Want to go Back in Time? How About for Your Medical Care? Come to Fort Worth, Texas; they don’t care one bit. Especially if you’re a woman. – Kelly Coody, Editor-in-Chief

I’m looking at and talking to you, HARRIS METHODIST SOUTHWEST EMERGENCY ROOM in southwest Fort Worth, Texas, to be exact. I just want to make sure EVERYONE KNOWS how ABYSMAL THE QUALITY OF CARE IS THERE.  

How would you feel if you showed up to an Emergency Room, with your mother on her deathbed, only to get a staff full of physicians who couldn’t care less about her? All they wanted to do was to get her out of there and I AM APPALLED.

I drove her there today because she had a severe bowel blockage – after X-rays, all they did was come in and pump my mother’s abdomen full of fluid, neglecting to fill her in on the X-ray results.

As she was being discharged, I happened to see a screen shot of said X-ray slides as a nurse looked over it while my mother writhed around in her hospital bed, screaming. And I casually brought it up again, discussing it with our main nurse on our way out.

They let her leave with copious amounts of backed up stool filling her abdomen. They didn’t offer surgical removal as an option, and, instead, made my 57 year old mother sit on a makeshift toilet until she couldn’t feel her legs. She was crying, screaming in pain, and pleading with them to just stop and help her. And let me tell you something – my mother is tough as nails. She NEVER cries. NEVER.

“I can’t breathe,” she kept telling the nurse. “My chest feels heavy.”

WHAT HAPPENED? WHAT DID THEY DO OR SAY?

NOTHING.

Putting her through such a rigorous physical ordeal that I felt could have been avoided if they would have LISTENED to her and stopped minimizing her concerns was APPALLING. IT WAS DEPLORABLE. My mom has severe back injuries (documented, multiple back injuries – as well as multiple, documented back surgeries and procedures) – all of the eight hours we were there, it seemed as though my mom was being tortured.

“I’m starting to lose feelings in my legs,” she cried weakly to the nurse.

Empathy? Solutions? Answers?

HA!

Apathetic, disillusioned, empathy-lacking medical staff far outweigh the opposite. They’re overworked, don’t care, and if you cry in front of them, they frown and hand you a box of tissues.

No wonder America HAS BEEN CONSISTENTLY LAST among developed nations in terms of care quality, results, treatment over the years. And it’s only continued to get worse. I saw it today in front of my own eyes.

DO BETTER.

My mother is no stranger to traditional western medical practices – she’s been an LVN in the state of Texas and in the state of Florida since 1978. She understands that they have their marching orders, but today, they crossed a line that I refuse to let them get away with.

I received better medical care in Paris in the ’80s when I had a stomach bug. That is the truth.

America also boasts the MOST EXPENSIVE HEALTHCARE SYSTEM IN THE WORLD.

IN THE WORLD.

Get your shit together. Care less about your pharmaceutical buddies and care more about the person in front of you who’s lost feeling in their legs and whose lips are white, while you’re looking at an X-ray full of bowel blockages.

YOU’RE BAD AT YOUR JOB. YOU’RE BAD WITH PEOPLE. You don’t have a God complex-you have an asshole complex. 

Told you I was going to shout this from the rooftops. 

Kelly Fitzharris Coody

Editor-in-Chief

CEO

 

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Photography, Running, and Writing – Artist, CARL SCHARWATH

Photography, Running and Writing with Carl Scharwath

Sick Lit Magazine: What inspires you as an artist?

Carl Scharwath: Other artists. I have a deep love of reading, the arts and discovering new authors and photographers. The biographies of artists are also inportant to learn as they have gone through many of the  same heartbreaks and still  overcame them.

ART_STUDIO

SLM: Tell me a bit about your creative process.

CS: Since I am a dedicated, competitive runner, many of my story and poem ideas give birth on the run. Unfortunately those great sentences are forgotten by the time I arrive home, but the ideas are not. I also run with my cell phone and have captured photos on my run, either by stopping or returning latter. Ideas are all around us, we only have to be receptive.

Blue

SLM: What music are you currently listening to?

CS: I  will always love REM and thier innovation. From my teen years The Beach Boys and Brian Wilson’s solo albums still spark a memory from simple times in my life.

Awaken

SLM: If you could categorize these pieces in a few words, what would they be?

CS: Surealistic, philosophical and thinking how they would look as an oil painting.

