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The genderless and infinite soul

Tamsin Wu writes about how the concept of reincarnation can be crucial in understanding and accepting the natural existence of LGBTQ in our lives.

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Souls pertain to the immortal force that drives the human being. Being immortal and immaterial, it never perishes, but rather gets to be incarnated time after time. Reincarnations are used to explain away the amazing talents of child prodigies, the unexplainable connection between soulmates, as well as the countless events and karma we experience. The concept of reincarnation can be crucial in understanding and accepting the natural existence of LGBTQ in our lives.

In a nutshell, reincarnation is about infinite souls going through different existential forms and lives. Souls live through this world again and again in order to fulfill spiritual contracts, learn further and face karma. A lot of our current experiences depend on the good and bad deeds we’ve made in our lifetimes before. In enlightenment, souls would be able to go to higher consciousness and realms away from the world we know of today.

While some philosophies or spiritual beliefs – such as those found in Buddhism, Hinduism and Plato’s philosophy – talk about the rebirth and ascension of the soul throughout many lives before and after, other more popular religions discredit it. Some people are closed off from reincarnation thinking it’s too much of a foreign idea in our conventional belief system for it to be real. This is unsurprisingly so considering the widespread indoctrination of mainstream Christian religion on people since the time they were born. They wouldn’t be able to grasp the concept of reincarnation without the fear of punishment for compromising their devotedness in the typical Biblical interpretations they’re accustomed to. However, in these modern days, more Christians or Catholics are showing an open-mindedness to spiritual activities and beliefs that have been considered unholy by tradition. Besides psychic reading and feng shui, the belief in reincarnation is one of them.

Religious talks aside, it is refreshing to know that psychology and science is progressing in their studies of the possibility of reincarnation. From pro-LGBTQ arguments that gay people are just born that way to interesting explanations about how homosexuality exists naturally in the animal kingdom, perhaps we can put reincarnation into the mix.

In order to blow away the cancerous notion that LGBTQ is something abnormal, demonic or out of the ordinary, we have to comprehend nonheterosexuality from a standpoint higher than the limiting characteristics of anatomy our souls are moving in.

There are two things that need to be clarified in understanding LGBTQ – sexual orientation and sexual identity. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, straight belong to sexual orientation. For many years, most societies have been heteronormative – a romantic relationship should only be between a guy and girl. Homosexuality has been feared, derided and punished. In some parts of the globe, this is still the dangerous scenario. But, as the world works, there’s always a Yang (good) to the Yin (bad). Gradually, marriage equality has been sprouting in some countries and LGBTQ is being celebrated. Humanity is starting to understand that as long as something comes out of love, there is no evil when two people of the same gender enter into a relationship. There is no harm done when a person wants to express him/herself in a way that deviates from the social constructs of masculinity and femininity. In actuality, humans fall in one or more spectrum within the Kinsey Scale in their lifetime. Eventually, they find the point that rings true to them, which brings them a step closer to fulfillment. This sexuality scale is useful to understand attraction between humans because it goes beyond the binary concept of gender, which is not inherent in souls. It shows that people cannot be labeled as only either-or, black-and-white.

Sexual identity, as the name implies, refers to which gender a person sees oneself as. Sexual identity doesn’t immediately determine sexual orientation, which is same as the fact that biological gender doesn’t determine sexual orientation.

This brings us to the topic of transgender. Why do transgendered people identify as a certain gender that’s the opposite of the biological gender they have been born with? Doesn’t this show that the soul does have a gender? Aside from the explanation of the complexity of gender development, we can also attribute this to the reincarnation concept. As has been said, souls have gone through different lifetimes, and none of us know what stories and experiences other people’s souls have gone through (unless you’re a legit past life reader, or you have remnants of past life memories in your brain which have been testified by some). Those past lifetimes may have left some deeply felt characteristics in some people’s current human existence that had them to believe that they must be a certain gender. Past experiences and karma comes into the picture. Whatever it is, we should not judge them because it is part of their own journey. The best that we can do to understand is to see pass the material and physical essence. We should not allow our consciousness to get stuck in this dimension of materialism. Otherwise, we will always follow a limited way of thinking that bars us from embracing the beautiful infiniteness and grandness of our existence in this universe.

