(sometimes withershins, widershins or widderschynnes) means to take a course opposite that of the sun, going counterclock-wise, lefthandwise, or to circle an object, by always keeping it on the left. It also means "in a direction opposite to the usual," which is how I choose to take it in using it as the title of this blog. We're all in the same world finding our own way.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

High Fiber Diet

So if you know me for long enough, you'll learn that I'm obsessed with fiber. It is, after all, essential to a well-balanced diet and healthy poops. My former roommate David can attest that I would frequently play games of "Where can Danny hide the fiber?" when making dinner for myself and Ethan. Blame it on an anal fixation (thanks Freud) and the results of volunteering in the endoscopy department of a hospital for a year and a half (thanks to the good people of Skagit Regional Hospital). So let me bestow on you all kinds of knowledge you never wanted to know about fiber. But first, a poem:

An Organic Grocer Haiku

Chia seeds, flax seeds
Hemp, sesame, pumpkin seeds
What are we now, birds?

What is fiber?

Fiber. You know, fiber. It's the stuff in the Cheerios commercial. The thing the little kid reads will help lower your cholesterol. It's in oats and vegetables and stuff. But what is it?

Dietary fiber, is a substance in plants, a type of carbohydrate that the human body can't digest into smaller sugars. It comes in two types classified on their ability to dissolve-in or absorb water. Soluble fiber dissolves in water. Insoluble doesn't. There's also what's called functional fiber that's all the manufactured versions and chemically isolated types of soluble and insoluble fiber. Which is just one of many ways scientists have found to classify types of fiber over the years.

To keep things simple, I'll use the idea that soluble fiber slows digestion and insoluble moves things along.

Ew poop!

You can't talk about fiber without inevitably bringing up a number two. 

You probably know how prune juice is supposed to reduce your chances of constipation. But have you ever read the nutritional label to see how much fiber is in it? Three grams of fiber (depending on the size of the cup). Compare that to the three grams in your standard microwave packet of oatmeal and you'll quickly realize that's a good amount.

Soluble and insoluble fiber are both good for you in different ways. When the Cheerios commercial says it helps lower bad cholesterol, it means they're high in soluble fiber such as the kind found in the oats that Cheerios are made out of.  Soluble fiber is also the kind of fiber that helps control your blood sugar levels. They're also highly fermentable which means the "good" bacteria that live in the human intestinal tract can digest it. They help you digest it so you can absorb more nutrients. It's the insoluble fiber though that keeps you regular. 

What's good for your poop is good for you

For over a year I volunteered once a week in the endoscopy department of a hospital. If you don't know what an endocopy is, it's where they take a flexible camera and (gently) rotor rooter it through your colon to see if everything's going okay (colonscopy) or down your throat into your stomach (upper endoscopy). Don't worry, they get thoroughly sanitized between uses. If the thought of either causes you to clench or activates your gag reflex, they almost always put you out with mild anesthesia before you go under.  The nurses were friendly and funny, the patients occasionally a little loopy. I learned a lot. For example, the procedure is covered by most insurance companies as an investigative procedure to look at symptoms but not necessarily as a screening procedure (like is recommended for anyone over 50)*. 

I also heard a lot of diagnoses. Everything from hemorrhoids and ulcers to diverticulitis (inflammation of diverticuli or small pockets in the intestinal wall caused by weakening of the muscles lining your intestine, common with age) and colorectal polyps. And the number one phrase I heard to help treat most of these: "high fiber diet."* 

Soluble fiber makes your stool softer and insoluble fiber helps bulk it up, which together make for solid, easy poops. No straining. No constipation. A quicker, cleaner toilet operation all around.

*as I am not a certified medical professional or insurance agent, always check with your individual healthcare and insurance providers to determine your symptoms, treatment, and what is and isn't covered.

Sources and supplementation


Oats, beans, whole wheat, vegetables, fruit, nut and seeds are all good sources of fiber. Obviously this is the number one nutritionist and doctor supported ideal. By eating whole foods you're getting all the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients with your fiber. It's variety and color and not the meat-paired-with-processed-white typical of a Standard American Diet. 

There have been studies recently looking at the differences between people in remote hunter-gatherer societies' diets and people from industrialized nations and the most significant differences have been in fiber intake. Given how this feeds and changes the microbiome of your intestinal tract, you'd think there'd be a bigger push to get people eating their fiber. 


Not everybody eats the perfect diet all the time and maybe even if you are eating plenty of vegetables and whatnot you're still falling short of the clinically recommended 30-35g daily (38g for men). That's where supplements come in.

Most supplements are some form of psyllium husk or powder. Think Metamucil or Benefiber brands. They can be a little gritty and if you don't drink it fast enough can clump up in your glass. They're easy to make, convenient to mix into your regular drinks, and fairly cheap for how much you get.

