Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: Highlights, reflections...


This year has been incredible for me in so many ways. My Chacha is Gay has been an intense journey. I've learned a lot from it and hope to keep learning. From being read in schools, to being bashed on radio by angry parents who think children should not be taught about *all* kinds of diversity...it's been a roller-coaster.... the good and the bad have taught me something.



A wonderful Toronto elementary school teacher asked his class to write me letters!
Definitely one of the highlights of my year. 'Twas an envelope full of magic.
Thank you Mr. Nore! 



Then there was the letter to Ben Affleck, which was read by more people than I could have ever hoped for (over a million...seriously :O ). It also taught me a lot, I was cyber-attacked by hateful comments from both conservative and moderate muslims. It was important and eye opening to see that so many progressive, pro-LGBT muslims were not open to even gentle and polite critique. I was accused of assisting genocide, of being a racist...things I'd never expected to hear, being a person of colour myself...

(for the record though, there were a few muslims that did express their support and solidarity..It was so wonderful to see that too)

It was also a very interesting experience to speak with Tommy Robinson (the often misrepresented ex-leader and founder of the EDL) as well as the excellent blogger, podcaster, Godless Spellchecker on his super, super podcast. I was hesitant to share my voice with the world for safety reasons, but I'm glad I did! And thrilled that the GSpodcast hosted this discussion. For this again, accusations were hurled, but some very wonderful positive feedback happened too. I don't agree with everything Tommy says, nor his generalizations/methods of communication. But I do think he brings up some very important points that most are unwilling to touch. It's really worth it to listen to his concerns with an open mind. I do not support the EDL in any way, and I think all forms of extremism are awful. I think Tommy's own departure from the EDL speaks volumes about his actual willingness to tackle the problem rather than just 'spread hatred' - as he is so often accused of doing...
---


was featured in an article called 'the good muslim' for Elle magazine this year
- heh (irony), wasn't aware that this was going to be the title. Did speak
about being an atheist ex-muslim, but that did not make it into the piece.


Apart from all the hate, death threats, rape threats I received this year - I have  also met some *incredible* people on the internet. Whether it was via the letter, the book or the podcast..so many have reached out and sent me some really touching words of support. So many have offered to take me out for a meal/drink if I'm ever in their part of the world...so many have offered their homes for me to stay in if i visit...and so many were responsible for crowdfunding the publishing of My Chacha is Gay. I could never have done this without your support. Thank you. Sincerely. It means the world to me. Maybe some day I won't have to be anonymous, and we can actually meet!

I experienced something extra wonderful a few days ago, when someone in a far away land received their copy of My Chacha is Gay, and contacted me to tell me they loved it...but they were concerned that the shipping cost was probably too low to cover shipping all the way to their country. They were right. It costs a few bucks extra for me outside North America, I told them not to worry about it. But this person went out of their way to send me money to fully cover their shipping, and some on top to cover a few other orders outside of North America. *fuzzy feelz*

(The website template only allows me to enter one standard shipping rate [yes, i'm not super tech savvy, and can't build websites from scratch], so in order to not overcharge my fellow North Americans when they order, I have to keep the rate in the middle somewhere)

Blew me away. The thoughtfulness...I was so so touched, and kind of teary eyed... that someone across the globe cared about my work this much.

Thank you.

---

Signing off for this year, hope you all have a wonderful, diversity-loving year ahead.
Be back next year, with more hopefully entertaining blogposts and doodles. Have a lot planned.

-E




Tuesday, December 9, 2014

HPV, Genital Warts, and being an 'unmarried' patient in Pakistan...


Hey Eiynah

Love the blog. Really refreshing reading about the possibility of brown people doing ze sexualzz. 

Khair, I know you've repeatedly said that you're not a doctor and you don't know the answers to STD questions and what not but, God ,I'm desperate. Any information you can give me will be appreciated.

So I contracted HPV, I think around a year or so back. I can't be sure of when and from whom I got it because I've had multiple sexual partners (I'm monogamous now) and I only knew I had it a year back when I saw the visible signs. Yeap. Genital warts. I know please don't hate me for being graphic and gross. I tried going to the gynaecologist. The first time I went she told me to wait because it had just broken out. But I never went to the doctor again because the moment you answer the question "are you married?" with a "no", they start judging you. I didn't get any sound medical advice apart from "abstinence until marriage".The problem is now the warts have increased and idk what to do. Like if I'm not mistaken, the body is supposed to fight off the infection itself but idk how long that would take and I'm kind of freaking out. Any advice would help. 

