Billiards to Astral Flight: The Awakening of the Transgender Soul

By Lynnea Urania Stuart

Author’s note:  this article is related to a previous article here in TransMusePlanet Magazine.  See “A Message in an E-Mail: The Heart of the Struggle for the Transgender Soul” by Lynnea Urania Stuart, posted September 16, 2017.  Click here to access it.

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He probably never thought about what billiard balls might eventually set into motion.  David Hume (1711-1776) didn’t care about religion and his probable exposure to anything transgender may have been restricted to socially accepted performances in Scottish theater and talk about molly houses in the local pub.  Ironically, his atheism would spark a re-evaluation of spiritual experience as explored today in laboratories and temples alike.  Just as ironically, the current reassertion of trans spiritualities cannot help but contribute to this exploratory milieu.  This current of re-evaluation represents yet another theater of the struggle for the transgender soul apart from dogmatism:  the crisis within when faced with spiritual awakening.

 

SCIENCE ALMOST DERAILED

Hume came along during a heady time in science.  Isaac Newton (1642-1727) and Gottfried Leibnitz (1646-1716) had introduced Calculus.  Newton had proposed his Laws of Gravitation in the Principia (1687).  The sciences were beginning to blossom.  But Hume made an important observation, illustrating it through the collision of billiard balls, and this observation nearly turned science completely on its head.

Observe carefully the collision of those billiard balls.  Do we see the cause of the collision?  Look closely.  Newton might have spoken of forces, but did we see those forces in play?

No we didn’t.  Those forces were surmised as a result of theory, even if they may have had predictive results.  Could those actions observed correlate to any knowledge about them before the fact (called “a priori”)?  Do we have the right to call laws of motion “universal laws”?  Or might those observations be skewed at another time?  Hume denied we could know these events for certain a priori.  All we might claim to know must be after the fact, after each time of observation (called “a posteriori”, an idea without sexual implications).  Of course, Hume didn’t have anything spiritual in mind.  He wasn’t even concerned with metaphysics.  His argument was a purely epistemological one as an empiricist.  But it was an argument with far reaching implications.1

Hume’s idea, called Hume’s Fork, divided possible knowledge claims into relations of ideas and matters of fact.  Relations of ideas can be known independently of what’s observed.  Matters of fact can only be known from what’s observed and only in the context of what was observed for that time and could not be relied upon in any other.2

So if we can’t be certain about universal laws, how can we claim to have a science?  That would be answered by Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) when he proposed the Transcendental Aesthetic in Critique of Pure Reason after being awakened by Hume’s writings about causation.  He revisited what happens on the side of the human mind past the veil of perception.

The veil of perception, a fundamental concept in philosophy, might be described in terms of a person stuck in an office with an errand runner between him and another office.  The person stuck in his office cannot know what’s happening in the other office except through what that errand runner tells him.  By analogy, the man stuck in his office is like the individual locked inside the confines of his brain with his senses acting like the errand runner.  The office about which the errand runner reports is by analogy, the outside world.  We can’t accept with absolute certainty that we can take those sense impressions at face value.

Kant’s Transcendental Aesthetic addressed what we can know a priori, building upon Hume’s relations of ideas, being himself very interested in universality.  He described general affection of the mind (Gemüth – see the diagram in the featured image) that exercises a receptivity of the mind through the senses (Vorstellungen) which in turn supplies intuitions for the mind (Anschauungen), and forms a seed of thought through understanding (Verstand).  These empiric impressions of the world occur a posteriori.  This process also produces forms or conceptions (Begriffe) from thought.  These thoughts are returned to Gemüth a priori.3 As a result Kant claimed that we can reliably know a priori that if we knock the supporting pillars away from a house the whole structure will catastrophically crash.4

Upon this, Kant continued to examine various areas of thought to which this a priori knowledge may be applied.  From this came Categories of Understanding in Judgments5 and the closely related Categories of Pure Concepts of Understanding.6 Through these ideas, science moved onwards and quit feeling the hot breath of logical deconstruction due to extreme empiricism.

 

A GLARING PHENOMENOLOGICAL DIFFERENCE

Kant’s Transcendental Aesthetic also provided the grist for the later phenomenological theories of Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) and his student Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), particularly regarding intentionality (Husserl) and temporality (Heidegger).  But Husserl would understand something subtle but significant about those forms to which Kant referred.  The forms don’t match observation 100%.  He took extra steps to articulate it.

 In the beginning Husserl considered what’s given to consciousness in terms of Kant’s impressions supplied by as a “manifold of appearances” developed from the “thing-in-itself” as received by the affection of the mind.  The “manifold of appearances” for Husserl consisted of objects of consciousness separate from its total reality.7

This difference between a priori forms developed in the mind and a posteriori impressions from empiric observations could be dramatized in an exercise commonly taught in preparation for astral projection from either REM or trance states:

 

Stand in front of a full length mirror, naked, with a strong light behind you (most who do astral projection do so unclothed or “skyclad”).  The image you see will be shadowy.  Use that image to form an image of your body in your mind.  Do this repeatedly for a long while.  Notice the shift between your mental image and the image you see in the mirror.  Notice also shifts in your awareness between the 2 images.8

 

The effect may seem a bit disorienting, and in fact other exercises for these practices get even more disorienting than that.  The important thing in this regard is to recognize the difference between the fact observed a posteriori (the actual view of one’s body in a mirror) and the form returned a priori (the mental image of one’s body).  These differences have been addressed variously by different authors on dreaming practices including Carlos Castaneda who spoke of the synchronizing these disparate images in terms of “completing the energy body.”9 The same disparities also arise when comparing images recalled during episodes of astral travel as a dreaming phenomenon and examination of a target area thereafter.  Few astral experiences resemble fact in beginning attempts.  Even experienced practitioners encounter differences.  Comparable disparities have also been noted for remote viewers who form mental images of a target without any sensation of separation from the physical body, judging by comparisons of sketches with photos of targets.10

For transpeople, the preceding exercise has raised an extra issue specific to gender identity when engaged during early transition.  A transwoman may see a predominantly male body in that mirror, but the initial mental image thereof may be completely female, coming across in a flash till the mind reworks that image (vice versa in the case of a transman).  It could also happen that since that flash of a mental image is perceived as female, the participant may prefer for that mental image to remain so.  That feminine image may become accepted as regular projected image of the astral body before a transwoman experiences any sensation of her consciousness being transferred from her physical body to that energy body.

Episodes like these can accompany a more general spiritual awakening.  The internal image of an astral body, described by various authors as a kind of “soul” impacts that experience of awakening.  It reaches beyond epistemology, entering the realm of philosophical psychology.

 

NOESIS AND LUCIDITY

In Husserl’s Theory of Intentionality, noema consists of content types as ideal and timeless components. Noesis, is an act of thinking and ruminating.  A noematic moment will correspond to a noetic moment.  The 2 always happen in relation to one another.11

But a noematic-noetic moment may or may not happen when you expect it.  Noematic structures develop out of the body of forms derived from impressions.  But noesis pertains to what someone consciously does with noemata. Without such a corresponding moment, intentionality doesn’t happen.

Perhaps a delay in a noematic-noetic moment may be best illustrated in terms of dreams and dreaming, the former as passive experiences, and the latter as an intentional art.  A mundane dream represents a purely noematic action because it goes no farther than the preconscious while the dreamer remains asleep.  The noetic response to that action doesn’t happen till the dreamer wakes up and recalls the dream.  Noesis demands conscious interaction and that doesn’t happen in a mundane dream.

But this changes entirely when a dreamer gains lucidity.  Only through lucidity does the noematic-noetic moment happen within the dream.  When that takes place, the effect can become literally life-changing, generating deep personal inspiration and awakening to natural innocence while forcing a crisis in which the dreamer must think through new modal realities when others may condemn them.

