Conferences · National Black Justice Coalition

The Bisexual Community and HIV/AIDS

As part of last fall’s National Black Justice Coalition Conference, “Out on the Hill”, I attended a White House meeting on Gay and Bisexual Men and HIV/AIDS.  I came away from the meeting impressed by the level of concern that the White House and other partners in the fight to eradicate HIV/AID are consistently demonstrating.

At the White House meeting, 09/26/14 Photo Credit. S. Washington
At the White House meeting, 09/26/14 Photo Credit. S. Washington

We’re 30 years into the HIV/AIDS epidemic but according to a report released by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), infections among gay and bisexual men are on the rise in the U.S, especially for men of color.

kaiser hiv-aidsAs a bisexual community expert I think it’s essential to educate folks to the fact that bisexuals have always been at the forefront of the fight to prevent HIV infection. Even if many times history erased us. Since the very beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the bi community helped shape the messaging, support opportunities and intervention models pertaining to ending HIV/AIDS.

In honor of the 1990 National Bisexual Conference, the City of San Francisco proclaimed the first ever "Bi Pride Day" (check out the dot matrix copy of the proclamation above). As part of the acknowledgement, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors also proclaimed: …Whereas, The contributions of bisexuals in developing AIDS service projects, combating discrimination, and advocating for social justice have long been undervalued or discounted by most of society; and Whereas, The 1990 National Bisexual Conference offers the bisexual community an opportunity to showcase some of its extraordinary work and leadership in establishing model AIDS programs, and working to build a society free of discrimination and injustice; and Whereas, The 1990 National Bisexual Conference gives all people the occasion to finally end the silence about the numbers of bisexual persons who have died of AIDS, and to recognize the tremendous leadership contributions of bisexual activists in the fight against the killer disease...
In honor of the 1990 National Bisexual Conference, the City of San Francisco proclaimed the first ever “Bi Pride Day” (check out the dot matrix copy of the proclamation above). As part of the acknowledgement, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors also proclaimed:
…Whereas, The contributions of bisexuals in developing AIDS service projects, combating discrimination, and advocating for social justice have long been undervalued or discounted by most of society; and
Whereas, The 1990 National Bisexual Conference offers the bisexual community an opportunity to showcase some of its extraordinary work and leadership in establishing model AIDS programs, and working to build a society free of discrimination and injustice; and
Whereas, The 1990 National Bisexual Conference gives all people the occasion to finally end the silence about the numbers of bisexual persons who have died of AIDS, and to recognize the tremendous leadership contributions of bisexual activists in the fight against the killer disease…

Many times bi efforts were slighted, invalidated, forgotten or in some cases erased. And as Dr. Herukhuti, Black bisexual theorist, so eloquently once put it, “bisexual erasure is psychic murder”. Nowhere is this more dangerous than in the arena of public health, where bisexual populations are often erased in favor of a few more convenient fictions:

  1. There are few bisexuals (Not!)
  2. Most bisexuals experience privilege from their heterosexual presenting relationships and do not need (or deserve) care allocated from LGBT resources. (FALSE!)
  3. Even if support providers frequently use bisexual data (‘cause it’s the worst) to strengthen arguments for more support in reaching LGBT populations, there is no legal requirement for them to find and serve bisexual people (SADLY TRUE).
dr_h_sotu
Jan 20th, 2015 tweet from Dr. Herukhuti

Dr. Herukhuti has also directly linked bisexual erasure to the disproportionate rates of HIV bisexual people of color report saying,

“Bisexuals become the disappeared of the movement. Nowhere is the impact of this dynamic felt more viscerally than in black and brown communities. Historically, HIV research and prevention has had a problematic relationship with bisexuality in black communities, fluctuating from demonizing black bisexual men as vectors of HIV transmission to treating us as if we are exactly like black gay men — lumping us into a single box of men who have sex with men along with them. It is, therefore, no wonder that HIV rates are disproportionately higher in black communities.”

It’s no wonder then that gay history runs parallel to the history of biphobia, and its legacy, bisexual erasure. If bisexual historical figures and bisexual figures aren’t “bisexually erased” into being gay men or lesbians, they are removed from the conversation, even if their data isn’t!

