Thursday, December 15, 2016

Happy Holidays

"This is America - Say Merry Christmas!" 

Allow me to break down this completely ridiculous phrase real quick... 

Sure - this is America. A country made up of so many diverse backgrounds, cultures, and - you guessed it - religions. So I ask, why should we then be expected to only say Merry Christmas when there are so many people around us who don't celebrate it? You can say it's the "majority" but that doesn't make it unanimous. This is America - land of the FREE. As in, freedom of religion. As in, freedom to not have to be subjected to Christianity and it's practices if individuals so do choose because we (SURPRISE) don't have a national religion. I thought this was clear in my third grade history book, but maybe a lot of people skipped that chapter...

I'm not asking you to go around and say "Hey, which holiday do you celebrate so I may wish you a happy-whatever and not offend you." I'm asking you to just say "Happy Holidays" because we already have a phrase that takes the place of that completely unnecessary question and still allows you to wish others well during this season. You could always give "Season's Greetings" a test drive if "Happy Holidays" is just not doing the trick for you. 

And I'm not saying you shouldn't say "Merry Christmas" to someone who you know celebrates it. I'm just saying if you don't know just stick with the ever-so-inclusive "Happy Holidays." And no it's not because I'm a spineless liberal - it's because I'm a Christian who can acknowledge that not everyone believes what I do, but I'm happy to encourage them to celebrate whatever holiday resonates with them this season and I hope that they start the new year happy and healthy. Now isn't that what we all should want for everyone? 

So this year instead of squinting your eyes and saying "Merry Christmas" to someone who wishes you "Happy Holidays" - how about you just say "You too." Cool, glad we could agree on that.

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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Hire Me... I'm Begging You

I never thought that looking for a full time job would be so hard. Everyone always said, "Go to college. Get a degree." And that's what I did. I dedicated countless hours and thousands of dollars worth in debt to get this mystical piece of paper that people told me would be my only ticket to a happy, successful life.

The job search process is hands down one of the most crushing experiences. You consistently sell yourself for things just to get rejections weeks later when you forgot you ever applied. You write countless cover letters. Read your resume so many times you wonder if you'd even hire yourself. My search honestly made me question my sanity at some of the lowest points.

If you're lucky like me and eventually find something - it can make the search finally seem worth it. But before you reach that point it can seriously make you question everything. What you studied. Where you studied. Where you moved after graduation. Why you didn't join certain clubs in college. Why you didn't try harder in that one stupid freshman class that was supposed to teach you what to do with the rest of your life and how to write a resume because good lord that would be handy right now. The list goes on.

But as much as the experience can crush you, it can also teach you to build yourself up, keep your options open, and how not to sell yourself short. The key to it all is keeping your cool and remaining confident. I know what you're thinking - "Sure you say that now that you have a job." But I'm serious. Beating yourself down and feeling sorry for yourself won't help you find a job. You have to remember that the right place will want you. You have to ensure you have a good support system to be there for you and keep pushing. Eventually you will find something and maybe it won't be your forever career, but it's a start.

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Friday, July 22, 2016

Bypass Bigotry

The reality is, racism isn't born into someone - it is taught. From the very moment that a racist comment leaves someones mouth it is transposed into the minds of the people around them. And unfortunately some of them aren't strong enough not to blindly follow. One day you were sitting around the dinner table and someone said something racist and all of a sudden the innocent frame of mind from which you used to see the world became a cracked pane of glass, each fracture dividing everyone into categories that had an assigned value. And yours was placed at the very top.

Even as someone who sits on the fence of Black vs. Blue, unable to pick sides because I think we do enough of that already, I will still say that racism in any case is wrong. To single out a group of people and label them less than isn't anyone's place. No one has that power, but some just feel they are so privileged that they should.

So don't be upset when you see people out protesting to try and make changes. You see it as a waste of time or a pain in your ass, but they see it as their only hope of creating a better life for themselves. They're not hurting anyone, so let them do what they came here to do. And no I'm not talking about burning flags here because that is, in my opinion, disgraceful.

But so many people are pissed off that protesters are blocking sidewalks and barricading freeways. But what so many people fail to realize is it's a metaphor for the constant blockades that minority groups face in this country. They are consistently pushed away from paths of opportunity or they never even make it to them because they are pushed in directions that impede their progress.