Here’s a description of the lucid dream experience to readers who either haven’t encountered the phenomenon or haven’t known that sleep labs have studied it.  In fact it has become a subject for serious scientific inquiry since the 1980’s:

 

“I run away from a charging dinosaur then realize an incongruity.  Dinosaurs are extinct.  Therefore I must be dreaming.  I declare this realization, saying, “I’m dreaming!”  As I repeat the entire character of the dream changes.  The dream becomes incredibly lifelike and clear.  The dreamscape becomes strangely luminous.  I have greater interest to explore the dreamscape.  I step aside and watch the dinosaur charge past me, knowing I’m no longer bound by the dream.  I do so, freely and rationally examining various components of the dream.  The lifelike clarity of the dream is so intense that it’s as if I had stepped into a 2-dimensional flat screen television and actually live what’s on the other side in 3 dimensions. 12

 

Though many Conservative religious circles condemn lucid dreaming as “demonic”, as they do dream phenomena generally, the vast majority who experience lucid dreaming have no occult ties.  Lucid dreaming occurs with people of all religions, typically by accident, though some prefer to suppress lucid dreams because of learned dogmatic fears of what they don’t understand.  But the perceptions of changes endemic to lucid dreams are really tied to a physiological event in which portions of the brain that had been off line while sleeping switch on during REM sleep.  “REM” refers to the stage of sleep characterized by rapid eye movements and dreams have been most commonly noted at this stage, though dreams do occur at other times.

 

A NEUROLOGY OF SPIRITUALITIES

Of special interest concerning those brain structures coming online during lucid dream episodes is the frontal lobe of the brain.  This area is normally off during REM but springs into activity during Lucid REM episodes.  Elisa Filevich of the Center for Lifespan Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development announced in a January 2015 press release that their MRI scans demonstrated how participants in a study who reported highly lucid during dreams had larger anterior prefrontal cortexes.  This area of the brain also controls conscious cognitive processes and plays an important role in self-reflection.13

Another researcher who noted this action of the anterior prefrontal cortexes is Dr. Andrew Newberg, author of The Metaphysical Mind:  Probing the Biology of Philosophical Thought.  He cited that practices of concentration either through prayer or mantra based meditation tend to activate this part of the brain.  It also has a role in directing attention, modulating behavior, and expression of language.  Conversely, when one surrenders the will as in mediumistic trance or speaking in tongues, activity decreases in the frontal lobes and increases in the thalamus where flow of sensory information to much of the brain is regulated.14

Dr. Newberg noted in a study of Buddhist monks an experiment in which during experiences of high ecstasy in meditative trance they would pull a kite string, triggering injection of a tracer dye for brain scan.  He told the BBC in 2002:

 

“There was an increase in activity in the front part of the brain, the area that is activated when anyone focuses attention on a particular task…  In addition, a notable decrease in activity in the back part of the brain, or parietal lobe, recognised [sic] as the area responsible for orientation, reinforced the general suggestion that meditation leads to a lack of spatial awareness…  During meditation, people have a loss of the sense of self and frequently experience a sense of no space and time and that was exactly what we saw.”15

 

Brick Johnstone, Professor of Health Psychology at the School of Health Professions at the University of Missouri, declared in 2012 that many parts of the brain are involved in spirituality.  He noted concerning impairment of the right side of the brain:

 

Since our research shows that people with this impairment are more spiritual, this suggests spiritual experiences are associated with a decreased focus on the self.  This is consistent with many religious texts that suggest people should concentrate on the well-being of others rather than on themselves.”16

 

This stands as a warning for many transgender people whose construction of the self can swallow them up in self-obsession.  Reasonably, anyone who transitions also needs to balance the experience of reconstruction of life consistent with construction of the self through charitable service to others.

It’s more than just an issue of spirituality.  It’s an issue of health and well being.  It also can build communities.  It would also be a reasonable conjecture based upon that warrant for service to others that those transpeople engaged in such activities should be less prone to suicide.  Future surveys including those on the order of the U.S. Transgender Survey should examine this, and if confirmed, should be made an integral part of regimens designed to sustain mental health.

 

ANCIENT INSIGHT

The link of the anterior frontal lobes to spirituality, lucid dreaming, and higher thinking comparable to the action of noesis upon noemata seems to be more than just a modern consideration.  Consider the work of a genius from long ago.

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonorotti Simoni (1475-1564), Renaissance sculptor, painter, and one of the most brilliant artists of all time, painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in The Vatican.  His work, the subject of many books, articles, and television programs, even the motion picture The Agony and the Ecstasy, features numerous scenes from the Bible.  Perhaps the most inspiring of all is a central depiction of the Creation of Adam (see featured image, upper left hand corner).

In this image, an anthropomorphic depiction of God the Creator, reaches outward to touch the hand of Adam to deliver a spark of life.  But that touch seems to represent much more.  Not a few people have commented about the God figure, wrapped in his shadowy cloak and accompanied by other spirits to witness this crowning act of creation.  To some the cloak and entourage represents a womb.  But to most it vividly takes the form of a brain viewed from the side, the pituitary gland and brainstem clearly visible.  God reaches out through the frontal lobe of a brain to give life to Adam.

He painted this scene centuries before the invention of MRI and PET scans.  How did Michelangelo connect the frontal lobe of the brain with the making of Adam as a living soul?  Or did he connect them?

He may not need to have consciously done so.  Artists often experience very close connections with their faculties of dreaming and meditation.  The detail of Michelangelo’s work suggests that his degree of exact representation of conceived impressions gave him a higher level of technical insight than most artists.  The dynamism of his work suggests enhanced noematic-noetic moments leading to thematic insight, even extending to the underlying geometry that governed his compositions.  But the genius of the Creation of Adam suggests more than technicalities in art, extending to archetypes like those described through the work of Carl Jung (1875-1961).17

Might Michelangelo’s dreaming proclivities have led him, even unconsciously to the dynamism of his composition?  The similarity of God’s cloak to the brain in the Creation of Adam may have emerged through Michelangelo’s dream mechanisms as a structural archetype, the mind unveiling an insight of itself to the world as the inner genius with whom every artist craves to connect.

 

Some of us who are transgender and with Abrahamic connections to our spiritualities may see this creation of Adam with a bit of a twist, following a Kabbalistic belief centuries old.  Kabbalah relies as much upon dreaming proclivities and lore as upon persnickety logic and commentary upon sacred texts.  One of the Kabbalistic texts, The Zohar, makes a claim incredible to many not accustomed to it, but advancing a Rabbinic view concerning Adam:

 

Rabbi Yirmeyah son of El’azar said, ‘When the blessed Holy One created Adam, He created him androgynous, as it said: Male and female He created them (Genesis 1:27).’  Rabbi Shemu’el son of Naḥmani said, ‘When the blessed Holy One created Adam, He created him with two faces.  Then He sawed him and gave him two backs, one on this side and one on that.’”18

 

These aspects of mind pertaining to the interactions of noema and noesis have the capacity to awaken us to life issues including those relating to gender with mechanisms far above those described.  They also have the capacity to interface with the various spiritualities throughout the world and to warn us when we lose balance through obsession as the enemy of innocence.  As such they play a pivotal role in our health, quality of life, and understanding as harbingers and awakeners of insight.

For most of us, unless hampered from antagonistic sources imposed by the dogmatic seeds of noemata sown by others, we can find them worth cultivating, knowing also that by cultivation we also must face social and psychological currents designed to destroy us.  The struggle for the transgender soul is more than a struggle for domination by religious and political parties.  The struggle is internal, one of which we often find ourselves at a loss to grasp.

Our philosophies touch upon them but the bulk remains a deep mystery.  But we can admit one thing:  we’ve come a very long way since Hume’s colliding billiard balls.

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REFERENCES:

Featured Image:  Superimposed glyph of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life with the sephirah of Binah superimposed upon the part of a diagram expressing Kant’s Transcendental Aesthetic at the circle pertaining to Verstand (Understanding, also the meaning of Binah).  The spheres representing the sephirot are themselves reminiscent of Hume’s billiard balls.  A graphic limitation exists here because while in Kabbalah, understanding pertains to Binah, the development of forms is deemed to be more a function of Chokhmah.  Beyond is a detail of Michelangelo’s Creation of Man from the Sistine Chapel, Vatican in which not a few have observed the uncanny appearance of the Godhead figure and cloak to a brain.  The Divine appears to reach through what appears to be the frontal lobe at the Ajña Chakra, to give life to Adam (Flickr).  The diagram concerning Kant’s Transcendental Aesthetic is by the author.