For example, in 1985 when Larry Kramer first published his seminal work on the HIV/AIDS epidemic “The Normal Heart”, the only mention of bisexuals is in the stage directions. In the play’s “About the Production” section, Kramer describes the walls of the set being whitewashed and painted in “black, simple lettering” with “facts and figures and names”. One of the items on set walls?

“The number of cases in gays and the number of cases in straights, calculated by subtracting the gay and bi-sexual number from the total CDC figure.”

If gay+bisexual=gay, where does the bisexual go? Contrary to popular belief, we do not disappear in a puff of logic. We just die, and sometimes we die without anyone to remember our name.

To me this feels like vexation without representation, and bisexuals get nothing for their troubles. And troubles they are, with bisexuals facing higher rates of nearly every societal ill such as alcohol, drug abuse, smoking, cancer, sexual violence (including rape, stalking and intimate partner violence), heart disease, suicide and PTSD.

Bisexual oriented AND bisexually behaviorally people simply report more disparities than their gay, lesbian and heterosexual peers. In comparison to some research on transgender individuals, bisexuals report less hate crimes yet nearly the same rates of suicide and sexual assault.

BiNet USA Bisexual Community Issues Presentation, Jan 2015 http://www.binetusa.org/bi-presentations
BiNet USA Bisexual Community Issues Presentation, Jan 2015

Winning the disparity race has left bisexuals with nothing but shame, often internalized and externalized about our identity. Whether it be damaging oppositional dialogue about bisexual community labels or consistent calls for “visibility” instead of straight up parity, bisexuals have paid the price.

An evolving world is waking up to recognize that binaries are too simple to define love, and that bisexuals need more than just to be named. We need to be served like our lives depend on it and our sanity requires it. Will the world wake in time?

To learn more about the bisexual community and HIV/AIDS, please check out The Bisexual History of HIV/AIDS, in photos.

Conferences · Uncategorized

“It’s Your Time To Shine!” 2014 LGBTQ Youth Regional Retreats Recap

Motivational-Inspirational-Life-Quotes-2243National Youth Pride Services recently hosted it’s 2014 “It’s Your Time To Shine” Regional Retreat series in Detroit, Michigan (Midwest), Columbia, South Carolina (South) and Washington D.C. (East) thanks to sponsors CenterLink, Lambda Legal, 3LW TV, South Carolina Black Pride, Palmetto AIDS Life Support Services and Al Sura. The retreat was designed to uplift, inspire and motivate the black LGBTQ youth communities in a way that had never been done before. Below, the retreat facilitator and participants recap the events of the three retreats.

In 2014 NYPS changed it mission and vision to be MORE uplifting, positive and empowering; to focus on the positive and less of the negative. We believe that people who are self-confident are more willing to help lift others. After All, winners help others win. Many people are looking for hope, and may just not know where to find it or how to get there. “One Shinning Moment” is our nationwide effort to uplift and inspire our target population. There is much to be said about all the negativity in our communities. This video, shown to all attendees, highlights some of the negative opinions about our community, but we feel this is our #OneShinningMoment to come up with solutions and move to the next level.

The goals of the retreats were to make sure each participant would leave the weekend knowing how to:

Live your life on purpose.

Not on “default.” Be Proactive. Make conscious and deliberate choices. When you don’t choose, circumstances choose for you and you are never leading: you are following or catching up—or worse, living in “default” mode.

Utilize your full potential.

Give what you’re doing your best and fullest attention. Be here now. Even if you’re not where you want to be, giving it half of your effort doesn’t move you forward. Master what you have at hand, for the sake of mastering it, and something will shift.

Live in the question.

There is nothing you cannot be, do, or have, so do not impose limitations on yourself. Instead of saying you can’t get there, ask “How can I get there?” Live in the affirmation of possibility rather than the declaration of negativity.

There is always a way, and it is being presented consistently, but you have to live in the question to be on the lookout for the answer.

Learn to say “No.”

To live your best possible life, you need to learn how to say no to the things that aren’t serving you. The best barometer to measure this by is: if it isn’t a “hell yeah” (Yippee, so fun, can’t wait!), then it is most probably a no. If you have to talk yourself into it, it’s a no.

Once you get comfortable saying no, everything becomes a matter of choice. Living a life of choice is a living a life of freedom.