Love
B


Usually, if you come to me with a medical health question, I will tell you that I’m NOT a doctor and not qualified to help. And that you should go find a doctor ASAP. But the reasons B cited for not being able to consult a doctor, really hit home with me. I have personally experienced Doc-Judgyness in Pakistan and know its awful. Simply asking if your prescribed medication is compatible with booze is a no-no, so I can't even begin to imagine what this feels like.

When you're unable to have honesty with your doctor...it makes you feel very small, and helpless...I have been refused advice on caring for something as minor as an infected piercing because the doctor disapproved of the piercing in the first place. Sigh.

It is sad that our country cannot provide unbiased medical care to patients without imposing religion-based, subjective standards of ‘morality’ on them. For women this is a serious problem, because they are judged far more harshly than men. And this can sometimes lead to grave consequences.
I have heard from and spoken to countless women that have been stuck in this situation, where they have a serious issue but are fearful of the consequences of going to a doctor.

This should never be the case.

It’s unreal, and the risks this poses to our population are alarming. The spread of disease, risky abortions (it is a little known fact [rarely shared by doctors, even] that abortions are safely provided by organizations like Marie Stopes in Pakistan - you can call their 24/7 hotline if you need help regarding reproductive health 0800 22333) - all because most doctors function under religion before science. As I mentioned in my last post, this is incredibly harmful, and must be called out.

I wish I wrote for/about a country that valued what I did, and provided me with some sort of backing so I could help more people. But sadly I write about a country that is constantly trying to oppose, censor and block my work. 

Anyhow, B’s email hit hard. It highlighted an issue that I would like to talk more about. 

I searched for a *real* doctor in Pakistan, to get in touch with and consult. 

Luckily I was able to find one who could spare some time for an e-consultation with her. They exchanged questions back and forth through me (in order to maintain both people’s anonymity - what we might not realize is that doctors put themselves and their careers at great risk too if they treat and give advice to unmarried people [women especially] regarding sexual health). Luckily B was able to get some very helpful, thorough advice. But the doctor asked that she remain anonymous too. 

The extent of need for anonymity is indicative of the web of utter bullshit we have created for ourselves in Pakistan. There I was, being anonymous myself, in a situation where I am able to connect a patient with a qualified doctor - but had to be the go-between to protect each party's anonymity. 

It's fucked up, I tell ya. 


Pakistan-based General Physician, Specialized in Public Health and Research:

Hey Eiynah!

Thanks for getting in touch with me about this. I need some more details from the patient to help properly - a good patient history based on what details doctors think are relevant is vital for a proper diagnosis and management via a medium like the internet where I cannot use my senses to directly assess her condition. So if you could email her for me with these questions? That would really help. 

*Specific questions and responses have been edited out for privacy reasons*


A word of caution: HPV is a virus and once a person is infected with it, it will remain in their system for their entire life, and there are ways to manage the growths and outbreaks and such, but she cannot get rid of the HPV infection from her body now and it can manifest in symptoms sometimes, but she can manage these in different ways. However, the most important thing about having HPV infections and break outs is that she will have to keep going to gynaecologists for regular Pap smears (cervical smears) as there is evidence to show that certain strains of HPV (can be a co-infection) can lead to the (slow) development of cervical cancer and although that is a slow disease process (meaning it can be prevented and cured at many stages and monitored) and unlikely given the type of HPV she seems to have, but she might need to find a gynaecologist she trusts and who is good and just lie to her about being married (a necessary step, unfortunately), so she can keep going back for Pap smears to check how the cells of her cervix are doing if she is having very frequent breakouts of genital warts. Another option if you don't want to lie, is to say no but still insist on a Pap smear, if the doctor is perceptive enough, they'll take the hint, but most will assume (as marriage is a proxy for sex, unfortunately), that you've never had sex if you aren't married. Silly, but that's how much in denial doctors can be in Pakistan.


