Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Labels and Dichotomies

Our society, mostly in the Western world, is split when it comes to gender. Many things are split into male and female; clothing, beauty products, bathrooms, health classes about puberty, etc. We have been surrounded and raised in a place and society that implies that the only choices are 'woman' and 'man' - and we are also assumed to act in a certain way based on how we are assigned at birth (again, as 'female' or 'male'). To name a few assumptions: men shouldn't wear makeup and women should, women should look a certain way regarding choice of clothing and body shape, men should be the main breadwinner in the home (yes, this is still a thing), women don't spit, men can catcall women on the street, women should cross their legs when they sit, and too many more to name. While I will not go into all of these examples, I will specifically address the idea that 'man' and 'woman' are not the only choices, and humans can do whatever the hell we want in regards to our expression and presentation.

First let's do a quick review on gender identity and presentation. In the most simple terms that I can think of, gender identity is how someone feels inside. They can gravitate toward male, female, somewhere in-between, or neither. Gender expression is the way in which someone presents themselves either using clothing, hairstyle, gait, and body language. Again, this is a spectrum with the farthest ends being masculine and feminine, and different folks would place themselves in all different places along this spectral line. That being said, this spectrum is based on gender norms that have been constructed by society. Such as the idea that women wear skirts and men do not. Slowly, we are redefining (or ideally deconstructing) these ideas of what men and women should wear or not wear, do or not do, etc.

Okay, before I start ranting too much, let's move onto the definitions that I wanted to go over in the first place!

Now one question that people usually have at this point (among many) is usually something along the lines of "What do you mean 'neither'? How can you be neither gender?" It's simple, I promise. Let's discuss a bit and hopefully you'll start to makes sense of it all.

With the assumption that gender in our society is binary (male or female), there are those who feel that they don't fit into either male or female. There are multiple ways to identify as outside of the binary, but we will only be discussing a few.

Agender: people who commonly do not have a gender and/or have a gender that they describe as neutral. Many agender people are trans. As a new and quickly-evolving term, it is best you ask how someone defines agender for themselves. (source) Can also be defined as a lack of gender.

Gender neutral: can be described as not feeling a pull towards any particular gender. Can either be used as a term to describe something like language (terms like firefighter and flight attendant), or in gender expression/presentation such as wearing clothing that does not societally fit into items that men or women specifically wear.

Androgyny is the combination of masculine and feminine characteristics. Usually used to describe characters or persons who have no specific gender, gender ambiguity may also be found in fashion, gender identity, sexual identity, or sexual lifestyle. In the case of gender identity, terms such as genderqueer, or gender neutral are more commonly used. (source - I don't usually like to use wiki but it works for keeping it general)

Nonbinary (Also Non-Binary): Preferred umbrella term for all genders other than female/male or woman/man, used as an adjective (e.g. Jesse is a nonbinary person). Not all nonbinary people identify as trans and not all trans people identify as nonbinary. Sometimes (and increasingly), nonbinary can be used to describe the aesthetic/presentation/expression of a cisgender or transgender person. (source)

Genderqueer: An identity commonly used by people who do not identify or express their gender within the gender binary. Those who identify as genderqueer may identify as neither male nor female, may see themselves as outside of or in between the binary gender boxes, or may simply feel restricted by gender labels. Many genderqueer people are cisgender and identify with it as an aesthetic. Not everyone who identifies as genderqueer identifies as trans or nonbinary. (source)

Gender Non-Conforming (GNC): Describes anyone whose appearance and behaviour does not reflect the gender roles expected of them. Many transgender people, especially those who identify as non-binary and/or genderqueer, are seen as gender non-conforming. However, this term can also be applied to those with a cisgender gender identity who do not fit societal stereotypes of that gender. (source)

Fun Fact! According to a new study out of UCLA, 27 Percent of California Teens Are Gender Nonconforming. Here is a great article discussing the study.

I hope you're not too overwhelmed at this point! Feel free to read over these a few times, and pay close attention to the different uses of the words 'identity' and 'expression'. These words are used specifically and intentionally.

I want to end on the note that we should be fighting the idea of gender stereotypes at any chance we can. At the end of the day, trying to define what someone should be like based on what they were assigned at birth, is harmful and limiting. People are people, and we all just want to be loved and accepted.

