[image quote]: "We don't address, as a society, what the notions of sexuality that are fed to us really do to us...It's very detrimental to our mental health and our emotional health, and ultimately, to our physical health." - Kirsten, episode 14; Creator of #ChronicSex, Still's Disease patient

[image quote]: "We don't address, as a society, what the notions of sexuality that are fed to us really do to us...It's very detrimental to our mental health and our emotional health, and ultimately, to our physical health." - Kirsten, episode 14; Creator of #ChronicSex, Still's Disease patient

14 Let's Get Physical (episode page)
Description: In this week’s episode is part two of my conversation with Kirsten Schultz, my guest from episode 10. We talk about how and why Kirsten started the Twitter hashtag, #ChronicSex, as a safe space to talk more openly about self-care, self-love, sexuality, and intimacy in the context of chronic illness. I talk about what I hope to do with the show in the coming year, and a bit about the difference between gender and sexual orientation. We also talk about our own experience with these topics, and touch on physical therapy and more patient advocacy. Starting this Thursday (1/7/16), Kirsten will be hosting regular, weekly #ChronicSex Twitter chats. You can follow along and/or participate on Twitter, using the tag #ChronicSex, Thursdays at 7pm EST.

[intro]
Hey there and Happy New Year. Welcome you to In Sickness + In Health—a podcast about chronic illness, disability, medical traumas, and everyday uncomfortable healthcare experiences. My name is Cara Gael; I’m not a doctor or medical professional, I’m just a person and a patient who really wants to talk about this stuff more.

If you’re new to the show, welcome! Nothing said on this show should be considered medical advice. If you’re experiencing a medical issue, please seek qualified medical help. I know the system sucks, but I wish you a lot of luck. Every person is different, even within disease groups, so none of my guests should be regarded as official representatives or spokespersons for their conditions. Please respect their very personal choices, and unless they ask for it, please don’t make suggestions about treatments or lifestyle changes. As will come up again and again on this show, unsolicited medical advice is almost never not annoying.

Today’s episode is part two of my conversation with Kirsten Schultz, my guest from episode ten. We talk about how and why Kirsten started the Twitter hashtag #ChronicSex. Starting this Thursday, she will be hosting regular weekly Twitter chats as a safe space to talk more openly about self care, self-love, sexuality, and intimacy in the context of chronic illness.

[clip of Kirsten speaking]

You can follow along and/or participate on Thursday evenings on Twitter using the hashtag #ChronicSex. You can find Kirsten on twitter @Kirstie_Schultz, and find her blog at notstandingstillsdisease.com. During our conversation in today’s episode we also talk about our own experience with these topics, and touch on physical therapy, self care, and more patient advocacy. Given many people’s New Years Resolutions have to do with their physical body, this is a great conversation to start the year off with.

Most of what we’re discussing in this episode is sexuality and intimacy, and we touch on gender only in passing. I know some people don’t realize there’s actually a difference between these things. This is stuff most doctors and medical practitioners don't even know, and that lack of knowledge and understanding can be very traumatizing for people seeking care. And as dr. Jill said in episode 11, when you’re in need of care, that's not a time when you should have to shore up your empowerment, or have educate others on your body. There are very few resources for medical professionals to learn more about this, so I’m hoping to cover gender issues a lot more on the podcast in the future. As always, I’ll include links in the show notes to learn more, but I’ll try to explain a bit about it now:

The term ‘binary’ originates from mathematics and computing, but put simply means a system with two options. It is often used to describe the dominant social constructs of good or evil, black or white, disability or ability, illness or health, and in the context of today’s episode, male or female, straight or gay. Binary systems don’t allow for anything in between or beyond the two options presented, and don’t accurately reflect the spectrum that so many of these things exist on.

When we use the term ‘sex’ in today's conversation, we’re talking about the act of having sex, but ‘sex’ can also be used to mean biological sex, which refers to a person’s anatomy, physicalattributes like external sex organs, sex chromosomes and internal reproductive structures. We typically think about this in the binary of male and female bodies, but intersex conditions occur naturally in all species. Intersex refers to a variety of conditions in which an individual is born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit the typical understanding of female or male bodies. Historically and to this day, the medical establishment has done a pretty bad job of dealing with this, but there are activists working very hard to change that.

Gender identity is an individual’s deeply held sense of being male, female, another gender, or no gender at all. For trans and gender expansive individuals, their gender identity does not always align with the physical characteristics they were born with, and the gender assigned to them as a result; for some that is clear from an early age, while others don’t know why their assigned gender doesn’t feel right to them until much later in life. We refer to those who have the privilege of biology and gender identities that match as ‘cisgendered,' cis meaning “on the side of” in latin. While this is the dominant experience for our culture, but it should not be viewed as the default, because it winds up leaving large groups of people out.

Gender expression is the way we show our gender to the world around us, and because of societal norms and stigma, people don’t always express their gender identity in the way they would prefer. This is why a trans woman may feel she needs to continue to live her life in public as a man, or vice versa. This is why some people might choose to dress in a gender normative way in circumstances such as work, or at family gatherings, to avoid judgement, being ostracized, or rude comments from those who don’t understand.

On the other hand sexual orientation is about our physical, emotional and/or romantic attractions
to others. People may identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, pansexual, asexual…the list continues to grow. I know this all can be confusing, but allowing people to express their gender and sexuality in ways which feel natural to them is vital to a person’s sense of self.

Gender and Sexuality are dynamic, and it seems like our culture is only now just starting to understand that and beginning to embrace spectrum models in relation to both. Many people feel very strongly that they belong on one end of the binary or the other, but for the rest of us, it’s a great big wide world. And I’m excited to watch it grow.

In last week’s episode I mentioned that I was going to put out a year-end list of favorite podcast episodes from 2015 that relate to some of the stuff we talked about so far on In Sickness + In Health, and as it turns out, I am a liar. I’m still getting used to a new medication and feeling like my brain is full of rocks, so I haven’t been doing much of any writing or thinking for that matter. I may still put one out, but if you’re interested in getting podcast recommendations from me, you can subscribe to our mailing list from insicknesspod.com. I’ll be including recommended episodes with each week’s email.

The mailing list is just one way to keep up with the show, but you can also follow us on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram @insicknesspod, you can like us on Facebook, as well as subscribe to us on your podcatcher of choice.

I hope 2016 will be a great year for In Sickness + In Health, now that I mostly know what I’m doing. If you have any feedback or suggestions of topics to cover or people I should talk to, I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me at insicknesspod@gmail.com, and I promise I will answer your email... eventually. There’s so much that I want to do that would be much easier if I had a full staff, or at least a research intern or booker, but I am doing what I can with what I have. I want to talk to more different kinds of people with different experiences, do more topical series, maybe even finally get my shit together and get some music for the podcast, make the podcast more interactive, make the podcast more accessible and be better about coordinating transcription of the episodes, and I am most excited to cover more history of disability and more of the science behind some of what we deal with. I have so many things that I want to do with the show, so I am hoping I will have the spoons to pursue it all. I get really excited just thinking about it, but then I need to take a nap.

Please rate and review us on iTunes, it helps other people find the show, which helps me keep the episodes coming. And I hope you enjoy this episode!

[interview]

[outro]
And thank you so much for listening to this episode of In Sickness + In Health. You can find more from us at insicknesspod.com, on social media @insicknesspod. You can find Kirsten on twitter @Kirstie_Schultz, and find her blog at notstandingstillsdisease.com.

Please rate and review us on iTunes, it helps other people find the show, and don’t forget to be excellent to yourself and each other.