Whole food supplements

Supplements don't have to be just fiber though. There are actually plenty of whole foods that are packed with fiber (and other vitamins, minerals and other nutrients). My favorite are flaxseed and chia seeds, they're called superfoods by all the magazines for a reason. They're packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, protein along with omega-3 fatty acids all for a fairly moderate amount. I put a small handful (this is a very precise measuring method equal to about two tablespoons) of flaxseed in my daily breakfast smoothie (I have one of those NutriBullets, the Magic Bullet 2.0 and it blends ANYTHING) and sometimes mix chia seeds with hemp milk to sit overnight almost like a vegan pudding (a little sugar, maybe some matcha powder if I have it).


Fiber and poop aren't exactly the most fun things to talk about. I get it. And preventing slow-acting diseases and ailments of the body is by no means sexy (unless you think being healthy is sexy in which case, mmm, gimme that thick carrot).

A lot of anecdotal evidence (and personal experience) says that higher fiber intake leads to increased sense of fullness. With flaxseed, whole frozen fruits and vegetables and sometimes added pumpkin and chia seed in the mix, my breakfast smoothies usually clock in at about 30-40% of my RDV fiber in one sitting and I'm usually good afterward until at least lunch time. So if you're trying to lose weight, adding more fiber can be one of those dietary changes you make to get yourself to eat less (or at least differently).

I heard it on Oprah once, but where the fiber goes, water goes. Think of it this way: dietary fiber is essentially little bits of plant sponge and if you have them dried out, they'll suck as much water out of your gut as they can. Since so many of us are bordering on mildly dehydrated to begin with, you can see how this might be a problem. As I've increased my fiber intake, I've also vastly increased my water intake to match and I feel better and more hydrated for it.

tl;dr fiber is good for you, eat more fiber-rich food.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Every Time We Touch

I have a confession to make:

I am terrified of physical intimacy with other men. But at the same time, I crave it. When I want to feel physically comforted, my first instinct/desire is to want it from the men in my life (even though I'm much more likely to be readily supported and listened to by the women who love me).

I'm slowly realizing that growing up queer in a homophobic, hetero-patriarchal world kind of fucked me up more than I like to admit and as a result I have underlying insecurities around any kind of physical intimacy with men who I am not romantically or sexually involved with.

Participating in a Free Hugs
and (Hershey's) Kisses event
in undergrad
And you may be thinking to yourself, Danny, you're queer. You've been with the same partner for four years in a stable, healthy relationship, you offer hugs and are super touchy and gentle and vulnerable with people all the time.

To which I must say, you're right, I am physically and emotionally intimate with people all the time.

Actually being intimate and being afraid of intimacy are not mutually exclusive.

I would argue that my fear (though maybe deep-seated anxiety is a better phrasing) is not innate, but rather a manifestation of a culturally ingrained stigma born out of societal homophobia. It's learned. Before you read on, I encourage you to check out this article by Mark Greene on the Goodmenproject about what he calls touch isolation and how homophobia creates a culture wherein men aren't allowed to touch each other.

My willingness to be intimate with other men is also learned: by exposing myself to an inclusive, diverse arts community, by being actively queer, basically I have expanded my comfort zone by existing at and interacting with the margins of society where the strict boundaries of "normal" behavior are blurred.

If I'm insecure or anxious, it is because society has taught me that I should only be allowed that physical intimacy, that closeness, in certain kinds of relationships. The underlying fear can best be encapsulated by the question: will this be conceived as sexual contact? It's the internalized conflict between a hypersexualized gay culture (all contact between two men is or will become sexual) and certain aspects of homophobic cultural conditioning (contact between two men should never be sexual) with the reality that not all touch is inherently sexualized and even if it is, that's not always a bad thing.

 Even within my own personal experience this isn't universally true. After all, I'm a notorious cuddler with close friends. Pet me. Hug me. Trade massages. Brush my head with your elbow. Touch is very important to my life.

My head being brushed with an elbow.
I've been actively unlearning this social conditioning for years now, but sometimes it still catches me off guard. It's compounded by the specific ways in which as a queer man I have to unravel and separate the various forms of attraction, desire, lust, like, and love that I can feel for any given man at any given time, and usually there's more than one happening at the same time. This isn't always an easy task.

So is a hug just a hug or is it a hug?

It depends. Sometimes it's both.

What I'm trying to unpack here is that I don't think physical intimacy is something to be afraid of. We can touch, hug, cuddle, kiss, whatever and it doesn't have to be a Thing. It can just be the base comfort of sharing space and company. I want that for myself. I want that for you.  Otherwise we are depriving ourselves for nothing.

And to the men in my life that I can be vulnerable with, where the hugs last just long enough to make the occasional person watching uncomfortable, who will hold my hand while we sit in silence, those shoulders to lean on even when I don't need support, know I appreciate you. You're helping me overcome a lifetime of deprivation.

