Uncategorized Life

My tattoos are a reminder that my body is my own

I got my first tattoo when I was 25 years old, but I had been more or less obsessed with the idea of getting one since I was in middle school. So what held me back for the seven years between when I could legally let someone inject ink into my skin to permanently mark my flesh and when I actually did it?

There are two answers. One was other people’s opinions, and the other was discomfort in my body.

My mother is in many ways a liberal woman, but on the subject of tattoos, her views are old-fashioned: basically, she views them as something sailors and members of biker gangs get. While I was in awe of the artistry of some of the tattoos I saw, I knew that it was something she wouldn’t understand. And even though I disagreed with her, my mom was one of the smartest people I knew, someone I looked up to and respected, and someone whose opinion mattered to me, even when we disagreed.

Then, too, there were the questions people always seem to ask about tattoos: how will you get a job with that? What will it look like when you’re older?

I worried about prospective employers judging me for my tattoos, even though I also knew logically that I could get them in places that I could cover up easily. And as I struggled to be comfortable with my own body, its shape, and the space it took up, I easily bought into the logic that any artwork drawn on my skin would warp into something ugly over time.

After college, I dated a girl with tattoos. I loved them, loved tracing my fingers or my lips over the swirling ink. But even she made me doubt myself when I talked about getting one, saying things like how she worried I would regret it later, basically implying I wasn’t decisive enough to know what I would want on my body. And maybe while I was with her I wasn’t.

But in the second year of my Master’s program, something finally clicked. I thought about the fact that we get to choose so little about what our bodies look like. So much is determined for us through genetics. And I thought about how we can’t control how other people will perceive our bodies.

I, and most people who are socialized as female, have wasted untold time and energy on others’ perceptions and have dealt with untold numbers of men who felt entitled to my body in some way. I have dealt with everything from strange men telling me to smile to them grabbing me to them following me down the street, making extremely detailed sexual threats.

I was tired of it, of moving through the world feeling like my body wasn’t entirely my own. And I was ready to decorate it in the way that felt good to me.

A good friend recommended a local artist to me. By then, I was dating a different partner, one who was as excited for my first tattoo as I was, and was also itching to get a new one for themself. We booked consults one right after the other, so we could go together.

Our artist was warm and welcoming to a first-time tattoo customer, and obsessive about making every tiny tweak to the design she drew to make sure it matched perfectly with my vision. A week later, I was lying facedown on a padded table, listening to the buzzing hum of the needle as hot, sharp pain bit into the back of my shoulder, eating the closest thing to eternity one can achieve onto the canvas of this corporeal form I inhabit.

It hurt, and for a minute when the pain was the worst I wondered why on earth I, or any person in their right mind, would do this to themselves.

Then I looked at my tattoo, and all I wanted was to dive back under the needle again. Because it’s mine, a design dreamed in my mind and brought to fruition on my skin, and it is a proclamation of my ownership of this body. No matter how I am feeling on any given day, seeing it boosts my mood, as does the second tattoo I got a little over a year later. And not a day goes by that I’m not thinking of the next one I want.

Gender & Identity Life

Portland’s drag scene taught me how to see myself

“Can I get an amen?”

The crowd whooped and cheered. They got even louder when the MC called out, “Can I get an a-women?” And then, “Can I get an a-them?” More raucous cheering. The rational part of my brain knew that the “men” in “amen” wasn’t a gendered term. The two words don’t share an etymological root. But something warm and hopeful fluttered in my chest when the MC said “a-them.” Something that felt like recognition.

It was the summer of 2017, and I was on a packed dance floor at a club with H.P. Lovecraft-themed gothic decor, complete with a tentacled papier-mache Cthulhu erupting from one wall, waiting to watch a drag show. (Welcome to Portland nightlife. It’s amazing.) The MC was wearing a dress and heels, their cheekbones glistening with glitter above a full beard.

When the show started, it was like no other drag performance I’ve ever seen before. Performers in flawless makeup wore leotards without tucking or padding their chests or hips. They danced with an athletic grace that frankly boggled my mind. Most drag I had seen before in the cities I’ve lived in on the East Coast fell into one of two categories. Either queens went for full emulation of women, trying to appear as authentically female as possible, or they played up the masculine elements of their appearance for laughs.

These performers were different. Their clothes, makeup, and hair were feminine, yes, but an edgy, fierce femininity. And their flat chests and scruff and other more masculine attributes were presented as equally beautiful, compatible with femininity.

Drag always rebels against gender essentialism. That’s the very nature of the art. But these drag performers were playing with gender in a way that I had never seen. And in a way that made me feel seen. I recognized something I had been longing for in some inarticulate way when I watched their joyous, defiant blend of gender performances and presentations.

I had always felt a vague sense of unease describing myself as cisgender, a term that refers to someone who identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth. I downplayed my own discomfort though, because I assumed that it was rooted in an ingrained transphobia that I should be working to eradicate from my mind. I thought that I didn’t like calling myself cisgender because, as some cisgender people do, a part of me thought I was just “normal” and didn’t need the descriptor.

Yet there were signs that this was not the case. As I had grown more comfortable with my queer sexuality, I had started cutting my hair shorter and dressing in more conventionally masculine ways, both common among some queer women who do nonetheless still identify as women. I knew I didn’t think of myself as a man. But I loved the times when I encountered people who seemed to struggle to identify my gender, the times when the barista or the restaurant host or the person on the bus oscillated uncertainly between “sir” and “ma’am.” It filled me with a strange elation to be seen as existing somewhere between the two most commonly recognized genders. My experience as a person who was socialized as female felt important, and the identity of woman still does resonate with me. But it feels incomplete, and generating confusion in the people who tried to gender me felt like some sort of triumph.

I knew in the abstract that nonbinary identities existed before I witnessed Portland’s drag scene. But until I was immersed in the queer community in this very queer city, I somehow always felt that my gender identity somehow wasn’t queer enough to count. I had to see the riotous celebration of existence beyond the binary that is present here to start learning to truly see myself.

USA Politics The World Inequality

A comprehensive guide to all the chaos going on at the border

May 7, 2018: Launching the “zero tolerance” policy

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that families crossing the U.S.-Mexico border without documentation would be separated. He described family crossings as instances of people “smuggling a child across the border,” equating families fleeing violence and seeking asylum with child traffickers. It’s a classic move for the Trump administration, since the president seems to love equating immigrants with dangerous criminals, when the real threat they pose is only to the white majority his supporters care so much about maintaining.

Sessions also repeated the lie that the U.S. is dealing with a massive influx of border crossings, when the reality is that such crossings are historically low.

Although the policy was announced in May, Time found that separations had also taken place in April, with nearly 2,000 children being separated from their adult relatives between April 19 and May 31.

May 11: “Foster care or whatever”

In an interview with NPR, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, when asked about family separation, described it as a “strong deterrent” intended to prevent illegal border crossings. When asked if it was cruel to separate children from their mothers, he famously responded that “The children will be taken care of–put into foster care or whatever.” Earlier in the same interview, he criticized many migrants to the U.S. because they “don’t have skills.”