As much as many people can find this form of protest to be a nuisance - they are just trying to be heard. You may view it as ineffective, but then again you've probably never had to protest for the safety and equality of your entire race. You having to choose another street or walk the extra block enables you to check your privilege and walk away. You'll look a lot better than the people who try to drive or push straight through them. Bypass bigotry, and maybe someday this country will be a better place where we can all walk down whichever path we want instead of being forced to simply choose what is left.

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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

I'm Not Bossy

It's crazy how people still think disparities in treatment between genders don't exist. We love to believe that just because we have come so far it automatically means that we are done making changes.

Consider the journey for equality like remodeling your house. When everything becomes outdated and it is evident that progress needs to be made - you make it. You try to keep as much of the existing framework in place and you build from there. You repaint, redecorate, and refurnish. And at the end of it all you grab your glass of wine and soak in all the hard work you've done.

Then ten or fifteen years pass and you realize that all your hard work is starting to fall apart. The walls have a few holes, paint is chipping... it's rather disappointing. At one time it was something you were proud of - something you saw as an important way to invest your effort and time, but now it seems as though that pretty picture isn't so pretty anymore due to being damaged over time or even poorly maintained.

Our journey for gender equality should be looked at in the same fashion. The progress we make should never indicate that we are forever finished or as if there will never be anymore work to do. And I think one of the steps to gradually fixing this issue is ending the era of female leadership being labeled "bossy."

The reality is, when a man stands up before his peers and pushes for change he is considered a leader, but in a lot of cases if a woman exhibits these same behaviors she is considered bossy.Sure, we've made plenty of progress on this specific subject as women have time and time again proven that they have just as much if not more leadership potential than men (remind me again why we should have had to "prove" this while with men it was assumed - just for those of you who think there isn't an issue). But remember what I said early about progress... with certain things you can make as much progress as you want, but there will always be room for improvement, especially after time passes.

I know what you're probably thinking and inside your head you're jumping out of your seat to raise your hand like a frantic fifth grader. "What if a woman really is being bossy? Am I not supposed to tell her she's being a bad leader just because she's a woman?" No, of course not. In fact, you're hurting her and her potential more by not telling her. When someone - anyone - is being a bad leader they should be pulled aside and made aware of their behavior. But that's just it - it shouldn't just be because of their gender. Whether you're a man or you're a woman, if you are genuinely exhibiting poor leadership then you should most definitely be held accountable. But if the only reason they seem bossy is because they have a pair of boobs - try again.
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Thursday, April 14, 2016

A Different Kind of Heartbreak

It's crazy how one minute someone is one of the biggest parts of your life and the next you find yourself looking at old photographs wondering when things started to take a turn. They've been with you through it all - the good, the bad, and the ugly - but now they're really not with you much at all. You look at the memories as if you still haven't really accepted that things have changed.

Whether it's a friend you've known since childhood or a friend you've met later on - losing their companionship can fuel emotional responses you didn't even know you were capable of. Fallen friendships are the version of heartbreak no one really warns you about. Everyone tells you about the boy who will break your heart into a million little pieces, but no one bothers to tell you that the girl who you so willingly share everything with is capable of blowing it to smithereens.

There's something special about a best friend. Something that doesn't just develop with years, but develops with conversations, memories, and laughter. She's been there to eat ice cream with you after a breakup. She's been there to talk to when no one else seems to want to listen. She's there to tell you when you're being unrealistic, as well as when you're settling. There's something about a best friend that makes admitting that you're losing her all that much harder.

Maybe its been a long time coming or maybe it caught you by surprise, but sometimes things just start to add up. Eventually you find yourself staring at a long list of cons and a minimal to non-existent list of pros of continuing the friendship. It's hard to look at someone who has always been there and somehow try to picture them gone. Trying to fathom how you'd really feel without them there. Trying to convince yourself that maybe there's a way to mend what's been broken.

But sometimes you honestly decide that enough is enough. You've weighed the options and they're beyond a chance for the benefit of the doubt. And that's okay. Because no matter what happens you should never compromise yourself or your well-being for the sake of maintaining a friendship with someone who doesn't seem to be bringing anything positive into your life anymore. And yes, it will most likely tear you apart to watch as you both go in different directions, but recognize that you have to do what's best for YOU.

