Jack Briar Pollock on challenges of being trans with EDS

For our July newsletter, the Chronic Pain Partners media team interviewed a diverse group of people to highlight the diversity of our community and emphasize the challenges that arise when one belongs to more than one minority. In this interview, medical writer Sarah Cook, PA-C, speaks with Jack Briar Pollock, an EDS advocate and artist who identifies as trans and gay. Jack shares what it’s like being LGBTQ with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, gives some advice to others struggling with those challenges, and how we can all improve our understanding for one another. 

 

Sarah Cook:

Hi, Jack. Thanks for agreeing to this interview! I’m excited to hear what you have to say about your experience as an LGBTQ zebra. Let me start by asking what pronouns you prefer.

Jack Briar Pollock:

I use he/they pronouns. That means I go by he/him or they/them.

Sarah Cook:

Great, thank you. Let’s talk about your EDS journey. When were you diagnosed, and what type of EDS do you have?

Jack Briar Pollock:

That’s a fun story. I was diagnosed with hypermobile EDS (hEDS) in 2013 or 2014. I would go back once every year to get an echocardiogram to double-check that my vascular system was fine. I went in a year after I was diagnosed, and they tested me again and said, “No, you don’t have it.” Then we went to another doctor who said, “We don’t know what you have. It’s kind of like hypermobile EDS, but it’s also like Loeys-Dietz syndrome.” So I have a hypermobile type with vascular involvement that hasn’t been identified yet. It’s so much fun when you have a problem that’s unique! You don’t want to be special in medicine. They also strongly suspect that because of how my weight is distributed, I have congenital adrenal hyperplasia. That means my androgens are also messed up, which may explain why I feel more masculine. Either way, that doesn’t change the fact that I’m trans, even if they do fix it.

Sarah Cook:

That’s quite the path to diagnosis. I agree with you that when it comes to medicine, boring is good! When were you diagnosed in relation to coming out?

Jack Briar Pollock:

I’m 20 currently. I came out four years ago.

Sarah Cook:

How has being LGBTQ affected your EDS journey?

Jack Briar Pollock:

Since I was little, I knew ‌I wasn’t in the right body or that something was wrong with it. I never felt comfortable. It was always hostile, and I just couldn’t put the finger on what it was. Every other kid could run up and down the gym just fine. I wasn’t that kid. I couldn’t make friends nearly as easily. When I did, it was with boys, and I felt like one of them. But I wasn’t. I don’t know what you’d call that feeling. Not alienated, but left out, I suppose. That has been the hardest part. When you’re closeted and when you haven’t received your diagnosis, you feel like you always live in a body that failed you. And it did. I couldn’t do a lot of things that I wanted to do. I wanted to be on the track team. I wanted to do ballet. I wanted to be in the Girl Scouts at one point, but the people that were there just didn’t accept me.

Sarah Cook:

As a healthcare provider myself, I’m curious what you wish more of us knew about our LGBTQ EDS patients.

Jack Briar Pollock:

You don’t have to transition to be trans. I haven’t started transitioning. I’ve started changing my appearance slowly, in a way that I’m comfortable with. Just because someone looks a certain way doesn’t mean that they aren’t trans. Even if you’re absolutely sure that a person might be cisgender, always ask their pronouns. Always ask what they’re comfortable with because that might be the only place where they feel safe sharing that information or having someone to confide in.

Sarah Cook:

As a trans guy, do you have any experience with binding–which, for our audience, is wearing something to flatten the appearance of the chest–you’d like to share to help other zebras and their caretakers?

Jack Briar Pollock:

Yes. I do bind. For me, a binder is unbelievably painful to wear for long periods of time, to my ribs and skin. But I do it because that’s how I feel comfortable presenting myself. With it on, I look at myself in the mirror and think, “That’s him. That’s the guy I want to be.” I take it off for 10 minutes every hour to relax my skin and air it out, usually in a bathroom somewhere. Then I put it back on. I’ve been trying out trans tape. That is also an issue for people with EDS who have stretchy skin because, like a bandaid, you take the skin off with it. Sometimes I get itchy from the adhesive, but Benadryl works for me. There’s no easy solution yet, but comparing the two, I’d say use tape for shorter periods of time.  

Sarah Cook:

Any other tips, as trans and gay, for others dealing with EDS? 

Jack Briar Pollock:

  1. Find your niche. I had a pretty rough start to high school. I missed the first semester in high school because I was hospitalized for thoughts of suicide and depression. It took until later, in my sophomore year, for me to find a place I fit in. My guidance counselor told me about an art program called Gallery 37. That was really my first exposure to people who didn’t conform. It was so cool being there. I met so many different people. Once you learn it’s okay to be yourself, you can just pretty much let loose from there. You can be whoever the hell you want. Coming from a conservative Christian background that I didn’t get to choose for myself, it was so great to hear that whatever I was feeling or thinking was okay and was totally normal. That’s not what they tell you in church. Find somewhere you can be yourself.
  2. Find a place where you’re exposed to diversity–to trans people, to people of color, to culture. It is an experience I recommend, even if you’re not trans or gay. My goal is not to convert. It’s for awareness of the fact that they exist. They’re people. They are vibrant.

Sarah Cook:

Absolutely. Jack, thank you so much for sharing your insight today. I’ve learned a lot from you, and it is my hope our readers will, too.

Jack Briar Pollock:

I’m glad to hear it. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Get Webinar Announcements And Our FREE Guide

Support EDS Awareness

See all upcoming events

Current Poll

How long until you received a proper diagnosis for EDS?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...
%d bloggers like this: