By Michele Karlsberg
San Francisco Bay Times
Bodies and Barriers: Queer Activists on Health (PM Press), edited by Adrian Shanker, is considered to be the first book of the new decade that is a must have. The COVID-19 pandemic has placed conversations of health equity back at the forefront of our lives. The emergence of a new virus that quickly swept the world and has taken more than 189,000 American lives as of this writing has caused many of us to think about the importance of accessing healthcare when we need it.
The release of the critically-acclaimed new anthology is therefore timely. This book includes essays by 26 queer activists from around the world. Contributing authors write about barriers to affirming health care for LGBT people of all ages. From informed consent for intersex children, to social service navigation for the LGBT community, to caregiving concerns for LGBT older adults, the book is comprehensive and relevant for these scary times we are living through.
As Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, said, “Now, more than ever, we need Bodies and Barriers to shine a spotlight on how and why good health care for LGBTQ people and our families is such a challenge. Bodies and Barriers provides a roadmap for all who are ready to fight for health equity—in the doctor’s office, in the halls of government, or in the streets.”
The following is a clip from the Introduction by Adrian Shanker followed by the afterword to Bodies and Barriers by Kate Kendell.
Adrian Shanker: “Those who survive our unfair landscape persevere through barriers at every step of the way—barriers created by the government, by the medical establishment, by the pharmaceutical industry, and by insurance companies. We live with increased tobacco, alcohol, and other drug usage. We live with increased risk for obesity and diabetes. We live with increased risk for chronic diseases, including HIV and cancer. We live with increased discrimination, violence, harassment, and bullying. We live with family rejection and minority stress. And we are demanding that our health care systems respond to our lived experiences with culturally appropriate care at all stages of our lives. This book is arranged to follow the lifespan—youth, young adults, middle-age adults, and older adults. Every health care professional can benefit from this book. From those who work in labor and delivery to those who provide hospice care. From primary care clinicians to specialists in every health field. From surgeons and family doctors to nurse, counselors, social workers, and pharmacists. Every person providing care for humans is providing care for LGBT humans.”
Kate Kendell: “Throughout my career, I’ve been involved with some of the LGBT movement’s greatest fights: marriage equality, nondiscrimination in the workplace, parenting rights, inclusion in sports, ending conversion therapy, protecting youth, elders, and LGBT families. The common thread that links all these issues is health and well-being. It is not possible to be a healthy, vital person if you are under assault for who you are. Precisely because so many LGBT individuals struggle with stigma, safety, acceptance, and belonging, many in our community still struggle with high rates of mental and physical health challenges.
Despite the odds, our movement for LGBT liberation has come far. In my twenty-two years leading the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), I had a front-row seat to our national progress. Out of nothing and in the face of hostility from our own government, we built the HIV/AIDS infrastructure in the 1980s to fight back and save our men and everyone impacted by the pandemic. When I started at the NCLR in the 1990s, LGBT parents routinely lost custody of their children as they came out of heterosexual marriages. Now, sexual orientation is not a basis for losing custody. In the early 2000s, many openly wondered if we should fight for the freedom to marry or if such a fight would be successful in their lifetimes. In 2015, we won marriage nationwide at the U.S. Supreme Court.
We’ve come a long way from the time when LGBT people were dying left and right from a treatable virus to witnessing some of those early AIDS activists marrying longtime partners. But the LGBT community still experiences open hostility and disregard from health care professionals, some LGBT health needs are still not covered equitably by health insurers, and policy makers still sometimes lack the political will to advocate for equitable policies for our community.
From obstetricians refusing to treat lesbians, to gay men being ridiculed for wanting a prescription for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), health care professionals can do better. Policy makers can do better. All of us can do better.
Our movement for equality, for liberation, has been breathtaking in its gains. But we still fight for our humanity, our health, and our happiness. The priority for a new generation must be the health of every one of us and the promise of a long, healthy, fully embraced life.
Adrian Shanker (He, Him, His) is an award-winning activist and organizer whose career has centered on advancing progress for the LGBT community. He has worked as an arts fundraiser, labor organizer, marketing manager, and served as President of Equality Pennsylvania for three years before founding Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, Allentown, Pennsylvania’s LGBT Community Center, where he serves as Executive Director.
“San Francisco Bay Times” columnist Kate Kendell, Esq., is the former Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and now works with Take Back the Court and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Shout-Out to Bay Area Publisher – PM Press
PM Press is an independent, radical publisher of books and media to educate, entertain, and inspire. Founded in 2007 by a small group of people with decades of publishing, media, and organizing experience, PM Press amplifies the voices of radical authors, artists, and activists. Their aim is to deliver bold political ideas and vital stories to all walks of life and arm the dreamers to demand the impossible. They have sold millions of copies of books, most often one at a time, face to face. They’re old enough to know what they are doing and young enough to know what’s at stake.
Michele Karlsberg Marketing and Management specializes in publicity for the LGBTQ+ community. This year, Karlsberg celebrates 32 years of successful book campaigns. For more information: https://www.michelekarlsberg.com
Adrian Shanker is an award-winning activist and organizer whose career has centered on advancing progress for the LGBT community. He has worked as an arts fundraiser, labor organizer, marketing manager, and served as President of Equality Pennsylvania for three years before founding Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown, PA, where he serves as executive director. An accomplished organizer, Adrian has led numerous successful campaigns to advance LGBT progress through municipal nondiscrimination and relationship recognition laws and laws to protect LGBT youth from conversion therapy. A specialist in LGBT health policy, he has developed leading-edge health promotion campaigns to advance health equity through behavioral, clinical, and policy changes.