Having Expectations of Other People

gestaltMany loved ones create mental expectations of what we should be. For parents, it’s common for them to create a mental image of how they want us to grow up. Friends, mentors, spouses, and other people in our lives can also creat these expectations.

What is an expectation? It’s different from a dream or a wish. I may wish that someone would do something or be something, but I don’t expect it of them. What’s the difference? If they don’t fulfill my wish, it’s not the end of the world. Their freedom to choose their own path is more important to me than my personal desires for their life. But if I let it become an expectation, I am sure to be bitterly disappointed and upset if they don’t do what I want, which puts unfair pressure on them to fulfill MY plan for their life instead of letting them freely choose their own way.

In a nutshell, an expectation is you planning out another person’s life for them and being upset when they choose their own way instead.

How many times have we heard people say that they can’t disappoint their family, that they feel pressured to do something because their loved ones expect it of them? How many kids have dealt with having to disappoint their parents because the life they ended up living wasn’t the life their parents had planned out for them? How many marriages have dissolved because the spouses expected each other to be a certain way?

Here are a few examples of harmful expectations:

Expecting your child to grow up to be a certain way- ie follow a certain religion, accomplish certain things, join a specific profession, get married, have children, be straight, live close to home, carry on the family business, etc.

Expecting your friend to always think like you, to never change their opinions or contradict your own.

Expecting your student to go on to do the same things you did when you finished your schooling. eg a teacher who is upset that their star musician didn’t join a major orchestra like they did.

Expecting your relative to hold the same political beliefs as the rest of the family. eg “We’re all Republicans, you should be too!”

Expecting your spouse to fulfill specific ideals that you have.

What expectations have the people in your life had for you? Did you have to break those expectations, or did you feel pressured to fulfill their expectations at the expense of what you wanted? Comment below!

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Stereotyping isn’t Love, it’s Judgemental.

imagesI have heard some Christians claim that they have a monopoly on love, that non-believers can’t love the way they can or even love at all. It’s interesting that they say this, because I see such unloving attitudes from many of these same Christians. And I’m not even talking about the Christians who rant and bash people in online comment threads or disown their children for being atheists or gay- I’m talking about the supposedly loving, everyday fundamentalist Christians (and people of other fundamentalist religious beliefs). I hear them say “I love you no matter what”, but their attitudes and actions don’t line up. You can say you love me all you want, but your actions and attitudes will speak far louder than your words ever will. Words are cheap, anyone can say they love me unconditionally. It’s much harder to actually do it.

HEAR ME PLEASE: Stereotyping is judgmental. When you say “we don’t judge others” but then stereotype them, you are being judgmental. All your talk of love will fall on deaf ears because your actions and words don’t line up.

Love does not stereotype others. If you say that “all people in this group are this way”, then you are stereotyping. Why is this unloving? Because you are telling the person that you are satisfied with applying a stereotype to them instead of taking the time to actually get to know them and see what THEY are like as an individual.

If you claim to love people unconditionally and yet apply stereotypes to them, are you actually loving them? True love doesn’t assume. Love says “I take you as you ARE, not as I ASSUME you to be or WISH you to be.”

Here are some examples of stereotypes I have heard many times or that I’ve actually been told to my face:

  • Bisexuals don’t exist or are confused, they’re either straight or gay.
  • People who aren’t straight are more likely to be pedophiles, be promiscuous, sexually assault others, they have made a conscious choice to be sinners/deviant, etc.
  • Atheists have no morals and are incapable of love.
  • Atheists just want to sin or secretly still believe in god.
  • Atheists and other non-Christians are the cause of all the problems in the U.S./World/etc.
  • Women who don’t want to have a baby must hate children and/or men, are selfish, too focused on their careers, will regret it later, etc.
  • Women who have had abortions are selfish sluts who couldn’t keep their legs closed, should have used birth control, etc.
  • Single mothers were irresponsible and are a leech on society if they need social assistance.
  • People on welfare are all greedy and taking advantage of the system, don’t want to work, have no work ethic, etc.
  • Feminists hate men and are all lesbians and/or workaholic career women who look down on stay-at-home-moms, and hate anything remotely feminine.
  • People who don’t share your faith in (insert religious beliefs here) are ignorant, deceived by the devil, stubborn, rebellious, etc.
  • Liberals/Conservatives are all (insert derogatory comment about intelligence here).

