The Unwritten Rules, Episode 12 of Season 2: Governing Bodies of Living Laboratories

I have dedicate this post to one of my favorite episodes of the Youtube series, the Unwritten Rules. This Youtube series follows Racey, a recent Brown University graduate, through her time at a predominantly white firm. During the second semester of the series, she is no longer the only black worker on her floor. Additionally, there is a new black CEO, Kaneesha, that replaces a racist white male that decided to unexpectedly quit the firm.

This episode (Season 2, Episode 12) follows the coworkers at Racey’s workplace through a Safety Workshop day. The series is known for nonchalantly depicting moments that are racist towards brown and black individuals or what people would call “racially tense,” in that there are unresolved issues and indirect references to race. During this episode Racey’s boss (whose name I have forgotten) has an issue with the Safety class and, more specifically, with the new CEO. We see throughout the safety class that the instructor presents scenarios using black coworkers acting out stereotypes of black Americans.

The episode is structured so that we see snippets of the class and snippets of commentary from Racey. From her commentaries, Racey is able to communicate to us what her sentiments throughout the class are even though the timeline of the episode is non-linear and we do not see many shots with her in the class. This post connects less to explicit examples of racial living laboratories in medicine. This episode speaks to several comments throughout class that we have posed considering representation of marginalized individuals in institutions that are making important decisions concerning our bodies, health, legal systems, etc. In a way, these institutions house a living laboratories themselves. Following Racey through The Unwritten Rules we see that she does not have much guidance of how to navigate race politics at her workplace until Kaneesha starts her position as CEO. This is also a message communicated through the title of the show and the end of each episode that displays a “rule” for black co-workers in predominantly white work spaces.

How do we go about changing the living laboratories we have discussed when their governing bodies are living laboratories themselves.

Spirit Medicine Episode One on Ancestry

Spirit Medicine is a podcast series that focuses on how people of color (queer and trans people of color especially) can connect to healing practices. It is a project under Black Girl Dangerous (BGD) and has two episodes released to date. After listening to the first episode of their podcast on ancestry, I decided to write a blog post about this topic since it connects so strongly to Remedios and other conversations we have had in class.

The podcast starts off with introductions to both speakers, CarmenLeah Asencio and ChE. It then continues to explain how western medical practice is based on patholigizing, or the practice of treating ill people as if there is something wrong with them. A similar viewpoint was concerning the pain of oppressed people was communicates. The podcast explained that the suffering of oppressed people is often pathologized instead of being taken seriously. In other words, as Professor K. explained in class, instead of asking the question of “what happened to you” people ask the question “what is wrong with you.” This means that the systemic issues causing pain, suffering, and illness are not critically examined and the individuals is examined as having something wrong with them instead.

One of the goals of this episode of Spirit Medicine was to present liberatory practices outside of this western framework through a connection to ancestry. A couple of the questions asked throughout the podcast were: What ancestors do you find strength in? Why is connecting to ancestors is an act of healing for people of color and for queer and trans people of color? How have you unpacked your ancestry?

Overall, the first episode of this podcast echoed our sentiments that connecting to ancestors is a radical act that goes against the systemic violence that acts to decentralize communities of color. Connecting to ancestry is a healing practice that is available through your own materials and does not require access dependent on outside forces. My favorite practice mentioned was “bibliotherapy,” or the practice of finding out about your ancestry by reading about it or being highly inquisitve.

Here is a link to the second episode, Cultural Appropriation and Healing Practices:

Screenshots of Facebook Thread: Scientific Studies Looking for a Biological Cause of Transness

The following images are screenshots of a Facebook thread on the page Assigned Male Comics. The page posted an image that spoke out against the medicalization of transgender identities through research projects that look for a “biological cause” of ‘x’ identity. The main blogger pointed out that said experiments are never simply about “curiosity” but are, instead, intertwined in systemic issues of power and biopower (first and second image). This is an interesting point of view that I have read repeatedly throughout my Facebook newsfeed, especially in relation to “prescreen” services offered to parents allowing them to terminate pregnancies based on genes thought to be markers for gay identity. However, I have also seen through different social media sites that I follow and during my research for my final paper that health care coverage for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals tends to be a very complicated process. I was interested to see if scientific research looking for the “cause for transness” might have a similar backdrop.

As expected, there were various commenters who were interested in such studies because they wanted to “cure” children of transness before it it was “expressed” (third image). The fourth image points out a tension within the main poster’s argument throughout the comments section that biological studies on transness should not be supported. This individual informs the reader that scientific research related to trans issues sometimes improves knowledge for practitioners to provide better care related to hormones. The fifth image was one of the only comments I found talking about how the medicalization of transness in the United States tends to erase non-Eurocentric systems of gender.

There is a lot going on with these screenshots and Facebook page. One of my main points for dedicating a blog post to this conversation is because (1) conflicting opinions of transgender and gender non-conforming health care continues to pop up in my research and (2) social media can be a powerful tool to disseminate and produce dialogue (as we have discussed in class several times).