May 13: Marco Antonio Muñoz’s suicide

Marco Antonio Muñoz, a 39-year-old Honduran asylum seeker who was separated from his wife and child at the border died of suicide in his Texas jail cell. Border agents had previously had to use physical force to pull Muñoz’s child out of his arms.

Muñoz’s death highlights the severe trauma this separation policy inflicts not just on children, but also adults.

May 16-21: “Animals”

At a roundtable discussing immigration and sanctuary, Trump referred to migrants crossing the border as “animals.” Later, some Trump defenders argued that he was talking specifically about members of the gang MS-13. The administration doubled down on its dehumanizing language a few days later in a press release.

Regardless of who exactly Trump was talking about, the language of dehumanization is often the first step in committing greater violence against already marginalized communities.

May 25: Roxsana Hernandez died in CBP custody

Roxsana Hernandez, a 33-year-old Honduran trans woman, died after a week of being denied proper medical care in a detention center run by Customs and Border Protection. She developed pneumonia after being held in one of the freezing-cold cells called hieleras, or iceboxes. Hernandez also had HIV as a result of MS-13 gang members raping her back in Honduras. Her fear of the gang, and the violence often enacted against trans women in her home country, had driven her here, where she had hoped to find a measure of safety and was instead met with callous disregard and the torment and neglect that ultimately led to her death.

June 3: Jeff Merkley denied entry to detention center for immigrant children

Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley went to Texas to try and see for himself the conditions in which ICE is holding immigrant children separated from their families. The detention center he went to was housed in a former Walmart. Officials there refused to let him in. Merkley demanded to see a supervisor. When one eventually emerged to speak with him, it was only to say that they couldn’t tell Merkley anything about the center, and called the police to force Merkley to leave.  

By this point, 600 children had been separated from their families over the course of the previous month.

Merkley also visited a child-processing center, where he saw children held in “cages” that he compared to dog kennels, with no beds and only space blankets for covers, cushions, or privacy screens. There, he learned that children separated from their families were then being recorded as unaccompanied minors, and that since children are processed through the Department of Health and Human Services, while adults are processed through the Department of Homeland Security, it is difficult for parents to find their kids again, or for immigration advocates to keep track of them.

June 6: ACLU sues over separations of asylum seekers

The ACLU sued the government for separating families who had arrived at official U.S. ports of entry to seek asylum in accordance with the law. In other words, although the Trump administration keeps trying to claim that they are only separating families who have entered the U.S. illegally, in reality they are doing the same thing to people who follow the letter of the law in their attempt to gain asylum.

June 10: ICE agents lie to parents

A Boston Globe reporter found that ICE agents sometimes tell parents their children are just being taken away for a bath when they are separated. As time passes, the parents gradually realize they have been lied to, and have no way of knowing when or if they will see their children again.

June 11: Domestic and gang violence no longer grounds for asylum

Attorney General Jeff Sessions overturned a precedent set during the Obama administration that fears of domestic and gang violence could be considered valid grounds for seeking asylum in the U.S., making it harder in particular for many women to seek asylum.

June 12: Considering tent cities for children

The Trump administration announced plans to visit military bases to consider their suitability for hosting “tent cities” to house immigrant children who either arrive unaccompanied or are separated from their parents.

June 20: Executive Order “ends” family separation, abuse and neglect, psychotropic drugs, trauma

Trump signed an executive order supposedly ending the policy of family separation at the border. He had spent the past month and half lying by saying that he couldn’t end the policy without help from Congress. The new order did not provide a plan to reunite the more than 2,000 children that have already been separated with their parents. Adults are mainly being held in detention centers near the border, while some of the children are sent to foster homes in distant states like New York or Illinois. Some parents have already been deported, while their children remain in the U.S. A former ICE director said that some families may never be reunited, and the children may ultimately be adopted into U.S. families. The Trump administration may be creating “social orphans” who could lose their families forever. And some ICE agents have dangled the possibility of adoption as a threat to get parents separated from their children to “behave” or as a way to try and pressure parents into giving up their claims to asylum. Most children do not have lawyers provided to them, and face their immigration court case proceedings alone.

Also on June 20, The Texas Tribune and Reveal broke a story about how over the past four years, American taxes have paid for private companies to operate immigrant youth shelters that have been accused of sexual and physical abuse and neglect. Despite this years-long record of abuse, children continue to be placed in these shelters, run by the same companies. Staff members have been cited for failing to seek medical attention for children in need, “inappropriate contact” with children, and showing up to work drunk. The Tribune and Reveal found that some shelters may have also misused funds they received from the government.

These abuses date back well before the Trump administration, in some cases all the way back to the 1990s, but the family separation policy exposed even more children to these risks.

Meanwhile, a Huffington Post article out the same day revealed staff at some centers have allegedly been dosing children with powerful psychotropic drugs without their parents’ knowledge or consent.

Several outlets reported on the short- and long-term mental health effects the trauma of this policy will have on children and their parents. They’re at increased risk for post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and ADHD, as well as future alcohol or drug abuse. The trauma can impact people’s ability to form strong, healthy relationships for the rest of their lives, which means in some form the trauma can be passed on even to children who will not be born for years. Entire generations will be traumatized by a policy seemingly designed for the sole purpose of inflicting suffering on the basis of racism and bigotry.

June 26: Court order to halt family separations, reunite families

Federal judge Dana Sabraw ruled that the federal government must stop separating families at the border and reunite the 2,044 in federal custody that have been separated within 30 days. He also ordered the government stop deporting parents without their children.

The government claims to have already reunited 538 families, but outside advocates have had trouble verifying that number. For instance, the Texas Civil Rights Project has only been able to confirm four family reunifications.

July 2: Cost of reunification

Families are being forced to pay thousands of dollars to get their kids released from detention centers, and pay airfare and other travel expenses to be reunited with their children. The red tape, administrative hurdles, and expenses are a major barrier to reunification for the parents who know where their children are.

July 4: Couple visiting their soldier son-in-law arrested at Fort Drum

A couple went to visit their son-in-law before he was shipped out for another tour of duty in Afghanistan. They have lived in Brooklyn for over two decades and have valid Department of Labor work permits and New York City IDs, but were nonetheless detained and taken to an ICE detention center in Buffalo.

July 6: Child filthy and covered in lice, HHS lost track of parents 

Olivia Caceras, a migrant mother reunited with her child after 85 days, joined a lawsuit against the federal government’s zero tolerance policy of incarcerating anyone detained at the border. She reported that her fourteen-month-old child was filthy and covered in lice when she was finally reunited with him, saying “It seemed like they had not bathed him the entire 85 days he was away from us.”

That same day, officials from the Department of Health and Human Services admitted that they didn’t know exactly where the parents of 20 percent of the toddlers in their custody were. On the same call they said they would only be able to reunite about half the families they were ordered to by Judge Sabraw’s deadline.

July 7: Website with info for parents on reunification down

Reveal reporter Aura Bogado obtained a video parents must watch before being reunited with their children. The video includes a link to a website with full information on sponsors, but that website was down.  

July 10: “Generosity and charity,” Downed phone lines, Miscarriages and abuse

Alex Azar, the secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services, said his department was “performing one of the great acts of American generosity and charity” in caring for immigrant children and described the facilities as “a compassionate environment.”

Also on July 10, Aaron Cantú of the San Francisco Reporter wrote that a phone line that provides translation services for people in immigraiton detention at a privately-owned prison was disconnected without explanation for two weeks in June and July, preventing some from working with lawyers on their cases.

And Buzzfeed reported on women who had miscarriages as a result of mistreatment while in ICE custody, and of a range of other abuses carried about by ICE agents against immigrant women. Women are denied medical care, shackled around the stomach while being transported, and physically and psychologically abused. Some who miscarried said they bled for hours and sometimes even days before receiving medical attention.

July 11: Children bathing in sinks

Reveal found that children had been held overnight in Arizona office buildings run by defense contractor MVM Inc. Witnesses later reported children bathing in sinks, because there were no shower facilities. The buildings also did not have kitchens. MVM does not have childcare licenses in Arizona. Their contract with ICE is for transport, so its possible that holding children overnight violates their contract. One child being held there went missing and was never found.

July 12: Half of children under 5 not reunited with parents

The Trump administration said that all eligible children under 5 had been reunited with their parents. Nearly half of the children in that age group were not reunited because they were considered ineligible for some reason: possibly their parents were facing other criminal charges, possibly because their parents had already been deported, or for a range of other issues.

July 15: Trump administration may have intended permanent separation

Democratic lawmakers released a joint statement claiming that prior to Judge Sabraw’s order, the administration told them it had no plan for reuniting families separated at the border. No plan. They allegedly wanted to just tear families apart and keep them that way. The government seems to have wanted to make “effective orphans” of thousands of children who had arrived here with their loving, very much living parents.

July 19: Honduran child lied to by ICE

A 10-year-old girl separated from her mother and held in a detention center in Texas was told by an ICE agent she could see her mother at 6 pm one day when she was being held. However, when she asked guards what time it was, they said they were not allowed to tell her. She was held in a windowless room with the lights constantly on, preventing her from determining the passage of time in any other way. She did not see her mother until they were both eventually left the facility.

July 25: Parents misled into waiving rights

ICE agents detaining immigrant parents at the border allegedly lied to, tricked, and coerced some parents into signing forms waiving their right to reunification with their kids. Some actually thought they were filling out paperwork to be reunited.

One man had come to the U.S. with his young daughter because a powerful man back in his home country of Guatemala wanted to “buy” her. Immigration officials told him he was going to be deported no matter what, and the only choice he could make was whether his daughter would be as well. Fearing for her safety back in Guatemala, he waived his right to be reunited with her.

Others report being pressured to sign documents in languages they didn’t speak–many have limited English language skills, and some indigenous people also don’t read Spanish.

July 26: Another failed reunification deadline

The Trump administration missed another court-imposed deadline to reunite children with their parents. More than 900 children are still not back with their parents. Lawyers working with parents and kids say that the efforts to reunite them are chaotic and deeply traumatic for the families. In one particularly heartbreaking case, two children who were being held in a detention center in New York were sent to Texas to be reunited with their mother, only to find that she had been deported earlier that same morning. The legal group that had been working with those children has not received any information on what has happened to them since, and do not know if they have been deported or detained.

July 27: Number of parents deported without their kids on the rise

As of this date, at least 468 children in the U.S. are “ineligible” to be reunited with their parents because their parents have already been deported.

U.S. authorities are not sure how, or even if, they will reunite these children with their parents. Another 43 children’s parents were released into the United States and the government is now unable to locate them. The task of reuniting families may fall on NGOs, since the government doesn’t exactly seem that motivated.

August 1: A toddler dies shortly after their release from immigration detention

The Washington Post reported on claims that a female toddler who had suffered from a respiratory illness while in custody died shortly after she was released from a detention facility in Dilley, Texas.

August 7: Promotion for ICE official who compared child detention centers to “summer camp,” Activist targeted for detention, Administration to propose ways to make it even harder for immigrants to achieve legal status

Matthew Albence, an ICE official who made headlines when he said the child detention centers were like “summer camp” has risen to the position of acting deputy director and second-in-command of the whole agency. Other officials say that his ascension within the agency over the past 18 months would normally have taken someone years.

Also on August 7, The Intercept reported that an immigrant rights activist, Sergio Salazar, was arrested by ICE at a protest. Salazar arrived in the U.S. when he was two years old, and was previously protected under DACA. He had recently applied to have his legal status renewed. It wasn’t until he was detained by ICE after leaving a protest that he was informed his application had been denied, seemingly in retaliation for his activism. He was questioned by the FBI about his work in immigrant rights organizing, told his application had been rejected because he was a “bad person,” and then told that the FBI could help him regain legal status if he told them about other activists he had worked with.

And the Trump administration is expected to put forth a proposal to make it harder for immigrants to attain green cards, and for those with green cards to become citizens if they have ever used a range of popular welfare services, including food stamps, child health insurance, or Obamacare. More than 20 million immigrants could be affected. The proposal probably does not need congressional approval, meaning there is little to stop it from being enforced soon.

August 8: Trump administration tries to deport woman and child during their immigration hearing, ICE lied about a van accident

As lawyers from the ACLU stood in a courtroom on the 8th trying to argue for the rights of a woman and her child to remain in the U.S., that same woman and her daughter were removed from a detention center ant put aboard a flight to Central America. When the judge hearing the case, Emmet Sullivan, heard the news, he called the action “outrageous…that someone seeking justice in U.S. court is spirited away while her attorneys are arguing justice for her.”

Sullivan ordered that they be returned to the U.S. pending a decision on their case, and threatened to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt of court if they were not.

A DHS official said they were complying with the order, and the plaintiff and her daughter would be returned to the U.S. promptly.

The same day, The Texas Observer broke the story that ICE crashed a van transporting 8 mothers en route to be reunited with their children, and then spent three weeks denying to the press that the crash had happened. The van was too damaged to continue driving, and had to be towed away from the scene. The women involved reported injuries, but when an ambulance arrived declined to go to the hospital because they were afraid it would prevent or delay them further from seeing their children again.

August 9: Texas begins investigation into death of child after detention

State officials in Texas launched an investigation into the death of a child shortly after she was released from the South Texas Family Residential Center (see August 1) to determine whether conditions at the center were responsible for her death.

August 13: Results of investigations into abuse in VA detention center

Virginia concluded an investigation into the treatment of immigrant teens at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center. The investigation confirmed what teens held there had alleged: that they were strapped to chairs with mesh bags over their heads, sometimes stripped of their clothes, and locked in solitary confinement. However, because we live in a dystopic hellscape, the state did not conclude that current treatment of the teens met the threshold for abuse or neglect.

The children interviewed for the study were reportedly not the same ones who had filed complaints about their treatment, and interviews were conducted with facility staff in the room with the children, meaning they may have been intimidated by the presence of the people who keep them imprisoned into understating the severity of their treatment.

August 20: Re-separation as retaliation

The Daily Beast reported that 16 fathers were handcuffed and separated from their sons for a second time (after their court-ordered reunification,) and taken to different detention centers. All of the fathers are applying for asylum or applying for legal status in the U.S., and nine of them were planning to participate in a hunger strike to protest their conditions and hopefully expedite their cases. An ICE officer said the fathers and sons had been separated because of “disruptive behavior.” So apparently any act of protest against the current immigration regime can result in further punishment. The move highlights how precarious family reunification is, even when it happens.

August 22: Administration shocked by outcry against separations

A writer for The New Yorker spoke with an official who said that the administration was surprised that there was so much backlash against the family separation policy. “The expectation was that the kids would go to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, that the parents would get deported, and that no one would care.”

August 23: Hundreds of children still separated from parents, remain in abusive “shelters”

Nearly a month after the court-imposed deadline to reunite families separated at the border, 528 children have still not been reunited with their parents.

August 24: Administration files to end court oversight of treatment of immigrant children

The 1997 Flores settlement was the result of a court case about the government’s responsibilities towards immigrant children. It established that the government had to meet certain standards of care, including housing and nutritional requirements.  DHS is now filing to end the agreement, supposedly in the name of providing “humane detention of family units.” Understandably, immigrant rights activists are concerned that this move will lead to even worse conditions for children and families detained by immigration authorities. The administration’s plans would end restrictions on how long families with children may be detained, and get rid of certain licensing requirements for detention centers.

August 28: Children still held at abusive centers

A federal judge ordered that children should be moved from Shiloh Treatment Center, a detention center with a history of abuse against the children held there. But 25 children are still imprisoned at Shiloh, and continue to be given psychiatric drugs without proper consent from their parents or medical evaluation, again in violation of court orders.

Science Now + Beyond

“The Meg” briefly reveals the real villain of the oceans

Ever since Jaws was released in 1975, shark movies (of wildly varying quality) have played an important role in the world of summer blockbusters. The allure of the shark as antagonist in film is pretty clear: it’s an apex predator, swimming at the top of the food chain. And while shark encounters with humans are actually fairly rare, they have all the elements for big-screen drama: big, sharp teeth, blood in the water, unexpected violence interrupting ordinary human activity.

So sharks have found a home in our imaginations, but the films that feature them are generally pretty light on science, despite the fact that the characters featured are often scientists. This summer’s addition to the shark film catalogue, The Meg, rests upon a supposition almost as outlandish as the idea of sharks deliberately stalking people as prey. (Almost.)

A team of researchers in a lab off the Chinese coast have discovered a trench that descends deeper into the ocean’s depths than the Mariana Trench, somewhat sealed off from the rest of the ocean by a layer of cold water and some sort of gas. Scientists breach that seal in a high-tech submersible and enter into a secret part of the ocean warmed by volcanic ports, and containing new sea life.

And old sea life: a megalodon, the largest shark ever documented, thought to be long extinct.

Now, we don’t have time to go into all of the science depicted in The Meg. So for now we’ll focus on the most critical plot point: a real life megalodon, alive millions of years after its species supposedly went extinct. What is the likelihood that megalodons could be lurking somewhere in the deepest parts of the ocean, hidden from humanity for all this time?

Turns out, the odds are basically nil. The last signs of the megalodon in the fossil record are dated to about 2.6 million years ago, about a million years before our earliest Homo sapiens ancestors started appearing. The idea that megalodons could have remained at large for so long without leaving any trace that appeared in fossil records is pretty improbable.

Then there is the issue of size. The megalodon was probably about three times the size of the largest great white sharks, about 60 feet long. Sustaining a body that big requires a lot of food. Scientists think that the megalodon fed on prehistoric whales and other large sea creatures and had to eat a literal ton of food every day. So for these sharks to still be alive, they would need to be feeding on other large sea animals. The Meg’s secret sea trench would have to contain a closed ecosystem of giant marine animals to sustain a top predator as large as the megalodon. So this isn’t just a question of whether one big species could be hidden from human eyes, but whether a major community of them could be. Again, unlikely.

In fact, scientists now think that one of the reasons the megalodon went extinct was competition for food. New, smaller, more agile species like the great whites and orcas that we have today emerged and ate some of the prey that the megalodon depended on. As the competition increased, the megalodon couldn’t hunt enough to survive.

Most animals that do live in the deepest parts of the ocean are slow-moving, and have to be able to survive on small prey, since the depths are so sparsely populated. The megalodon simply wouldn’t be able to consume enough calories to live down there.

All the fossil evidence we do have indicates that the megalodon preferred warmer, shallower waters, and used shallow coastal seas as nurseries.

And speaking of that fossil evidence, most of it is teeth. Megalodons, like most sharks, would have shed teeth regularly as new ones grew in. Sharks can shed up to 20,000 teeth in their lifetime. If the megalodon was still alive somewhere, its teeth would have to turn up periodically.

But The Meg doesn’t get everything wrong. There is a brief but important moment when the researchers in the film encounter the bodies of smaller sharks floating atop the ocean, their fins cut off. When one character asks what happened, the head of the research station explains that the sharks had been finned and thrown back, because shark fin soup is an expensive delicacy in parts of the world. It was a small reminder in the midst of a big, silly action movie that humans pose a far greater threat to sharks than sharks will ever pose to us, and that we are often the ones who hunt them maliciously, not the other way around. The practice of shark finning may kill up to 100 million sharks a year.

We love shark movies because it’s easy to make sharks seem like the biggest, baddest predators around. But their place at the top of the ocean food chain doesn’t keep them safe from the dangers of human greed or ignorance.


August is vaccine awareness month, so here’s your reminder that vaccines save lives

The last time I was at Target, picking up a prescription, the pharmacist told me that the new flu vaccine for this year was just in and asked me if I wanted to get it. A few minutes later, I left inoculated against a disease that ravaged the world a hundred years ago, killing 50 million people, about 650,000 of them in my home country of the U.S.

These days, worldwide flu deaths typically don’t climb higher than 650,000 total, and can often be much lower, according to the World Health Organization. The elderly, the very young, and those with otherwise compromised immune systems are the ones most likely to die of the flu.

But for most of us, getting an annual flu vaccine reduces our chance of getting the flu. If we do get it, our symptoms will generally be much milder than they would without the vaccine. And those of us without complicating health conditions getting vaccines makes it less likely that the immuno-compromised will get sick and die, through a process called herd immunity. Essentially, the more people who are vaccinated, the harder it is for the virus is to spread among our population, meaning everyone is safer.