What hurtful assumptions have you heard or have been applied to you? Comment below!
These stereotypes have one thing in common: They are assumptions, not facts, and they are very hurtful. When you make assumptions about an entire group of people, you miss out on the opportunity to get to know them as they actually are. And you’re telling them that you don’t care to know who THEY are, you’re happy with your potentially erroneous assumptions and judgments.

I am certainly not perfect in this, I’ve been guilty of stereotyping people before. But it’s something I’m conscious of, and I work very hard to eradicate stereotypes from my life. I try to see people as individuals, not just as groups. That’s why I always try to specify “some Christians” instead of just “Christians” in general, because I know what I’m saying doesn’t apply to all Christians.

Facts and Myths about Bisexuality

bisexual_typography_by_lentertament-d5hpf51In my last blog post, I officially came out as bisexual. Over the past couple months, I have been doing a lot of research on bisexuality because I’ve had suspicions that I might be bi. But I had a lot of societal misconceptions in my head, so I had to do some research before I felt comfortable identifying as bisexual. I wasn’t sure if that’s who I was, because I didn’t even really know what it was to begin with! So here are some things I’ve learned about being bisexual.

This video also explains bisexuality very well! I’d strongly advise checking it out. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmwi-475VIM

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  1. You do not have to have sex with or even make out with someone to know if you’re bisexual, or any orientation really. Did you have to have sex to know you were straight? Sexual orientation is about attractions, sexual activity is separate. A nun still has a sexual orientation even if she stays a virgin forever, she just doesn’t act on it. As of the time this article was written, I haven’t dated any women yet- I’ve just finally realized that I’m attracted to them.
  1. Bisexuals are not attracted to everyone. When you walk down the street, are you automatically attracted to every person of the opposite gender that you see? Do you want to date every single opposite-gender friend or co-worker? Of course not- sexual attraction goes far beyond just genitalia! Just because I am friends with a girl or a guy does not mean I want to date them or that I want to imagine them naked. There’s no need to feel weird around me, just treat me like any of your other friends of either gender and we’ll get along just fine.
  1. Bisexuals are often accused of being more unfaithful, promiscuous, or more into threesomes. This is not true. Those traits are completely separate from your sexual orientation- straight people and gay people can also be unfaithful, have a lot of sex, or love threesomes. Do not confuse sexual orientation with a person’s moral character, the amount of sex they have, or the kind of sex they like.
  1. Bisexuals are NOT confused. While there are many people who do experiment for a time to discover what their sexual orientation is, this is different than being bisexual. I’ve tried a lot of different kinds of foods, but I’m not going to love everything I taste. Experimenting to find out what your orientation might be is not the same as being bisexual.
  1. Bisexuals are not greedy. Are you greedy for liking blondes and brunettes? For liking tall and short people? Of course not. That would be foolish to imply. (People really do say this stuff!)
  1. Bisexuals get more dates. Sure, we can date both guys and girls, but many people harbor judgmental attitudes about bisexuals so that sometimes shrinks our dating pool. We do have a more diverse range of potential dates in regards to gender, but we also have to deal with a helluva lot more misconceptions and judgements too.
  1. Bisexuals DO EXIST. I can’t tell you how many people actually don’t believe bisexuals exist. Some say that bi people are really gays that haven’t fully come out yet. Others think they are doing it for attention and actually only like one or the other. Still others think it’s a phase and they’ll “make up their mind” eventually. Nope! Being bisexual is a real orientation, and it’s not your place to tell me who I’m attracted to and who I’m not. You’re not in my head. Just because you don’t understand it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
  1. Bisexuals don’t turn straight or gay when they enter a monogamous relationship. Do you stop being attracted to girls with blonde hair just because you marry a brunette? Of course not- you just don’t act on those attractions because you’re in a relationship! If you like black people and white people and you date a black person, do your attractions for white people disappear? No, you’re just not acting on them because you’ve committed to your partner. It’s no different with gender.

