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Concerned citizen by day, blogging ninja by night

Patrick here, guest blogging ninja, here at the 2012 LGBTQ Health Equity Summit in newly overcast Kansas City, Missouri.

My situation is kind of unique, as I am here technically as a concerned citizen. I started in tobacco control when I was quite young, coming up through the New York State Reality Check program. After joining on to the youth board of directors, I was given the opportunity to work with Legacy as a member of the Speakers Bureau and then as a member of the Youth Activism Council. When I aged out of those programs, I went on to work as a consultant for the state of Montana reACT program, providing training and assistance for them for the better part of 6 years.  I have always found a way to stay involved in the tobacco control community, because that is what I was passionate about.

When Montana lost funding and went through a pretty major reorganization, I sort of thought that my tobacco control era was coming to an end. It was unsettling to think that I wouldn’t be doing what I have spent so many years enjoying, and that I wouldn’t ’be able to share my experiences and learn from others in such a dynamic community.

That’s when, thankfully, I checked my inbox. I saw an email come through regarding scholarships to attend the Health Equity Summit, and I knew instantly that I would apply. I truly appreciate being selected as a scholarship recipient. It was an amazing experience I won’t soon forget. Thank you to all the sponsors of the 2012 scholarship recipients- this would truly not have been possible for so many to attend without your support.

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Creating momentum in Youth engagement: Youth Track 2012

Patrick again, at the 2012 LCBTQ Health Equity Summit in muggy, but pretty, Kansas City, Missouri.

This year marked the first year that there was a specific youth track at the LGBTQ Health Equity Summit. Having attended summits in the past, I always recognized that this was an area that we could improve upon, and I am happy to say, that it was a resounding success.  Having just turned 27, and no longer fitting into the usual definition of ‘youth’, it was interesting to be a fly on the wall. I was highly impressed with the level of candor and honesty present in the room. People shared personal stories of LGBTQ health disparities, and the group came together to brainstorm ideas on how to create health equity within our community. It really is amazing what can happen when you create a safe space for young people to share thoughts and ideas.

I think that the most profound notion that I took away is that young people really need social programs that love and support them no matter what. All too often in the LGBTQ community, youth are rejected by their parents and have nowhere to turn. This leads to increases in risky behaviors such as drinking, smoking, drug use and unprotected sex. I believe that as a network it is our responsibility to only help these young people, and to also give them the tools necessary to help each other. The youth track was a huge step in the right direction. Now that momentum has been built, it is important that we act on it, to ensure the health of future generations of LGBTQ young people and work towards creating health equity in our community.

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Blogging from Kansas City!

Hey all, Patrick Murtagh here, newbie guest bloogger reporting from the 2012 LGBTQ Health Equity Summit.

I have always felt that going to these kinds of conferences is a lot like going to camp.  You never really know what you should pack, you travel long distances to get there, there is a pre-set agenda put before you, and you begin the process of introducing yourself to people you have never met. Some faces you recognize right away, others you have never seen. My time at the LGBTQ Health Equity Summit was no different.

What was different, however, is the fact that unlike summer camp, people here were genuinely interested in the work you are doing in your community. What is so great about this conference is that it is really the only opportunity to be in a room with LGBTQ community leaders and allies and really discuss and work through the issues that are affecting our community. Having such well-versed and passionate people in the same room creates a momentum that will get us through to the next time that we can all be together.

I only speak for myself, but coming to events like this is what re-energizes me. When I am in the doldrums of paperwork, or are starting to loose faith, funding, what have you, I can look back to summits like this and know that I am not the only one fighting for what is right. I can remember the friends I made, the bonds that were forged and the network of supporters that was built. We all have our very own cheering squad just by attending the 2012 LBGTQ Health Equity Summit, and I hope we never forget that.