All of us face different joys and struggles in our lives that pave the path towards growth, strength and wisdom. For the LGBTQ community, the struggle of simply being comfortable in our own skin can already be seen as a political stance and challenging towards the status quo, even though we’re just being our authentic selves. But what is the “self’? The self is the so-called “ego” that has been painted layers upon layers of physical characteristics, social engineering and labeling, consumerist inclinations, media and political propaganda. Peel away all those thick layers and we are just left with this profound life force called the soul, with energies derived from multiples lives. Hence, the soul’s ego is molded and re-molded depending on such layers presently dealt with by the soul. Contrary to what a lot of people have been thinking their whole lives, the soul is not defined by the body. It doesn’t have a ghostly, feather-light appearance of our physical body which has been portrayed countless times on the screen. The soul is without the imposing characteristics and behavior of a human gender. The soul is unisex, devoid of such human concept. That is why regardless of race, class, religion, gender, sexual expression and orientation, we are all the same at the core of our existence. This is a universal truth that holds all of us together. It is only with layers of physical limitations, lies, fabricated truths and distorted facts that we have been differentiated and pitted against each other, as well as blinded from the true nature of our being.

To elucidate further the difference between the soul and ego, let me share with you a recent past life reading I’ve had with my girlfriend at a The Third Eye Wellness party. The past life reader gave me a feeling of certainty that her readings were true because of the things she said about my girlfriend and I even before I’ve divulged any information to her. Anyway, on to the past life…

I honestly couldn’t remember anymore if she asked us to pick cards when she was reading a part of our past (love)life. I can only remember the details she saw. According to her reading, I was a thin, frail-looking man and my girlfriend was the woman. I was a man of wealth who held a silent dignity and substance. The woman’s face looked a lot like my girlfriend’s face, and she was someone who loved to socialize and who wore big dresses. We both mutually loved each other, albeit discreetly, since she was already married to an off-putting man with a moustache. Although they didn’t have a happy marriage, she stayed poised and positive in her life. On the other hand, the past life reader told me that she could see a plump woman with a high-pitched voice, but she couldn’t tell if that was my wife or my mother. That plump woman was dominating me in that toxic relationship as I chose to keep mum whenever she scolds. However, there were times that she showed loving ways towards me. The past life reader added that the man whom my girlfriend was married to is a male relative of hers in this lifetime. It is someone whom she dislikes very much. (We know who that is..)

The past life reader told us that we never did anything unfaithful. We just loved each other without harming anyone else. After that lifetime, she said that perhaps our souls made a contract to be women in this lifetime (and, might I add, in a country wherein LGBTQ rights are still being largely fought for) to keep in tune with the kind of discreet relationship we had before.

However, as the past life reader also said, the lifetime she described to us isn’t necessarily the previous lifetime. There were probably a few lifetimes in-between that and this current lifetime. What is important, anyhow, is the learning and growth we’ve gained, and to continue to gain.

The read was indeed interesting and just goes to show how our egos change from one lifetime to another. However, there are some things that stay the same wherever lifetime your soul goes to. Parts of your personality and relationships repeat, albeit in different situations, from one lifetime to another.

As we go through life, the soul needs to be nurtured despite the obstacles put forth in our earthly existence. Pure intentions of love, compassion, helping and learning add positivity to the soul and the environment. Hate, ignorance and violence, on the other hand, add negativity. Therefore, attacking someone based on sexual orientation and gender is obviously wrong, and would definitely reap bad karma. This is done from a consciousness of ill and uninformed thoughts. Ultimately, the goal is to rid the soul, and on a grander scale, this world, of such impurities.

In the words of Scarlet Johannson’s character Lucy, “We never really die”. Our bodies or selves gradually morph into death, but our souls surpass it. Souls will go from one lifetime to the next, and perhaps beyond this planet we call Earth. This isn’t a new radical way of existential thinking. Old centuries have recognized that there are higher spiritual planes and dimensions than our human mind can reach. It is only with the constant pursuit of noble values, such as wisdom and love, will we transcend this lowly, materialistic existence we’ve been held to. All souls – young and old – go through this worldly life to grow and break free from negativity and oppression. Eventually, we can all attain the spiritual height that sends us back to our source, or to God, as others would say.

In the meantime, let us enjoy discovering what learning the universe has to offer us, as well as what purposes our situations and relationships want us to fulfill.