Angel of the Antiques

SLM: What are you working on right now?

CS: A new short story, my second chap book and a play. Working full time, having grand children and training as a runner does not leave much time but I try my best on early weekend mornings to dedicate time to my art.

DUMPSTER ART

SLM: Tell me something that not many people know about you.

CS: My daughter and I spend nine years training together and were awarded a 2nd degree Black Belt in Taekwondo

Explorations

SLM: How would one of us, per se, purchase your work?

CS: I have never thought of the process to sell my work. My enjoyment comes from being published, the creative process and working with and meeting editors such as you.

Cyrstal

courtyard

Waiting for a dancewoman reflection

***

Carl Scharwath has appeared globally with 80+ magazines selecting his poetry, short stories, essays or art photography. He won the National Poetry Contest award for Writers One Flight Up. His first poetry book is ‘Journey To Become Forgotten’ (Kind of a Hurricane Press). Carl is a dedicated runner and 2nd degree black- belt.

Remembering Snake Skeletons and a Cherry Red Impala -Artist, Finn Lafcadio O’Hanlon

Remembering Snake Skeletons and a Cherry Red Impala

On the 21st September, a second solo exhibition by 24-year-old English-born American artist, Finn Lafcadio O’Hanlon, will open at the Whiteconcepts space in Berlin. Titled The Plague Year, it will expand his meticulous exploration of syncretic religious, mediaeval and ‘pop’ iconography, cartography and lexicology – this time, within an exotic, decaying dystopia detailed in more than 25 very finely detailed monochromatic works. 
 
Finn’s last exhibition at Whitespace, two years ago, was one of the most successful openings for a young artist in Berlin that year. Introduced by the controversial German artist, Jonathan Meese, the entire show sold out within 48 hours.

Born in Brighton, England, Finn Lafcadio O’Hanlon grew up among creative, nomadic types in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Los Angeles before returning as a teenager to Sydney.

But as he recalls in the following brief memoir, it was his childhood memories of being often on the road with his eccentric parents in the American southwest that gave him a lot of the imagery that still populates his work.

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I spent my early childhood in the southwest of the United States. My mother was part-Cherokee, born and raised in Oklahoma, and my father was an Australian, but we lived for a long time in Los Angeles. We would often drive between the west coast and my mother’s family in Tulsa, but we’d take these circuitous routes on un-mapped back-roads, adding days and hundreds of miles to a journey that was already fifteen hundred miles long via the direct route on Interstate 40, through desert towns like Barstow and Winslow and Albuquerque.

 

I still remember the weird roadhouses we stopped at, filled with faux-Native American trinkets, and Mexican candied skulls, as well as petrified tree fragments, fossils and pebbles of polished turquoise. We’d end each day in some rickety, half-dead town in Arizona, New Mexico or Texas, staying in a cheap motel with a swimming pool and a noisy ice-machine. Sometimes, we’d be so close to the Mexican border that it made no difference which side of it you were on – it could just as well have been Mexico but with better air-conditioning – and at that time of the year, the whole place would be overtaken with unsettling (but to a young kid, exciting) syncretic symbols and rituals, part Catholic, part ancient Toltec, part Hopi or Navajo, with black-robed Madonnas, painted skulls and masks, crucifixes and snake skeletons. It was never scary and solemn, only celebratory, not just honouring the dead but inviting them to a party, to spend time among friends and family. The barbecue smoke always smelled of mesquite.

 

Later, when I became an artist working on large, intricate drawings in ink on paper, the impressions of those road trips insinuated themselves into what I drew: skulls on snake bodies, ’60s neon signs, tattooed women and grinning death-heads, the Robert Williams-influenced cars (my parents drove a cherry-red Chevy Impala SuperSport). Even the modern military references were derived from fleeting glimpses of fighters and tanks arrayed on open tracts of desert, at Nellis or Luke air force bases, or Camp Navajo. They seemed as commonplace as the motels, drive-in diners and cheesy girlie bars that littered our route.