Know your own value.

Others may be more educated, skilled, or talented in one or another area, but there is something magnificent and valuable about what you have to offer this world that, in comparison, is equal.

Do not allow yourself or anyone else to diminish it. You have a learning disability? So did Dr.King, and that’s what makes him the most powerful speakers. Joe Vitale came from homelessness. Look at him now. Stop idolizing anyone else’s gifts and dismissing your own.

The Midwest version (June), the largest of the three, was held in conjunction with FIERCE, a national program working towards LGBTQ youth of color liberation and located at the Allied Media Conference at Wayne State University. Andrew Rahme, attended the Midwest Regional and based on his experiences and interactions during the weekend, actually became a member of NYPS. Here are some of his thoughts on the Detroit even which had a greater focus on community building and activism:

10383485_10203476696491931_6806017940715506034_nCreation, connection, and transformation are the words that come to mind when thinking about the Midwest Regional at the Allied Media Conference (AMC). Being a queer or trans person of color, it is reality that you have to constantly create solutions for yourself in order to live happily, and successfully. We create walls, stories, identities, spaces, and sometimes we even create realities different from the ones that we are confined to. At the AMC networking gathering, we had a chance to come together as QTPOC and identify the current issues to implement change in our community. Through games, laughter, relationship building, and amazing food, we discovered things about ourselves and about each other that allowed us to grow in ways we didn’t expect.

A very large focus of the network gathering at AMC was surrounded around connection. Connection to each other, to the world around us, and to our personal selves. We mapped out where our interests of change are and brainstormed what steps we can take to implement that change. We connected in ways we didn’t expect through common interests, experiences and the sharing of our wants, needs, hopes, and realities. Many of us began combining different realities and solutions in order to produce ideas for the most effective change.

The end result was inspiring and truly transforming. We got to be first hand witnesses of the beauty that comes out of organizing with QTPOC youth. Ideas as well as lasting relationships were created and strengthened, and to see what change these new alliances will create is exciting to watch for.

The South version (August) was held in Loft’s at The Claussen’s Inn. On Friday night all participants watched the video on the State of The Black LGBTQ Community. Some in the room agreed with some of the statements made, but the majority felt that there were some things that could be done to change the perception of what it is like to be black and LGBTQ.

On Saturday, the first session focused on a common theme in the video: “Status Anxiety”. This is the constant comparing of yourself to others. We looked at how the people you surround yourself with can be stressful and a few ways to get rid of status anxiety. Other issues touched on were: “Later Never Comes” (procrastination), Self Respect, Self Esteem, How Not To Care What Others Think About You as well as our other Life Development Series for Black LGBTQ young adults: “Dollars and Good Sense” and “Born To Win”.

Brandon Berry, of Orlando, FL gives his thoughts on the south retreat:

Brandon Dykes served as a facilitator for the South Region Retreat, as did Brandon Berry.
Brandon Dykes served as a facilitator for the South Region Retreat, as did Brandon Berry.

It was the epitome of comfort, which was a pleasant surprise to me. Imagine walking into a beautiful inn, rich with its area’s history and augmented tall ceiling including a large glass window clearly displaying the beautiful sky. Imagine a two-story loft for a room with all of the space necessary for yourself as well as any of your guests and fellow attendees. One would think no real productive work would be done. Contrary to that thought, we spent a majority of our days with each other having deep, lengthy and intelligent conversations. One of the highlights of this weekend is that great work took place in the comfort of our own rooms. It was a great experience.

I not only met strong and intelligent Black men of distinction, but I got to get personal with them and discuss life and goals and our journeys to our respective unfolding greatness. We held discussions on how to be an effective leader, things to remember when inheriting a leadership position from someone else, and other miscellaneous subjects like the Quality of Education from HBCUs vs PWIs.

Overall the conference was great, and the experience was even greater.

The East version (September) was held at the Akwaaba, a luxury, African inspired house in LGBTQ friendly DuPont Circle. Like the south version, on Friday night, participant’s gathered to watch the video and discuss it. They were more aggressive in their defense of the black LGBTQ community and pointed out how no one in the video took any personal responsibility.

