Sick of being Sick?

As some of you might know, I’ve been vegetarian, vegan and a carnivore. At 19 years old, I became vegetarian after watching the film, “Super Size Me“, which showcased a man who ate nothing but fast food for a number of weeks to see what would happen. Spoiler Alert!……He becomes very ill. After watching the film with my roommate, a vegetarian, turned to me and said, “Christine, let’s go vegan”. I agreed to go vegetarian first, and then I would think about transitioning to vegan.

I stayed vegetarian for a number of years and then moved to New York, NY from southern Californian. A few years into my New York experience, I’d found a job doing street outreach geared toward reaching homeless youth. This meant a lot of my time was spent outdoors, walking around New York city talking to strangers. About a year into the work, I began getting cold after cold after cold.I decided to go vegan to up my body’s immunity. I lost weight rapidly within the first month and felt energized. However, this didn’t last long. Soon I began to experiment with vegan baking and my diet consisted mainly of a ton of grains, some cooked vegetables and a lot of homemade baked goods.

After a year of being vegan, my body shut down. I was sick more often then I was well and everyday I would develop one or two hives on my body. I went to my doctor and had a full blood panel done. My results came back normal, except I was a little vitamin B12 deficient, which they encouraged me to take a supplement for. After that, I went to see an allergist who after much testing, shrugged and said, “Sometimes people just have hives”. Frustrated with Western medicine, I called an acupuncturist. He examined me and said that all of my symptoms were related to spleen issues. His suggestion was to eat more leafy green vegetables and red meat. He said the red meat was essential because I needed the energy/power of the large animal in me, which I could understand having studied a bit of macrobiotics (which is way of eating based in the idea that each food has a yin or yang property). I thought long and hard about it. At this point, I hadn’t consumed meat in almost a decade. I decided after a bit of research I would buy meat from wholefoods that had the highest standards, and I would eat it once a week.

At first the effect was magical. I felt better within a week. My body felt healthier and my yoga practice seemed to have more power behind it. Each time before eating the meat, I would thank the animal for it’s life. Little by little I stopped thanking the animals before I consumed them. I stopped procuring the high quality meat. And, I’d eat meat sometimes…. one to two times a day. My health slowly began to spiral again, and by the end of this summer it took a turn for the worst. I was getting a cold or the flu almost every other week. And,I felt exhausted by them. Knocked out. Finally my partner, having watched this go on for over a year, urged me to go to the doctor. I went and they did every kind of test you can think of on my body. After getting the blood work back, they found I’d tested positive for a “connective tissue” test. My doctor explained that this could mean I have Lupus…and that my next stop would be to a rheumatologist for further testing. In between all the doctors visits my condition seemed to worsen. It was like my body was shutting down. I started to have shooting pains throughout my body, like lightening they would flicker though me and then vanish. I would experience tingling in my hands for no particular reason, and I experienced other odd symptoms too.

All of the blood work and tests came back and the doctor diagnosed me with Fibromyalgia. My mother had Fibromyalgia, which at the time they’d said was caused by her chemo therapy. So on the laundry list of health issues I might inherit from my mother, this was not one I had ever been worried about. Knowing little about the syndrome, I remembered how my mother had described it, “it’s like having arthritis in every joint of your body”. Wow, great, I’m 29 and I have something that makes my body feel like a 100 year-old. At the time, I was in so much physical pain that I asked if there were any medications I could take for it so that I could function. I was prescribed an anti-depressant (which has been known to help folks with arthritis and fibromyalgia) and physical therapy. The anti-depressant helped with the pain, but made me even more fatigued. Staying awake became a new daily goal. A little over a month into my treatment I woke up one morning exhausted, completely unable to get out of bed. I called in sick and woke up in the late afternoon. Still feeling drained, I watched TV for a few hours. When I got up to head into the kitchen for something, I saw stars. I grabbed the chair in front of me to steady myself, but my vision blacked out and I fell backwards. I came to and could feel the chair on top of me, my hands and legs were also moving involuntarily. My vision slowly began to come back and my limbs slowly began to stop moving.

After much investigation, I found that the medication I was taking slowed my heart rate and lowered my blood pressure (which is already low), causing me to have something that resembled a seizure, but was in fact cardiac syncope. This means I fainted because my heart was not getting enough blood to the parts of the body that needed it… which is why I blacked out and my arms and legs flailed. After this nightmare, my doctor suggested I stop taking the anti-depressant. And even though it wasn’t a seizure, this seizure-like experience really put me off the idea of trying another medication. Especially since we’ve already established my body is very sensitive to what goes into it. You might be saying to yourself, okay I get it, you’ve had health problems, but where does this tie into being vegan, vegetarian, or a carnivore? Well, here’s where…. I got desperate. Once again I felt like western medicine had gotten me as far as it could go, but if I wanted healing I’d have to look elsewhere. For the body pain, I started acupuncture, which improved my pain after the first session and then steadily improved it, week after week. I then chatted with a pal of mine who’d become a vegan convert and who’s ex-girlfriend, as fate would have it was also suffering from Fibro and Chron’s Disease. My friend urged her to try a vegan diet that included juicing & eating 50% raw and 50% cooked foods. He said she took his suggestion, and 6 months later she was no longer bed ridden and was able to play with her son.

