3 Fun Activities to Get You Out of The House

So, in an ongoing effort to stave off the effects of depression and anxiety, I’ve been trying to take steps to change my lifestyle here and there to better facilitate my emotional health. I recently started a new anti-depressant/anti-anxiety treatment, I’ve been actively cutting out people and things that may cause me undue stress, and I’m starting to listen more to my own sense of comfort – favoring an “if it feels good, do it” mentality over fretting over what society will think.

But, in addition to all that, I’m also making an effort to try an overcome my mild to moderate demophobia and disdain for social interactions by trying to force myself to go outside more often. The only problem is – and I imagine this a problem for A LOT of people with social anxiety – that unless you need to go shopping or something, there’s often little reason to leave the comfort of your bedroom/living room/personal office (I have very little living space; shut up).

So, I’ve been attempting to find and rediscover some old out outdoor activities to help get me outside, be more physically active, and socializing with humanity again. So far, I’ve come across three viable fun-time adventures to go on.

Urban Hiking

Yes, nature is pretty. But a skyline can be nice to look at too.
Source: Liz Thomas Hiking

My Father is a bit of a mountaineer. He’s hiked along almost every major mountain trail in New Hampshire and he’s been very encouraging to try and get me to join him.

The problem is that I live in the middle of the city with very little time to devote to traveling to the mountains. But who’s to say you can’t enjoy a hike through the city?

Sure, some people may scoff at the idea. But if you find it difficult to get to a nature trail, urban hiking may just suit you. Not only does it get you into a social setting, but you may just be surprised at what you find on your travels. I’ve been on hikes through college towns with lots of shops packed together and found places that I end up coming back to later; thrift stores, cafes, etc.

Most Urban Hikers seem to favor places with lots of stairs and hills to simulate the incline of a mountain trail, but you can always choose the path that best suits your level of expertise. It all makes for a more travel-friendly, lower-risk social activity.

Geocaching

“I found treasure… WITH MY PHONE.”
Source: Janesville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

One part hike, one part treasure hunt, and one part time capsule. Geocaching is the high tech way to wander the world in search of fresh new sights.

What’s nice about geocaching is how accessible it is. People have quite literally hidden these little boxes of surprise goodies that they trade from one cache to the next EVERYWHERE; in cities, on nature trails, in cemeteries, in parking lots – if you can covertly fit a container big enough to hold a logbook of some kind in it, someone has likely done so. As such, there’s no shortage of options to fit your skill level. All you need is a phone with a GPS and the drive to explore.

What’s more, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of coming across an item in a cache with a tracking number on it so you can see where it’s been. On my first outing, I found a keychain from the Hard Rock Cafe in Singapore with such a tracker. It had gone up the west coast from the southern tip of California to Washington state, leaped to mid-state New York, and again to New Hampton here in New Hampshire. I then left it in a cache in Maine to complete its coast-to-coast journey and, last I saw, it was somewhere in Texas.

The only catch is that you have to exercise a little stealth while playing as any non-players (referred to, much to the delight of Harry Potter fans, as Muggles) may be inclined to tamper with or even steal the cache. So tread lightly and stay aware.

Battle Gaming

All the action of a Dungeons & Dragons game right in your face.
Source: Wikipedia

Do you miss the days when you and your friends would roughhouse in the yard, but don’t want to risk losing teeth to recreate the feeling? Do you like the look and action of LARPing, but can’t be arsed to deal with all that role-playing nonsense? Well, grab yourself some foam and get into the ring of battle games.

I got into this back in my convention days and it was a blast. Armed with foam-crafted blade and shield (called Boffers) and your nerves, you can now capture the feeling of charging into battle like the warriors of old.

The rules of battle differ depending on who’s organizing the events. Some are one-on-one gladiatorial battles. Others are large-scale wargames with competing tribes and armies. And each has different regulations on how boffers are crafted and what weapons are allowed. Though almost all of them are designed to minimize the risk of injury while letting players go wild.

With foam arrows flying through the air and people shield bashing their way through a crowd, it can get hectic. But with the light bruises comes a sense of pride and exhilaration as you face down the horde and stand your ground against the odds… even if it’s all just pretend and sport.