The East Region participants, not only went over all of the same Life Development series topics covered in the South Region, they were able to

Jabbar Lewis facilitated the "Selfies" series in DC.
Jabbar Lewis facilitated the “Selfies” series in DC.

preview parts of our new series: “Choices”: Whether you believe it or not, everything up to this point in your life that has or has not happened to you is because of the choices you have made. Every aspect or our life when examined a little closer can be traced back to a series of choices we have made.

In addition, each participant was given a section of each series to study and then present to the group.

The East Region allowed participants to live together for 3 full days in a fully furnished house, similar to a reality show. This dynamic might have made the East Region one of the best experiences out of the three, so much so, we are looking to hosts future retreats in a luxury house setting. The South and East Regions are also where we tested out having each participant follow each presentation on their tablet/laptop or mobile devices instead of the traditional power points and projectors. They now will be able to relive each session on their mobile device at any time.

Here is a  complete list of all Life Development topics, related videos and handouts from the retreats.

Huffington Post LGBT Wellness

LGBT Wellness Roundup: October 5

As published on Huffington Post’s new LGBT Wellness blog, see original at: http://ow.ly/DhVNO

Each week HuffPost Gay Voices, in a partnership with bloggers Liz Margolies and Scout, brings you a round up of some of the biggest LGBT wellness stories from the past seven days. For more LGBT Wellness, visit our page dedicated to the topic here. The weekly LGBT Wellness Roundup can also now be experienced as a video — check it out above.

Conferences · National Black Justice Coalition · Uncategorized

The Black Bisexual Experience Presentation at Out on the Hill Conference

faith cheltenham

Faith Cheltenham, President of BiNet USA

Blogging from the National Black Justice Coalition’s Out on the Hill Conference.

On the 2nd day of the NBJC Out on the Hill Conference I was honored to present one of the very first presentation/panel discussions on the black bisexual experience from inside Capitol Hill’s Hart Senate building.

faith bi icon

From The Out on the Hill Black Bisexual Experience Presentation, click here to download it.

Members of NBJC, BiNet USA, Alliance of Multicultural Bisexuals (AMBi) of Metro DC and Center for Culture, Spirituality and Sexuality all contributed thought leadership into the PowerPoint presentation I presented on The Black Bisexual Experience. Following my presentation we had a 30 minute panel discussion featuring Black LGBT and bisexual icon, ABilly S. Jones-Hennin and Shervon Laurice a D.C. based bisexual psychologist.

faith bi platform

From The Out on the Hill Black Bisexual Experience Presentation, click here to download it.

Charles Blow’s recent piece for the New York Times surrounding the launch of his book was also shared with attendees of our workshop thanks to the quick actions of Out on the Hill organizers.  Blow has written a stunning memoir of growing up black and bisexual, something I myself also aim to do. Having Blow’s piece shared with OOTH attendees helped emphasize the national conversation that is taking place surrounding bisexual community issues of disparities and resiliency.

faith intimate partner violence

From The Out on the Hill Black Bisexual Experience Presentation, click here to download it.

For black bisexual people these conversations are especially important for sometimes it feels like the best way to be brave in the face of a disparity is to be knowledgeable about it. Many bisexual disparities are based in our own hearth and home, whether it be the staggering rates of sexual/physical violence or the higher rates of mental health issues including depression, suicidality, self-injury, and PTSD that bi people often report.

When looking closely at data provided by the CDC on the lifetime prevalence of sexual violence as experienced by certain minority groups we see something interesting. Both bisexual and multicultural (non-Hispanic) people report high rates of experiencing intimate partner violence. They also report higher rates of rape and sexual violence.

faith bi violence

From The Out on the Hill Black Bisexual Experience Presentation, click here to download it.

One question I posed during my Out on the Hill presentation considered whether bisexual and multiracial people have similar issues and vulnerabilities, not being fully in one world or another. It may indeed be the case that the higher levels of physical/sexual violence disparities reported by both are due to fewer multicultural or bisexual specific resources.

faith bi info

From The Out on the Hill Black Bisexual Experience Presentation, click here to download it.

As conversations continue about the violence perpetuated upon black communities we must strive to consistently remember how that stress affects the health of black people. When people have more than one identity like black bisexual folks, the multiplier factor only increases meaning that if we wish to care about the health of black bisexual people we need to truly design interventions that target both communities.

faith infograph

From The Out on the Hill Black Bisexual Experience Presentation, click here to download it.