This logic applies for diseases beyond the flu. Vaccines have helped us eradicate diseases that used to be a death sentence, including things like smallpox, and ones that could dramatically impact people’s lives even if they did survive, like polio. But just because those diseases are mostly gone from the U.S. doesn’t mean we can stop using the vaccines for them. They can be spread by travellers from places where those diseases are still endemic, or in some cases can spread between different species who have variations on the same disease.

Vaccines make us all safer, and let us live healthier, longer, richer lives. Yet some of the diseases they’ve helped us avoid for years are making a comeback, and it’s all because of one study published in 1998. Even though the study has since been thoroughly debunked,  it claims the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine can cause autism. The study was paid for by parents trying to sue vaccine manufacturers after their children were diagnosed with autism, and was conducted without approval from an ethics board. No one has ever been able to replicate the study’s results, and the journal that originally published the paper retracted it.

But the author of that study, Andrew Wakefield, still has a host of believers who now refuse to vaccinate their children, and in the process are spreading diseases that we have barely seen in a generation. Measles had been eliminated in the U.S. in 2000. But so far this year, there have been 107 measles cases in the U.S., and the majority of people who got the disease were unvaccinated.

Some people with compromised immune systems, and very young infants, genuinely can’t be vaccinated. People who can be vaccinated and refuse to put not only themselves, but the most vulnerable people in our communities, at risk. So that’s why it’s important to spread awareness and credible information about the importance of vaccines. Doing so will help us to enjoy longer, healhier lives. 

USA Editor's Picks The World Life Inequality

Living in Portland in the age of Trump

The day before I sat down to write this piece, Portland police swept the camp that had occupied land around an office building used by ICE.

It was more than a month after the occupation had begun. During that time, the camp had operated as a temporary autonomous zone, with a camp kitchen, a medical tent, a communications tent complete with WiFi, daily general assemblies to discuss camp affairs and nightly vigils in remembrance and solidarity with the families being separated and detained at the border, and the people being deported back into often deadly danger.

To live in Portland right now is to engage in an endurance test of your capacity for cognitive dissonance. The city, much vaunted for its liberal character these days, is the whitest big city in America. It stands on ground stolen from the Multnomah, Kathlamet, Clackamas, Chinook, and other tribes, in what was originally founded as a whites-only state.

Over the past two years, Portland and cities like it have become centers of resistance to the Trump administration’s regressive and oppressive agenda. At the same time, the city government’s and local police’s militarized response to left-wing protestors, and relative tolerance for right-wing provocateurs, showcases the limits of the municipality’s tolerance for any kind of major political overhaul. That has become especially clear this summer, as Portlanders responded to the Trump administration’s family separations policy at the border.

Oregon is not exactly what people think of when they imagine a border state. Sure, technically the coastline counts, but it’s not exactly a hotspot for entry into the U.S. And we’re insulated by the long stretch of California from the border Trump is most concerned about. Yet Oregon, and specifically Portland, has become a major flashpoint for a national showdown over immigration policy and enforcement.

On June 17th, Father’s Day, a group of activists staged a demonstration outside the Portland ICE office. Some of them decided to stay and camp out, demanding an end to ICE activities in the city and calling for the abolition of the agency entirely. Over the course of the next few weeks, the camp grew. It also inspired a series of similar occupations at ICE facilities across the country, some of which continue today.

The first night I attended a vigil at the camp, representatives from Portland’s Native community led the people assembled in prayer, then performed traditional songs and dances from their tribes. Behind us, cars driving past the occupation honked and waved in solidarity, occasional voices cheering out the windows.

Several nights later, I read reports on Twitter from some of the occupiers that Proud Boys, a group of chauvinist, reactionary right-wingers, had driven by the camp during the night and flung water balloons filled with human waste at it. I watched the story unfold through my phone screen and marveled at the combination of privilege, timing, and luck that insulated me from the more sordid attacks on the protesters I had stood with just a few nights before. 

For over a week, the occupiers managed to actually shut down ICE operations at the office. Amidst the horror of family separations, the cause was popular enough that Portland mayor Ted Wheeler put out a statement saying that local police would not take part in any efforts to clear the camp. Eventually, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officers turned up and cleared the entrance to the office so that ICE agents could resume their work of ethnically cleansing the United States.

Those DHS agents put up fencing around the ICE building that blocked parts of the sidewalk, limiting accessibility in a way that occupiers had been careful not to. They blocked off a street in front of the building that occupiers had been careful to keep clear, since it impacts a bus route and access to a nearby hospital. And they grew increasingly violent in their attacks on campers. And yet life in the city in many ways continued without regard for the struggle happening within its bounds. My life continued: I went to the gym, I grocery shopped, I bought bags of ice and sprawled prostrated in front of a box fan to fend off the heat wave sweeping Portland. Around me, hundreds of thousands of people did the same, their lives unfolding in typical mundane fashion. 

That continuity felt senseless to me, almost disorienting. How could so many of our lives proceed as usual, when families were ripped apart and children were abused and parents were deported without their kids? For me and countless others, the obvious answer is privilege. But as the news staged an ever-more aggressive occupation in my mind, the physical occupation of the ICE facility felt like the only place the world made sense. But for various reasons I always went there alone, and my natural introversion made it hard to connect with people, even as it calmed my chaotic mind to stand among other people who recognized the urgency of our moment and were taking direct action in response to it.

Another night when I went to the occupation, dancers from Portland’s queer, mostly non-white drag ball scene were staging a performance. I walked past heavily armed DHS officers whose hands resting on their weapons made my skin crawl. But when I got past them, I was greeted with a joyous call of “Welcome, comrade!” by several people near the entrance to the camp.

The presence of the DHS officers nearby and the ongoing operations of ICE confirm that we live in dark times. But watching the queens of the House of Flora vogue on the asphalt in front of a cheering crowd of people united in the fight for a better world confirmed that our struggle does not always have to be grim. To paraphrase Emma Goldman, our revolution not only can, but must include dancing.

Eventually, Wheeler went back on his word, and Portland police swept the camp, pushing occupiers out. But they are already organizing meetings and vigils, teaming up with new and long-standing immigrant and racial justice organizations, and planning new actions.

After their performance, Brandon Harrison, father of the House of Flora, held out a basket full of wildflower seeds native to the Pacific Northwest, and urged everyone who had watched to take a handful and scatter them around the camp and the city, to grow something beautiful.

Anyone who went to the camp over the course of the past month has taken with them a seed of resistance with which to help grow a more beautiful world.  

Food & Drinks Life

It’s National Tequila Day and it’s time to step up your tequila game with these drinks

It’s National Tequila Day in the U.S., and Americans love tequila–we drink 80 percent of the world’s tequila production–even though our current administration seems to hate the place it comes from and the people who often make and serve it. While today it is often associated with American spring breakers doing tequila shots in Tijuana or retirees day-drinking margaritas, tequila goes back a long way.

