I’m 3,3% Neanderthal and other things I learned from my DNA test 

Back in December I ordered a DNA kit from the company 23andMe because I was curious about what my genome could tell me about me. Several weeks later I got this box in the mail:

In it was this little plastic tube I had to spit into:

Then I put the tube back into the box and had it shipped to the 23andMe lab in the Netherlands. Fast forward two and a half months later and I got an email that my results were in.

The first thing I checked out in my online 23andMe profile was how many procent of my DNA was inherited from Neanderthal ancestors. The reason is that I kind of have a nerdy fascination with this extinct species of humans and was eager to know if I’m in anyway related to them. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I am actually in the 99th percentile, meaning 99% of 23andMe users have lower Neanderthal DNA than I have! 

It can seem a weird thing to be happy about but I’m kinda weird so there you go. Having a high procentage of Neanderthal DNA can also tell you something about you. It has been discovered for example that it can lead to having a higher risk for depression but also a better immunity to certain diseases.

Then I looked at my ancestry. Having a French father and a French-Swedish mother I was curious of what it might look like. This is what I found:

As expected I was mostly French. But as was a little bit surprised to find out I was more British and Irish than Scandinavian. Overall I think it was cool to be able to see my ancestry all over Europe, from Finland to the Iberian peninsula. 

Next I looked up what genes I may have that carried potential for different medical conditions:

To my relief I didn’t find anything unusual and worrying. But certain features were locked, like info on whether you have the genes for Alzheimers and breast cancer. It seems you have to ask to have that unlock, probably because a lot of people prefer not to know when it comes to these conditions. I’m myself still pondering whether or not I want these features unlocked.

You can also look up other interesting genetic traits you have:

Some are not that super interesting, like the texture of your earwax. But others can be very helpful to know. Like for example I learned I have a higher number of fast-twitching muscle fibers, which makes me better for strength training than endurance training: 

This has actually helped me make a decision. I’ve been pondering lately if I should focus on running or go back to weight training. As I’m genetically much more built for strength training that’s what I’ve decided to focus on. After the 5K I have in the beginning of May, I’ll get back to the gym! 

The 23andMe website has other cool features to help you learn more about yourself, like it can help you find genetic relatives. This has actually helped people who are adopted reconnect with their biological families. 

You can also browse raw data if you’re looking for specific genes:

There is even a website you can upload your genome information to and learn more about your genetic makeup. A word of warning though: you might learn some things you would have preferred not to know. 

Overall I’m glad I took this test. I learned a lot of interesting things about myself  that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. I’m definitely not done researching my DNA and I hope to continue learning more about it. 


Here is the link to the 23andMe website if you’re interested in taking their DNA test: 23andme.com

The Swedes are coming out of hibernation, first post-op picks and other random stuff

Yesterday marked my one month post top surgery and life is going pretty good. The infection I had cleared up nicely and it looks like I will get to keep both my nipples! 

I’ll put some pics at the end of this post if you wanna see or skip if you don’t want to.

My mood is definitely up. The sun is shining and it looks like spring is on its way. Winter is so depressing in Scandinavia, so cold and dark it feels like living in a fridge which has a broken light. So when it ends it feels like the world and the people in it are coming back to life. I say that spring is the time when the Swedes are reborn and coming out of hibernation.

The future feels brighter than it has ever been and not just because the sun is shining. With my top surgery done and my mobility soon fully recovered I will finally get to do so many things I’ve wanted to for I long time but never could. I’m looking forward to start dating, go to the swimming pool and walk with my shirt off in the sun.

I also registered for a 5k in a couple months and will start training for it as soon as I get a OK from the surgeon to start exercising against. Even bought myself a brand new pair of running shoes as a congratulation gift to myself for having top surgery. 

