(Content warning for medical trauma)
One morning in a small town in northern Alberta I crept across the floor to nuzzle my girlfriend’s golden retriever awake. It turns out that was a bad move–letting sleeping dogs lie is good advice. She woke up growling with her fangs embedded in my upper lip. I was rushed to the hospital with a towel pressed against my shredded face.
Everything got worse as soon as the doctor arrived. He made homophobic and sexist comments to and about my girlfriend and me, did his best to scare me about how ugly the scarring would be, and was deliberately rough with the cleaning, freezing and stitching of my face. To this day I’m surprised & grateful that he did a good job of the stitches when he obviously disliked me so much.
The contempt of that doctor was much more traumatizing than having my face bitten open by a snarling animal. The dog had not intended to hurt me.
This is only one harrowing personal story of homophobic violence in the medical system, and it’s not the worst example to have a lasting impact on my health. Let’s notice that I’ve had race, class, cis and skinny privilege protecting me every moment of my life, that I appear able-bodied, and that I have always lived in countries where doctors bill the government, not me. Despite all that, and even though I mostly pass as straight these days, I still brace whenever I’m about to encounter a new medical professional. Even if there’s a rainbow flag on their website and/or front door. Most queer and trans folk I know have similar experiences.
Homophobia and transphobia have severe health impacts on all of us in queer and trans communities. But it really doesn’t have to be that way. This is why I was so excited to read The Remedy: Queer and Trans Voices on Health & Healthcare, edited by Zena Sharman and recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award (the Lambdas are awarded yearly to published works which explore LGBT themes. Winning a Lambda is a big deal.)
Allan Peterkin, MD notes: “A welcome trend in clinical education and practice involves inviting patients and clients to tell their own stories of identity, illness, health care and resilience in their own words, to both learners and practitioners.” The Remedy includes personal essays, comics, short stories, interviews, profiles of queer and trans health initiatives, and poems. The pieces explore topics including cancer, decolonization, queer caregiving & palliative care, fertility, suicidality, sex worker solidarity, sobriety and trauma informed community acupuncture (full disclosure: I wrote a piece for The Remedy which definitely includes a paragraph on POCA and a mini love letter to POCA punks).
As Sassafras Lowry says, “The Remedy is a bandage lovingly placed on the open wounds of every LGBTQAI person afraid of going to a doctor.” I highly recommend this book to any healthcare provider, regardless of how you identify. You can order directly from Arsenal Pulp Press here.