My yin yoga class on Thurs. and Sun. mornings is doing well. It has 2 students regularly attending which isn’t bad out of 64 total in the whole gallery. Several new students have said they will start this coming Sunday too. Some of the guys who work out 5 days a week have hurt themselves or are worried about getting hurt so they want to join the yoga practice. I’ve explained how working out builds up their muscles but the tissues that connect the muscles to the bone, the facia, can still be weak and vulnerable to damage. Yin yoga, with all its long, deep stretches, helps strengthen the facia. It also has the added benefits of meditation, helping to keep you calm and centered. I don’t try and sell it to most guys in here as meditation though. They prefer to think of it as something that will help their workout rather than help them to be calm and present. Know your market, right? Ultimately, I think it is making F gallery (the most violent gallery in Housing Unit 1, or PC) a little less violent. *smile*

The UNO creative writing class is going well too. As with my public speaking in Toastmasters, I am working on being more emotionally engaging in my writing. I can write logical, analytical, data driven arguments that SHOULD be persuasive but I’ve realized that no amount of logos will work if there is no pathos, or emotional connection, first. The creative writing class has sort of forced me to focus on more emotional content. I’m happy to say that my last piece, about my late grandmother, seems to have succeeded in creating that emotional connection as the UNO student who reviewed it said it made him/her cry. Given that it took me a month to finish writing it because I would break down crying every time I worked on it, I think I succeeded in conveying the emotional state I wanted to. *smile*

I think my public speaking is also becoming more emotive. As I mentioned in my last journal entry, my last Toastmasters speech about NCDS miscalculating the overcrowding and having no plan for the 2020 emergency was a success mostly because of the emotional appeal I made to work together to make ourselves heard. My next speech on March 15th, which is supposed to be inspirational, is going to be on showing more compassion to each other in here. I plan to talk about 2 times in my past when I didn’t show as much compassion as I could have, the last being when Terry Berry was here, and then I’ll end by reading the poem I wrote in his memory. In here not showing someone compassion can literally contribute to their death. I will also be reading the Terry Berry poem (Breaking The Chains) and One Way To Not Be Embarrassed Again at the “poetry slam” that is the last meeting of the UNO class on March 5th. March will be an emotional month. *chuckle*

On a different note, this past weekend I was listening to my favorite NPR radio show, Radio Lab. They are in the middle of a 3 week series all themed on “gonads.” ( It has been very interesting and insightful. For instance, this past weeks episode explained the progression through history of the understanding how someone became male or female. At the beginning of the understanding of genetics they understood that traits were a blend from the parents. You might get your mother’s eye color, your father’s height, and a mix of their hair colors but gender was one or the other so it was originally thought to not be genetic but to be circumstantial. Girls were conceived under a certain moon, or boys were born if it was warmer, etc. Then they found the X/Y chromosomes and linked them to gender.

That is where my understanding stopped but did you know there can be XX males and XY females? They are rare but it’s because it isn’t the whole chromosome that regulates gender, it’s a gene called SRY, discovered in the 70’s I believe, that is typically on the Y chromosome that triggers a cascade of other gene activations that creates a boy. In rare cases SRY (or sorry, you’re a boy LOL!) is missing on the Y or is transferred to an X so the presence or absence of the Y chromosome isn’t sufficient to dictate gender. That was all new and surprising to me.

Then they blew my mind with the more recent discovery of the DMRT 1 gene. In males it continually suppressed other genes that would begin converting the male’s gonads to female ones. What?? Yes! When DMRT 1 is knocked out, in rats of course, the cells in the testes start to grow like uterine cells and produce estrogen. There is also a similar gene in females (which they didn’t name) that keeps females female. This likely harkens back to ancient fish ancestors who can switch gender depending on environmental conditions. There are over 100 species of fish that can currently switch genders after birth and many other animals too. Humans’ gender specific gonads are too significantly different for an actual gender conversion post birth to be feasible but it is amazing that such a mechanism actually existed.

Now imagine the gender implications of this all. Everyone can agree that there are variations in people’s fertility and hormone productions and can’t that be read as some variation in how “feminine” or “masculine” they are? Well, it turns out gender is even more varied that that. It isn’t as simple as having an X or Y chromosome. Even the presence of the SRY (sorry, you’re a boy) gene only starts a complex cascade of other gene activation which may express more strongly or weakly in different individuals. Then there’s the DMRT 1 gene which must constantly go around suppressing other genes that would try to reconvert a male back to a female. Why are we surprised (or in denial) that there is not only a spectrum of gender but that some people have some of their characteristics that don’t match up with other? Gender dysphoria, as it’s called today, is the mismatch between a person’s genitalia and their mental construct of themselves (which could easily be genetically influenced). Even though turning off the DMRT 1 gene in people isn’t currently practical in humans and wouldn’t lead to a complete gender conversion it could lead to self-produced estrogen for M-F conversion. It won’t happen anytime soon but maybe someday those who want can actually make their body more in line with their internal image of themselves.