As a endnote to this post, I would like to address the role of consent in these interactions. All too frequently we talk about consent in terms of sex, but part of recognizing and honoring the body autonomy of the people we interact with is by establishing boundaries and communicating. Some people aren't okay with touch. So ask. Can I hug you? Want to cuddle?

Offer alternatives. Hand-hug instead of full body hug. Sit next to each other instead of on each other.

Meet people where they're at. Men especially in our culture can take some time to warm up to the idea of body contact that isn't explicitly sexual or aggressively nonsexual (sports/roughhousing), but give them the option. Create space and opportunities to be close, but with the option to opt out if it's too much.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

What Are You? A Personal Intersection of Race, Identity and Queerness

"So... What are you?"

It's an innocuous enough question in most circumstances, awkwardly phrased with downturned eyes, like the person asking doesn't know if they're allowed to ask. Sometimes it's worded differently: "What's your ethnicity?" or "Where are you from?"

If you're not white and living in the United States, you're familiar with this song and dance. You may even get it often enough to be annoyed, perhaps even offended. It is, after all, one of those microaggressions continually reminding you of your non-whiteness, branding you as Other. You are not white, therefore you are not really of here. However innocent, it's an interrogation based in our American cultural obsessions with race and identity.

But this post is only partly about that. Call this post a confession and an answer. See, I struggle to answer these questions.

I was raised just outside a small city in Washington called Puyallup. It was the suburbs; a pleasant - if homogenously bland - existence where everyone needed a car to get around. The area was mostly white and grew dramatically through my childhood and adolescence with the housing boom of the late-nineties and early-noughts.

My parents both grew up in West Seattle. My mother raised by an immigrant who gave me her dimples, my father by the kind of straight-laced couple who have lived in the same house for decades, who seem more a part of the landscape than the characters passing through.

A week after I graduated high school, my mom pulled me aside.

Russell isn't your father, she told me. Your brother is actually your half-brother. Your biological father is actually a man named Joseph.

It was a shock, but not world shattering. Call it the weary resilience of a child of divorce combined with the stability that comes from a strong sense of community and selfhood. I carry the name of my father but do not share his blood.

"So... What are you?"

Well, through my mom I'm a quarter Japanese and a quarter German-American. On my dad's side... I don't know.

I'm clearly not white. I'm what a self-aware sitcom might jokingly refer to as "vaguely ethnic." I have olive skin that ripens under the summer sun into a glowing brown. My eyes slant just enough to give me away. I could be mixed Hispanic, or maybe Philipino, or Persian. I'm a mutt of indeterminate origin, the beautiful bowl of soup poured straight from the melting pot. I'm the beige future that racist white folk whisper about in fear when discussing interracial relationships.

Here's an excellent study in contrast of me dancing with my friend Gabe.

I've seen pictures of my biological father. Volunteered to me without request, but have never had an interest in seeking out contact. Who would this stranger with his own family and life be to me? What would I be to him, an adult son with a life already his own?

I don't need another father.

Still, it leaves me at an impasse. I do not know my roots. I do not have a tidy little pedigree to present on command. I am mixed unknown, American as individually-wrapped sliced cheese product.

As a result, like many mixed race kids, I've rarely felt like I belong -- at least when it comes to matters of race. Despite my upbringing, I've never been white. The social studies teacher in junior high who tried to call me Mr. Miyagi more than proved that point. If I'm curious, I could always do one of those genealogy tests. Swab my mouth and send it to a lab, receive a chart and map in the mail. But without a connection to culture, I've never felt comfortable partaking in many of the social safe spaces for my POC peers (welcoming as they may be).

I’ve studied the language and history and culture of my maternal grandmother and even visited Japan once long ago, but as much as I ache for cherry blossoms in the spring, I will always be a foreigner.

It took a trip to Boston to finally see my first spring sakura in New England.

And I guess this is all a part of what makes me queer, really.

LGBTQ-folk in America have a long narrative history of the “adopted” or “chosen” family because so many of us are still getting disowned and cast out by our birth families. So we surround ourselves with people who will love and support us.

I have my birth family: My mother and brother and step-father who I don’t call as often as I should. My partner’s amazing extended family who are so happy to see that I make him happy.

I also have my chosen families: My Charlie-sis who took me to my first concerts and dragged me to my first dance lesson. The expansive Power of Hope community that has nurtured my heArtistry for years. All the Poets who stare at the moon. My QTs (Meow). And everyone else who holds me accountable and pushes me to grow and love.

I have a tattoo of the symbol for mercury on my right forearm.

It’s there as a reminder of my own liminality, that someone has to fill in the blanks, read between the lines, exist in spaces between. Despite what American misconceptions may force on me, I am more than my race. I am more than my skin tone. You don’t need to know what I am to know who I am.