The Monetization Of Acceptance

Is it sad when commercialism makes larger strides in inclusivity than our own culture does? After all it is an industry that truly makes money on just about anything it can. There are fans that boast clique phrases from RuPaul’s Drag Race like; #Hunty. Sweatshirts that show the latest viral video stills, mugs to sport your favorite Meme, and now Hallmark will be selling cards to celebrate the transition process for transgender people. Does it help advance the movement for inclusivity or does it seem to trivialize the sentiment? There has already been an upswing in the amount of LGBTQ friendly cards with the legalization of LGBTQ marriage, but how does this weigh in with things like transitioning surgery.

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We are a marginalized community, there is not getting around that. We are one of the few minorities that discrimination against is legal in many states, we can lose our jobs, living accomodations, abd be turned away from public access of services simply because we do not follow into what some call societal norms. It happens everywhere and there is no escaping it, for now. It used to be if we wanted to find cards that celebrated milestones in our journey as LGBTQ people, we had to go to LGBTQ bookstores for card companies who actually made cards for us, However, that has been changing for some time now. Larger stores, like Hallmark , are carrying cards to celebrate Gay Marriage or even coming out. An article  was recently sent to me about Hallmark starting to carry cards for transition surgery for transgender people. So the question becomes, how has the mindset of commercialism moved ahead of societal acceptance and will this help us move forward.

 

Dont get me wrong, I think it is great to see a multimillion dollar company like Hallmark making these types of cards. After all, there are cards for almost every other occasion. It is a way to celebrate and show support for our friends that are going through this event. They do have an uplifting message, ones reads “You’re becoming who you have always been,” “How wonderful is that?” At present, there seems to be only two cards that are listed in the topic of “Transitioning,” I am sure that will grown as sales pick up. They have only been on the market since May of 2018. A simple search for LGBTQ cards turns up roughly 62 cards total, so that’s less that 1% of LGBTQ cards they carry but much more than they have carried historically. How long it can last or how much it can grow depends on how it is received and how popular it will be. Commercialism changes focus as the wind blows, so while it is a hot button topic at the moment how will it be received in the future.

As a homosexual, I am constantly aware of how commercialism is based around heteronormative practices. It is the same with every industry because there are reported larger numbers of heterosexual people than those that aren’t. I admit, I am not a person who is always on the lookout for a cards for a specific occasion, but there has always been a void of those that captured events that could be worded to sounds more LGBTQ positive. This is a step in that direction. Will this change mindsets of those who ally against us? No, sadly they will be the voice that says how this business is catering to a vulgar part of life, giving special privilege to some because they complained to get it.

 

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Designer Marco Marco uses all transgender models for clothing line. Models pictured above.

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Recently, there was also the new underwear brand Marco Marco that designed their underwear with transgender people in mind. According to Attitude Magazine  “Designer Marco Morante told Mic: ‘I wanted to create a space to celebrate trans bodies. This was an opportunity for their presence to be undeniable and reinforce that trans is beautiful.’ He used prominent transgender models for his fashion week debut this past summer. The names like Gigo Gorgeous, Carmen Carrera, and Laith Ashley were some of the many used for his runway. Morante is a long time supporter and designed for the LGBTQ community, so this only seemed like an appropriate next step. You can check out some behind the scenes images by following Laith on Instagram under his handle @laith_ashley. One of the attendees to the Marco Marco event was Laverne Cox who is the founder of the movement #TransIsBeautiful. She was quoted as saying, “When I started #TransIsBeautiful 3 years ago I wanted it to be a way for trans folks to celebrate what makes us uniquely and beautifully trans… It wasn’t about how cis we can look but rather about celebrating those things about us that are uniquely and beautifully trans.” Want to check out the runway show, see below.

 

 

What truly saddens me is that the commercial industry is so much further along that that of our society as a whole. Sure there is the argument that as long as there is a dollar to be made they will support it, but it doesnt change the fact that so many designers are pushing for inclusivity when our own government is doing what it can to repeal any laws that have already been passed. I am all for the forward momentum that this causes and wish more companies would take to the inclusivity approach, the fashion industry especially as this is an avenue that hasnt been fully explored for the needs yet.  What does disturb me about this trend is the whole “Here today and gone tomorrow” approach that seems to happen in commercialism. When the buzz dies down, will there still be the same push forward. We must encourage it to continue. Invest in those that invest in us and show that we want this change to continue. Be the object of the change you desire. Make it happen.

