Tag Archives: culture

Insights into the Lived Healthcare Experiences of the Transgendered (#TransHealthFail)

#TransHealthFail

#TransHealthFail

Several years ago, I was in an elevator with a then-local clinician (no longer here) who was complaining to me about how unhappy he was with his clinical practice. He had bought into the practice from another clinician who was retiring, and it wasn’t until he moved here and began actually working there that he discovered half of his patients were transgendered. I still remember how his face twisted up into a knot and his beard waggled as he snarled with disgust about being forced to treat “THOSE people.” He told me, “You don’t know. THEY are EVERYWHERE around here! How could I expect that?” I got out of the elevator as soon as I could. And then I started trying to plan a trans education event for our library. It took some years to be able to make it happen.

I was so excited when I heard about the Trans Health Fail hashtag during the Stanford Medicine X conference. I’ve been wanting to blog about it for a couple months, and finally it is happening. The post is divided into four sections: reports of experiences (mostly with insurance, staff, and clinicians); longer personal testimonials; healthcare reactions; and popular media. There is even a section where trans people have given kudos to the absence of failure, when folk have gotten it right. Most important take-away lessons to learn? Names are important (not just for people who are transgendered, but perhaps especially for them). Privacy is important. Respect is important. Information is important. Access to care is life-saving. Another big part of the conversation centers around the high mortality of transgendered persons, both from violence, and stigma. The basic assumption of what SHOULD be happening in healthcare gets back to “First do no harm.” A lot of the perceived harms which are described could be changed fairly easily just by better education of healthcare professionals of all sorts, and the office and support staff in healthcare facilities. Some of them make complete sense to professionals working inside the healthcare system, but obviously did not to the person on the other side. If you haven’t yet noticed this conversation, it’s worth taking a few minutes to explore. It could save lives. And if you are a healthcare provider who actually can and will treat transgender persons, please be aware of the Provider Self-Input Form for the Trans & Queer Referral Aggregator Database from RAD Remedy

LIVED EXPERIENCES

LIVED EXPERIENCES: Access to Care

!! https://twitter.com/TGGuide/status/629892052914991104

LIVED EXPERIENCES: Insurance

LIVED EXPERIENCES: Healthcare Environments & Systems

LIVED EXPERIENCES: Supporting Roles

LIVED EXPERIENCES: Clinicians

!! https://twitter.com/anaphylaxus/status/639815813495701504

LIVED EXPERIENCES: Children

LIVED EXPERIENCES: Done Right

TESTIMONIES

HEALTHCARE RESPONSE

MEDIA ATTENTION

Atlantic

BitchMedia ??

Buzzfeed

Cosmopolitan

DailyBeast

DailyDot

Distractify

FacesOfHealthCare

Feministing

Fusion

HuffPostGay

HuffPost

Indiana

MarySue

Mashable

Metronews Canada

Mother Jones

NewNowNext

Patient Opinion

Vice

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#WHDemoDay and #ADAinitiative — Oh, the Irony


Welcome to Demo Day at the White House! (Megan Smith, the First US Chief Technology Officer) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PxGrDsuwCFk

“It’s a tradition in the tech community to show off amazing things that people have built. … All Americans do this. All American are capable of this. And it’s a big part of our future, and it’s always been a big part of our past.”

Yesterday was a landmark day in diversity and inclusion.

Yesterday saw the first ever White House Demo Day (#WHDemoDay), for women and minority entrepreneurs and innovators to ‘pitch’ their ideas to President Obama.

Yesterday saw the end of the ADA Initiative, “a feminist organization. We strive to serve the interests and needs of women in open technology and culture who are at the intersection of multiple forms of oppression, including disabled women, women of color, LBTQ women, and women from around the world.” (Ada Initiative, About Us)

How enormously ironic to see the closing of the one with the opening of the other, and both with such closely related missions. I can only hope that this first White House Demo Day proves to be one of many, and that the effort continues to embrace and support diversity as essential to American creativity and innovation.

White House Demo Day

The White House Demo Day had demonstrations to illustrate the diversity of people contributing to the innovation that helps strengthen the American economy. Most of the companies presenting had at least one woman founder or co-founder. Almost as many of the companies presenting had a founder that is a person of color or who shows ethnic or cultural diversity. The two companies represented by white men were (1) military, and (2) a winner of the XPRIZE. There were a few wonderful presenters from Michigan, including Ann-Marie Sastry of the University of Michigan Ann Arbor talking about her innovations in batteries and power storage. Products presented included new search engines based on cognitive models, medical innovations in cancer / HIV / aging / asthma, parenting tools, strategies for empowering patients, creative ways to repay student loans, several on converting ‘waste’ to profit, and much more. There was even Zoobean, who partner with libraries to recommend books and apps based on children’s preferences.

White House Demo Day

Part of what made this so wonderful (and why I wish I’d heard about it sooner) was the move to encourage parallel events across the country. I wish we’d done this here! Here are some tweets about the high points.

