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#HospitalGlam: The Chronic Illness Social Movement

Taking shame out of being in treatment one selfie at a time.

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Meet Karolyn Gehrig, the queer disabled artist who's transforming her frequent hospital visits into artwork, a hashtag, and a social movement.

Courtesy of Karolyn Gehrig / Via

Going to the doctor for anyone can be at best a dull experience — and at worst a traumatic one. Since being diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) in 2003, Gehrig's been navigating her experience with illness on social media with humor, lip gloss, and her chin held high.

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is a genetic connective- tissue disorder in which bodies can't regenerate collagen. This results in frequent joint dislocations, organ rupture, and other issues that can lead to frequent hospital visits: Being sick becomes a regular thing. For Gehrig, it's a daily dilemma.


Gehrig started out doing this project to feel good about her body while going through treatment — her body, her rules, no shame allowed.

"I want everyone who goes into a doctor's office to feel empowered, and that they can be themselves," she told BuzzFeed Life. "There's nothing about being disabled that I should be ashamed of. Taking care of yourself is really important."

Taking the photos is a way for Gehrig to feel powerful in a space that most people often feel powerless.

Courtesy of Karolyn Gehrig / Via

"The act of taking the photos reasserts my agency over my body in a space that is otherwise uncertain," she said. "Sharing them transforms it into a way to normalize the experience of living with illness and hopefully lessens the stigma of taking care of yourself."

Gehrig's finger splits look a lot like regular finger jewelry — can you really see much difference?

And like all of us, she gains strength through the power of Beysus.

#HospitalGlam is about navigating illness through humor and pop culture glamour. Take, for example, Gehrig's Beyoncé moment. Neurology required that she wear electrodes and a face net for 72 hours, so Gehrig pulled up Beyoncé videos from the artist's On the Run tour for inspiration. Out comes a glamour moment — complete with cocktail dress and dark eye makeup that even Queen Bey would be proud of.

And remember: "You have more experience with your body than anyone else. Wear whatever makes you feel good about yourself. Bring the parts of you that you love into that office. If lipgloss starts the revolution, so be it."