Monday, October 29, 2007


Did you know that breastfeeding could abolish all diabetes? No, you didn't? That's because it can't!!

Last week, a nurse (possibly a nurse practitioner) said at a health care activism meeting, well, if everyone breastfed, there would be no diabetes.

Um... I say, I am diabetic and I was definitely breastfed for a long time.

Instead of owning up to the stupidity and insensitivity of her comment, or at least backing off a little, this woman says, "Really?!! Wow, you must be the outlier, the one exception! It's an inflammatory process!"

Hell no. This woman did not only just talk about me and my mother, but then she tried to defend her statement and act all surprised.

I thought about not even telling my mom (a nurse practitioner) about it because even though we both know it's bullshit, I don't want her to even think for a second about blaming herself or that I might blame her. But, I decided to, and she articulated another thing about it that bothered me. She said, "Doesn't sound like politics to me, sounds like blaming the victim." Yes, the blaming the victim thing. Stupid and fucked up. But I think it was politics, or "blaming the victim" masquerading as a political statement/rebellion, which bothers me even more. And blaming mothers is a recurring theme in our culture.
EDIT: As I was writing this post, I found this great discussion going over on Scott's blog about diabetes, breastfeeding, and blame/guilt.

I am actually all about breastfeeding for mothers that are able to, but this comment was just ridiculous for a couple reasons. Even though I do think traditional medicine can be harmful sometimes and natural methods have a lot to offer, the "natural medicine" pusher people piss me off a lot because they take it to an extreme that is able-ist and/or just dumb. Also, not all mothers are able to breastfeed for various health and other reasons.

In general, people that think they have a cure-all "natural" solution for my diabetes, or whatever else, are pretty arrogant to think that they have the fix to something that I devote endless time and energy to on a daily basis. If it was that simple and complete a solution, don't you think I would have found it? Or am I just stupid for muddling through with my traditional medicine? Do you want to see what happens to my body for even 4 hours without any insulin?

Now, that nurse wasn't suggesting she had a cure for me now. This is just an example of where that kind of statment takes you. It's a way of invalidating my very real experience. That's the problem with universalizing especially when you havent had that experience (and especially when you're working out of this ableist framework).

Also, even if it really was true that breastfeeding can prevent all diabetes, that's a pretty serious, loaded thing to say in such a cavalier way to someone you met 15 minutes ago.

I need to learn to write shorter posts. If you're getting bored, you can consider yourself done here! More ramblings of mine follow...

There are studies that show breastfeeding does significantly reduce the chances of a kid developing type 1 diabetes. And inadequate nutrition as a fetus, infant, or child can be linked to higher risks for stuff like type 2 diabetes and other health issues as an adult (one reason why I think we need to look at environmental stresses like poverty, etc. before anyone chalks up racial health disparities to genetics, which can often end up being just a new sophisticated incarnation of scientific racism). But for her to talk about this one single cause is really inaccurate. And her justification that it's an "inflammatory process" doesn't help her case, because there are so many different triggers that contribute to inflammation.

Also - speaking of ableism - this nurse also made a bunch of comments about well, if something ever happens to me, that's it. pull the plug. She was trying to make a point about the excess money we spend in the U.S. on heroic measures like ventilators at the end of life. I actually agreed with some of what she was saying, that we need to reexamine what life is and how we're spending our healthcare dollars, and if we really want, from a financial
and quality of life standpoint, to be living hooked up to tons of stuff instead of letting ourselves die peacefully when life is ending. But I don't think needing outside assistance from other people, machines, or drugs are the definition of when life is worth living or not, and her statements went too far into ableism and almost even eugenics.

Do you really think life with illness isn't worth living? And do you want to say that to me and the woman sitting next to me that looks like she might have cancer? Besides being a messed up way of thinking, MOST people live with illness or disability in some form at some point (especially people that are not upper-class white people like she and I). And I think to not recognize that is both inaccurate and ableist in that it reinforces this idea that healthy and perfect (and requiring no outside help from other people/medicines/therapies/etc) is the "normal" state for everyone, and a fall from that is remarkable or abnormal.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Theory and Practice: Ketones

I couldn't help but be hit on the head with the irony of checking for ketones* while I crammed for my chemistry test on guess what? Ketones (and other carbonyl compounds). My professor likes to emphasize that we should not just memorize the material but understand it and know how to apply it. Unfortunately, he was talking about applying it in the form of writing reactions down on paper, and my excellent ability to pee on a strip and correctly read and interpret that data didn't earn me any extra points today. And I sure could've used them.