Truthfully, friendship is only as good as the conversation, the company, and the consistency it brings to your life. A friendship can easily become toxic and literally extinguish your light if you aren't careful. And that's when you have to ask yourself - is it worth it? Is putting my well-being, happiness, and self-worth at risk simply for the sake of allowing this person to remain in my life worth it? And sometimes, as hard as it is, you just might have to answer "no."

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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Make America Great Again

I have been attempting to hold my tongue throughout the majority of this presidential election bologna, but I'm at my whits end with this Trump crap. When he announced his plans to run for president I honestly thought he was joking. And now that I hear people are actually planning to vote for him, I can't imagine what kind of hell this country is about to become knowing that even if he isn't elected we still have people who actually believe in what he has to say.

Let's Talk Wall
Explain to me how building a wall around America is a solution for problems with immigration? Sure, this country may have a problem with illegal immigrants and maybe there is room for reform - but explain to me how building a wall is supposed to be a solution. Oh and not to mention that he wants the president of Mexico to pay for it, and when he refused (uh, duh) Trump exclaimed that it will now be 10 feet higher. So who's paying for this wall now? (careful, your taxes are crying).

And let's be real - people coming into this country from Mexico are not "rapists" as he has proposed. They are people searching for a better life and more opportunities for their families - just as the founders of this nation were at one point in history (btw we are all a product of immigration - SURPRISE). And of course this should be done legally, but that doesn't mean building a wall will make things better. It simply ruins a long standing relationship with our neighboring countries and pisses a lot of people off - so let's not and not even say we did.

Let's Talk Hate
Trump has also expressed his concerns regarding Muslims in America. FYI: Kicking Muslims out of the country will not save our country from terrorism because these people and their religion are not the problem. If anything they are part of the solution because they practice their civil liberties as all of us should be empowered to do. They are our friends, classmates, coworkers, and neighbors practicing a religion they firmly believe in just like the rest of us may freely do.

And for those of you convinced that their holy book the Qur'an expresses oppressing women, violence, or things of that nature - pick up a Bible and I bet you'll find the same things. So let's get one thing straight - Muslims are not the problem, HATE is. And hate is something Donald Trump knows a lot about, and that's not what we need at the helm of this country.

And if targeting a group of people based on religion doesn't ring a bell in your memory of world history - maybe you should read up a little on the Holocaust and see how that worked out because that's about where this country is headed if Trump becomes president. Hail Trump? I think not. 

Let's Talk KKK
Oh, and a little bit of important news - Trump has been endorsed by the KKK and has not condemned them, he simply claimed not to know enough about it to do so. Oh okay... but you still won't condemn their endorsement even though it's the KKK? "I don't know what group you're talking about" (here's the proof, if you really need it). Maybe I should call into question your citizenship, Trump, because you don't know about one of the most infamous racist, radical groups in American history...

Let's Talk Women
Trump also consistently objectifies and belittles women (hence why I'm sad to see so many women blindly support him). He even goes as far to say that rape in the military should basically be expected simply because when you put men and women together that's the only likely product... Yeah, how about men just shouldn't rape women. That would be good.  Don't believe me? No problem, here's the twitter image to prove it.

He tosses around degrading statements about women all the time. Even his running mates have been subject to his distasteful comments that so many of you adore simply because of his lack of political correctness. Sure, there is room to be direct rather than sugar coat, but room to objectify and make hateful comments about women should never be made. But his response to how the media discusses his poor treatment of women would simply be this: "You know, it really doesn’t matter what the media write as long as you’ve got a young, and beautiful, piece of ass." Explain to me how that makes for a quality president.

And I know what you supporters are going to say.

"It's not all bad." Okay, so you're telling me that the "good" should make up for the bad? Did you not just read those paragraphs above? Any person who would support that crap doesn't make a good president BECAUSE they support it, not because they support other things that might compensate (btw they probably don't).

"At least he tells it like it is." But I've got news for you - there are plenty of jackasses in this world who tell it like it is but that sure as hell doesn't equate to a good president. Political correctness or lack there of does not make a good president - but being a good person just might be important. 

So let's make America great again by NOT voting for this asshole - K thanks, America. You could literally vote for Vermin Supreme (aka the free pony giving, boot-as-hat wearing candidate) and we'd be better off.