Finn Lafcadio O’Hanlon-

For further information, to receive a selection of high res images, or to arrange an interview, please contact Finn by email: Flohfactory@gmail.com . His work can also be viewed in low res’ at https://www.instagram.com/finnlohanlon/

Below: Finn Lafcadio O’Hanlon, photographed in Kreuzberg by Lotti Leona, 2015
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How to Fight Hate with Humor : JAMIE ANDREWS

How to Fight Hate with Humor: JAMIE ANDREWS

An in-depth interview with Croydon’s Jamie Andrews

Andrews on facing adversity, rejecting labels and what it’s like being a part of the LGBTQA community in the UK

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After we finished sizing up each other’s accents—and I listened to Andrews put on his best Scottish accent, I soon discovered that what Andrews had initially referred to as leading a very “obscure life” has been anything but.  The way he spoke so casually about the violence he’s encountered throughout his life was initially jarring; but also intriguing. When I would gasp and say something like, “That’s awful!” Andrews would reply with a simple, “That’s life.”

Jamie Andrews, 33, currently studying for his Bachelor of Arts in creative writing at Falmouth University, has led quite a colorful life. He even said at one point that he used to co-host a radio show with a legend named Rod. He’s also just finished designing his own web site, where he can display art, writing, poetry, etc, which was 90% worked on by his friend Worayud from Laimy.

We began our interview talking about adversity.

“The National Front is a group who are essentially Nazis. They’re a UK political group. They would stand by the bus stops by the school and hand out badges when I went there.”

As a child?

Preparing to go into this interview just to talk about adversity that Andrews may have faced over his sexuality, I was instead unpleasantly surprised to hear about the violence he’s encountered his entire life over his race. He has been the victim of a number of hate crimes over being mix-raced.

What?

“I was one of five kids of mixed race in a school of 1200,” says Andrews. “I remember I was 13 and I asked out this girl because she’d been nice to me once or something like that and she spat in my face. I wasn’t even a human being to her. I remember she ended up becoming really popular because of this one incident.”

This stopped me in my tracks.  But it gets worse.

“I would get swastikas drawn on my locker and ‘Fuck off, Paki,’ which is ironic because I’m mix-raced, which is nowhere near Pakistani. I used to get just as annoyed with their inaccuracies!” Andrews says with a laugh.

Well, I had to ask, what mixed-race are you?

“South American…East Indian…Guyana—but my dad’s from London,” he says.

So, are you half and half, or…?

“No—I’ve no idea what percentage I am. Pretty sure it’s way down the line somewhere.”

That sounds like most of us Americans—I’m Irish, German, English and Scottish, I think. So from my point of view, where America is full of mixed races and blurred lines of heritage and people who might be an eighth Cherokee, it was so difficult for me to comprehend this hatred he’s had to face his entire life for his heritage.

He’s been stabbed twice (these incidents were not race related), jumped and beaten up his entire life—because his skin wasn’t the “right shade” for people.

It trumps the bisexuality issue, which Andrews has really faced little to no grief over.

In England it’s fairly commonplace to refer to someone or yourself who isn’t “white” as “colored.” In the US, this is a highly offensive term. And this is one of the many differences between US and UK culture struggles I pick up on while we’re talking.

“In Arizona, people just thought I was English, which was the first time in my life I wasn’t identified by my race,” says Andrews. “I had to go out of the country to experience that.”

“In England if I get in a cab and the driver is Afghan, he’ll think I’m Afghan. I’ve had every race thrown at me and try to claim me. ”

Really?

“I’ve been stabbed. I’m deaf in my left ear because I was attacked walking home one night by a group of skinheads,” says Andrews. “They perforated my ear drum.”

Jamie 3

It’s difficult for me to pick up and try and switch topics after hearing this. But he doesn’t seem to carry any sort of hard feelings or harbor any anger over these issues, which just dumbfounds me. I harbor anger about nearly everything, whereas he’s seen the worst in people and is able to find his happiness every day.

So, when did you come out?

“I don’t think I ever have. In fact, I never really had a second thought about it until you asked me the question of if I identified as bisexual.”

He’s a bit opposed to labels. “As strange as this sounds, I don’t really identify with any sort of sexual label. I’ve never bothered to give it a thought until you asked. I don’t go around introducing myself like, ‘Hi, I’m Jamie, I’m mixed-race, I’m creative and I’m bisexual. I’ve never thought about labeling myself.”

This is not to say that Andrews doesn’t consider himself a part of the LGBTQA community at large. In fact, he jumped to answer that question. “I’m thrilled to be a part of the community. I mean, in any sort of group of people who have been bullied or misunderstood and still can continue to be who we are…I mean, it’s great.”

What misconceptions that are out there about bisexuality irritate you?