Another interesting thing that happened recently is that I learned my doc had been giving me the wrong dosage of Strattera, my ADD meds. Someone my age and weight should be on 80-90 mg a day but I have been on only 40 mg a day since starting. I’m definitely better off than before I was medicated but I still struggle a lot with a shitty attention span. Going up to the right dosage could improve my symptoms even more and help me reach my full potential. Perhaps I’ll even be able to be more productive in my writing. 

Below are my first post-op pics. I was a little nervous showing them since I’m a bit chubby and my torso has a weird shape (crooked spine) but here we go (that yellow stuff is not dirt btw, just residue from the bandages. Took this right before getting in the shower): 

A World Tour of Books: The Road by Jack London (United States)

When starting my World Tour of Books I decided to not go by any specific order. That way it will make things more interesting as my reader will not know from post to post where the next stop on our journey will be.
So, after having read the first book in the tour I had not specific plan on where to continue next.
One evening I was lying in my bed and happened to look up at a bookshelf in my room when my eyes landed on the two novels The Call of The Wild and White Fang by Jack London. These were my two absolute favorite books as a child and it hit me that I associated a lot of things in London’s work with the United States: rugged individualism, the great Western wild and what we call “The American Dream”.
I decided that one of London’s book would be a great choice for our stop in the US of A. I looked through a bibliography of Jack London and became immediately interested in his autobiographical work The Road when I learned it inspired Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, which just happens to be my favorite book of all times.
In The Road London tells of his time when he was a train hopping hobo. It was in the 1890s and the US was experiencing its worst economic crisis in its history up till then. London would travel from town to town and often had to resort to begging for a living. It was during that time in his life that he first mastered the art of storytelling, as he would make up sap stories to try and win the sympathy of those he begged from.
During his travels and his stay at the Erie County Penitentiary, where he spent 30 days for vagrancy, London met the poorest and most marginalised of society. He witnessed the desperation of his time, but also the resilience and ingenuity of people just trying to survive. This influenced him greatly and he would later become a passionate social activist.
The Road was a great read about a fascinating man in a difficult time. This book as well as Jack London’s other works are a must-read for anyone interested in American literary history.

2 weeks post-op: upswing in mood despite infection

TMI/Grossness Warning!

 

On Monday I had my second post-op check-up and has soon as the nurse removed my bandages I knew something was wrong. I had felt an odor since the day before and now I could see pus. The nurse left the room after cleaning my scars to get the doctor and he told me what I already suspected: I have an infection.

I’m now on antibiotics to try to fight it but the doc informed me that there is a risk that I could lose one or both of my nipples. The left one especially looks pretty bad while the right one seems to heal a bit better.

I was aware that this is one of the risks of top surgery and I took it into account. Top surgery was something I really needed so this doesn’t makes me regret anything but it still sucks.

The infection is only in the nipples so the good news is that the other scars are healing well.

Also on a more positive note: my mood in the last week has been much better than the previous one. I’ve been able to be more mobile so I have been more active, which is in my experience the most important thing for me to not fall into a depressive state. I’ve been doing a lot of writing and reading and been out on walks so that also helps.

Now I just hope this infection clears up soon. Fingers crossed.

A World Tour of Books: In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park (North Korea)

So I began my world tour of books in what can seem an odd choice: the closed dictatorship of North Korea. Finding an honest book from this country would be hard since all books published there must be approved by the state and most are filled with propaganda about how great the leader is and how North Korea is the best place on earth, which is very far from the truth.

That is why I have chosen a book that it not technically from NK, as it wasn’t written or published there, but instead a book written by the human rights activist and NK defector Yeonmi Park.

In her biography In Order to Live, Park recounts how it was to grow up under one of the most violent and authoritarian regimes in the world. For a short time in her life Park and her family had a decent standard of living. At least compared to most of the population of North Korea, where great poverty is the rule rather than the exception. But after her father was arrested for smuggling (something he had to do to take care of his family) and sent to an internment camp, her family faced great poverty and risked starvation. For a while the then eight year old Yeonmi and her eleven year old sister were left on their own while their mother worked to get their father out of the camp. During this time they would scavenge nearby mountains to find anything edible but still suffered from severe malnutrition.

