An Interview with Mykal

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I have always said that one of my favorite things about blogging is the chance to hear from people that I would otherwise never meet. I’ve learned so much and greatly expanded my worldview thanks to blogs. It’s on that note that I present this guest post from my new friend Mykal.

Henry and I met Mykal on the plane a few months ago. He’s a warm, friendly, and open person. Mykal works at the Freedom Center for Social Justice, providing advocacy work for the LGBTQ community. Specifically, he utilizes his recently obtained Associates Degree in Theology and his personal life experiences to work “at the intersections of faith, race, gender and sexual orientation to create true cultural shifts with faith circles and the broader community.” He also happens to be transgender (born female, he identifies as a male).

Despite the fact that transgender people are a small portion of our population (estimates are 0.5%, or 1.5 million people in the USA), transgender civil rights are becoming a big discussion topic in our mainstream society. The topic even recently made the cover of TIME magazine. I read the article with interest, as I’d been working with Mykal on several projects, including bringing Operation Beautiful to a local transgender youth conference and this guest post.


As the article describes, transgender civil rights has a long, long way to go – 80% of transgender youth are harassed at school; 90% of transgender adults are harassed at work; and many are victims of hate crimes. Nearly 20% of transgender adults have been denied a place to live, and almost half have been hired, not promoted, or not hired because of their identity. And, most frightening of all, nearly half of transgender individuals have attempted suicide (compared to less than 2% of the general population).

Only 9% of Americans know someone who is transgender. I believe that a huge part of society becoming more equal and supportive is simply a matter of familiarity. So on that note, I present a Q&A with Mykal. I hope you enjoy hearing his thoughts. If you want to share your feedback or experiences in the comments, please keep in the spirit of being kind and gentle to another human being who was brave enough to open himself up to you.


CAITLIN: Most of my readers are heterosexual women.  Like many women (and men) in today’s society, some struggle with body acceptance issues, a lot of which comes from pressure in the media for women to look and act a certain way.  As someone who was born female but transition to male, can you talk a little bit about how your journey to mentally accept yourself coincided with body image acceptance?


MYKAL: Body image was an issue for me, but not for the reason you might think. As a young woman, I had a beautiful shape, the Cola bottle thing going on! The problem with that was that I didn’t feel comfortable with the attention it brought my way. When I began to notice how it attracted extended stares and men, I began to wear more concealing clothing. I feel that we are often taught early on as femaales that we should not harness our body’s physical beauty, that there is something wrong or improper about your body. So it is easy to fall into a negative thought process about yourself before you even truly begin to understand how body image relates to self image.


Over the years, body image did become a problem for me.  It took some time, but I ended up about 100 pounds overweight eventually. I knew I needed to change my not-so-good eating habits, but I also knew that the weight wouldn’t go away overnight. So I focused on taking care of myself in other ways. I made it a point to always be neat and pressed. My hair was always sharp. Once I began to do those things, I took care of myself in other ways, too (like diet and exercise). I tried to embrace all aspects of myself. I concentrated on being a better sibling, more conscientious of others in the work place and more appreciative of the blessings I did have. It may sound strange to some people, but I embraced my femininity, not just my body image. Women are queens. Without them, there is no society. I tried to truly embraced my whole self, even with the extra weight and the complicated gender identity issues going on in the back of my head. It is my true belief that we have to first work with what we have and accept where we are before we can began making true changes towards who we really want to be.


CAITLIN: What parts of mental acceptance / body image acceptance are you still working on?


MYKAL: As a trans male, I still have some issues. I now have body parts that don’t match my gender expression. Breasts are a real issue for trans males like myself. Even if you "pass" as a male, your breasts are one of the most noticeable things that can give you away.


Trans people can suffer from something called body dysphoria. No matter how perfect the body parts might be to society, in the trans mind, they just don’t belong. This is a major disconnect that can become quite serious to deal with on a daily basis. It’s like body image and gender issues all tied into one.  While the parts in your pants can go undetected by society, breasts are a whole different story. Not all trans people are interested in reassignment surgery. For some, hormone treatment is the answer, but for those that are, it becomes a critical part of their gender transitioning. I have begun hormone therapy and I feel so much better, mentally and physical. I would also like to have breast reassignment surgery, but on a retirement budget, that part may just be a dream.


