Gender vs. The Culture

Jazz Jennings, Caitlyn Jenner, Chaz Bono, Josie Totah, Chelsea Manning; Do you recognize those names and what they all have in common? They are all well-publicized individuals who identify as transgender and have undergone extensive treatments in order to transition to become the opposite gender. Now a highly controversial topic and political playing piece that is permeating popular culture and society, transgenderism is often used by politicians and activists to further their collective group or political agendas.

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary,1 the word “transgender” is defined as “of, relating to, or being a person, whose gender identity differs from the sex the person had or was identified as having at birth.” So how do individuals get to the point where they believe their gender differs from that which they were assigned at birth? As noted in Paper Genders2, “gender found in the DNA is established in the womb” and “…how a child acts out their gender role can vary and depends on the parents, siblings and anyone else who spends time with the child.” Basically, gender is biological and gender identity is formed and influenced after birth by the situations and people surrounding the child. Genesis 1:27 (ESV), “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Children are negatively affected by not having positive gender role models and events such as the loss of a parent or abuse; both of which will distort their perception of gender and gender roles.

It is very easy to plant seeds of doubts into the head of an innocent child. When a person has gone through traumatic or difficult situations, it affects them mentally and often has long term effects. Leaving those issues unresolved leads to suppressed emotions which ultimately causes further psychological trauma. A majority of the time, people with gender dysphoria have underlying psychological issues that are not addressed during consultations when they go to receive approval for gender reassignment surgery. For example, take Walt Heyer’s story: Unbeknownst to his parents, his grandma cross dressed him for 2-2 ½ years and she positively affirmed him when he was dressed in feminine clothing thus planting the first seed of doubt into his young mind. Upon finding out what was happening, Walt’s father started disciplining him with a floorboard to toughen him up. Then, Walt’s uncle, Fred, started to molest him and when he tried to tell his mother, she would not believe him. All these majorly traumatic events happened before he turned 10. To try and cope with all that had happened at the hand of his family, Mr. Heyer suppressed his feelings and began to fantasize about being female. When he was a little older, after reading about the case of a transgender woman, Christine Jorgensen, he believed that he too could change genders and began secretly calling himself “Cristal. Years later, he turned to alcohol and then drugs to try and cope with his unresolved trauma. He seemingly had it all – he was married with a family and had a successful career working at NASA and large corporations but despite all of the success in his personal and professional life, he felt deeply unhappy. His alcohol and drug addictions eventually caught up to him and not only did his career crumble but his marriage failed as well. Then, he made the fateful decision to have a surgical gender change. This decision estranged his family. In the years following the surgery, he had success as a woman – beating his drug and alcohol addictions, getting good jobs and being able to pass as female. It wasn’t until he began studying to be a counselor that he realized his transgender persona was a form of disassociation – a way to escape the pain and suffering he had gone through. After coming to that conclusion, he decided that he needed to recover on multiple fronts – getting counselling to help process the trauma and being restored to his birth gender.

Walt Heyer’s story is a prime example of flaws in the medical care system for individuals who suffer from gender dysphoria. Often times, these people are also suffering from other mental health issues which are unaddressed as they go about seeking hormone treatments and gender reassignment surgery. In order to be approved for surgery, most doctors require patients to get a note from a psychologist. This is where the trouble begins. Unfortunately, most psychologists don’t perform a thorough evaluation in that they don’t examine all aspects of a patient’s life. Instead, they merely ask questions relating to a person’s transgender identity and often times approve them after only one or a few short sessions. Many might point to the Standards of Care and say that there are adequate regulations and protections in place but if you examine the document itself, you will see that they are numerous loopholes. For one thing, they are suggestions and not actual requirements – there is no enforcement of the standards. There is also no requirement to follow up with patients post-surgery to see how they are doing. The Standards of Care do list various mental health concerns to screen for but they do not say to not perform surgery on people who are suffering from any of those conditions, they merely state “incorporate the concerns into the overall treatment plan” and “No surgery should be performed while a patient is actively psychotic. In his book, Gender, Lies and Suicide3, Walt Heyer describes how his group therapy sessions with a gender therapist who approved people for surgery did not involve addressing the mental health issues of the various individuals. Instead, the therapist spent the time explaining how best to present one’s self as a female through elements such as makeup, dress, walking, and voice. Does that sound like adequate safety measures for someone who is about to undergo life changing surgery? The Standards of Care, originally created by Dr. John Money, is nothing more than smoke and mirrors to disguise the fact that patients are not receiving the objective and all-encompassing care that they need.

