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Illustration courtesy of Radiolab

What does it mean when many of the cadavers used for biomedical research are the bodies of people who, when they were living, could never have afforded the treatments they helped develop?

In the throes of grieving a loved one, many families discover cadaver donation companies when they have to seek alternative ways to cover funeral expenses. Although for-profit whole body donation companies do not track the income or socioeconomic data of donors, public reviews online and my own experience working as a coordinator suggest that a large majority choose to donate their bodies to science out of economic desperation. Medicine’s long and storied history of disparity and racial inequality continues to be built upon the bodies of impoverished people who cannot afford many of the healthcare treatments in life that their corpses have helped to develop. …


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Photo of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her 20s, courtesy of NYT

Grieving RBG and Democracy in America

The night of the 2016 election, I heard gunshots and neighbors sobbing four stories below my apartment. The morning after the election, I walked into the OB/Gyn clinic that I worked at. Normally our workday started with cracking jokes and offers for coffee runs. But on that morning four years ago, it was somber and silent. Everyone, including patients in the waiting room looked like they were on the verge of vomiting or crying. Before I even sat down at my desk the phone rang.

A woman’s voice: “Hello, I need an IUD. The kind that lasts 5 years.” Normally, I scheduled one to four IUD appointments a week. But for weeks after the 2016 presidential election, the clinic’s phones rang nonstop and when we answered, patients were angry they had been on hold so long. But it felt like half the city was calling. Half the city needed an IUD that would last longer than Trump’s presidency. …


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Author’s childhood elementary school

I call myself a child trafficking survivor because “trafficking” is more succinct than explaining how my dad pimped me until age 10. But the term that once offered me solace with its linguistic distance from the more graphic realities of my childhood has been co-opted. The word I could use to explain my fear of men in white trucks has been hijacked by QAnon conspiracy theorists. In recent years, the word “trafficking” has been rendered meaningless and sensationalized through the political commodification of real survivors’ trauma. And this is harmful to us all.

The “Q” in QAnon is allegedly a real person. I wish I could talk to him and ask him to stop using the trauma of real trafficked children to stoke moral panic. QAnon has tapped into bipartisan fear, twisting a tool that the Tea Party didn’t have in 2009: a captive audience during a pandemic. As COVID has spread, many of us are housebound, quarantined and jobless, uncertain about the future minute-by-minute. Since March, QAnon’s influence has increased dramatically because it is easier to reach people in a pandemic when they are bored, frightened, out of work, glued to social media, and starved for human interaction. Instagram has its own community of female influencers and fearful mommy blogger “QAmoms”. Pastel QAnon is recognizable by its gentler pink and purple aesthetic with social media posts warning about the newest iteration of stranger danger. …


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Everytime (2003) music video

The capitalization and cannibalization of childhood

The austere tinny echo of a music box punctures the melody of Britney Spears’s 2003 song Everytime. It won the Teen Choice Award for best love song that year. But for all the early aughts imagery of a platinum blonde Ophelia leaving Las Vegas, Everytime is not a love song. It is is a penthouse bathtub siren’s warning about the repeated offenses of controlling men. It is a codependent lullaby with a hauntingly accurate music video portraying what Britney Spears’s life would look like in 5 short years. Everytime is a premonition, but we didn’t know that in 2003.

And every time I try to fly
I fall without my wings
I feel so small
I guess I need…


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Spice Girls, photo courtesy of Cheer Daily

Why am I so surprised when I rediscover that misogyny exists? Is it because I am friends with cis men who aren’t jerks? Is it because I want to believe that everyone has good intentions, even though history has taught me this is very untrue? Is it because I am not a troll?

During the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine, we have all been driven to extremely online social lives. Humans are social creatures, and in the face of not being able to hang out safely, we have all been spending too much time on social media for our physical safety from coronavirus in 2020. I am discovering that the very tools that allow me the physical safety to connect with my friends online leaves me prey to predatory strangers. …


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The SPD is not our ally in fighting sex trafficking. Investigative journalists, funds for housing, healthcare, foster care, and education are our allies in the fight against human trafficking. But for short, let’s just call it Defund the Police.

