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Jul 19 2012

History, My Bum Knee, and Some People I Want to Thank

So what does a trip to the emergency room have to do with the history of science and the fight for social justice?

This whole “dislocated knee” thing has sucked, and continues to suck, and will probably suck for a little while longer. (I don’t yet know for how long: I’ll keep you posted.) But I also have to say that it hasn’t sucked nearly as badly as it could have. For most of the time, I’m fairly comfortable, and safe, and well taken care of, and even reasonably well entertained.

There are the obvious people to thank for this. Ingrid being the most important and most obvious of the obvious crowd. There’s also the friends who have been sitting with me, and helping out with practical stuff. There’s the firefighters and paramedics who got me into the ambulance and to the emergency room, with compassion and good humor and patience, and with minimal discomfort on my part. There’s the doctors and nurses and staff at the emergency room, who diagnosed me and took care of me and kept me calm, with an entirely appropriate balance of attentiveness and “Yeah, you’ll be fine, this isn’t really that big a deal” reassurance. There’s the readers who’ve been saying nice supportive things. (For the record: It does help.)

But there are two less obvious groups of people that I also want to thank.

I want to thank everyone in history who has done good, evidence-based research into medical science. I’m getting better medical care for my dislocated knee, with less pain and a faster recovery and a better long-term prognosis, than I would have twenty years ago: better still than it would have been forty years ago, or a hundred. I’m getting care that has been rigorously tested and shown to actually be effective, using careful, double-blinded, placebo-controlled, replicated studies, designed and run by people who give a damn about the truth. I owe these people, and I want to thank them.

And I want to thank everyone who, for the last several decades, has been fighting for LGBT rights and recognition.

When I was in too much pain — and/or just too freaked out — to call 911, to deal with firefighters and paramedics and medical staff, to give and receive information to and from these folks, to cope with even the basic logistics of getting me out of the apartment and making sure we had everything we needed for the adventure ahead of us… Ingrid was the one who did the talking, and the coping. At several points in the evening’s adventure, the firefighters and paramedics and medical staff and the people at the 911 call center asked Ingrid what her relationship with the injured person was. Every time they asked, she unhesitatingly answered, “She’s my wife.”

And every time she said this, her answer was unhesitatingly accepted. She was able to ride in the ambulance with me; to answer questions for me; to sign in for me at the emergency room; to stay with me in the hospital room when I was waiting for attention and results; to pick up my meds for me. She was consistently, and unhesitatingly, and without question, dealt with as my family.

It hasn’t always been this way. In much of the country and the world, it still isn’t. The history of LGBT people is a history of our relationships being ignored at best, ridiculed and despised and spat on at worst. The history of LGBT people is a history of our partners being shut out of hospital rooms, denied information from medical staff, denied the right to speak for our partners, denied the right to make decisions for our partners. The history of LGBT people is a history of our partners — the people who matter to us most in the world, the people who know us better than anyone — being treated as if they were strangers.

But that’s not what happened on Sunday. When I dislocated my knee on Sunday, every single person we dealt with treated our relationship seriously, and with dignity. And they did so without hesitation, as if it were the most normal thing in the world.

This didn’t happen by accident.

This happened because, for many decades now, people have been fighting to make it happen. People have been fighting for our legal rights… and people have been fighting for our social acceptance, and for the recognition of our basic humanity. People have been pointing out the thousands of ways that queers are treated as second-class citizens, and the thousands of reasons that this is unacceptable. And they — we — have been demanding an end to it.

There’s a common myth about discrimination. The myth goes that if you’re in a marginalized group, all you have to do to be treated equally is to stand up for yourself and personally demand your rights. And the corollary to this myth is that speaking out about the reality of group-based discrimination — discrimination against queers, against women, against people of color, against trans people, against working class people, against atheists, against immigrants, against any marginalized group — somehow makes you part of the “culture of victimization.”

This is bullshit.

On Sunday night, I was not in a position to stand up for myself. Literally, or figuratively. I was in excruciating pain every time I moved two inches. I was shaking so hard my teeth were chattering. I couldn’t walk, or even stand. I was literally helpless. And I was helped, not just by the firefighters and paramedics and medical staff and the people at the 911 call center, but by everyone over the last several decades who made it possible for Ingrid to help me. I was helped by everyone over the last several decades who forced the medical profession — in some countries and in some states — to legally recognize our relationship, whether they freaking well liked it or not. I was helped by everyone over the last several decades who helped convince the world — not all of it yet, but a decent amount of it, and more if it every day — to understand and accept our relationship, and to treat its acceptance as a basic and obvious human right.

