About The Cranky Queer
“We're so busy putting out fires right now, that we don't have the time to talk to each other and strategize and plan for the next wave, and the next day, and next month and the next week and the next year…
And, we have to commit ourselves to doing that. And then, after we kick the shit out of this disease, we're all going to be alive to kick the shit out of this system, so that this never happens again.” — Vito Russo
Stories and strategies for health and wellness in sick times.
Chronic health conditions affect as many as one of every two people in the United States, and many of us live with multiple diagnoses.
To live our best lives, we need clear information and compassionate connection. But — despite the prominence of battles over health care in the United States, a burgeoning “wellness” industry, and heightened concern over pain management and the opioid crisis — the way forward for those of us living with major or multiple chronic illnesses remains shrouded.
I believe we can and must become “illders”: wise elders of any age who turn the demands of living with chronic conditions into opportunities for self-knowledge, growth and connection.
Queer and trans people have always had to find new paths for our survival, and in doing so, have widened the options for everyone to live authentic lives as their whole selves. Our strategies for dealing with chronic illnesses, like our communities themselves, are diverse, creative and take nothing for granted.
I’m taking on the challenges (and surprising opportunities) of living with illness, with humor, empathy and real-world guidance as I work on The Cranky Queers Guide to Chronic Illness: Strategies for Health and Wellness in Sick Times — and right here in this newsletter along the way.
Join me here for this journey. I look forward to hearing about yours.
I can’t trust my life to digital health information reliant on pharma marketing money.
Neither can you.
Essential, honest and practical advice and support for living with chronic illnesses can be hard to find, despite a deluge of condition-specific and medical websites, direct-to-patient pharmaceutical advertising, diagnosis-based support groups, and social media chatter.
The confluence of narrowly-defined medical specialties; the market interests of drug companies, medical insurance and health care providers; and economic and social divisions and inequities ensures that many of us remain isolated and ill-informed — and just plain ill.
I know digital health media from the inside out, and the outside in — as a source to journalists, a freelance writer, and as an editor.
And here’s the deal: If you don’t have a condition with expensive treatments, information is going to be limited. Even if you do, content is going to tilt towards inspiration porn, often-data-free lists of lifestyle recommendations that repeat from site to site — and few attempts to cut to the chase to the most frequent problems so many of us face no matter what our diagnoses if they turn off advertisers squeamish about the realities of literally-shitty digestive problems or sex issues that are neither monogamous nor straight.
We share struggles across our conditions - and together, we can find and share answers.
We can overturn the misguided norms of consumer health information. Market forces can be exposed, instead of accommodated — it’s our survival at stake.
Understanding our shared struggles across conditions — whether the convoluted circles of hell of insurance companies or the paradox of needing quality sleep to repair from the harms of conditions that deny us quality sleep — gives us a foundation of growth and wellness to overcome our isolated suffering.
I’ll be sharing engaging, relatable and deeply honest tales of dealing with common challenges, along with practical tips and a worksheet or key questions to consider. And we’ll talk about turning daily actions of care and relating to others into rituals of curiosity, deep self-acceptance, and healing.
“JD has the ability to look at a very complex problem and solve it rapidly and easily. He remains a trusted ally and treasured strategist for the political issues facing people with HIV/AIDS.” — Jose deMarco, organizer, ACT UP Philadelphia
In addition, my experience as an organizer, advocate, journalist and digital editor anchors the advice I gleaned through my life -- and as such, reveals previously untold moments in pivotal HIV, LGBTQ and left activist history.
And I’ll take deep, well-researched dives into the real reasons that health care systems and online resources consistently fail to meet the needs of people with chronic illnesses -- and what we need to do to change these problems.
So here’s an invitation to everyone who has or cares for those with chronic illnesses to join together as powerful illders, working through our powerful love, insight and honesty to reach our best possible lives together.
Photo of JD standing in front of brick wall, smiling a bit and wearing a plaid shirt with black framed glasses hanging from top button. Photo Credit: Chi Anunwa
I value working with JD for his unparalleled skills, his integrity, and because he is hilarious! — Naina Khanna, Executive Director, Positive Women's Network - USA (PWN)
Hi. I’m JD Davids, a chronically-ill and intermittently disabled transmasculine writer and advocate with more than 25 years of experience in HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ health advocacy, policy and journalism.
I grew up in a mess of an upper middle class suburban family, a white kid assigned female at birth. I made my way through a chaotic childhood, being on the receiving end of both toxic masculinity and maternal abuse, and an edgy, druggy adolescence.
I went on to play bass in punk bands and serve as a reporter at a local gay newspaper as the small staff was decimated by AIDS. I joined ACT UP Philadelphia, helping to distribute our HIV Standard of Care, which provided lifesaving information directly to patients years before the establishment of federal guidelines, and working on dozens if not hundreds of acts of protest and civil disobedience.
A decade later, I was a core organizer in the global movement that slashed the cost of HIV treatment, leading to treatment access to millions worldwide, going on to found a national advocacy network devoted to HIV and justice issues. Along the way, I’ve served as an expert community advisor to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
But after a life of frequent minor illness and an increasingly painful adulthood, my body went numb in 2006; I was ultimately diagnosed with both autoimmune and immunosuppressive conditions, including “mild” myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), “atypical” multiple sclerosis — later changed to “atypical” neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD), and fibromyalgia. And along the way came some other stuff, like guttate psoriasis and arthritis.
Please keep in mind: I am not a medical care professional/provider, and this is not professional medical advice. And I bring white skin privilege and private health insurance in this journey where health care is often marked by intense inequity and implicit and explicit bias and discrimination.
I am fortunate to live in a flexible, loving situation with stability and income, and (perhaps not unrelatedly) I experience the most severe of my conditions in a more mild form. However, I am still affected, deeply and persistently, by fatigue, pain and vulnerability to illnesses, and the grind of all it takes to manage this chronic situation.JD is a generous listener who can organize divergent perspectives into a coherent whole, making sense of what can sometimes seem like a whole lot of nonsense; and a big-picture thinker who combines bold ideas with a high level of emotional intelligence.
Now, I’m committed to sharing information and unique approaches to living well with illness, driven by my passion for better, real-world information about health, sexuality and community and drawing on his training as an HIV treatment activist, research advocate, and in crafting a queer and trans life that didn’t fit any scripted roles.
And I’m reclaiming cranky. Join me.