Read about the presenters here. Listen to the pitches here.


President Obama Hosts the First-Ever White House Demo Day https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKsxHS5vptM

White House Demo Day: https://www.whitehouse.gov/demo-day

Ada Initiative

“When the Ada Initiative was founded in 2011, the environment for women in open technology and culture was extremely hostile. Conference anti-harassment policies were rare outside of certain areas in fandom, and viewed as extremist attempts to muzzle free speech. Pornography in slides was a regular feature at many conferences in these areas, as were physical and sexual assault. Most open tech/culture communities didn’t have an understanding of basic feminist concepts like consent, tone policing, and intersectional oppression.” https://adainitiative.org/2015/08/announcing-the-shutdown-of-the-ada-initiative/

The Ada Initiative began by trying to change the world for women in STEM and tech. They stopped, but not without having made change, and not without leaving a permanent legacy. You’ll see tributes and comments below to testify to this, but you’ll also see links to some of the content they made open source and Creative Commons in order to help perpetuate their work, as well as work from some of their partners who carry on the good message and work. By the way, their open source toolkits are absolutely incredible and well worth downloading.

HOWTO design a code of conduct for your community https://adainitiative.org/2014/02/howto-design-a-code-of-conduct-for-your-community/
Code of conduct evaluations http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Code_of_conduct_evaluations

Announcing the ADA Camp Toolkit: https://adainitiative.org/2015/07/add-a-little-bit-of-adacamp-to-your-event-announcing-the-adacamp-toolkit/

ADACamp Toolkit: https://adacamp.org/
– Inclusive event catering: https://adacamp.org/adacamp-toolkit/inclusive-event-catering/
– Providing conference childcare: https://adacamp.org/adacamp-toolkit/childcare/
– Quiet room: https://adacamp.org/adacamp-toolkit/quiet-room/
– Supporting d/Deaf and hard of hearing people at an unconference: https://adacamp.org/adacamp-toolkit/supporting-deaf-people/

La Traviata: Turning Old Pop Culture Into New Pop Culture to Fight Stigma

Pic of the day - Detroit Opera House

Only old fogies go to the opera, right? And young guys trying to impress a girl with how intelligent and posh they are. Right? And why? Because it’s booooooring, and not relevant, unless you study music. Or history. Or music history. Or the Looney Tunes. Right?

Well, do I have news for you. The Metropolitan Opera has gone international with their Live in HD series show in movie theaters, and they are including famous Tony award winning directors and Broadway actors in some of the shows. Professional opera has been trying to recruit a new audience through reaching out into new spaces, and re-interpreting shows in modern scenarios, like the Las Vega “Rat Pack” version of Rigoletto or the 50s diner version of Cosi Fan Tutti, or even the Star Trek version of “Abduction from the Seraglio.” I know of classic operas with new translations of the libretto, but they keep the same plotline and story. Of course, there are also new operas, new approaches to what is an opera, rock operas, heavy metal operas and even a country-western-horror mashup opera.

As far as I know, no one has, however, taken this as far as the Arbor Opera Theater did last week with their new interpretation of La Traviata.

La Traviata

La Traviata. Postcard image courtesy of NNDC.

“Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre, June 11-14, 2015. La Traviata, a new English adaptation created with the National Network of Depression Centers to address the stigma surrounding mental illness.”

Ah, now it makes sense. I bet some of you were wondering why on earth I was talking about opera, when I usually talk about healthcare and/or technology. This is why. (Well, except, I do love opera, in case you haven’t guessed.) The best operas have traditionally taken on difficult and edgy topics, challenged assumptions and cultural norms, poked ridicule at the establishment, and generally done what popular culture does best: Explore, question, and hopefully transform the present. La Traviata, when it was first written, told the story of bias against women of “ill-repute,” a.k.a. courtesans or prostitutes. The rumor is that Verdi had his own personal reasons ( special friend, perhaps) for suggesting that people should be a bit more tolerant, and trying to foster a sense of compassion to counter the stigma. This brought us La Traviata, and generations of viewers who weep at the end as the “courtesan with a heart of gold” fails to survive largely due to the classic public health indicators of low socioeconomic status and lack of access to healthcare. Stigma of all sorts is a contributing public health issue, with over twelve THOUSAND articles on the topic in MEDLINE. Almost half of those relate directly to mental health or mental illness, and the rest mostly connect tangentially, through sexual preference, victim status or survivorship, gender identity, and disease diagnosis status (HIV, cancer, leprosy, and more).

This new and revised vision of La Traviata kept the wonderful music, the names of some of the characters, and the stigma, but changed the plot and storyline and the source of the stigma. The star of the new La Traviata remains Violetta, but now Violetta suffers from mental illness. Violetta is a beautiful young woman, self-medicating in a struggle to manage her symptoms, without her friends realizing that it is an illness and could be treated. As with so many in real life who struggle to alleviate their own misery without understanding the root cause, her strategies for self-medication complicate the challenges instead of helping. Those familiar with the story of La Traviata know to expect a death scene at the end, but our Violetta dies not of tuberculosis and poverty, but misunderstanding and a drug overdose.