Tequila is made from agave, a type of succulent plant. Aztecs in what is now Mexico started fermenting agave around 1000 B.C., making a beverage called pulque, a forerunner to the tequila we know and love today. When the Spanish arrived, they got in on the game, distilling agave into something closer to modern tequila. Around 1936, the quintessential tequila drink for most Americans, the margarita was invented, possibly by an Irish bar owner living in Mexico. In 1974, Mexico claimed the term “tequila” as its intellectual property, much as the term “champagne” has been claimed by France. This means legally true tequila can only be made in certain parts of Mexico, according to certain standards. However, producers of this uniquely Mexican spirit are increasingly being bought up by foreign, often white, owners getting in on the tequila bonanza. Today, none of the biggest tequila producers in Mexico is owned by Mexicans.

It’s an interesting commentary on the effects of globalization: even a product essentially copyrighted by a country ends up profiting the wealthy elite of other, often whiter countries. Meanwhile, Mexico and Mexicans are cast as subhuman criminals by the people who both profit from their products and consume them.

So this National Tequila Day, drink to remember! Drink to forget! Drink to find some measure of pleasure in this chaotic world of ours! And try one of these simple recipes. (Pro tip: blanco tequila, which has no added sugar, is supposed to be the best kind to use to avoid hangovers.)

Tequila, especially good tequila, has a distinctive taste: a hint of saltiness, a touch of smoke. Both of those characteristics pair beautifully with citrus, which is why citrusy drinks dominate this list.

1. Paloma

A photo of a paloma on a marble table.
[Image description: A photo of a paloma on a marble table.] Via
Palomas are light and refreshing and go perfectly with a plate of tacos on a hot summer day. To make your own, you’ll need:

  • 2 oz tequila blanco (that’s about a shot and half)
  • Lime juice
  • 3 oz grapefruit juice
  • 3 oz club soda
  • Ice
  • Salt

Stir together the tequila, a generous squeeze of lime juice, a pinch of salt, and the grapefruit juice. Then add the ice and pour over the club soda. If you want to cut down on the ingredients, try just getting a grapefruit soda. Enjoy on a sunlit patio.

2. Tequila Sunrise

A photo of two tequila sunrise drinks.
[Image description: A photo of two tequila sunrise drinks.] Via Food Network
The Tequila Sunrise is another classic tequila and citrus combination.

Add the tequila and orange juice to a cold glass and stir, then float the grenadine on top. If you want to really jazz things up, get wild and use blood orange juice.

3. Tequila Sangria

A photo of tequila sangria.
[Image description: A photo of tequila sangria.] Via Pampered Chef
This one is perfect for hosting your very own Tequila Day celebration. Mix up a pitcher and gather your friends, and the following ingredients

Combine all the liquid ingredients in a pitcher and stir, then add your sliced fruit. Let it chill in the fridge for at least two hours. The longer it sits, the more the flavors will meld together. This is a good time to experiment too–add more slices of your favorite fruits, throw in some fresh berries or herbs. They’ll add extra brightness to your drink, and leave you with a tasty, boozy snack afterward.

When you’re ready to serve, rub a wedge of lime around the rim of your glasses. Pour some salt on a plate or cutting board and dip the edges of the glasses in it. Add ice, then pour and enjoy.

Sometimes “holidays” like this one can feel silly, especially when the world is in such turmoil. But they can also be fun, and that can be important to hold onto especially when the world seems like it’s going to hell in a handbasket. So take a little time to catch up with your friends, try out a new drink recipe, and learn to love tequila in a new way.

Movies Pop Culture

Anthony Bourdain may be gone, but he taught me how to live

“You are lonely in the world.”

“I am–I am lonely in the world.”

It had been about a month since Anthony Bourdain died, and I was watching an episode of his show Parts Unknown on Netflix. Since Anthony died by suicide, I’ve been spending a lot of time curled up in front of my computer, watching him and reflecting on how his passage has made me feel. In the particular episode I just quoted, Anthony had gone to Paraguay not only to explore the local cuisine but also to try and trace the history of one of his ancestors who had gone to the country and essentially become lost to the family, with no clear record of how he lived or died.

At the time of filming, Anthony was about to turn 58. His own father had died at the age of 57, and his grandfather even younger. As far as he knew, he might be about to become the oldest male Bourdain ever, a milestone that had sent him in search of the history of the elusive Jean Bourdain. When he explained this to the private investigator he was working within Paraguay, the other man nodded knowingly and said the words that, in a post-Anthony world, seemed almost specifically calculated to break my heart. You are lonely in the world. Less than four years later, Anthony would join the list of Bourdain men gone too soon.

I’ve always loved to travel. My first trip abroad was a family vacation to London, but more trips with family and eventually alone followed quickly. And for me, as for many people, food is an essential part of the travel experience. Food, after all, is a language of love. Gathering for a meal is an act of community and connection, a prime time to talk about anything and everything.

And Anthony was not afraid to talk about anything. He was endlessly curious about every dish, every person, every place he encountered. He proved the old adage that interesting people are people who are interested, who always want to know more. He was unafraid to ask the people he met hard questions. In his own writing, he made his convictions clear. He could brash and crass. But he was also quick to laugh and slow to judge, traits that made him infinitely likable.

In the past, watching his shows was a way for me to simultaneously inspire and soothe my own wanderlust: I learned more about new places to dream of visiting and escaped into another part of the world when my own felt boring, depressing, or stressful. Now, it feels like a balm on my soul in another way: it’s a chance to remind myself of how I want to move in the world, regardless of where I am. With humor, and kindness, and incisive wit.

After he died, people around the world took to their keyboards to write about how Anthony had changed their lives. Some had personally met him, and their stories proved that he was as charismatic in real life as he appeared on camera. Others had only known him as I did, through his work, but wrote about how he inspired them to travel, or how his visit to their hometowns made them feel as though the place they came from mattered when most of the world overlooked it. In other words, the longest-lived male Bourdain made countless people feel less lonely in the world. At a time when that world often feels chaotic, overwhelming, arbitrary, and cruel, that is no small feat.

In another episode, Anthony visited Spain with one of his cameramen who was about to marry into an Andalusian family. He joked that the family was about to gain not only a son but “a very drunk, very hungry Uncle Tony.” When we talk about him now, that’s what my partner and I sometimes call him. Uncle Tony, the man who knew that to love food was to love the people who made it and the places it came from.

Recently I went to an Ethiopian restaurant with some friends. It’s a cuisine that I like, but don’t eat very often. As we scooped up spicy stewed lentils with spongy injera, my partner remarked that we should get a big world map, and on the weekends blindfold someone and send them to stick a pin in it. Wherever the pin landed, we should try to make or find food from that place, to get a little taste of the world while we save money to truly travel it.

It sounds like a perfect night: kicking back with a glass of wine and maybe turning on an episode of Parts Unknown, full of a new and delicious food, dreaming of adventure. I like to think that somewhere, Uncle Tony would be proud.

USA Politics The World

More and more Americans are turning into Democratic Socialists. Why?

The past couple of years have been rough for left-leaning Americans.