“When people say that we’re being ‘greedy.’ It’s no different than someone who’s gay or straight. If I like someone, I like someone. If it’s someone I want to fuck, then it’s someone I want to fuck, do you know what I mean?”

Jamie 2Jamie 5

What’s your personal take on homophobia?

“I’ve always thought that homophobia is the fear that a gay guy will treat you the way that he treats women. The people I’ve known that are the most homophobic are quite misogynistic as well.”

When asked if he’s aware of the political scene and the equal rights battle for the LGBTQA community in the states, he balks at the question and says, “Of course. It’s everywhere; it’s all over my Facebook newsfeed. How can you NOT know what’s going on in the states?” I then went on to make a comment about how our two-party system is much like a three-ring circus. “Ours is terrible! Have you seen any of ours lately? My God.”

That, I did not expect to hear. It’s so interesting; there’s always so much more going on from another person’s perspective than we could ever dare to dream. The way that I feel about our political system is the same way Andrews feels about the UK’s political system.

Basically, as I said to my husband sweetly over dinner tonight, “Shit’s bad everywhere, man.”

But people like Andrews give me hope. “Gay rights are the same as women’s rights, race rights, etc. Everyone should be entitled to the same things.”

And I think that’s a damn good quote to end on if I do say so myself.

*********

What’s a Unitarian Universalist? What’s Polyamory? Harlan White Explains.

Interview with Harlan White, board member of the UUPA

“Hang on; let me finish that word,” I say as I’m writing furiously to capture Harlan White’s articulate words, “I’m old school—I don’t use a tape recorder,” I follow up, to which we both laugh.

White is a member of the board of the UUPA, which stands for Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness.

Let me back up for a moment.

Unitarian Universalism is a religious denomination that supports the “the free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” They describe themselves as having a “broad and inclusive outlook” that bonds them. Their values are expressed in seven Principles and they are dedicated to social service, social justice, religious education, as well as a quest to include the marginalized and their expressions of love.

They promote seven Principles, yes. But their faith is comprised of diverse beliefs—the Principles exist to serve as guidance, not religious dogma and doctrine. Within the Unitarian Universalist Association are Atheists/Agnostics, Buddhists, Christians, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Pagan and much more.

To say they are inclusive would be a gross understatement.

Now I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t extremely confused right about now. Until my interview with White, I’d never heard of Unitarian Universalism; I never knew such a religious denomination existed. (To learn more, visit their web site www.uua.org )

But in the interim I’m going to do my best to sum it up for you. And then we’ll get to the UUPA.

White has been working with the Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness. He’s been working with the group since they were UUPoly back in 1999, an email list created for the purpose of exploring ideas and challenges around polyamory and faith.

“The activities and interests of the organization are focused on polyamory within Universalism, which is a denomination,” begins White.

“There are a number of Unitarian churches across the country. The church has a principle interest in supporting and advocating free and responsible search for truth by the individual,” he continues to explain.

That doesn’t sound all that bad? Why have I never heard of Unitarian Universalists before?

“There’s also a strong orientation toward social service and making this world a better place to live in. Unitarian Universalists were at the forefront of the movement to abolish slavery, the civil rights movement, women’s suffrage, and civil and marital rights for the LGBT community.”

Wow.

So there’s a lot more to the UUPA than I’d initially anticipated; not only is White involved with an organized dedicated to education and awareness of polyamory, but he’s involved in a religious denomination that seems to be doing some pretty fantastic things.

“The mission of the UUPA is to enlarge the sense of awareness and acceptance about polyamory existing within the UU denomination. Our vision essentially is for the UU denomination to become the first openly poly accepting religious denomination and also to enlarge and enrich the denomination’s capabilities in terms of meeting,” White says, to that end.

“Just to be clear,” I begin, “I want to make sure we’re communicating to our readers that the polyamory we are speaking of is not one and the same with polygamy that is typically associated with the Mormon FLDS church.”

“Right,” begins White, “Unitarian Universalist’s Polyamory is not polygamy nor is it affiliated with the Mormon Church FLDS, although the UU do not discriminate toward any religion or look down on another’s freedom to practice their chosen religion.  What we’re about is an egalitarian, gender-equal, inclusive, and highly flexible service in terms of the relationships. Not a religiously indoctrinated, hierarchical arrangement.”

Okay, so what exactly is polyamory?