Children mimic what they see, wanting to find similarities between themselves and people, particularly adults, around them. For example, a boy might put a towel on his head and say “Look, Mom! I have long hair like you!” or a child might show interest in toys or games not necessarily associated with their gender. Now, even these innocent actions can be misconstrued by parents as signs of transgenderism. Instead of helping a child by providing examples of gender or helping them work through their uncertainty, parents are affirming them in their confusion and further reinforcing those thoughts into their impressionable minds. Take Shiloh Jolie-Pitt for example: her parents state that she has been exploring her gender identity since the tender age of three, wanting to be a boy and believing herself to be one of the brothers.4 From an early age, Shiloh demanded to be addressed by the male name John and has been seen dressing in progressively masculine clothing.5 She has cut her hair very short and reportedly has no female clothing. Her parents have affirmed her thoughts since she began to conceive and express them as a toddler by not only allowing her to believe those ideas but also make decisions for herself regarding her gender identity. Deuteronomy 22:5 (ESV) says, “A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.”

In an interview, Dr. Paul R. McHugh, the former psychiatrist-in-chief for Johns Hopkins Hospital and its current Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry said that the belief that one’s gender is a matter of the mind and not anatomy has led some transgender individuals to push for social affirmation and acceptance of their subjective “personal truth. He also stated that because of this, states such as California, New Jersey, and Massachusetts have passed laws preventing psychiatrists “even with parental permission, from striving to restore natural gender feelings to a transgender minor. Dr. McHugh remarked that  “The pro-transgender advocates do not want to know that studies show between 70% and 80% of children who express transgender feelings ‘spontaneously lose those feelings’ over time.”6

At this time in our culture, when a child expresses interest or curiosity about the other gender or activities normally undertaken by the opposite gender, both parents and doctors not only encourage it but are willing to assist a child to do irreconcilable damage to their bodies at drastically younger and younger ages. In a majority of cases, transitioning results in permanent sterilization. According to multiple reports including that of the University of Rochester Medical Center, a young person’s brain is not fully developed until the age of 25.7 Why are children and young people being allowed to make life altering decisions about their bodies if they are not mentally mature? It’s partly the fault of society, egging on individuals who are struggling and desperately seeking affirmation and acceptance and also the megalomaniac doctors wanting recognition and wealth. The doctors who advocated for and pioneered transgender surgeries were not as noble as they were made out to be. Dr. Alfred Kinsey, Dr. Harry Benjamin, Dr. John Money, Dr. Paul Walker all were highly lauded individuals who were at the forefront of the movement. However, if one further examines their lives, you will find that they were twisted individuals – some were sex addicts and they all supported forms of pedophilia. Sickeningly, this is only the tip of the iceberg. We are allowing the successors of these doctors to perform experimental treatments on kids, not knowing what the long-term outcome will be and how it will affect them over the course of their lives.

        This all leads back to the larger overarching problem – the system is broken. Despite the glamorized happy endings that are portrayed in the media and the success stories from activists, transgender individuals generally are not happier post surgery. “The attempted suicide rate among transgenders is 41% and the actual rate of death by suicide is estimated by one source to be between 31% and 50%.8 In contrast to the national average of 13.4% suicide deaths per 100,000 people9, this percentage is staggering. If that wasn’t enough of a red flag, following gender reassignment surgery, up to 90% of patients are lost to follow up.10 This means that in the follow up findings, the results being presented only come from about 10% of the total number of patients. The reports that purportedly claim that the surgeries are successful are based on the results compiled from a very small percentage of individuals who could be found and agreed to be interviewed post-surgery.

        In conclusion, something drastic needs to happen. The system needs to be fixed. There needs to be transparency as well as further checks and balances in place to ensure that each individual is getting the mental and physical healthcare they need. The objective facts need to be shared with the general public. Everyone deserves the right to know the truth. No more hiding behind facades built on self-serving agendas, political playing pieces, half-truths, misleading statistics, and false narratives. By pushing aside and silencing individuals who discover that they remained unhappy post-surgery or do not fit the idealized narrative, we are doing a disservice not only to them but to the population as a whole as they do not get to hear the whole story. If we buy into what the culture says is right, we are failing to protect our most valuable assets, children and young people. They have been and will continue to be needlessly sacrificed to the machine that is society and the collective cultural mindset. Our children and young people deserve better. We need people to stand up and say that gender reassignment surgery and hormone treatment will not fix everything. It is not always an effective means to help people who are struggling. We need psychiatrists and doctors who have the integrity to work to the best of their ability regardless of whether or not it earns them fame or fortune to provide the patient with the comprehensive care involving mental health treatments to help them lead a full and healthy life.