Side note: If you need a refresher on how to be a liar, Trump is the perfect source. You can see why by watching this: 

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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Seven Years

I wish that 14 year old me had written down what was going through my mind that week. I wish 14 year old me had bothered to document it so that maybe 21 year old me wouldn't be sitting here right now replaying it in my head just to make sure I never forget. I do this every year. This is the 7th. For each day of the 8 days between February 18th and 25th I sit here and think about my dad. I stop and think of where I was on each day in 2009. So I close my eyes and I picture it...

Day 1: I'm doing homework. Dad says he doesn't feel good; he's sweating and feverish, so I grab the thermometer, but it won't work. I grab a cool rag for his forehead. Dad stumbles down the hallway. Jarrod calls the ambulance. Dad mistakenly tells the paramedics he's not on any medications so I correct him and grab the bottles from the kitchen - something is not right. I call mom 100 times. When she doesn't answer I call everyone else. We all keep calling her. I know there's more to what happened that night, but I wasn't there for it all. I went to bed hoping everything would be okay. Hoping I'd wake up to good news.

Day 2: No good news yet. I go to school and try to pretend it's a normal day, but I know that it's not. I just have to get through the day. After school I'm picked up and we go to the hospital. Dad's been in open heart surgery for over 18 hours. They take us into a room and I can see Mom and I spot a plastic bag of Dad's clothes he had on the night before. Mom says whatever happens we will all stick together.

Day 3 - Day 7: These are the days where the order of events gets foggy. I remember crying and praying in corners of a hospital waiting room. I remember tossing pennies in a fountain wishing for a miracle. I remember sleeping on waiting room furniture and eating pudding from the hospital cafeteria. I remember late nights talking to my sister's friend about my plans for the future while pretending my dad might still be here to see it. I remember running out of the ICU confused and crying because my dad's chest was still cracked open and two plastic hearts were pumping his blood for him. I remember the tubes and machines operating his body for him. I remember not recognizing the look of his face because of the swelling. I remember seeing family pour in from out of town and not being able to decide if I was happy to see them, knowing what their presence might mean. I remember what hope felt like and then I remember it being stripped away hour by hour, day by day. I remember hearing words and phrases that are so painful I wouldn't wish them on any family. I remember seeing my mom talking to doctors and nurses about options. I remember saying goodbye. I remember her telling us "he's gone." The worst phrase of all.

Day 8: We go to the church. We get our ashes for Ash Wednesday. We pick out prayers and songs for the service. We go to the funeral home and the cemetery. We pick out a casket and a plot. We go home, and so does Dad - to be with God.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

To The Girl Who Loves My Ex

Seeing a previous significant other start a new life with someone else can honestly be a different experience for everyone. If it's too close to the breakup you might struggle to accept it. If it's too long after the breakup you might not even notice it. And once in a while you might find yourself at the point of peace. The point where looking at old pictures is actually a fond experience, polite conversation isn't painful, and most of all seeing them commit to someone else makes you genuinely happy for them. You can appreciate what you once had while also understanding why it is no longer yours.

So, to the person who loves him now (or to the person who will love him one day) there are a few things I would like to say...

Thank you. Thank you for giving him all the things I couldn't. Thank you for learning to understand the things about him that I was not capable of understanding. Thank you for having the patience that I didn't quite have. And thank you for loving a person who deserves it, despite his flaws.

And I'm sorry. I'm sure when you hear about our past together it can bring about some pretty uncomfortable emotions, and I'm sorry for that. I'm sorry if old pictures make you so angry you want to print my face out and turn it into a dart board - I don't blame you and if it makes you feel better then go for it. I'm sorry if you think that the mistakes he made with me will be the same ones he will make with you.

Which brings me to, leave the past in the past. If he is honest about his previous mistakes and promises to do better than he did in relationships prior to you - give him that opportunity. We all have our baggage, even you. If you want him to accept yours, then accept his.

And don't sweat it. When old pictures, notes, or general stuff from our time together resurface - don't let them get to your head. They aren't much but old, faded memories now. He didn't hold on to them for any other reasons beyond him simply being messy (have you seen his room?) or he simply valued whatever we had enough to hold on to something to remember it by. It is not meant to indicate that he isn't over me - if he wasn't, you would know it long before you found one of these items.

Just remind yourself that I was the girl who held him at some of his ultimate lows and took a lot of bullshit to teach him how to be ready for you so you could enjoy more of his highs than I got to. I didn't realize then what I know now - I wasn't trying to make him better for me, I was making him better for you. And seeing you happy together means I did just that.