“You’ll have to excuse me, Harlan, the last time I did an article on polyamory, I interviewed a group called Poly Austin in 2003; so it’s been a while,” I say. “Now in terms of relationship structures, are there still what you call ‘primaries’ and ‘secondaries’ and so forth?”

To this, White chuckles a bit. I suppose things aren’t so black and white. “Polyamory is an umbrella-like term that covers a lot of different relationships. Poly is among what some might refer to as a ‘designer relationship,’ meaning that it’s designed by the people involved in it. Some people can consider having a primary partner, and consider the rest to be either secondary or tertiary relationships.

“On the other hand, there are also relationship structures where there are group marriages and group families who’d consider all partners to be a ‘primary’ partner,” White finishes.

In short, it’s much like monogamous relationships: we’re all different. We all have what works for us as couples. Polyamorous relationships are no different in that aspect. In short, poly doesn’t always have to have a “hierarchy” of relationships; some relationship structures involve individuals who don’t believe in the process of ranking their partners in order of importance.

“One way I’ve thought of defining poly is to say it’s the principle of freedom of choice regarding relationships and family structure. It’s the freedom to build a relationship structure in their lives that they want to have,” says White, summing it up.

“In 2014 the Unitarian Universalist’s general assembly passed an amendment which added non-discrimination within the denomination on the basis family and relationship structure to the list,” White says.

“In the UUPA we’ve been working out what it means and the impact it might have on the poly community within the UU denomination. We’ve been working for 15-16 years, quietly and persistently, on this—to have success on expanding awareness on individual freedoms,” White finishes.

Harlan White was a pleasure to talk to; not only was he informative and understanding, but extremely dedicated. To work on a cause for close to 16 years before it comes to fruition is, indeed, dedication.

If only we had more people like White to spread the word and work toward acceptance of polyamory in the larger society. Hopefully he will inspire others to jump on the cause.

To learn more about what the UUPA does, visit their web site at:

http://www.uupa.org/

And to learn more about the Unitarian Universalist religious denomination, visit their web site at:

www.uua.org

*********

AMERICA – LAND OF THE…PERPETUALLY SICK? We’ve given a whole new meaning to the phrase, “Poppin’ bottles” over in the USA.

I Said Hey…What’s Going on? With our HEALTH?

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Yes, we’re obese, overweight, sedentary…and you can finish that sentence all on your own, I’m sure.

And yeah, so we eat the equivalent of preservatives in our food daily that are also found in dish detergent.

But there are some of us out there who exercise and eat right, right? There, indeed, are.

Disease, chronic illnesses and cancer pervade across all lines of race, wealth and socioeconomic status in our country. And according to a study published in 2013 by New Scientist, America is failing across the board.

So, where are we going wrong? Is it more of our extremist capitalism trumping health and humanity?

According to the Commonwealth Fund’s web site, in 2010 the US came in DEAD LAST among seven countries in “health system performance” based on these measures: QUALITY, EFFICIENCY, ACCESS, EQUITY, and….(ding! ding! ding!) HEALTHY LIVES. 

“So what?” you might say, “That was in 2010.”

Well, to answer your question, the Commonwealth Fund revisited the issue in 2014. Sadly, the results were the same. We came in last out of 11 nations for the exact same reasons. How is this possible, when America’s healthcare system is the most EXPENSIVE HEALTHCARE SYSTEM IN THE WORLD? (http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/fund-reports/2014/jun/mirror-mirror)

I will implore you to go to http://www.commonwealthfund.org to check out what they’re doing over there.

Some pretty enlightening and disturbing research has been done and it’s about time someone does something about it. These statistics have been getting worse for almost six years now and what have we done, collectively, as a nation? Watch it happen.

What a sad state we are in. To say that healthcare needs major reform is an understatement; how about we torch it and begin again?

Someone needs to Upton-Sinclair this bitch. It looks like there are some people who are trying. But how far can we get when healthcare is a FOR-PROFIT BUSINESS? 

NOTHING LIKE AN ICY DOCTOR TO DAMPEN ONE’S SPIRITS: HILLARY UMLAND’S JOURNEY TOWARD PRODUCTIVE WOMEN’S HEALTHCARE

One Woman’s Journey Through Medical Hell: Ridiculously High Costs, Apathetic Doctors, and Capitalism Impinging on our Right to Good Health

A personal account by Hillary Umland

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At this very moment I am quickly flipping through my mental Rolodex trying to figure out what I own that I can sell for money for an out-of-state surgery that I have yet to set up with an endometriosis specialist I have yet to find, but it’s a long time coming.

