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'Invisible' illness common in queer community

'Invisible' illness common in queer community

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Countrywide survey brings little-known physical health issues to light
In 2005, Mo Angelico was 20 years old, living in Montreal and experiencing the usual stress associated with coming out. During this time she was also hospitalized for appendicitis and developed a hospital-acquired infection. It resulted in ongoing sickness and debilitating fatigue, and her symptoms eventually nosedived in 2010 after years in remission.
 
These days, Angelico has limited mobility. She stays at home for days on end, utterly exhausted. When alert, she seeks the help of various specialists and alternative health providers for what is generally regarded as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS or myalgic encephalomyelitis). Meanwhile, her cognitive senses have declined, her social participation is at a standstill (forget attending gay events), and she has let her hair grow long despite the fact she prefers a shorter “queer ’do.”
 
Despite this, Angelico’s difficulties are not readily apparent to an observer.
 
A new study by a Toronto psychotherapist is bringing to light the high number of invisible conditions such as Angelico’s. Silvana Bazet noticed the abundance of “invisible” physical health problems suffered by her queer and trans-identified clients, as well as among community members.
 
Yet “they are not recognized by the queer community, the trans community, the healthcare community that takes care of queers,” Bazet says. Her report, "You Look Great! Lesbian, Bisexual, Queer Women and Trans People Living with Invisible Chronic Illnesses and/or Conditions (ICICs)," surveyed 158 participants across Canada about their experiences living with ICICs.
 
Bazet says there is a dearth of material about disability and “queerness.”
 
“I wanted to be able to give something to people that they could actually feel reflected the way that they interact with the system here,” she says.
 
Bazet says many of the conditions documented are more prevalent among women. Generally speaking, ICICs – including fibromyalgia, CFS, chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, chemical sensitivities – have non-observable symptoms and tend to be episodic. Individuals may appear well when they are not.
 
She used social media to recruit participants and says an anticipated sample of 30 to 40 people ballooned to much more. Perhaps most shocking, she says, is the number of young people among those with ICICs – most participants were between ages 30 and 39.
 
Bazet says participants often feel isolated because friends, colleagues and family do not believe they are ill. She calls this the “triple D threat” of denial, dismissal and downplaying. Participants ultimately find themselves duelling with the double closets of disability in the queer community and queerness in the wider world.
 
ICICs also have a significant impact on people’s gender and queer identity, a challenge acknowledged by 56 percent of participants. ICICs prevent people from feeling strong and self sufficient – two markers of “self” for those who identify as butch, femme or androgynous.
 
Angelico identifies with this struggle: “In some ways, my illness has isolated me from the queer community completely, and I just kind of forget about that part of myself because there’s no space for it. All there’s space for is survival,” she says. “I feel really cut off from my community. It’s really sad.”
 
Bazet hopes her initial snapshot will get a conversation started and help improve and introduce services and supports.
 
She hopes that if the queer community takes notice, it can begin to make changes to accommodate those with ICICs. For example, organizations can opt to become scent-free to accommodate individuals with chemical sensitivities, or community events can be planned earlier in the day and incorporate breaks so that individuals with pain and fatigue can participate.
 
Bazet says accommodation sometimes requires resources, but more often it’s an attitude of inclusivity that is needed.
 
Lori Ross, the leader of a research team that studies queer health at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, says better education for healthcare providers is the most crucial gap.
 
“Providers are not equipped with the tools they need to be able to provide culturally competent care to LGBT people,” Ross says. “I think it’s important for us as researchers in the LGBTQ community to know more about the experiences of individuals who are living with ICICs so we can be more thoughtful about how to make sure that people are able to both participate but also have our research be meaningful and reflect their experiences.”
 
Bazet’s report is available free online: silvanabazet.com/research.
 