But every once in a while, we get a glimpse of the fact that another world is possible. One of those glimpses occurred when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won the Democratic primary against longtime incumbent Joe Crowley in what some are calling “the year’s biggest political upset.”

Ocasio-Cortez is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America. She is the latest and greatest in a series of electoral victories for the organization since the 2016 election when Bernie Sanders’s campaign helped put democratic socialism on the political map for many Americans. Her district has historically gone Democratic in general elections, and it is unlikely that she will face a serious Republican challenger in November.  

Earlier this spring, four female candidates backed by the (DSA) won Democratic state primary races in Pennsylvania. Three of them don’t have Republican opponents for the general election this fall, which means barring any extreme circumstances next year there will be at least three Democratic Socialist-backed candidates in the Pennsylvania statehouse.

These victories are part of a struggle over the future of the Democratic party (and American politics in general), between more establishment Democrats and more leftist upstarts entering politics.

The past two years have seen membership in the DSA surge around the country. I was part of that surge, joining the Portland, Oregon chapter last year. Membership in DSA has gone from about 6,500 dues-paying members in 2014 to roughly 37,000 this year.

That growth was spurred by the unexpected popularity of Sanders’s presidential campaign, but it has been sustained by the fact that Democratic Socialism speaks to people’s lived experiences of the world under capitalism, and to their disillusionment with the options provided to them by establishment parties.

In an era of rising inequality, DSA argues for redistributing wealth. Because top executives earn more in two days than the average worker does all year, DSA organizes for stronger unions and workers’ rights. As the climate changes and weather patterns grow more volatile, DSA pushes for a shift away from extractive industries that pollute the air, water, and earth that we all share.

I came to DSA relatively recently, along with thousands of others.

But I came to it because of a longstanding disappointment with the Democratic party.

As a queer teenager in the early 2000s, I remember desperately reading through Democratic party positions on gay marriage and finding that almost no one would go on the record as fully supporting marriage equality. It is hard to explain how my stomach sank when I realized that the politicians who were supposedly “on my side” still either didn’t believe in the full validity of my feelings or simply didn’t care enough to fight for them.

In college, I remember learning that the world produces more than enough food to feed everyone on the planet and then some. That’s what I think about most when I think about why I joined DSA.

That scarcity is not an inevitable fact of life: it is possible to feed everyone, to house everyone, to give everyone healthcare. Republicans and Democrats are caught in the myth of scarcity, an ideology that encourages greed, and only argue over the parameters of how much greed is too much.

Democratic Socialism embraces the fact that we have enough for everyone if we only cared enough to figure out how to share our resources more equitably.

Ocasio-Cortez and Pennsylvania politicians Summer Lee, Sara Innamorato, Elizabeth Fiedler, and Kristin Seale are signs of a shift in American politics. But they’re not the only ones.

Last year, my own home state of Virginia elected Lee Carter to the state legislature. Carter is a member of his local DSA chapter and defeated the Virginia House Republican whip. At the same time, progressives won a number of other victories. Danica Roem, a transgender woman, defeated a Republican incumbent who had introduced an anti-trans bathroom bill to the Virginia House of Delegates. In fact, 15 DSA-backed candidates around the country won elected office in 2017.

Aside from Carter’s entry into state-level political office, their positions are at the local level, ranging from school board members to city councilors.

But their humble positions belie the fact that local politics often have a major direct impact on people’s everyday lives. That is a reality that has shaped Republican and right-wing organizing for years but has been a weak point for Democrats. Now, DSA members are offering a leftist alternative at that level, and people are choosing it.

DSA doesn’t operate as a political party in the U.S., opting instead for a nonprofit organizational structure. That means the candidates they back are running as Democrats, but bringing a stronger leftist sensibility to the party.

And now Ocasio-Cortez is leading the charge into national politics.

USA Editor's Picks Politics The World Policy

Trump isn’t satisfied with abusing undocumented immigrants. Now he’s deporting U.S. citizens.

Among all the news about migrants being detained at the U.S.-Mexico border, it can be easy to lose track of how Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is cracking down on immigrants already in the U.S. And many of the immigrants being targeted are legally documented and have been in the U.S. for years.

Trump and his cronies like to claim that they are only trying to deport “criminals” to keep Americans safer.

But ICE has swept up green card holders (under American immigration law, having a green card indicates that an immigrant is a lawful permanent resident) in their raids. Some of the targeted immigrants have been in the U.S. for more than 20 years. They thought that their legal status would protect them from detention and the threat of deportation.

However, under President Trump, ICE is combing through documented immigrants’ records for decades-old misdemeanor charges as an excuse to target them for detention and possible deportation away from their families, homes, and communities.

In fact, for some immigrants, their legal status may put them more at risk: an ICE agent reportedly told his team as they set out for their raid that since some of the immigrants they were targeting had green cards, “we should have a good address on them.”

It turns out even citizenship can’t always protect immigrants to the U.S. these days.

An independent investigative media outlet called Unicorn Riot got hold of a handbook from the Department of Homeland Security’s secretive investigative arm, Homeland Security Investigations, and found it to be a guide to stripping citizenship from foreign-born naturalized Americans.  Stripping people of citizenship like this used to be considered a drastic measure taken only in extreme situations, but a new policy memo from the current head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services means more naturalized citizens than ever before are being investigated for potential denaturalization and deportation. In the past, some of the people denaturalized were former Nazis. However, that particular demographic seems pretty safe in the U.S. these days. Instead, current denaturalization proceedings seem, unsurprisingly, to be focused on nonwhite naturalized citizens.

Meanwhile, border agents are turning back asylum seekers at official U.S. ports of entry, in violation of the international and national law. Border patrol agents have been accused of lying to asylum seekers trying to enter the U.S. in order to keep them out.

In 1993, the United Nations defined ethnic cleansing as “the planned deliberate removal from a specific territory, persons of a particular ethnic group, by force or intimidation, in order to render that area ethnically homogenous.”

As Trump calls for deportations to be accelerated by denying migrants due process rights and ICE and the border patrol grow increasingly aggressive, multiple writers and analysts have begun to use the term ethnic cleansing to describe this administration’s approach to immigrants.

Trump’s language and actions set the stage for violence against immigrants and anyone his supporters believe don’t belong in their idealized version of a white America.

In my home city of Portland, Oregon, activists occupied the area around an ICE office and successfully shut it down for nearly two weeks before law enforcement cleared the entrance enough to allow ICE agents to return to work.

The occupiers remain on nearby land, and the protest continues.

And the movement has spread: there are occupations of ICE locations in 11 cities now. If you live in the U.S., see if there’s one near you and stop by for a few minutes, hours, or days to show your support. And take up the call with your lawmakers to abolish ICE, to end this draconian crackdown on immigrants, and to support the most vulnerable members of your community.

Health Care LGBTQIA+ Love

Doctors must do better by trans and nonbinary patients

The right to healthcare remains hotly debated in the United States. And for some people, our current healthcare systems are not set up to set up or support our needs. If you’re nonbinary, the healthcare industry barely knows you exist, and professionals might only acknowledge your identity to deny its validity.