CAITLIN: Faith has played a big part in your life. Can you talk a little about your personal spiritual journey?


MYKAL: Faith has indeed played a big part in my life. In the beginning, it was wonderful to be raised in a home with those types of values. Once I grew up and realized that according to what I had been taught all my life, I was unwanted and needed to be different to be accepted; it all seemed to turn against me. Part of why I moved to Charlotte was to keep my private life from affecting my family and my church.


Once here, I finally found a church that was inclusive (Unity Fellowship Church Charlotte under the direction of Bishop Tonya Rawls). After struggling to accept my gender identity, this was a saving grace for me. I began to read the scriptures and study for myself. I learned spirituality instead of religion. I began to build a personal relationship with the Divine as opposed to rules and regulations guided by a denomination.


One website that helped with this in particular was Whosoever. It’s a gay Christian magazine that taught me about what John 3:16 says and how I can apply it to me: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The operative word is “whosoever”…that opens the door to all, even me. I began attending church regularly. I felt at home knowing that I wouldn’t have to deal with the despairing looks of being different and not being accepting or feeling worthy. I worshiped in freedom and in my truth.


CAITLIN: What do you wish society knew about trans people?


MYKAL: Despite what many people think, there are not just the male and female expressions of gender. There are male and female sexes, but gender is not necessarily the expression of those physical parts. Gender is everything in between. Gender is more fluid than most realize.


I often think about the cis gender people that don’t necessarily fall into the societal acceptance standards, like women who don’t want to have children as society expects them to or men who don’t act very “masculine” and people question whether they are truly heterosexual. Society often has very narrow definitions on how people should behave, but there is so much variation in the real world. We need to fight back against these very narrow definitions, no matter who they apply to. It’s okay to go against the grain as long as you’re being true to yourself.


CAITLIN: After we met, you wrote me an email thanking me for referring to you with masculine pronouns as we played with Henry on the airplane. To you, this was a very big deal. Can you talk about why pronouns matter to transgender people?


MYKAL: Pronouns with gender identification are a really big deal. When you are attempting to identify with a gender that better represents who you are, sometimes all you have is the use of applicable pronouns, especially if you are born with a different body than how you present yourself. You certainly don’t want to be referred to as the gender you’re trying to disassociate yourself with. There are male pronouns and female pronouns, but there are also pronouns that represent those who refuse to identify at all or those that don’t want to be classified with gender identification for whatever reason. They prefer the pronouns “they” or “zir” to deflect from the gender binary that society offer.


CAITLIN: Can you tell my readers a little bit about your job?


MYKAL: I am working at the Freedom Center for Social Justice due to an HRC-Human Rights Campaign Fellowship position for 2014. I am Conference Coordinator for the Transgender Faith and Action Network, one of the programs at the Center. This opportunity allows me to fulfill a life-long dream of giving back doing advocacy work for the LGBTQ community. I utilize diverse skill sets developed throughout my 15-year career in law enforcement and my personal transitioning experiences to further impact awareness and support for trans people of faith and allies, particularly in the southern regions. I work at the intersections of faith, race, gender and sexual orientation to create true cultural shifts with faith circles and the broader community. I have just recently obtained my Associates Degree in Theology and am working towards my Bachelor’s to further assist with my activist work.


CAITLIN: If my readers want to learn more, where can they go?


MYKAL: If anyone would like to learn more about gender-variant people, National Center for Trans Equality is the place to go. There’s a great PDF called “Teaching Transgender” that many people would find useful. You can also like the Freedom Center for Social Justice on Facebook and if you can, consider attending the Trans*FAAN Conference, August 29-31, 2014 in Charlotte, NC. Caitlin, thanks for this platform of expression and opportunity to spread awareness about the trans community.



  • Julia June 6, 2014, 8:18 am

    Thank you to both of you for this real post! I admire Mykals bravery and committment, as well as yours Caitlin. As somebody who has worked overseas for many years in development with a christian ngo, I really appreciate learning about morevresources to educate the faith based community on these issues.