  1. M. Lorkowski. “David Hume- Causation” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (n.d., accessed September 20, 2017) http://www.iep.utm.edu/hume-cau/.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Kant, Immanuel. “Critique of Pure Reason” The Basic Writings of Kant (Allen W. Wood, ed, transl.,2001) Modern Library, Random House Publishing Group, NY, ISBN: 0-375-75733-3, pp. 42,43.
  4. 25, ibid.
  5. 57, Ibid.
  6. 59, ibid.
  7. Zack, Naomi, PhD. “The Handy Philosophy Answer Book” (Visible Ink Press, Canton MI 2010) ISBN: 978-1-57859-226-5, p. 275.
  8. An exercise known by the author since the 1990’s as a teacher in various classes on the subject. In settings where the participant does not act alone, clothing is loose-fitting or with the wearing of a ritual robe.
  9. (n.a.) “The Art of Dreaming” Biblioteca Pleyades (Quotations and comments from Carlos Castaneda, accessed September 21, 2017) https://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/cienciareal/esp_donjuan9.htm.
  10. Observed by the author.
  11. Rassi, Fatemeh and Shahabi, Zeiae. “Husserl’s Phenomenology and two terms of Noema and Noesis” International Letters of Social and Humanistic Sciences, ISSN: 2300-2697, Vol. 53, pp29-34 (2015, Sci Press LTD, Switzerland), pp. 29, 30; referencing Husserl, Edmund. Ideas:  General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology (2003, W. R. Boyce Gibson, translator, George Allen & Unwinm LTD, London).  Available through https://www.scipress.com/ILSHS.53.29.
  12. A commonly reported example of awakening within a dream. Scientific inquiry began with Stephen LeBerge of Stanford University when he proved the existence of lucid dreams in the Stanford Sleep Lab.  Much material is available on his work from The Lucidity Institute. http://www.lucidity.com/
  13. Fiona Macdonald. “Scientists May Have Found The Part of The Brain That Enables Lucid Dreaming” Science Alert (January 26, 2015, accessed September 21, 2017) https://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-may-have-found-the-part-of-the-brain-that-enables-lucid-dreaming .
  14. Lynne Blumberg. “What Happens to Brains During Spiritual Experiences” The Atlantic (June 5, 2014, accessed September 21, 2017). https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/06/what-happens-to-brains-during-spiritual-experiences/361882/
  15. BBC Staff. “Meditation mapped in monks” BBC (March 1, 2002, accessed September 21, 2017) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/1847442.stm
  16. Brad Fischer. “Distinct ‘God Spot’ in the Brain does not exist, MU Researcher Says” University of Missouri News (April 18, 2012, accessed September 21, 2017) http://munews.missouri.edu/news-releases/2012/0418-distinct-%E2%80%9Cgod-spot%E2%80%9D-in-the-brain-does-not-exist-mu-researcher-says/
  17. Jung, C. G. Man and His Symbols (1968, Laurel Books, Dell Publishing, NY) ISBN: 0-440-35183-9, p. 32.
  18. Zohar 1:13b, from Matt, Daniel C. The Zohar: Pritzker Edition, Volume 1 (2004) Stanford University Press. ISBN: 0-8047-4747-4, p. 94, footnote708.
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How to Talk Sexuality with Trans and Non-Binary Teens

By TMPlanet

According to  Rachel Lynn Golden, Ph.D via Psychology Today, there are sex positive ways to approaching the topic of sexuality with your transgender or non-binary child:

1. EDUCATE YOURSELF.

There are a variety of resources you can access to better understand aspects of sexuality, sexual identity, and gender identity. Planned Parenthood , Scarleteen , both have comprehensive websites with information on sexuality and gender identity. Trans Bodies Trans Selves also serves as a textbook with helpful and informative chapters on many aspects of sexuality. It is written from a multitude of voices and perspectives and highlights a diversity of experiences.

2. Start with identities and build from there.

With any adolescent make sure to ask early and with genuine interest and authenticity about different facets of their identity. Create a space for them to tell you about how they understand their gender identity. As romantic and sexual attraction reflect the complexity of the experience of attraction, ask about sexual orientation/identity, and romantic orientation separately. Gender, sexual and romantic identities are distinct parts of the human experience, and there are myriad ways in which the three can converge in each of us. Consider yourself lucky to be trusted with a process of self-identity and discovery. Find ways to let your patients tell you about themselves and describe their experiences on a spectrum or continuum, rather than trying to fit their experience into rigid boxes.

3. Question your presumptions about sexuality.

Know that people from all experiences have their own relationship to sexuality. This means asking every patient about sexuality and not picking and choosing the individuals you have decided are more likely to want to have sex. Challenge your biases about gender, (dis)ability, body type, mental and physical health and their relationship to sexuality. Access resources challenging presumptions about sex and disability as well.

4. Be open in your discussion of pleasure and erogenous zones.

There are all sorts of ways to experience pleasure. Necks, arms, legs, ears and nipples, you name it, there is room for seeking out pleasurable experiences all over our bodies. In addition, conversations about pleasure open up conversations about the exploration of sexuality on one’s own. As with anyone discovering their sexuality, it can help to first figure out some basic aspects of pleasure on one’s own. It allows for individuals to take things at their own pace. This may be particularly important for adolescents who are beginning Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) that may be physically shifting their body.

5. Affirm asexuality.

Being sex positive does not imply that all sex is good, or that not having sex means that people will miss out on positive experiences. Rather, it means trusting your patients to know their identities and what experiences of sexuality will be most affirming, including desiring no sexual relationships at all. Affirming asexuality  also means affirming it as an identity, and not just as a route to risk reduction.

6. Talk about dysphoria.

The way in which dysphoria manifests can affect how people experience aspects of sexuality. For example, parts of the body that individuals are comfortable touching or having touched can vary by levels of specific dysphoria about those parts. Remember, individuals experience dysphoria differently. It can be diffuse or specific, and may not be there at all. In your conversations, be gentle. Talking about dysphoria can aggravate dysphoria. You can also ask your patients to let you know how their dysphoria interferes with desire for sexuality. Much like depression, dysphoria may lessen sexual desire altogether.

7. Refer to body parts in a way that makes your client feel affirmed.

Ask your patients how they refer to the parts of their body. Using their terminology provides another opportunity to affirm your patient. Do this both when you are talking together, and in situations where the patient has first consented to your use of that language with other providers. Another option your patient may prefer is that you use parts-first language such as: “People with penises…” and “People with vaginas…” You can also fill in your client’s terminology here. Note that, when you are talking about sexual behavior there are also a variety of ways you can refer to behaviors by just referring to parts.

8. Challenge heteronormative scripts around sexual identity, sexual behavior and gender roles in sexuality.

What truly constitutes sex is up to the person having it. Thus, sex is not only considered sex when it involves penetration. Broadening how you conceptualize sex will allow you the opportunity to talk with patients more authentically about their desires around pleasure, partnership, and sex roles.

9. Talk about consent.

Talk about enthusiastic consent. Talk about it being absolutely OK for your patients to start something intimate and change their mind. Talk about their right to say: “I used to like that, but I don’t anymore.” One way to practice saying yes and then no is to role play with your patients by practicing saying “yes” to talking about a neutral topic in your office, and then having them practice changing their minds and standing their ground. For example, you can practice with examples from the consent video here (link is external).

10. Practice communication.

Communication is essential with sexual partners, and it is critical in supporting affirming sexual relationships. Successful sexual communication allows people to talk about their desires, the areas of their body that provide pleasure, and do or do not provoke dysphoria. Practice asking and answering open-ended questions. To emphasize the importance of communication with sex partners, help your patients to practice how to start conversations about sex on their own. Talk about key points they want to make, and talk about how to ask partners about their desires as well. The goal is for the practiced communication to allow for your patient to flexibly express their experience of desire, consent to participate in sexual behaviors or decisions not to.

11. Be ready for things to change.

As adolescents grow and develop, their desires and motivation to engage in sexual behaviors may shift. Flexibility is especially important with pubertal and HRT-related changes. For example, dysphoria may intensify with puberty. If this happens, parts of the body that did not previously provoke dysphoria may now do so when they are talked about, or touched by self or others. In addition, when adolescents start hormones, changes that come with HRT may shift aspects of desire, pleasure, and dysphoria. Again, be gentle.

12. Make plans for disclosure and safety.

It is by no means a requirement for transgender and nonbinary adolescents to disclose anything about the gender they were assigned at birth or their body parts. Each individual likely has specific goals regarding sharing their gender identity. In addition, they may also face greater risk in intimate relationships and disclosures. This is incredibly important as this risk is well-documented, according to the Williams Institute, 30 to 50 percent of transgender people experience intimate partner violence as opposed to 28 to 33 percent of the general population. Therefore, talk openly about the risk posed to transgender and non-binary individuals without victim blaming. Talk about ways to mitigate risk, as well as is possible. There is excellent information in this  post about disclosing. Some possibilities are to disclose online first, to disclose in public places or with a trusted friend around.