Tandem bike I never ride, regular bike I never ride, CDs I never listen to, a stereo I never use… Thank you, endometriosis, you make every day a glorious joy. At the very least, you’re helping me purge my apartment of superfluous junk.

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Almost a year ago I was found riddled with Stage IV endometriosis during a laparoscopy to drain a two-and-a-half inch complex filled cyst. Since then, my life has been one doctor visit after another, and me having to repeat over and over, “No, I do not want the Lupron shot. How about you cut me open and take it out?”  

Maybe I should back up a little.

I have felt what I now know are the symptoms of endometriosis for over 20 years – the entirety of my menstruating life.

Some of my symptoms include abnormal, excruciatingly painful and heavy periods that can last longer than a week, sprinkled with nausea and vomiting, migraine-like headaches, and fatigue.

When I called my doctor or went in with complaints about having to miss school or life because I could not unravel myself from the pain-coil I’d become from my period, she would always say, “just take no more than the recommended does of ibuprofen or Midol and use a hot water bottle.”

Well, doctors know best, don’t they?

Endometriosis occurs when lining similar to the lining of your uterus sheds monthly is found outside of the uterus and anywhere else it latches itself to.

In my case, I have endometriosis implanted on nearly every organ in my abdomen, except for my liver. The wall around the liver is a different story. I even have some lesions on my diaphragm, which is highly uncommon and tricky to remove.

The three gynecologists I have seen have pushed the Lupron therapy on me since day one, but at 35, I am uncomfortable with spending who-knows how many months taking hormones to put me into a menopausal status, then loading me up with more drugs to combat those side effects, until I don’t feel symptoms anymore.

I would rather be cut open and have my insides ripped out, thank you.

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Stage IV: Organs being lassoed together by endometriosis. Photo http://www.womens-health-advice.com/questions/endometriosis-stages.html

I have had the pleasure of undergoing a colonoscopy at 31, after over a decade of digestive issues (which I now like to attribute to the scar tissue on my bowel and intestines from endometriosis implants), which showed nothing wrong. I’ve also had a tube shoved down my throat (upper endoscopy) to see what all of my constant liquidy sounding belches and stomach upsets were coming from in my mid-20s, only to find nothing. There’s nothing I’ve read about the implants on my diaphragm causing this, but since it is on my gallbladder, maybe that’s an issue?

The gynecologists I’ve talked to only tell me that I should see a gastroenterologist because they have no way of knowing for sure that the endometriosis is causing anything more than painful bowel movement and urination. Yes, I would love to add yet another doctor and doctor bill to my already longer than necessary roster.

My new gynecologist’s response when I asked if there was a specific diet I could try was something to the effect of “we can’t recommend anything like that, really.”

There are a host of websites, and even a book, about diets for endometriosis sufferers. What I changes I’ve made to my eating habits have been from Endometriosis Resolved.

http://teenspeak.org/2012/03/30/an-endometriosis-diet/

Cutting out a laundry list of certain types of food is to help ease some of the symptoms, like excessive cramping and digestive issues. I have to say, it’s helped me a bit. As much as it kills me, I’ve cut way back on my dairy intake, avoid gluten as much as possible, have taken off processed foods from my grocery lists, and refined sugar products are a thing of my past. I’m also cutting out soy and wheat, which has been a bit cumbersome but completely doable. I have a bit more energy and less bloating, not as many headaches or constipation. However, sometimes it works, and sometimes everything I eat makes me feel sick to my stomach. Everything but vegetable broth. “It’s all a learning process though. I’ll figure it out!” is my daily mantra.

Honestly, with endometriosis, there is no definable cause, there is no cure, there is not perfect treatment for symptoms, and there isn’t even a set list of symptoms for each type. I could have Stage IV and feel absolutely nothing, or Stage I and feel all of the symptoms x 10000. It seems to me that endometriosis does what it damn well pleases.

Doctors don’t know what to tell me other than to take the Lupron shot. When I say no, they purse their lips and say they’ll look up names of specialists for me. They can’t tell me that any digestive issues I have are a result of implantation flair ups.