References:

  1. Out For Health, Healthy People 2020 Bisexual Fact Sheet (link)
  2. Walters, M.L., Chen J., & Breiding, M.J. (2013). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Findings on Victimization by Sexual Orientation. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (link).
National Black Justice Coalition

Advocating for a Brighter Future: Our Views, Our Issues & Our Lives

Felecia King

 

 

Felecia King, Project Specialist

LGBT HealthLink

 

 

Blogging from the National Black Justice Coalition’s Out on the Hill Conference.

So day 2 was not as invigorating as Day 1. However, I am noticing a common arising theme, African-American LGBT people, as a group, feel under-served, misrepresented and mistreated. It was “Issue Advocacy Day”, a Legislative Briefing. We heard from quite a few panelist that were amazing, in their own ways. They spoke about their experiences as being “OUT on the Hill”

First there was Robert Eskridge, who works as a legal counsel for the House Ethics Committee and is a Black gay man. He talks about some of the adversities that he has experienced in such a place as DC, and why it’s so important to know everything (Not really everything but, being well versed, especially in your field).

Michele Jawando, Vice President of Legal Progress for Center for American Progress. Michele tells everyone the importance of voting and knowing what it is you’re voting for, know who you are placing into office, know what laws your voting for or against.

Twaun Samuels the Chief of Staff for Congresswoman Maxine Waters was also a panelist and spoke about his experience as a Gay Black man on the Hill, and he believes it did not have any effect on his career. He’s not alone in his thinking, Brandy Hall, HouseCall IT, Systems Administrator, felt that it didn’t negatively affect her career, but sometimes she has to prove herself to the people she works for.

photo 2I am also noticing that no matter where these people live, where they were raised, they are experiencing or having the same feelings of inequality. From the panel discussion they took their issues and questions to the Hill, speaking with representatives from California, New York, and a few others. The issues were raised to the representatives in hopes that things would change.

There wasn’t much time for questions but the advice given was empowering and simple at the same time. Advice like; being an example in your community and teaching the others around you, having a voice, knowing your voice, and using your voice.

Arkansas LGBT Health Initiative · Conferences · scholarship

Putting the I in LGBTQI

 

e.shor

 

E. Shor, MPH

Wisconsin Population Health Service Fellow through UW-Madison

 

Blogging Live from: the LGBTI Health Research Conference

 

This has been a jam-packed day so far and it is only half over at the LGBTI Health Research Conference. There have been speakers addressing data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity, addressing the necessity of doing more research around intersex identities, policy changes and implications of those changes, transgender health, history of research in LGBTQI communities, and so much more.  My brain feels full of things to think about.

 

Here a few things I thought were interesting:

 

  • From a historical perspective, Kellan Baker of the Center for American Progress, described a historical paradigm shift that has been happening in the lat 15 years. He mentioned that in the 2000s public health work highlighted health disparities, and in the 2010s the lens has shifted to health equity and health in all policies. This paradigm shift has really emphasized that equity is justice in the form of public policy and changing systems.

 

  • Thus far there have been a number of speakers highlighting experiences of groups who often face high levels of invisibility, including people who are intersex, and who are transgender. There have been great strides in methodology around collecting data in transgender and gender non-conforming communities. The two-step question method outlines questions to ascertain “sex at birth” and “current gender identity” to affirm a participants gender identity and create understanding about potential clinical needs and biological implications. However, it was very interesting to engage in dialogue about the fact that this two-step method may not be effective for people who are intersex, and that there is great need to build and test questions that capture intersex experiences and conditions.

 

  • Here are some thoughts on where to go and what we need to do to continue doing good work around LGBTQ health and research…

 

  • e.shor lgbt health con
Conferences · Feature · Philly Trans health conference

Revolutionary: Asking the Hard Questions

Pride Center Staff Photo

 

 

Bishop S.F. Makalani-Mahee

Minister. Performing Artist. Community Organizer

 

 

 

One of the blessings I receive from attending conferences such as Philly Trans Health is the intentional creation of space for dialogue, dialogue  that not shares experience, strength, and hope; but dialogue that challenges our thoughts, assumptions, and bias.  Here the keynotes addresses serve as family gathering/meeting where we affirm one another and remind each other we are not alone; discuss how to function more healthily as a family, and we can hold  each other accountable in love.

