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Homophobes are made, not born. Mike Pence — basically the homophobe in chief — was made in Columbus, Indiana.

It's a pleasant, small town in the southern part of the state. It's home to a destination-worthy ice cream parlor, a putt-putt golf center, a surprising amount of world-class modern architecture, and around 45,000 people. It's where Pence grew up and formed the values he would later bring to his work.

[rebelmouse-image 19528103 dam="1" original_size="750x500" caption="Columbus, Indiana. Photo by Graham Coreil-Allen/Flickr." expand=1]Columbus, Indiana. Photo by Graham Coreil-Allen/Flickr.


Pence, who served as Indiana's governor from 2013 to 2017, describes himself as "a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order." His policies during his time leading the state reflected those priorities, placing the civil rights of the state's LGBTQ population in serious jeopardy. Now, he's got the ear of the president and may, one day, hold the office himself.

Vice President Mike Pence delivers remarks as NASA introduces new astronaut candidates. Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images.

So what's it like to celebrate Pride Month in Columbus, the hometown of a man set on using policy to limit the freedoms of the LGBTQ population?

For Sameer Samudra, finding comfort in Columbus didn't happen overnight.When he arrived in 2000, the city was mostly white, Christian, and conservative. Samudra, now 42, a gay man born and raised in Pune, India, says there was a certain degree of culture shock.

"I didn't feel really welcomed or really part of it," he says.

Samudra (left) with his husband, Adit. Photo via Sameer Samudra, used with permission.

Samudra works for the city's largest employer, Cummins, which is a company that designs and manufactures engines and generators. It's under the company's leadership that life in Columbus has improved for LGBTQ people and people of color.

The company began allowing domestic partner benefits in 2000 and recruits employees from all around the world, making Columbus slightly more diverse than neighboring communities. There are now more diverse restaurants and recent immigrants joining the community. It's a welcome sight, even though the town remains around 82% white.

In large part due to the company's push for diversity, Columbus feels more like home for Samudra. He married his husband, Amit, there in 2010. While friends from big cities balked at the idea of getting married in the small community, Samudra didn't flinch.

"I feel like in the U.S., people have these conceptions about 'a smaller town in southern Indiana,'" he says. "There are so many things that you can experience and explore in small Midwestern towns. It's one of the reasons me and Amit... made Columbus our home."

Photo via Sameer Samudra, used with permission.

In 2015, Pence signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a piece of legislation that essentially allowed individuals and small businesses to discriminate on the basis of religion. The law became a national issue with vocal opponents, including longtime Columbus resident Sondra Bolte, 67, who protested against it. Bolte has lived in Columbus since 1981, and after experiencing harassment and intimidation before she came out of the closet, she knew Pence's policy was a step in the wrong direction.

"It seems like it didn't matter who testified, how much testimony there was in favor of our rights; it just always came down on the other side," she remembers. "It was just really incredibly frustrating, but we'd get up and do it again the next day."

At left, demonstrators gather outside the Indianapolis City-County Building in March 2015. On the right is Sondra Bolte. Photos via Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images and Sondra Bolte, used with permission.

Pence signed a "fix" to the bill just a few days later to assuage concerns, but the emotional toll on the LGBTQ community was immediately felt. Samudra says the policy empowered hateful groups and discrimination.

"It felt like someone just insulted me and slapped me in my face and punched me in my gut," he remembers.

Now that Pence is out of state government, many in Columbus are cautiously optimistic. But mostly cautious.

Samudra believes the negativity and vitriol stirred and emboldened by Pence and the Trump administration may actually have worked against them because more allies are moved to act in the fight for equality.

"A lot of straight allies ... didn't realize how bad it can get," Samudra says. "Now a lot of people are asking me, 'What can we do to change this or help ... the LGBT movement?'"

Samudra at a local demonstration. Photo via Sameer Samudra, used with permission.

Indiana's new governor, Eric Holcomb, has rolled back some of Pence's policies, but the damage to the state, particularly the LGBTQ community, hasn't been undone.

"I think [Holcomb] really cares about governing in the state of Indiana and he cares about the people, whereas I think Mike Pence cared about Mike Pence. Period," Bolte says.

That's why Pride Month — in Columbus and across the country — is so important.

For Samudra, it is a chance to celebrate LGBTQ visibility.

"This is a really huge community with their own unique needs and challenges, and [Pride Month] gives us that visibility and that sense of accomplishment," he says.

Revelers hug during Circle City Pride activities in Indianapolis in June 2015. Photo by AJ Mast/AP.

For Bolte, Pride events put faces to the often monolithic "LGBTQ community" designation. These are friends, neighbors, colleagues, and family members — not just faces in a crowd.

Celebrations and events can give people still in the closet a boost, too.

"I believe that things have changed for us because people were willing to be out and take whatever comes their way," Bolte says. "June is incredibly important to help people who are a little bit afraid go, 'I can do this.'"

People like Mike Pence have the means and power to do serious damage.

They can strip away the rights, freedoms, and privileges everyone deserves. But they can't take away passion, resilience, or pride, even in the place they hold most dear. Not now. Not ever.

And that's something to celebrate.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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Girls are bombarded with messages from a very young age telling them that they can’t, that is too big, this is too heavy, those are too much.

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14 things that will remain fun no matter how old you get

Your inner child will thank you for doing at least one of these.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Swings can turn 80-year-olds into 8-year-olds in less that two seconds.

When we’re kids, fun comes so easily. You have coloring books and team sports and daily recess … so many opportunities to laugh, play and explore. As we get older, these activities get replaced by routine and responsibility (and yes, at times, survival). Adulthood, yuck.

Many of us want to have more fun, but making time for it still doesn’t come as easily as it did when we were kids—whether that’s because of guilt, a long list of other priorities or because we don’t feel it’s an age-appropriate thing to long for.

Luckily, we’ve come to realize that fun isn’t just a luxury of childhood, but really a vital aspect of living well—like reducing stress, balancing hormone levels and even improving relationships.

More and more people of all ages are letting their inner kids out to play, and the feelings are delightfully infectious.

You might be wanting to instill a little more childlike wonder into your own life, and not sure where to start. Never fear, the internet is here. Reddit user SetsunaSaigami asked people, “What always remains fun no matter how old you get?” People’s (surprisingly profound) answers were great reminders that no matter how complex our lives become, simple joy will always be important.

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

via Pixabay

The show must go on… and more power to her.

There are few things that feel more awful than being stranded at the altar by your spouse-to-be. That’s why people are cheering on Kayley Stead, 27, from the U.K. for turning a day of extreme disappointment into a party for her friends, family and most importantly, herself.

According to a report in The Metro, on Thursday, September 15, Stead woke up in an Airbnb with her bridemaids, having no idea that her fiance, Kallum Norton, 24, had run off early that morning. The word got to Stead’s bridesmaids at around 7 a.m. the day of the wedding.

“[A groomsman] called one of the maids of honor to explain that the groom had ‘gone.’ We were told he had left the caravan they were staying at in Oxwich Bay (the venue) at 12:30 a.m. to visit his family, who were staying in another caravan nearby and hadn’t returned. When they woke in the morning, he was not there and his car had gone,” Jordie Cullen wrote on a GoFundMe page.

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via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


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