That did not happen by accident. It did not happen overnight. And it did not happen by me standing up all by myself on Sunday night and insisting that it happen.

So I want to say Thanks.

And I want to pledge to pay it forward: for queers, for atheists, for people of color, for women, for trans folks, for working class folks, for immigrants, and for everyone else who isn’t getting a fair shake. The degree of rights and recognition that we’ve gained hasn’t been gained by each of us as individuals, all by ourselves. We stand on the shoulders of giants. And we aren’t going to get a full fair shake, for ourselves or for each other or for the people who come after us, if we don’t holler when we get treated like crap, and freaking well demand that it stop.

61 comments

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  1. 1
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    *Standing ovation*

  2. 2
    HerbieTheBeagle

    Magnificent.

    And I hope your knee gets better soon.

  3. 3
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    Yet another article on my Required Reading List, which is already disproportionately filled with your pieces.

    Greta, you’re the best social justice writer I’ve come across full stop. And I really have to say that a major factor is your atheism, because that’s the ball I see dropped the most when it comes to general social justice.

    We need more people like you to teach the rest of the world how to be Decent Human Beings. Here’s hoping you get better soon ^_^

  4. 4
    maureen.brian

    I am so glad to hear that you are being so well looked after and, clearly, feeling feisty again.

    Without diminishing by one jot what you have said, may I ask you to add to that final paragraph of cool people to be praised one more category? That would be the people, everywhere, who have fought for the universal health care so that, for instance, orthopaedic surgeons could have the people and the resources to develop treatments and test new methodologies. Thanks.

    (This message comes to you from the proud owner of a reconstructed leg which, even 40 years ago, might well have been amputated below the knee – the safe, proven and tested since the seventeenth century method, innit?)

  5. 5
    Gareth Chan

    Wow! Even when you’re in agonising pain, and could be completely forgiven for thinking only of yourself and your problems, you’re still thinking, making connections, and writing luminous clear prose for the world to read. I’m humbled.

  6. 6
    Walton

    Great article. I agree completely. And best wishes for a speedy recovery.

    (And kudos for specifically mentioning discrimination against immigrants as a social justice issue. I’d love to see more posts on FTB about immigrants’ rights and immigration reform.)

  7. 7
    rq

    You made me cry. In a good way.
    I hope the recovery goes well!

  8. 8
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Truly magnificent. And it gives me some hope.

  9. 9
    Mara

    Hip hip hooray! And in addition: right on, sister!

  10. 10
    Snowshoe the Canuck

    A sitting ovation out of respect for your knee. Apparently any medication you’re on doesn’t affect your great writing ability. Just don’t injure any wrists or fingers please!

  11. 11
    rtmillic

    Great post! I have tears in my eyes!

    I see progress in my job as well. I work as a credit counselor in a call center. At least one out of every 50 calls or so I get a phone call from someone who is gay and in a relationship with someone of the same gender. Sometimes they will refer to them as their partner, and sometimes they will refer to them as their fiancee or husband/wife. They are completely unabashed about it, as they should be.

    Every time I listen to them, I feel it affirms the gay rights movement. I am not certain if people would be so open about it even 5-10 years ago. I think, this is REALITY! All those bigots out there trying to deny the LGBTQ community their rights, and here I am doing my job to help these people and it’s the most normal thing in the world.

  12. 12
    Martha

    Brava!

    If House thought and communicated so clearly while on Vicodin, each episode would be ten minutes long.

  13. 13
    Susan Aker

    As a person also with knee pain (unfortunately mine won’t go away in a few weeks though) I sympathize and wish you a speedy recovery.

    I’ve also got one more group to add to your list of groups that get a LOT of discrimination – those with no college degree. It isn’t a sign of low intelligence, but of a lack of funds and an aversion to immense debt. You can’t work part-time anymore and pay your way through school. But you can study on your own with only the library and/or the internet.

    If any group faces more discrimination than atheists, LGBT, and racial minorities, it is those who lack a degree.

  14. 14
    hexidecima

    it is very easy for someone like me, who was simply lucky to fall in love with someone of the opposite sex, to forget just how damn difficult it still is for same sex couples to deal with the things I can take for granted. I’m glad we’ve come this far and will always do my part in making sure everyone has the same rights and conveniences as I enjoy.