  • Lyndsey June 6, 2014, 8:23 am

    Wonderful wonderful post. I try to love my life with an open mind and heart. I love people for the person they are, not whatever sort of societal “group” they belong to. Although I’m sure less of a struggle, as someone who is mixed, I certainly know what it’s like to look like one thing and feel like another. Societies judgments on how we look, how we sound, even my name! I’ve learned to accept all of me, but man it was a tough transition.

    Anyways, thank you Mykal for your courage!!

    • Mykal Shannon June 9, 2014, 1:50 pm

      You are so very welcome! I am so happy to see all the positive feedback.

  • Ali June 6, 2014, 8:41 am

    Hi Caitlin! I’m so excited and impressed with this post. I’ve been reading your blog since pre-Henry, and I’ve always liked it, but the way you took the brave step to include something controversial, complex, and so very important on your blog is really admirable. I have worked in trans* health services and LGBT public policy, and you’ve done a stellar job of giving Mykal a voice and a platform to perhaps open some minds. We are all people deserving of love and that’s all that matters. Thank you to the both of you!

    • Suzanna June 6, 2014, 3:39 pm

      Agreed on all accounts. As someone who is also in the LGBT community, this was so refreshing to see. Thank you for this post, and thank you Mykal for the wonderful interview!

  • Emma June 6, 2014, 8:50 am

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • Heather R June 6, 2014, 9:16 am

    Thank you for taking the time for sharing with us Mykal and thank you Catlin for sharing with us also.

  • lindsey June 6, 2014, 9:21 am

    Hi Caitlin,

    Thank you for posting this….

    I’ve been reading your blog since “see bride run” and have never, ever posted a comment. As someone in the LGBTQ community it is so, so refreshing (and long overdue) for a healthy living blogger to be brave and include trans voices on their blog.

    Thank you for helping to erase the stigma that hurts our trans friends family every single day.

    More of these posts, please!

  • Becca June 6, 2014, 9:24 am

    Thanks to Caitlin for this wonderful post and thanks to Mykal for his courage to share his story.

  • Katherine June 6, 2014, 9:39 am

    Great post! I am a young resident physician in a large county hospital and saw my first transgender (male to female) patient yesterday seeking hormonal therapy. I felt like our appointment went well, but I wish I had read this post prior as I think it was so helpful. I think the pronoun part is particularly important (we always address our patients as Mr. or Ms. so and so)… I will definitely continue to be more mindful as a result of this post! Thanks again for sharing and helping us all push our boundaries to be more accepting!

  • Erin June 6, 2014, 10:33 am

    Thank you so much for post.

  • Rachel June 6, 2014, 10:37 am

    Great, great, great post! Thanks to you and Mykal both for sharing! Henry is lucky to have such a sensitive mom and so much exposure to the world in such a positive way! (And baby #2 will have an amazing big brother!)

  • Kat June 6, 2014, 10:45 am

    Thanks so much for this great post and thoughtful interview. What a great guy to meet on a plane! We have a long way to go towards accepting trans people into our society and that is sad. But I’m so excited by what Orange is the New Black and Laverne Cox has done so far. Thanks for including this post–what a unique topic!

  • Kiara June 6, 2014, 11:03 am

    Reading for years but this is my first comment. Thank you so much for sharing this. Trans issues need so much more exposure.

  • Kristen June 6, 2014, 11:15 am

    Thanks for this post, Caitlin. I recently took a new position with a health insurance company in California, that is now covering gender reassignment surgeries. Upon my hire, I was named the subject matter expert for transgender health. In this role, I have developed a network of trans providers, from pediatricians to plastic surgeons. The process has been an incredible learning experience and very enlightening. Two of the biggest take-aways have been: 1) Gender and Sex are completely different things — (along these lines, it has alwasy been a personal pet peeve of mine when pregnant moms say they are going to find out the “gender” of their baby. No you aren’t! You are finding out the “sex”, not the “gender” — I wish people would understand the difference and get this right! and 2) Gender identity and sexual preference are also complete different things — the fomer describes how you see and identify your own self, and the latter describes who you are attracted to.

    This link is all over the internet right now, but for those who haven’t seen it yet, please view the video clip created by a family in California who have a transgendered child.
    It will touch your heart like nothing else — the line that most moves me is this, “We signed up as parents with no strings attached…” While the idea of allowing trans-children to transition is still controversial, this family’s message will certainly shed light on the concept and give you pause.