Further, HPV can pass on to others as well - not simply through sexual contact, kissing, body fluids, but also through towels and linen and touch of the infected parts (like either infected genitals to mouth, or vice versa)and from mother to her newborn. So she ought to be careful about spreading it to others - which is why the doctors said to abstain till marriage (awfully unhelpful advice, but it isn't without reason) although they should explain that abstinence will not stop or have any bearing on her own breakouts and course of infection, that advice is more so she doesn't spread the infection around to others, although it is incomplete advice too, as it is only one route of spread. More practical advice would be that a condom is helpful in preventing spread if it is worn even to prevent genital skin to skin contact.

The good news is that lots of creams/ointments and such are available to apply to reduce breakouts and manage warts from spreading, and for those warts that recur, removal of warts is possible - so there are lots of options - which she can explore and try out to manage what she has.

hope this helps. Please let me know how it goes, I am a bit swamped with stuff but knew I had to take out time for this because I can sense she is really very upset, scared, lonely and has no answers as it seems no one has even explained anything about what she has to her properly :( Doctors are such idiots.

****

After a thorough exchange of questions and answers the Doctor had this to say:

****

Okay, so that seems like good news from her answers so far. Glad the worst case scenarios are out the window.


Therefore, based on what her doctors have said, it is possible that her age is below 30 years and that is possibly why the doctors have not been too worried about the HPV, also because they have all been generally typical warts - no pain or such - mainly just uncomfortable to have and look at, yes? That being said, the most dangerous HPV infections don't manifest in warts, so I can't stress how much getting regular Pap smears after the age of 21 is vital every 4 years or so (for all women!)

So that means that you haven't had any pain or inflammation or bleeding, which is a very big relief and means the HPV you have is very likely a safer type and so you probably don't have to worry about cervical cancer from this strain of HPV.

Either way, go back to your doctor, regardless of whether you say you are married or not, and ask them to perform a pap smear on you, regardless of your marital status (they don't like doing pap smears on unmarried women - silly perception of theirs), so you will have to tell them to please do it either way. They should do one on all women above 21 years, every 4 years or so (even without any HPV!)

Then ask them if they can please prescribe you either a gel/ointment or cream for your external warts - they will say yes if your warts are not too big and easily breakable type. If they pressurize you too much about cryotherapy, tell them you can't afford it (usually it is very expensive) and ask them what other options you have. Also, if they say no to one treatment, always ask the reason why. As a patient it is your right to know why and no concept is too complicated for a doctor to explain simply.

Update me on her answer,

Take care and rest easy, it is something you have but not as worrying as it looks.
I hope this helps,

All my best,
Doc

*****

Again this is no substitute for an actual check-up. If you have or suspect an STD please go and consult a doctor. Not consulting one could result in serious harm to your health and other's health too.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Pakistan's New Sex Talk-Show is Shitty & Dangerous.

There has been a lot of talk about a new 'call-in sex/health show' in Pakistan....liberal Pakistanis are quick to praise it as a step forward because it is willing to field questions about taboo subjects, like sex. Hold your horses.....think about it for a second.

This is the exact opposite of the step forward you are looking for. It is a vehicle to further perpetuate the misogynistic and religion based BS that our culture is rife with. It is in fact, a more effective way to spread religiously biased medical misinformation. And that thought frightens me. Things couldn't get much worse in Pakistan, regarding sexual misinformation.

In a country where I am sometimes feuding with doctors, yes real doctors, who take exception to me promoting vile vessels of immorality/promiscuity, such as contraception...where some women approach me with pride, telling me they are not like the 'sluts' who enjoy sex, they are good, moral, religious women...who don't feel arousal. A nation where major condom companies prescribe who is 'allowed' to use their condoms (*Married* heteros of course!)


From: http://www.greenstar.org.pk/Condoms.html

... where teenage boys are constantly told that masturbation will sap their body of energy and they will become weak and unable to perform daily tasks...This is not a place that is ready to dispense unbiased medical advice. Giving sexuality a platform in Pakistani mass media sounds like a great thing in theory. However, in reality it won't quite work out like that. We are still governed by religion, doctors will look to religion before science when they have to answer such questions... and *that* is where the problem lies. When religion is misogynistic, homophobic, allows things like polygamy to happen... how can any sex advice be given? The possibilities are alarming as fuck (no pun intended).