Years later, after their family was finally back together, her sister disappeared after informing them that she would try and escape to China. Yeonmi and her mother went to try to find her, crossing the border at night with help from human traffickers. But once on the other side they were taken by the people who they thought were going to help them. The second part of the book is about their time in China, where they became victims of trafficking. What happened during that time was horrific as they both experienced frequent sexual abuse and were often seen as nothing more than merchandise. Yeonmi’s mother was at one point sold to be a man’s slave wife for a price equivalent of about 2100 US dollars.

At the same time they could not ask the Chinese authorities for help, as they were undocumented immigrants and would have been sent back to NK to face severe punishment and possibly execution.

The eventually found a way to escape to Mongolia by taking the dangerous journey through the Gobi Desert at night. They were then incarcerated and later flown to South Korea, where NK defectors are welcomed and helped to adapt to life in their new country.

Yeonmi and her mother were able to start a new life in SK and were even eventually reunited with Yeonmi’s sister. Yeonmi Park is today a human rights activist fighting to help bring awareness of the horrors the Kim dictators have brought on their own people. She is a woman of great bravery, especially since she is living under threat of retaliation from the North Korean government.

In Order to Live was a moving read about not only the oppression happening in North Korea but also about human bravery and strength in the face of what seems like impossible odds. I warmly recommend this biography of a remarkable woman.

Revealing my secret blogging project: A Word Tour of Books

In my post about my goals for 2017 I wrote that I had a secret blogging project in the making and now the time has come to reveal it.

Last year I came across this TED-Talk about a woman who spent a year reading a book from every country. It inspired me so much I decided to do the same thing.

Although I haven’t set a deadline because I’m kind of slow reader and don’t think I could pull off reading 197 books in one year, even if I will listen to many books on audio to save time.

There is some controversy as to what exactly constitutes a country but for simplicity’s sake I will go by nations that have been internationally recognized as independent states. I have printed out a list of all these countries from this website and will check them off as I go along. Depending on what happens in the world in the coming years I might have to update that list.

The books I will read will be both fiction and non-fiction and I will try to focus on books that have a strong connection to that country’s culture.

The first post of this Word Tour of Book series will be published either later today or tomorrow. So stay tuned and don’t hesitate to subscribe!

And of course I will still blog about other things like politics, writing and my transition.

Itchiness and Apathy: 1 week post-op

Today is exactly one week since I finally had my top surgery. The pain has been okay, not nearly as much as I expected and manageable with over-the-counter painkillers. What bothers me more right now is the itchiness of the healing scars. Luckily I’m wearing this surgical binder (that I will have to wear until 6 weeks post-op) so it takes away the temptation to scratch. 

I was at the nurse’s office on Monday for a check-up and to change my bandages. She also removed those tiny cushion looking things that were stapled over my nipples. I don’t know if you’ve ever had metal staples pulled out of your nipples but if you haven’t let me tell you: it hurts like a b****. 

I still have some staples left that are holding the nipples to my chest while the scars heal and after seeing that I’m even more grateful for the surgical binder because that just freaks me out and I don’t want to have to look at it.

The worst thing this week has not been anything physical though. It’s the mental toll of having to be so inactive. Maybe it’s because of my ADD but I get really depressed when I can’t activate myself. I always need to be doing something or I fall into this state of apathy and depression that’s really hard to snap out of. Right now I feel like a zombie waiting to be brought back to life.

Although my current mood is shit I’m really glad I was finally able to have top surgery. Now I feel like my life can really begin. I just need for this healing process to be over so I can feel like a person again. 

Officially post-op!

Just writing a quick post to let you all know I finally had my top surgery this Wednesday 15th of February. The operation went well and of the little I’ve seen when the nurses changed my bandages the results look pretty good. 