La Traviata Death Scene

La Traviata Death Scene, photo courtesy of Amanda Sullivan

When I first heard about this production, the vision of interpreting the story around depression and bipolar and stigma, actually partnering with the National Network of Depression Centers, I could not have been more excited. I was thrilled with the concept, and could only wait to see the show because there were no previews online! Not everyone felt the way I did. At the performance, I overheard people expressing some reluctance. Would it be the show that they loved already? How could this work? Did it really make sense to make this big of a change? At the first intermission, some were still hesitant, but by the final intermission the staunchest resistance near me had converted to, “I’m surprised! This really works!”

It did, and does succeed as a story. Arbor Opera Theater is not the Lyric or the Met. We don’t have the star performers, the grand sets, the enormous stage. Despite that, I found myself lost in the story and music. The New Orleans setting was a perfect choice for the context of the story. The sex scenes were dynamic enough to make me feel like a voyeur. Several audience members commented on the strong performance by Augustin (Drake Dantzler) as Violetta’s youthful true love. The arguments with her lover’s father, Senator Germont (Evan Brummel, who acts brilliantly as well as beautifully sculpting language with the musical notes), successfully portrayed him with rich subtlety as a villain operating from the best of intentions. People near me said, “I could have done the same thing,” and “I know parents like that.” His repentance at the end, in the dream sequence, made me wish it was not a dream. When the final scene approached, my reaction was, “Oh, no! She’s so tiny, she doesn’t have the body mass to offset the meds!” I had willingly suspended disbelief, and bought into the performance. A part of me believed that Violetta (Kacey Cardin) was the tiny, sexy, blonde woman with the big voice, tough and fragile at the same time.

La Traviata - Full Cast

La Traviata, Cast, photo courtesy of Amanda Sullivan

The actual singing soared, and for the most part the libretto succeeded in both revealing the story and supporting the singers. There were a few rough spots in the libretto that didn’t quite lay well for the voices and which were jarring to the audience, disrupting the flow of the story. Perhaps a bit of polish, a touch more lyricism, and a bit of rhyme and poetry would address that? Portions of the libretto seemed appropriate for the story, but inappropriate for the character actually singing them. I’d want to touch base with a greater variety of audience members to test out how it worked. That there were moments where the language was a distraction from the story was made evident in audience comments in the hallway. “What does that word even mean?” “Did she have to use that kind of language?” Perhaps that was just the older portion of the crowd? I’m not sure. Perhaps I’m just nitpicking.

Ultimately, I came away wishing strongly to see this performed over and over again, in many interpretations, in many theaters. I want to see this performed by the Met Opera in their Live in HD series. I want to take the train to Chicago to see it at the Lyric. I am deeply grateful to have overheard one of the cameramen at the Saturday performance say that there were plans for this La Traviata to be broadcast on Detroit Public Television in the future. I hope desperately that this means it will also be viewable online, because I want to go out to all my online healthcare communities and get people to watch it, or at least watch excerpts and highlights. I want to spread the word, and engage a much broader audience around this issue, stigma, and this story.

I also found myself asking, why don’t we do this for other important health care and social advocacy stories? Can we take what Shawn McDonald has done with La Traviata as a model to explore contemporary issues? Take classic operas, plays, perhaps Shakespeare, and more. Make them modern and relevant to a contemporary audience, give them new life, and at the same time support the important causes and issues of our day, the challenges and heartaches that shape our society. It would be a far lesser shift to perhaps have Violetta dying of cancer. Could King Lear be rewritten to explore workplace social dynamics, and the need for positive organizational dynamics? What about a new work taking David Copperfield and setting it in India or China? Could Ophelia in Hamlet be recovering from the trauma of clitoridectomy? Rewrite Figaro as casting couch dynamics in Hollywood. Would it be possible to mashup Handel’s Orlando with Virginia Woolf’s surreal Orlando to explore transgendered life? In Rigoletto, instead of being a hunchback, could Triboulet be a person with facial difference? Take L’Elisir d’Amore and rewrite it as a vaccine story. The possibilities are endless.

After the exhilaration and emotional roller coaster of watching the AOT La Traviata Saturday night, I came home and walked the dog. It was dark. The streets were empty. There was a hollowness in the silence that seemed to echo louder because of where I’d been so recently. It felt … appropriate. Let Violetta’s death, the real Violettas of our world, have meaning. Let us move from these hollow spaces to open spaces that show stigma for what it really is.

After a sad opera


Update June 18, 2015: Corrected the name of AOT from Ann Arbor Opera Theater to Arbor Opera Theater. Corrected attribution of images from NNDC to Amanda Sullivan.