  
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Comments

Nope
The subject of this article and the article itself oozes left-wing extremist victimhood. Notice that gay men have been carefully excluded from all this. The exclusionary approach and victim-mindedness of queer theory.
Affirming reality
Reality is that conventional diagnosis is yrs behind the reality of conditions/health issues that are experienced by many worldwide. As a Homeopath that treats chronic or longstanding illnesses - even at early stages and later in the game - I see the isolation that queers and others have with invisible illnesses. Often the remedies given and that work in Homeopathy are directly related to the stresses linked to the pathology's initial causes. Of course, there is no saying what lies at the root in anyone dx but often the individual concerned can themselves even make link to events/traumas in life that may be at the very least contributing factors as to their condition: from vaccines to abuse or an accident for instance. Bullying, homophobic or racist, for instance can be really sickening....literally....just as too many toxic exposures in the form of chemicals in the body...a tipping point gets reached and then imbalance sets in. Perhaps, Queer youth and others that are marginalized are susceptible to illnes that are autoimmune in nature due to the longstanding stresses that wear and tear down the immune and even the psychic defenses of people/populations. Hopefully more research will come to light so as to offer help to those that suffer in silence - but, in the meantime, those of us in marginalized communities really should make a point to help with access issues to those most vulnerable and suffering at present...in as many ways as possible.
Researching possible causes
Many people seem to report being constantly tired and drained of energy. When they go to their physician, he doesn't seem to be able to identify a cause. While I agree that there should be more research in this area, the research should consider possible physical causes, and not just possible mental health or emotional causes. When a psychotherapist like Silvana Bazet publishes a study on the issue and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health voices support, people may tend to think that it's purely psychosomatic.
Alread done
Xtra Vancouver covered gay male partner abuse several years ago. http://www.xtra.ca/public/viewstory.aspx?AFF_TYPE=4&STORY_ID=4747&PUB_TEMPLATE_ID=2
Domestic violence against men also exists
I have mentioned the issue of domestic violence against men before but it always seems to be an inappropriate topic based on the responses. Only poor women suffer at the hands of men --it could not possibly be true that women abuse men. But they do --in so many ways. Men are often left out of the idea of suffering, well --because they're men-- they should be able to take it. There is a trend in commercials where men are made to look stupid and are abused in various physical and psychological ways --as humour-- to make the bimbo wearing the fashion product, look good. There are more and more princesses walking around who feel they have the right to abuse men. And of course there is Gay male partner abuse as well... How about an article on this issue? ***Hey Ken, we seem to have similar ideas on a lot of issues. I'd love to meet you some day.*** http://www.fims.uwo.ca/olr/apr809/Higgins feature.html _____ http://home.comcast.net/~philip.cook/ _____ http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/story.html?id=90542a7c-9b66-4918-83e7-f0f30369bc88 _____ http://abusedmen.org/ http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/ncfv-cnivf/publications/mlintima-eng.php ____ http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/ncfv-cnivf/maleabus-eng.php
What about me?
I have many of the symptoms mentioned here... but I guess I don't count cause I'm male.
How come such a study didn't include men?
These days too often males seem to be getting short shrift. We know that 50% of those suffering spousal abuse are men but we only see articles about battered wives. I guy I know was raped but when he went to a rape centre was refused because he's male. Etc etc... this is about people's health. Would it have been so difficult to include men in the study?
Timely article
This was an interesting article. I'm the creator of QueerMentalHealth.org, a website for dealing with another kind of invisible illnesses. I started the site when I couldn't find any resources for dealing with mental health issues that were LGBTQ+ specific.

We've been up for a year now, and later this fall/early winter, I'm launching a 2nd site, QueerDisability.org, which will be a support site for LGBTQ+ people with disabilities that cover both physical and mental health issues.
ME is not CFS
I have a best friend who has spent the last 6 years trying to discover what was wrong with her, she went to world renowned specialist in CFS and ME in Ottawa, Dr. Bryon Hyde (look it up) and ME is not the same as CFS, it's similar, but the causes are different.
I've seen it first hand with my friend who is a lesbian as well. The Dr believes she had an infection enter her brain and caused this. Impossible to prove until after death, insurance companies do everything in their power to make sure the person gets nothing even if they've paid into their plans for years.
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