13. CREATE access to care.

Make your office a place where patients don’t have to ask you for information, but where they can get information without even asking. Keep a jar of non-expired internal and external condoms, lube and dental dams in a visible and accessible place. Make sure your patients know they do not need to ask you to take one, two, or as many as they need. Create partnerships with gender and sexuality-affirming medical providers that are easier to access. Build relationship between your patients and these providers. One way is to make phone calls with your patients to help them schedule and connect to services. In addition, have resources at the ready like Vibrant , a company that makes sex toys for parts (not people). They have a section of their blog dedicated to gender-affirming toys. Scarleteen also provides information about sex toys. 

14. Help caregivers affirm their child’s sexuality. When caregivers are involved, work with them to facilitate an understanding of the variety of ways their child’s gender identity, romantic or sexual orientation/identity and desire for sexuality intersect. When caregivers are only beginning to understand their child’s identities or are invalidating about aspects of their child’s identity, it can be very dysphoria provoking for adolescents to answer questions about their gender and sexuality. Be prepared to provide education about the intersection of identities and the diversity of ways that identities present. Talk with the adolescent about having conversations with their caregivers without the adolescent having to be present. Have them let you know what they are comfortable with you answering on their behalf. Work with caregivers to understand that their participation in conversations about sexuality is a critical way to engage and affirm their adolescent and an opportunity to help reduce risk and encourage positive outcomes.

15. Mistakes happen. When you make a mistake, fail to be affirming, or your presumptions make themselves known, just apologize. You can also state that you will work to not make the same error in the future. Then move on. Be sure not to place the burden on the adolescent of working through your error with you. Later, work on addressing your error on your own. One way is to practice your affirming language no matter where you are, or what you are doing.

With gained confidence that a provider is truly acting from a place of affirmation and self-education, transgender and non-binary adolescents may feel free to be more open about their identities and behaviors. Greater openness in conversations can lead to greater accessing of sexuality-related medical care, and a reduction in other risks as well.

In addition, you too may be able to learn, grow and be even more affirming in your practice- and perhaps in your own life as well.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DISCUSS THIS OR ANY OTHER TOPIC ON OUR SITE, PLEASE JOIN THE CONVERSATION ON  THE TMP FORUM

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A Message in an E-Mail: The Heart of the Struggle for the Transgender Soul

By Lynnea Urania Stuart

 

How did I survive all this?  When I look back on all the times I could have died in obscurity, I can’t help but think that some uncanny intelligence intervened.  Is it God?  Is it the universe?  Or does this intelligence even cater to individual understanding?  I don’t think so.

Throughout the ages, many other words have described this intelligence: Spirit, Being, Noumenon, Superconsciousness… but more accurately these terms probably speak of aspects, not the fullness of an essence.  None of us fully grasp that essence.  We barely grasp our own, provided we had a chance to allow ourselves that essence to unfold in the first place, an unfolding that might be compared to a plant that unfolds from darkness to light, like the sunflower that springs up from a seed.

It might be described as a soul, more than just the union of flesh and breath: that which discovers its capacity to commune with that which is greater than one’s self, yet realizing in that communion how it’s as it were the ripple in a pond.  Its rings fan outward from a mere drop as a seed and fades into the greater vibratory milieu.  Scarcely more than analogy can speak of it.  Parables continue to elude those who haven’t tasted.  But that something in the transgender heart desires desperately to dance like that exquisite ripple and, if obstructed, will find a way to rebuild that vibration.  The struggle for the transgender soul is like that.  It’s verily the struggle for liberty.

 

AWAKENING TO INNOCENCE

I didn’t realize what I had encountered when it knocked on the windows of my soul.  It took the form of an e-mail from a friend back in 2001, a dean of Religious Studies at an east coast university.  He sought to encourage me, signing his communiqués, “With thoughts of metta.”  “Metta”, of course, is a term for “compassion” in Japanese Buddhist terms.  He said in his e-mail, “You are beautiful, smart, and also innocent.”

I demurred, remembering how in the year following being victimized by rape I had engaged so many and had never forgiven myself for my promiscuity.  I said, “I am not innocent.”

He said, “You may not see yourself as innocent because of your past.  But no matter where you may have been or what you may have done, you are innocent because you never lost your capacity to wonder, even as a little child.”

None of this made sense to me so I dismissed his words as flattery, setting the matter aside while pursuing my assessment for transition.  I wouldn’t revisit the matter for another 3 years when I faced another crisis.  For I had to choose between a life partner and the manipulations of a corporate cult that had sought to swallow up a large swath of the Southern California trans community.  This threatened me enough that I could have lost my home and even my life.  At that time I had begun to write a journal that should be found with my body perchance law enforcement would find it and needed information about me beyond just a statistic.

What I had begun to write became much more.  I revisited the issues of dreams and relationships, seeking what they all meant.  For while I might have resigned from my order of Magians only months before meeting my online friend, the issues generated by my own gnostic experiences resonate to this day.  I had to account for them and their continued relevance.

In most cases I speak of more than just having a dream.  I speak of dreaming as an intentional art.  I catalogued 40 dreaming mechanisms in 5 genera:

  • Hypnagogia: dreams occurring at the onset of sleep before Stage I.
  • REM: dreams during sleep characterized by rapid eye movements.
  • Trance: dreams during waking but with eyes closed.
  • Eidetics: dream phenomena during waking and with eyes open.
  • Coma: a loosely defined genus centered around comatose episodes and others not fitting the above categories.1

That’s when I remembered my friend’s words and for a moment it struck me how much of a gift he had unwittingly given me.  He regarded me as “innocent” in a different way from the vernacular.  I had been locked into the view in which innocence follows a legal declaration.  But suddenly I began to realize it was not so.

It eventually became a foundation for my philosophy.  I introduced the idea thus:

“There’s one trait specifically, the true innocence manifest in children, which is precious beyond all price; for by it we owe the continuance of the world.  It’s the capacity to wonder, to dream, to be in awe.  From such things we invent all that mankind has made: the affairs of state and education, the assemblies of worship, and the arts of love; for there’s nothing in our world that did not begin somewhere in a dream, including you who are also dreamers.”2

That realization set the theme of the first book I ever wrote: The Téssara.  I took the name from the Greek word for “4” (τέσσαρα), applying it to 4 sections.  That book would mean little to most people.  But that book began my philosophic journey through which I would begin to understand the stigma that had dogged me from childhood, into the university, a Bible college, and in every shop in which I would work over the decades.  It also enabled me to come to terms with my life’s meaning.  Instead of providing final information to police it affirmed my life’s purpose.  My living situation stabilized.  I built a career.

 

FACING THE IMPENETRABLE STIGMA

The stigma which so readily becomes attached to those of us who may eventually transition from male to female arises out of the judgments of others who say, “he isn’t a proper boy,” or “he’s queer,” or “he’s weird.”  Nothing I could say or do changed these perceptions.  Nothing I could imagine would be allowed any other interpreted than psychopathology.  Many religious people demand regimentation of action, speech, and even thought.  To do anything creative often invites some form of rejection or even violence.

A choice persists for all who face this stigma that hangs like a thick cloud through which light doesn’t penetrate:

  1. Does one escape violence and go with the herd?
  2. Does one embrace her/his/eir uniqueness though none would tolerate it?

The former leads into a world of games and gangs in which others always become the “king of the hill” and the religious typically sanction this.  The latter leads into a world of science and art that demands questioning through which one forever confronts dissatisfaction with dogmas and the inevitable human hypocrisies that arise concerning them.

