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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

An Exercise in Health Thought

Ok, most of us at some point have probably talked about how we “need” to go to the gym, often disparaging our bodies in the process. There’s this cultural notion around exercise, around eating, around anything to do with our bodies that tells us that we need this, need that, and often with a tone that implies that we won’t enjoy it (and let’s be real, often times we won’t). We’re told doing these things is what it means to be healthy from the very start with grueling PE classes where teachers critique our movement based on times and fitness exam standards. We center movement around two main ideas;

One, that it has to meet a number, whether that’s a goal weight, a mile time, ect.
Two, that it’s about the result, not the process, and certainly not how it feels for us.

For some people, goal setting like that totally works, and that’s great for them. For a lot of us that’s just not the reality. When we make movement into something we only do to lose weight we take away so much from the experience of it- including the fact that your movement and your health- its for you. As a culture we’re particularly bad about this for women. Health is a broad concept and can vary widely from person to person- you can be healthy regardless of what your body type is. When we cheapen movement to something we only use to lose weight, we’re often focusing on its ability to shape our bodies to appeal to others. Honestly though, is that really what we want to make our discussions of personal health and wellness center on? What it does for someone else, for the gaze of other people on our bodies?

Here’s an alternate view- Maybe it’s about the process instead. Finding movement that feels good for us. We have a cultural sense that what’s honorable or valued is what we struggle with and push ourselves for, and that somehow what feels good is not worth as much. Not only is that a draining way of looking at things, but it means that for a lot of us, we’re less likely to keep coming back to the behavior of exercising. When I was younger, I hated PE- and by extension, I used to think I just plain didn’t like exercise. It was a setting where I only ever felt like I was failing. The thing is, if you’re doing the activity, you’re already winning- you don’t fail at running a mile just because you didn’t do it fast enough. The exercise you got doing half of a mile doesn’t disappear if you don’t make it to the end. Judging it that way is absurd. In the end, the movement that is successful in terms of health is not the one that burns the most extreme amount of calories, it’s the one that the person continues to do. And we tend to do what’s pleasurable.

One more important note on this topic- When people talk about this topic of health, it’s often to tell others what to do with their bodies on the basis of how they perceive the other person's health. Firstly, not really any of that first person’s business, right? Additionally, not only can you not tell a person’s health status based only on their body type, but if you’re truly concerned about health, then let’s talk about mental and emotional health. Health of the body doesn’t exist in some bubble outside of the cultural contexts that affect the health of our minds. What does it do to the mental and emotional health of our young women to have this emphasis placed on losing weight? Even just in terms of thinking about exercise, it makes their efforts and their bodies essentially about someone else, an all too common trend that crops up in many social issues.


All in all, our thoughts on health and exercise are often strikingly unhealthy, and  I would deeply encourage others, especially in my field of health, to re-think the way we frame exercise. 

Written by Dana Lund, Trans Program Intern

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Glory to Gloria

Never being an activist before, or at least thinking in terms of being an activist, I was not very knowledgeable of what has been done before me in the field. I never thought in the certain ways that I do now and never imagined the amount of hatred and inequality that exists everywhere. On top that, as embarrassing as it is now, I never really heard of, or knew much about Gloria Steinem and what she has done.

Attending the Q&A session she held Wednesday, March 2, at Chico State was a blessing and really molded the way I think of certain issues. Just being in the same room as her and seeing my peers filled with so much nervous excitement when she came in made me realize the impact she has had on lives. Then she spoke and her words really had an impact on me personally.

The biggest takeaway I took from her hour long Q&A was the way she explained how to cope with anger. She described anger as a good thing, and it is something we all must have and use to our advantage. We have a right to be angry, it usually means something is wrong and unfair in our lives or others. To use anger and turn it into a positive, we must imagine it as a little cell inside of us. We tap into this cell and use it as positive energy to make a difference. We need to find others who are like minded and make these connections and express the way we feel and why we feel that way. I have never particularly thought anger was a good thing or could be a good thing, but she turned the thought of it, to a positive mentality that brings people closer together.