tumblr_n1f0ejVsei1rbidupo3_1280Now for the purpose of this blog and my own personal preferences, I’ve been referring to guys and girls. Gender is actually not binary, it’s more of a spectrum, and many people fall more into the middle of the spectrum. Pansexuals are attracted to people across all parts of the spectrum- all genders and sexes. For myself personally, I tend to be more attracted to people who fall on the opposite ends of the gender spectrum, which is why I identify as bisexual as opposed to pansexual (although pansexual could potentially identify me as well, I just feel like bisexual describes me best at this point. I wouldn’t rule out being attracted to a transgender person, etc.) This video explains the difference between pansexuality and bisexuality: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bv5k9+w6Hpi4&index=13&list=PLTXiNEUzXWKT9xrbU3aUxqYloEL_W-8rr

As with any label that we use to identify ourselves, it’s just a word- we are not limited to these labels, WE define our labels, our labels do not define us; it’s just the words we use to describe ourselves. If you realize that your current label no longer fits you and you find another one that fits you better, it’s ok to use that one. If you don’t identify with any label (and yes there are people like this) that’s ok too.

I am Officially Coming Out as Bisexual

bisexual_by_devilslittlesisterNo, I am not a lesbian. And no, I no longer identify as straight. I am bisexual- and here is what that means.
You probably find yourself attracted to people with dark hair as well as people with light hair. You may also be attracted to tall people and short people, and maybe black people and Asian people as well as white people. And no one thinks that’s weird because we, as humans, are capable of being attracted to more than one kind of person. For bisexuals (and pansexuals and a few more orientations, see my next blog post for more on that), gender is just another factor like skin color or height.

I’ve suspected I might be bi for a little while now, although up until recently I was very unsure about it and it was little more than a suspicion that I mulled over from time to time. Over these past two months I’ve been doing a lot of research into what bisexuality is, and I finally realized that it’s a label that fits who I am.

Why am I being so open about my sexual orientation? Why the public “coming out”? Because it was other people who were “out” and proud that helped me realize who I really am. They gave me the courage to stop ignoring the questions inside of me, to be open about who I am. I want to do the same for other people who might feel bad about themselves for who they are attracted too. (Also, unless you “look gay”, people generally assume that you’re straight. That’s rather irritating, as though being straight is the default setting for everyone. It’s not.)
So why did it take me until my mid-twenties to finally realize I’m bisexual? Here are a few reasons:
1. I was raised with homophobia.
While nowhere near as bad as Westboro, I still grew up around blatant and damaging homophobia. Everyone in my immediate circles was fundamentalist and anti-gay. Homosexuality was decried as unnatural, a sin, a “choice” that you were not supposed to make under any circumstances. I remember going with other Christians to political gatherings as a young child to oppose same sex marriage when it was being voted on in Vermont.

My Christian circles taught me in no uncertain terms that being attracted to someone of the same gender was NOT OK. And not only was it not ok, but it was one of the worst things you could possibly do.