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Dishing The Tea

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Hello Hunties, gather round while I Serve Some Tea. I have had people, even recently included, tell me that I always talk about “This Gay Shit.” You’re right I do and sometimes I wish that I didn’t have to. Truth be told I think we all need to focus on the human existence, but truthfully, we live in a world that pushing the segregation of others, even if it is do so without thinking. We are a minority group that has its own set of culture, speech/dialog, and behaviors, just like any other minority group. Our world is shaded by the experiences we have and doubly so if we live our lives out to everyone. So why do we get called preachy if we have pride in the who’s and what’s that make us who we are?

Sure, there are LGBTQ people who are perfectly content to ride the low-profile bench, to not stand out, or even have other take notice of the fact they are different. That is their way of life and no one can say it isn’t their choice, that the thing about life it is jaded by how we choose to live it. Then there are those of us who live life fully embracing who we are. We attend Pride events, we take part in activism in our own means of choosing, we live in the community and try to make it a little better. That, too, is our choice. We shouldn’t have to apologize for who we are or being excited talking about those difference to people. In a perfect world it wouldn’t matter if we chose to love and be with members of the same sex as us or partake in both, it would simply be an act of love shared among consenting individuals.

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Heteronormative society doesn’t exactly see it that way. Many are content with us as long as we aren’t always talking about our Gay Shit, but they never seem to fully be able to define what that really means. Does it upset you that I take pride in my culture? Maybe it is the fact that knowing and sharing our history is something I think is needed to help understand where we have come from and are going? Many times, I get my favorite response, which I am sure many of you have heard before but referencing a different minority group. “I’m not bothered by it because I have many gay friends, but…” Or the “I know what it’s like to kiss (insert sex here) because I was dared to once.” or “I kissed a guy/girl in college.” While these two instances may seem monumental or opening some earthy shattering revelation for you, they aren’t on the scope of what it would feel like to live it on a daily basis. The “I have a LGBTQ friend” always gets me as well, as you rarely ever see or hear about them, unless it’s to defend the fact that they are open enough to have said friend.

When you fall into the white, cisgender, heteronormative life, it is hard to truly understand what any other minority group may be going through. As equally as hard as it would be for me a cisgender, white, LGBTQ person to try and understand what it is like living as a person of color. We live in a world where it is still legal in 28 states to be discriminated against for being LGBTQ. I really don’t think people understand that. 28 states can decide if I have a job, a place to live, access to community resources, and recourse if any violence is acted against me. Sure, that means in 22 states we do have protections, but that can drastically different depending on the state and to what level. Out of the 50 states, hate crimes against LGBTQ people have not greatly diminished. But let’s not talk about the “Gay Shit.” We still move to neighborhood that are statistically LGBTQ for safety reasons or if we cannot find them, we go back into the closet to make sure we aren’t harassed or worse. How many times do you hear heteronormative people saying they had to move to a specific community so that they felt like that would not be targeted for some form of discrimination?

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One of the things that I have become most proud of is that I have been working to get an LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce group to take office space at the place I work for and moving to get LGBTQ/Ally training for our organization. The organization I work for is fairly progressive, they already offer same sex benefits and give Racial Equity training to all of its employees, so for me I feel the natural progression was to have training that gave better insight on the LGBTQ community. A means to learn about discrimination and how to ensure we are fostering or pushing outdated mindsets to those we may come into contact with. After all, the business community touches all groups of people and we should be seeking to ensure that they are ALL welcome at the table. This has become very important to me, but there are those that do not share that sentiment.