Thanks for checking in, everyone - until next time!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Intertwined, Interrupt, Interfere, Intersex

I'm back and it's been less than two weeks! Who's proud of me?

I've been thinking about this post since I finished the last one and figured no time is better than the present! Sorry, Christmas puns are happening.

Anyway, I don't have much of a life update at this time (maybe soon, who knows?) other than Christmas fun times which included good food, only 2 houses instead of the usual 3 (or proposed 4), and some sweet gifts including some video games and two cute Link action figures! It was a bit sad celebrating without Sarah's parents who just moved to Florida after our wedding in September, but I don't think they were too upset about it considering it was gorgeous down there and they were wearing shorts while we were bundled up. Maybe next year we'll head down there for the week and I can be in a pool or hot tub on Christmas morning...

Enough daydreaming - let's get to some more knowledge! Last time I said I would go over a few terms, but to not confuse anyone I am going to go over Intersex in this post by itself, as it is not related to the other terms that I said I would review. Intersex is regarding someone's sex assigned at birth, not their gender identity or expression/presentation.

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Intersex: Someone who is born and does not fit within the traditional binary (male or female - remember this for later) classification either due to genital, chromosomal, or hormonal differences. Okay, but what does this mean in simplistic terms? Long story short, most of the time this occurs when a baby is born and the medical staff cannot determine based on first glance if the infant should be assigned male or female. This is commonly due to the infant's genitals not meeting certain criteria regarding length of the penis. If it's the "right" size upon birth, the infant is assigned male. If it's under a certain size, the infant is assigned female. However, there is a grey area which will usually be the basis of the determination/assumption that the child is intersex. I say usually, because, that is not always the case. There can be children who are born, assigned male or female, and not realize that they are truly intersex until puberty when hormonal changes begin to occur.

Many children who are born intersex are "treated" immediately at birth by means of surgery, hormones, and other methods to make the genitals appear more "normal" by societal definitions. This approach falls under the "concealment-centered model of care", and was developed out of Johns Hopkins University under the main guidance of a psychologist named John Money in the 1950s. For more information about this, check out this link. To go even further, you can also read a book called 'As Nature Made Him: The Boy who was Raised as a Girl' by John Colapinto which tells the true story of John Money's most infamous case of twin boys where one was raised as a girl to prove his method that gender can be taught. Have some tissues nearby, you'll be tearing up with this one.

Fact: Intersex is different than transgender, and is not related in any way to sexual or romantic attraction. Someone who is intersex can be Gay, Bi, Lesbian, Queer, etc. Again, how someone is assigned at birth, or how they identify, does not correlate in any way with whom someone is attracted to.

If you're interested in learning more about this topic, here are some great resources to check out - and as always, let me know if there's anything specific you'd like me to go over, or reach out with your questions!

What is Intersex?
How Common is Intersex?

Other sources:
Intersex Society of North America
Intersex Initiative


[ Next time: Androgynous, gender non-conforming, gender neutral, non-binary ]


Monday, December 18, 2017

Holidays, Reflections, and Gender - oh my!

Over the past three months I've been bus at work, busy with volunteer activities, and busy trying to get my life in order a bit. Now it's the holidays and it's crazy, but we're making it work. Between PFLAG meetings and responsibilities, and speaking at Zucker Hospital for a Psychologist meeting, and my day job - it's been nonstop for me. Then add in holiday shopping and prep, and the blog kindof got tossed to the side - sorry!

I'm here now, and ready to chat a bit about what I've been doing along with add to our definitions!

It's amazing how we make time in our lives for things that we truly care about. PFLAG has become such a part of my life, I'm not sure what I was doing with my spare time before it. What did I do with 1/4 of my Sundays that I now spend at meetings? How much more manageable was my personal email inbox? Now I get to meet with amazing parents and children from the TGNC (Transgender, gender non-conforming) community, provide support, and educate people who need it. This position has opened up so many opportunities and I'm so thankful for it every time I make a difference in someone's life. 

In working with PFLAG, I have gotten some offers to speak at different facilities, or participate in community events. The latest was speaking at Zucker Hillside Hospital for some psych providers in a small meeting setting. It was so great to meet the providers and be able to speak for them and answer questions about certain situations or personalities that they work with. To know that I'm not yet a trained professional but could have an impact on those who help others in a professional setting really means a lot to me. It's events like these that help solidify the idea that I should become a licensed professional and see clients in a home setting, and helps encourage my self-esteem in believing that I'd actually be successful at it. 