I said, “Okay, fine. I’m desperate. What do I have to lose!? Tell me what to do.” He urged me to educate myself, first through watching a few films (Food Matters & Fat,Sick & Almost Dead) and to juice everyday. Two times a day if I could. While watching “Fat, Sick, & Almost Dead“, I realized I recognized the doctor in the film and actually had a copy of his book, Eat To Live that was collecting dust on my bookshelf. This time, rather then skimming the book and then flipping to the back for the diet, I read it. Cover to cover. And I learned how to eat the vegan diet with ease and in the right way. Which,by the way is NOT with processed food, carbs or a ton of sugar, but instead by eating tons of fresh fruit and vegetables. I didn’t do it perfectly, but I did get rid of all the junk food in my house and only had sugar with my coffee in the morning (the one vice I allowed myself). Slowly but surely, my energy came back! I no longer felt that crazy fatigue. I was able to function (which for me meant walking up the subway steps without being winded!) I was even able to start walking 20 minutes a day. And after doing this imperfectly for 3 months, I’ve lost ten pounds. I’m not 100% yet, but I’m also only 3 months in. I still have had to modify my life for the fibro, but I am not bed ridden and suffering from constant shooting lightening blots of pain. I have not fainted, and my dizziness has improved.

My immune system is still shot, but I’m doing what I can to get it up and running. I’m also about to read a new Dr.Fuhrman book on the immune system, which has dietary suggestions too. After my crash course in nutrition over the past few months, I’ve realized most of the diseases we suffer from aare caused by our diet. And not just from eating animals, but from eating all of the processed garbage that we’re told is healthy because it’s got vitamins added to it. I now walk into grocery stores and feel disgusted. Really everywhere but the produce section is deadly. That might sound like an exaggeration, but it’s not. The rates of obesity are off the charts, diabetes and heart disease are on the rise. And because we’re all addicted to sugar, processed food, and carbs we just shrug our shoulders and say, “yeah, well I don’t like vegetables”.

This is not an acceptable excuse any more folks… because guess what… after you eat vegetables (that you hate) for a month, your taste buds begin to readjust to what real food tastes like. Even my sugar addicted girlfriend who HATED the green juice has now come to enjoy it. Your taste buds will shift (mine did!), but that spare tire on your waist will not… unless you change your diet.

“intersexuals, also known as hermaphrodites” Wrong!

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Last week I stumbled across an MSN story, which shared the exciting news that Germany will now allow parents to leave the gender marker box blank on their child’s birth certificate (meaning they do not have to check male or female). This is awesome news, since a large number of intersex individuals are assigned the wrong gender. However, this tiny miracle was lost on me as I re-read the sentence over and over in the story “intersexuals, also known as hermaphrodites”.  The term hermaphrodites is not a synonym for the word intersex. it’s also questionable if there is even a real term “intersexual” (if you know the answer drop me a message in the “for hire” section) I couldn’t help but be appalled at MSN’s inability to use proper terminology. I found myself wanting to go on a very large rant about why that term is inappropriate, I even started to blog about it, but couldn’t bring myself to finish the post.

You see, being an ex-social worker, I have a tiny bit of trauma around word policing (okay a lot of trauma. A LOT!).  I think this is in part because of the “Super Social Workers” I’ve worked with in the past. What is a Super Social Worker? It’s my own term for those in the field of social work who are very book smart, but have almost zero street smarts and border on being workaholics (because it’s for a good cause!). All these things I can, for the most part, deal with, but one trait that drove me nuts was word policing. If you haven’t experienced it let me paint a picture for you… imagine being stopped mid-sentence not once, but five separate times. That’s the level of policing I am talking about.

I could go on and on about this but as you can probably tell I haven’t quite squeezed the venom out from that memory yet.  Moving right along! In this post, I will do my best to balance the line of politically correct speech versus cultural competency. And if you didn’t know there was a line there well… there is!  Anyway, I hate doing this balancing act.  Mostly because the Super Social Workers are popping up behind me while I write this, cataloging how many people I will offend with each word….. I’m aware they are only in my mind but, they’re really crippling! Which is part of the reason I haven’t posted in a bit. Also, I have to tell you the more I write about gender the more I find the subject to be a convoluted crazy mind warp, but I just can’t keep my mouth shut any longer. That’s right, a boiling point has been hit!

