who is filtering the traffic from the device to the Internet, obtaining all information transmitted. Using a VPN (a virtual private network) will help encrypt your data on public WiFi, but using a hotspot is the safest way to prevent data leakage.
Identity theft and reputational monitoring. Consider identity theft monitoring that includes social media. Some cost-effective solutions on the market will alert you of any identity theft issues, reputational threats and even help remove your personal information from the web to reduce incidences.
Security software. Many individuals have antivirus on their PCs and think they are safe, but antivirus is only part of the solution and will not protect you from today’s sophisticated attacks. Often forgotten is security software for mobile phones, yet mobile phones are the most significant risk of attack. Advanced endpoint security solutions that include antivirus, and malicious web link scanning, some of the crucial components of good security and that protect all devices, even HVAC thermostats.
Password manager. Everyone should have a password manager to store their digital keys safely. Keeping passwords in a notepad or your digital notes is asking for trouble. Many browsers have password managers, but those are not a good idea either. Cybercriminals can target browsers. The safest method is an encrypted, vaulted password manager that syncs to all devices.
Bringing it all together
Cybersecurity is everyone’s responsibility, and we must learn that all data is valuable. As our dependence on technology steadily increases, end users must take their safety into their own hands. Until our laws are modernized (and remain that way), it is up to individuals to protect themselves online. It is a critical mistake to leave your security and privacy in the hands of others. The best method is to be smart about your safety and protect yourself from the evolving online incidents that continue to increase in number and magnitude.
It is vital to partner with a cybersecurity consultant who supports marginalized communities, especially LGBTQ. Most technology companies lack diversity and cannot provide the proper guidance and trusted advice to LGBTQ individuals. It is best to have someone by your side whom you can trust to help protect against the evolving threats that we face online.
Do your part, be cyber smart.
Cyber security expert Tom Kowalski
About the Author
Tom Kowalski is the founder and CEO of REP, a cybersecurity risk and reputation advisory firm. Tom’s differentiated background in cybersecurity, crisis communications, and reputational risk allows him to effectively manage clients' digital risks and mitigate online threats that affect their assets, reputation, and well-being.
Several years before founding REP, Tom was the target of online harassment. The lack of laws governing social media and tech companies, combined with difficulty finding justice, led him to create his company.
Today, Tom eases the burden of worry for other LGBTQ victims and helps individuals achieve safety and peace of mind. He also helps organizations manage their cybersecurity risks, specializing in cybersecurity policies. Part of Tom’s work involves analyzing corporate security procedures, focusing on how their current strategies affect all individuals. Tom designs and improves policies that better govern an organization's security program and lower the risk of adverse incidents.
REP is a certified business of NGLCC (National LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce) where Tom is an active member of the New York City chapter. Tom is also an active member of cyber security and risk organizations ISACA and the FAIR Institute.
Healthcare is a hot topic for many Americans. No matter your stance on it, most of us can agree that it’s not easy for everyone to access affordable medical care. If you’re in the LGBTQ+ community, you might face another obstacle – discrimination.
It can be hard to believe you would be discriminated against or even turned away based on your sexual identity, but it does happen like so many other injustices in this world. If you already have a healthcare provider you like and trust, you might be worried about coming out to them.
Will they treat you differently? Will your care be compromised?
Let’s cover some of the common barriers people within the community can face in the healthcare industry, why your doctor should know if you’re LGBTQ+, and what to look for in a provider that won’t discriminate.
What Challenges Do LGBTQ+ People Face in Healthcare?
There are a variety of underserved populations in healthcare, including minorities and those in traditionally underserved or poverty-stricken communities. Those in the LGBTQ+ population are often underserved because of discrimination. Think it doesn’t exist? Consider some of these staggering statistics from a 2017 national survey:
- 8% of respondents said a healthcare provider refused to see them because of their sexual orientation.
- 6% said a doctor refused to provide them with care.
- 9% said a healthcare provider used abusive or harsh language while treating them.
- 7% said they received unwanted physical contact from their healthcare provider.
