Book Review

‘Bodies and Barriers’: Queer Activists on Health

Edited by Adrian Shanker, foreword by Rachel L. Levine, MD, afterword by Kate Kendell
c.2020, PM Press – $20 – 208 pages

You woke up this morning feeling pretty good.

That was quite a relief: in these frightening, uncertain times, every day of wellness is a bonus – especially when you consider that healthcare for a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer patient can be different than what straight people require. Too bad healthcare providers don’t always know that. But read Bodies and Barriers, edited by Adrian Shanker, and you’ll feel more empowered to tell them.

If you were to look for books or articles that address healthcare issues for LGBTQ patients, you will likely find an abundance. The problem is, says Shanker, most of it was written by people who are not lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer.

“Every person providing care for humans is providing care for LGBT humans,” he says, but it’s time that “our stories about our bodies” be told. And so, here they are…

For the youngest LGBTQ patients, physical and mental healthcare may be different than their heterosexual peers, and it’s different than that which LGBTQ adults may need. Socially, for example, kids struggle with issues adults are better-equipped to handle. Parents, as one story indicates, can be the best ally.

Young adults likewise have issues that seem tied to their age and vulnerability. Homelessness can exacerbate health issues (and vice versa); teens may suffer from depression, suicidal notions, and bullying. Healthcare needs may extend to the dangers of “sex in the digital age” and a lack of maturity. Because of their youth, LGBTQ teens also need help with learning “social service navigation.”

Habits such as alcohol and other addictions may be of issue to LGBTQ adults seeking good healthcare, but doctors sometimes don’t know what tests to use. They may be uninformed about caring for someone with bisexual or same-sex preferences, or who’s transitioned. They may have a “stigma” about HIV or be unaware of cancers that particularly plague LGBTQ individuals. As a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender adult, being your own, highly vocal advocate is key.

One thing is for certain: Bodies and Barriers is timely – not because COVID-19 treatment is based on sexuality but because other maladies that may arise are, and since healthcare is on your mind anyhow, this book is invaluable.

Through a series of variously-authored essays, broken into sections based on age, editor Adrian Shanker offers a chorus of voices that display a variety of viewpoints and frustrations that could perhaps ultimately teach healthcare workers a thing or two. Readers should not be surprised to note resignation in these stories, or the occasional bit of anger and outrage, but there are also plenty of essays that impart a calm but determined tone. It’s in these that an LGBTQ reader will find comfort, camaraderie, and a way to speak up.

Be forearmed with information, and beware. Know how to demand from your doctor that which you need, and don’t leave without it. Wash your hands, don’t touch your face, and read Bodies and Barriers. Having this book feels pretty good.

Terri Schlichenmeyer

Terri Schlichenmeyer, Book Review Columnist, has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She has worked with more than 200 newspapers and nearly 50 magazines scattered in 46 states, the Virgin Islands and six provinces of Canada. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 12,000 books.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Back to top button