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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Valentine's Day

Oh, I know. That old couple holding hands in the grocery store just really threw you over the edge this week. Your 20-something heart just couldn't stand the looks on their faces as you remembered you'll be spending your Valentine's Day alone... again. Proceed to the candy aisle. Go home and crawl into your bed. Grab the tissues, start the rom-com marathon, and... get over yourself.

That's probably not where you thought that was going, but keep reading - there's a point. Historically,  Valentine's Day has been dedicated to people expressing love for their significant other or a potential love interest, but it has evolved over time. The reality is there isn't only one reason to celebrate Valentine's Day anymore. You can celebrate loving yourself, loving your family, or loving your friends. Having a significant other isn't the only thing worth celebrating.

However, the holiday is NOT meant to be a pity party or an opportunity for you to scoff at all of the people who you see in relationships simply out of envy or to prove some point about your independence. You can hate the day all you want, but can you do the rest of us a favor and stop making us feel guilty for celebrating someone special in our lives.

The point is, there's a difference between acknowledging feeling a little lonely and making people who are in relationships feel responsible for your loneliness. When you ask me how I'm spending Valentine's Day (especially when you know I have a boyfriend) then expect to get a really happy answer that includes how romantic the whole thing is going to be. Don't seriously ask and then get annoyed with my response and roll your eyes because, well, YOU ASKED.

And don't try to turn this into a - "Well you just need a man to make you complete and so you have a reason to celebrate." Sorry to burst your bubble, but I don't have a man in my life because I can't survive on my own or because being alone was just too miserable. I have a man in my life because I happened to meet someone who makes me the happiest I have ever been and I thought he deserved a special place in my life. And if that means I want to celebrate a holiday that you think is stupid just because you'd rather pout then celebrate it in your own way - then just remember you're single every other day of the year too.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Ditch Your Crash Diet

The first month of the new year is over. For those of you who had resolutions to lose weight or get well - now is not the time to give up. Now is the time to keep on pushing or to start back up if you already threw in the towel. And for those of you who haven't found a system that works or are looking for something different, I thought it might be nice to give you a great option for stealing your life back from dieting. 

In this post, I will be doing a little Q&A with Andria, a wellness guru and life coach who owns her own business! The best part about Andria's consulting is she isn't just there to hand you a meal plan or work out plan and step back. She coaches you and encourages you through the entire process - helping you build the confidence you need to make a positive change. 

Andria's Spiel

"I was a chronic dieter for 12 years. I would go on a restrictive diet and lose weight, but I would feel so deprived that eventually I wouldn't be able to take the deprivation anymore so I would eat a bunch of food and gain all the weight back. This weight loss/weight gain cycle continued for 12 years.

I wanted to figure out how to solve this, so I went to Kent and got a degree in Nutrition, and within 2 months of graduating I got a wellness coaching certification.

Through what I learned from school and my own personal experiences with dieting, I created a system to break free from dieting yet still lose weight, and tried it on myself. Within a couple months I was free from the dieting mindset, happy, healthy, and the weight came off. It's stayed off since.

Then I took this system and created a business based off of it called End Your Diet & Trust Yourself. I help people realize why restrictive dieting is harmful, help them reconnect with their hunger and fullness cues so they can eat when they're hungry and stop when they're comfortably full, I help them get rid of the negative relationship with food and get rid of the "good" vs "bad" food way of thinking, I help them relearn how to connect with senses when eating, love & respect their bodies throughout this journey, and use nutrition/exercise guidelines in a fun non-restrictive way. 

Basically I help people find a balance between eating healthy, and eating the not so healthy foods in moderation because diets just lead to binge eating. 95% of diets don't work because of this. Since I'm considered a life coach too, I also help people improve other areas of their life, like stress, career, and relationships. Because all areas of our lives are connected and affect our relationship with food." - Andria

Q & A

Q. What makes your program applicable to all lifestyles and types of people? A. I tailor my program to each person because a healthy lifestyle is not just one size fits all. Everyone has a unique make-up, so it’s extremely important to personalize everything to figure out what works best. I do this by getting to know each client—their likes, dislikes, body type, any medical conditions, their current lifestyle, and how far they need to go in order to reach their goals.
Q. When a person pursuing wellness goals or even goals specific to weight-loss, what kind of support does a program like this have for people who get discouraged? A. It’s easy to get discouraged with health and weight loss. I’ve been through all of the twists and turns myself, so I completely understand how it feels when something doesn’t go as planned. One of my main jobs is to pick the client up off the ground when they feel like they’ve failed. Each second is a new opportunity to look at what didn’t work and make changes. My clients can contact me at any time for support and motivation to keep going on this journey. I also make sure each client keeps a progress journal to record everything—this way they can look back and see how far they’ve come. This journey isn’t a straight line—it includes many ups and downs. Each part is important, even the ones that feel like failure. I encourage clients to look at “failures” as opportunities to make something better.

