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Identity

My wife surprised her coworkers when she came out as trans. Then they surprised her.

She was ready for one reaction but was greeted with a beautiful response.

zoe comes out, transgender, transgender workplace
All photos by Amanda Jette, used with permission.

Zoe comes out to her coworkers.


Society, pay attention. This is important.

My wife, Zoe, is transgender. She came out to us — the kids and me — last summer and then slowly spread her beautiful feminine wings with extended family, friends, and neighbors.

A little coming out here, a little coming out there — you know how it is.


It's been a slow, often challenging process of telling people something so personal and scary, but pretty much everyone has been amazing.

However, she dreaded coming out at the office.

She works at a large technology company, managing a team of software developers in a predominantly male office environment. She's known many of her co-workers and employees for 15 or so years. They have called her "he" and "him" and "Mr." for a very long time. How would they handle the change?

While we have laws in place in Ontario, Canada, to protect the rights of transgender employees, it does not shield them from awkwardness, quiet judgment, or loss of workplace friendships. Your workplace may not become outright hostile, but it can sometimes become a difficult place to go to every day because people only tolerate you rather than fully accept you.

But this transition needed to happen, and so Zoe carefully crafted a coming out email and sent it to everyone she works with.

The support was immediately apparent; she received about 75 incredibly kind responses from coworkers, both local and international.

She then took one week off, followed by a week where she worked solely from home. It was only last Monday when she finally went back to the office.

First day back at work! I asked if I could take a "first day of school" type picture with her lunchbox. She said no. Spoilsport.

Despite knowing how nice her colleagues are and having read so many positive responses to her email, she was understandably still nervous.

Hell, I was nervous. I made her promise to text me 80 billion times with updates and was more than prepared to go down there with my advocacy pants on if I needed to (I might be a tad overprotective).

And that's when her office pals decided to show the rest of us how to do it right.

She got in and found that a couple of them had decorated her cubicle to surprise her:

LGBTQ, coming out, work

Her cubicle decorated with butterflies.

All photos by Amanda Jette, used with permission.

Butterflies! Streamers! Rainbows! OMG!

And made sure her new name was prominently displayed in a few locations:

empathy, employment, understanding

Zoe written on the board.

All photos by Amanda Jette, used with permission.

They got her a beautiful lily with a "Welcome, Zoe!" card:

coworkers, mental health, community

Welcome lily and card

All photos by Amanda Jette, used with permission.

And this tearjerker quote was waiting for her on her desk:

Oscar Wilde, job, employment

A quote from Oscar Wilde.

All photos by Amanda Jette, used with permission.

To top it all off, a 10 a.m. "meeting" she was scheduled to attend was actually a coming out party to welcome her back to work as her true self — complete with coffee and cupcakes and handshakes and hugs.

acceptance, friendship, relationships

Coming out party with cupcakes.

All photos by Amanda Jette, used with permission.

(I stole one, and it was delicious.)

NO, I'M NOT CRYING. YOU'RE CRYING.

I did go to my wife's office that day. But instead of having my advocacy pants on, I had my hugging arms ready and some mascara in my purse in case I cried it off while thanking everyone.

I wish we lived in a world where it was no big deal to come out.

Sadly, that is not the case for many LGBTQ people. We live in a world of bathroom bills and "religious freedom" laws that directly target the members of our community. We live in a world where my family gets threats for daring to speak out for trans rights. We live in a world where we can't travel to certain locations for fear of discrimination — or worse.

So when I see good stuff happening — especially when it takes place right on our doorstep — I'm going to share it far and wide. Let's normalize this stuff. Let's make celebrating diversity our everyday thing rather than hating or fearing it.

Chill out, haters. Take a load off with us.

It's a lot of energy to judge people, you know. It's way more fun to celebrate and support them for who they are.

Besides, we have cupcakes.


This article originally appeared on 04.08.16.

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Scientists tested 3 popular bottled water brands for nanoplastics using new tech, and yikes

The results were alarming—an average of 240,000 nanoplastics per 1 liter bottle—but what does it mean for our health?

Suzy Hazelwood/Canva

Columbia University researchers tested bottled water for nanoplastics and found hundreds of thousands of them.

Evian, Fiji, Voss, SmartWater, Aquafina, Dasani—it's impressive how many brands we have for something humans have been consuming for millennia. Despite years of studies showing that bottled water is no safer to drink than tap water, Americans are more consuming more bottled water than ever, to the tune of billions of dollars in bottled water sales.

People cite convenience and taste in addition to perceived safety for reasons they prefer bottle to tap, but the fear factor surrounding tap water is still a driving force. It doesn't help when emergencies like floods cause tap water contamination or when investigations reveal issues with lead pipes in some communities, but municipal water supplies are tested regularly, and in the vast majority of the U.S., you can safely grab a glass of water from a tap.

And now, a new study on nanoplastics found in three popular bottled water brands is throwing more data into the bottled vs. tap water choice.

Researchers from Columbia University used a new laser-guided technology to detect nanoplastics that had previously evaded detection due to their miniscule size. The new technology can detect, count and analyze and chemical structure of nanoparticles, and they found seven different major types of plastic: polyamide, polypropylene, polyethylene, polymethyl methacrylate, polyvinyl chloride, polystyrene, and polyethylene terephthalate.

In contrast to a 2018 study that found around 300 plastic particles in an average liter of bottled water, the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in January of 2024 found 240,000 nanoplastic particles per liter bottle on average between the three brands studied. (The name of the brands were not indicated in the study.)