Since there were only a couple of us taking the exam in the office, I was totally tempted to make some joke or mention to the professor about the ketones. Some way to get a little validation for being funny/smart/special from the (hot) professor as I failed his exam. But I couldn't figure out how to do it without mentioning my urine, and well, that just seemed to defeat the purpose. Not so attractive, baddecisionmaker, not so attractive.

I took the exam in the professor's office before class because that was my accommodation through the disability resource center (since I might need to leave to pee, or need extra time in case of a low or high). It was the first time I've officially registered my diabetes; at the college I graduated from it was more relaxed; classes were smaller, and I relied on just talking to professors. I have had more problems lately, and also have started thinking about my diabetes and ability/disability a little differently in the last 5 years since I started college. I got more time than I would've even though my blood sugar wasn't too crazy, but this accommodation was actually not great for me because I took it at 10am instead of noon, and I do not function well in the morning (and could've really used the extra 2 hours to study). Also, the professor was having office hours at the same time so it was not quiet. Maybe he hadn't thought about this because the other kid getting accommodations there with me was deaf. I was jealous.

Anyways, I am a nerd and was curious about the ketone strips I pee on. Last week I was actually procrastinating by reading the ketostix box and trying to figure out how the reaction worked (no success) instead of studying the actual material. Yeah, that's how ridiculously distractable and unfocused I am - procrastinating by reading the box of my diabetes supplies, haha. That's why I had to cram for this exam.

I was checking for ketones because I'm still having weird blood sugar/insulin absorbtion issues, and I was having some unexpected highs and wanted to make sure my pump was working enough that I wouldn't be sick or wake up high and groggy the morning of my exam.

*non-pancreatically challenged folks' glossary: I and other type 1 diabetics might check our pee for ketones when we have unexplainable or multiple high blood sugars, think we might not be getting enough insulin, or are sick. Having ketones is different than just having regular high blood sugar (in fact, you can have ketones without high blood sugar), they are a sign of things not working right in the body and can be part of a dangerous cascade/imbalance if they are at high levels. It requires different and more careful management than just regular blood sugar issues. (Nerds: they are the byproduct of the body's metabolism when it switches over from it's normal fuel of sugar to breaking down fatty acids. The acidity in your blood can get dangerous.)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

follow-up on my fat runner soapbox

I got a response to my letter to the guy who wrote the stupid column about fat marathon runners = unprepared marathon runners:

When you note that you limit yourself to shorter races, you underline my point. You have wisely decided that the marathon is a challenge that requires intense preparation and may at this point be too much for you.

Many years ago, I trained my butt off to run a marathon: 12 weeks at 60 miles per week average, with some 7-day stretches over 100 miles. That is how I viewed the challenge of the event - something to be respected and taken very seriously.

The result? A 3:33 marathon for someone who had been 40 pounds overweight - 12 years earlier. I got myself in shape well before I tackled 26.2 miles. The training was a diet by itself.

For a variety of reasons, I never was able to put in that training time again. That is why my marathon career ended at 1.

Thanks for writing / PH
What irritates me the most about this most is the patronizing and wrong assumption that I have "wisely decided" a marathon is too much for me at this point, presumably related to my fatness.
As if:
a) He knew why i wasn't running a marathon. He doesn't - my reasons include being busy with school/work, diabetes struggles right now (which aren't caused by my fatness, thankyouverymuch), and not really wanting to. My knee pain is about #4 or 5 on that list, and if I lost weight I may or may not still have it.
b) I must be on this path (or at least be trying to be on it) of fat to skinny - I'm not.
c) The destination of the fat to skinny path is a marathon, you can't just do one while you're fat.

Also note his use of "in shape" to not only mean in shape, but also skinny as if they mean the same thing (my whole beef with his original column).