It should come as no surprise, then, that fewer LGBTQ+ are getting the healthcare they deserve. These statistics are more than numbers. They are people. They are stories. If someone you know had a negative experience with their doctor and told you about it, you’d be less likely to go. Maybe you even had a bad experience yourself, and have never trusted the medical industry again.
Several things need to be done to serve the LGBTQ+ community better, including:
- Federal initiatives
- Smart devices that make it easier to access public health care
- Education on inclusivity within the medical field
Unfortunately, it will take time for this kind of reform and restructuring to happen within the healthcare industry. In the meantime, what can you do to get the care you deserve, whether it's from your current doctor or someone new?
Why You Should Talk to Your Doctor
Building up a trusting relationship with a healthcare provider can take some time. Maybe you’ve been working with your doctor for years, and you trust their medical knowledge and like their personality.
However, maybe they don’t know your gender identity or sexual orientation. Maybe you’ve thought about telling them in the past but have been worried about discrimination.
While it’s always a risk, it’s important to come out to your doctor for medical purposes, if nothing else. Certain health issues affect higher proportions of the LGBTQ+ community, including:
- Mental health issues
- Sexual assault
HIV is still a problem among members of the community, too. According to a 2010 study by the CDC, 63% of new HIV infections impacted men who had sex with other men.From a mental health standpoint, telling your doctor can be both freeing and can get you the help you need. It’s not uncommon for those in the community to experience extra stress, anxiety, and depression due to discrimination and constant worry. Because LGBTQ+ people are also at a greater risk of sexual violence, finding the right mental health treatment for the aftermath is crucial. Medical attention is needed to document evidence and identify any injuries or long-term risks, as well as to set up a mental health treatment plan that will help you process what happened.
Finding the Right Healthcare Provider
Whether you’ve experienced discrimination from your doctor or you want a clean slate in a place that will give you the care you deserve, there are a few things to look for in an LGBTQ+-friendly healthcare environment.
- First, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Shop around, and set up consultations with providers you’re interested in. Ask them about their experience with the LGBTQ+ community. You’ll get a lot of information from that answer, and can probably trust your “gut” with whether they’re comfortable or not.
- You should also do your research. Seek both online and offline resources for LGBTQ+-friendly physicians in your area. Read reviews, look for doctors who offer a safe and inclusive practice for everyone, and consider asking your friends about their personal experiences and where they go. Thankfully, despite the obstacles you might face in finding a doctor, it’s not impossible. Even if you live in a rural area or far away from a doctor who is willing to give you proper care, nowadays, it’s easier than ever to connect with the right provider.
- If you can’t find someone nearby, consider choosing telehealth services for your general well-being and for regular checkups. While they can’t cover everything, it can help to have a physician in your corner who you trust, even if they’re hundreds of miles away. Don’t let discrimination in the healthcare industry get you down. With a little bit of time, research, and doctor-shopping, you can find a provider who will give you care without judgment.
The weather is warming up, and that means it’s grilling time. It's time to invite friends over and fire up the grill. If you are new to grilling, it's best to start with the basics, and a charcoal grill is a perfect place to start.
What You’ll Need
Before you get started, it's important to learn about the type of charcoal grill you have. Ensure everything is in working order and familiarize yourself with the air vents on the grill because these help you control the heat. If you are looking to buy one, you will need to consider which size is best for your needs. We recommend buying one with an ash container for easy cleanup. Charcoal grills come in different shapes and sizes, and the price range starts at around $100 and can go up from there.
Once you have your grill set up, you will need a couple of things.
- Chimney starter (optional)
- Grilling tongs
- Pumice stone for cleaning the grill grate
- Heat resistant gloves
Choose Your Charcoal
Charcoal briquettes are the classic choicePhoto by Amin Hasani on Unsplash
Charcoal grills, of course, use charcoal as fuel, and there are two types of charcoal you can use. Charcoal briquettes are the most affordable option. You can find them in any supermarket in a big bag. They create consistent heat and burn for an extended time. While they are inexpensive, they don't add much smoky flavor and the slow burn creates a lot of ash.
