Help 2 disabled writers pay rent & eat!

My wife, the poet-scholar known as India Valentin (sometimes as Anya), and I, are two disabled queer mixed-race writers with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (I am Filipino and Cherokee; she is Jewish Portuguese). We are both unable to work outside the home and live on my wife’s modest graduate student stipend and student loans from the university where she is seeking her PhD. I’m a poet, short story writer, and researcher. We both do freelance/occasional work, and I am always writing, but at an outside income of barely $60 a week between the two of us, it’s not enough to live on.
Our problem is one of timing. We could not have foreseen in October when India dislocated her knee and had to be on crutches for two months that months of medical fees her insurance company wouldn’t pay for would lead us to such a large budget shortfall between semesters. The next student loan disbursement check for the fall semester is going to be in September. We are spending our last $2000 to pay for July’s rent and expenses. Anything we put on the credit card now will have to be paid off (with interest) when the loans come in — and that will mean less money to live on later down the line. As it stands right now, without financial assistance of some kind, we will go into around $5000 into credit card debt just trying to survive and pay our rent, and then have to pay it off with the student loans we’re meant to live on from September-January (it’s only around $10,000 to live on, total).
I am estranged from my parents and cannot ask them for help. My wife’s parents are helping us, but they are very ill and very broke. We are trying to get enough work to pay our bills, but being disabled makes this incredibly hard. We both live with chronic pain and frequently cannot leave the house, even using canes and crutches. Because neither of us have been declared legally disabled (the process is incredibly drawn out and lengthy in the US) yet cannot work, and my wife is a student, we do not qualify for state or federal aid because of our financial situation. We are investigating all our options for expediting the process of getting federal disability but it is impossible to succeed before the money runs out.
Because kind, compassionate people in the science fiction & fantasy community have repeatedly asked how they can help, I am finally answering that question: we need money to live on until September. We need food to eat, money to pay our rent, and litter and sand for our two cats.
Please check out our GoFundMe campaign to contribute financially. We can also accept money via paypal to someone’s email if you want to spare us the GoFundMe payment charges.
I can’t give you money, what else can I do?
  • Got an amazon gift card? Here is a list of things we need that would cut down food and other expenses.
  • Happen to have a Wegman’s, Aldi’s, Giant Eagle, or Target gift card you aren’t spending? That’s food, pet supplies, and other goods directly into our pocket. Please email us about gift cards.
  • Know of someone who is hiring an editor, poet, short story writer, historian, researcher, or something else we do? Please send them our way. We want to make money.
  • I am selling poems and flash fiction (500 words or less) for $15 — commission a piece and it’s all yours. India edits academic papers for $5 a page. Have a friend who needs such a service? Please contact us using the form on this website or twitter.
  • Signal boosting, directing us to the attention of anyone who can help.

Thank you.

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Poem Sale: Lessons of the Knife

I’ve sold a poem to Rose Lemberg’s collection Spelling the Hours, about forgotten figures of science and technology history. (Special thanks to India Valentin, Toby MacNutt and Rose Fox, who read the poem & helped me polish it before submission.) “Lessons of the Knife” is about James Barry, a Victorian English doctor who spent his life working on issues of public health in the British army; sanitation, women’s health issues, disease prevention, better access to medicine, improved living conditions for the poor, better understanding of sexually transmitted diseases, etc. He performed one of the earliest successful cesarean sections in western history and first documented an indigenous herbal cure for STDs in South Africa. He was notorious in his lifetime for an accusation of having sexual relations with his closest friend and patron Lord Charles Somerset (even their friends did not deny his relationship with Lord Somerset was inappropriately close — the pending court case was only dismissed because Lord Somerset was extremely influential and important) and for ruffling feathers wherever he went with his insistence on good medical practice over military protocol.

If Barry were only a radical pioneering Victorian doctor who traveled all over undertaking humanitarian works of medical reform, with a colorful public history, he’d be important enough to medical history. As someone who seems to have been bisexual, a flirt with ladies and a romantic intimate with gentlemen, he even seems like a queer figure in history who doesn’t come to any of the tragic ends that we have been told are inevitable in history (Barry, like many of his generation, died in his 70s from dysentery from London’s polluted waterways, not from anything tragic). But there’s one more thing about Barry that makes him truly unusual in the history of English medicine — he’s the first trans person we know of in English history to become a doctor and practice medicine. Barry was assigned female at birth, and lived his entire adult life without his birth identity becoming public. The discovery of his birth assignment upon his death led to confusion among the English world, sensational writing and magazines depicting him as a woman in man’s clothes, going into the army for love, following narrative tropes of the time. But for trans men who have struggled to prove their presence on the historical stage, Barry seems a clear example — he wrote of himself exclusively as a man, demanded to be treated as men of his time and received that treatment, and was successful at his medical and humanitarian work and even moderately famous for it.

Barry is a fascinating man and one I’ve intended to write about for some time. Two years ago I picked up research to write a speculative fiction piece about him — that story never materialized, but this poem, celebrating his life and his achievements, has instead. I’m very excited that it will be in Spelling The Hours alongside other figures of historical importance who have been too often overlooked. When I have more information about the release of Spelling the Hours, I’ll be updating here.

If you’d like to learn more about Barry’s life, skip wikipedia (editors are constantly fighting over what pronouns to use; for that matter, skip any material that refers to Barry as a woman, it relies on bad sources) and stick with Rachel Holmes’ solid biography (though, it could use some updating to mention anywhere the concept of trans identities), Scanty Particulars.