A new lens

Photography is something I have always wanted to get into. This year has been one for knocking things off my bucket list–more on that later probably–so on Black Friday I braved Best Buy to bring home my Canon Rebel. It was the best I could afford and a good start for someone who is photography-clueless like me.

I have always been interested and enthralled with all forms of art, but often timid to try out my own abilities because they are inevitably not “good” enough. I didn’t go to art school, never took a lesson past elementary school in fact–but lately I have found myself dabbling more and more for my own relaxation and enjoyment. I have realized that the not “good” enough part is all in my head if I feel good enough for myself. I’m 25. I have no plans of pursuing art professionally at this point, but it is certainly an outlet for me and a way to connect with others.

We have one life to live right? Why not dabble in it ALL while and feel free to express ourselves FOR ourselves when creativity strikes?

These past couple of months have been personally difficult for me as I have struggled with returning anxiety and panic attacks. With anxiety, it is hard to live in the moment as bigger, vague terrors press into my mind and then extend their tendrils down into my body. The other day I ventured to the Portland Japanese Garden and found myself in a state of meditation as I peered at the world through the camera lens. The camera was able to slow my thoughts down by centering my view (literally) on the smaller beauty of the world around me. I am particularly drawn to the small things–clinging fungi, fisted buds, strands of moss–because they are evidence of these endless beautiful processes of nature that occur under our noses every day.

Despite my newbie-ness to photography, I want to share my photos as a way of sharing my experience and wonder. I hope you enjoy and feel encouraged to try something new as well! As always, submit any of your creative work to darby@paradingaround.com to be posted!

gold

shell

moss

hello koi

mirror

Art as healing

FullSizeRender 47

Sometimes I just have to stop and doodle to process a dark mood or get control of my stress. I never considered myself good at drawing until a friend gave me Wreck This Journal, which provided a much-needed outlet of creativity. Now, art is something I turn to. The physical act turns off the buzzing, harmful thoughts and lets me focus my energies on the single task of expression. I often find inspiration in words, like those featured in this sketch. Sorry for the poor quality, I hope to buy a good scanner soon.

“Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.”

-Maya Angelou

I think this is a hopeful message to those of us who have suffered from mental illnesses. Sometimes our situation seems to consume all the light we have. It is important to remember that there are always paths back to control, back to light.

Do you use art to express yourself or heal? How does it help you?

Pink for Leelah

Leelah_Alcorn

Photo via Leelah’s tumblr http://lazerprincess.tumblr.com/

Make no mistake, a fingernail can be a parade.

There is a new hashtag trend that is taking over Facebook and Tumblr–#pinkforleelah. It is a movement to honor 17 year old Leelah Alcorn, who took her own life and posted her suicide letter to tumblr for the world to take note. To participate, simply paint your ring finger pink on January 6th to raise awareness of both Leelah’s tragedy and, as she wished, call attention to the discrimination of trans people.

If you haven’t read the note yet…it is heartbreaking. Unfortunately, Leelah’s personal tumblr was recently deleted, probably at the hands of her parents, but the note lives on across the internet. You can also find the full text of the note here and in case any of you doubt the truth of this story, here as well. If you have a tumblr you can easily find it reblogged thousands of times over. In fact, the tumblr community has exploded in support of Leelah, with new tribute  pages popping up with nearly every refresh, dedicated to remembering her as she wished to be remembered–as a beautiful woman.

Leelah Alcorn’s birth certificate tells a different story of her identity. On paper, she was a boy named Josh. To her parents, that was that. Despite bravely coming out to them as a trans-person, they rejected her identity and, according to Leelah’s writings, began a series of harmful actions that led her to severe depression, including taking her out of school and isolating her for five months from her friends.

The saddest thing, to me, is that at 17, Leelah was so close to reaching an age where she could get out from under her parents’ oppressive beliefs and seek a more supportive community. But to her, the reality of entering adulthood, completely unsupported by her family and lacking her once-close friends, was horrific to imagine.

Since her tumblr post, additional posts from Leelah have been found on reddit, titled I’m sure someone on here can convince me not to kill myself and Is this considered abuse? Though the content of the first post has been removed, her responses to commenters remain below (for now). Many redditors did their best to convince her that her living was worth living, but her depression continued to drip from every sentence.

When asked what she was looking forward to when she turned eighteen she replied:

“I’m not looking forward to anything. My life is only going to get harder.”

In the next thread, she asks for help, wondering if her parents’ actions toward her qualify as abuse. There are so many aspects of these posts that are chilling, but this excerpt is perhaps the most tragic (emphasis added):

“The way I feel when I talk to my parents and the way my parents treat me like I’m subhuman and that my feelings aren’t valid all make me think that I’m going through abuse, but I don’t know if it counts or not.”

Though many redditors did comment and provide their support, it wasn’t enough to counteract the years of emotional abuse she experienced from those who were supposed to love her the most. To her parents, Leelah Alcorn’s emotions were invalid and her pain, irrelevant. But that Josh Alcorn, they loved and fought for him. His mother even expressed her sorrow to CNN, by stating, “But we told him that we loved him unconditionally. We loved him no matter what. I loved my son.”

Too bad her son didn’t exist. She could have worked to build a wonderful relationship with her daughter. I don’t mean to diminish the pain that Leelah’s family is going through. Nothing will bring her back. But the ideology her family used made her feel worthless. This is what I take issue with.

Subhuman.

I can’t stop coming back to that word. To me, this word comprises the root of discrimination and provides the answer to why we still do not have social equality. The idea that some people matter more than others, as if we can quantify every individual’s net worth by the race, gender, sexual orientation, spiritual affiliation, etc., needs to be eradicated once and for all. The reality is that our present society makes beautiful souls like Leelah feel unworthy of life. Is there a bigger indicator of needed change than that?

Leelah hoped her death would mean something.

“The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights.”

In one of her reddit posts, Leelah typed a simple request:

“Please help me…”

Though we couldn’t help her then, we can help her now by taking action to bring her final dream to life.

A change.org petition has racked up 277,140 signatures in the hopes of enacting “Leelah’s Law,” a bill that would ban the harmful practice of conversion therapy, already banned in Washington, D.C., California, and New Jersey. You can sign the petition to protect the gender identity of children nationwide from this emotionally damaging and ineffective practice.

Whether you paint a nail pink, sign the petition, or simply make Leelah’s story a part of tomorrow’s conversation–don’t be afraid to parade around. There are teens like Leelah who need to hear you.

For more information on how to prevent suicide or fight for the rights of trans-people, check out Human Rights CampaignAmerican Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and  The Guardianwhich has compiled an excellent list of resources for trans-people and those who love them.