Another lesson I took from her was her ability to take a step back, and look at the bigger picture of situations and being able to make connections when things do happen. Her example was the Zimmerman case with Trayvon Martin, she connected this issue all the way back to the prior domestic violence charges against Zimmerman. If feminism was taken seriously and he was previously charged with what he has done, Trayvon Martin would still be walking today. On top that, Zimmerman was again charged for domestic violence after the Trayvon issue. When we step back and make connections with bigger issues, it all comes down to properly assessing the situations where there is inequality. Doing so would prevent so many of the problems we face and save lives all around the world. Her way to turn almost every situation or issue and connect the problem back to issues women face was surprisingly mind blowing and honestly true.

A third takeaway from the discussion with Gloria Steinem was too not be fed up or angry with the current state of women’s right’s. She had the whole room imagine back to when women couldn’t even have the ability to cast a vote. This time era is not too far in the past and we have made great progress with where we are today. Don’t get me wrong there is still a ways to go, but we should not be angry, and Gloria again told us to channel this anger into a positive, that we use to connect with others with similar interests to help take the correct steps forward, progressing one step at a time.

From not hearing of Gloria Steinem, to hearing her words echo in my head daily, this question and answer session was a blessing. Thank you, Gloria


To those reading - thank you for the opportunity to share.  

Submitted by Robby Duron

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Representation, Please. Please


Come back to me, Gongyla, here tonight,
You, my rose, with your Lydian lyre.
There hovers forever around you delight:
A beauty desired.
Even your garment plunders my eyes.
I am enchanted: I who once
Complained to the Cyprus-born goddess,
Whom I now beseech
Never to let this lose me grace
But rather bring you back to me:
Amongst all mortal women the one
I most wish to see.

-- Sappho (Translated by Paul Roche)

I’ve always considered it a great shame that I did not know until after I started college who Sappho was. In case by chance you are in the same boat I was in, Sappho of Lesbos was an incredibly famous poet who wrote of her attraction both to men, and, more famously, women. In fact, she is the reason we use the term Lesbian, derived from the Island she called home. Where, I wondered at first, was Sappho when in high school we looked through a barrage of poets? Where are any of the many famous LGBTQ+ creatives, historical figures, and so forth in our classrooms? As a youngster with a passion for writing, I would’ve loved to see myself in this poet! Not to mention that seeing historical figures with diverse experiences of gender and sexuality gives context to the modern LGBTQ+ experience. That is to say, when one knows our history we suddenly stop seeming as though we sprung out of nowhere, an invention of modern times.

Although there are a plethora of important issues going on in relation to our schools in this day and age, I’ve always felt that the battle to have at least some LGBTQ+ history recognized is an important one. Especially since LGBTQ+ youth are often estranged from older community members on the basis of fears that they will make inappropriate mentors, these youths are starved for representation. Just seeing themselves in the people they study in history or english could be uplifting for kids who are often struggling with acceptance, both among others and within themselves. Our censorship of LGBTQ+ history creates the illusion that the identities kids experience are somehow not safe for the classroom and sexualizes young LGBTQ+ people by implying that their identities, even outside of any explicitly sexual context, are inappropriate.


With the start of this current school year (2016-2017), California is set to become the first state to include guidelines for LGBT representation courtesy of the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act. However, in our current political climate other states may be left lagging behind. Especially in light of HR 899, a Bill that had been introduced to the House of Representatives that would work to abolish the Department of Education by the end of December of 2018. While our country is far from having unified educational standards in regards to these topics to begin with, the potential abolishment of any larger oversight could make it even more difficult for standards like those in the FAIR act to take off for additional lack of unity among school systems. Overall, we face uncertain times for progress in LGBTQ+ education, but it’s a battle worth fighting. 

Submitted by Dana Lund

Thursday, March 9, 2017

"My little titties and my phat belly..."

“My little titties and my phat belly, my little titties and my phat belly,” lyrics by Princess Nokia, an amazing artist that motivates me. For a year now, I yearned for nipple piercings, but every time I’m motivated and pumped to go into a shop I back down. I’m not scared, I have multiple tattoos, and I’m not worried about the pain. I am more concerned with my little titties. I always shamed myself for having small boobs. Just recently, I wanted to get a boob job, of course as a college student I can’t afford them right now. For a time now, my little titties have been on my mind. I want to pierce my nipples to feel empowered, and it is much less than a boob job I can save thousands of dollars, but I have a fear of judgement. What if this happens; what if that happens. I know I shouldn't care, but that’s the problem I do care.