Q. I’ll be honest, I’ll find every excuse in the book not to eat well and work out. What kind of advice would you give a couch potato, cereal-binger like myself? A. The most important thing is to not go from one extreme to the other. This is a huge mistake people make when trying to be healthy—they go from one end of the spectrum (maybe being a couch potato who does not eat healthy) to perfection. This ultimately doesn’t work. I introduce small, gradual improvements weekly. It’s crucial to master one thing before moving on to another so it isn’t overwhelming. For instance, for the first week the client could go from eating no fruit to eating 1 serving of fruit at least 3 days a week; and going from no exercise to walking at least 3 days a week. Then after that, we can gradually increase the fruit consumption and exercise.
Q. How important do you think confidence is in the process? What kind of advice do you have for how to gain confidence back? A. Confidence is always key, but it can be difficult to maintain. The process of becoming healthy is not just about confidence, but an overall mindset. You have to know that your goals are possible. The only thing holding you back is your choices. Once you realize this and build confidence, you can do it. It is hard to keep this mindset, so I’m here to help them regain it when things get tough. It’s also important to revisit your goals and look at how far you’ve come in order to gain back confidence.

Q. 3 top NO-NO’s for trying to lose weight? A. 1) Restrictive diets do not work! Any initial weight loss is water weight and muscle loss. 95% of diets fail because they are too hard to stick to and have rules that are impossible to follow. Gradual changes over time is what gives permanent results. 2) Don’t take advice from sources that are not credited. The internet is full of incorrect information. This is why it’s extremely important to seek the help of someone who is actually qualified and knows what they are talking about. It can be very dangerous to follow guidelines from unqualified sources. 3) Don’t try to go for perfection with eating or exercise. This causes cravings to build up until you can’t take it anymore and then you binge, causing the weight to come back. Strive to be healthy 80% or more of the time, but allow yourself some room to enjoy treats.
Q. Any other additional comments. A. The journey to health/weight loss is not quick or easy! Great things take time. We’ve become so accustomed to trying quick fixes. But just because it takes time and effort doesn’t mean it can’t be fun!

Bottom line here is if you keep crash dieting just to end up right back where you were, maybe it's time to end your diet and trust yourself! Visit Andria's website for more information!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Don't Discount Progress

Before reading this, I recommend a scroll through this website to understand some of the terminology and also it's a great resource for information on transgender athletics.

Recently, the International Olympic Committee changed their official guidelines for the participation of transgender athletes. Prior to this change, it was required that transgender athletes have reassignment surgery, two years of hormone therapy, and a legal gender identification change in order to participate among the athletes of the gender with which they identified (see this CNN article).

The new change makes it so that those who transition from female to male are not restricted from entering as a male participant at their own discretion. Those transitioning from male to female, however, must declare a gender identification with female and their testosterone levels will also be tested prior to entering, as well as throughout the games. Testosterone levels found must be below 10 nmol/L.

To put it into perspective, the average adult female range for testosterone is between 0.5-2.4 nmol/L (converted from this chart using this converter). The average adult male range for testosterone is between 9.3 and 34.7 nmol/L, indicating that not only is the testosterone cap almost 4 times that of the average female but it is also still within the range of the average male. I'm not an expert on hormone therapy, how involved it may be, any side-effects, or how difficult it is to decline testosterone levels into the single digits, but I do believe that this change proves we are moving in the right direction and providing transgender athletes with more opportunities than before.

This change has been met with some pretty strong support, but even those who fully support equality initiatives still feel that it isn't "enough" of a change. But in my opinion, the negative remarks seem to claim that if a change isn't "enough" then it shouldn't have been made at all - which is crazy.