They can’t tell me what to do other than exercise and now take muscle relaxers. It feels as though I’m in this alone, have to find symptom reducers alone, find specialists alone, make every single decision about where to go and who to see and what to say about all of this alone.

This becomes a tiresome process, and I let it get the best of me some days. But as soon as I get up, I am even more determined to be loud and firm about what I want and who I need to talk to about it. And as soon as I find a specialist I am comfortable with, even if the money isn’t quite there yet, I will be on the next plane to talk with them.

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***Hillary Umland is a flash fiction/short story writer and freelance editor living and working in Nebraska. She has been published in the July/August 2015 of Unbroken Journal. You can find out more about her endo-woes on howtodoonething.wordpress.com and find her on Twitter @hillaryumlaut. ***

Ignorance is Met With Education in Denton : Kamyon Conner

Within moments of speaking with Kamyon Conner, 33, social worker, activist, daughter and friend to many, I can easily surmise that her candid way of speaking and gregarious aura are contagious.

She’s a rare breed of human who can temporarily make you forget about all those things that seem so bad and instead, help you to focus on the good.

“I really do apologize, I’m usually more on top of it,” Conner says about having to re-schedule our interview. Working three jobs, volunteering and maintaining a healthy relationship is enough to keep anyone’s plate full.

“When I went to the University of North Texas, I went there thinking that I was a cisgender [denoting or relating to a person whose self-identity conforms with the gender that corresponds to their biological sex; not transgender] heterosexual woman. I remember going to my first GLAD meeting and I thought, ‘Wow. Being around all of these people facing the same issues as me allowed me to feel that it was okay to be myself and that I was not alone in my struggle.’”

Now busy serving as a steering committee of OUTreach Denton, a program devoted to providing mentorship and a safe space for LGBTQA youth, and the Texas Equal Access  Fund, Conner’s community involvement is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

“I didn’t come out for a long time,” says Conner; “While I was in college, it seemed that there was this culture of people being out at school but not at home, which can be common. The ability to move away from a familiar environment can allow you to grow and cultivate the most precious parts of yourself.”

After a pause she picks back up, “Coming out to my family took time and for me it also took some healing in regards to childhood sexual trauma. I remember coming out to my mom during the Vagina Monologues and divulging not only was I a lesbian but also a survivor of childhood sexual assault. I also told her that I had undergone my first heart-wrenching break up and that I had a very hard time healing from the loss of that love because I felt I could not share my grief with her for fear of being shamed for loving a another woman.”

When asked about her community involvement, Conner first mentions OUTreach Denton. “Our organization started the first transgender day of remembrance in Denton. It’s sobering when you actually hear the names of all the transgender people who were killed in the past year and how also hearing descriptions of their murdered such as, ‘blunt force trauma to the head,’ just makes it all…” Conner trails off. “Surreal, devastating and enraging. There is also mourning for those we lost with music, poetry and speakers. These events are held all over the country and the next TGDOR is going to be on November 20th so it is coming up soon.”

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            According the Texas Department of Public Safety’s web page, hate crimes in Texas have risen by 22.9% for reported incidents, 22.8% for reported offenses, and 13.1% for reported offenders followed by 8.0% for reported victims just up in one year, from 2013 to 2014. This doesn’t even take into account the incidents that were not reported. 

“The total number of reported Texas hate crime incidents in 2014 was 166. This represents an increase of 23 percent when compared to 2013. These incidents involved 190 victims, 198 offenders, and resulted in a total of 167 offenses.” (http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/crimereports/14/citCh6.pdf)

“In 2014, the largest percentage of hate crime reports in Texas were race/ethnic/ancestry in nature. The second most commonly reported bias motivation was sexual orientation. The third most common bias was religious. The fourth most common bias was disability.” (http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/crimereports/14/citCh6.pdf).

To that end, Conner said, “There are a large number of transgender people who are also people of color—everything is an intersection of something else.”

So, what is the Texas Equal Access Fund? What role does Conner play in this organization?

“We help provide funding for people in North Texas who can’t afford an abortion.” Abortion continues to be a controversial, polarizing topic of conversation especially in Texas with the passing of HB2. “There are 1 in 3 women who get abortions. We probably receive anywhere from 70-90 calls per week per week from individuals in north Texas seeking abortion access, so it’s not like no one is having abortions. We only hear from those who are truly in need of financial assistance and we are never able to assist everyone who requests our help.  The idea that abortion is rare or that it should be rare is an archaic notion. The truth is you’re not faced with that situation until it actually happens to you and at that time we make decisions with our futures, our families, our religion, our health and our safety in mind.  I remember when you had your abortion and how badly I felt that you were there all by yourself and more so that I could not be there with you during that experience,” she says.