On Friday July 31, the Seattle Times published an op-ed stating the “SPD is our ally in fighting sex trafficking”. As a survivor of child sex trafficking, I know that is not true. As a formerly homeless teenager who was beaten by a police officer while I was sleeping, I know that is not true.

In a city whose officers spray our neighbors with chemical weapons banned in warfare by the Geneva Convention and continue performing sweeps on homeless camps in the midst of a pandemic killing thousands each week, I cannot call the Seattle Police Department an ally. Although King County moved 609 homeless people into hotels due to COVID as of May 1, the county’s 2019 homelessness count was 11,199 people. Homelessness and poverty are consistently cited as data points of vulnerability to trafficking. In a tech hub city with Seattle’s extreme economic disparity, it is obvious that trafficking is perpetuated by our austere funding of housing, education, and healthcare in comparison to SPD’s budget. These are the tools we need to sustainably and pragmatically fight exploitation. …


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Courtesy of US Capitol Tours

In 1998 I was 12 years old. Every news channel and radio station chattered repetitively about Bill Clinton, Monica Lewinsky, the Oval Office, cigars and blue dresses. My mom, my younger siblings and I were crashing at my aunt and uncle’s house outside Sacramento, California after two tumultuous years of homelessness. We had run away from my dad after he threatened to kill us, so we lived in hiding all over the west coast as my parents’ divorce dragged on. I was grateful to live indoors again with a bathroom, washer, dryer and kitchen, but my aunt and uncle’s guest room was so small that my siblings and I slept in a walk-in closet. …


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On Tuesday, Stephanie Meyer’s long anticipated addition to the Twilight series Midnight Sun will be released. It may pay off as a savvy business decision, given that fiction sales are rising in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic. The newest book is said to be told from vampire Edward Cullen’s perspective.

Full disclosure, I am not a Twilight fan and I ran away from Washington’s Olympic Peninsula as soon as possible. I attended high school in the place where the series is set and I was bullied by the neo nazis of Forks and Port Angeles. Forks’s neo nazis and Port Angeles’s economy are far scarier than any of Twilight’s vampires or werewolves. …


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Curated Library

COVID-19 is not the great equalizer, as Madonna announced from her milk and rose petal bath. But perhaps, libraries could be.

Library access may seem a small matter as more than 100,000 coronavirus deaths expose the delicate lattice of America’s systems, the U.S. unemployment rate rockets toward 20%, and as police spray peaceful protestors with chemical weapons that have been banned in warfare. In the midst of all this, we are living in a Digital Dark Age in which the rich pay to have their private libraries curated and the poor are technologically barred from borrowing library books during quarantine. In many communities, public libraries are the last bastion of social support, hiring on social workers to meet the influx of homeless patrons and others in crisis. The pandemic has exacerbated the torn economic disparities that our local libraries invisibly mend everyday. When virtually no free secular public spaces remain, libraries play a role as integral to a community’s health as schools and hospitals. Fortunately I can still access the library with my Kindle e-reader while quarantining at home. I have a laptop and internet access. But not all are so fortunate. …


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Salt Creek, WA at sunset

Everything I wish I had known before writing a memoir.

  1. Real life does not have a plot arc and foreshadowing.

In other words, don’t let your memoir drive you insane. Once I began writing everyday, it felt almost like my mind’s neural pathways were bending into “storyteller mode”. This had unanticipated consequences, like mild paranoia when something happened that would remind me of the chapter that I was writing. What did it mean? In reality, nothing. But this didn’t stop my mind from racing to delusional worries when a coworker’s words reminded me of a violent scene in my memoir’s manuscript. It took therapy sessions, anti-anxiety medication, and talking to friends for me to embrace this reality check. Real life does not have tidy plot arcs. Real life does not have foreshadowing. That’s why one of human history’s oldest professions is The Storyteller. Someone to help make sense of life’s chaos. But in real life, thinking that everything is a scene? …

About

Sabra Boyd

Sabra is a child trafficking survivor who is seeking an agent for her true crime memoir | The Glass Castle x The Godfather | sabraboyd.com

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