A sure-footed wanderer. A shy, but strong personality. Hot-headed but cool. A critic of this propaganda-filled, often brainwashed society. A lover of nature, creativity and intellectual pursuits. Femme in all the right places. Breaking down stereotypical perspectives and narrow-mindedness. A writer with a pen name and no face. I'm a private person, but not closeted. Stay true!

Health & Wellness

Osteoporosis risk may be greater in gay men – study

As it is, sexual minorities already have greater risks of several adverse health outcomes. This may be due to a greater prevalence of unhealthy lifestyle factors, including smoking; as well as the significant stresses they experience related to the stigma associated with their sexuality.

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Non-heterosexual minority men have a greater risk of poor bone health than heterosexual men. This is according to a study published in the American Journal of Human Biology, which also noted that this risk appears to be independent of lifestyle and psychosocial factors.

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Surprisingly, the study – “Sexual orientation‐based disparities in bone health: Evidence of reduced bone mineral density and mineral content among sexual minority men but not women in multiple NHANES waves” by James K. Gobb and Eric C. Shattuck – did not find that non-heterosexual minority women were more likely to experience poor bone health.

As it is, sexual minorities already have greater risks of several adverse health outcomes. This may be due to a greater prevalence of unhealthy lifestyle factors, including smoking; as well as the significant stresses they experience related to the stigma associated with their sexuality.

But according to the people behind this study, there has been little research looking at whether sexuality has any impact on bone health using assessments of bone mineral density measures or fracture risk.

To examine the association between bone health and sexuality, these researchers combined data on 3,243 adults from the 2007 to 2008, 2009 to 2010, and 2013 to 2014 cycles of US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The data included dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) assessments. With an average age of 36 years, the participants included 253 sexual minority people (53 lesbian/gay, 97 bisexual, and 103 same-sex experienced) and 2,990 heterosexuals.

Sexual orientation-based comparisons were made for a number of bone health indicators, including z-scored bone mineral density in the lumbar spine (L1-4 vertebrae) and proximal femur (femoral head, greater trochanter, and intertrochanteric line), bone mineral content in the femur and spine, and osteoporosis risk.

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The study reported sexual orientation‐based disparities in bone mass across all anatomical sites. This effect was due to differences between heterosexual and gay men and persisted in linear regressions after adjusting for risk factors.

Differences were also found in femoral and femoral neck BMC in heterosexual and gay men (P = .02) and in femoral, femoral neck and spinal BMC between heterosexual and bisexual women (P = .05). Sexual orientation remained significant in BMC regressions.

“Our findings suggest that sexual minority men but not women are at greater risk for poor bone health relative to heterosexuals and this disparity is independent of the lifestyle and psychosocial risks included in our models,” the researchers stressed.

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Health & Wellness

Trans women can safely maintain estrogen treatments during gender affirming surgery

The practice of withholding estrogen prior to gender affirming surgery was not necessary. Most transgender women can now safely remain on their estrogen therapy throughout surgery.

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There was no difference in blood clots when estrogen hormone therapy was maintained during gender affirming surgery.

This is according to a study (titled, “No Venous Thromboembolism Increase Among Transgender Female Patients Remaining on Estrogen for Gender Affirming Surgery”) helmed by John Henry Pang with Aki Kozato from Mount Sinai, and was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Historically, the lack of published data contributed to heterogeneity in the practice of whether doctors and surgeons advised transgender women to withhold their estrogen therapy before surgery. The sudden loss of estrogen in the blood was sometimes very uncomfortable with symptoms that amounted to a sudden, severe menopause.

So the researchers tapped 919 transgender patients who underwent gender affirming surgery at Mount Sinai’s Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery between November 2015 and August 2019. Notably, including 407 cases of transgender women who underwent primary vaginoplasty surgery.

This study found that the practice of withholding estrogen prior to gender affirming surgery was not necessary. Most transgender women can now safely remain on their estrogen therapy throughout surgery.

The bottom line: This study found that most transgender women can  safely maintain their estrogen hormone treatments during gender affirming surgery.

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Health & Wellness

Facebook posts help facilitate belief that HPV vaccine is dangerous to health

Nearly 40% of Facebook posts about the HPV vaccine amplified a perceived risk, and the data suggests these posts had momentum over time.

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The human papillomavirus infection, or HPV, is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). HPV is associated with health problems including genital warts and cancers, but a vaccine has been available since 2006 to help stop the virus. The CDC reports more than 12 years of data supports the HPV vaccine is safe and effective, yet HPV vaccination rates still remain low.