Granted I am not a Harvey Milk, Cleve Jones, Barbara Gittings, or Christine Jorgensen, when it comes to activism, but I would like to think that I am doing a small part for moving things forward. I don’t expect my blog to be a major moving force forward, I am more content knowing that one person may find something the resonate with and help them through a struggle. These are the reasons that I talk about my “Gay Shit.” These are the same reasons that I will not stop. If it bothers you, I cannot apologize for that. What I can do is not waste that time on you. Because it would seem you have no desire to change where you are at in your journey. For that I am sorry, because no journey goes how we want or expect. We must be open to changing with the road and scenery. And that is Serving the Tea.

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Soul Food

Every now and then, it is good to just listen to words that help nourish the soul. Ted Talks are great for that, so check out a few and enjoy your weekend.

The first is Jok Church, originally from Stow, Ohio. Its short but very deep.

 

The next is Morgana Bailey and the danger of hiding your true self. It’s important to understand that we often times hide part of ourselves for reasons we self impose. Conformity becomes normal and hiding is how we cope with it. Each aspect of us is important to the very fiber of who we are, as a person. You may not want to be defined as a “gay” or a “lesbian” or whatever, but the very act of hiding what we are and not embracing it as a part of is can have just a severely negative aspects on our health and welfare. Not expressing and sharing it can also have consequences on others actions and welfare. Be an advocate, if not for someone else, be it for your own self and the effects it will have on your own world. Those very actions will cause ripples of change in the environment at large.

 

Lastly, Geena Rocero and her journey of coming out and becoming who she is as a transgender person.Its about the importance of not living by the boxes that others put us into. Gender is not the limitation of the labels imposed upon it. This is her struggle to become who she was supposed to be.

Spanking the Monkey or Flicking the Bean

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A recent study in May, which should come as a complete shock to everyone, released that LGB people masturbate more often than our straight counterparts, a whopping 23% more on average per week. This study was released by the pleasure brand TENGA, provider of male pleasure products. This survey also found that LGB people are more comfortable talking about sex and sexual behaviors. Again, this really isn’t a huge surprise, hell we have to make sure that our partners are comfortable with the same things we like and how we do them.

The survey was conducted between February and March and polled 18 countries, including the UK, the US, France, and Kenya. 86% of heterosexual people polled admitted to having tried masturbation at some point, while 97% of LGB people advised they had partaken in solo pleasure. While 71% of the Lesbian, Gays, and Bisexuals polled said they do talk about sex with their friends, only 42% of heterosexuals admit to discussing the matter. That in and of itself is a sad revelation of the world we live in.

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This survey is heavily skewed to UK numbers, as the research itself is from a UK company. This study found that more than one third of the UK population indulge in self pleasure weekly, there was no information for American engagement. The people polled were asked how frequently people masturbate regularly and they advised that they felt about 65% of the people did so weekly. The actual results from the survey show that it was actually 78% enjoyed it weekly. 49% of the UK respondents believed that masturbation had health benefits. We do know that men who frequently masturbate are at a lower frequency of prostate cancer. As an aside there is a recent study from the University of Arkansas shows that more women have more frequent orgasms with other women than they do with men. The study was called “Are Women’s Orgasms Hindered by Phallocentric Imperatives?” and polled 2300 respondents. The results found that 33% more likely to orgasm with another woman and on average 55 times per month. This survey is cognizant that women tend to focus more on women’s pleasure than men seem to focus. This study shows that in women having sex with men that it is far more phallocentric, meaning that it seems to be more about the male receiving pleasure. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise either, since there has always been a long-standing urban myth about the best orgasms or know how to please a person is achieved from members of the same sex.

Let’s take a look at some habits from the UK respondents. 15% of the British population admitted to having pleasuring themselves during their commute, whether by car, plane, or train, I have seen the videos on YouPorn and the like proving that result and I must say I ain’t mad. In the US, that happens to, but it’s usually the creepy guy that is urinating in the corners. This shorty study also showed that Brits are the biggest users of sex toys at 28% with the US only trailing at 27%. Makes me wonder who were sent these questions.