Monday, October 15, 2007

An Inclusive ENDA

There's a proposal to take gender identity out of the categories protected by the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) pending in congress right now. Please call your U.S. representative - capitol switchboard # is (202) 224-3121 - now to urge them to keep gender identity in the bill. If you don't know who your representative is, you can find out here by punching in your zipcode. For more on this issue with ENDA, see this page at the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Right now, legislative avenues are not my #1 favorite avenue for activism, but this still seems significant to me, partly because of the way trans exclusions within gay/queer communities have unfolded recently and in the past. Some people, including Congressman Barney Frank, have said that it is better to leave gender identity out "for now" so that the bill will have an easier chance of passing with sexual orientation protected. That is one of the problems with using law in a struggle - it constrains your struggle, and the "solutions" end up being exclusionary and/or policing.

Some posts I've read by other bloggers and even a few comments on facebook have helped me think about and better articulate why I'm against dropping gender identity from the bill. They also have further educated me about the exclusionary histories of groups like HRC (Human Rights Campaign), who was very slow to move on the current proposed exclusion of gender identity from ENDA.

Transgriot wrote a great informative post about the history of trans exclusion (as well as regional and racial exclusivity) in mainstream gay groups like HRC. One thing that she says about the problem asking the trans community to "wait" really helps bring the issue into focus:
"We're also pissed that the same people who demanded (and still demand) that we accept 'incremental progress' when it comes to trans rights hypocritically have no intention of accepting 'incremental progress' when it comes to legal recognition of same-sex relationships."
Angry Brown Butch also critiques HRC in this recent post:
HRC is, in a nutshell, an extremely mainstream, pandering, assimilationist LGB”T” organization that seems to work primarily for the rights of the most privileged, white picket fence (and just plain white) sort of queers. Well, not queers, seeing as “queer” is not their sort of word. They are decidedly lesbian, gay, bisexual I guess, and let’s throw in transgendered so that it looks like we care.
Transgriot also has post specifically about transphobia and Barney Frank in the past and with the current ENDA.

So... I don't think gender identity should be taken out because I can't stand the idea of (and don't want to learn how) embracing the idea of fighting for a "protection" that purposely leaves some of my friends and allies behind. Especially because of the way that trans exclusion/violence/oppression is written into all kinds of government and social practices. And the history behind this is important and not irrelevant to the current attempt at exclusion. One person on facebook said something like, this doesn't mean trans "later," it means trans never, because of the way power, and privilege work. And because of the marriage-rights focus of mainstream wealthy/powerful groups like HRC.

The other thing about this is that it works to divide queer and gay communities, and I don't think this is a total accident. Just like the way some race and/or class struggles work, it's offering one group some privileges if they agree to divide from the other part of the group. It breaks up alliances that could happen in a more inclusive way and forces people to choose between these alliances and a mainstreaming, limited protection that excludes or steps on other peoples' feet.

On the facebook wall for a group supporting an inclusive ENDA, someone made the point that this is also important for people that aren't trans but have some other kind of non-conforming gender identity or expression. It affects and constrains the expression of other people in (and not in) the gay/queer community. If gender identity and expression is an acceptable form of employment discrimination, then only gay people that are able to/want to/do assimilate to mainstream (straight) gender norms are protected. You are only allowed to be gay if you assimilate to straight gender norms and don't threaten/challenge anyone in that way. Besides being a fucked up way of policing what kind of queer community is acceptable, it's also a pretty gaping loophole that employers could easily use to discriminate against gay people that dressed or acted "inappropriately" or "unprofessionally" or in a way that "made clients uncomfortable" or whatever they want to say because they were too masculine or too effeminate or whatever.

It reminds me of an article I read about the "assimilationist bias" in anti-discrimination law called Covering by Kenji Yoshino. It's the idea that, if you can't change it (eg skin color), then you are "helpless" to change it and it's protected, but if you can (eg straighten or cut off your kinky black hair) then you should, and your "difference" (rather than society's structure/oppression) is what's generating the social inequality, and it's not protected. It's still racism if a black person can't be fired because of their skin color but can be fired because of having their hair in braids or locks rather than cut short or chemically straightened to look like white hair.

