A new podcast to check out – em dash

Kimberly Acquaviva is hosting a new podcast, em dash, to explore diverse patients’ and healthcare professionals’ lived experiences in healthcare.  The topics are far-ranging- Screen Shot 2017-04-01 at 5.04.02 PMmany of them you will not encounter in most of the podcast – or larger media world!  You can subscribe on iTunes, or listen on Stitcher.  Full disclosure – Kim interviewed me for the March 14th episode!  Here is a summary of the episodes so far:

March 27 – Meet Amy Berman, a nurse living with Stage IV breast cancer. Amy describes the moment she went from being a nurse to being someone with a terminal illness, and she talks about living – really living – for the six and a half years since her diagnosis thanks to the care she’s received from palliative care professionals. You can follow Amy on Twitter at @NotesOnNursing.

March 17 – Meet Laura Antoniou and Karen Taylor, together for 19 years. Laura is a novelist, pornographer, and self-described “pervert.” Karen is a social service professional and kink aficionado. Laura, Karen, and I talk about sadomasochism, consent, and what healthcare professionals need to know in order to meet the needs of patients who practice BDSM. Also in this episode: the literary dumpster fire that is “Fifty Shades of Grey” and why you shouldn’t get your sex advice from Cosmo. (If you’re a healthcare professional and you’re freaked out a little by the previous 4 sentences, you definitely need to listen to this episode. Seriously). You can follow Laura on Twitter at @LAntoniou.

March 14 – Meet Dr. Peggy Chinn, Professor Emerita of Nursing at the University of Connecticut. Peggy and I talk about her experiences in the 1970’s as a feminist lesbian nurse educator and how perceptions of lesbian nurses have changed since then. Peggy also describes the 1982 birth of “Cassandra: The Radical Feminist Nurses Network.” You can follow Peggy on Twitter at @PeggyChinn

March 5 – Meet Dr. Rachel Levine, Physician General for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at the Penn State College of Medicine. Rachel and I talk about her experiences as a physician who is transgender, about privilege, and about the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s commitment to transgender youth.

February 23 – Meet Dr. Mitchell Tepper, a Sexuality Counselor whose focus is educating people about sexuality and disability. Mitch is a person with a spinal cord injury who has a master’s degree in public health from Yale University, a PhD in Human Sexuality Education from the University of Pennsylvania, a 30-year marriage, and a 20-year old son. He’s also an AASECT-Certified Sexuality Educator, Educator Supervisor, and Sexuality Counselor. Mitch and I talk about sex, disability, and what healthcare professionals can do to be more supportive of patients with spinal cord injuries and other disabilities when it comes to sex. *Note to listeners: This episode contains content about sex. Mention is made of vibrators, cock rings, ejaculation, and erections.

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Early Signal: Roll-back on protection for transgender children and youth in U.S. schools

The newly inaugurated U.S. President, during his campaign, made promises of continuing protections for LGBTQ people in the U.S. – promises that were viewed by skepticism by many advocates of human rights.  And indeed, the skepticism was affirmed this week when the President issued an executive order, in the form of a letter to the nation’s schools, that they do not need to observe the protection given by President Obama to assure that transgender students be allowed to use the bathroom of their gender identity.  Even though the letter states that the administration still opposes discrimination and bullying of all disadvantaged students, this claim is blatantly negated by the fact that they are targeting one of the most vulnerable groups of children and youth in our schools, and leaving it to the states to decide whether or not transgender kids can use the bathroom of their choice. Let’s be very clear – this is not about bathrooms – it is about the understanding that LGBTQ people of all ages deserve full human rights protections at every level – an understanding that clearly this administration does not share.

The Human Rights Campaign, among many other LGBTQ advocate organizations, has taken an immediate and strong stand against this order, and has organized a group of parents of transgender children and youth to take public action on behalf of their children’s rights.  Read more here  about the HRC stand, and the actions they are organizing.

And let us know about actions in your local area to protect LGBTQ rights – both in the U.S. and in other countries around the world.  Leave your stories, reports and comments here!  Even the act of sharing is vital to the ongoing activism that is needed to protect LGBTQ rights!screen-shot-2017-02-23-at-10-09-30-am

Posted in Children and Youth, Join the discussion, LGBTQ Human Rights, Transgender Health | 1 Comment

Creating your personal political action plan

Events proceeding the inauguration have simultaneously energized and depressed many of us. The Women’s Marches amplified our voices and moved us towards an intersectional approach to combating racism, protecting our health care, and advocating for science-based environmental policies, among other issues. However, the barrage of Executive Actions, confirmation hearings, and government shakeups were disorienting. Hard fought battles for LGBT rights and equality may still be in the crosshairs of the new administration. This leaves many of us concerned about the status of our marriages, actadoptions, financial and health planning, and employment. With that said, there are ways for us to breakdown our activism into manageable pieces.

