“If we are not counted, we don’t exist”

Kansas City View

by Alex Iantaffi, Guest Blogger

Reporting on The 8th National LGBT Health Equity Summit (Kansas City, MO)

One of the threads throughout the Summit was the importance of being visible in policy, research and practice. While introducing the MPOWERED document in the Opening Plenary, Dr. Francisco Butching highlighted why monitoring is so important by reminding us all that “if we are not counted, we don’t exist”. As someone who does not often find a box to tick on surveys or health forms, I am a believer! In fact, my own budding NIH study focusing on Deaf Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) will include trans masculine folks, and I am delighted to be able to set my own questions, separating sex assigned at birth from gender identity. But let’s get back to the Summit and the other believers who also called for increased visibility of our communities.

Juan Carlos Verga gave us some great insights into what including the T, when building an LGBTA Health Alliance, looks like. One of the take-home messages focused on the need to be aware of what issues might impact our communities’ health, such as violence stemming from stigma and discrimination. We cannot support people in making healthier choices if they are anxious about their own and their friends’ survival. However, we can monitor and record the impact of those issues on our communities’ health to increase our potential impact on institutional changes, like The Puerto Rico Citizens Alliance Pro Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgender, and Ally Health (PRCAPH-LGBTTA) has.

Finally, I want to touch briefly on the panel discussion facilitated by e.Shor on “Research to Practice”. For this session, Dr. Jane McElroy and Dr. Phoenix A.K. Matthews, gave two great presentations showing not only how to monitor our communities, but also how to create meaningful programs to address some of the disparities faced by our communities. Dr. Matthews in particular discussed the development, implementation, and evaluation of two smoking cessation programs: Bitch to Quit! for LGBT communities, and Project Exhale, for African American MSM smokers who are HIV+. The latter was, for me, a great example of why it is essential to integrate tobacco prevention and cessation programs into a broader vision of wellness for our communities. Many of us face multiple challenges in an environment that is often hostile, or oblivious to our identities. Those challenges, combined with invisibility and/or outright stigma and discrimination require robust, and holistic approaches to health promotion. Tobacco cessation programs cannot ignore the context in which we live, or the impact this has on our whole health.

We indeed exist, and public health professionals, organizations, and institutions need to be accountable for counting, including, and finally recognizing our existence, and the disparities our communities face. For a day, it was fantastic to be in a room with so many other people who were also believers. Thank you Network for LGBT Health Equity for bringing us together. I am already excited about next year’s Summit!


Support, Love & Knowledge!

Photo by Lucreshia Grant


by Alex Iantaffi, Guest Blogger

Reporting on The 8th National LGBT Health Equity Summit (Kansas City, MO)




Support, Love & Knowledge were called for by the youth participants on August 14th, during the closing plenary. Thanks to generous sponsorship by great organizations, such as the Cancer Action Network of the American Cancer Society, Missouri Foundation for Health, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the National African American Tobacco Prevention Network, the National Latino Tobacco Control Network, and many others, this year there were two dozen young people attending the Summit. As an older transgender and queer-identified person, who is dedicated to co-creating a legacy of healthier LGBTQA communities, I felt energized by the presence of so many inspiring younger participants! Not only I had a blast working alongside many of them the afternoon before the Summit, figuring out how to make balloon columns, I was also fortunate enough to listen to the lunchtime panel and the summary agenda shared by participants in the Youth Track at the end of the day.

The Youth Panel talked about the importance of involving young people in organizations in meaningful ways, moving beyond tokenizing, and towards full respect for what young people can bring to the table. I thought that the Summit this year gave us an example of what substantive involvement of young people in our movement looks like, and how powerful it is! By the end of the Summit, in fact, the Youth Track had created its own agenda of priorities and action points. Here it’s my summary of that agenda, hoping that I have captured all the main points:

  • increase cultural competence among health professionals;
  • acknowledge that there are disparities between groups within our own LGBTQ communities;
  • increase visibility of The Network for LGBT Health Equity;
  • advocate for more funding for LGBTQ youth programs to offer social support.

I know these priorities will inform my own research and practice as a public health researcher and community activist. How do you feel about them? What are our priorities for LGBTQ health and how do we keep involving young people in meaningful and substantial ways? I would love to hear your ideas/comments/opinions! Thanks.


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.


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.


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.