I met Steven Inghram when he was a student in the MS in Yoga Therapy program at my university. He is now a naturopathic medical student and fiercely advocating for evidence-based practice in that profession. He is also the host of an Instagram Live series entitled, “Queer Story Time” (aka QST) in which he features the lives and stories of queer-identifying individuals. As I see it, all of his work aims to shed light on unknown or unseen challenges, thereby promoting greater understanding and advocacy where it is needed.
Steven had me on QST this month during Bi-awareness week to share my own story and to talk about the experience of bi-erasure, which is when bisexuality is ignored, removed, falsified or re-explained in various domains such as history, academia, the news media, and people’s personal stories. At its most extreme, bi-erasure includes the idea that bisexuality doesn’t exist. In this conversation, I talk with Steven about the invisibility of bisexuality, and the associated privileges and challenges of that invisibility.
If you aren’t sure what that has to do with arthritis, read the last sentence again. Arthritis, autoimmune conditions, and chronic pain can all carry some level of invisibility. We discuss this extensively in our trainings and the impact it can have on close relationships, work roles, and personal identity. I also talked with Steven about “coming out” as a bisexual person, which is similar to what people with these conditions go through when deciding who should know about their condition as well as how, when, and how much information to share about one’s personal experience. People with arthritis and related conditions also share the experience of being misunderstood, not believed, or not taken seriously by everyone from strangers to dearest loved ones. Another similarity is that, unlike other forms of identity, we do not know that we have arthritis from birth. It is something that is discovered later, whether in the teen years or in middle age. There is a process of noticing something about yourself and then realizing that it might not be the same as what other people are experiencing. It can take years to really figure out how to define it and decide what to do differently once you know.
I am not suggesting that having a chronic health condition is the same as being queer. I am saying that both can be confusing and alienating. Both are challenging in ways that may be difficult for other people to understand. I’m also saying that when we listen to other people’s stories, we might realize that we have more in common than we realized. And when we share our stories, we never know who might see themselves in us. Lastly, when we shine light on the real challenges of our lives, we can foster greater compassion, which is something the world desperately needs now as much as ever.
Click here to listen to my chat with Steven and please share it with anyone who may benefit.