I can no longer accept people’s lack of education on all things pertaining to gender and sexuality anymore. The thing is they’re good people… people who aspire to be loving/kind to others, but have no idea about how their use of language effects others.  There is not a day that goes by in which someone says something, with good intention, that shows me how little they understand about gender and sexuality. And how could they? I’m a queer identified person whose been working in LGBT cultural competency for over a decade and I still learn new terms and definitions everyday.

In 2002, I took a college course on human sexuality and at the time they used terms like hermaphrodite and pseudo-hermaphrodite. Because it was in an accredited text book, I accepted these terms as valid. Five years later, I’d moved from California to New York and started a job working with LGBT. In conversation with a coworker I used the word pseudo-hermaphrodite and was promptly corrected. I learned the correct term was intersex and that the term hermaphrodite was offensive. I had no idea! Because my understanding of terms was limited to what I’d learned five years ago on the subject. Luckily for me I was in an environment that could catch me up on the proper terms. Why is it important to update your vocabulary? Well, for one the word hermaphrodite is used to describe a plant or animal that has both male and female reproductive organs, so when you call someone a hermaphrodite you are dehumanizing them. I’d say that a pretty important distinction to know.

I don’t know the reporter who wrote the story on MSN’s website, so I can only speculate why he is not up to date on his terminology, but I wonder if the writer felt to afraid to ask what the proper terminology should be. Or maybe they didn’t care. Also, in doing this blog post I realized how little information there is on the correct usage of terms for intersex people.

If you are reading this and are a  social worker (or even a Super Social Worker), I love you. Really, I do. You are my people. And I get where you’re coming from . I’m a poet so I understand what it means to find power and inspiration within words. But, the next time you find yourself interrupting someone, getting a little snippy with someone who clearly is not as versed on the subject of gender and sexuality as you…. Stop, take a breath, and try to remember the vulnerability that comes with learning. I think it’s so vital we bring people on our journey with us gently. I recognize this is sooooo hard to remember, especially if you’re someone who falls under a marginalized group. It can be really hard not to lash out at people who are operating in ignorance. Especially when  you are confronted with ignorance every day.  But just remember ignorance is not the same thing as hatred. And if someone is operating from a place of hatred…. keep it moving. You do not need that negativity anywhere near you or your life.

It can be hard to separate yourself from your emotions with matters that are close to your heart, but do try. And if you’re on the other side of this…someone who wants to learn the correct terminology and is open to growth.. try to a time in your life when you’ve  felt unsupported. Give the snappy word police a break, because chances are, they are tired of swimming upstream.

Oh and MSN fix your incorrect language please!

Spring Fever in June

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The hands of my boo and I

Spring in New York City is always a bit manic, the weather gods offer up summer one day and winter the next. And then there are these rare moments when spring is in full effect.. blossoms in the air, crisp mornings with warm sunlight soaked afternoons. This June has been a gloomy one so far, but their have been a few days of spring like weather, which always makes me feel all optimistic and fluttery. Feeling the spring fever take me over I wrote a love poem on a train ride home last week… I just can’t help, but post it…after all the name is brassknucklehippie.

In the morning
I rise with the beeps and little kitty cat mews

that carry with them the gravity of the moon
I find your face with its frightened nights grip stretch away
into blue eyes of smiles
Melting my spirit and bringing warmth into my bones
The ease between us
one only gained with time
How much will we get?
I imagine us beyond the days of physical beauty
When we can let ourselves go
Eat cake for breakfast followed by
strawberry cheese cake for lunch
Our breasts weighed toward the ground
despite all our work
keeping them up
We tend to our garden
and talk about our train ride
down to Zuccotti park
to join the Occupiers
We giggle at our foolish youth hearted rules
of love and attraction
And recall what it felt like
to kiss on the mouth for the first time
We don’t try to recall dates and times anymore
instead we let them all melt together
in one long tangled memory of our lives lived along side each other
And we hold back not a single drop of our love
because we know love and life live on borrowed time
Given by our ancestors blood, sweat, tears and mistakes
and made perfect by invisible guides
somewhere out there holding our heads up right
when we are certain it’s in possible to see or speak.
But just for today we can cherish what is here
now
Us with all our withholdings
all our imperfections
And with the brilliant love we share that is sometimes envied
We’ll remember how hard we worked to find ourselves
so we could find each other
We’ll surrender the rest to the ancestors that came before us
The entities that hold our hands and speak the language of the universe
that we haven’t yet learned to speak
I’ll just love you and you love me

Hate Crime City

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With all the Hate Crimes that have been going on recently in the city, I can’t help but be a little on edge. I find myself holding my girlfriends hand on the train with a watchful eye (even more then usual) and reminding myself when in a commuters rage, that if I flip out on someone they could shoot me in the face. Yep…that’s where it’s at for me and I have a feeling I’m not alone in my thoughts. (unfortunately)