The actions and activities below were inspired by a New Orleans-based “Political Action Plan” meeting put on by the owner of my neighborhood bookshop, Tubby and Coos. Thank you Candice Huber! I hope you find this list as centering and encouraging as I have:

  1. Self-care: Without a prioritization of your own mental and physical health, we will not be able to stay fresh for this fight. Whatever self-care means to you: yoga, meditation, taking your dog for a walk, or getting your dance on…do it, and do it often. Also, eat some healthy food and move your body in whatever way works best for you.
  2. Turn OFF Trump. Stop following the White House and Trump on social media. The same goes for Kellyann Conway, Sean Spicer, Jared Kushner, and Steve Bannon.  Their tactics are to bully, distract, disorient, lie, and intimidate. Don’t give propaganda that kind of power, instead seek out credible and valid news.
  3. Valid news. Here is a great list of techniques and resources to help, put together by Melissa Zimdar: What is a credible news source?
  4. Pick your top three activism priorities. While many of us are appalled at the idea of a disbanded EPA, we are health care providers and as such may be able to make a bigger impact on advocating for the Affordable Care Act or keeping abortion accessible, affordable, legal, and safe. Find  those groups that speak to you. Attend their meetings, sign up for their newsletters, donate if you can, and get involved beyond sharing facebook posts. TIP for White People: Remember to include all people who are impacted when you are organizing. If you are a white person, like I am, this means checking your privilege at the door, allowing others to speak and run their meetings, not expecting to always be heard, or to have your views appreciated or acknowledged. This isn’t about you, this is about the collective and for us to be truly successful it means identifying, understanding, and fighting white supremacy every day. That task involves being uncomfortable and staying open to ways to become a better activist, colleague, friend, and neighbor.
  5. Build, activate, elect. Building looks like bringing your Grandmother to a Black Lives Matter meeting or encouraging your friends to make a donation to the ACLU.  Activating is organizing to reach the “movable middle”. Those are the individuals who have never called a legislator or written a Letter to the Editor before.  A useful way to do this is via “Stakeholder Analysis”. This will force you to look at an issue from a variety of vantage points to see who will benefit or not, from whatever issue you are advocating about. Elect looks like participating in local elections, running for local office, and canvasing for progressive leaders in your community.

The Action Worksheet below can be copied, pasted, and printed to help organized your personal plan. We can do this!


1. Lookup your congresswo/man

  • Name
  • Local office phone
  • DC office phone
  • Email
  • Mailing address

2. Lookup your two senators

  • Name
  • Local office phone
  • DC office phone
  • Email
  • Mailing address


  • Name
  • Local office phone
  • DC office phone
  • Email
  • Mailing address


3.  My “Top Three” activism priorities:

4. What actions do you want to take to address your Top Three issues?

5. Have a conversation with beloved others about the actions you want to take.

6. Schedule time each week to be active. Add this to your calendar.

7. Decide whether you want to do your actions with others. If so, invite them.

Posted in Activism, Helpful Hints, Mental Health, Political Process | Leave a comment

Spread the Word – ACA Open Enrollment Ends January 31

Yes – healthcare coverage through the U.S. Affordable Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”) is still available, and if you are not yet covered, you have four days left to get your application going!  The threats to end this important healthcare coverage continue, but the law is still get_2017_health_coverage__health_insurance_marketplace___healthcare_govin place and coverage is still there. One of the most important things we can all do right now is to get enrolled if you are not already, and work with everyone you know who needs coverage to get this done by January 31st.  Go to https://www.healthcare.gov/ to find out more, and take this important step – you will not only do something for yourself, but you will also declare your support for a fundamental right – healthcare for all!

If you need local help – go to https://localhelp.healthcare.gov/#intro

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Breakthrough for Intersex Rights

Finally, the mystery, intrigue and, in fact, shame that has historically been associated with what is now known as “intersex” is beginning to come out of the closet.  Recently a intersex-awarenessmilestone in this important shift happened recently when Sara Kelly Keenan successfully had her birth certificate change to indiate “intersex”  in the little “sex” box that appears on all birth certificates (see The Guardian, January 11, 2017).  Even in the LGBT community, notice how seldom we include “I” in the alphabet.  But the Intersex movement is out there, growing in numbers worldwide, and celebrating every October 26 with “Intersex Awareness Day” (see Facebook “Intersex Awareness Day) and November 8th with “Intersex Solidarity Day (see Intersex Day Blog).

As feminist writer Charlotte Bunch noted way back in her 1980s essays, the most important thing that people must know is another person’s gender.  I have even experienced this with my beloved dogs – people who stop to admire my furry companions they typically use the pronoun “he,” and apologize profusely if I correct them to indicate my dog’s preferred pronoun of “she.” So when a child is born with genitalia that are not gender-specific, everyone is typically thrown into a tizzy!

This tizzy is explained in the excellent article by Jenny Kleeman that appeared in the Guardian last July.  In the medical world, where this typically comes to light in the first moments after the birth of a baby, sometimes now predictable on the fetal ultrasound, the condition is now referred to as a disorder of sexual development (DSD). Instead of gleefully hearing the announcement or confirmation “its a boy!” or “its a girl,” someone in the room nervously whisk the newborn off, or wraps the infant before handing over to the mother, and in myriads of ways try to stall dealing with what is taken in the moment to be a serious problem.  What now follows is a long series of genetic tests to determine the genetic profile of the child, and a challenging period during which parents make decisions about any surgical procedures offered to them, and how they want to present their child to the world and help them grow and develop as a healthy human being. Before genetic testing, and even today in some communities, providers and parents make hasty decisions, sometimes resulting in surgical intervention to force a particular identity on the child.

The social and cultural challenges of beginning life or growing up as intersex is beginning to change, particularly in areas of the world where more and more people are beginning to identify proudly as “gender queer,” and the transgender movement has opened conversations about what gender identity means. Still, people who are intersex struggle to find an identity and as yet the movement to claim “intersex” as an identity is small, and it is hard to find support, information and affirmation of this experience.

So here at LavenderHealth, we pledge our support for the Intersex Community, welcome more discussion, and join with all who proclaim, with Sara Kelly Keenan – “There is power in knowing who you are!

Posted in Coming out, Intersex, Join the discussion, Overcoming "isms", Resilience | 2 Comments