I don’t know how to just say “fuck it” and just do it. Maybe, it starts with me, I’ve been looking down on myself for having little titties. I need to give myself a break. The first step begins with this blog.

I want to share the way I feel about having small boobs and how I’m finding ways to be more accepting of them. I also want to encourage others to love thyself. To explore their options if they don’t feel comfortable, to empower themselves. It’s not easy to try and change something because society has set an expectation for that certain thing.

If you’re happy with small boobs, by all means, you’re an inspiration.  LET ME MAKE THIS LOUD AND CLEAR: THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH SMALL BOOBS. But I know there’s plenty of people like me.

When I do get my nipples pierced I know, I’ll be more open to talking about my boobs and happier with them. It’s a form of self-care, and self-love. I’ll also update y’all with the healing process and the way I feel, if there is a difference and if I made the right choice.

Again, to quote Princess Nokia, “My little titties are so itty bitty, I go locomotive, chitty chitty, bang bang. Gold hoops and that name chain.”  It’s an amazing song called “Tomboy” I’ll be playing this song while I’m getting pierced.


If you’re reading this, thank you for letting me share this with you. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

An Ode to Questioning

From the first time I came out, there was an air of pressure. Pressure to be sure, certain, solid in what I was saying as though once the words rolled off my tongue to hang in the air, once my thoughts were laid open for others to see, they became something immutable. Permanent. I had from a young age picked up on two things about declaring an identity in our society: one, that it would not be without consequence, and two, that people who changed their minds about their identities were ‘attention seekers’ and ‘fakers’, and held in poor regard by gay and straight people alike. 

Now, if we’re speaking from an educated standpoint we know that there’s more to it than that, that gender and sexuality can be fluid and there are many people for whom labels will change, but in the broader cultural context there is not nearly enough appreciation for the process of questioning.
This not only adds to the difficulties some folks experience in coming out, but can be particularly damaging for certain identities- as a bisexual person, I have noticed that many negative stereotypes about bisexuals seem to stem from a loathing for uncertainty. 

For example, many times I have heard bisexuality stigmatized as being confused, a stepping stone to coming out as gay or lesbian, being unsure what we want, or more likely to cheat because we can’t ‘choose’ one gender. Now, I could go on ad infinitum about all the things wrong with these statements. Today though, I want to focus in on a common thread that runs through these assumptions: the idea that a choice must be made. It frames uncertainty as the enemy. Now, bisexuality itself is not uncertain- it’s as solid of an identity as any

I’m bisexual regardless of the gender of any partners I have had or will have, and I have no need to choose a single gender to be attracted to. My question is why the idea of uncertainty is weaponized against identities, as though there’s something wrong with continuing to explore yourself.

Why should we allow the potential for growth in our self-understanding to be used to hold us back or as a smear campaign against identities? For a lot of people it’s natural to be averse to questioning- it can be a painful time, and the certainty of belonging to a group can be a great comfort. However, questioning is not inherently bad. If we truly want to embrace our rich spectrum of gender and sexual identities, we have to knock it off with our insistence on being certain. If someone changes their label, that’s great! They’ve found a new understanding of themselves! Give folks the ability to try on labels and see what fits without judging the person (or the label for that matter) if they experience changes.


If you’re still questioning, be gentle with yourself - allow yourself the room to breathe and grow. Some of us are on a quick trip and others might be traveling their whole lives, and that’s alright.

Blog submitted by Dana Lund

Friday, November 4, 2016

What Your Mother Didn’t Tell You About: Mental Illness

So you’ve heard me rant about privilege, periods, and violence, but today I feel like discussing something a little closer to home: mental illness. It’s something that so many of us, myself included, struggle with, yet it gets little to no visibility. It’s stigmatized, feared, and silenced. Too often do we make generalizations about mental illness instead of actually drawing personal experiences from those who suffer from them. Prior to developing a Panic Disorder I actually had no idea there was such a wide variety of mental illnesses alongside a plethora of symptoms. I’ve learned so many things about mental illness following my diagnosis.