Each new hate crime reminds me yet again of my own experience with one a few years back. I went to a concert and a guy in the audience beat me up pretty bad. He punched me in the face so hard I fell backwards and when I was on the floor he didn’t stop, but instead starting kicking at my face. It was like a horrible nightmare and I knew he was not going to stop. Luckily, my best friend and a few other people  jumped in and got him off of me. Who knows how far he would have gone by the time the actual venue bouncers got to me.  The funny thing is I was attending an anti-bullying concert to raise money for Trevor Project, this was in 2011 when all the gay teen suicides were illuminated in the media. Because I was in shock, I did not go to the hospital and did not call the police. I took the train home with an ice pack on my face and my best friends by my side trying to contain his own shock and rage.

For months after that I would finch if I thought someone was going to hit into me and had to go back for test after test to ensure my eye hadn’t detached from my socket. A friend of mine even wrote to Prez Hilton, by email, who had arranged the concert about what had happened, but got no response. Maybe he didn’t want the bad publicity. I thought about making a fuss about it, posting a youtube video with the details of what happened and asking Prez Hilton to rethink security at his shows for anti bullying, but I couldn’t bring myself to write the words. The flash backs were too intense, I didn’t feel like reliving it by writing about it and then putting it out to the world.

However, I can’t keep silent about my experiences any longer. Because the unfortunate truth is hate crimes happen every day and go unreported every day. What is happening now is awful. Just fucking awful and I think the only way we can help to heal this giant wound is for us all to not, just come out (as allies or queers) to those we love, but to ask every single person in our lives to be an advocate and proponent for change. It is no longer accepted to wait until the “situation” arises for you to appropriately bring up there you a queer or ally.  We’ve got to do it NOW.  If your a supporter of queers, it’s time to call, text, email your friends and family tell them what’s going on and ask them to talk to their friends and family about their support for queer and transgender people. Encourage them to sit down with that friend who they never touch “politics” with and say, “Hey, this is not about politics, this is about people being able to live how they feel is right for them and not have to fear for their life in doing so”.  Ask them to have their ministers bring it up on Sunday sermons, ask them (if they run a company) to have a mandatory cultural competency training for ALL their employees. It’s time for us all to be brave and come OUT as people who recognize this is NOT a political issue, this is a human issue.

Namaste and may the force be with you.

On Deadline, but it doesn’t mean I don’t think about you….

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Hello Readers-

Just a quick note to tell you I adore you. I’ve just been working on a few articles and may have neglected my blog a little. While I was away I thought about posting a blog on a few things….

A young trans boy from PA and his fight for prom kind…see more here.

I nearly wrote a post about growing up mixed race but, being read as white….and how I feel about my ethnicity… but, I got far too freaked out by this blog 

to share my thought on it. I know….I’ve gotta get over it. THEN I nearly wrote about how all this reflection on gender and sexuality has really got me ALL KINDS of confused about mine…

Now I am free to write, but I have a terrific head cold. Wish me well and have a happy Wednesday!

Can you be Gender Non-Conforming and a Feminist?

Can you be Gender Non-Conforming and a Feminist?

I know this might be hard to believe, but there is a growing trend of folks who think it’s uncool to call themselves feminists. They’ll instead call themselves “humanists” because the term feminist is not inclusive of all people, and by calling yourself a feminist, you’re reinforcing gender as something binary and not trans inclusive. This is something I think we have to be careful of in queer theory land. Stopping the use of words because they aren’t inclusive of everyone dis-empowers their meaning and leaves us with wake a vague stew that has no practical use in the world as we know it.

Referring to one’s self as a humanist does not show solidarity for women’s rights, and perpetuates the “othering” of feminism and the stereotypes portrayed by the media. If for instance a straight male-identified person refers to himself as a feminist, this one simple action has the power to rework peoples’ ideas of what it means to be a feminist.

Also, the fact remains that we live in a world where most have no idea what it means to be gender non-conforming or trans. A lot of us are working to change that and to gain visibility, but we have a long way to go…which is why clear, intentional language is vital in helping us to fight for those that are oppressed.

So, if you’ve been feeling bullied by the word police to omit the word “feminist” from your vocabulary, I’d like you to think about these divine words from the sage profit Ani DiFranco, who writes in her song Grand Canyon:

“but i think the time is nothing

if not nigh

to let the truth out

coolest f-word ever deserves a fucking shout!

i mean why can’t all decent men and women

call themselves feminists?

out of respect for those who fought for this

i mean, look around

we have this”

We do have THIS, and the freedom many of us gender benders now hold was fought for by the feminists who wouldn’t swallow their gender roles down anymore.