April 2021 Check in

We've officially made it to one of my favorite times of the year. I really love spring and the warm weather. As I sit writing this, I have the window open listening to the birds singing. Earlier today, the neighbor kids were running around playing and I could smell someone grilling. They're simple things, but it makes me nostalgic of my childhood. My sister and I spent most of our days outside riding our bikes and playing in our yard. Even when the neighbor kids are loud, I'm happy to hear them out playing, using their imagination, and enjoying the beautiful weather.

I'll admit, looking back on the past month, I struggled to think of anything noteworthy to talk about. It honestly was a fairly low key month, mostly spent hanging out with my cat. But I do have a few highlights that are worthy of addressing.

In the very beginning of the month, my family had a get together before it got too warm here to go snow tubing together. I hadn't gotten to see the majority of them for over a year due to covid and quarantining. My cousin suggested that we plan an outdoor event and in time planned a day of snow tubing together. I hadn't been snow tubing in at least 15 years, possibly longer. We all had a great time together and it was a perfect way for all of us to be together without being crowded in a house or a room together. As it is, covid or not, it can get pretty crowded pretty fast with our growing family.

Later in the month, I had my parents over for a day together. We typically visit each other fairly frequently, but it had been awhile since we planned a day to spend together. It was the first that they had gotten to meet my cat Zazu, and they brought along a kitty condo that my dad made for him.

He fell in love with it very quickly and spends most of his day climbing up there, sleeping in his den, or looking out the window. My parents enjoyed playing with him, watching him play around, and fell in love with my little guy.

Aside from that, there are few highlights from the past month. I have started working on writing a new novel. There is a lot of planning that's going into it which is taking a lot of time. The more that I work on it, the more excited I'm getting. The concept is starting to come together.

A lot of the "entertainment" that I've been enjoying in my free time has been things that are inspiring more ideas. I've been watching movies such as Angels and Demons for the first time, as well as watching The Mummy for possibly the thousandth time. A friend of mine also recommended a book that may help inspire some ideas. So I've been listening to Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier in my free time which I've been really loving.

On a different note, I recently bought myself the fourth book in The Bone Season Series, and so I'm working my way through the third book so I can finally start the fourth. I follow the author Samantha Shannon on Instagram and I know that the third book wasn't necessarily her favorite to write, which has somewhat led to me putting it off. However, the fourth one has gotten rave reviews and I'm excited to start cruising into that one. So I'm taking it little bit by bit when I have a bit of free time.

For this upcoming month, I'm honestly not sure how things will go. I'm not entirely sure what I will be writing about quite yet. About this time next week, the month of Ramadan will be starting, which means that I will be fasting and focusing a lot of my attention on Ramadan on reflecting on myself. I am planning to continue writing, I'm just not sure yet what it will necessarily be focused on. Last year, I did a bit of writing about Ramadan and my experience with the month. I may do some of that, or this month may lead me in another direction altogether. We'll see where things go.

While I don't have much to cover for myself this month, I did want to take this opportunity to talk about something that is very important to me. Last Wednesday, March 31 was the International Transgender Day of Visibility. Despite this being an event that started back in 2009, this year was the first I had learned about it. In addition, on Monday April 5, the governor of Alabama vetoed a bill that would ban any gender affirming medication or surgery for minors. I want to take some time to talk about why this matters so much and why it is so important to me.

Earlier this year, one of my best friends began publicly identifying as a transgender man. He and I have been friends for almost 8 years now which means that I have been by his side to support him on his journey to this point and will continue to do so going forward. With his permission, I am going to share a bit about what some of that has been like. For his privacy, I am not going to include his name. In addition, I want to be transparent with my readers that beyond asking for permission, I am also going to have him proofread this post before putting it up so that I can ensure that I have all of my information correct and he is comfortable with everything I have included here.

From the time that my friend was young, he knew that despite his gender assigned at birth being female, he knew that he was in fact male. Unfortunately, there are a lot of assumptions, misinformation, and simply a lack of understanding around what it means to be transgender. This leads to people shaming those who are transgender. Comments such as, "it's just a phase," come around with the lack of understanding, assumptions, etc. For my friend, he went on publicly identifying as a female despite knowing inside that he was a male for over 10 years before getting to a point where he could more comfortably begin to show the rest of the world the person he has been holding inside.