First, a traumatic experience doesn’t have to occur for your development of a mental illness to be triggered. As for myself, I believe that being informed about an event that happened to a friend of mine is what triggered my anxiety disorder. Of course, genetic predisposition and environmental factors could have played a role, but I am sharing this because it is completely valid if you are triggered by things that may seem minuscule to others. Second, you don’t have to know what’s going on in your brain, why it’s happening, or anything of the sort. So many times after sharing my diagnosis with others I was asked “Well why are you anxious?” or “What happened?” and just about 100 other questions that I did not have the answer to. More times than not you won’t have the answers to these questions, and that is okay. Again, whether you’ve experienced trauma or not, your feelings are still valid. One controversial issue in the realm of mental illness is medication. Personally, my experience with medication was an unpleasant one, which eventually deterred me from experimenting with more. With that being said, if medication helps you accomplish daily tasks and you have the means to get it, then take it without remorse. I found that many people used fear tactics on me when I shared that I was interested in trying medication, and this is not okay. We all have different ways of coping with mental illness, and if taking medication is yours, so be it.


Speaking of coping, I thought it might be helpful to share what I’ve found to be therapeutic when experiencing a panic attack. Number one has to go to podcasts. Finding a podcast that really sparked my interest and listening to it while driving, or pretty much anywhere if i’m feeling anxious has proven to be so helpful for me. I prefer them to music because I feel compelled to actually focus on what they are saying rather than my symptoms. My personal favorite podcast is titled "Coffee with Chrachel” and follows a hilarious couple with two lovely cats who are getting accustomed to living in Seattle. They discuss everything from video games, to coffee, to sex positivity and I love it. But really, what helps me the most is simply talking to people. Confiding in a trusted friend or partner about how you’re feeling, expressing to them that you don’t mind being checked up on, or even just sitting in silence with them has changed my life for the better. Most of all, I want you to know that you’re not alone in this fight. Of all the things I've learned on this journey, the most important one is that it’s okay to not be okay.

Sierra Caraveo
Trans Program Intern

Friday, October 21, 2016

What Your Mother Didn’t Tell You About: Menstruation

Periods: So many people get them, yet they are stigmatized and made out to be unnatural. Menstruators are thought to be un-pure and moody. Periods are something that are so natural, but we are taught to be disgusted, even scared of our own bodily functions. Menstruation products such as tampons and pads are highly taxed and deemed luxury items as if we have options other than to  BLEED EVERYWHERE. It baffles me that a product that is 100% a necessity for folks who get periods is made highly expensive and, in some cases, unattainable. With that being said, I sought out my favorite meninist, Ryan Williams, to gain knowledge as to why the tax on period products is so crucial. Williams, a 19 year-old self-proclaimed meninist from England, claims that tampons should be taxed because women should “just learn to control their bladders”. He goes on to say that our lack of ability to control our bladders is not a taxpayer’s problem. Aside from William’s apparent failure to pass 7th grade Biology, there are deeper issues within his ideology.

First, women are not the only people that have periods. Due to the medicalization of trans identities we often forget that there are trans men that menstruate as well. In fact, menstruation can be an almost traumatic experience for trans men who don’t have the means or desire to medically transition. Although his belief that a person’s ability to control urine somehow equates to our blood is problematic, what really frightened me was William’s claim that period products are not a taxpayer’s problem. This goes so much further than the surface because what he really means is that women are not a taxpayer’s problem; therefore, women and people who menstruate are a problem. He and people that support the tax on period products completely erase the experiences of homeless people who don’t have access to them, young girls that are forced to miss several days of school while they’re menstruating, and virtually any person that has ever had a period. Items that are truly luxurious such as viagra and condoms are tax free and sometimes complementary, so why is it that people who have periods are having to pay for something that is involuntary. Free period products are a fundamental human right. They should be tax-free better yet, entirely free. Every person that menstruates deserves access to these products. I encourage Williams and like-minded individuals to do some research on the effects that using unsanitary period products, which is the only option for some menstruators, has on our bodies. Furthermore, I encourage folks to speak up about menstruation. Share your stories and connect with other people who have periods. If you have the ability consider donating to organizations like Free the Tampons, which actively works to equip public restrooms with free tampons. On a larger spectrum, we need to change the way menstruation is viewed and show people like Williams that our blood makes us powerful.