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The Social Importance of The Selfie (and The Agent’s Selfie Catalog)

In addition to the Summer Solstice – the longest day of the year and my official start of summer, today is recognized by us digital denizens as National Selfie Day. And I felt that the day provided an opening for useful commentary on human psychology and sociology.

Remember not too long ago when just the word ‘selfie’ conjured up a bevy of negative images in our heads? We associated the selfie with vapidness, vanity, and egocentric narcissism.

However, while that stigma has persisted to an extent, I feel people are slowly understanding the importance of the selfie in a modern society. The simple act of taking a photo of yourself says so much about you and your life.

For a start, it’s a proclamation of pride in your achievements – no matter how small. By going out into the world and snapping a photo of you at the beach or in the crowd at a concert, you are proclaiming to the world, “I was there. I saw the world HAPPEN in front of me and contributed to it.” A brief look at history will show the need to document our actions. Selfies are just a new evolution of this process that replaces long-winded words with an image that speaks thousands at a glance.

What’s more, it’s a statement of self-love – a form of love that seems in sadly short supply these days. I’m part of a body positivity group on Facebook; body positivity being a big deal to someone like me who is about to begin a gender transition. I can’t tell you how helpful it is to receive loving encouragement from friends, family, and kind strangers when coming to terms with my appearance. And judging from the response of others, I sense I’m not alone in that feeling.

So, make it a point today to go out, put on the best you that you have, and proclaim your existence to the world. Show – don’t tell – that you are here and that you matter.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a proper National Selfie Day article if I didn’t celebrate along with you. So, for those that don’t or can’t follow my actions on Twitter here’s a collection of my recent selfies. I wish you all a lovely day celebrating your beautiful selves.

The Agent on Homophobia, Meme Culture, and Millie Bobby Brown

Millie’s face in this scene looks like mine when I heard the news.
Source: Hello Giggles

It’s not often that I wake up first thing in the morning and know EXACTLY what I’m going to talk about this week… I just wish I didn’t HAVE to.

For those that don’t follow celebrity happenings, Millie Bobby Brown, the young actress best known for playing Eleven on Stranger Things, was bullied off of Twitter yesterday because of memes circulating around the web using pictures of her and spouting off homophobic rhetoric. This was especially damaging to her since she is well known for being a powerful supporter of the LGBT+ community.

… I have SEVERAL complaints.

First, I want to address my attitude towards people leaving social media over bullying. Normally, I reprimand people for doing this as it shows the opposition that they can get whatever they want if they’re dickish enough. But, in this instance, I think Millie may have made the right choice. The sort of harassment that she’s experiencing right now is especially damaging when you’re as young as she is. So removing herself from that environment, at least until the meme runs it’s lifespan out, was probably the best choice she could have made.

That brings me to the culture of memes in general. Let’s not beat around the bush here; memes are the LOWEST form of entertainment. Any brain dead schmuck with a pirated copy of Photoshop can parrot the same unfunny garbage as 5 million other people and call themselves an artist. The only reason these things gain traction is just for that reason; they cater to and are (mostly) produced by the lowest common denominator. As such, the ‘insights’ they share will almost always be the same sort mouth-breathing troglodyte thinking that seems to have been dominating the landscape lately.

Which is exactly why THIS unfunny hack job we’re talking about now is centered around homophobia. It seems pretty obvious that one blinkering jackass who enjoys the smell of their own beer farts thought it would be hilarious to make an anti-gay meme during Pride Month of all times and centered around a young person that has supported the community for a long time because they lack the number of functioning brain cells – most likely having died through multiple college benders – to understand how comedic juxtaposition is SUPPOSED to work (Or at least I HOPE that’s the explanation because the alternative is that they were ACTUALLY hoping this would destroy the LGBT+ community… somehow…). You need a punchline in order for a ‘joke’ to exist. So where is it here? Where’s the goddamn joke?

I know it sounds like I’m just angry and fuming right now, but I actually am that upset. Stuff like this – people that think that being offensive just to get a rise out of people qualifies as comedy and probably claims that “Mel Brooks could have gotten away with it” while failing to understand that even he had the common decency to not make light of lynching when he made Blazing Saddles– has been going on for far too long.