Sidenote: Something that I would like to point out but didn’t know how to fit into the main blog post is that this thread leaves out individuals that either identify as agender or do not ascribe to systems of gender.



Healing from Trauma in the 21st Century

“Hurt people don’t need more isolation.”

  • Michael O’Bryan, “Healing from Trauma in the 21st Century”, 4th Annual Social Justice and Cultural Competence, Rowan University (October 2016)


This weekend, I attended Rowan University’s 4th Annual Social Justice and Cultural Competence organized by their Office of Social Justice, Inclusion, and Conflict Resolution. The conference theme was “Communicating Across Differences: Dialogues to Heal Our Communities.” Their keynote presentation resonated with me, so I decided that I would write about it in relation to our class. I was not able to get a hold of a transcript or video for the keynote presentation, so I attached three photos to this post to provide context.

Michael O’Bryan talked about trauma-based care for disadvantaged populations in the 21st Century. He began his presentation with the concept of “militant utopism,” or an imagined world that is both peaceful and strict with issues of equity. O’Bryan presented that most activists will have images of militant utopism in our hearts and aim to move closer to such a reality. O’Bryan also presented that to do so we must consider health beyond the physical to include psychosocial health. We must shift our health practices to ask “what happened to you” instead of “what is wrong with you.”

The following are tips offered to make more inclusive health practices that take into account patients’ history with trauma:

(1) be intentional in the all aspects of your practice, from how you interact with folks on the everyday level to the broader institutional aspects

(2) be compassionate and lower the stakes of risk for all individuals– “keep standards high but expectations low.”

O’Bryan’s presentation relates to our discussion of inherited or generational trauma within groups of people. Throughout the presentation our discussions during the first unit “Historical Antecedents” were in the back of mind, especially in relation to how African American populations feel the effects of slavery and medical disparities presently. His presentation also made me rethink how to engage with social justice to be more compassionate and inclusive. This is something that came up during the conference introduction, my workshop, and the keynote presentation. What baggage do we carry in calling people out on problematic practices? How do we engage with inequitable structures without reproducing a another inequitable structure?


First Photo: Description of the conference


Second Photo: Keynote speaker’s bio


Third Photo: Description of keynote’s talk


“A New Departure from Eugenics” / “Eugenics and the practice of transgendering children”

Content warning for articles: There is derogatory language used against transgender/gender-nonconforming individuals and folks with mental disabilities. There are also descriptions of medical violence.

I came across the following articles while searching for information about gender transition on Google. I decided to combine two brief articles into one blog post showing two different takes on “genocide” against transgender individuals. The first article is titled “A New Departure from Eugenics” is written by lynneauraniastuart on Transpire. Transpire is a blog “examining the details of the trans experience.” The second article is titled “Eugenics and the practice of transgendering children” by Shelia Jeffreys on The Conversation. The Conversation is a blog that seeks to offer “independent, high quality, authenticated, explanatory journalism (that) underpins a functioning democracy.”

“A New Departure from Eugenics” discusses how most countries once required sterilization as a requirement for transgender folks that wanted to transition or receive medical care. Although the United States wrote the sterilization requirement out, France and several parts of Europe still have sterilization requirements for transgender individuals. The article argues that this is a form of present-day eugenics that is not discussed often enough. The author also states that eugenics is often thought of only in terms of race and psychological ability, even though transgender individuals have historically been victims of eugenics.

“Eugenics and the practice of transgendering children” questions whether hormone therapies are “the answer” for transgender children. The author argues that eugenics is returning to Australia through medical processes transgender children often experience at the consent of their parents. Although the author has an interesting point in questioning transition and biological/cultural alignment as a point of reference for transness, I question why they do not mention the violent “gender-reassignment” surgeries performed on children with “ambiguous genitalia” at birth. I am also wary of the author treating transness as a problem without a solution.

There were several points that I thought were inconsistent in the articles I read. Both articles relate in their binaristic view of gender, or in thinking that individuals are either man or woman. They also both assume that physical transition and gender dysphoria are inherent parts of transness. It would have been interesting to see both bloggers complicate their arguments by including nonbinary individuals and a greater range of (non)transition, in addition to considering experiences outside the “stuck in the wrong body” narrative.

However, these articles do align well with several of our questions around consent within living laboratories. One of the reasons I wrote about both articles is that each presents a genocide against transgender people but in very different ways. “A New Departure . . .” deals with transgender adults within the legal-medical system with the lens of human right, while “Eugenics and the practice of transgendering children” talks about transgender children within a more fluid moral-political-medical (?) system. I found the latter much harder to pin down and process.

I wrote several questions about genocide that might seem similar to questions we have already asked ourselves:

How is genocide defined today along gender lines?

Is it based on the limits of personal bodily autonomy?

If so, can children make that choice?

How does age change consent in medical processes?