 

Citations:

  1. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/transgender
  2. Heyer, Walt. “Transgender Children.” Paper Genders: Pulling the Mask Off the Transgender Phenomenon, edited by Kaycee Heyer, Make Waves Publishing, 2011, pg. 36.
  3. Heyer, Walt. “No Protection for the Client.” Gender, Lies and Suicide: A Whistleblower Speaks Out, Make Waves Publishing, 2013, pg. 33-39.
  4. https://www.hindustantimes.com/hollywood/angelina-jolie-s-daughter-shiloh-wants-to-be-a-boy-is-the-spitting-image-of-a-young-brad-pitt-see-pics/story-KWL8MTfQ4sb79i7yYTEHdO.html
  5. https://www.ibtimes.com/shiloh-jolie-pitt-transgender-rumors-2016-what-angelina-brad-said-about-their-2419943
  6. https://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/michael-w-chapman/johns-hopkins-psychiatrist-transgender-mental-disorder-sex-change
  7. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=1&ContentID=3051
  8.  Heyer, Walt. “Decades of Suicide” Gender, Lies and Suicide: A Whistleblower Speaks Out, Make Waves Publishing, 2013, pg. 84
  9. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2018/06/07/u-s-suicide-rates-rise-sharply-across-the-country-new-report-shows/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.51472265db3b
  10. Heyer, Walt. “Decades of Suicide” Gender, Lies and Suicide: A Whistleblower Speaks Out, Make Waves Publishing, 2013, pg. 85
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Doing More Than You Think You Can Do: How I Overcame Impostor Syndrome

According to Oxford Dictionaries, impostor syndrome is defined as “The persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills.”

 

As I entered the room, I couldn’t shake the notion of feeling like a fraud, like I didn’t belong there with everyone else and that I’d be found out and be made to leave. The unsettling feeling didn’t leave that night or during the classes that followed.

 

So, I kept going to class and doing the work, still feeling anxious. I sat on the outskirts of the room and kept mostly to myself, saying little and interacting minimally with my classmates. I felt insecure because of my age and lack of experience due to the fact that I was with people who had as many years of work experience as I had been alive. The program was a course that focused on teaching a combination of business and financial principles and providing resources for entrepreneurs sponsored by a local community college and the Rotary International, amongst others. When I started the process of applying to be part of the program, I honestly didn’t think I would be accepted but lo and behold, I made it through two rounds of interviews and was chosen to be a member of the inaugural cohort.

 

The little nagging voice didn’t go away in those initial weeks. Then, I talked to my friend who was in a similar situation where he was the youngest one in his work program. I asked him if it was weird for him but he said no, he just worked hard and people accepted him with a bit of teasing. As simple as that statement was, it was very reassuring to hear and really helped me to put the situation in perspective. So, I kept pressing on and in the weeks that followed I got to know my classmates better and I got more comfortable with the workload. I was also comforted by the realization that they were also struggling with the class assignments. By the end of the course, I no longer felt like an impostor. I learnt so much from the course and the experience and I am proud of myself for doing so. I’m both happy and relieved it’s over but I think I’m going to miss attending the classes every week. The course was great because it really helped me to think through all the nitty gritty details necessary to have a good foundation and me up for success. We had a fantastic teacher who had many years of experience working with large corporations and startups. He told lots of antidotes and relevant real life examples alongside the course material which helped us to see the application of the more complex and abstract concepts. I also had fantastic classmates and there was really great group synergy; lots of mutual support and idea sharing. It was an intense whirlwind and the homework load was quite heavy but I really enjoyed myself, learnt a lot, and met some really cool people who I became friends with.

 

If you are ever in a situation where you feel like you don’t belong or are not qualified, know that you were chosen for the role and placed in the situation for a reason. You are qualified or have shown that you have the ability and willingness to learn the necessary skills, you belong and most importantly, you can do this. God puts you in places for a reason. He wants you to grow, he wants you to have an impact and he also wants to be the salt and light.