    • terri d. June 6, 2014, 11:35 am

      I second your pet peeve – it drives me nuts when people talk about “gender reveal parties” – nope, sorry…you don’t get to dictate gender, you are just revealing the sex!

      • Amelia June 6, 2014, 2:16 pm

        Yeah, I think it’s a bit problematic that the moment someone is born we’re immediately dumping the weight of gender norms on them based on what genitals they have.

        Also, am I the only one creeped out by the idea of a bunch of adults obsessing of the genitals of a child?

        • Alice June 7, 2014, 3:48 am

          No, you’re not the only one. I’ve always found the idea completely creepy. The obsession is bizarre, in my opinion.

  • MSWR June 6, 2014, 11:16 am

    Thank you so much for this post!

    I didn’t think much about social justice issues except for race and ethnicity until grad school, where I studied Student Affairs in Higher Education. Issues of identity and social justice are so important in education and the “real world”, and I’m so glad that you’re highlighting a brave individual and his story, because the stories make social justice issues real for more people.

    As a former technical writer/editor, the question of pronouns is interesting to me. The trans man from whom I received LGBTQ Ally training prefers “ze” and “hir”, but each transgender person may have a different preference. In a more enlightened world, we might greet each other with, “Hi! My name is –, and my pronouns are –.” Also, a finer point that I had not known until my LBGTQ Ally training, “transgender” is preferrable to “transgendered.”

    Thanks again for posting such a fantastic interview!

  • Lauren June 6, 2014, 11:17 am

    Loved this. Thank you, Mykal.

    • Mykal Shannon June 9, 2014, 2:24 pm

      You are welcome. Thanks for your support.

  • heather June 6, 2014, 11:30 am

    it’s great to see main-stream blogs talk about trans issue.
    buttt, i noticed you went between “trans,” “transgender,” and “transgendered.” it’s really important we use the correct language, and “transgendered” carries a lot of meaning you might not have been aware of. those two extra letters carry extra meaning that can be really damaging to trans people.
    here’s a little primer:
    again: great to see you expanding the conversation, just need to keep learning and changing our behaviours so we don’t hurt people unintentionally.

    • Caitlin June 6, 2014, 11:32 am

      Thanks for this! I’m still learning and asked Mykal to edit but I appreciate this a lot because verbiage is so important.

      • Caitlin June 6, 2014, 11:35 am

        Oh and I’ll edit but it won’t be for a few days because I’m computer less. So please excuse the lag time!!!

      • Mykal Shannon June 9, 2014, 2:31 pm

        Thanks for the heads up on some of the verbiage. Like Caitlin, I am learning a whole new language along with what is now accepted and what is not. When I began this journey, transgendered was what was used so when I see it now, it doesn’t always denote the need for updating as it should. I was just telling my story and not as aware as I should have been about certain language. Your reply helps to educate more. Thank you for that.

    • Amelia June 6, 2014, 2:19 pm

      Yes! This! Thank you for pointing this out! 🙂

      The language we use to discuss these things is very important, even if it can sometimes feel cumbersome.

  • katie June 6, 2014, 11:58 am

    what a great story from mykal. i’m thankful that he has been able to find safe spaces (including this blog!), and i’m hopeful that in my lifetime i will get to see everywhere be a safe space.

    thank you, too, for standing up as an ally!

  • Samantha B. June 6, 2014, 12:35 pm

    THANK YOU Caitlin and Mykal for sharing this interview with us. I have so much respect for you both. Reading all the positive comments on this post had me teary because it is amazing to see the love and support that is possible for us to have for one another. Thank you!

  • katherine June 6, 2014, 12:53 pm

    Wow! This is a great post! Thank you Mykal for sharing your story and thank you Caitlin for posting this. The more people hear your story Mykal the better and more accepting the world will be. There are still so many people that don’t understand what being trans MEANS. Sharing this is fantastic and I just have so much respect for you. Heartfelt THANK YOU for sharing.

    Caitlin, this is probably some of the most interesting, real content I can remember reading on your blog. I love it. More of this please!

    • Mykal Shannon June 9, 2014, 1:59 pm

      You are so welcome!

  • emily June 6, 2014, 1:17 pm

    Loooved this post! Thank you for taking time to talk about such an important issue. And thanks to Mikal for sharing his story!