To continue reflecting on the past year, it's unbelievable that just a few months ago, I married my best friend, and the love of my life. I think everyday about how lucky I am to have her, and to have someone who is always in my corner - no matter what. Someone who has been my rock, throughout not only the bumps of my transition, but also life in general. 

Thank you, 2017, for being both the most foreboding and yet personally momentous year so far.

Onto the knowledge! Something that came up both in the last PFLAG meeting as well as when I spoke at Zucker, is the idea of identity versus presentation/expression. So let's break it down:

There are three main aspects to this discussion; Sex assigned at birth, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression. 

Sex assigned at birth is self explanatory (mostly), and is how you are assigned when you are first seen by medical staff in the hospital. You either get assigned Male or Female, it get's printed on your birth certificate, and then your life begins. Aside from Intersex individuals, this part of life is pretty straight-forward. (I can go over Intersex next post! I'll try to get to it this week, but you all know me by now so we'll see)

Gender Identity is, literally, how someone identifies their gender. This is something that is internally recognized. This is not something that anyone would know just by looking at another person. Internally, a person will identify their gender (using whatever labels, if any, that they would like) and this will determine what pronouns they would like to be referred to with. There are many different pronouns, and don't be upset if you weren't aware of that, and try not to be too hard on yourself if you have trouble with someone's pronouns or if you make a mistake. Please just do your best, and get comfortable with using them away from the person so that it will make it easier to use them when the individual is around or you are addressing them to other people - practice makes perfect!

Gender expression is the way in which someone dresses, styles their hair, walks, talks, etc - it is the way that someone displays themselves to the world. This can include painted nails, dyed hair, specific items of clothing, jewelry, etc. 

The important thing to remember here is that none of these things are related. I'm sure that made your eyebrows cinch together, but hear me out. 

An individual can be assigned female at birth, identify as male, and still wear items of clothing that might traditionally be considered female. Or perhaps this person wears makeup and jewelry, but uses male pronouns. Conversely, a person can be assigned male at birth, use male pronouns, but prefer long hair and women's items of clothing. (I can also address androgynous and gender neutral next time, since I would get into it here but then this post won't end anytime soon haha)

So a good general rule, is don't assume someone's pronouns simply based on what they are wearing or how they have their hair, or if you know what sex they were assigned at birth. You never know!

To wrap up: Sex assigned at birth does not always correlate with how someone will identify later in life, and don't assume pronouns based on someone's gender expression. 

There are so many different types of people on this planet, we should try to accept everyone for who they are and make this world a safer place for all - no matter what. 

Happy Holidays everyone!!

Bonus: Here's the Gender Unicorn from the TSER website!



Sunday, October 15, 2017

Married Life Update and First Definitions

Hello all!

Update on married life: Actually, it's the same. After being together for 9 years, and living together for 4 of them, there's not much to change. Of course I'm happy that it's legal and we had a celebration, but day to day hasn't really changed much - except now I get to call her my "wife". 😉

A new blog section that I've been thinking about for a bit is regarding definitions and education. I want to do some definitions in my posts, and maybe one or two per post will get me to blog more often. This topic also came up in our PFLAG meeting today so I figure it was as good a time as any to dig into it.

IT'S TIME TO LEARN, PEOPLE! 😃

Let's start with the basic: "transgender"

Merriam-Webster states the definition as: "a person whose gender identity differs from the sex the person had or was identified as having at birth"

Trans Student Educational Resources states the definition as: "An umbrella term for people whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. The term transgender is not indicative of gender expression, sexual orientation, hormonal makeup, physical anatomy, or how one is perceived in daily life. Note that transgender does not have an 'ed' at the end."

Both definitions are correct, however, the TSER version is much more elaborate and expansive. Someone who is transgender, simply, does not identify with the sex they were assigned at birth. This can mean anything from Male to Female, Female to Male, Genderqueer, Gender fluid, Agender, and more. The term "transgender" is an umbrella term to include many different gender identities. It is a good word to use, I feel, since gender is on a spectrum and someone's gender identity can vary over time while they can still remain under the transgender umbrella.