  15. 15
    george.w

    Wonderful! It just made my day to read this.

  16. 16
    Otrame

    Greta, you are my hero. Being able to write so effectively is gift to everyone who has been hurt by discrimination, and to everyone who stands up to end it.

    Like you I am grateful to those who have fought for LGTQ rights, because even though, as a heterosexual woman, I have not been directly affected by the discrimination it still damages me because it damages the society I live in.

  17. 17
    Nicole

    I too teared up reading this and immediately shared with my social media pals. This is why we do what we do. Proof that we are changing the world. It’s absolutely thrilling.

  18. 18
    Ray Moscow

    Every time they asked, she unhesitatingly answered, “She’s my wife.”

    And every time she said this, her answer was unhesitatingly accepted.

    Thank (human) goodness for good people! But it also takes social change before most people realise that supporting equal rights is good and ‘normal’.

    That did not happen by accident. It did not happen overnight. And it did not happen by me standing up all by myself on Sunday night and insisting that it happen.

    No, it did not. And people in distress shouldn’t have to be heroes to get the help they or their loved ones need.

  19. 19
    Icaarus

    Ingrid

    Thank you for keeping your wife in great enough spirits, and with enough love and care, that she is able to regale us with tales, history, and morality, days after invalidity. I know I don’t need to ask, but please for our sakes, keep it up.

  20. 20
    Bronze Dog

    Glad to hear you’re recovering, and glad that society produced the !!SCIENCE!! to help fix that sort of thing.

  21. 21
    eNeMeE

    Awww, I was hoping for a drug addled looney tunes post!

    (Also, that was a pretty damn awesome post, and hope you get better soon. Though you may have to wear a brace semi-permanently; fucked up knees seem to run in my family)

  22. 22
    Dana

    What a wonderful and inspiring post. SO sorry to hear about your knee, but very glad you have such a great support system!

  23. 23
    Smith Powell

    Very nice post. I am glad that you are doing better.

  24. 24
    Rieux

    Terrific as usual, Greta. Please get well soon.

  25. 25
    Fishi

    The title didn’t prepare me for the clarity and insight you brought (as usual) to the subject. Wonderful post.

    And more than ever now, I look forward to the next time we get to dance together…

  26. 26
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Greta:

    And every time she said this, her answer was unhesitatingly accepted. She was able to ride in the ambulance with me; to answer questions for me; to sign in for me at the emergency room; to stay with me in the hospital room when I was waiting for attention and results; to pick up my meds for me. She was consistently, and unhesitatingly, and without question, dealt with as my family.

    This moved me to tears.
    I’m so happy this is how you and Ingrid were treated and gives me hope that other gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders, intersexuals and everyone else on the planet can experience the same level of treatment without hesitation that heterosexual couples receive.

  27. 27
    ischemgeek

    I’m glad they treated you as you should be treated. Get well soon.

  28. 28
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    And I have to wonder: Is there a dry eye in the house?
    I was in a pissy mood earlier, and now I’m not.
    Thank you to all the people-past and present-that made Greta’s experience such a positive one.

  29. 29
    Nentuaby

    Beatifully stated. This one is going in my skeptivist concordance.

  30. 30
    Christophe

    Damn onions.

    Feel better, and best to you and Ingrid.

  31. 31
    Kate from Iowa

    As a completely off-topic side note, how many of you are getting sidebars full of Dr.Scholl’s ads on this post? LOL!

    Hope you aren’t down for too long, Greta. But don’t push yourself too hard either.

  32. 32
    Joshua Zucker

    So beautiful! And in a time when it would be so easy to be focused on your own problems, it’s really generous of you to spend your time thinking about the things to be thankful for and about the long history of people who made those things possible.

  33. 33
    butchboy

    Thank you for writing this. It’s so beautiful. Reading it, I feel very proud to be in this queer, atheist lineage. Hugs and kisses (if wanted).

  34. 34
    Your Name's not Bruce?

    Hi Greta;

    I hope you get well soon!

    Reading this made me realize the people I have to thank too. My wife and I live common law (20 years August 1 YAY!). It is within my own memory that this was (and in some quarters probably still is) called “living in sin”. I don’t know (but I highly doubt) that common law couples have had anywhere near the discrimination that LGBT couples have had in dealing with health care bureaucracy. Fortunately we have not had to find out and there have been a number of times when one of us has had to speak up for the other during times of incapacitation (most recently for me breaking and dislocating my ankle 18 months ago- I feel for your knee!). Thank you for opening up my eyes to this issue about which I’d never thought much before; but then your writing does that for me a lot!