That also confronts those phenomena that come naturally, like dreams.  My dreams awakened me at an early age to my gender identity:

“Growing up I preferred dolls to sports.  As boys attacked me I developed friendships with girls.  One night I had a dream where I looked in the bathroom mirror and a pretty girl looked back.  I felt my hair, my skin.  I was certain I had turned into a girl.  I was happier than I had ever known.  Then I awoke and saw it was a dream and wept bitterly.  I began 2 things: a lifelong study of dreams and cross-dressing.  In both cases I was desperate to bring back the girl in the mirror.”3

Many other transwomen to whom I have spoken had dreamed such a dream at an early age.  Dreams have a way of signaling life issues, often more loudly than any other activity.  Virtually all of us can recall having been zapped by a dream.  There’s a reason that happens.  The numinosity thereof screams at us through the limbic system’s emotional tags.  The hippocampus arranges and rearranges these memory traces in the dreams of the night, and if the issues represented thereby become important enough, they’re amplified even more in a surge of emotional energy that can jolt us awake with trembling.4

Though a dream may be forgotten, and in fact most are, traces may infect the course of our day or even our lives.  Knowing this, I’ve long believed that transpeople are a people of dreams, though most of them remain largely e asleep and unaware of their potency.  Many transpeople have shut out their dreams, dismissing them as entirely unreliable for any purpose.  But those dreams reveal their most basic desires, unconsciously amplified as the playback of tapes they might not understand, but are the stuff that impacts our thoughts and actions.5

 But if those dreams have been pondered and understood in terms of their emotive language, the same open to higher vistas.  Certain aspects of meditation address these things through its own lucidity as a vehicle of mindfulness.  Together they work to promote self awareness, and consequently, an awakening to a higher intelligence.

Of all spiritualities, none represent anything more fundamental or more primal than those formed about an oneiric muein.

 

ONEIRITY AND AWAKENING

Oneirity, or one’s propensity to dream, is more potent than we think.  Picture the mind as a field (agros).  Even a field at rest grows plants after the rain.  Thoughts develop much the same way, forming as they were, living networks.  Edmund Husserl described such networks of thought as noemata.  They’re more than amalgamations of sense perceptions.  Sometimes these networks touch what an individual cannot account for by any physical means and so must turn to the higher noesis whose conceptions are somewhat different, comparable to the actions of a bee as it carries pollen from one to the next.6

But if one questions thoughts to their sources, one must find them hidden in an early fixation or resonance.  It may begin with the joys of a family.  It may begin with recitation of verse.  It may begin with an insight through mathematics.  It may even begin with the imposition of a creed.  It may even begin with a dream.  These initial resonances I call a muein.  In the aforementioned list a muein may be familial, lyrical, mathematical, dogmatic, or oneiric respectively.  Others exist besides these.  But a muein (plural, muousi) acts with noemata much the same way as an executable file gives life to a program and is set in motion by some intelligence, human or otherwise.  Some may think of a muein as angelic or demonic.  But it’s neither.  It’s a resonance, a source of enchantment reflecting a mystery, in fact “muein” (μυεῖ = “he initiates” + moveable nu) comes from the same root as “mystērion” (μυστήριον = “mystery”) in Greek.

These construct through noemata the tapes, the stories we live by as narrative creatures.  Muousi are the seeds of those life-giving narratives of personal myth.  Nobody explores one’s own soul without also exploring those narratives.

Every muein carries with it inherent benefits and dangers.  Where a dogmatic muein may set forth a wild growth of noemata that stimulates a form of scholarship, but also judgmentalism, lack of tolerance, and reliance upon things preconceived.  This, more often than not, develops the form of spirituality most desired in and imposed by religious cults.  An oneiric muein stimulates a plethora of ideas, even philosophies, but also an ethereal and elusive quality that requires a lot of grounding.  This, more often than not, develops the kind of spirituality one may encounter in sage and sorcerer.  Both need the discipline of philosophy.

More than one muein may take hold upon a person.  But once planted they cannot be uprooted.  All that can happen is a decision to cultivate certain noemata over others or implantation of a new muein.  But the suppression of a muein can also be a dangerous thing.  If suppressed it could burst forth at a future time with a vengeance building new thought networks at a dizzying rate.  Those who transition late in life often experience this.

That breaking forth of the action of a suppressed muein translates into awakening.  In the case of transpeople, that awakening can translate into a twofold revolution of thought relating to gender identity as well as a spiritual revolution.  So often do questionings concerning the origin of this revolution reveal an oneiric muein taking hold, whether or not dreams are accepted as relevant, I believe that dreams are key to development of the transgender soul.

 

SPIRITUALITIES AND SEXUALITIES

Natural innocence is something much maligned by religionists.  It’s ridiculed and dismissed.  Worse yet, it isn’t even recognized as innocence.  They delegate innocence to what they declare as self-appointed judges, juries, and executioners to whatever extent they can.  By doing so, they inflict immense harm.

So pervasive is this harm scarcely anyone sees around it.  Consider this exchange at a radio station when I asked other announcers their thoughts on innocence:

 

One announcer declared that innocence is the same as ignorance because young children are innocent and don’t know anything.  A rabid Evangelical affirmed the same idea.

“Wait a minute!” I said, “If innocence is ignorance then an all-knowing god can’t be innocent.”

The Evangelical said that was true.

“Are you for real?” I said.  “God judges our innocence when He can’t be innocent Himself?  I’m astonished that an Evangelical, eager to defend the character of God should make such a pronouncement.  But it has been suggested, children are innocent.  Does everyone agree?”

Everyone did.

“And do we all agree that innocence is something to be preserved?”

Everyone agreed.

“Then innocence can’t possibly be ignorance.  Why have schools?  Why be concerned with moral development?  By teaching we would lead children away from ignorance and therefore destroy innocence forever.”

Another said, “We know that innocence means one has done no wrong.”

“As in ‘sinlessness’?”

“Yes.”

“Then if children are our example of innocence, I couldn’t agree less.  If ever a human demonstrated wrongdoing, it’s a child.  That’s why a child needs instruction.  But since we all agreed that children are innocent, innocence can’t be sinlessness by a longshot.”

“But children aren’t accountable because they don’t know any better,” the Evangelical interrupted.

“Then we’re back to an issue of ignorance rather than wrongdoing and we already saw how ignorance isn’t innocence.  Wrongdoing likewise isn’t the issue of innocence.  Innocence is necessarily something else.”

“But what about the courts?” another said.  “They declare innocence and guilt every day.”

“The courts,” I said,” are a subterfuge.  Don’t take their words about innocence and guilt at face value.  Here’s a similar example regarding legal words, “several,” which though we commonly speak of many, in the courts refer to the responsibility of only one entity.  Courts can’t judge a heart. They only judge actions through what is evidence they can see.  But what other terms can we offer them by which to judge?  They make do with the language we offer and at times redefine words so as to estrange them from their deeper meaning so they could execute the duty assigned to them.  They work around natural limitations.  When a court declares innocence or guilt, it does so to establish and preserve a milieu where true innocence can flourish.  In so doing, a court is a blessing so long as it’s circumspect.”7

 

When questioning further to religious ideas about innocence as a declarative judgment, one sooner or later encounters the idea that the innocence of children amounts to ignorance concerning sex.8 If a child sees someone naked, accusations fly like, “He took away my child’s innocence!”  In recent cases in which a child encounters a transperson, similar claims fly, presuming, of course, that the claimant stigmatizes all transpeople as “sex perverts” much the same way as we were typically treated under Hitler and post-war American society before Stonewall.

This treatment of sex and innocence is nonsense, of course.  It has worked its way into a problematic intergenerational ethic built upon malapropism.  If the lover finds within the other the fulfillment of a dream and will even die to preserve the other, such is innocent whether or not a religionist chooses to accept it as such, tolerate it as a provision of religious dictum, or refuses to accept the innocence thereof, opposing like the stereotypical in-law.

Likewise, our own gender issues demand that we face and explore what these issues mean.  While religionists may summarily condemn such exploration, the only thing that detracts from the possibility of them being innocent is an issue of dogma concerning interpretations of religious tests as a matter of Divine Command.  But whether a presumed “command” may be accepted or not has little relevance to whether the exploration is innocent.  After all, if we should accept the religious idea that “every command is also a promise,”9 then the appropriation of that promise of negating gender issues should destroy them outright as a miracle.

But we typically don’t find this, despite the claims of certain “ex-transsexuals”.10 Once in a while a dream may awaken one who isn’t genuinely transgender to that person’s internal truth.11 Detransition is warranted for such an individual but this cannot be applied to all.  What typically happens in these cases is the acceptance of subjugation as a condition for desired cult acceptance.  Nobody who does not form his/her/eir own conclusions should be considered a proper candidate for transition in the first place.

The charge that a transperson “takes away a child’s innocence” also presumes that innocence, once lost, is irretrievable.  But not only is innocence recoverable, it’s something to be cultivated, a virtue between the vices of gullibility and gross cynicism.

