Sunday, April 27, 2008

Hitting Home In A Hard, Hard Way

"My doctor told me not to smoke,
drink nothin stronger than a coke,
I’m not even supposed to hear a dirty joke,
'cause laughing will strain my heart.
I've had every ailment known to man
from the African mumps to dishpan hands
I lost every race that I ever ran –
I never even got to start.” — Think You’ve Got Trouble, Marvin Rainwater

It seems we have this never-ending fight for our rights: employment, hate crimes and even now (especially in gay / lesbian circles) marriage rights are a constant. As we’re engaged in the upcoming election season and are on the crest of a political catharsis in the country, we’ve become enrapt in presidential campaigning and what that means to ENDA. As a result, we’ve locked horns with folks like HRC, Barney Frank and others trying to get that most key of rights: the right to work … life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and all that.

Sometimes it’s easy to overlook the day-to-day urgency we as a community face. For some of us, maybe not – we live it. But for even folks like myself who happen to be at least temporarily employed, we sufficiently hold the wolf from the door long enough to not get actively involved in hand-to-hand survival with it.

Unless you think the danger’s passed, let me remind you the hard times are still here for the overwhelming majority of us. Even if one is active, or even a leader on a local, state or national basis, we’re only a paper-width distance from personal and/or economic disaster.

Cyndi Richards is a friend of mine. Admittedly she’s not everyone’s favorite cup of coffee. But she is consistent, doesn’t try to be someone different to each audience (no phony), and is a generous soul (easy to agree to if you’ve been to her parties at Southern Comfort Conference!). Bottom line, like her or not, she’s real.

Whether I agree with her or not, that’s something I can respect.

This past week I got an Email (that unfortunately ended up in my spam folder) from someone on a Yahoo group she runs. It noted she was in the hospital due to a burst appendix. Cyndi herself sent out a note today in her own inimitable style:

Greetings from the brink of grim painful death,

Chicago may be a BIG city, but within our delightfully diverse community, it can still often seem like a small town, made even tinier courtesy of the wonders of the web. As I'm sure you know only too well, whenever something happens in a small town, it's like when the town boarding house exploded --- roomers (rumors?) are FLYING!

And so, forgive me for taking up your busy time with the minor details of my puny little so-called life, but as there are already reports containing various degrees of accuracy which you may (or may not?) have noticed flying around several trans-oriented web-sites concerning a recent event which is probably only of interest to an infinitesimally small circle of friends anyway, I thought you deserved the respect that only first-person clarity can yield. And so, my strange-but-true cautionary tale unfolds. Take it for whatever it may be worth to you and yours.

Yes, it's true that, as chair of Illinois Gender Advocates, I have been "running and gunning" pretty much non-stop since the presumably successful Equality Illinois Lobby Day of April 9th. And so, there I was about ten days ago, cruising along life's bumpy road, with all the normal rattle and hum, and then, all of a sudden, the damn wheels fell off.

Due to lack of full-time employment and zero health insurance (a situation far too crushingly commonplace within the trans-community), I chose to "tough out" what I perceived as a rather harsh case of food poisoning (severe stomach cramps, dizziness, and projectile vomiting followed by violent, gut-wrenching dry heaves) at home in bed alone.

After about 48-60 hours of pure gastro-intestinal HELL, my otherwise super-human tolerance for pain and suffering had reached its limits. Because, as a usually healthy sort of non-insured person, I have no "family doctor" (and no family either), I reached out to a friend who just happens to be a fireman/paramedic.

Once I had described my symptoms, his normally cheerful tone became quite dark and serious. He advised, no, commanded me in no uncertain terms to get to the hospital IMMEDIATELY! Since he was on-duty (in another town), he couldn't come get me himself, so I called another good friend, who (bless her heart), picked up the phone, dropped everything else and came-a-runnin'.

After being wheeled into the ER, doubled over in pain, preliminary blood tests led to a CT-scan, which revealed that my appendix had burst, at least 24 -36 hours prior to my hospital admittance.

I woke up from emergency surgery some 18 hours later.

Upon my initial meeting with an absolutely incredible life-saving surgeon (an Irani [sic] national, more about him some other time), I was firmly chastised for waiting so long to seek help. I explained my dilemma. He sadly shook his head and rhetorically observed that he has seen far too many patients in the same perilous predicament, which he feels is unconscionable in this country. He then quietly informed me that I had been within an hour (at most) of turning completely septic and dying from peritonitis.

Although the story gets far more bizarre, the upshot of the whole thing is that I spent 6 unbelievably expensive days in the hospital, being post-surgically fed and sedated from the same tube, while another larger diameter length of hose drained several ounces of toxic residue from my "southerly" incisions.


My post-operative pain is exceeded only by the very realistic fear that I will wind up losing my home as a result of not being able to pay the upcoming tab for this abrupt health emergency.

As of yesterday, I have been discharged from the hospital and I am now slowly recovering under the wing of the very same angel that originally brought my almost fatally-flawed body into the hospital.

It's no small amount of comfort to know that the continued existence of an otherwise insignificant and mostly misunderstood trans-person matters to somebody. It is my deepest hope that there is someone, anyone, that cares enough to reach out beyond their own personal comfort zone on YOUR behalf, although I would never wish my most recent tribulations on ANYONE.

And so it goes.

If you have any other questions, feel free to ask. I'm not going ANYWHERE for the next couple of weeks - doctor's orders.
Just a little background, Cyndi’s someone who transitioned and lost her professional livelihood (what a shock, eh?). She was not one to sit back and do nothing; she didn’t sit back and become vocally self-piteous. Cyndi became involved in the community and even in politics. Even her note above says little to nothing about her personal situation. She’s been living on the edge for some time. She’s been in fear of losing her home for the entire year – now much more likely thanks to the recent unforeseen health issues.

This goes on every day, not just with Cyndi and will continue going on for many years to come, if HRC and Barney Frank have their way with ENDA and other items on their legislative agenda. Meanwhile, being trans, we’re expendable in Washington DC: Transgenders mean nothing. That’s the bottom line.

And for trans people who don’t toe the Barney Frank/HRC let’s-sacrifice-the-trannies line, this is something we should be expecting for our lives. We’ve got no safety net; we’ll hit pavement the minute we fall and our friends in these elite gay circles will nod and offer the polite golf claps.

One more trans person neutralized, one less obstacle on their superhighway to equality for sexual orientation only.

Meanwhile, we in our community have one of our own that is in need. If there’s anything you can spare to help out an active trans person who, like many of us is sans job much less health insurance, please consider a contribution to the fund. A friend of Cyndi’s, and an attorney in the Chicago area, is coordinating collecting funds to help defray some of the costs. Her Paypal address (and also Email address in case you want to make a donation other than via Paypal) is:

And before you ask – no, I have not been in touch with Cyndi, nor been asked to coordinate something like this. Cyndi’s story hits home for me. There but for the grace of God go all of us ….

“These unhappy times call for the building of plans that build from the bottom up and not from the top down, that put their faith once more in the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid.” — Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt

"Until we get rid of the need for hospitals and other providers to cover the costs of people who are not covered ... the overall cost is not going to go down. The only real cost savings comes when you have universality." — Elizabeth Edwards, spouse of presidential candidate John Edwards


Kelli Busey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kelli Busey said...

God Bless you Vanessa. I will send a link to everyone.