Since we're doing transgender, let's also review one that is often confused to mean the same thing - which is - "transsexual".

Merriam Webster states: "a person whose gender identity is opposite the sex the person had or was identified as having at birth
**NOTE: Transsexual people may or may not undergo surgery and hormone therapy to obtain a physical appearance typical of the gender they identify as."

Notice that although these two terms are similar, they are NOT the same.

They key difference between these two terms is one basic concept.

-Someone who is transgender identifies differently than their sex assigned at birth.
-Someone who is transsexual identifies with the opposite than their sex assigned at birth.

More often than not, someone who is transsexual will utilize medical methods to physically align with their desired gender identity. Those who are transgender do not always use hormones and have any type of surgeries, but they can. Another great note regarding someone who is transsexual from the TSER website is as follows: "Unlike transgender/trans, transsexual is not an umbrella term, as many transgender people do not identify as transsexual. When speaking/writing about trans people, please avoid the word transsexual unless asked to use it by a transsexual person."

Hope this helps clear up some things, and if you have any requests for definitions or ramblings, let me know!

As always, if anyone has any questions or wants to chat more about anything, you can reach me via email or Facebook messenger.


Sources:
Merriam-Webster "Transgender"
Merriam-Webster "Transsexual"
TSER Definitions


Sunday, September 24, 2017

Married and Honeymooned

I'm a husband. That is still so strange to say and think.

We were married officially on September 6th, 2017 (our 9 year anniversary) and then drove up to PA to celebrate for the long weekend at Lacawac Sanctuary. We cannot say enough amazing things about the location and the staff (Craig was phenomenal) and can't wait to rent out the place again for our anniversaries and probably family reunions.

The weekend was full of great friends, fantastic food, and fun times. It will be a weekend that will live on in our memories for years to come and we want to thank everyone who was involved. We love all of you!

The honeymoon in Costa Rica was full of mostly happiness, relaxation, and celebrating. Note to future self: we don't drink enough to make 'all-inclusive' worth it.

The first half of the honeymoon in Arenal was amazing. Next time, we will stay at Tabacon in Arenal for the full week and do excursions during the day, and the hot springs at night. Even though the price only included breakfast buffet, (it was authentic costa rican food btw) it was worth it to adventure in the mornings and then nap to skip lunch, and pay for dinner because the food was amazing and absolutely worth it.

The 'all-inclusive' at Secrets Papagayo was not worth the money to us. It was full of drunk Americans who were happy eating penne alfredo and broccoli slathered in cheddar cheese. The view from the room was great, but the food and ambiance was NOT worth it. The spa was underwhelming and the excursions were at least double the price of the ones while we were at Tabacon. The best part of the few days at 'Secrets' was when we hired a taxi to take us to Coco Beach for souvenir shopping and authentic chifrijo (which was fucking delicious).

All in all, we made the best of it and really enjoyed the week off - so it was a success for us.

Bonus! I got promoted and a raise the day before we left, so that was another cherry on top of the whole week in general.

Thank you again to everyone involved with the wedding, we had an amazing September, and are looking forward to the brunch reception in October!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

One Month to Go!

One month until we get married and even though I'm feeling it a little bit (stress and anxiety-wise), I'm honestly just excited to finally have it all be legal. Now I just have to get my updated passport and we'll be good to go!

Time has been flying which is why I haven't posted in awhile.

We've been managing and planning everything week to week so it's been hard to keep track of time overall - I can't believe our wedding is in a month...

I hope everyone has been having a great summer - we got to attend opening weekend at the NY Renaissance Faire yesterday which is a tradition we shall miss if we end up moving too far away to come back for it. It was fun seeing everyone again, having a Bee Sting, and seeing what was new around the faire - which was quite a bit actually.

Sarah's parents are in the final stages of closing on the house and will be heading to Florida soon after the wedding. It's nice that they decided to stay around until post-wedding, it's going to help a lot in the week or so leading up to it.

Mostly I think I'm just excited for Costa Rica and a real vacation with just the two of us for the first time... it's going to be amazing.

Also, Dream Daddy has taken over my life. Between that, Game of Thrones later, Destiny 2 releasing on OUR WEDDING DAY OF COURSE, and Nicole buying Overwatch - we're set for a bit on games.