For my friend, this has been a gradual process. This past summer, he started receiving testosterone injections and publicly identified as non-binary (meaning that the person does not identify as either male or female). During other circumstances, these would be done in a setting like a clinic and administered by a trained healthcare worker. However, due to covid precautions, clinic settings have needed to get creative to try to reduce the amount of traffic coming in and out of clinics. So rather than going and having them administered by a healthcare worker, the healthcare workers gave him all of the things the would need (syringes, needles, alcohol pads, as well as the testosterone vials) and essentially taught him how to administer these injections himself. They talked him through how to administer the injection when he picked up everything he would need, as well as talked him through it on the phone during the first injection.

A few weeks later, I went to go visit him and asked how the injections were going. Overall, he was responding well to the injections and was getting used to administering them himself. The main thing was that he was uncomfortable with recapping the needle and was afraid of poking himself. As a part of my job working in a hospital pharmacy is preparing IV medications, meaning that I have been trained on how to safely handle needles and syringes. So we had a quick little lesson on different methods to recap a needle in a way that will prevent a person form hurting themselves. It's a small detail, but it's something that helped him feel more comfortable with administering these injections himself.

As I explained earlier, he recently felt comfortably to state publicly that he was in fact transgender, explained that it is something he has known for a long time and is only now comfortable being public with who he is.

Today in the year 2021, the acronym 'LGBTQ' is very well known and there has been a large improvement in acceptance of someone who is LGBTQ in my lifetime alone. However, the struggles for someone who is transgender (the T in LGBTQ) are still vast. I would argue that people who are transgender unfortunately don't face nearly the same level of acceptance as others within the LGBTQ community. Last year alone, there were over 40 transgender or gender non-conforming people who were murdered in the US.

I first became aware of the violence around the transgender community when I was in college. As part of an assignment, we were given a list of movies and told to select a few of them and watch them and answer a list of questions about them. One that I chose was Boys Don't Cry, telling the true story of the murder of Brandon Teena, a transgender man played by Hillary Swank. At that time in my life, I hadn't known anyone who was transgender. I had no idea the struggles they faced and how scary it could at times be. I didn't realize how real the threat was of being met with violence from someone who is transphobic. That movie opened my eyes and has stuck with me ever since.

Another alarming statistic around transgender individuals is the suicide rate. For teens alone, over 50% of transgender males have attempted suicide and roughly 30% of transgender women have attempted suicide. According to an article with the US National Library of Medicine, they found that the suicide rates for transgender women have improved over time, while it has stayed the same for men.

For transgender individuals, the experience of gender dysphoria (the stress or discomfort in identifying as a gender different from the one assigned at birth) can cause a person to experience anxiety, depression, and for some can lead to suicidal ideation. This brings me back to the the bill that was vetoed in Arkansas earlier this week. For minors who are transgender or gender non-conforming, banning gender confirming medications and surgeries would force them to essentially be trapped dealing with their body dysphoria. The suicide rates for these individuals are already alarmingly high without this added obstacle. This bill would have also sided with the transphobic people who have already brought so much violence to the transgender community.

By vetoing this bill, the transgender youth in Arkansas not only will have access to the gender affirming medication and surgery that may be literally life changing for them, but will also show them that someone in power is willing to look out for them and help protect them.

Over the years, I've made friends with a handful of transgender people. I also had a college instructor the year after watching Boys Don't Cry who is transgender, and a community of teachers that supported and defended that instructor. While I will never know what their experience as a transgender person is like for them, it will never change the fact that I will always be there for them and support them. I will do what I can to protect them and ensure that they know that they are loved. I also want those who may be reading this who are transgender, gender non-conforming, etc. to know that you have an ally with me and that you have a safe space with me.

**Before posting this, I want to acknowledge that I just heard the news that the Governor's veto on the bill in Arkansas has been overturned. Unfortunately, the struggle for the transgender youth in Arkansas continues.

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