This maligning of innocence and sexuality results in something much worse:  internalization of condemnation due to the simple fact that one naturally has sexual feelings.  This internalization has actually resulted in not a few people turning against anything that smacks of spirituality.  It has also resulted in not a few becoming so internally conflicted they’re set up for mental illness and this complex may be reinforced by incarceration.

 

THE HEART OF THE STRUGGLE

This is the heart of the struggle for the transgender soul:  those forces arising from dogmatic muousi demand subjugation and suppression of those with oneiric muousi.  Those with noemata and spiritualities developed from other muousi are forced to choose between them, and that may be determined upon convenience instead of conscience.  Factors endemic to the characteristics of each muein also appear.  The integrity of those with oneiric muousi encounter constant challenges from those determined to force others to give up their dreaming selves.  They also face challenges unaccepting members of their own community.

The integrity of those with dogmatic muousi also faces challenge in like manner but with an additional stressor:  the need for their respective egos to see their judgments enforced.  If those judgments suffer damage as a result of non-acceptance, so do their egos.  It may end in bitterness, or may simply demand rest till such can fight another day.  It’s a conflict that ends only with the end of religious institutions and even then their adherents typically realign with new entities.

For those of us who are transgender, the issue amounts to a desire for liberty; and if not liberty, then at least tolerance.  Liberty and tolerance aren’t the same.  Tolerance presumes the right to impose judgment against another, but makes some degree of allowance.  Human consistency in judgment doesn’t exist and neither does human tolerance.  Germany was one of the most tolerant nations on Earth till after the Weimar Republic.  Then Hitler imposed his death camps.  Liberty, however, permits no presumption of a right to judge.  Wherever entities seek political power in order to enforce what they regard as Divine Command, liberty dies and tolerance runs thin.

But those of us with oneiric muousi can take comfort on other levels for the transgender soul, even in the face of the threat of extermination.  Because we dream, we can always repair to the higher, beyond the reach of the intolerant.  Our paths may be hidden and we may be driven back into the shadows as they have for centuries.  Our paths can lead us into places of repair where perchance we might also encounter that higher intelligence: in quiet abodes set apart, in temples unknown in the heart.

_______________________

REFERENCES:

Featured Image:  portions of the ‘Etz Chayim consisting of the sephirot Malkhut, Y’sod, and Netzach with their associated paths depicted in Universal Kabbalah superimposed over a path along Santiago Creek, Santa Ana CA.  Images are by the author.

  1. Stuart, Lynnea Urania. “Hiereika”, Ch. 3, The Téssara. (Unpublished, 2005) pp. 121, 122.  It’s stated in Lynnea’s will that The Téssara must not be released in its full form till her death.
  2. Stuart, Lynnea Urania. “Enthumesia”, Ch. 1, The Téssara, p. 207.  This view is followed by a discussion of concepts of truth, the nature of which distinguish innocence from selfish ambition, the latter of which also dreams and wonders but does so destructively.  Lynnea refers to ambition as the “counterfeit of innocence” and different from the essential trait of drive.
  3. Girschick, Lori B. Transgender Voices (2008, quoting Lynnea Urania Stuart from a 2002 statement) University Press of New England, Lebanon NH, ISBN-13: 978-1-58465-645-6, p. 51.
  4. James R. Phelps, M.D. Memory, Learning, and Emotion” org (updated December, 2014, accessed September 13, 2017) http://psycheducation.org/brain-tours/memory-learning-and-emotion-the-hippocampus/.
  5. Dan P. McAdams “The Stories We Live By” Kirkus Review (May 20, 2010, accessed September 13, 2017, summarizes the author’s thesis) https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/dan-p-mcadams/the-stories-we-live-by/.
  6. William Large. “The Noesis and Noema” Arasite (accessed September 13, 2017) http://www.arasite.org/noesis.html. This summary article should be read carefully and critically.
  7. Stuart, “Enthumesia”, Ch. 1, The Téssara, pp. 205, 206.
  8. Marie Winn. “The Loss of Childhood” New York Times (May 8, 1983, repost n.d. accessed September 13, 2017) http://www.nytimes.com/1983/05/08/magazine/the-loss-of-childhood.html?pagewanted=all&mcubz=3.
  9. As generally taught, all promises come with prerequisites of obedience as defined by clergy. See Graham Pockett.  “The Bible is an ‘iffy’ book” Anointed Links (accessed September 13, 2017) http://www.anointedlinks.com/iffy.html . It’s a reverse view of the classical position that no obedience can possibly take place without taking promises on faith.
  10. M. “My Turning Around” Transgender Christians (accessed September 13, 2017) http://www.transchristians.org/archive/brooke-my-turning-around.
  11. Matt Sorger. “I was Transsexual.  Then Jesus came into my life” MSM  (accessed September 13, 2017) http://www.mattsorger.com/miracles/article/i-was-transsexual-.then-jesus-came-into-my-life.
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AH-CHOO! Interdict That Rhinovirus Before It Ruins Your Makeup

By Lynnea Urania Stuart

Admit it.  You’ve been held hostage.  It can happen every year when chills remind you that it isn’t summer anymore, and especially when you have an upcoming gig in a drag show or a speaking engagement like the quintessentially cold and drippy International Transgender Day of Remembrance.  Ignore it and you can be sure you’ll face a slog of a week or 10 days.  You might face an even longer siege if the infection spreads into your lungs where it could expand into pneumonia in people with weakened immune systems.1 Rhinovirus, the bane of the babes onstage and known to be the most common culprit of the “common cold,” is ready for another season to laugh its way into your nasal passages like an attack of obnoxious little critters to force you out of makeup.  But if you act quickly enough and take proper precautions, you could beat an impending infection in a matter of hours.

We all know the symptoms of the common cold: sore throat (especially in the early stages of infection), runny nose, coughing, sneezing, headaches, and body aches.2 No “cure” exists for a rhinovirus infection.  Antibiotics, useful for coated bacteria, 3 only help combat a secondary infection of bacteria and have lost much of their effectiveness because of decades of improper use.4 The virus has resulted in days lost from work and school, impacting the national economy through loss of labor and increased sales in the robust industry of cold remedies.  But in most cold cases, those expensive cold remedies might not even be needed if approached properly.

 

ANATOMY OF A COMMON INFECTION

While it’s possible to become infected through close contact with another person, especially if an infected person sneezes in your face, most cases of infection happen without our thinking about it at all.  Handling a doorknob or a writing instrument previously handled by an infected individual can transfer the virus, and if the hand is brought to the face infection can readily result.  Common introduction of the virus is through the eyes when we unconsciously rub them during the course of the day.5

The eyes have a constant flow of tears to protect them from the environment.  Keeping that flow of tears enables the cornea, and consequently, vision to remain clear.  Those tears originate in tear glands around the eyes.  But they not only empty into the eyes via tear ducts.  These ducts also direct tears into the nasal cavity.  When we cry those tears loosen other material in the nasal cavity, resulting in a flood that we blow out into our handkerchiefs.6

Those tear ducts not only provide a pathway for tears into the nasal cavity but also for pathogens including rhinovirus.  The nasal passages provide its best nesting ground.  Infection results in an initial response of the body producing its own histamines, causing stuffiness and post-nasal drip.

By “post-nasal drip” we refer to the drip of mucous from the nasal cavity to where these passages join with the pharynx, or the back of the throat.  This drip of mucous can trigger in a response from sublingual salivary glands which produce a predominantly mucous saliva that can also become stringy in texture.  This aids in digestion of food but has a way of exacerbating the less viscous mucous from the nasal cavity, keeping the viral-rich stickiness stuck around the pharynx because it’s difficult to swallow, resulting in irritation of pharyngeal tissues.  One might awaken in the middle of the night with some nose stuffiness and a scratchy throat.  The same may even experience a chill reflecting the body elevating its own temperature in response to infection.  These warning signs need to be heeded.7

 

THE BEST DEFENSES

Some excellent and inexpensive remedies exist.  But one must understand why they work and that making them effective requires some personal diligence.

At the first sign of a cold, hyper-hydration can be very effective for most people.  To do this, drink an average size glass (6-8 ounces) of warm water every 10 minutes for an hour.8 You might feel as if you will slosh back and forth after this.  You very likely will feel an accelerated need for urination.  Fluids want to pour out of you.  But something else happens too.  The blood vessels, being enriched with water also help to diffuse water into various interstitial tissues and membranes throughout the body including those of the nasal cavity.  It helps to break foreign bodies that may try to lodge there.  Warm water is preferred over cold because the body must otherwise heat the water you take in, heat that would be better suited for the elevation of temperature it really needs in combating infection.