For example, what happens when someone calls in and asks if their daughter who has just hit puberty at 12 is ready for marriage? I cringe at what this 'doctor' would have to say... and it's not entirely his fault either... if he said or did anything that was perceived as contradictory to Islamic advice, he would be killed himself.

Lets look at an example quoted by the BBC article on this show:


/"I have developed that habit," says a reluctant female caller. "I think I am gaining weight because of it. How can I stop it?" she asks.
Dr Nadeem Siddiqui, the consultant who hosts the show, usually has to ask callers multiple follow-up questions to pin down the problem.
In this instance, Dr Siddiqui stares blankly at the camera for a while and then asks the caller to explain her question.
"I have developed that sex habit, you know, with a finger. I want to stop. Is there a medicine for it?" she asks in a hushed tone.
Now, most of the time Dr Siddiqui gives sensible suggestions to his callers. But every now and then, he goes off track.
After an uncomfortable pause, and a disapproving sigh, the good doctor has this advice for the female caller: "You should pray five times a day, refrain from watching inappropriate content on internet and read religious literature. You will be alright."/
******
THIS IS NOT SOUND MEDICAL ADVICE... not at all. Prescribing religious literature and prayer should honestly have a doctor stripped of his medical license.... Religious literature is not a medical solution to anything...and lets not ignore the demonization of a natural human process like masturbation. FFS. And weight gain does not occur from masturbation. (unless you have given up moving, because you're masturbating that much...)
It's no secret that Pakistani medical professionals are usually influenced by their religious and cultural beliefs, they are judgemental and not easy to approach when discussing something that could be perceived as 'immoral' culturally/religiously...
This is why I get countless emails in my inbox that I am not qualified to deal with. Because people rarely come across anyone they can speak to for objective medical advice about sex. I am not a doctor, I will repeat, so unfortunately I cannot help you when it comes to bumps and STDs - but if the other option is this religiously inclined sex & health talk show....then I don't think its much better, to be honest.  Try to seek out some actual, professional medical advice. Which is a tall order, I know... :/ 
Here's another quote from the article, that gets to the crux of the issue:
/After the show, I asked the doctor about his controversial advice.
"I can't be seen to be doing anything against Islam, or it would cause trouble," he said.
And therein lies the problem. While the show is giving people a rare chance to speak up about their repressed health issues, the quality of advice they may be getting remains questionable.
"Most doctors in Pakistan are not competent to tackle sexual health issues," says Dr Javed Usman, a family physician at the Dr Ziauddin Medical Hospital in Karachi.
"Our medical curriculum doesn't really address the subject. So invariably, what you end up with are doctors applying value judgements based on their own cultural and religious beliefs, not medical knowledge."/
*****
'Questionable' is an understatement - dangerous is more like it. 
I remember coming across a Muslim American website that discusses love and sexuality. "Great." I thought to myself... "Muslims definitely need a forum for this." 
Then I saw that an 'unmarried' girl who talked about experiencing arousal, and not knowing what to do with such feelings...was told to find a spouse immediately. They basically just stopped short of telling her to marry the next guy she came across. 
Again, this is the worst advice ever. 
I feel great despair...I am always working in the opposite direction to such things. And such things are given wider platforms than I could ever dream of. Because I am the enemy, naturally (employed by Israel to single handedly destroy the moral fibre of our great land).
It seems like a losing battle... please, please...be wary of praising such efforts. In fact do your part in calling them out. Spreading incorrect information about sexual health in Pakistan only serves to further oppress women and children...it gambles with the heath, and therefore lives, of many. 
Health TV's Faizan Syed: If you'd like to have a chat about how you can possibly improve your problematic sex/health talk-show, give me a shout: nicemangosDOTblogATgmailDOTcom - I'm no doctor, but I can do better than prescribe prayer for masturbation. 
And sorry, Dr. Nadeem Siddiqui and Ziauddin Hospital - it is NOT ok to spread false and problematic information about sexual health. I understand your predicament, people could probably burn your studio down for accurate medical advice. But then, isn't it better to just leave these questions off air? Rather than endorse this bizarre religious way of thinking...are you a man of science or are you selling snake oil?