    Get weller soonest!

  35. 35
    danettebaltzer

    Get well soon! And too right about the advances in medicine that had enabled you to heal and not be in significant pain for the rest of your life.

    Read your article on Alternet from the 16th. The sentence where you pointed out, “that the version of God people believe in reveals, more than anything else, the character of the believer. When believers tells me what their God is like, I feel like they’re telling me, not what they’re like exactly, but what they want to be like. What they aspire to. What they value.” is exactly right. Having been a believer, raised in church, even a leader in the congregation I was a member of, I came to the same conclusion some years ago and it is part of why I came to leave the church and am now an atheist. Cheers to you Greta!

  36. 36
    'Tis Himself

    Congratulations on having a loving, helpful wife and for others accepting her as your wife. ♥

  37. 37
    kate

    So sorry to hear about your knee but so happy that you and your wife were able to be treated the way you deserve to be!

  38. 38
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    If any group faces more discrimination than atheists, LGBT, and racial minorities, it is those who lack a degree.

    That’s odd, because it mostly seems to be the other way: anti-intellectualism in the United States is practically a festering plague.

    I’m also unaware of any incidents of violence against people without college degrees, just to start with, which makes this comparison extremely jarring. (I mean, I’ve joked about “mobs in white sheets and dunce caps burning giant wooden “C-”s on the lawns down the streets from the homes ofUppity Thinkers or Thinkerlovers (due to misreading the Google directions),” but for fuck’s sake I was kidding.)

  39. 39
    Stacey

    Beautifully written, and yes, I’m crying.

    Healing wishes to you, and love to you and Ingrid.

  40. 40
    TheVirginian

    Great post. Applauded! (or Fanned and Faved as the professional commenters like to say).
    Also, I hope you recover quickly. You’re right about medical science making things better (slowly, unfortunately) for the sick and injured. In Christian societies before modern medicine, you would have had a witchdoctor from the local cathedral or church mumble superstitious nonsense over you and you would either recover on your own after months of suffering or be permanently crippled. And it’s great you live in a civilized place where Ingrid could speak for you.

  41. 41
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    (or Fanned and Faved as the professional commenters like to say).

    *cringe*

  42. 42
    Nick Gotts

    Brilliant post. Best wishes for a speedy and complete recovery.

  43. 43
    Greg Bullard

    Ya know… JUST when I think I can write…….

    Fair play, Greta. Heal quickly, because some of us are standing on your shoulders, and that sucks for your knee.

  44. 44
    D. C. Sessions

    Best wishes on the recovery, plus one tip from 45 years of babying a bum knee: If you don’t have a good recliner, score one. Rent, steal, borrow, whatever. It’s the only way I was able to get real sleep (as distinct from being drugged to the edge of apnea) for some of my recent orthopaedic adventures (including replacement of the problem knee.)

    Be good to you, and let others do the same.

  45. 45
    Millicent

    That was beautiful, Greta. Thank you so much for writing it. Heal quickly! :)

  46. 46
    Ani Sharmin

    Brava! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    At several points in the evening’s adventure, the firefighters and paramedics and medical staff and the people at the 911 call center asked Ingrid what her relationship with the injured person was. Every time they asked, she unhesitatingly answered, “She’s my wife.”

    And every time she said this, her answer was unhesitatingly accepted. She was able to ride in the ambulance with me; to answer questions for me; to sign in for me at the emergency room; to stay with me in the hospital room when I was waiting for attention and results; to pick up my meds for me. She was consistently, and unhesitatingly, and without question, dealt with as my family.

    I wish people who think that “all you have to do to be treated equally is to stand up for yourself and personally demand your rights” would read this. Just saying “She’s my wife” or “He’s my husband” is such a powerful statement in our society; people automatically understand that this person is one of your closest relatives and think it’s right for them to be with you and help you. Drawing up a separate individual contract with a lawyer and having to explain it and so on during an emergency situation doesn’t compare.

    I hope you feel better soon, Greta. All the best.

  47. 47
    lorn

    I think the picture you are searching for in not the old ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ , for that implies that some small number of great individuals got you there. Instead it might be something more like ‘held aloft by a crowd, which is held up by another crowd, and this by another, and … ‘. It is not a small group of strong giants that we stand on. It is a cast of millions in each generation going back a very long way.