The contradictory message I grew up with was this: We love you and do not judge you. However, if you do not think or act like us, then you are less of a person (ie a sinner, unnatural, deceived by the devil, abomination).
There is no kind or healthy way to tell someone that their sexual attractions are unnatural, sinful, and somehow wrong. It’s still VERY DAMAGING and hurtful, no matter how much “grace” and “love” you try to mix in. No matter how much sugar and spice you add to a bowl of dog poop, it’s still repulsive and unfit to eat at the end of the day because the main ingredient is so crappy (pun intended).
Do you think black people felt better when racist people in the 60’s said things like “We still love you and don’t judge you, we just think your relationship with that white girl is morally wrong and should be illegal.” And what about this one? “We love you- but marrying someone with different colored skin is just unnatural! Why are you CHOOSING to love a person of a different race when it’s so wrong?”
Growing up with messages like these, is it really surprising that it would take me a while to recognize my own sexual orientation and feel comfortable even admitting it to myself? Many people never even get this far because these hurtful messages are so deeply ingrained within themselves that they are never able to overcome them. Fundamentalism causes so much unnecessary shame, guilt, and social pressure to conform to one group’s narrow minded ideas- hence why I speak out against it so much. It’s directly affected me and my ability to grow as a healthy individual.

2. I was good at hiding from myself.
For much of my life I was good at hiding from myself. I didn’t do a whole lot of critical thinking back in the day, I just believed what I was taught because I trusted the people who were teaching me to show me reality and truth. When questions about my beliefs or sexuality came up, I was able to emotionally and mentally bury them before I even acknowledged that they existed at all. Questioning the church’s teachings was bad, so I did what I thought was the spiritual thing and didn’t question anything. Hence it took me into adulthood to question my both religious beliefs and my sexuality.

3. I still had options for attraction before I came to grips with my bisexuality.
I like girls AND boys. Therefore, unlike people who only identify as gay and are not attracted to the opposite gender at all, I wasn’t forced to completely deny myself the joys of being attracted to other people. It wasn’t that I was making a “choice” to only like guys, it’s that one half of my sexual orientation was being repressed. Since I was also strongly attracted to men, it was easier for me to not realize that this part of me even existed.
If you were raised to believe that dating black people was morally wrong and you liked white people too, you might never realize that you have the potential to also be attracted to black people unless you happened to fall in love with someone who had black skin. But the chances are high that, since you wouldn’t even be open to it in the first place, you’d miss opportunities to fall for someone who wasn’t white. Without first overcoming that ingrained racism and widening your mental horizons, it would be very difficult for you to ever realize your potential attraction to black people. It’s the same with people who are attracted to more than one gender identity.

4. Sometimes it takes time to realize who you are.
When I was a kid, I hated onions. I wouldn’t eat even the teeniest piece of onion because I’d convinced myself that onions were gross. Now I absolutely love them- I can’t get enough grilled onions in my food! What changed? As I got older, I tried new things and my tastes changed. Does this mean I wasn’t bisexual before? Not really. Just like with the onions, I simply didn’t realize what I had been missing out on until I actually looked into it more- then I discovered I actually liked it! I have always had the potential to love eating onions, what needed to change was my mental attitude that onions were icky.

In my next blog I will be addressing some of the common myths and misconceptions about bisexuality. I really hope that my family and friends read it so you can understand who I am and who I’m not. Please don’t make assumptions about me and my sexual orientation- take the time to find out the truth instead of relying on any stereotypes you may have been raised with.

Is the FDA Hiding a Cure for Cancer? Also, “Alternative” Cancer Cures

Conspiracy-Theory-AlertIs the FDA (US government, insert any other group here) hiding or suppressing a cure for cancer? To be honest, this topic makes me upset because I know people personally who have had cancer, and they have met the people working to find cancer cures. They’ve actually met the people who these conspiracy theorists are accusing of corruption and/or stupidity. I’ve also seen how damaging it can be for people to throw their life savings away to “cures” that don’t work, some even dying because they tried these alternative, unproven methods instead of getting the chemo that would have saved their life. But by the time they realized these other methods were bogus, it was too late. People have died or gone bankrupt because of this conspiracy theory, so I feel pretty strongly about it!  Hence this blog.

I found this article, which is really good by the way, you should check it out too: http://www.cancertreatmentwatch.org/q/conspiracy.shtml

Here is why I think this conspiracy theory about a hidden cancer cure and obsession with supposed “alternative cancer cures” are both very erroneous and damaging, and why I don’t believe what they’re saying is at all factual.