It was planned that I would go home the same day but anesthesia always messes me up and I spent the rest of the day sleeping and throwing up so they kept me until today. I just came home a couple of hours ago.

This Monday I have an appointment at the nurses’ office for a checkup. Until then I’m going to take it easy and try to rest as much as I can.   

Book Recommendation: The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

Of the many shitty things that happened in 2016, the passing of the amazing Carrie Fisher was among those that saddened me the most. As a borderline fanatic Star Wars fan I knew her primarily as the actress who played the legendary role of the rebel princess Leia Organa. And while that is a pretty badass thing to be remembered for, there was so much more to Carrie Fisher than that.

She was also a writer, humourist and advocate for many important causes such as animal rights, LGBTQ-rights and the rights of people living with HIV and AIDS. She was outspoken about her struggle with drug addiction and mental illness and helped lift the stigma around these issues.

Far too often you don’t realise what you have until it’s gone and when she passed away I realised I had never taken the time to read anything by her. I immediately tried to order her most famous novel Postcards from the Edge but it was out of stock, probably because people rushed to get their hands on a copy when they heard she was no longer with us.

So instead I bought the audiobook of her latest book on Audible and started listening. It kind of hit me in the feels when I heard Carrie Fisher’s voice.

With the rare honesty that was hers she tells in The Princess Diarist the story of her life during the shooting of the first Star Wars movie. How she got the role, where they shot the movie, how come she got that famous hairdo and other such things a Star Wars nerd like me loves hearing about. But also about her struggle with depression, her drug use and her three month affair with co-star Harrison Ford. The later which gives a whole new perspective on their on-screen chemistry.

While I loved hearing Carrie Fisher read (which she does with great feeling), my favourite part of the book is the one that in the audio version is read by her daughter Billie Lourd: the journal entries Carrie wrote during the shooting of the film.

What I love about them is that they show what writing can mean to a person, even if it’s at the time without the intent for anyone else to ever read it. Through writing you can pour your heart out. You can without holding back or censuring yourself express what you really think and feel. It’s the greatest source of therapy I’ve come across and it’s addictive in the best, non-destructive way possible.

I was also impressed by the prose and poetry in her journal entries. They are definitely the best written part of the book and truly show what a talented writer Carrie Fisher was.

I can warmly recommend The Princess Diarist.Fisher’s wittiness will have you smiling and laughing and her frank honesty will touch you deeply. Her final book is a great read that will make you miss her even more.

Shockingly good news for Swedish trans people!

I have written before about how trans people are treated in my home country. How we have to do things like share intimate details about our sex lives with “therapists” before when can get a diagnosis. How the waiting list for transition related health care are so long that many have to wait years and years or seek expensive healthcare in other countries. How the state demanded prior to 2013 that every person who wanted to change their legal gender first be forced to get sterilized and if they had frozen their gametes they had to be thrown away to guaranty that no post-transition trans person could ever become a biological parents.

The Swedish state and health care system has a long history of treating trans people like shit. This is why I was so deeply shocked (in the best possible way) over what happened two days ago.

The Swedish Socialstyrelsen (in English: The National Board of Health and Welfare) released a statement saying that from now on transgender people will no longer be classified has suffering from a mental illness!

The reason for this is that they decided to follow the World Health Organization’s recommendation to no longer classify trans people’s gender identity as a mental disorder. This would also most likely not have happened without the work of many trans activists and of the researchers and scientists who have found that a person’s gender identity is cause by biological factors such as genetics and neurological differences.

I honestly didn’t think this would happen so soon and sometimes wondered if I even would get to see it in my lifetime. When I got my diagnosis of transsexualism I was thrilled because it meant I would now be able to get the care I needed but I also felt humiliated that I would from then on be seen as suffering from a deep personal delusion and not something with actual, physiological causes.

But no more! Me and my fellow Swedish trans folk are no longer seen as being insane by the law and the health care system!

The 27th of January 2017 will be remembered in Sweden as a great day for transgender rights.