I also have to finish Horizon.

And Dishonored 2. Damnit.



That's about it for now but I have a few topics that I'm working on to write about, so hopefully I'll have some time to post here before the wedding. If anyone has topics to suggest, please do so and I will work on it!

Until next time!




Saturday, June 17, 2017

Pride Month and Other Warm Holidays

As always, Pride month so far has been great. We marched in the parade with PFLAG at Long Beach, and I have been asked to write a piece for Moxie Media regarding my work with PFLAG and the LGBTQ+ Community - very exciting!

I won't be able to make NYC Pride this year, as I'm finally going camping with my Dad, after years of not going, and we'll be gone all of next weekend.

Also, I got fancy PFLAG business cards, which are super cute and I love them.

We're wedding planning, and crunching numbers, and making things work - but it's all very exciting. It's hard to believe that in 3 months we'll be on our honeymoon in Costa Rica! Speaking of which, I mailed in what is needed to change my name and gender on my passport, and here's hoping that it all goes off without a hitch. I am, of course, nervous about it - and played in my mind over and over what was in the envelope hoping that nothing was missing. Now, we wait.

Sarah's parents sold their house!! They accepted an offer and will be staying in an extended stay hotel until after the wedding, so who knows maybe we'll be in Florida this year for the holidays!

On the topic of house hunting, Sarah has been checking out architectural plans for houses so that we can choose a house for it's size and layout and then just find a plot to eventually build it on, no matter what state we end up in. Folks, I cannot stop daydreaming about this house. It's going to be glorious. I can't wait to be a work from home Dad and raise kids in it with her. Seriously, this daydreaming is becoming a problem during daily activities...

That's about it for now, I have a few topics that I want to get to but it's late and I've been writing for a few hours now on the wedding questionnaire for our small ceremony in PA, and the article for Moxie Media.

Happy pride everyone!



Sunday, May 21, 2017

I'm a PFLAG Long Island Board Member!

Hey all! I know it's been awhile, and I say this every time, so I won't drag on about it. I'll just jump right in.

I was working 50-60 hour 6-day weeks in February and March since my team got a lot of work thrown at them, so needless to say I wasn't really functioning much on my one day off enough to get on here and update. Other than that, Zelda on the Switch has been (understandably so) taking over my life. Side note: it is better than I could have even dreamed.

So here are some updates: As of today, I am the Co Vice President of PFLAG Long Island, we had the board votes today at the monthly meeting and I am absolutely honored to be on the board. Pride month is swiftly approaching and this year it is going to be a whole weekend (June 9-11) in Long Beach with a carnival, a 5K, dinner and drink specials all weekend, and a huge parade on Sunday. Cannot wait to be a part of that, and to have fun on the boardwalk. If anyone needs more info please reach out to me via email (akircheim@gmail.com).

We booked our honeymoon for a week after the wedding, and we're going to COSTA RICA! Very excited as we have never really had a vacation together with just us, and the idea of staying near a volcano hot spring and then an all inclusive resort just sounds glorious.

I've been getting back into working out, slowly, a little bit at a time - and I think it's really done a lot for my mental state. Not that I was depressed or on a down slope - but my self esteem has always been lacking and with the wedding coming up it really helped my motivation to get outside and start moving. It's been over a month so I really hope I stick with it!

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Food for thought: Someone's gender identity and sexuality (more referred to as sexual orientation) are not correlated. I find that this is something that people often don't fully grasp, so let me explain. Gender identity is where someone identifies themselves on the spectrum of gender (yes, there is a spectrum and a variety between what is traditionally thought of as male and female). A person can identify as fully male, mostly male, some male, some female, mostly female, fully female, or anywhere in-between. There are even people who consider themselves both male and female, neither male nor female, or some variation of the two. That being said, their sexual or romantic attraction does not depend on their gender or expression (how they express themselves to others by way of hairstyle, clothing, gait, language, etc). For example, if someone is AFAB (Assigned Female At Birth) and transitions to male, that does not mean that they are transitioning because they are attracted to women and want to be a man for that reason. They could still be attracted to men and identify as a gay male. Just as someone who identifies as female can be attracted to women and consider herself a lesbian. People do not transition to conform to social norms, they are just doing what they need to in order to feel comfortable in their own body.