    • emily June 6, 2014, 1:18 pm

      *Mykal, stupid phone typing

      • Mykal Shannon June 9, 2014, 2:00 pm

        No problem..
        Glad you enjoyed it.

  • Julie June 6, 2014, 1:24 pm

    Wow, Caitlin, you continue to impress me! You are an amazing person! Awesome post!

  • Sarah June 6, 2014, 1:40 pm

    I’m a long time reader but I’ve never commented. Caitlin, I’m so happy you wrote this post. Just wanted to give you a big heart felt thank you for bringing more visibility to the LGBTQ community!

  • Lori June 6, 2014, 1:43 pm

    Bravo! Thank you to both of you, Caitlin and Mykal, for doing what you’re doing. I’m a heterosexual female, but it hurts my heart that EVERY HUMAN is not viewed equally. Most of my family is from the San Francisco Bay Area, and I just grew up with a very liberal family. I know that the huge company my sister works for over there has held seminars to bring awareness about the LGBTQ community in the workforce, and my aunt has worked with a transgender individual as a superior. I wish the rest of the world would follow suit.

  • Molly June 6, 2014, 1:53 pm

    Mykal, thank you so much for sharing your story!

    • Mykal Shannon June 9, 2014, 2:21 pm

      You’re welcome. Being this transparent is not always easy but when you see that it is appreciated, you get the courage to do more.
      I thank you.

  • nancy June 6, 2014, 2:17 pm

    When Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment he responded,”you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength. The second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.” With instructions this clear I have never understood why anyone can justify not loving ALL people. It’s heartbreaking that Mikal felt like he was unlovable, especially in his family and church community. I know this can be an issue in many churches but again, I don’t get it. Doesn’t look to me like there’s any room for personal interpretation.

    • RachR June 6, 2014, 5:14 pm

      I love this, I’ve always felt the same way.

    • Mykal Shannon June 9, 2014, 2:03 pm

      It is so refreshing to see your response and thank you for the thought of compassion for the challenges that I have faced. It has been a long road but to read comments like yours and many others posted here gives me hope.

  • Amelia June 6, 2014, 2:59 pm

    Hi! Okay, now that I’ve replied to a few other comments, I figured I should leave one of my own. 🙂

    As a transgender woman, it’s awesome to see cis (“cis” just means “not trans,” the words originate from the same place and are natural antonyms) people taking the time to give attention to trans people and trans issues. This doesn’t happen nearly enough, but it goes along way in helping us in our fight for equality. And it’s especially perfect that you used your post as a way to amplify the voice of a trans person rather than doing the talking yourself. That’s awesome! 🙂

    I found the language Mykal used to be really interesting, it’s really different from the kind of language I’m used to in the activist circles I’m a part of. For example, the use of “straight people” to talk about people who are not trans (cis).

    I’m also guessing that “born female, he identifies as a male” was his definition of transgender when he explained things to you? That’s striking to me as well. I typically use “assigned male” instead of saying I was “born male.” To me, that’s more appropriate of what it feels like in my experience. I was born, the doctor said I was a boy and everyone went on their way, but I was never consulted and I happen to disagree with their assessment of my gender. I also wouldn’t say that I just “identify” as a woman, but rather that I *am* a woman.

    I just thought those things were interesting and serve as a good reminder that we all have different language we use to describe ourselves and our own experiences. I think that’s a big takeaway for cis people there, there isn’t a single monolithic transgender narrative. We can typically relate to each other and each other’s experiences, but we’re all just as difference as any other two people on this planet are.

    To expand upon what Mykal said about pronouns, it’s funny how just a few letters can be so important. Even when I can look in the mirror and see nothing but a beautiful woman staring back at me and I am oozing with self-confidence, it still cuts through me every time someone calls me he or him, no matter how nice and accepting they are to me otherwise. While, I don’t typically care what people think of me (you don’t really have the luxury of caring when you’re trans and actually want to be able to leave the house), I do want people to see me as I am asking to be seen. I live 100% openly transgender, I don’t try to hide it and I want people to know, but I want to be seen as a woman first. Basically, I’m a woman who just so happens to also be transgender.