Social media has a history of being a popular place for sexual health discussions, and the HPV vaccine is one of the most discussed vaccines on the internet. Monique Luisi, an assistant professor in the University of Missouri School of Journalism, has studied more than 6,500 public HPV vaccine-related posts on Facebook from 2006 to 2016. In a previous study, Luisi used these Facebook posts to identify a negative trend on Facebook related to how people perceive the HPV vaccine.

Now, she suggests this negative trend on Facebook may also cause people to develop a false perception of the health risk of the vaccine. After looking at the percentage of posts that made the vaccine seem more dangerous, less dangerous or neither, Luisi found nearly 40% of Facebook posts about the HPV vaccine amplified a perceived risk, and the data suggests these posts had momentum over time.

“We should not assume that only the disease is perceived as a risk, but when research supports it, that medical treatments and interventions might unfortunately also be perceived as risks,” she said. “It’s more likely that people are going to see things on social media, particularly on Facebook, that are not only negative about the HPV vaccine, but will also suggest the HPV vaccine could be harmful. It amplifies the fear that people may have about the vaccine, and we see that posts that amplify fear are more likely to trend than those that don’t.”

Luisi suggests the spread of this negative information may lead people to have a false perception of the vaccine, so people should consult their doctor or health care provider before making an informed decision.

“Facebook remains a very popular social media platform for adult audiences, which necessitates action to address HPV vaccine risk messages,” she said. “People are going to see what they are going to see on social media, so it’s important to not only take what you see on social media, but also talk to a doctor or health care provider. Just because it’s trending doesn’t mean it’s true.”

Luisi notes research must continue to address the perception of vaccine safety where the vaccine is perceived as a greater health threat than the virus or disease it prevents, and her study could also inform officials for the ongoing COVID-19 vaccine roll out and distribution.

“As the COVID-19 vaccine is being rolled out, people are likely going to see a lot of negative information, and that negative information will be what trends on social media,” she said. “But, if the public can anticipate this negative information, it will be interesting to see if that will that make them less sensitive to the perceived risk of the vaccine.”

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Health & Wellness

Depression and stress could dampen efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines

Even though rigorous testing has shown that the COVID-19 vaccines approved for distribution are highly effective at producing a robust immune response, not everyone will immediately gain their full benefit. Environmental factors, as well as an individual’s genetics and physical and mental health, can weaken the body’s immune system, slowing the response to a vaccine.

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Decades of research show that depression, stress, loneliness, and poor health behaviors can weaken the body’s immune system and lower the effectiveness of certain vaccines.

A new report accepted for publication in Perspectives on Psychological Science suggests that the same may be true for the new COVID-19 vaccines that are in development and the early stages of global distribution. Fortunately, it may be possible to reduce these negative effects with simple steps like exercise and sleep.

Vaccines are among the safest and most effective advances in medical history, protecting society from a wide range of otherwise devastating diseases, including smallpox and polio. The key to their success, however, is ensuring that a critical percentage of the population is effectively vaccinated to achieve so-called herd immunity.

Even though rigorous testing has shown that the COVID-19 vaccines approved for distribution are highly effective at producing a robust immune response, not everyone will immediately gain their full benefit. Environmental factors, as well as an individual’s genetics and physical and mental health, can weaken the body’s immune system, slowing the response to a vaccine.

This is particularly troubling as the novel coronavirus continues to rage across the world, trigging a concurrent mental health crisis as people deal with isolation, economic stressors, and uncertainty about the future. These challenges are the same factors that have been previously shown to weaken vaccine efficacy, particularly among the elderly.

“In addition to the physical toll of COVID-19, the pandemic has an equally troubling mental health component, causing anxiety and depression, among many other related problems. Emotional stressors like these can affect a person’s immune system, impairing their ability to ward off infections,” said Annelise Madison, a researcher at The Ohio State University and lead author on the paper. “Our new study sheds light on vaccine efficacy and how health behaviors and emotional stressors can alter the body’s ability to develop an immune response. The trouble is that the pandemic in and of itself could be amplifying these risk factors.”

Vaccines work by challenging the immune system. Within hours of a vaccination, there is an innate, general immune response on the cellular level as the body begins to recognize a potential biological threat. This frontline response by the immune system is eventually aided by the production of antibodies, which target specific pathogens. It is the continued production of antibodies that helps to determine how effective a vaccine is at conferring long-term protection.