    Unfortunately, fortunately if you are looking for useful things to do, it is not a struggle that can ever be won so well that defeat cannot be snatched from the jaws of victory. A few theocrats in high and low office working together can undo the work of millions over decades in a few short years. No doubt in my mind given the right conditions and a god amount of complacency a thousand years of steady improvement in equal rights couldn’t be undone in a decade. If you want them, and want to keep them, the struggle will not stop, ever.

    Hang tough, work hard on your physical therapy, treat your health and well being as a serious cause.

  48. 48
    paulabryder

    This brought tears to my eyes, Good to hear this on such a sad day. I’m happy for you & Ingrid. Heal & be well.

  49. 49
    Matt

    Get better! And remember to hug your doctors.

  50. 50
    Gonzo

    Fantastic post as usual! Wishing you the best.

  51. 51
    Bart

    Nicely said. Kudos.
    Hope you’re doing better.

  52. 52
    Marcus Ranum

    “I used to be a skeptic, then I took an arrow to the knee.”

  53. 53
    Jadehawk

    Instead it might be something more like ‘held aloft by a crowd, which is held up by another crowd, and this by another, and … ‘.

    it’s turtles social justice activists all the way down

  54. 54
    Rebecca

    Thank you, Greta. This is a beautiful piece. I was happy to repost for my PFLAG and Straight for Equality groups–it helps to remember the progress that has been made, even though we have a long way to go, and much work to do. Here’s to a speedy recovery!

  55. 55
    Shittler

    Equality? Bullhshit…atheists would kill believers if they had the chance.

    That’s what they did to my relatives.

    Of course, they didn’t realize what was coming.

    But now there are plenty of us who do, and that message is spreading in churches.

    It doesn’t matter if you don’t like it. It is happening.

  56. 56
    DSimon

    Obvious troll is extremely obvious.

    Anyways: Greta, I don’t have anything to add to the post, but I did want to put in a hearty “hear hear!”, and also a “get well soon”.

  57. 57
    JesseW, the Juggling Janitor

    Like many others, I don’t have anything original to say, but since you confirmed (as if it needed it) that compliments are appreciated — THANK YOU, and Ingrid, and all the other folks you listed.

  58. 58
    Chris Looye

    I read this, and it made me very happy that good people have made enough of a positive difference that this happens. it’s very heartening, and I’m glad I read it and have it to look back on in light of…

    http://www.1011now.com/home/headlines/Police-Investigating-Home-Invasion-Assault–Attempted-Arson-163330006.html

    A woman was assaulted in her home early this morning. This hits me hard because it is literally in my backyard. Bigotry like this should upset everyone, and it has…

    https://www.facebook.com/events/389737104414816/389767217745138/?ref=notif&notif_t=plan_mall_activity

    For those of you how also happen to live in Lincoln, and can attend, please make an appearance. We can all see how much good can come of our actions.

    Thank you Greta for sharing this, it’s good to know that we’re making an impact, and making this world better.

  59. 59
    ednaz

    My great appreciation to You, to Ingrid and to all those who fought for social justice before you.

  60. 60
    Fastthumbs

    Well said! Wishing you a speedy recovery.

  61. 61
    violetemt

    First comment on FTB. This post prompted me to de-lurk.

    I’m an EMT. I’m glad my fellow first responders and healthcare workers took such good care of you as a person and recognized Ingrid as your wife.

    I remember going for medical care with my husband before he was my husband. Things were a bit more complicated than they are now that we’re married, in terms of paperwork and things. We’re a male/female couple. We’re different races, so sometimes we still have to explain it, but for the most part now people just assume we’re married. I can’t imagine how hard it is to have to explain your relationship every single time, much less have people question things like whether your wife can sign papers for you or pick up your prescriptions.

    I’ve already sent this around to my first responder friends as a reminder to remember another of the many ways we can make a difference in what’s otherwise a really, really crappy day for our patients.

  1. 62
    Greta Christina on LGBT activism and healthcare - Empty Closets - A safe online community for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender people coming out

    [...] Christina on LGBT activism and healthcare History, My Bum Knee, and Some People I Want to Thank | Greta Christina's Blog [...]

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    Greta’s Important Reminder | Dispatches from the Culture Wars

    [...] Greta Christina is laid up with a painful knee injury, but even on painkillers she manages to write something inspiring and important. She reminds us, for example, that rather than thanking God for medical [...]

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