The sad part is that you can’t just ‘get rid’ of thinking like this. there’s always going to be some colossal, cretinous clod-hopper who thinks insults and threats of violence alone with no real comedic exaggeration are the height of humor. But we CAN make it clear to them that they have crossed a line. We can shame and abandon such ignorant people and leave them to rot in obscurity and their own intolerance.

On the unlikely chance that Millie sees this, know that you did nothing wrong. You’re just an unfortunate victim of cruel, uneducated sub-humans. I hope that someday, you’ll come back to us fully healed and ready to make us smile again. Until then, we’ll wait for you.

As for the rest of you, congratulations; you attacked a harmless community on their day of recognition, earned the ire and hate of the world, and made a 14-year-old girl cry. Your parents must be beaming with pride.

The Thought Dump Returns: More Random as Hell Thoughts

… Screw you too, writer’s block.

Well, I’m overdue for some spring cleaning anyway. So let just fire off with a bunch of thoughts that have randomly cropped up lately until I can reach a point where my individual thoughts can fill up a blog post on their own.

I’m losing my passion for politics

Folks, please. Can we just fix the obvious problems TOGETHER before things get worse?
Source: Wall Street Journal

You know how sometimes you get into a routine of seeing and hearing the same thing so often that you start to get bored with it because there seems to be nothing new to add or to experience and so you start to lose interest and are seriously considering bowing out of it all together?

Yeah, that’s me with politics right now.

It seems like every political story that comes my way these days focuses on the same damn things; Putin is shifty, Trump is a clod-hopper, and some knuckle-dragger with an automatic weapon is wiping out a crowd of people. I’ve already talked about all this or can’t say anything that hundreds of better-suited people have already said. And despite that, those in a position to do so REFUSE TO CHANGE IT. It’s exhausting.

But, the thing is that I know this is what a lot of less moral people are counting on; they want people to get worn out so that they’ll stop questioning them and just roll over. So, while I may not have the passion to TALK politics here, I’ll definitely say my peace and defend my stance elsewhere.

Gendered bathrooms are bulls***

Finally, someone who cares about the real issues.
Source: Nola

So a while back, while I was cleaning the bathrooms at the welcome center I work at, I had a harsh epiphany.

See, the way we have the bathrooms set up here, there are technically two women’s rooms. Should the men’s room ever need to be closed for cleaning, one of the cleaning staff can shut one of the women’s rooms from there side and unlock a door granting access from the men’s side – effectively turning it into a temporary men’s room.

But we get a bunch of men – at least one every night – that’s so rigid in the idea of what the men’s room should be that they panic when they don’t see a urinal and refuse to believe the sign pointing them where they ought to go. One group even slammed me with transphobic comments about being “in between” genders in response.

Firstly, urinals are pointless. I know this because no man has ever had a house with a urinal in his bathroom and he can get by with just a regular toilet.

Secondly, a chat with a co-worker about this incident and we came to the same conclusion; why do we even need gendered bathrooms when the stalls make any attempts at peeking inside obvious (yes, I know about the cracks in the doors, but that appears to be a uniquely American problem that can be easily fixed)? We could easily get away with a giant room of stalls that would make cleaning worlds easier and remove a lot of anxiety for trans-folks that worry about which one to use.

In short, if your the sort of person that freaks out about not having a dedicated device that allows you to stand while peeing, it’s probably not big enough to warrant the need to stand in the first place.

Gendered clothing is ALSO bulls***

“Closer than you know/love each other so/androgynous.” <3
Source: Irish Times

One of the things my mother and I do is look for clothing online together since she enjoys the finds and I’m always looking to expand my wardrobe. Of course, we often run into the sticking problem of men’s versus women’s sizes (#GenderQueerProblems).

The way men’s and women’s clothing are designed has little to do with gender in my experience and more to do with the way they hang on you. Men’s pants for example (because pants were what we were looking at last) tend to fit more loosely and shapelessly where women’s seem more like leggings than pants – clinging tight and shaping the legs and butt (which I love because my legs are one of the few things on my body that I ACTUALLY like).