As opposed to microplastics, nanoplastics are too small to be seen by microscope. Their size is exactly why experts are concerned about them, as they are small enough to invade human cells and potentially disrupt cellular processes.

“Micro and nanoplastics have been found in the human placenta at this point. They’ve been found in human lung tissues. They’ve been found in human feces; they’ve been found in human blood,” study coauthor Phoebe Stapleton, associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Rutgers University’s Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy told CNN Health,

We know that nanoplastics are making their way into our bodies. We just don't have enough research yet on what that means for our health, and we still have more questions than answers. How many nanoplastics does it take to do damage and/or cause disease? What kinds of damage or disease might they cause? Is whatever effect they might have cumulative? We simply don't have answers to these questions yet.

That's not to say there's no cause for concern. We do know that certain levels of microplastic exposure have been shown to adversely affect the viability of cells. Nanoplastics are even smaller—does that mean they are more likely to cause cellular damage? Science is still working that out.

According to Dr. Sara Benedé of the Spanish National Research Council’s Institute of Food Science Research, it's not just the plastics themselves that might cause damage, but what they may bring along with them. “[Microparticles and nanoparticles] have the ability to bind all kinds of compounds when they come into contact with fluids, thus acting as carriers of all kinds of substances including environmental pollutants, toxins, antibiotics, or microorganisms,” Dr. Benedé told Medical News Today.

Where is this plastic in water coming from? This study focused on bottled water, which is almost always packaged in plastic. The filters used to filter the water before bottling are also frequently made from plastic.

Is it possible that some of these nanoplastics were already present in the water from their original sources? Again, research is always evolving on this front, but microplastics have been detected in lakes, streams and other freshwater sources, so it's not a big stretch to imagine that nanoplastics may be making their way into freshwater ecosystems as well. However, microplastics are found at much higher levels in bottled water than tap water, so it's also not a stretch to assume that most of the nanoplastics are likely coming from the bottling process and packaging rather than from freshwater sources.

The reality is, though, we simply don't know yet.

“Based on other studies we expected most of the microplastics in bottled water would come from leakage of the plastic bottle itself, which is typically made of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic,” lead author Naixin Qian, a doctoral student in chemistry at Columbia University, told CNN Health. “However, we found there’s actually many diverse types of plastics in a bottle of water, and that different plastic types have different size distributions. The PET particles were larger, while others were down to 200 nanometers, which is much, much smaller.”

We need to drink water, and we need to drink safe water. At this point, we have plenty of environmental reasons for avoiding bottled water unless absolutely necessary and opting for tap water instead. Even if there's still more research to be done, the presence of hundreds of thousands of nanoplastics in bottled water might just be another reason to make the switch.

This is not a before picture.

When Molly Galbraith posted on Facebook a photo of herself on a beach in a bikini, her caption wasn't your usual "look at me" selfie.

"This not a before picture. This is not an after picture," she writes.

Based in Lexington, Kentucky, Galbraith is the owner and co-founder of Girls Gone Strong, a company that seeks to provide fitness solutions and community not influenced by the juggernaut, multi-billion dollar weight loss industry, and in her caption for the Facebook post, she creating a litany of what her body has experienced and withstood. "This is a body that loves protein and vegetables and queso and ice cream. This is a body that loves bent presses and pull-ups and deadlifts and sleep. This is a body that has been abused with fast food and late nights and stress. This body has been publicly evaluated, judged, and criticized."

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All GIFs and images via Exposure Labs.


Photographer James Balog and his crew were hanging out near a glacier when their camera captured something extraordinary.

They were in Greenland, gathering footage from the time-lapse they'd positioned all around the Arctic Circle for the last several years.

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7 secrets to raising awesome, functional teenagers.

Step 1: Ditch the myth that all teens are sullen, angry creatures.

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My beautiful teens.


I occasionally get asked by mothers of young children what the secret is to raising great teenagers.

My initial response is that I have absolutely no clue. My kids are who they are IN SPITE of having me as a mother. (The young moms don't find that answer too helpful.)

Really, the first thing that I will tell you is to disbelieve the myth that teenagers are sullen, angry creatures who slam doors and hate their parents. Some do that, but the overwhelming majority do not. Every one of my kids' friends are just as happy and fun as my kids are, so I know it's not just us.

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Lee Loechler's incredible "Sleeping Beauty" proposal.

There are creative, romantic proposals, and then there's this one.

Lee Loechler recently proposed to his girlfriend, Sthuthi David, by taking her to a packed theater to see her favorite Disney movie, Sleeping Beauty. Little did she know that Loechler had spent six months altering the animation of the film's most iconic scene, changing the characters to look like the couple themselves and altering the storyline to set up his Big Question. And that's only the beginning.

Watching David's face during the scene change is sheer delight, as her confused look proves that she has no clue what is about to happen.

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Image by sasint/Canva

Surgeons prepared to separate 3-year-old conjoined twins in Brazil using virtual reality.

The things human beings have figured out how to do boggles the mind sometimes, especially in the realm of medicine.

It wasn't terribly long ago that people with a severe injury had to liquor up, bite a stick, have a body part sewn up or sawed off and hope for the best. (Sorry for the visual, but it's true.) The discoveries of antibiotics and anesthesia alone have completely revolutionized human existence, but we've gone well beyond that with what our best surgeons can accomplish.

Surgeries can range from fairly simple to incredibly complex, but few surgeries are more complicated than separating conjoined twins with combined major organs. That's why the recent surgical separation of conjoined twin boys with fused brains in Brazil is so incredible.

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