 

You got this!

I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:13 NIV

Impactful Heroines

Ever since I was little, I’ve loved two things: Broadway and books. Why? Because I loved delving into a world and dissecting the different characters to figure out their actions and what makes them tick so I could better understand them. I love stories (true or fictional!) and the ability they have to connect and resonant with different people. As I look back, I realize I’ve always looked up to and connected with strong female characters. These characters were the outliers, girls who were different and dared to think and dream differently than everyone else. What drew me to these different characters was that I saw parts of myself in them. I felt like I could relate to their situations and their thought processes. As I analyzed each character, I learnt from them and what I learnt helped me grow as a person. Below, I have chosen a few of the characters that have had a long lasting impact on me and how old I was when I grew up with them.

Image result for laura ingalls wilder images
Laura Ingalls Wilder – 8-11
I’m pretty sure Laura was the first female protagonist that I looked up to. She was bold, brave, spunky and wanted to play by her own rules. I admired how loyal she was and how she was more than willing to speak her mind. I think the best part of her character was how she was imperfect. I felt like that made her even more relatable as a character. I like how she constantly pushed the boundaries of convention and how she strove to improve and keep challenging herself.

For one Christmas, I got a huge stack of books about the real Laura which I promptly devored. I even got to see the Little House On The Prairie musical when it came to town. A friend of my mom’s made me a bonnet and I thought it was the coolest thing. I still have it.

Image result for katniss everdeen
Katniss Everdeen – 11-13
At the end of my Little House on the Prairie obsession, I discovered the Hunger Games and was fascinated by Katniss. Actually, I read the first book when I was nine but wasn’t impressed. For some reason, it wasn’t my cup of tea at the time. The second time around, I was drawn to her strength and tenacity. She was willing to go the distance to protect the people that she cared about. Like me, she didn’t let a lot of people into her inner circle but the ones she allowed in she fiercely loved and protected. She was resilient and refused to let anything or anyone change her. I loved how she didn’t care what anyone thought about her. She had her own set of morals and rules and she refused to compromise no matter how difficult the situation was.

Katniss was the one who initially got me to like the color green. It’s still my favorite color. I also tried archery because of her. My mom, a friend, his mom, and I saw the first movie together and I absolutely loved it… I said every line with each character for the entire film.

Image result for nina rosario in the heights
Nina Rosario – 14-17
Nina Rosario is a character from a musical called “In The Heights.” She’s a Latina woman and the first in her family to attend college. To this day, her song “Breathe” still resonates strongly with me because I see so much of myself in her. She and I are so alike. We’re both daughters of parents who immigrated to the states. We both are hard on ourselves and have a huge fear of failure because we don’t want to let our family, friends, and ourselves down. She also struggles with the questions that I do about trying to find our identities and trying to find our place in the world as well as trying to figure out how we fit into our two cultures. Just listening to what she sings throughout the show brings tears to my eyes because I feel like she says what I feel… she understands. Here’s part of another song from the show… Nina’s lyrics are the same things I struggle with. I’m trying to learn more about my culture, I’m trying to learn Chinese, and I still don’t know where I’m supposed to be. At the end of the musical, she’s able to get some answers and choose a path for herself. I’m not quite there yet but I know that I will and everything will be okay.

 

In this post, I chose to focus on the characters that had made a major impact on me. Here are a few characters that deserve honorable mention: Clarisse from Fahrenheit 451, Petra Arkadian from Ender’s Game, Francie Nolan from Tree Grows In Brooklyn, Hermione Granger from Harry Potter, Tris Prior from Divergent, Johanna Mason and Clove from the Hunger Games, Annabeth Chase from Percy Jackson and Campbell Davis from Bring It On:The Musical.

Currently, I don’t have a character that I’m growing up with/ learning from but I can’t wait to find her. Each of these girls left such an impression on me and are a reminder of the importance of human connection and the power of a story.

The End

Why I Don’t Wear Makeup

If you were to put a bunch of makeup in front of me, I would have literally no clue what to do with any of it. I’m a simple, no frills person and my getting ready routine consist of me brushing my teeth, washing my face, putting on some toner, getting dressed and fixing my hair.