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The study also did a bit of probing into Sex Ed teaching practices. These touched some topics that are heavily discussed in the news today. People ages 18 – 34 were asked if they discussed sexual consent during their Sex Ed classes and 40% said they had. People 35 – 54 were asked the same questions and only 22% said that topic had come up during their discussions. Same group of people 35- 54 were asked about sexual assault being discussed and a mere 9% said they remember discussing it. 15% of the people asked in the age group of 55 and above about discussing masturbation in Sex Ed and results showed that only 14% had discussed it (or remembered). 16% of 35 – 54 and 22% of 18 – 34 years old people had remembered discussing masturbation.

What we can see from this study is that trends area moving to be more progressive in discussing a broader range of sexual health and behaviors. It does seem that, per the usual, American seems to be on the slower side of that trend. It shows that the topic is still fairly taboo and needs to be addressed and brought more into the light. Conversations earlier in life can lead to them becoming a much more relaxed conversation with our sexual partners and people in general. It is hard for many men or women to have discussions with their physicians about sexual dysfunctions or concerns. This definitely should not be the case, there is no need for shame in discussing such an important part of our human condition.

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Personally, I am more comfortable discussing sexual topics with people and that changed a lot after coming out. Though I do admit to tailoring that to the comfort level of people that I am around, if you aren’t as comfortable, I tend to be or react similarly. How about you? Are you comfortable discussing these types of things with those close to you? Are you shocked by the results of this study? How does this study make you feel? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Small Town Gay

I had mentioned previously about coming out in a small town and what it was like. I didn’t have a lot of examples, as many young LGBTQ people don’t, to go by. I did have a bar that wasn’t too far away from where I lived and a city that at least had some sort of LGBTQ population. It was a struggle knowing that I was different but not fully understanding what it meant. By the time I had accepted it meant liking boys, I did everything I could to find information to digest to help me in my journey. I still have some of the books that I read, re-read, and dog eared for positive reinforcement. This post I am going to talk about a couple of them and before I start, I will mention that they are also a bit tongue in cheek kind of humor from earlier “gay times.”

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The first one is “The Unofficial Gay MANual: Living the Lifestyle or at Least Appearing to” by Kevin Dilallo & Jack Krumholtz and was writing in 1994. Its written in kitsch style and bills itself as “a wild and witty guide to the tribal customs of the red-blooded American gay male.” It provides essays, multiple choice and true/false tests, sidebars and charts to help you navigate the new ways of gay-dom. If you wanted a bit more insight to how gaydar works, this book is a good place to start. Now some of the information is a bit dated, like the guide to going out in major cities. It does cover terms that have seemed to fall by the wayside and provide information about where things started from. It is also a good place for the basic beginning of gay history.

 

One of the lists in the book that amused me the most was the 16 CDs Every Gay Man Should Own. Mainly because many of them were in my collection long before I fully understood why. Now I hear the gasps of people wondering what exactly a CD is, so let me wax a little history on you. A CD was a piece of plastic that was smaller than a vinyl record and went into that little tray on a computer that many still think is a cup holder. Ok the description was a little vague since I mentioned a vinyl record and a computer, things many people don’t use anymore with the inventions of smartphones., but back to the list. These are songs or artists that spoke to the very soul of gay men. Singing about unrequited love or just providing a soundtrack to the fabulous lives we thought we were living. Without further ado, here is the list.