The good news, according to the researchers, is that the COVID-19 vaccines already in circulation are approximately 95% effective. Even so, these psychological and behavioral factors can lengthen the amount of time it takes to develop immunity and can shorten the duration of immunity.

“The thing that excites me is that some of these factors are modifiable,” said Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at The Ohio State University and senior author on the paper. “It’s possible to do some simple things to maximize the vaccine’s initial effectiveness.”

Based on prior research, one strategy the researchers suggest is to engage in vigorous exercise and get a good night’s sleep in the 24 hours before vaccination so that your immune system is operating at peak performance. This may help ensure that the best and strongest immune response happens as quickly as possible.

“Prior research suggests that psychological and behavioral interventions can improve vaccine responsiveness. Even shorter-term interventions can be effective,” said Madison. “Therefore, now is the time to identify those at risk for a poor immune response and intervene on these risk factors.”

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Health & Wellness

Bisexual men more prone to eating disorders than gay or straight men – study

80% of bisexual men reported that they “felt fat”, and 77% had a strong desire to lose weight, both figures higher than the 79% and 75% for gay men, respectively.

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Bisexual men are more likely to experience eating disorders than either heterosexual or gay men. This is according to a report from the University of California San Francisco, published in the journal Eating and Weight Disorders.

A handful of studies have actually indicated that gay men are at increased risk for disordered eating, including fasting, excessive exercise and preoccupation with weight and body shape. This newer study, however, suggests that bisexual men are even more susceptible to some unhealthy habits.

For this study, the researchers surveyed over 4,500 LGBTQ adults, and a quarter of the bisexual male participants reported having fasted for more than eight hours to influence their weight or appearance. This is higher when compared to 20% for gay men.

The research also found that 80% of bisexual men reported that they “felt fat”, and 77% had a strong desire to lose weight, both figures higher than the 79% and 75% for gay men, respectively.

Now this is worth stressing: According to study co-author Dr. Jason Nagata, not everyone who diets or feels fat has an eating disorder. “It’s a spectrum — from some amount of concern to a tipping point where it becomes a pathological obsession about body weight and appearance,”Nagata was quoted as saying by NBC News.

For Nagata, several factors may be at play here, including “minority stress” (the concept that the heightened anxiety faced by marginalized groups can manifest as poor mental and physical health outcomes).

“LGBTQ people experience stigma and discrimination, and stressors can definitely lead to disordered eating,” Nagata was also quoted as saying. “For bi men, they’re not just facing stigma from the straight community but from the gay community, as well.”

Of all the respondents, 3.2% of bisexual males were clinically diagnosed with eating disorders (compared to 2.9% of gay men). For heterosexual men, it’s only 0.6%.

For the researchers, there is a need to conduct eating disorder research on various sexual identities independently. This is also to raise awareness on this issue (and how it affects different people of various SOGIESCs).

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Health & Wellness

Timing and intensity of oral sex may affect risk of oropharyngeal cancer

Love giving head? Consider this: Having more than 10 prior oral sex partners was associated with a 4.3-times greater likelihood of having HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer.

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Human papillomavirus (HPV) can infect the mouth and throat to cause cancers of the oropharynx.

This is according to a study published in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, which has found that having more than 10 prior oral sex partners was associated with a 4.3-times greater likelihood of having HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer. The study also shows that having oral sex at a younger age and more partners in a shorter time period (oral sex intensity) were associated with higher likelihoods of having HPV-related cancer of the mouth and throat.

Previous studies have shown that performing oral sex is a strong risk factor for HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer. To examine how behavior related to oral sex may affect risk, Virginia Drake, MD, of Johns Hopkins University, and her colleagues asked 163 individuals with and 345 without HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer to complete a behavioral survey.

In addition to timing and intensity of oral sex, individuals who had older sexual partners when they were young, and those with partners who had extramarital sex were more likely to have HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer.

“Our study builds on previous research to demonstrate that it is not only the number of oral sexual partners, but also other factors not previously appreciated that contribute to the risk of exposure to HPV orally and subsequent HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer,” said Dr. Drake. “As the incidence of HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer continues to rise… our study offers a contemporary evaluation of risk factors for this disease. We have uncovered additional nuances of how and why some people may develop this cancer, which may help identify those at greater risk.”

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