The state of transgender healthcare in general leaves a lot to be desired. Trans individuals who don’t fit a specific narrative often have their experiences and healthcare needs questioned or denied. Nonbinary people in particular throw a wrench in trans healthcare: their desires and needs for healthcare often clearly follow the storyline we’re used to for trans people.

Some doctors refuse to treat trans people because of their identity. 36 percent of nonbinary people responding to this survey chose not to seek healthcare they needed because they were so worried about discrimination. The National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS) conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality in the U.S. found that 50 percent of their respondents had to educate their healthcare providers about trans identity and healthcare needs.

If you’ve been to the doctor lately and filled out an intake form, you probably had to check either male or female as your gender. Things like that, and many medical providers’ ignorance about nonbinary identities in general, can make nonbinary individuals feel unwelcome and uncomfortable in medical settings. Many respondents in the above study mentioned that they worried about their care providers thinking their identity was a sign of mental illness or hormonal imbalance that needed to be cured, rather than accepting it as a legitimate identity. And even in cases where their doctors were understanding, some faced problems with other medical support and administrative staff.

Although medical understanding of transgender identities is progressing, it is still often rigid in its adherence to the gender binary (the idea that there are only two genders) and to very limited understandings of what it means to be trans. For instance, trans people with same-gender attractions are still sometimes denied medical help transitioning, as are trans people who don’t conform strongly to gender stereotypes. And doctors are still often resistant to the idea that nonbinary people might want some sort of medical transition, whether surgery or hormone replacement therapy, without identifying with a binary gender. New standards of care released by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) have addressed some of these issues, but it takes time for that new knowledge to diffuse, and there are still many healthcare providers who don’t know about those standards, or don’t want to follow them.

One of the most important changes in WPATH’s new standards of care is a change made to their ethical guidelines, stating unequivocally that therapy attempting to cure people of being trans, or make them identify as their assigned gender at birth, are unethical. That’s a big deal: many professional health associations, including the American Medical Association, have stated that conversion therapy doesn’t work. In fact, people who undergo conversion therapy are almost 9 times as likely to experience suicidal ideation, and 6 times as likely to experience depression.

Despite this, conversion therapy is still legal in 41 American states. That reflects a deep misunderstanding of and prejudice against LGBTQ identities. Most studies focus on the effect of conversion therapy on queer and binary trans individuals, meaning we still don’t know how many nonbinary people are affected by this issue. But the fact that nonbinary identities are still widely misunderstood doesn’t bode well for us.

While people often still view nonbinary identity as a fringe identity, between 30 and 40 percent of the transgender population in the U.S. may identify that way (exact numbers are hard to nail down, especially given the discrimination trans and nonbinary people face). And given the problem of nonbinary invisibility, they often face even less understanding from their healthcare providers than binary trans individuals. Beyond that, all of the health disparities faced by trans and nonbinary individuals are even worse for people of color. They face higher rates of HIV infection, and were more likely to postpone medical care either because of discrimination or an inability to afford it. In a country where people count on their jobs for access to healthcare, the respondents to the NTDS were twice as likely to be unemployed as the general U.S. population, and people of color were unemployed at four times the national unemployment rate. They also face higher levels of abuse and were more likely to be denied care.

Our healthcare system can and must do better by the entire LGBTQ community, and start actually paying attention to the struggles nonbinary people in particular face. Your identity shouldn’t be a hazard to your health.

Reproductive Rights Gender Love Life Stories Wellness

Like most women, I struggled with body image. Then I realized I wasn’t a woman.

I’m one of those weirdos who loves running.

Yes, running can be painful, and hard, and you don’t get that mystical “runner’s high” people talk about often enough. But starting to run in college was the first step towards finding a home in my body and changing my approach to body image.

When I was younger, I had asthma. I also wore glasses, and always felt like I took up more space than I should – a common side effect of being socialized as female. Additionally, I perceived my older sister to be prettier and more popular than me, and she was one of the stars of our high school’s track team. Desperate not to live in her shadow, I avoided sports in favor of activities like theater and Model U.N. Those activities were important to me, but they didn’t address the discomfort I felt inhabiting my body. Like most people socialized as female, I was constantly concerned that I wasn’t thin enough or pretty enough.

In college, I started running – mostly because I still believed toxic ideas about thinness being desirable.

Even though I started running because I hoped to transform my body to look like society said it should, something different happened. I started caring more about how far I could run without stopping, or how quickly I could complete a mile. I started getting excited about what my body could do. I started genuinely enjoying exercise instead of seeing it as a way to become thinner.

By junior year, I started weightlifting with one of my guy friends, who taught me proper technique and gave me the confidence I needed to claim space in weight rooms, which are typically dominated by men. It was liberating. Every time I increased the weight I lifted I felt more confident in myself and at ease in my body, just like when I pushed myself on a run.

And yet most of the time I still avoided looking at my body. I never had mirrors in my room, and I kept my head down when I encountered them in bathrooms. Even as I claimed some capacity to love my body through my workouts I still felt estranged from what I saw whenever I saw my reflection.

Last year, I found the words for another part of what I was feeling: I am nonbinary. More specifically, I am genderfluid.

My struggles with my body image weren’t just that our society has absurd standards of beauty for women (although that is certainly true) but also that I’m not a woman, or not only a woman all the time. I reject those standards as a feminist, but I also reject the way society projects a female identity onto me.

When a friend asked me how I felt after I came out to her about my gender fluidity, my honest answer was that I felt like I recognized myself more in the mirror.

When I let the gender that had been assigned to me fall away, it felt like I could actually start to see myself for the first time. And just like finishing a race or setting a new personal best for a lift, that recognition was liberating.

Unfortunately, other people often don’t recognize my identity. While the friends I’ve come out to and my partner have been supportive, most people still perceive and refer to me as female, and correcting them can be a challenge for all kinds of reasons.

Nothing kills my tentative sense of goodwill towards my body faster than being misgendered on days when I’m feeling masculine and trying to present that way.

Androgyny is often depicted as something only thin, white, flat-chested people can embody. This standard makes the ongoing pursuit of weight loss feel like an inevitable part of trying to attain a more gender-neutral appearance. I know that obsession is toxic and unhealthy, but I still struggle to release it.

And while all of my experience working out over the past few years has taught me that there are ways I can healthily alter my body through exercise, nothing prepared me for the fact that I have different goals for what I want to accomplish based on whether I am feeling more masculine or feminine.

The physical attributes I want to highlight and emphasize fluctuate as my identity does, and more often than not I feel that I fall short.

I know some of the ways to try and address the problem: depend less on other people’s perceptions for my sense of self, seek out and create the representation I want, figure out a fitness regimen that makes me feel powerful no matter what. But humans are social, and it’s hard to let go of caring about how we fit or don’t fit into a group. Nonbinary representation is still rare.

And even though I have fitness activities that I love, I’m still working on how to translate that love into my body.