Why don’t I wear makeup like the majority of teenage girls? Here are my four main reasons why:

 

 

  • My Time Is Valuable

 

I am of the mindset that I could use my time in a more constructive and productive way than taking time to apply makeup. I could read, study, sleep, work, spend time with my family, or sometimes watch my favorite studytubers or clips of broadway shows. Another positive of this routine is that I only need a short amount of time to get ready for the day or to go out. We all have 24 hours in a day and I want to make the most of my time.

 

 

  • Makeup Is Expensive

 

According to this article on Allure, women spend an average of $300,000 on facial beauty products in their lifetime. That is a very large amount of money and could be saved for a number of practical or non-practical purposes. For example, said money could be used for an emergency fund, college tuition, rent, or a down payment for a vehicle or house, travel, seeing concerts or shows, or buying books.

 

 

  • Self-Acceptance Is Important

 

I think it’s important to be confident and comfortable with who you are and how you look without making changes to your appearance, even temporary ones. It can be unnerving going out when my face isn’t clear but I think it’s important to be able to walk around and carry myself with confidence even if don’t particularly feel it at the moment.

 

Sometimes, I worry about what other people will think of how I look at a particular moment. However, I realize that a lot of the fear of perception is actually just me getting inside my own head and I don’t want to be ruled by fear of perceptions or merely perceived perceptions.

 

I also am a firm believer in looking past a person’s outward appearance and looking at who they are and their hearts. Some of the most beautiful people I have met are not the most outwardly beautiful but are beautiful because of who they are and how they carry themselves.

 

  1. It Just Isn’t Interesting

This is perhaps the most straightforward of my reasons. If you know me at all, you will know that I am very much no frills and no nonsense. I don’t understand the attraction of makeup nor do I understand why people consider it a necessity. Makeup is not something I find interesting or useful so I simply don’t invest any of my time or resources into it.

 

In conclusion, I have a various reasons why I don’t wear makeup. First, I want to use my time as efficiently as possible. I also want to be a good steward of my resources. Next, as a young person, I think it’s really important that you learn to value yourself exactly as you are. Lastly, I simply have no interest in the subject. Personally, I’d rather save my money or use it on experiences and other purchases that I think are more useful and beneficial.

 

Readers: Do you wear makeup? Explain why or why not in the comments below!

Life With Food Allergies

To most of the world, food is something fun, exciting, comforting and a way to bring people together. More importantly, food is nutritious and keeps you alive, right? For over 15 million Americans, food can be something that’s a little more sinister, dangerous and even anxiety and fear inducing. On many occasions, I actually get anxiety when I go into a restaurant even if I know I’m not eating. I get very nervous and stressed and I unconsciously scratch at my left wrist.

 

Imagine life where you have to check labels every time you want to eat or use something or oftentimes, call the companies to verify ingredients and the safety of a product. The simple addition of a “may contain” statement can completely eliminate a trusted food or product from your daily use/diet. Complacency is not an option because a mistake can be deadly. Allergens are not just limited to food, they can found in everything from soaps to lotions to shampoos to toothpaste. You have to be constantly on your guard because your allergen could be hidden in many unexpected locations. For example, getting hives from trying a bicycle at Walmart or having a reaction because someone cooked your food with cookware that had accidentally come in contact with your allergen. These are just a few examples of my reality because I am anaphylactic (deathly allergic) to eggs, peanuts and all tree nuts.

 

So, what exactly are food allergies? According to FARE, “A food allergy is a medical condition in which exposure to a food triggers a harmful immune response. The immune response, called an allergic reaction, occurs because the immune system attacks proteins in the food that are normally harmless. The proteins that trigger the reaction are called allergens. Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction that is sudden in onset and can cause death.”

 

Just after I was born, within the first 48 hours, my mother noticed that I got sick after she ate a meatball sub sandwich. From then on, through her astute observation, she noticed that what she ate affected me through her breast milk. It was quite hard to miss because my diaper regularly showed that the food she ate went right through me. Remember that celebratory meatball sub at the hospital? The meatsauce dyed my poop blood red. The nurses at the hospital’s maternity ward said it was normal.