The thing to understand if you hyper-hydrate is that you can’t put it off.  Do it immediately.  If your first sign of a cold happens when you head out the door to an important activity, take a thermos.  Time is the critical factor in using this method.  If the infection becomes too embedded as a result of inaction, this trick will be less likely to avail anything for you.

If you encounter throat soreness, gargling with salt water does help to break up the stringy mucous that settles in the pharynx and helps to settle the pharyngeal salivary glands that produce them.  Some adults have found a single aspirin, gradually dissolving and trickling down into the throat effective against the pain of an adult sore throat, a trick used by tradesmen in cold rainy environments.  But its effectiveness also requires contact with the tissues of the pharynx and a thick layer of mucous won’t allow that.  If you elect to use aspirin, it’s best to gargle first.

Two factors have been noted for combating colds: temperature and time.9 It’s why saunas have worked to promote health.  But what if you don’t have a sauna?  Nearly everyone has access to hot water.  The Joint Commission for Accreditation of Health Care Organizations (JCAHO) for many years set the accepted range for domestic hot water in hospitals:  106-120 degrees Fahrenheit, though in recent years this has been tightened to 110-120 degrees.  Over 120 degrees is considered scalding temperature.10

This is important to know because rhinovirus has a very tight optimal temperature range that’s a little lower than the core body temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 Celsius).  Its range is 91.4 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit (33-35 Celsius).  The typical range of temperature in the nasal cavity falls within that optimal range. 11

The outsides of the eyes often experience a cooler temperature than the core body temperature.  During cold months some warming can be anticipated for pathogens within the tear ducts including the portions joining with the nasal cavity.  In which case one would do well to check the condition of one’s eyes first thing in the morning, and if symptoms start midday to check them then as well.  You might notice stickiness in the corner of the eye and the lower eyelid, and possibly some whiteness like pus if there’s anything bacterial involved.  In this case, simply rubbing the eye won’t help.  Instead, flush the eyes to wash them.

Eye flushes work very well when showering.  Water temperature that’s good for this is at the low end of the older range set by JCAHO: 106 to 110 degrees.  This elevates the temperature beyond what rhinovirus finds friendly, yet low enough to do no harm to the eyes.  It’s the range one would experience with a nicely warm shower.  Your eyes won’t be harmed at this temperature.  They would encounter a higher temperature just walking around Phoenix or Las Vegas on a hot day.

Some shower nozzles, however, force a stream of water too sharp for this purpose.  If that’s the case, it helps to bounce the stream from the shower head off the back of a clean hand into the eyes.  This should work for most municipal systems with chemically treated water.  If the domestic water system has become contaminated, or if you’re away from home, you still have recourse another way.

  

AN ALTERNATE APPROACH

It helps to keep a 4 ounce bottle of normal saline solution designed for eyewash.  Most grocery chains and drug stores sell this from regular shelves.  It requires no prescription.  After all, it’s sterile salt water balanced to reasonably match the salinity of most bodily fluids.  Let the bottle sit in warm water for a while to bring it into the temperature range best for flushing the eyes.  You can use a microwave to heat water in a cup till warm and insert a bottle of normal saline for a few minutes, shaking the bottle periodically.  Check the temperature on the inside of the forearm to verify that the temperature is warm but not hot.  Wash your hands thoroughly.  Then apply like you would eye drops without touching the tip of the bottle to your hands or your eyes.  Flush out any gunk into a clean tissue or handkerchief and then flush again.  This will not only clean the eyes and interdict pathogens at the most common point of entry to the nasal cavity, but will also soothe the eyes themselves.

A warm saline solution can also be effective snuffed up the nose or as nose drops.  The principle behind this is much the same as what’s used in eye flushes, washing loose mucous and pathogens.   For home made nose drops you can dissolve ¼ teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of baking soda in 8 ounces of warm water, then apply to the nasal cavity through a nasal irrigation kit.12

Aside from eye flushes, application of a hot pack to the face and forehead can elevate the temperature of the sinuses beyond the range of the virus.  Some people like to use a combination of hot and cold packs.  The cold packs in this case drop the temperature to below the optimal range of the virus and may be preferred if you happen to experience pain.  Use whichever works best for you.  But do it as early as you can.

 

MAKEUP PRECAUTIONS

If possible, it’s best to not wear makeup while engaged in tackling cold symptoms.  Eye makeup, especially mascara, can become easily contaminated with nearly anything as surely as the La Brea Tar Pits can swallow up a mastodon.

That means if your eyes become infected with a pathogen, you can easily transfer it on the tip of liquid eyeliner or a mascara brush.  That means, if you become sick it’s best to replace eye makeup and to avoid using a new batch till you’re past any symptoms.  If you absolutely have to use it as in obligatory stage work, discard it afterwards.13

For the same reason, never share eye makeup.  Don’t take any chances on infecting a friend or coworker.

 

PERSONAL RESULTS THROUGH THE USE OF WATER

This writer used to experience colds every month except for summer, or an average of 9 colds per season.  At my age a cold can easily turn serious, becoming a severe chest cold or bronchitis leading to pneumonia.  With these techniques I have been able to reduce colds to an average of 1 per season and in many seasons I’ve succeeded in eliminating them entirely.  I’ve also found initial cold symptoms knocked out in a matter of hours, even when working in environments where sick children liberally spread their contagion.  Today it takes a particularly virulent strain to pass these defenses I have practiced and the costs of performing them regularly have been negligible.

I typically flush my own eyes whenever I enter the shower to bathe.  But in 1994 I did something else to acclimatize myself to cold weather before travel.  I regularly took what’s called a Scots Shower, also called, Scottish Shower.

The Scots Shower employs alternating hot and hold.  After an initial steamy shower, close down the hot water valve for 15 seconds till the water feels just uncomfortably cool.  Resume the hot water to bring up the body temperature for a couple of minutes and then go for another cool down for 30 seconds with water a little colder than before.  Repeat this till you can go over a minute with a cold shower.14 The idea is to build resistance.  This was necessary for me because I was traveling to the former Soviet Union in November when there’s a lot of sleet and snow at the onset of winter.

I emphasize this:  the techniques described here do not cure the common cold.  What they do instead is interdict rhinovirus and other pathogens from entry and buildup in the nasal cavity where they find the optimal conditions for replication.  The body has its own defense against viruses through its own interferon, whose development is particular to each strain.  Nobody has produced a laboratory interferon that will tackle every strain of virus.15 I discussed what I was doing with my own physician and he confirmed that the effectiveness is much like a security guard stops a bad guy from entering into a theater to plant a bomb.

 

WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR

Not all viruses can be knocked down with these techniques.  They don’t apply well to influenza.  They don’t apply to other airborne pathogens like tuberculosis where bacteria transfer through sputum.  Some cases may even require isolation of a patient from others.  Some pathogens may require gowns, gloves, and medical dust mask.  In certain strains, goggles or even a full plastic face shield may be required.  Hospitals mark rooms set up for isolation, reversing air flow so that pathogens don’t escape the room by force of air handlers.  This is done by relying upon an exhaust fan to draw outside air from the hallway or through a filter.  These special techniques go far beyond what anyone can do to head off a common cold.  It takes a doctor to determine what precautions are indicated.

If a cold goes directly to the chest, one can gain relief from an expectorant to facilitate the expulsion of phlegm.  Some expectorants today also come with decongestants.  They’re sold over the counter in pharmacies; however there are now restrictions on how much you can buy in the course of a month.  A pharmacist will want to check your purchases through your driver’s license or identification card, simply because cold remedies have been abused by manufacturers of designer drugs.  But if you aren’t winning in a couple of days or if symptoms worsen, you need a physician.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends seeing a doctor under the following conditions:

  • If your oral temperature rises higher than 100.4° F
  • If cold symptoms persist over 10 days
  • Unusual or severe symptoms.16

Severe symptoms include excessively high fever or pain, or breathing becoming obstructed.  If your color turns blue and you feel like you can’t get enough air, you may do well to suspect pneumonia and get to a doctor as soon as possible for diagnosis and treatment.  If a physician prescribes a regimen, especially one of antibiotics or antiviral medication, follow the instructions exactly.

