Book review: The Remedy

Maggie Hulbert is a medical student in the Class of 2020 at Queen's University

 

The Remedy: Queer and Trans Voices on Health and Healthcare
(Arsenal Pulp Press, 2016)

In the introduction to The Remedy, British Columbia-based editor Zena Sharman states her intention plainly: to make people’s stories the centre of conversations on queer and transgender health. The resulting anthology is a stunning and captivating look at the past, present, and future of health and healthcare as it relates to LGBTQ+ people in Canada that more than accomplishes Sharman’s goal. A long-standing frustration with healthcare providers is a common theme among the stories contained in The Remedy. For example, in one comic essay, a transgender patient with breast cancer explains the disappointment and pain they feel when their healthcare provider asks if their hormone replacement therapy could have contributed to their cancer. These thoughtful accounts of navigating the Canadian healthcare system as an LGBTQ+-identifying person are a large part of what makes this book so invaluable to the medical profession.

However, the true strength of The Remedy lies in the diversity of its storytellers. The range of voices included in The Remedy is, frankly, unparalleled. People of all races, ages, gender identities, and sexual orientations have a seat at the table, and this extends into the perspectives represented from within the healthcare system. Patients, physicians, nurses, acupuncturists, psychologists, student learners, and caregivers all have representation. By including so many diverse voices, The Remedy is able to illustrate many intersections of identity. This is described well in the moving essay by queer Syrian refugee Ahmed Danny Ramadan, in which they struggle to find both safety and a sense of belonging in a new country and ultimately find a healer in their local naturopath. Each narrative in The Remedy will broaden your understanding of the social determinants of health without ever feeling forced.

The other great strength of The Remedy is that there is a fundamentally practical tone to this book. It starts with a three-page bulleted list of the health inequities faced by LGBTQ+ people, then gracefully weaves scientific data in with poetry, essays, and comics until the end. Unlike many books on this subject matter, The Remedy doesn’t let the reader finish the book with a sense of despair for the injustice LGBTQ+ people face in our healthcare system. Instead, it empowers readers to learn from their stories and gives us the tools for change. This call to arms is demonstrated beautifully in the repeating “Queer and Trans Health Innovation Profiles” found throughout the book. These sections describe the actions clinics across Canada and the US have taken to address the health disparities felt by LGBTQ+ people. One notable example of action is the Trans Buddy Program in Tennessee, a program that pairs trained volunteers with transgender patients who are hesitant about accessing healthcare services. By interviewing the founders of these initiatives, The Remedy shows us — instead of telling us — that any healthcare provider who is motivated can make a difference in their community. Through its collection of stories that are equal parts practical, personal, and inspiring, The Remedy truly earns its name.

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