1. A Global conspiracy would be required.

In order to believe that there is a conspiracy to hide a cure for any kind of cancer, the entire civilized world would have to be in on it, not just the FDA or even the entire US government. As messed up as the US is, the rest of the world is not the same. You cannot assume that the rest of the world functions as badly as the United States. There are brilliant and dedicated cancer researchers all around the world, most of which who know someone who has had cancer and would let nothing stop them from curing the people they care about. It’s absolutely ridiculous, and honestly extremely offensive, to claim that every single one of them would allow a potential cure of ANY kind to go untested and a successful cure to be left unavailable to the general public. There are always a few bad apples, but everyone? Please. I’ve met some of these incredible men and women personally, and I would LOVE to see you tell them face-to-face about this “conspiracy” that they’re supposedly involved with after they’ve worked a 15 hour day trying to find a cure. If there was a viable alternative treatment for cancer, you would be able to go to any hospital in any civilized nation and get this cure; the US wouldn’t be able to hide it anymore because it would be available everywhere else.

 

2. It’s more expensive for governments to deal with cancer as it is now.

In many countries, such as Canada and Australia and much of Europe, the government pays for healthcare. Finding a cheaper way to cure cancer would most certainly be in their best interest, because they’re footing the bill– not only for the hospital bills, but they also have to cover unemployment while the person is sick, probably social assistance for the sick person’s family since he or she would be unable to work, they are unable to pay taxes while they’re sick, the workforce loses productive members which affects the economy, and so on. It is FAR more expensive to deal with cancer as it is then it would be to find an easier cure, even in the US, and we all know how penny-pinching governments are.

 

3. These “alternative cancer cures” are the conspiracies.

They are playing on the desperation and fears of people with cancer in order to make money and achieve fame. It honestly makes me pretty angry. I’ve looked into some of them because I know several people who are always promoting the work of these “doctors”; the supposed credentials and medical experience of the people involved are often very shady, and their supposed cures have been debunked many times by real scientists who have actually been trained in cancer research and treatment methods. Why do you think they are always accusing the real scientists of hiding a cure? Because they want you to fall for what THEY’RE selling you.

 

4. Success stories do not always equal truth.

Many people point to the success stories. “But these people got cured! You can read/watch their stories here!” First of all, I write for a living. I have been paid MANY times to write testimonials for companies that want to draw in more customers with glowing reviews. (Not my proudest moment, but I was poor at the time and had to take what work I could get or go hungry.) Ever since, I have been extremely skeptical of reviews and testimonials. They are faked ALL the time, and by writers like me who know exactly how to make them seem genuine. Videos and interviews can be faked too (COUGH weight loss scams, anyone?) If someone wants to sell you on a cure for cancer, or weight loss supplement or any other ailment, how hard is it to hire a few actors to play a role?

But let’s say that the people in these testimonials were genuine. How do we know if the story is accurate? Just because someone genuinely believes what they’re telling you doesn’t mean that’s what really happened. Correlation does not equal causality. Cancer affects people in different ways. An incurable cancer for one person may be cured by another person’s own body regardless of what treatments they use. A cancer that is deadly to 99.99% of people may come and go in another person. A few types of cancer are not hard to cure at all. And what about the failed cases? How can you trust that these unregulated organizations are telling you the truth about the percentage of people who come to them and see no results at all, or that experience negative results? Answer: You can’t. They are completely unregulated, so there is absolutely no accountability. Harp on the government all you want, but at least in the regulated medical world they are required to document all results, good and bad. You’re running from the government right into the arms of snake oil salesmen. 

 

5. These conspiracy theories are actually hurting people.

So many people have fallen for these snake oil cures… many have spent their life savings, gone into debt, gotten even more sick, or have foregone chemo or other treatment methods that could have actually saved them. People have DIED because they trusted in these ineffective alternative methods instead of getting proven treatment methods that could have actually saved them.