So why can’t we have a universal sizing system without gendering that just focuses on the cut of the clothing instead? Maybe then we wouldn’t need conversion charts and cheat sheets from the internet to help us find a decent pair of shoes (seriously, do you have any idea how hard it is to find a pair of cute pumps in a size 16?).

Celebrating My Girlfriend’s 1-Year Gender Affirmation Surgery Anniversary

So, one year ago today, my beloved Marie (who you may recall inspired a recent article here) underwent her gender affirmation surgery at The Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York. To mark the occasion, she shared her story with us, her closest friends and family, to give us an idea of the process.

I won’t be reciting her story verbatim here as I feel that should be her choice to share something that personal. That said, the story did get me to continue considering my own gender identity exploration. I’m still on the fence about GAS at this moment and I feel I really shouldn’t be as neutral to something this big as I am.

I’m not going to give a long-winded essay this week like I normally do because there’s actually very little insight that I can give. Every stage of transition for a transgender person is different after all. Some are perfectly content with a purely social transition – changing their name, pronouns, and choice of dress. Others engage in hormone replacement therapy to feminize or masculinize themselves. And if they do opt for surgery, they may only have breast augmentation/chest masculinization, only alter their genitalia, or both.

What I can do, however, is direct people to information. This way, those considering transitioning can get a better feel for how they want to continue on and those who are confused or even scared by the idea of someone transitioning can have the process demystified and they can start understanding the other persons position a little better.

So, I urge you all to check these two articles that were supplied to me. Firstly, this Teen Vogue article details the reasons and methods behind transitioning as told by a medical professional in the field. Secondly, for those considering vaginoplasty like Marie, this video shows the process (warning: even though it’s a computer animation, it IS still surgery and may be difficult for more squeamish viewers to view).

Happy anniversary, hon. And may we all be so blessed as to live in the way and shape that we choose for ourselves.

Great Life Lessons Taught To Me By My Transgender Girlfriend

Everybody deserves to be happy with who they are and in the skin they want.
Source: Huffington Post

Those of you who follow me on Facebook and Twitter will know that, on Tuesday, I publicly announced the official first date between me and Marie – a beautiful and talented anthro artist (check her out on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram and commission her if you get the notion) and out-and-proud transgender woman. We’ve been chatting for some time now without ever being face-to-face due to several states worth of distance between us. But, an overnight trip to Connecticut allowed us to meet and I was introduced to her circle of friends. It was a great time and I feel we got to know each other a lot better – an impressive feat since this appears to be one of those rare relationships where both parties seem to know each other before they even meet.

But, more pertinent to this essay is the fact that she, knowing that I recently came out as gender fluid, helped me rediscover and feel more confident in my newly freed identity. And because I know she wants little more than to see her fellow trans men and women be happy and confident, I’d like to share the teachings she passed on to me during those magical two days together.

‘Transgender’ means more than you may think

This is less something Marie taught me than it is something I always knew, but I was reminded of it several times over the course of our trip. So I feel the need to establish it here.

But yes; even though I identify specifically as “gender fluid,” you’d be TECHNICALLY correct to call me “transgender.” You see, transgender is a rather large umbrella term that goes far beyond transgender man or transgender woman. It’s meant to be a sort of catch-all term for anyone whose gender identity differs from the standard identity that’s prescribed to someone’s biological sex.

Of course, while it may be TECHNICALLY correct to call a non-binary, gender fluid, etc. person transgender, it’s worth it to go the extra distance to refer to someone as the gender they identify as. It’s similar to how you should respect a person’s preferred gender pronouns if they have any; not only will you get a better understanding of them as a person, but you demonstrate that you care enough about them to get it right – thus strengthening the friendship.

Trans-people are just like cis-people

Again, something I already knew. But meeting with Marie and her friends (a few of whom were also transgender) and talking about life experiences re-confirmed it and it’s something worth noting to the public.

Talking to trans-people since college has taught me that there’s actually very little (if anything) different personality and lifestyle wise between a transgender person and a cisgender person. We both have shared experiences, feelings, and insights. We fall in and out of love the same way, work similar crappy jobs, enjoy watching the same movies and rocking out to the same music. Hell, we even have the same sweetheart-to-scumbag ratio between the two of us.