  1. Bronksi Beat, Age of Consentthey were an activist rock and dance group with an album that spoke against the age of consent laws.
  2. Patsy Cline, 12 Greatest Hits– Patsy was the Queen of dating the wrong man and writing songs about it, she was one of the first divas gay men flocked to
  3. Erasure, The Innocents– what else can you say, gay men singing about gay love.
  4. Ella Fitzgerald, The Rodgers and Hart Song Book, Vols I & II– probably the gayest of her works with renditions of “The Lady is a Tramp” and “You Took Advantage of Me”
  5. Judy Garland, Judy at Carnegie Hall– It’s Judy Fricking Garland, need I say more?
  6. Deborah Harry & Blondie, The Complete Picture– Talk about gay theme songs, “Call Me” and “I Want That Man.”
  7. Madonna, The Immaculate Collection– Sure, many a gay man consider her a goddess, and this was before Lady Gaga. She was the original blurring lines and pushing limits. This is probably the quintessential album for her, best of her career and I don’t care what you think.
  8. Neville Mariner, conducting Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Water Music– it is a touch on the classical side as the music itself was written 300 years ago. But does offer a soothing nature after a weekend bender.
  9. Bette Midler, The Divine Miss M– There are few divas like Bette, she got her start performing music in the baths in San Francisco. She has embraced warmly her gay following, offering her own style of camp and drag to the mix.
  10. Liza Minnelli, Liza with a “Z”– Another courtier of her gay following. Cabaret made her famous, but her marriage to Desi Arnaz, Jr definitely helped in keeping gay men’s attention on her.
  11. Original Broadway Cast, Gypsy– This is definitely a good gotta have Broadway classic without being to theater queenish. Lots of singable moments and even had Ethel Merman in the lead.
  12. Moodswings, Moodfood– more of a new age sound that keeps the air of a dance beat without all the techno pushing.
  13. The Pet Shop Boys, Discography: The Complete Singles Collection– The Pet Shops Boys were the transcendence of disco to the modern Club Kid. Their anthems gave a resurgence to a new flock of gay men.
  14. Renata Scotto, et al., Madam Butterfly– One opera that has lots of moving songs that ensnare even those who have never listened to opera before.
  15. Barbra Streisand, Just for The Record– “Well Hello, Gorgeous.” I am sure there will be at least one or two good songs that will be like buttah for you to listen to.
  16. Sylvester, GreatestHits: Non-Stop Dance Party– Sadly a musician that left us much too early. Gay artist that just made disco hip gyrating-ly fun. “Do You Wanna Funk” and “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real).” speak of body heat on the dance floor leading to hip thrusting fun afterwards.

2017 Tribeca Film Festival - Tribeca Talks: Storytellers: Barbra Streisand With Robert Rodriguez

That’s only one list this book offers, if you grew up in a small-town link me you missed out on hearing the lingo associated with our culture. In times past, it was use of certain words and phrases that helped distinguish us so that others knew they were “Friends of Dorothy.” My first time visiting a gay bar, I was assaulted with terms I had never heard before; gym bunny, clone, Mary, top and bottom, and hanky code, to name a few. It was liking visiting a foreign country. Thankfully, I found this book around the same time and helped me quickly learn a few so that I at least knew some of what was being discussed. Being fresh meat in the bar, I was quickly surrounded and asked questions I had never thought would be asked of someone you just met, this book helped a lot.

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Then there was The Homo Handbook: Getting in Touch with Your Inner Homoby Judy Carter written in 1996 I found this book after having been out for a couple years, Judy Carter is a lesbian standup comic, so expect this book to be glib, fun, and with a fair bit of fun poking. This book offers exercises about topics that come up in our lives, from coming out to dealing with bigots. It is meant to be light hearted. Whereas the Unofficial Gay MANualtargeted gay men, The Homo Handbookis inclusive to lesbians and gay men. The first two sections are about coming out to others and yourself. How to navigate pitfalls and right ways to handle situation. The books ends with sections about activism, where to go, papers to read (if still available) and means to become an activist. Like the first book, there are exercises to look inward and help not to take yourself so seriously.

The larger portion of this book focusing on how to handle situations that may arise when you are coming out to people. It also covers when it may be or may not be a good time to out yourself. It is a nice light in the darkness, when times weren’t as easier as they are now. Even sections covering dating, so you can have meaningful dates and not just random encounters, unless that is your thing. Just ideas for looking for quality people and not the average user at a bar.

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Neither book is a how-to manual, they are more fun ways to look at something you are over stressing. They are fun ways to navigate common problems that we all go through and to learn not to take yourself so seriously. Even though some topics may be dated, if you can find them, they are worth a read. If for nothing more than historical information for an age you may not be as familiar with. After all, every newbie LGBTQ person should learn our histories, it is what many of us died fighting for that has gotten us to where we are now. If you would like more information about the books, ISBN numbers and what not, feel free to drop me an email at gaynthecle@gmail.com. Enjoy the read.