Wait, you remember it that vividly?

“Yes, of course. We talked that day and the next. I remember you telling me that when you sat and looked at all the other women waiting next to you, you were temporarily bonded, but knew that you would all part ways and probably never talk about it again, and possibly never tell anyone. More people should talk about it.”

Conner and I met at Wichita Falls High School, during the school year of 1998-1999, also known affectionately to residents of Wichita Falls as simply, “Old High.” After becoming fast friends, we have kept in touch all these years.

“Reproductive healthcare is my life,” Conner says, summing up her involvement.  Conner is the intake coordinator and board member for the Texas Equal Access Fund, Co-chair for OUTreach Denton, and a board member for the National Network of Abortion Funds.

Conner isn’t all work and no play. She has a personal life, too.

“I have an addiction to reality television. It is so terrible and I know with all my feminist sensibilities that I should give it up. I often say it is social work research.” she says, laughing. Earlier in our conversation she spoke of her recreational involvement in the Vagina Monologues. “Doing the Vagina Monologues was a really healing experience for me. It was the first time I’d talked about sexual trauma in a group setting.” Saying it was cathartic is an understatement—it seems to have been life changing for Conner.

“I’d been holding back things from my mom that were impeding us from becoming as close as we could be. I told her about the childhood sexual trauma and that I had been in a relationship with a woman for almost 2 years but that we’d broken up a few months prior. That’s how I came out to her in 2006,” she says with a quiet laugh. “It’s also when I told her that I was dating Jackie, my current partner.”

“My mom and dad are pretty accepting. They like Jackie—they treat us like a couple and we are so grateful for that. There are many people who do not have any support from their families in regards to their relationships.”

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So, what are some of the daily challenges she faces?

“Being out at work. Everybody’s pretty accepting, but there’s still that sense of privilege that the people who aren’t LGBTQ have. There is also the difficult experience of having to constantly tell every new person, staff or intern, BTDubs, I’m a gal lady.” She continues to say, “Also dealing with people from all parts of your life on social media requires a lot of skill. I have started deleting people that say ignorant and harmful things. As a current LGBT leader in my community, I cannot and will not condone hatred on my news feed. The activist and social worker in me always tries to educate people prior to deleting them, but sometimes you have to preserve your own sanity.”

 How does she handle adversity and stereotypes?

 “I have done a lot of work with the aging community and people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. I was with one of my clients in a waiting room and Ellen was on the television. She said something like, ‘I always liked her, but I heard she’s a lesbian!’ and I responded by asking her what she liked about Ellen before and if she now thought this woman was a bad person just because she was a lesbian when she had always liked her before. She said, ‘Well, no, I guess not. Maybe being a lesbian isn’t a bad thing.’ So I tried to come at the situation from a place of education and relatability.”

Thoughtful, sharp, and eager to educate as well as learn, Conner is a kind, caring soul who is dedicated to her day job of social work and helping out others through her volunteer work. She just also happens to be a pretty cool lesbian.

Planned Parenthood Drum Jam at Groovy Goods 9/29/15

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On Tuesday, September 29th, Cori Hackworth and I went to stand with Planned Parenthood at Groovy Goods in Arlington, Texas (http://groovygoodstx.com/). Due to the recent attacks on the centers, which includes violent protests and attempts to de-fund the entire organization, we thought, why not go and support a place that, AHEM, most of us have used?

Why the AHEM? One in three women have had an abortion.

No one talks about it. Besides abortions, Planned Parenthood provides the entire scope of women’s reproductive healthcare.

The event itself was light and fun, with an air of childlike enthusiasm bonding us all together. There were belly dancers, hula hoops,  pizza and sodas; not to mention a terrific little shopping spot called Groovy Goods. As a former Austin resident, this place took me back home so to speak. The shop was full of terrific home-made soaps and lotions, handcrafted jewelry and deliciously hippie apparel that made me want to pre-order tickets to every music fest in the state.

Cori even penned a delightful haiku about the evening:

HAIKU:
Hoops graceful on hips
We stand with planned parenthood
Hearts burn in the night

-Kelly Fitzharris Coody-