Do the terms “genocide” and “gendercide” resonate differently for you? When should we use each term?




Calculating/Contextualizing Bodies

The poem included at the end of this post is titled “Rebirth” and is authored by Sarah Tsigeyu Sharp. I found the work in “Sovereign Erotics: A Collection of Two-Spirit Literature” edited by Qwo-Li Driskill, Daniel Heath Justice, Deborah Miranda, and Lisa Tatonetti. The collection of poems centers the voices of indigenous, non-binary, two-spirit folks in an attempt to fill a gap in currently available materials of trans, queer, and indigenous literature. I came across this work while researching non-binary identities of color over the summer. Based on her biography in the “About the Contributors” section of the book: “Sarah Tsigeyu Sharp is a two-spirit, undocumented Cherokee/Lakota mother of three who strives to regift her traditions to her children.” Sarah dedicates her time to preserving endangered foods and medicine plants of native origin for local tribes and trains individuals on her preservation work (Sovereign Erotics, 221).

“Rebirth” details the journey of an indigenous individual finding themself in a process of rebirth with the help of an ambiguous partner of indigenous descent. We know that the partner is indigenous because of the protagonist’s knowledge that a “day would come when indigenous lifts indigenous closer to the sun.” It is insinuated that the partner is godly in character based on their superhuman capabilities. The partner knows multiple languages and is able to teach the protagonist “Taíno, Carib, Guanahatabey, español y poco niño ingles.” The partner is also capable of affecting parts of the protagonist’s body with parts of their own, although it seems that the partner does not have a material body. The reader gets the sense that the partner’s body may encompass the world as we know it and beyond that.

The poem showcases continuous cycles of rebirth of a physical and spiritual nature. Furthermore, the poem sustains a “dialogue of rebirth” in its literal written or spoken form and in the image it draws of indigenous rebirth through a communal sense of nature and an oral tradition.

The connection I would like to discuss is the relation between the imagery of Sarah Tsigeyu Sharp’s “Rebirth” and a course theme of calculating/contextualizing the body and mind. In thinking through current and future characteristics of living laboratories, we were put in a position of thinking through how to best represent bodies in systematic ways. “Rebirth” also calls this process into question with its juxtaposition of numbers in relation to immeasurable, abstract concepts. How we can measure the body or a people with modern medicine, science, or knowledge?  

It is interesting how the Taino sun is centered near the end of this work. The Taíno are an indigenous tribe in the Caribbean almost completely wiped out by Columbus’s colonization. They are often a subject of study albeit in indirect, vague, and colonial ways. Although I have not read much research on the Tainos or Taíno topics, I have picked up that they are often studied through their medicinal practices and in very physical ways. After enrolling in this course I have realized that we continue to make a racialized and gendered laboratory of the Taíno people that posthumously, violently medicalizes them. Can creative works be a possible avenue to redesign how we uplift minoritized voices, much like Sarah Tsigeyu sharp does in her work for indigenous voices?

Note: A second connection I would have made is the similarity in indigenous themes between Sarah Tsigeyu Sharp’s “Rebirth” and Anzaldúa’s “Borderlands/La Frontera.” However, my post was already too long. Similar techniques to think about are: multiple/hybrid languages; connection of indigenous lives to the land and nature; intercise of being indigenous but also colonized.

Rebirth by Sarah Tsigeyu Sharp

Source: Sovereign Erotics: A Collection of Two-Spirit Literature edited by Qwo-Li Driskill, Daniel Heath Justice, Deborah Miranda, and Lisa Tatonetti (pp.198-199)

We etch home into the palms of our hands

lift them toward the moon, that they might be

magnified by her glory

Dangle feet over boulders in the river

Close eyes tight, pretend these are our homelands


Remember past tanglings of spit

and weavings of skin that brought us here,

Birthed us, brought honey to our trembling lips,

food and sweetness for the fight ahead.

Today is a good day to cry.


Your eyes like an amber cavern in a thunderstorm

and as bright as the day is long

I shudder under you as your tongue teaches my

body to speak

Taíno, Carib, Guanahatabey, español y poco niño ingles

You are a dialect unto yourself


I was the furthest East I’d ever been,

more than 2900 miles from home

you, redefining the word with you small hands


I could push sand into your mouth to stifle my terror

lest you speak,

break me into bits and I should tumble down your

throat the end of me

But you and the Taíno sun are inside me now,

for good


Then, 41000 feet in the sky, heading steadily away

from you

I cherish the flush/of my lust

You grated me my own heat, bottled tight inside

my frigid, North American heart,

a product of the colonization of my people


We were once as wild as you/

some of us still are

some of us just need a little help from our liberated kin

thus, I name you such:

Kin, Sibling in Struggle


I knew the day would come when indigenous lifts

indigenous closer to the sun,

I just never could have guessed it would be like this:

you, all eyes and hands and tongue

You are acts of gods exiled long ago

from this, our fertile earth


You and I

a dialogue

of rebirth