#HospitalGlam Selfies Turn Medical Treatments into Incredible Photo Ops

Going to the hospital is no fun—especially if you’re in regular treatment for an illness. The sterile medical environment, the uncomfortable procedures, and the endless waiting can test the physical and emotional strength of any patient. But for Karolyn Gehrig, a queer disabled artist and writer who suffers from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, those regular hospital visits are an opportunity to flex her creative muscles.

Gehrig is the creator of #HospitalGlam, a photo series and social movement meant to empower those living with invisible disabilities while they’re undergoing medical treatment. The concept? Take a selfie while you’re stuck in that doctor’s office, waiting room, or medical center to own the space and self-advocate for better treatment.

Right on time for rheumatology today. #hospitalglam

A photo posted by Karolyn Gehrig (@karolynprg) on

The syndrome Gehrig suffers from affects the connective tissues that support the skin, bones, blood vessels, and other organs, requiring many regular treatments. She uses each as a new opportunity to showcase her spirit and assert her presence.

In her selfies, Gehrig strikes dramatic poses, wears fancy clothes (cocktail dresses, anyone?), and sports glamorous makeup, making her Instagram look almost like a couture fashion spread set in an unusual environment. 

Gehrig intentionally spoofs mainstream depictions of able-bodied people, particularly those found in fashion magazines, to redefine perceptions of conventional beauty. Above all, it’s about taking control of one’s body, asserting power, presence, and strength, no matter how ill one may be.

As Gehrig explains:

#HospitalGlam is taking the shame out of being in treatment one selfie at a time.

Anyone can contribute to the #HospitalGlam movement. The only rule is that the selfies have to be taken in a medical environment and feature the person, not the procedure. While Gehrig has spearheaded the movement, many others have joined in. You can follow the latest contributions on the #HospitalGlam tumblr and on Instagram

#HospitalGlam // wear the crown to conquer #invisibleillness #ehlersdanlosgrrrls #disabled #mri

A photo posted by Karolyn Gehrig (@karolynprg) on

#hospitalglam: When the tech came to set me up for this 72 hour EEG, I’d just come out of an unrelated 18 hour ER stint and was in emotional upheaval due to the catastrophic end of a close friendship. I wore a cocktail dress with a long back zipper and rimmed my eyes with kohl, which I have found to be the most effective aid in preventing crying. I’d been looking forward to seeing the On The Run Tour, and had seen photos of Beyonce’s black netted Versace mask. Before a hole was cut in the netted sheath for my face, I showed photos to the tech and asked for a moment to take my own version.  I didn’t do it because I thought it would be cool or fun or funny.  I did it to hold myself tightly through turmoil and I’ve yet to let go. Our tactics may differ, but we struggle for this grip the same. ////#eeg #beyonce #tbt #disability #survivaltactics #neurology #invisibleillness

A photo posted by Karolyn Gehrig (@karolynprg) on

Here are excerpts from a FAQ I posted on HospitalGlam. Link in profile. What is #HospitalGlam? #HospitalGlam is a movement for and by people with invisible disabilities that started by appropriating fashion imagery and reinserting it into medical environments using bodies that don’t outwardly present as sick or disabled. By taking #HospitalGlam photos and posting them on social media, patients increase awareness of invisible illnesses in their communities and with doctors. What counts as a HospitalGlam photo? #HospitalGlam is about contextualizing ourselves inside an often alienating medical environment in order to assert our rights as patients and better our treatment. The focus should be on you in the space. Bonus points for photos that mimic those we see in media, although dressing up is not necessary for #HospitalGlam. Can I Participate? Absolutely. Go to hospitalglam.com/submit, or read further and just hashtag on instagram, twitter or tumblr. What’s not a HospitalGlam photo? -Photos taken at home, in cars, in bathrooms (even hospital bathrooms); basically anyplace that is not a medical facility. -Photos of just your medical procedure. -Photos of a needle in your arm. -Photos of the environment without you in them. For badass photos of yourselves that are not taken in a medical setting, check out the fantastic #medaesthetic or #cripplepunk tags, which each have their own criteria. #faq #invisibleillness #invisibledisability #beyourself #takeupspace #hospitalglamFAQ

A photo posted by Karolyn Gehrig (@karolynprg) on

New meds making me feel less like myself. #hospitalglam #thestruggleisreal #meds

A photo posted by Karolyn Gehrig (@karolynprg) on

I have had an exquisite night. #HospitalGlam.

A photo posted by Karolyn Gehrig (@karolynprg) on

#hospitalglam #yogaalloverthisbitch

A photo posted by Jacqueline Nicole (@jacjustice) on

Til the world turns upside down. #HospitalGlam #HospitalGlam4Ham

A photo posted by Annie Segarra (@annieelainey) on

{2 of 2} I had a very rough doctor’s appointment yesterday, as I was reporting my doctor {now former} for inappropriate behaviour. This is a shot from when I first started posing, a series where I mostly alternated laying on the exam table and curling up in a ball. This image is me pumping myself up, trying to force myself to find strength through form, yet some like the first in this series are quite vulnerable. The whole thing was hugely anxiety inducing, and I narrowly avoided a full blown panic attack while telling the nurse practitioner what had happened. I was reporting a huge authority figure for triggering my PTSD regarding authority figures by, among other things, THREATENING TO REMOVE MEDICAL CARE. I publish these shots as part of #hospitalglam and when I first got home and looked I wondered if they were appropriate, as they included some shots that were vulnerable. But for me, that is a very valuable part of how I experience my disability. My personality is to harden, wall off, flee, switch doctors and practices, and never say a word. These images are me finding a reason to stay and work through something, me standing up for myself and calling out mistreatment, and me making damn sure this man gets held accountable for abusing disabled patients. #365dayswithdisability #disabled #disability #spoonie #chronicallyill #chronicillness #ptsd #doctors #abuse #medicalabuse #mobilityaid #callout #callingout #accountability #tw #chronicallyillgrrlgang

A photo posted by grumpy disabled feminist (@grumpy.disabled.feminist) on

“Another Day, Another Doctor.” ? #HospitalGlam #Latergram #hospitallife #professionalpatient #POTSproblems #EDSproblems #zebrawarrior #redhairdontcare

A photo posted by Official Page of Izrah Indica (@izrahindicaofficial) on

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