Hardwood charcoal is the more expensive option, but worth it if you love the smoky taste of grilled food. This type of charcoal burns quickly and leaves little ash for easy clean-up. If you want the best of both worlds, you can use both charcoals together.
Before you get started, you will want to make sure you have enough charcoal. The amount of charcoal needed depends on how much you are planning to cook and for how long. A rough estimate is if you are cooking hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken for a group, 4.5 to 5 pounds of charcoal is best. If you are cooking for 2-3 people, then 2.5 pounds of charcoal should be enough. And, if you are grilling a long-cooking cut of meat or using your grill as a smoker with lower heat but for an extended time then 2 pounds of charcoal is fine.
Light the Grill
Waiting for the grill to heat up is hard when you are hungry.Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash
There are a few ways to get your grill fired up. The most traditional way is to arrange the charcoal in a small pile on the grill and spray some lighter fluid on the charcoal. Always read the instructions on the bottle for the exact amount of fluid to use. Using too much lighter fluid can affect the flavor of your food. Give the charcoal a minute to absorb the fluid, then light the charcoal with a utility lighter. Once the charcoal is lit, resist the temptation to add more lighter fluid, it's dangerous, and it will be difficult to control the flame.
If you prefer not to use lighter fluid, you can use a chimney starter. Chimney starters are available at any hardware store, and if you grill frequently, they are a great investment. Using a chimney starter is the fastest way to get your charcoal piping hot. Some starters have a place to add either newspaper or fire starter cubes. Follow the instructions, add the charcoal to the starter, and light from there. Once hot, pour onto the grill. Use heat-resistant gloves for safety.
For tech lovers, there is also an electric charcoal starter. Just place the charcoal on the grill and touch the electric starter to the charcoal until it lights.
Another option to light the charcoal is a strike-able fire starter. They are like a large match that you can place in the middle of the charcoal to get the coals going.
However, you get your charcoal started, you will need to wait for your grill to heat up before you start cooking. It can take around 15- 20 minutes to get hot enough to cook your food. Most charcoal grills have a built-in thermometer to help you know when it reaches grilling temperature which is anywhere between 350 to 450 F. While your grill is heating up, you can prepare the grill grate.
Prepare the Grill Grate
Oil up the grill grate to keep juices meats from sticking.Photo by Andrik Langfield on Unsplash
You should always start with a clean grill. While you don't need to deep clean the entire grill after each use, you should clean the grill grate before and after each use. Use a pumice stone made for grills to clean your grill grates. There are wire brushes on the market for this, too, but there have been cases of metal bristles breaking off and getting stuck on the grill and then sticking to food, so stick with a pumice cleaner.
Once the grate is clean, brush some oil on the grate to keep food from sticking. Save your olive oil for your salad. Instead, use a high heat oil like vegetable or canola.
Arrange Coals for Effective Cooking
Sear some steaks for the perfect grill marks.Photo by Paul Hermann on Unsplash
Once the charcoal has heated up, you can use your grilling tongs to arrange the coals. Charcoal placement is key to coking with charcoal. As a general rule, you will want to have two cooking areas on your grill—one for direct heat to sear and one for indirect heat for foods that require longer cooking time. Searing is good for steaks, while indirect heat is better for meat on the bone and roasts.
Another option is to use grilling planks on the charcoal grill. Grilling planks are pieces of wood like cedar or alder that you can cook food on rather than placing the food straight on the grill. Soaking the planks in water for an hour prior to grilling ensures they won't burn. Then, place meats, fish, or vegetables on the plank for a smoky dish.
Cleaning Up the Grill After Use
Properly caring for a charcoal grill extends its life.Photo by Taylor Grote on Unsplash
When your last burger has been flipped, and it's time to turn off the grill, just close the vents and put the lid on the grill. Without air to fuel the fire, it will gradually burn out. This can take up to 48 hours for it to completely cool and be safe enough to remove the coal and ashes.