 

After bringing me home, the pattern continued. The first week past. Then the first month. Although my mom tried to bring this up to the pediatrician multiple times, he and the staff thought my mom was simply a hypochondriac, first time mother and completely dismissed her concerns. The doctor kept telling her that the explosive bowel movements were all normal and not to worry. Deep down, she knew something was not right and decided to keep a food journal of everything she ate and my reactions for a period of 2 months. In those two months, she eliminated dairy, citrus and tomatoes. It didn’t help that I was not sleeping much. I was gassy and pooped a lot. Just plain miserable. The pediatrician said to add solids to my breastmilk so I could sleep better. My mom, at the insistence of the pediatrician’s nurses, introduced me to Cheerios (disaster) and other regular foods. She saved egg and peanut butter for last. I wouldn’t eat egg. After I had refused it repeatedly, my mom decided to put it away. However, by that time, the hardboiled egg had brushed against my mouth and a rash instantly appeared. After that, the experiment ended there without proceeding to the peanut butter stage.

 

So, at the second month’s visit, she showed the pediatrician how she eliminated her diet of the offending foods and how my health improved. He immediately sent me to an allergist who confirmed I had a multitude of allergies and sensitivities. After that, I didn’t really eat until the age of two with the exception of crackers and cheerios and even those foods were causing me to have minor reactions. All I wanted was breast milk. At that point in my life, food was put into three categories: safe, potentially allergic and extremely allergic. The blood test had shown that I was severely allergic to peanuts and eggs; and moderately allergic to tree nuts, dairy, wheat, soy and peas – in that order.  For a time, only meats, rice and leafy vegetables made the safe list. My mom was my biggest advocate, spending hours doing research on an archaic computer with dial up internet in the dead of night (better connection late at night with fewer users) and lots of experimentation trying to figure out what I could or couldn’t safely eat. She also spent many hours trying to source safe food from a very small pool of food available at the time and preparing me nutritious food from scratch. Because of the many challenges involved in finding and preparing safe foods, I was not able to enjoy a diverse range of foods until I was three, after I had passed my dairy challenge and wheat, soy and peas were no longer a threat.

 

Food allergies affect every part of my life. When I was younger, I was very anxious – can I swim safely at the pool? Can I eat or work safely at the table at school? If I played on the playground equipment at the park, will I have a reaction just from touch? This lifestyle is not a choice, but something I’m constantly dealing with 24/7. Starting when I was a toddler, I had to learn responsibility and how to manage having food allergies. My mom used to make me flashcards with the names of all the the things I was allergic to so I could learn to recognize the words and know if something was safe or not. Thankfully, I learnt to read at the age of two and was able to start reading ingredients on things for myself. Between the ages of two and five, I attended preschool. This meant that I had to learn how to advocate for myself and read ingredients of things with help from my mom. I also started carrying around my EpiPen and had to learn to remember to keep it with me at all times.

 

Allergies don’t just affect an individual, they affect the whole family. In a major case of irony, my family is a bunch of foodies. Living with food allergies was a big adjustment for the whole family because my parents and siblings love food. We love talking about it, making it, eating it and watching shows about it. Although I can’t always eat everything, I enjoy watching and helping the family to pick what they eat. In another stroke of irony, I actually learnt how to cook poached eggs via Youtube even though I will never be able to prepare or eat them. I sometimes feel bad for my siblings because they love eggs but aren’t able to eat them very often because of me. As a precaution, we don’t cook eggs at home because the protein residue is sticky, invisible and hard to remove without contaminating surfaces and utensils. My family eats eggs at restaurants but my three siblings have yet to eat nuts on too many occasions because it truly strikes fear in them. They don’t want to make me sick or cause me to have hives upon contact if they did eat nuts. After eating foods that contain my allergens, the family has a protocol of using a separate bathroom to brush their teeth, wash their hands and sanitizing their toothbrushes. They also know not to share food with me or kiss me for days afterwards.

 

It can be awkward at times trying to navigate social situations with allergies. Food is such an integral part of socialization and I don’t think people realize that. I used to hate having food allergies and how it made me different from everyone else. I don’t hate them anymore, but I still get self conscious sometimes when I go out and have to bring my own food or explain why I’m not eating. Sometimes, it’s tedious having to explain my allergies but I am grateful for the chance to educate people. It has also helped immensely that I have had supportive mentors and friends who have gone out of their way to look out for me and make me feel comfortable.

 

When I was about 12, I decided to stop eating out because I felt that it wasn’t worth risking my life for a restaurant meal following a few incidents. Since then, I have only eaten out maybe five times. My allergies are so severe that I can get a reaction through cross contamination. As an example, if someone’s food preparation gloves touched an egg wash and then touched my food, it would cause a reaction. In another scenario, if my food was prepared on the same surface as fresh pasta made with egg I would be in big trouble upon ingestion. If ingested, I would almost immediately have a reaction.

