Photograph by Kim Taylor / Nature PL

Cellular Call

Welcome to The Overview, a weekly newsletter in which Editor-in-Chief Willow Defebaugh offers a holistic look at life on Earth, seen from above.

“Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”

Howard Zinn

Have you ever paused to wonder how you grew to be the person you are today? Not on an emotional level, but on a physical one. How did your body develop the way that it did? What triggered its growth spurts? What caused you to germinate and bloom? And even further back—to form in the womb? While the answers to these questions are myriad and complex, there is a common ingredient, an instigator of the many molecular moves that make you: hormones.

 

An integral part of the endocrine system, the network of glands and organs that facilitate your body’s functioning and growth, hormones are often referred to as “chemical messengers.” They are released directly into the bloodstream to carry out directives to various organs and tissues. They do this by seeking out a specific set of cell receptors that are devised to detect those exact hormones. When the two meet, a response is triggered in the cell, causing its behavior to change. When millions of cells are exposed to hormones, system-level changes occur.

 

A whole host of hormones have gone into your development and daily operation. Hormones produced by the thyroid gland influence how your cells use energy, affecting your breathing, heart rate, body temperature, digestion, and sleep. Insulin, produced by the pancreas, manages blood sugar levels. Ten different hormones were responsible for your development in the womb, chief among them being estrogen; a person will produce more estrogen during one pregnancy than the rest of their lives. And of course, estrogen and testosterone are the main catalysts of the manifold metamorphosis that we know as puberty.

 

As a trans person undergoing hormone replacement therapy, I know how miraculous hormones are. A few slight adjustments and your entire world can change. A recent study found that gender-affirming HRT is linked to lower rates of depression and suicide in trans youth. Yet in Texas, Attorney General Ken Paxton and Governor Greg Abbott have declared that providing this healthcare to trans kids could be “child abuse” under the law—despite every major medical association in the country supporting it. What kind of world do we live in if it becomes illegal for a parent to support their child in growing into who they are and ensuring their survival?

 

As if this news wasn’t grim enough, things took a turn for the worse on Thursday when Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, moved forward with his plans to invade Ukraine—and sent a threatening message to any allies that might come to its defense. And while I will refrain from attempts to summarize the nations’ history in such little space, I will point out that it’s Ukraine’s growth into its own peaceful democracy outside of Russia that Putin seems bent on stopping.

 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is intertwined with the climate crisis as well. It is powered by the same substance and mindset that is preventing our planet from flourishing: fossil fuels. As Bill McKibben wrote for The Guardian this morning: “it is a war underwritten by oil and gas, a war whose most crucial weapon may be oil and gas, a war we can’t fully engage because we remain dependent on oil and gas. If you want to stand with the brave people of Ukraine, you need to find a way to stand against oil and gas.”

 

Trans lives under threat in Texas, Russia attacking Ukraine, an alarming new IPCC report coming on Monday—our world is crying out for transformation, even in the face of those who might try and stop it. But the good thing about interconnected problems is that they have interconnected solutions. I don’t know whether you are the messenger, the message, or maybe the receiver, but I know that you have a part to play. I know you have felt it in your very cells. We look for growth in grand gestures, but gestation starts on levels much smaller. It starts with you and me. The question is: will we answer the call?

 

 

SUPPORT TRANS YOUTH IN TEXAS

Equality Texas, equalitytexas.org
Transgender Education Network of Texas, transtexas.org
Central Texas Transgender Health Association, txtranshealth.org


SUPPORT UKRAINE

CARE International, care.org
United Help Ukraine, unitedhelpukraine.org
People In Need, peopleinneed.net

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