In which I come out, and my cousin Susan

I have been blogging for a while. I used to have no audience, other than a few friends. Blogs used to have about the significance of a myspace page, and now have become much more wonderful and important. But, I have had to reevaluate what and who I write about, in a few ways. I don’t write about my family that much, other than the odd funny anecdote. I have pulled one or two posts in which I spoke critically about physicians or professors. It’s OK to complain to my friends about that. It’s not OK to have that up on a blog that is searchable, even if I haven’t ever mentioned my name or institution on this blog.

So, two things are changing on the blog. I am going to come out, first of all.

*Ahem* My name is Hilary Gerber, and I go to Nova Southeastern University in lovely Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

My name and this blog can be linked in various ways on the interwebs, and I was a little annoyed at only the persistent boundary line crossers making that link. I may as well own the connection.

I was also nervous, for a while, that my loving but very socially conservative family would be googling me for some reason.

Well, my brother is the president of a local chapter of the Young Republicans, and blogs under his own name about tea bagging, so I decided I have just as much right to put what I think out there. It’s not like I’m springing it on them that I’m a liberal. And, with all the posts I have been putting up on Facebook recently about the Tebow ad, they must know I am pro-choice. So, hi mom! (I don’t think she reads my blog. But, one day she might stumble on it.)

Secondly, I am still struggling with the best way to write ethically and responsibly. I have decided that whenever I talk about someone’s health experience, especially reproductive experience, I am going to call this person “my cousin Susan”. I don’t have a cousin Susan. She is going to be a stand in for all of the wonderful people whose stories have taught me something. I am going to be trying to go back through older posts and edit in My Cousin Susan. I try to shift around some identifying features, or be vague, already. But, this way I can just assign it to this mythical person, and hopefully make it seem less privacy invading for the original person.

I know I don’t own other people’s lives and stories. I am not a physician yet and don’t have that HIPAA thing going on in most situations I have been in yet, but I am a doula, I have been a midwifery student, and even as a friend, I feel somewhat guilty when I talk about some aspect of someone else’s health or life experience. But, I learn so much from these realities, more than I could ever learn from a textbook or a journal article. They are a big part of why I am so dedicated to women’s health, especially surrounding birth.

So, in order to balance the ambivalence I feel about sharing these stories, which I do, I am going to start calling the main character “my cousin Susan”. I’ll tag this post and all the others with “My Cousin Susan”, and link to an explanation in the side bar.


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18 responses to “In which I come out, and my cousin Susan

  1. We can start PFLAB… Parents, Families & Friends of Liberals and Bloggers. They can have some support now that you’re out.

  2. I’m glad you’re out, and nice to meet you, Susan!

  3. Hi Hilary. As I read your post today, it struck me that if anything I think of you by the name “Mom”. Which is pretty odd considering you’re probably younger than me and I have a perfectly good Mom of my own. It might take a while for me to shift to thinking of you as Hilary.

    • MomTFH

      Funny! I use the handle “MomTFH” online in various places for commenting, and am thrown off a little when people shorten it to just “mom” when they reply. It takes me a minute to realize they’re referring to me.

  4. I am so happy you came out of anonymity! It was really annonying when I met you in person in Florida, and you insisted that I call you “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.”

    Anywho, good decision. I may join you shortly, but don’t you out me yet!

  5. Georgina P.

    Well- Cousin Susan is sorta like how we all use the universal Aunt Flo(w) so excellent- MomTFH- you are a smart lady btw I love reading what you write.

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  10. yukimom

    You are absolutely bound by HIPPA as soon as you are involved in someone’s health experience (midwife student, medical student, social work student, high school student, outside observer etc.).

    • MomTFH

      Not exactly. This is who is bound by HIPAA:

      Health care providers and entities only. So, yes, that should extend to students / trainees / apprentices. But not “outside observers” such as friends or the general public.

      If I saw someone injured on the street, I can share that story with others. If a friend or a relative shares a story about her health with me, I am not bound by HIPAA to keep that conversation private. However, there are non-legislated ethical considerations there that I honor.

      For example, I may share that my nephew was born with a form of cardiomyopathy. My sister in law shares information about his condition and wants to raise awareness. She mailed me a CD of his echo to share with my cardio team! We didn’t have to sign waivers, she didn’t fill out forms. She’s my sister-in-law and it was for information purposes only.

      But, there are many thing she has shared with me that are more personal, and I would never share on here or with colleagues.

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