 

I had one very severe reaction when I was three and a half where I became unconscious and collapsed while playing with my brother.  I had to be injected with an EpiPen and be taken to the hospital. Since then, I’ve had a few reactions that were of slightly lesser severity.  During my less severe reactions, my symptoms include throwing up and having diarrhea for hours, shaking and having my heart feel like it would beat out of my chest because it was pounding so rapidly as well as being dizzy/having a headache. It’s really scary not knowing what’s going on with your own body and how badly it will react while you are having a reaction. Trying to stay calm while your body is experiencing extreme physical duress is mentally and physically draining and terrifying. You have to make yourself calm down because being frantic only exacerbates the symptoms which makes the reaction even worse.

 

What is a reaction? It is where the immune system reacts to a food ingredient which triggers the release of chemicals such as histame from cells in the body. It can cause symptoms such as itching or swelling in the mouth and throat, hives anywhere on the body, runny nose and eyes, reddening of the skin, feeling sick and diarrhoea and/or vomiting. In severe cases, it can cause a sudden feeling of weakness (caused by a drop in blood pressure) or breathing problems (your throat might start to swell up or close). The severe symptoms indicate an anaphylactic reaction and are life threatening.

 

Food allergies have taught me many things such as resilience, resourcefulness and creativity. I don’t dwell on the things I can’t eat or do; I always focus on the things that I can eat and can do. One of the things I enjoy is baking and I love creating my own recipes or modifying recipes to fit my family’s needs. I get immense satisfaction from being self reliant and being able to find and make delicious food that I can eat. I don’t want to feel sorry for myself. I want to live to the fullest the best I can.

 

A big thank you to all the teachers, mentors, friends and parents of my friends in my life for not only looking out for me and advocating for me but also accommodating my allergies and making sure I always felt included. I am so grateful for you all. ❤️

 

Do you have food allergies or know someone who does? Please feel free to leave any questions or comments you may have down below!

 

When Friendships Fracture

friendship-breakup

Friendships are deep and meaningful relationships and when they come to an end, it is oftentimes hurtful to one or both parties. Sometimes, the relationship fades but other times it ends when it is harmful or hurtful for one or both of the individuals. It takes a lot of strength and deliberation to realize that a friendship has become toxic and is no longer a healthy relationship to be in. I was in one of those friendships. Towards the end of the friendship, I felt so much hurt and I was and still am haunted by certain aspects of it.

 

We were childhood friends and we had spent countless hours together going to different field trips and attending the same church youth group etc. There were even times that for one reason or another, we’d see each other every single day of the week. As we got older, the closeness started to fade but the friendliness remained, at least for a time. Slowly, we started to drift apart. He started spending time with a different group of friends, and became loud, brash and borderline disrespectful. He didn’t take his studies in our classes seriously, always talking loudly and joking around. I began to feel disconnected from him and we no longer spent time together. The last straw was when he and his friends started teasing/bullying my brother. It is NOT teasing when only one party is having fun. The harassment was horrible and my brother and I dreaded having to go to class with them. That was when I decided that I had had enough and stopped trying to be friends. It’s not a friendship if you’re doing all the work in the relationship. I thought that our friendship meant something to both of us. I was wrong. He changed.

 

It hurts to realize that someone has destroyed your orbit and hurt you while theirs is still spinning just fine without you in it. Sometimes it is unintentional, sometimes it is not. When they don’t answer your texts ever or seek out your company, then they make it pretty clear who and where their priorities are. Once I realized all of this, I stopped trying to be friends; it just wasn’t worth it anymore. He truly hurt me. Not only that, he betrayed the trust I had put in him and our friendship. He knew what was important to me yet he still acted the way he did. I don’t trust easily, I never have and I put my trust in him only to have it broken. To treat me badly was one thing but to hurt my family was an entirely different matter. All these years later I still don’t trust him but the hurt is starting to go away. Every year I wish him happy birthday in honor of what we used to have. We don’t see each other and we don’t speak to each other except for when I send him birthday greetings.