The only thing that separates the two is that incredibly minor difference in how we identify ourselves. And let’s be brutally honest; if you’re going to let something as minor as a personal identity separate you from an entire swath of humanity, you are missing out on a lot of potential good times. Yes, you’re likely to meet some duds here and there, but you were going to get that with the crowd you were with anyway. So why not broaden the friend search?

You don’t need hormones to feel sexy

One of the many exciting moments I shared with Marie was when she, knowing I had a limited wardrobe to choose from, donated some old hand-me-downs she was planning on getting rid of. Miraculously, almost all of them fit. And when I first put them on, I couldn’t stop striking poses in the mirror for how much I loved the way I looked.

For most trans-people, Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is one of, if not the most, crucial choices in their lives. However, seeing me strut about in pants that ACTUALLY made my butt look cute for a change reminded me that you shouldn’t feel pressured into jumping into it ASAP. Much like the initial process of coming out, you get to decide when, how, and even if you decide to start HRT.

Don’t get me wrong, I’M still probably going to do it. In fact, I’m going to try talking with an endocrinologist on my next day off to set up the initial meeting and go through health risk, planning, etc. But the point is that only I, not anyone or anything else, gets to dictate that.

Having trusted friends makes all the difference

I had only been out in public twice in feminine attire before this trip and always in smaller settings. This trip was a big deal; I was in crowded restaurants and malls where anyone could raise a fuss. But having Marie by my side really did make it all seem like less of a problem. In fact, both she and I were stunned by how casually I strutted about without a single f*** to give out like business cards.

This bit of advice goes out to friends of trans-people as much as trans-people themselves; If you care about the well-being of your friends, be there for them. The little things like helping them shop for clothes or escorting them to the bathroom may seem like small potatoes to you, but they give them all the confidence in the world.

And speaking of confidence…

As in all things, confidence is key

I was pleasantly surprised with just how many people seemed unbothered by the six-foot-four, 250-pound Scots-Irish amazon idly traipsing through the food court in a pair of hip-hugging stretch jeans as I downed an energy drink and nibbled on my bland but passable sweet and sour pork from the Chinese food place. That’s when Marie dropped the biggest truth bomb of the entire trip on me; no one cared because I didn’t care.

In the back of my head, I knew this for some time. My years as a stage performer in college taught me that the slightest weakness in your ego will give everyone something to criticize. But when you step off the stage and into the public eye, it’s surprisingly easy to forget that truth. Whatever you do, trans-related or otherwise, you need to go into it without hesitation and confident that you have this locked down tight.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go shopping for a new purse because woman’s pants pockets are even more bulls*** than I gave them credit for and I am NOT going to carry my phone around in my adorable new bralette.

A Very Brief (And Woefully Incomplete) Primer on Asexuality

… Well, some of us do on occasion, but we aren’t exactly crazy about doing so.
Source: falunel.deviantart.com

I’ve made mention several times on Twitter, Facebook, and right here on The Archive that I am an out-and-proud Asexual. But recently, I’ve noticed people within my circle of friends and family discussing the topic of asexuality more or even coming out to me as falling under the asexual spectrum (yes, asexuality is a spectrum; we’ll get into that).

So, I felt like it was my duty to talk about asexuality; not just among friends, but publicly so that all of those curious about it could understand it better. After all, one of the biggest problems plaguing the asexual community is a lack of visibility that leads other to claim that it “doesn’t exist” or that we’re just “secretly gay” or “trying to be special.”

Now, to be clear, this isn’t going to be a perfect resource. I may be asexual myself, but I’m not an authority on sexual orientation (if such a thing can be said to exist). To that end, this is going to be a HIGHLY simplified collection FAQs and debunked misconceptions tinged by my own experiences. If you want to learn more, I deeply ask you to check out The Asexual Visibility and Education Network for more information. So, with all veneers of expertise removed, let’s begin.

Attraction Vs. Desire Vs. Activity

One of the larger misconceptions is that asexuality is just a fancy name for what others would call celibacy. Another is that asexuality is just an excuse to justify a weak libido. These couldn’t be further from the truth.