It' part of an idea there are a few different levels of assimilation: all-out conversion (think ex-gay movement), passing (think being in the closet at work and passing for straight), and covering (discreetly mentioning you've got a "partner" at work but making sure you didn't flaunt it in anyone's face or be yourself in a way that would make any straight people you work with too uncomfortable or challenged, maintaining your expected gender norms, etc.). Just because someone can "cover" or "pass" (and not everyone can, obviously, and many do so with trauma and/or self-suppression) doesn't mean they should have to - and an ENDA without gender identity could encourage this.

I'm writing from a position of a lot of privilege to be able to sit back and reflect on this in a really abstract/theoretical way. For a lot of reasons, I haven't experienced overt hostility or discrimination in employment because of my gender or sexual orientation. But to me it seems like supporting an exclusive ENDA is the wrong way to go.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

(belated again) friday petblogging

Sometimes old-man-doggie Zack is too weak to walk down the 3 flights of stairs from our condo (although this may be a vision issue as much as a strength issue). However, he gets suddenly quite strong (and smart) when it comes to foraging for food, or tissues, or cat litter, or whatever else suits his fancy that day.

So this senior doggie with food-only super powers struck again this week, chewing through a metal container for some chocolate-covered altoids:

close-up on the damage:

Zack says, DID WANT.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

gettin' up on my fat runner soapbox

I had to get up on my fat runner soapbox again today. It's interesting because I actually feel like I've been passing as "not fat" a lot more this year, between getting a little thinner and moving from a residential college campus full of rich young northeastern disproportionately white people back to Chicago and the work world that has a lot more body size diversity (and frankly, people are just fatter on average) which I think has something to do with the region, class, and age make-up of people I am around. However, I think I still definitely count as fat among runners. Heck, I'm slower with the same or more effort sometimes (I could probably leave those skinny people in the dust if they had another 50 pounds strapped on them), and I'm in the largest of 4 Clydesdale (bigger runners circuit, which is an awesome idea) categories for females.

I wanted to re-write this to make it more in my own voice and ass-kicking rather than what I tailored so that this columnist might be able to hear me and I might have a chance of getting printed. But I really need to get to studying or sleeping, and I think that kind of perfectionism prevents me from posting as much as I'd like to (ahem, see the last 2 months), especially when I'm busy. So here goes:

Regarding Phillip Hersh's comments (October 9, "A Saner, Safer Race) I agree with your point that a marathon is strenuous and runners should be well-prepared (although this does not absolve race organizers of the mismanagement that resulted in stations running out of water and Gatorade on a dangerously hot day). However, your comments about who "looks" like they can run a marathon were inaccurate and disrespectful. You cannot see by looking at someone how many training runs they have done.

I have never done a marathon, but I have done many shorter races, and despite training adequately and eating healthy food, I was still fat. I'm only running a few miles a week now, but I bike 50-60 miles a week, and yep, I'm still weighing in with a fat BMI of 29. The only way for me to become a skinny person that "looks" like a runner would be to go on a strict diet for years, and I actually enjoy my body and don't have enough self-loathing to want to do that. I'd rather put my energy into exercising, enjoying my life and taking care of my health.
EDIT FOR BLOG ENTRY: Screw that, I'd literally have to get myself a full-fledged eating disorder (for both physical ability for that to be possible and the attitude I'd have to have to dislike my body enough/be driven enough to have that kind of discipline) to be able to do that! I'm never going to "look" like a runner with that definition. Nor do I want to.

There are lots of us fat runners out there that "deserve" to be racing. I'm sure some of the fat runners trained adequately and were well-prepared at the starting line last Sunday, and some weren't. Just like the skinny people - some were prepared, and some of them weren't. Being skinny does not mean you are in shape to run a marathon. Being bigger does mean that you probably won't be able to run as fast as skinny people, but it absolutely does not automatically mean you are unprepared and should not be running. The Clydesdale circuits (the Chicago Area Runners' Association includes the Chicago Marathon) for bigger runners recognize this, and provide a forum for bigger runners to compete. See

Additionally, if being heavier puts a runner at risk for anything, it is joint problems, not dehydration. Anyone who pushes their body too hard on an 88-degree day puts their health at risk.