If you are in a hurry you can use your tongs and pull out each charcoal brisket and place it in a metal bucket filled with water. Scoop the hot ash into a metal container to let it cool. Never pour water onto a charcoal grill as it can damage the grill and leave a sludge that you will have to clean later. Plus, water directly on hot coals creates dangerous steam that can burn anyone near the grill.
When your charcoal grill is cooled and cleaned, it's ready to be stored for next time. While charcoal grills are sturdy and can be left outside, if you live in a colder climate you will want to ensure it is protected from the elements to extend the life of the grill.
Tips and Tricks for Charcoal Grills
- Resist the temptation to flip your food too much
- Control the heat by using the vents and lid
- Keep the heat around 350° F for most foods or 450° F for searing
- Add a handful of wood chips like hickory or mesquite to the coals for more flavor
Lesbians and queer women assemble! We have put together a list of some of the best women-only and LGBTQ+ friendly campgrounds in the U.S. Trying to find safe and fun places to travel to and stay at shouldn't be a hassle, so we've done most of the work for you. All you have to do is select one of these incredible destinations and get to packing. Enjoy our list of the best lesbian campgrounds around!
Windover Women's Resort, Owendale, MI
Go canoeingPhoto by Michael Niessl on Unsplash
Founded in the 1980s, Windover Women's Resort was created to provide all women with a safe outdoor camping experience. Located in Owendale, Michigan, the resort offers many amenities and activities to women over the age of 18. With an in-ground heated swimming pool, clubhouse, camp store, and multi sports-court, you will never be bored during your stay here.
Sugarloaf Women's Village, Sugarloaf Key, FL
Florida CampingPhoto by Jorge Vasconez on Unsplash
In 1976 Barbara Deming and her partner Jane Verlaine moved to the Florida Keys, where they created the oasis now known as Sugarloaf Women's Village. The lush acreage on Sugarloaf Key boasts four houses, two guest cottages, and a campground for RV and tent campers. Women are welcome to camp here for a few days up to several weeks, or they may submit an application for residency if they wish to stay for an extended period of time. Though only lesbians are permitted to live full-time here, any woman is welcome to camp or visit. Sugarloaf fosters a sense of community among the women who stay there and is an idyllic escape for anyone wishing to spend time in the Keys.
The Woods Camping Resort, Lehighton, PA
Pocono Mountain campingPhoto by photo nic on Unsplash
Nestled in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania, The Woods is a membership-only LGBTQ+ camping resort for the 18+ crowd. Book one of their campsites for tent camping or RV camping, or get cozy in one of their on-site cabins. The Woods offers many amenities, whether you stay for the weekend or the month. Hang in the clubhouse with friends, join in group activities on the lake, or check out the dance club when the sun goes down. The Woods is a great place to escape with friends or lovers or to meet new people.
El Morro, Ramah, NM
Camping in New MexicoPhoto by Julia Karnavusha on Unsplash
High in the mountains of New Mexico beneath a sacred mesa, El Morro is home to an RV park, campground, cabins, and highly rated cafe. Visit this campground to experience the healing energy of the land and connect to the past. Explore lava flows, prehistoric ruins, Native American arts and crafts, and red rock mesas. Bike, hike, paddle, eat, or just relax and soak in the splendors of nature. A popular destination for rock climbing, caving, and viewing wildlife, there are countless pastimes to keep you busy during your stay here. While not LGBTQ+ exclusive, El Morro is dedicated to providing a safe and inclusive space for everyone, specifically members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Coastal Acres Campground, Provincetown, MA
Visiting Cape CodPhoto by Abel Y Costa on Unsplash
If you are looking for the best in nature and in LGBTQ+ nightlife, check out Coastal Acres Campground in Provincetown, Maine. P-town has long been a popular LGBTQ+ destination, with rainbow-flag-lined streets, many queer-owned businesses, and plenty of themed nights and weekends. Within walking or biking distance to downtown Provincetown, Coastal Acres Campground offers tent and RV camping for the whole family, including your four-legged friends. Enjoy the beaches of Cape Cod and the culture of P-town during your stay here and take advantage of all of the campground amenities while you are at it.