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A Child Stuck In A Well

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I spent most of the month posting about body and sex positivity and I figured I would wrap it up with a reality check. The body positive movement is a good thing, for some people. Just like life, it isn’t a blanket statement. No one can ever tell you to love who you are for these “x” reasons. Each of us has things we don’t like about ourselves at any given time and they change almost as often as the weather. So you may be wondering why I would post those same kinds of messages if I’m now saying that it isn’t for everyone. And that is more of what this will be about.

We spend our entire lives in the body we are born with. We watch it grow and change every year. We know the flaws, that is a given. Hell, why wouldn’t we when all the places and media outlets we touch on a given day point them out to us? We know the days when our hair is on fleek and we are rocking the cutest outfit ever. Our emotions run from the darkest depths to the brightest of rainbow-clad skies. All because of the skin we live in. How we feel about ourselves in relation to what we perceive on a daily basis consumes a major amount of our time. What do we get out of all this focus? Heartache and stress are usually our sparkly prizes.

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I could give you the Cosmopolitan Top 10 list of what you can do to have a better body positive mindset. I could show you ways to reimagine how you look at yourself in the mirror and words to say to help shape how you feel. You can surround yourself by people who constantly tell you how beautiful you are and how much you are loved. But all it will take is one bad day to shake that to the very core of your foundation. It won’t work for you every time or at all. Guess what, it’s okay that it doesn’t. In fact, forcing those mindsets can be just as damaging as the negative ones. They create different kinds of stress and worries to become obsessed with. Working on accepting what we are should be a better focus.

Self-acceptance isn’t about body positivity, it’s simply actualizing that we are who we are. We are both good and bad it doesn’t lower our self worth. Instead of comparing we should realize similarities and what we offer. Not focusing on trying to be some unattainable ideal dictated by a society that changes fades every clothing season. It’s about allowing ourselves the room to be who we are, unconditionally, without more labels than necessary. THAT, my friends is just as hard to do and cannot be done overnight it’s a day-by-day struggle of picking yourself up and moving on. If someone insults us it hurts, we accept that it hurts and know that it will not destroy us. Just like we must keep our head when we get that elusive compliment and know that it will not change the world after the endorphins have left our systems.

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Wanting to change our bodies should be done for the right reasons and correctly. I’m not going to speak on medical reasons for change, those are personal and should be taken up with health care professionals and not some online personality or article. Hell, you can take any of what I am saying with a grain of salt; all I have to draw from is my experience. Being a gay male is just as hard as being a woman or a person of color, in certain respects. I have lived with the ideals that the greater gay community at large has of what is desirable and I have done and do things that can be extreme to try and fit into those parameters. All for the reason of trying to attract what I consider an ideal mate. My own perceptions colored by the very ideals that have shaped my obsession to change.

Having been single for the better part of 15 years has left me in me in a place of trying to figure out how to get back into the dating scene. At 45, my body doesn’t have the bounce back for all of the things that many of us do to ourselves to be more attractive. I have shuttered myself away from the gay community because I know I’m not young, thin, and beautiful. Two and a half years ago I made a change in my life financially and mentally to leave what I knew to do something different. I am a work in progress and still trying to get back to socializing. And I still don’t accept my body completely, I know at times I can be attractive and it takes a bit of work. Mostly I try to be forgiving of myself and know that it is ok that I feel how I feel.

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This all means that we must not take ourselves too seriously. There is plenty of bad shit in the world, more than enough to go around. We have to get out of our heads and see there are other things that do need attention. Our lives may, in fact, have real things that need a more clear-headed approach. For me, one of those would be socializing. Getting out there so I can at least be seen. Hiding myself away is a crutch to justify not having to deal with being judged. Instead I should be accepting that I will be judged no matter where I am or what I do. Life is too short to shutter ourselves away and not enjoy it, regardless of opinions.

There is no cure-all for changing how you feel about your body. There is no red pill or blue pill, its a daily constant effort and as much as you feel like giving. The road does, however, start with acceptance. Acceptance that you are still a good person no matter how your body looks or others opinions of how you should look. Don’t be the child stuck in the well. Make your voice be heard regardless of who tells you differently. It is your life and you should enjoy it on your own terms.

Let’s all be a little easier on ourselves!