Consider this. People who struggle with gender identification are consistently fighting against the word "enough." They're not "enough" of the gender with which they identify unless they meet all the stereotypical qualifications of that gender. That is to assume then that if they don't meet those standards then they simply aren't that gender at all - which is, again, crazy!

To stare progress in the face and tell it it's not enough as if no one fought to get that far is insulting. Transgender athletes deserve an equal opportunity, even if some don't feel that it is equal enough. And for transgender women to feel as though it is unfair for them to have to prove their testosterone levels, consider how unfair it is to want to have continued male levels of testosterone while competing against women who would then be put at a disadvantage. If a cisgender woman can't take steroids, then transgender competitors with higher testosterone levels shouldn't be able to have an advantage either, even if it is one they were born with.

I get it, I get it. I seem to be running in circles. I just said that transgenders shouldn't have to fit a gender mold in order to identify with that gender and yet I'm saying there is a standard for hormones. But that's just it - hormones aren't some standard that we just made up one day. They are scientifically relevant and biologically embedded in who we are and how we develop. Having boobs doesn't make you a woman, having a vagina doesn't make you a woman, and having average female levels of testosterone doesn't make you a woman either. But for the sake of a competition that rests in treating both genders fairly and equally, hormones must be considered.

For those of you wondering "What does testosterone have to do with an athletic competition?" Testosterone is the hormone responsible for many processes in the body that effect the one's ability to maintain and build muscle mass. More testosterone = more neurotransmitters encouraging tissue growth. It also contributes to protein synthesis and increased growth hormone which enable exercise to help increase muscle mass (see this article for more information).

A few posts I've come across even seem to suggest that women and men should just be shoved together and compete with one another - taking out gender from the games completely. But let's get real - it is a proven biological fact that men and women are capable of different things in different ways and a competition between both genders in most cases would simply not be fair (hint: why do you think almost all of our athletic entertainment is divided by gender). Women have fought for the right to be treated equally, not for the right to be forced to compete with men just to make them feel that men are superior. All women, both born and transitioned, deserve a chance to compete on equal grounds together to prove their abilities and their determination.

I am not here to pretend that I know the struggles of a transgender individual, but I am simply trying to show that progress we make as a society, no matter how small, should not be made to seem invisible or fruitless. These positive changes represent so much and to discount them simply because you don't think it's "enough" is seemingly disrespectful to all those who have fought so hard.

The definition of "progress" is the forward movement toward a destination; it does not include a definitive or immediate arrival. Progress is simply the procedure, not the end result. The destination we seek is near impossible to reach. We strive for a perfect society knowing fully well just how unrealistic it may be, but to discount progress toward it through this necessity for "enough" is to say "why bother." And quite frankly I think even the craziest goals are worth striving for, especially those that involve making this world a place of equal opportunity for us all.

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Plans Change

Six months ago I was dreaming of California. I was fantasizing about what it would be like to start my life over in a completely different place with completely new people, following aimless dreams, and picking out apartments I'd never be able to afford. And somewhere along the way my happy little cloud where I found my head decided to rain on my parade and I realized just how off base I was with what I actually want for myself.

My social life came to a screeching halt, my summer fling fell apart, and I realized I hadn't had the summer away from home in Columbus that I had dreamed of. If I couldn't handle 120 miles, how could I handle 2,000? The reality is - I can't. And to be totally honest I'm not afraid to admit that because I am proud of the relationship I have with my family and my desire not to move far from them. I'm not disappointed that I don't want to move across the country.

It's funny because I'm sure people are thinking "Oh, it's because of your boyfriend, isn't it?" Hate to break it to you, but it's not - and he knows that. My decision not to pack my things and take off has everything to do with what I want for myself and what I need. Now that graduation is right around the corner it's clear to me that moving away would be a mistake, and moving home provides me with more stability as well as the option to further my education. When I first made the decision about chasing this California Dream, I said that I didn't want to put my dreams on a fear-induced back burner. But the point here is that's not what I'm doing. I'm not walking away from a dream out of fear of the unknown, I'm doing it because of what I do know.

It's unfortunate how frequently people like to make assumptions about your plans because of the one's they have made for themselves. But the reality is, no two people are the same and they aren't going to want the same things. It's even possible that over the course of time what you want for yourself will change, and it's important to remember that you have every right to make those decisions if you know what's best for YOU. So that's what I'm doing because plans change.

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