Reflections from the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference 2013

What a phenomenal catalyst for change. June 13-15 was the 12th annual Trans Health Conference in Philly. It was a massive collection of workshops on many different aspects of Transgender, Transsexual and differently gendered health and healing including medical, legal, spiritual, practical aspects, self-empowerment and so much more. I was honored to be a presenter this year on Naturopathic Medicine and Trans Health. It was my first time attending the conference, and I am so impressed by the caliber of the event. I primarily attended medical style workshops including presentations on the most recent research being done with the trans community.

My talk was a great learning process for me. Not only from the questions asked by the diverse and well informed crowd, but also as a reflection of self. I am very comfortable in the trans community, consider myself an ally, and am aware of the multidimensional and sometimes fragile nature of trans identities. And yet, twice during my presentation I wrongly identified someone as a woman and a man when calling on people for questions. Under pressure, my highly educated nervous system switched back to my reptilian brain of the binary He-She world – and this with all the *knowing* that I have of the great diversity of gender expression. I was disappointed in myself.  It is a lesson that in working with this community, it is especially important to be conscious of language. The old ways of thinking are simply not progressive enough to enter the dialogue. For example, when referencing  people, we as a society need to step outside of classifying people by sex (and race.) Instead of saying “the woman in the yellow shirt”, say “the person in the yellow shirt is ….” The majority of the time our binary classification may be right, but there is a significant proportion of times when our 2D classifiers are actually incorrect, and those can be very painful moments for the individual inhabiting the misread gender identity.

I also talked about adrenal health, and was pleased to learn of new research that evidences salivary cortisol levels are indeed raised higher in the transitioning trans population than in controls. Meaning – stress is huge. Everyone working with trans people of all identifications will need to do stress management and adrenal support. Adrenals are also a source of endogenous hormones including DHEA, which could be a resource for transmasculine and transfeminine people not taking hormones as it has the potential to shift to both testosterone and estrogen internally.  There were many questions about the use of botanicals that have been evidenced to have steroid-like action. This is an area I need much more clinical experience in.

I was heartened to meet 3 other Naturopathic Doctors and two herbalists working in this field at the conference, all of who gave presentations as well.  They reminded me of some of the important preventative medicine aspects of working with people on hormone therapies like hypertension, osteoporosis, calcium quality, high cholesterol and so much more. There were also acupuncturists, and ayruvedic practitioners offering other traditional perspectives. Next year I hope to cultivate a workshop where we all meet to share information! I know I was left with more questions than answers.

I learned important information about our trans youth, and ways to support them better from both a practical level in schools, around mental health, and medically. Dori Midnight, a Massachusettes healer and fairy witch did workshops in mental health, herbalism and ancestral trans magics. I also got to share a room with her, which was a delightful meeting of the minds with gluten-free snacks. There were many sessions on identity development and closed meetings for specific gendered health care needs that looked inspiring and transformational. There were many fantastic workshops I did not get a chance to attend, including a 2 day medical training stream which I will certainly do next year.

Overall, the experience was one that provoked intense introspection and profound leaps of knowledge. It was an event that is crucially important to modern medicine, to understand not only the vernacular but also the urgency of the need for competent health care providers AND self care within the transgender, transsexual and gender non-conforming communities.

A few links and resources from the conference:

http://www.trans-health.org/

http://www.dorilandia.com/html/home.html

http://thirdroot.org/

http://www.rainbowhealthontario.ca/admin/contentEngine/contentDocuments/Gender_Independent_Children_final.pdf

www.riverstoneconsult.com

www.gendercreativekids.ca

www.fenwayhealth.org/transhealth

 

 

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#TTC Obsession – Confessions

Getting pregnant is scary and exciting. The process of wanting to conceive and then waiting to find out…. not priceless. I am intimately aware of this as a Naturopathic Doctor with a focus on In/Fertility. I have also been privately preparing for this moment of my late 30’s when I am ready to conceive.  I have treated and supported many women through this process already. And here I am, alone with my OPK stick in the bathroom, discerning the workings of a secret universe. CONCEPTION.

I am amused at my complete immersion in the consuming nature of trying to predict my own ovulation. I cannot believe how often I think of the subject. I am constantly turning the information over in my mind. I read fertility forums online to gather information; I delve into friends’ personal experiences. Medicine looks so different when one is the patient! Suddenly there are a thousand things I do not know… Ovulation Predictor Kits are only the beginning.

And, in the obsession of pregnancy, it becomes everywhere. Books and television remind me that women have been torturing themselves about the ability to get pregnant forever! First, it was conceiving a boy, and whether or not the First Son would be born.  With rampant infertility, the collective obsession has turned to the BFP and away from gender preference.

We want to be able to control this event with every ounce of heart and mind. We are so used to be able to create what we need, if we only put enough effort into the act! It is maddening to have to develop techniques like trust and patience to achieve our highest goal…. and yet that is what it comes down to in the end. Do we hold the ultimate responsibility of whether or not life occurs in our very body?  It is appears to be the hugest responsibility, and yet it is one we cannot. create. on. our. own.  As my friend said yesterday, “We are accomplished and often privileged women! Powerful creations, and yet…” we cannot read what should be the simplest signs of all from our flesh. Are we ovulating today? Are we pregnant? It’s a huge pressure.

For same sex couples and single folks, there is the additional stress of genetic material to procure. The art of conception (often) looks very different for lesbian and gay couples. Not only will the inseminations need to be precisely timed, but the acquisition of said tools of conception must also be arranged. The cost of becoming pregnant begins with the very first try, an additional ingredient in the pressure-cooker of preparation. (In a call-out to women with biologically male partners, I do understand that when women hit the fertility clinics, we are all in the same machine.  The sex or gender of our partner becomes much less relevant although issues of accessibility to and cost of genetic material remains an additional stress.) It’s a wonder any of us become pregnant at all! But we do, in every increasing numbers.