 

I put up many walls after this and I was even more reluctant to trust others. I didn’t want to open myself up only to be hurt again. This went on for years until I found a group of people who I could be myself around and cared about me for who I was. I still get nervous and second guess myself in my friendships sometimes and I still wonder if people are just being nice or genuinely being my friend. Every little gesture that anyone does for me always means so much. I’m starting to become a little less guarded and have learnt to start to open up to people again. I now have an incredible support system to confide in and share all the good and bad things that happen in my life. Most importantly, I learnt to not sell myself short in relationships of any kind. Do not mistake my kindness for weakness, friendship is a two way street and if you can’t respect that than we can’t be friends.

Rarity of Opposite Gender Friendships

In today’s society, friendships between opposite genders are increasingly rare. It is also something that isn’t normally discussed. I believe that part of the reason these friendships are uncommon is that they are treated as something unique and unattainable when they shouldn’t be. Lack of discussion on the topic only furthers the idea that these friendships are anomalies. In order to bring awareness to the concept and start a discussion, I asked a guy friend of mine to collaborate with me and discuss some different ideas and misconceptions surrounding opposite gender friendships. My comments are in green and his are in blue.

  •  In today’s world, it seems like people think you can’t be friends with someone of a different gender. Why do you think that is the case?

I think it has a lot to do with the cultural mindset. Unfortunately, media such as film and television have corrupted what people perceive to be healthy and natural relationships. Not just romantic relationships, friendships as well. They put these friendships on a pedestal as a rarity and something unusual when it shouldn’t be. There’s been such an emphasis that you can’t be “just” friends – for instance, if someone of the opposite gender is trying to be friends, the only reason that they are doing that is because they want something more from you. While that can be the case sometimes, I think that’s untrue most of the time.

I think another reason why is because of lack of communication. Or rather, lack of communication about intentions regarding the relationship. I think that generally speaking, when people attempt to have opposite gender friendships, they don’t communicate their intentions and people make assumptions and get confused about where their relationship stands.

Definitely agree with the fact that the culture has through film and social norms made the boyfriend/girlfriend relationship not only usual but the expectation. More often than not I have found that when you help or even talk to a girl you are immediately by others and sometimes the girl herself thought to be “interested.” When in reality you can have a conversation, assist, and even hug (shocking I know) without having to be interested in a relationship other than one of friendship.

  • Do you think that stigma/cultural mindset is involved? For instance, it is said that you can’t be friends unless you are boyfriend/girlfriend, etc, etc.

Definitely! I think there is a great deal of stigma involved in the lack of friendships between girls and guys. I think that the misconceptions surrounding the topic and the lack of conversation about it definitely contribute to it.  

In fact most people have become so saturated in the mindset of boyfriend/girlfriend. We as a society have begun to encourage our young children as young as 2nd-3rd grade.

Or even younger!

  • Can you share one instance where having a friend of the opposite gender has been helpful?

Honestly, it’s hard for me to think of just one! Over the years, there have been many instances where I found that having perspective from the opposite gender has been immensely helpful. I think that being able to talk someone who you trust and is able to provide solid advice from a mostly logical standpoint is very helpful; I have gotten advice on topics ranging from how to deal with certain situations to dealing with feelings etc. As I have gotten closer to some of my guy friends, I have found that I have such a strong support system and that has been such a blessing. I really love being able to go them for advice and support knowing that they have my back and vice versa. Also, I think that having opposite gender friendships teach you what qualities to expect/look for in a life partner and what to expect in terms of how you should be treated in a relationship.

In addition to just more people to talk to, I have also found that they are much more likely to give you good honest feedback.  It gives you an ability to get a second opinion on things and get a unique perspective.

  • Do you think that having these relationships makes you a better/more well-rounded person?

Yes, I feel like having guy friends has made me an overall better person. I am normally a very focused, intense individual and the guys remind me that it’s okay to have fun sometimes and to relax a little. They have helped me to learn to open myself up a little and trust people again. Additionally, having guy friends has helped me broaden my worldview.

I think that you will find it hard as you go through life to work in an environment in which you don’t have any female friends. So yes it most definitely makes you a better person, it is also necessary for you to operate in life.

  • How do you foster these types of relationships?

Be honest about what you expect out of the relationship. Look for people you genuinely connect with; don’t focus so much on gender. Only when one does not make opposite gender friendships a big deal will these kinds of friendships normalize. Sometimes, the people you don’t think you have anything in common with will become some of your closest friends.

You should be up front about how you want the relationship to go. I find that if you treat them as sisters and show Φιλαδελφία Greek for brotherly love which is what Christ teaches that we should show to all people.