But of course they won’t tell you this in these conspiracy cancer cure documentaries.

 

Don’t fall for the hype… there is no conspiracy to hide a cancer cure. To say so is to completely disregard and insult the incredibly hard work of the dedicated scientists around the world who are working night and day to cure each of the different kinds of cancer. Don’t fall for the snake oil salesmen and political paranoia… just because someone makes a good documentary doesn’t mean what it says is true. Check the facts, dig into their credentials, and don’t believe their stories just because they have an emotional interview or well written testimonial. They may be faked, or even if the person is genuine that doesn’t mean the treatment itself works the way they think it does. The only way to know if a treatment works is by real scientists doing tests over and over and over again, documenting every single result with the medical community so it can undergo rigorous peer review, testing every conceivable alternative conclusion to make sure they’ve got it right, and proving beyond any doubt that the treatment works.

(Just a thought: If you promote conspiracy theories like this all the time, when the evidence is all against it being true, eventually people will start treating you like the boy who cried wolf. When you DO actually uncover a real conspiracy, who is going to believe you?)

 

 

Atheists and Christmas

heathensgreetings_lowresWhen I first realized I was an atheist a couple years ago, I had a hard time with Christmas. Christianity is so ingrained with Christmas in the US that I wasn’t sure I even wanted to celebrate it at all anymore. It made me sad, because I’ve always loved Christmas- the decorations, the music, the cultural tradition aspects… This year I am reclaiming my love of this time of year, but without compromising my strong feelings about religion.

I now celebrate the Winter Solstice, also known as Midwinter. Now generally known as Christmas, this is a very ancient celebration that goes back to our earliest human ancestors who gave a name to the date when the days start to get longer again. I love learning about the Celtic traditions. It’s a beautiful thing to celebrate- the natural cycles of our world are shifting yet again, winter has hit it’s peak and spring is on it’s way. I love the terms Winter Solstice, Midwinter and Yule to describe my holiday celebrations, but for the most part I still use the term Christmas because it’s what everyone I know is familiar with. Who wants to clarify every single time someone asks “Are you having a Christmas party this year?” “Well I am having a party, but it’s a Winter Solstice celebration.” “What’s the difference?” “Well… none really. It’s just food and winter decorations and social time.” “Isn’t that what most Christmas parties are about anyways?” Why yes, that’s exactly what most Christmas parties are about!

jesus is the reason for the season_thumb[2]Merry-christmasPeople say that Jesus is the reason for the season. I would respectfully disagree. Christmas was originally a pagan holiday, and saying “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” belittles and ignores the many beautiful and important winter traditions and beliefs that people hold dear. There are many reasons for the season; Jesus may be your reason, but he is not mine.

What do you love most about Christmas? Spending time with loved ones? The decorations and music? The amazing food and vibrant holiday get-togethers? Charity? Snow? Giving gifts? General good cheer? We don’t need to believe in Jesus to enjoy and appreciate these wonderful parts of Christmas. 🙂

I don’t care if you tell me Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Hanukkah, or anything in between. If I know what you celebrate, I will likely greet you that way or by saying Happy Holidays. I respect your traditions and it makes me happy that you’d take the time to wish me a holiday greeting. 🙂 What does bother me is the insistence of many people that the rest of us celebrate Christmas with them, or that we must celebrate it the same way they do. We are a diverse and beautiful people, and it’s time that the Christian version of Christmas realizes that it’s just one of many holiday traditions, not the only one of significance or importance.happyholidays

It’s not a war on Christmas to acknowledge and respect all winter holiday traditions instead of just your own- that’s simply the polite thing to do. Let’s all try to coexist this holiday season, and respect all people’s holiday celebrations. Also, it’s not a war on Christmas to point out the true origins of Christmas, the rampant consumerism that has overtaken the entire season, or to point out Christian privilege and arrogance that is sadly so prevalent this time of year.war-600x600

I wish you all the happiest of holidays, no matter what or how you celebrate. 🙂