The minute details, test results, and potential scenarios become an endless gerbil wheel of anxiety. It is important to step back from your own fertility and restore some normalcy to your daily routine. I was wound up over the timing of what was only a pre-cycle. Imagine how physically stressed out I could be for the real thing! One of my friends advised me after her first birth – make it fun. Try to relax around it. And she laughed knowing how hard that would be. I suggest distracting yourself as much as possible from thinking the same old anxious thoughts.  HOW? Listen to music that makes you sing. Watch a movie that engages you. Make time for friends or family who you like talking to and who are interesting. Write in a journal so you can get the thoughts out of your head and onto paper. The less time that is spent obsessing about the timing or prediction of said events will be in your best interest overall!

There is no conclusion to the story. The (new brand of) OPK kits wait for next cycle in my bathroom cupboard. I am going to pray for myself, light candles of hope, and continue to make the daily small offerings I do towards pregnancy – high quality prenatal vitamins, DHA essential fats, green tea, and other things appropriate for my personal care. My sweetheart and I also have a plan B, and C in place to rely on. When I get in the hamster mind of prediction anxiety again, please remind me of this post. Stress inhibits Ovulation!

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Improving Libido with Naturopathic Medicine

Sex, sex drive and inherent libido are all very complex subjects in modern culture, affected by our extremely long TO DO lists tagged onto the ends of busy days. Here is an article I wrote for QueeriesMag.com February 2013 on Naturopathic Medicine to increase sex drive.Let me know what you think!

http://queeriesmag.com/index.php/2013/02/14/on-the-kitchen-table/

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Resolving an Arthritis Flare – for My Dad

Chronic inflammation can cycle into snowballs of pain that catch us off guard. For those with a familial tendency towards rheumatism, arthritis can become quite severe. Joint inflammation usually takes the autoimmune form of rheumatoid arthritis or the inflammatory/ immune joint presentation of osteoarthritis.

An acute osteoarthritis presentation can be effective managed with Naturopathic Medicine. To follow is a recipe for resolution of an acute (meaning, immediate or aggressive) flare up of arthritis that may be causing moderate to extreme pain and inhibiting mobility.

1.You will need to rest as much as possible for 7-10 days. Plan to stay home and lay low whenever possible. Get up every 2-3 hours (except while sleeping) for 10-20 minutes of stretching and gentle exercises like walking in nature, Pilates, or gentle yoga. Wii Fit balance and core strength exercises are fun and support rehabilitation.  Plan your life accordingly. You may need to work from home if possible, reschedule activities, and modify your lifestyle during this time. Remember that this is necessary to address the pain. It is likely your pain and inflammatory levels will be up to 50% resolved by the tenth day of treatment. During this time, also take a daily bath, soaking the affected joints for up to 20 minutes.  I recommend using Epsom magnesium bath salts with 10-15 drops of lavender essential oil or a bath salt of your choice. Follow with 20 minutes of icing the affected joint.

This plan will not cure your arthritis. Your will continue all conventional medications used during the treatment although you may be able to decrease pain medication as needed. This does not replace the need for surgery or other scheduled plans prescribed by your physicians and specialists.

1. For the 7-10 days spent at home, you will follow an Anti-Inflammatory Diet. This is best continued until joint replacement is successful; however, it is crucial during the initial rest window. Studies have proven that nutrition is directly linked with inflammation. By eliminating foods known to increase systemic inflammation, you can reduce your own inflammatory load. This allows your body to begin healing. For more information on The Inflammatory Diet set up an appointment with Dr. Masina Wright ND. http://thewrightdoctor.com/contact-information/

2. Zyflamend Nighttime- 2 capsules 3 times daily. This is a modern formulation of 6-10 botanicals to treat inflammation, joint pain and rheumatism using herbal medicine. New Chapter has combined these into an effective and well researched formula called “Zyflamend.” http://www.newchapter.com/zyflamend The PM version also contains a small amount of relaxing herbs which are helpful for supporting a restful attitude during your healing. You may continue this for up to one year’s duration before a break is needed.  This product is safe to take with most narcotic and non-narcotic pain medication including Vicodin, Oxycodone, Ibuprofen, Tylenol 3 and Ibuprofen. However, do not drive while taking this formulation. If you must drive, use the Zyflammend original formula.

3. Nordic Naturals Omega Joint Plus – 3 capsules daily with or without food. This is a premium joint care formula containing the required daily 1500mg of glucosamine sulphate as well as anti-inflammatory levels of EPA and DHA. The product is expensive at ~$50/bottle for one month supply however, it is worth it. Switch to this product during your first month of resolution treatment for best results, even if you have other fish oil or glucosamine supplements. http://www.nordicnaturals.com/en/Products/Product_Details/514/?ProdID=1548

During your 7-10 day rest time, you can take your other supplements as well, or take a supplement vacation and focus on the above products only to streamline your protocol.

This is the skeleton treatment plan. This is a great place to start! As a Naturopathic Doctors, we individualize every treatment plan to fit each patient’s unique identity. If you do not get the results you are looking for or have trouble adhering to the program, consider seeing a ND in your area. In addition to the above protocol, specific neutraceuticals to address sleep, anxiety, digestion, or other issues may also be prescribed in a consultation. Classical homeopathy is also extremely useful in complex cases. It is safe with complicated pharmaceutical treatments and provides lasting results.

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