TRANS RIGHTS 101
The Big Idea:
Thankfully, being transgender isn’t considered a mental disorder anymore, but studies show that transgender individuals are more likely to develop mental health problems than cisgender people.
What it means to be transgender
‘Transgender’ is an umbrella term that includes trans men and trans women, as well as nonbinary and genderqueer people. There are many many labels out there, used by people who don’t fit into society’s usual vocabulary or don’t want to box themselves into particular gender identities.
Some people question the validity of nonbinary genders, but they’ve actually been around for a long time. One example comes from Indonesia, where the Bugis in South Sulawesi has been using 5 gender identities for hundreds of years.
What to do when you’re predisposed to mental health issues
Many studies have shown that transgender people are much more likely to face mental health issues in their lifetimes, and some of this tends to be rooted in gender dysphoria, which is experienced by many (but not all) transgender people.
A study done in Sweden showed that transgender people are 6 times more likely to seek mental health care than cisgender people, although gender-affirming surgery was able to provide them with long-term mental health benefits. In the UK, gender-affirming hormone treatment improved the depression scores of 178 people in a study that spanned 18 months.
Unfortunately, not everyone has access to these sorts of treatments — and there might even be many more who don’t have access to mental health care in the first place.
Being LGBTQ+ in Singapore
ICYMI, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has denied the recent claims made by a transgender junior college student regarding their alleged blocking of his hormone therapy. But while Singapore might still be mostly on the conservative side of the spectrum, there are several LGBTQ+ spaces to be found here, such as:
- Non-profit organizations like Oogachaga, which provides counselling services for the LGBTQ+ community
- Singapore’s annual LGBTQ+ event, Pink Dot SG
- Pelangi Pride Centre, which houses a large number of LGBTQ+ resources
- Various bars and cafes around the city
If you’re in need a bit of a mental health boost, here is our Ultimate Guide to Seeing a Psychiatrist in Singapore!
5 Singaporean stories to catch up on
1️⃣ Two-in-one: The Health Sciences Authority has approved the use of a new test kit that can detect both Covid-19 and the seasonal flu.
2️⃣ An abuse of power: A former nurse from the Institute of Mental Health has been imprisoned for assaulting a patient and spraying hand sanitiser in his face.
3️⃣ A balanced diet for the elderly: Researchers have found that supplements and dietary advice can help elderly Singaporeans maintain muscle mass and physical strength.
4️⃣ Spreading the new American cheer: A group of Americans living in Singapore has distributed over 300 care packs to needy families as part of a set of events leading up to Joe Biden’s coming inauguration.
5️⃣ No lions (or tigers or bears, oh my): We’ve got a quiet Chinese New Year ahead, with dragon dances being cancelled and the many restrictions placed on where lion dances can be held this year.
And 5 facts to spice up your life:
1️⃣ Plant-based pau: 7-Eleven Japan has jumped on the meatless meat bandwagon with their new plant-based “meat” buns.
2️⃣ My shirt! It’s ~alive~ MIT and Imperial College London have collaborated to produce a “living material” inspired by kombucha.
3️⃣ Safe in the dentist’s chair: Engineers from Cornell University have designed a transparent helmet for dental patients that blocks 99.6% of Covid-19 air droplets.
4️⃣ A minnie-miracle: Gene therapy has allowed paralyzed mice to walk once again.
5️⃣ The happiest place on earth: California’s Disneyland is now a gigantic COVID-19 vaccination centre.
THE GOOD KIND OF FAT
The Big Idea:
Recent studies show that brown fat, AKA brown adipose tissue, can help with weight loss and obesity.
Being fat isn’t all bad
Most of us know all about the types of fat that you can put into your body, but do you know about the types of fat that are already in there? Everyone has three different types of fat cells, or adipose tissue, in their bodies: white, beige, and brown. (Now that’s what I call diversity!)
White adipose tissue is the kind we love to hate — it stores energy, and seems to like to hang out around our bellies and thighs. On the other hand, brown adipose tissue expends energy to generate heat, which is why it’s so great — a fat that helps you burn fat? Yes, please! Beige adipose tissue basically comes from the “browning” of white fat cells, making them act more like brown fat cells.
Brown is beautiful
Recent studies have shown that brown fat can help with weight loss and reduce your risk of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes or some heart conditions. This is mainly due to the mitochondria — the powerhouse of the cell! — found within them, which contains lots of iron and exist in greater numbers than can be found in white fat cells.
Take a trip… to your fridge
Unfortunately for us Singaporeans, brown fat, which is activated by cold temperatures, tends to be relatively dormant in hot weather — and we can’t even travel to anywhere cold right now thanks to Covid-19.
Research is still being done regarding brown fat activation outside of cold exposure, and the browning of white fat into beige. There’s lots of work to be done, although this study suggests that the consumption of flavonoids can induce this browning process.
In the meantime, we can only continue to dream about post-coronavirus winter holidays — the sights, the snow, and the hope for losing a couple of kilos while eating whatever we want.
Weird & Wonderful
- Nostalgia is reverse PTSD.
- Throats are tiny water slides.
- Saying ‘I had a beef sandwich with salad’ sounds a lot better than ‘I had a burger’.
- If you lose your right testicle, technically, you immediately lose your left testicle.
- Chewing gum is just flavoured rubber.
PICTURE OF THE DAY
Image of Edward Jenner performing his first vaccination in 1796. Photo from TheAtlantic.com
The Big Idea:
Vaccines these days are commonplace, but pandemics like smallpox ruled freely for thousands of years before the first vaccine was developed in 1796.
A fear as old as time
There’s a certain kind of fear that takes over when the world is facing a pandemic. Whether it be the Ebola virus or Covid-19, the public tends to go into a panic while scientists work their butts off to find a cure, or more importantly, a vaccine.
One of the most infamous pandemics in history was smallpox, which was caused by the virus Variola, and dates back as early as 300 BCE. Those infected would get thousands of blisters filled with pus all over their bodies, and many were left scarred or even blinded. It is estimated that smallpox was responsible for up to 500 million deaths in the 20th century.
The earliest evidence we have on inoculation comes from 15th century China, where written records show that a process called variolation had become commonplace. Uninfected people would inhale a powder made from the scabs of the smallpox-infected population — which sounds gross, I know, but it had a fair enough success rate.
If we’re talking about a vaccine proper, then we have to move forward into the 18th century and the work of Edward Jenner, a British physician who had realised that those who contracted a similar disease called cowpox, never seemed to be infected by smallpox. In 1796, he began administering cowpox to his patients (beginning with a small boy that he used as a guinea pig), granting them immunity from smallpox.
The story of how the Spanish decided to distribute this vaccine to their colonies is much darker, but thankfully, we developed the technology to help us with the storage of vaccines over time. And so, after three millennia of terrorizing the human race, smallpox was finally eradicated in 1979 — hopefully, the eradication of Covid-19 won’t take quite so long!