Asexuality, low-to-no libido, and celibacy together demonstrate the disconnect between sexual attraction, sexual desire, and sexual activity respectfully. It’s often difficult for most asexuals or “aces” to explain the concept of sexual attraction since – surprise – we don’t experience it and it’s kinda hard to explain something that you don’t have a frame of reference for.

The simplest explanation I can muster is this: An ace can still be sexually aroused (genitals are stupid and can be turned on by just about anything) and many are still willing to engage in intercourse (until evolution allows humans to reproduce through parthenogenesis, babies need to come from somewhere). However, they simply don’t find others sexually attractive. We can certainly identify people as “cute,” “beautiful,” or sometimes even “sexy,” but sexual attraction may as well not exist to us.

This separates asexuality from the aforementioned low libido – a loss of sex drive and sexual desire that can be countered with medical treatments – and celibacy – the active choice to abstain from sexual activity for various reasons. So when in doubt remember this: if there’s no sexual attraction, it’s asexuality. If there’s attraction but no drive or desire, it’s low libido. If there is attraction and desire but you actively choose not to, it’s celibacy. The important point to take home here is that, whatever you identify as, it’s your identity and it’s valid.

Sex-Positive, Sex-Neutral, and Sex-Repulsed Aces

As briefly mentioned above, many aces still engage in sex or sexual acts. However, not all of them do and not all of them enjoy it or enjoy it to the same extent. This is why the asexual spectrum and the distinction of grey-asexuality or “gray-a” is so important. Different aces may, and likely will, have varying feelings towards sex.

Sex-positive aces regard sex as an enjoyable experience and may even encourage openness about sexuality. However, they still don’t find themselves sexually attracted to anyone. When interacting with a sex-positive ace, please note that their sexual identity is still valid and the fact that they find sex enjoyable doesn’t make them less of an ace. Remember; there’s a difference between attraction, desire, and action.

Sex-neutral aces – the camp that I belong to – tend to treat sex as a tertiary thought. We aren’t exactly opposed to the idea of sex and many of us will gladly engage if it means pleasing a lover or wanting to start a family. However, we aren’t exactly crazy about the idea and probably won’t break our necks to get some. The same considerations paid to sex-positive aces above should be given to sex-neutral ones. Again, attraction is not desire is not action (is that getting through yet?).

Sex-repulsed aces are genuinely disinterested or even disgusted by sex and/or sexual activity. In some cases, just the mere mention of sex makes them incredibly uncomfortable. Bare this in mind when interacting with sex-repulsed aces and respect their comfort zone. This also means not treating them – or any ace, for that matter – as emotionally or psychologically broken. There doesn’t necessarily need to be some kind of trauma to be repulsed by sex. Sometimes, people just find sex undesirable for any number of reasons (speaking personally, I usually just find sex too funny or too clinical to be enjoyable).

Demisexuality

I can’t in good conscience talk about the asexual spectrum without giving at least a brief mention its most often underrepresented section; the demisexuals.

Demisexuality falls under and is a very important part of the asexual spectrum. It describes a person who CAN develop a sexual attraction towards a person, but only after a deep, emotional connection has been formed. This makes it one of the most difficult orientations in the asexual spectrum to explain to people and, by extension, one that catches a lot of criticism – even from fellow aces.

But, it’s important to note that demisexuals ARE part of the asexual spectrum. They don’t experience sexual attraction in the same way as other sexual orientations would and need to be respected and welcomed. They aren’t outsiders; they’re human and kin.

How To Respect An Ace

I know I’ve beating the “attraction/desire/action” drum this whole time, but it seems so difficult to convey the importance of it to some people. These folks and I have a valid and legitimate orientation – a very specific way that we prefer to interact with our lovers in order to feel comfortable and secure. This doesn’t mean that we are broken or seeking attention and it’s not a moral or ethical choice like some people consider celibacy to be; it’s just the way we are and we all need to respect that.

Also, just as you should ANY sexual orientation, we ask that you respect our boundaries. If one of us tells you that sex or talking about sex makes us uncomfortable, please stop. If we don’t want to have sex with you, please understand that it’s not a negative judgment of you but us trying to maintain a comfortable sexual environment.

Ultimately, we aces are just like everyone else. And like everyone else, we just want to feel happy and comfortable in our own way.