    If you’re interested, I actually wrote about the pronouns issue last week after being misgendered by our cat’s vet.

    Anyway, thank you for this post and if you’re ever interested in the experience of a transgender woman, feel free to reach out anytime!

    • Caitlin June 6, 2014, 3:16 pm

      Thanks so much for your comment and taking the time to share your story! I really, really appreciate it a lot.

  • Ellen @ Wannabe Health Nut June 6, 2014, 3:29 pm

    What a positive attitude! I really like the “tip” about focusing on the things that could be changed first (ie. How you put yourself together) and then graduating to address the health issue. So many times when you are unhappy with your weight you just feel blah and don’t want to make an effort, but doing that keeps you stuck and unhappy. I know there are much bigger points that were made in the post, but I did like that idea. Great post!

  • Kay June 6, 2014, 4:01 pm

    To echo everyone’s comments, this was wonderful to read. Thank you both!

  • Andrea Muzzatti June 6, 2014, 7:01 pm

    Very cool post, Caitlin. I’m a medical student and at my school we learn a little bit about how to provide welcomming healthcare for people who are transgender. One of our professors is an emergency physician and was born as a man but is now a woman. She transitioned after being married to a woman and having two children (as a man) – her story is really inspiring as well.

  • Christie June 6, 2014, 7:07 pm

    Congrats on creating such a safe an healthy blog community! I really enjoyed this interview. Thanks to you and Mykal for sharing.

  • Emily June 6, 2014, 8:02 pm

    This is a fantastic and refreshing post to see – thank you!

  • Patty June 6, 2014, 9:53 pm

    I love this. Thank you.

  • Kerry June 6, 2014, 10:32 pm

    Caitlin, I have been reading your blog for nearly five years and I have to say my heart is swelling with pride for my loyalty to you! THANK YOU for the work you are doing by partnering with Mykal on HTP and Operation Beautiful. I am so grateful that you are such a great friend to the LGBTQ community and spreading awareness and compassion through an incredible medium that you have. Plus, it’s Pride Week here in Portland, OR, so what better time to make this post? Thank you.

    • Caitlin June 7, 2014, 11:24 am

      Awww thank you so much!!

  • Abby June 6, 2014, 11:27 pm

    Thank you to the both of you for sharing!

  • AJ June 7, 2014, 4:18 am

    Thanks for this post Caitlin, you are a stellar blogger.

  • Rachael June 7, 2014, 10:22 am

    Thank you for this post, Caitlin, and thank you for sharing your story, Mykal. There needs to be more of this dialogue in our world.

    • Mykal Shannon June 9, 2014, 2:17 pm

      Thank you…and yes, it does!

  • T June 8, 2014, 1:28 pm

    Well you probably don’t need me to say thanks for this post but I’m gonna do it anyways: thanks!

    Being on the trans spectrum is tough. It’s liberating and debilitating some times in the same breath and clarity and confusion all rolled together. It can feel very lonely until you come across a post like this and feel a little more understood.


    • Amelia June 9, 2014, 8:22 am

      It can be simultaneously the best thing ever and the worst thing ever. I love being trans and wouldn’t give it up for anything even if I could, but I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, not even my worst enemy.

      • Mykal Shannon June 9, 2014, 2:16 pm

        T and Amelia,
        I can really resonate with both your comments. It can indeed be a lonely road and one you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy for sure. That is why Caitlin’s engaging attitude towards me was so heartfelt and special. When you walk this walk, acts of kindness are not taken lightly.

  • Alex @ Kenzie Life June 9, 2014, 6:10 pm

    This was such an amazing Q&A–so thank you to you both, Mykal and Caitlin! One of my closest friends is a trans male and I feel fortunate to have learned so much from him through his sharing of his experience. We both attended an all women’s college and one of the best parts of my college experience was both learning and having the freedom to identify outside of binaries. I think in our relationship, one of the biggest moments for us was his revealing of his new name and our discussion about which pronouns to use. Though it was a new experience for me, just asking him what type of pronouns he preferred and asking questions about what he would like me to alter in our conversations really helped clarify things for me and made us both more comfortable. Thank you for being so open, Mykal as well as for all of your activism work!

  • Cliffie June 16, 2014, 3:10 pm

    Thank you for being open & honest,

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