TLDR: Gender identity is who you go to bed AS, sexuality is who you go to bed WITH.

With all of that in mind, there are people who feel no sexual/romantic attraction (sexual and romantic attraction are different so perhaps that should be explained in another post) or are completely repulsed by any sexual activity as well as many more types of asexuality (if you are interested please check out this website regarding asexuality and it's own spectrum).

As always, I'm available for any questions or clarifications, open discussion, or just someone to vent to. Feel free to reach out, and let me know what else would be good to see on the blog!

Hope to see some people at the Long Beach Long Island Pride Parade on June 11th on the boardwalk!






Saturday, January 21, 2017

Missing Michael and Drump's First Day

I've been thinking about my brother Michael a lot lately... maybe it's because of all of the cool things that I've been experiencing and am excited for. Funnily enough, I'm not even talking about my wedding.

He would have been more excited than anyone I know about the Nintendo Switch. He'd already be talking shit to anyone who would listen about how he's going to destroy them in Mario Kart, especially since Battle Mode is back; or how he's going to get every star in Mario Odyssey before some people even own the game.

I think I miss him more now than I did a few years ago, and maybe deep down I knew that it would be this way, I just didn't know when it was going to hit. Well, it's hit. Maybe it's a worse because our birthdays are coming up, or new Nintendo games just make me think of him and I playing Super Mario in the basement until 3 am, or maybe it's just because I'm at such a comfortable place with myself and who I am as a trans man that my brain is finding something else to pick at...


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Karen got me a drawing tablet for Christmas - a Wacom Intuous - and it's probably one of the coolest things I've ever owned. I can't remember the last time I didn't want to go to sleep because it would mean that I'd have to stop playing with a new toy.

Right now I'm just finding other people's fan art that I'm tracing and coloring, just to practice using it and figure out more about drawing in general - but it's fantastic and if anyone is even slightly interested in digital art, get one. It's a lot of fun, and very easy to use - which is great for me because I'll be 97 in July (hehe) and technology and I are not great friends.


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I'm currently struggling with the idea of coming out to everyone at my job that I started in April of this past year. As much as I like blending, I want people to know and come to me and learn. I'm struggling between wanting to tell and educate everyone, and worrying that it will change any established dynamic on my team - because I love my team. We are doing well and I don't want to throw any kind of wrench into it that may cause a rift anywhere. Not to mention if we ever talk about politics in the office, which we don't, and I hope we continue not to....

Yesterday was the first day of the next four (hopefully only four and not eight) years.

Drumpf was sworn in, executive orders were signed, and riots ensued.

We're all going to have to be stronger than ever for this.... I hope we're ready.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Typical of my body to rebel against me....

I'm sick.
Again.

I had the flu a few weeks ago - which was absolutely awful, wow, no thank you - and now I have something that eerily (yet negative when tested) resembles strep throat.

It started on Thanksgiving at the soon-to-be-in-laws' residence because they have 3 cats and I doubled up on allergy pills which did next to nothing and was completely expected. I always know if I spend more than a few minutes there I will absolutely feel like crap for at least 8 hours. Only this time, nothing got better. Not after 8, 12, or even 24 hours. I had off of work Friday, and we went shopping because we are insane and it's the BEST people watching day OF THE YEAR, and felt worse as the day went on. I slept on the couch, sitting up, Friday night and woke up on Saturday morning a complete mess. "If I have a fever, I'll go to the clinic"...... BEEPBEEPBEEP..... "Damn." I came home with Vitamin Water, enough tissues for what I thought would last a weekend (I was sorely mistaken), a bottle of nasal spray, prescription cough medicine, and Augmentin (regardless that the strep test was negative). No partridges or pear trees, sadly.

So of course, on a 4 day weekend, my body completely shuts down and I do nothing. Which is GLORIOUS when I'm not hacking up phlegm and using 2 boxes of tissues over the course of a day with aches, pains, and consistent post nasal drip.

My immune system is really just terrible. Allergies, asthma, crappy immune system, vitamin D deficiency - it's no wonder my friends call me Steve.



Just a quick update for now - more when I don't have a headache and can get my thoughts together...

PS - I'm on the new laptop, YAY Black Friday!