Fortunately, most colds don’t automatically signal something dire and with adequate prevention, one may avoid an infection becoming dire in the first place.  The responsibility is yours.  These techniques with water are cheap and readily available in most places.  They enable anyone to stop a dreaded invader in its tracks, saving time, jobs, and even friends, especially those of us who can’t afford to miss a day of work at all.

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REFERENCES:

Featured Image:  A variation of the American flag in the colors associated with sickness including grey (as in deadness), and pale sickly green (like the Greek word for pale χλόρο or “chloro” as used in the Apocalypse of John to describe the color of the horse of the 4th horseman).  The canton is a detail of a public domain diagram of the rhinovirus (Wikimedia) and the background is a tearful eye  from a public domain image (Flickr).

  1. “Common Colds: Protect Yourself and Others” Centers for Disease Control , CDC (accessed September 6, 2017) https://www.cdc.gov/features/rhinoviruses/index.html
  2. Ibid.
  3. Harry Mobley. “How do antibiotics kill bacterial cells but not human cells?” Scientific American (n.d., accessed September 6, 2017) https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-do-antibiotics-kill-b/.
  4. Lee Ventola, MS. “The Antibiotic Resistance Crisis” NCBI (April 2015, accessed September 6, 2017) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4378521/.
  5. As described by a local physician in 1992.
  6. Any college anatomy course will confirm this.
  7. “Salivary Glands and Saliva” Vivo Pathophysiology (n.d., accessed September 6, 2017) http://www.vivo.colostate.edu/hbooks/pathphys/digestion/pregastric/salivary.html.
  8. Hyperhydration was recommended by a Seventh-Day Adventist physician in 1994.
  9. Noted by a registered physical therapist near Loma Linda in 1988.
  10. Known by the author who worked as a hospital engineer for over 20 years.
  11. Foxman, Ellen F.; Storer, James A.; Fitzgerald, Megan E.; Wasik, Bethany R.; Hou, Lin; Zhao, Honguy; Turner, Paul E.; Pyle, Anna Marie; and Iwasaki, Akiko. “Temperature-dependent defense against the common cold virus limits viral replication at warm temperature in mouse airway cells” PNAS 112, No. 3, p. 827 (January 20, 2015, accessed September 6, 2017) www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1411030112.
  12. Carol DerSarkiassen. “12 Natural Treatment Tips for Cold and Flu” WebMD (June 14, 2017, accessed September 6, 2017) http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/12-tips-prevent-colds-flu-1#1
  13. Kristin Colling Jackson “Get Over A Cold Faster With These 7 Beauty Tips” Bustle (November 14, 2014, accessed September 6, 2017) https://www.bustle.com/articles/48585-get-over-a-cold-faster-with-these-7-beauty-tips-what-makeup-to-ditch-and.
  14. “What is a Scottish Shower?” wiseGEEK (n.d., accessed September 6, 2017) http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-scottish-shower.htm
  15. “Interferons: Boundless.com (n.d., accessed September 7, 2017) https://www.boundless.com/microbiology/textbooks/boundless-microbiology-textbook/immunology-11/innate-defenders-138/interferons-704-6649/.
  16. https://www.cdc.gov/features/rhinoviruses/index.html
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Is Gender Dysphoria Really To Blame?

By C. Blair

It is probably not going to come as a surprise to anyone that those who identify as transgender are more likely to be diagnosed with a mental health issue within their lifetime. Studies show that half of those who identify as transgender deal with anxiety/depression, compared to the general population who have a 6.7 percent chance of having depression and an 18 percent chance of having anxiety.¹ Transgender people are also 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with an eating disorder. To top it off these are only 3 of the possible issues that transgender people could face at some point in their lives.

To many this is because a lot trans people have what is known as gender dysphoria. Some estimates say that 71 percent of people with gender dysphoria at some point will be diagnosed with some kind of mental health issue. These include substance abuse, mood disorders, sleeping disorders, suicidal thought/actions, and of course anxiety and depression. Even though it is common for people to instantly put the blame on gender dysphoria, studies now show that just because trans people have gender dysphoria does not mean that they inherently have these issues. If this is indeed the case we must ask ourselves what the real reason why this is happening, and more importantly how can we stop it? To understand we must get to the root of the problem.

What Is Gender Dysphoria?

Those unfamiliar with the term “gender dysphoria” may be left wondering what it is exactly. To those who are transgender or have someone in their lives who is, this may seem like a refresher. Gender dysphoria in its simplest form is a medical term used to describe the dissatisfaction and restlessness that trans people have in regards to the gender that they were assigned at birth. Furthermore people with it identify as the opposite sex, both, none, or something else entirely. This leads to trans people taking steps to become comfortable in their bodies. This for some may include hormone replacement therapy (HRT), sexual reassignment surgery (SRS), or simply dressing in their desired way.

The distress related to gender dysphoria is what many believe to be the cause of the poor mental health in the transgender community. From what I’ve learned from talking with people with varying gender identities and speaking from my own personal experience this seems to not be fully the case. There is no denying that gender dysphoria is in part to blame, but many note that a lot of these issues connected with it begin to go away after starting their transitions or coming out as transgender. So what is to blame then? A study done in 2016 involving 250 trans men and women may have our answer.

Why Do Trans People Face High Rates of Anxiety/Depression?

Now that we have ruled out gender dysphoria we must ask ourselves what is the underlining factor that has led to these high statistics that were previously stated? Some researchers believe that the problem is right in front of us. Recent studies show that the distress related to the transgender community may come from the outside more than within. The amount of discrimination, stigmas, abuse, and an overall lack of acceptance that trans people have to deal with on a constant basis has been linked to the high rate of mental issues.

According to a study done by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs in 2013, out of all hate murders related to the LGBT community and those living with HIV about 72 percent of them are committed against trans individuals. So if that is the problem then why not just call the police? Well for some that is not an option because on average 32 percent of trans people say that the police respondents were hostile. The workplace seems to be just as hostile. A staggering 90 percent of trans workers have experienced some form of harassment or mistreatment in the workplace. Sadly some states having little to no protections for trans people, meaning there is not much for us to do to prevent any of this.

Even though trans people commonly face harassment there must be some safe space for trans people? Like home or school? For many these places are just as bad. Statistics show that LGBT students are twice as likely of being verbally and physically bullied in schools. All you have to do is try looking it up and you will find so many articles about the maltreatment of LGBT students. Plus for an estimated 67 percent of trans individuals home life is no better. When someone comes out as transgender they face the possibility of a negative reaction from their family members, being disowned, or in some cases they face physical harm. Some studies say that a family’s support can have a greater impact on trans youth than anything else. Self-esteem, physical health, satisfaction with life, and of course mental health will dramatically decrease when their family is not supportive.

From walking down the streets and the legal system to schools and even our homes there seems to be no safe place for those who identify as transgender. This living in fear, abuse, and discrimination has caused those who identify as transgender to have anxiety, depression, and many more mental health conditions.

How Do We Put An End To It?

So how do we put an end to these problems that are causing such an elevated rate of poor mental health? Well we will not only need to change the way trans people are perceived by the general public but fix the overall treatment of those who are trans. This can be done many ways.

We as people would need to stop discriminating or intervene when discrimination occurs. Parents can majorly help the cause by teaching their kids to be more open minded at a young age. In order to hold those who harass trans people and employers responsible laws have to be put in place to protect trans people at both the state and federal level. Police departments in some states are doing their part by implementing seminars to teach police officers how to better recognize hate crimes and discrimination, plus to better understand those who are trans. Similar seminars are being used in schools to help teachers to do the same. Most importantly family members need to accept and love their kids/siblings/cousins who are transgender. These are only a few of the possible ways everyone can assist in stopping what is causing trans people to suffer. Sadly because of how many people are transphobic doing these things are easier said than done.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DISCUSS THIS OR ANY OTHER TOPIC ON OUR SITE, PLEASE JOIN THE CONVERSATION ON THE TMP FORUM


  1. If suicidal and need someone to talk to visit Trans Life Line @ US: (877) 565-8860 Canada: (877) 330-6366
  2. Anxiety and Depression in Transgender Individuals: The Roles of Transition Status, Loss, Social Support, and Coping
  3. Eating While Transgender
  4. Removing Transgender Identity From the Classification of Mental Disorders: a Mexican Field Study for ICD-11
  5. Fighting Anti-Trans Violence 
  6. Injustice at Every Turn
  7. Impacts of Strong Parental Support for Trans Youth

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