I was sitting in a workshop where a trans woman of color was cautioning us to have the conversations that shines a light on our shame so that our youth know we haven’t always been who we are today, and there were times when we made choices (for whatever the reason maybe) that we were not always proud of.  However, we realize that we don’t have to carry the shame of those choices with us for the rest of our lives.   When we engage each other in conversations, and ask each other the hard questions we create a space of truth, trust, respect, and non-judgment.

I left that session asking myself  “Where am I not being honest, about owning my own shame based experiences?” This was a hard question that I would not have been able to ask myself had there not been the intentional creation of the space to have conversations that ask the hard questions, and the strength, boldness, and courage of people to show up and share their shame  spoken in truth that becomes warrior marks and the bridges to our destiny.

I also feel that these conversations and asking the hard questions provide a lifeline for those of us who live in places where there is not large trans communities, or visible people of color communities, or resources for them; and as such there is not an ongoing dialogue that addresses living in a world impacted by micro-aggression, and confronting an oppressive white supremacist –capitalist-patriarchy that doesn’t want us to engage with or empower each other; which really makes me think that having conversation and asking the hard questions may be one of the most revolutionary things we can do.

 

Continue To Walk In The Light, Redefine Your Faith, and Remember It’s All The Rhythm.

 

 

Creating Change 2013

Recap – A Flashback of Creating Change Day 3

Trevoi pic
 
 
   Trevoi Crump
   Guest Blogger 
  Recap – Creating Change Day 3 
 
 
“It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be. This, in turn, means that our statesmen, our businessmen, our every man must take on a science fictional way of thinking.” – Isaac Asmiov

•As I sit back and reflect on today’s festivities, I must say I’m completely in awe of all the information I consumed in one day. If you don’t remember, I’ve prepared a little refresher for your memory•

1. National Black Justice Coalition: This workshop was presented by Sharon J. Letterman-Hicks, Rodney King, Jr, Kimberly McLeod, and Je-Shawna Wholley. This workshop was absolutely amazing. It was great seeing so many young African American LGBT students, who are already activist in their local communities such as Marcus Lee from Morehouse, who wanted to know how to implement more programs such as NBJC on his HBCU college campus; or Shaunda from Boiling Springs, who took her issue of not having enough support from her own African American peers at her school, to the NBJC board members in hopes they would come up with numerous game plans to promote a change in that matter. I think this workshop was a sigh of relief for all college students in attendance. We saw the worries of other students, as well as heard the cries for help on each of their college campuses, but moreso, I myself felt better knowing that I’m not doing anything wrong , it’s not me. I was reassured to continue fighting for my rights as an LGBT African American young man.

2. Sex (Education) is a RIGHT: What a powerful workshop! It started off on a great note, I mean I was pretty friggin’ excited. Well, truthfully the topic “Sex Education” is what I really went for. Lol! But, I’m glad I did. The presentation, the presentors and the seminar it self completely dynamic; they took sex education to another level and made it easier to fully understand. They stressed the importance of knowing and understanding your sexuality, but most importantly practicing safe SEX!  They informed us on how the term “abstinence” til marriage is not necessarily a bad thing, many of us often beat ourselves up over being a virgin! But, it’s a GREAT thing to hold on to your innocence for aslong as you can. I definitely walked away from this seminar knowing way more, than I did before  I arrived in Atlanta.

Lastly, today during the plenary we recieved the ultimate surprise. That’s right, President Barack Obama sent a video message to Creating Change, during his message he stated “And Today, you’re helping lead the way to a future where everyone is treated equal with dignity and respect, no matter who they love or where they come from.He then concluded his address with these words, “I’m more confident than ever that we’ll reach a better future as long as Americans like you keep reaching for justice and all of us keep marching together.” It seems no matter which session I attened today the message was all the same, Equality never sleeps, we must press on daily working towards the prize which lies ahead. 

 
Until next time

-Tre

Conferences

“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!

Conferences

Support, Love & Knowledge!

Photo by Lucreshia Grant

 

by Alex Iantaffi, Guest Blogger

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

 

 

Balloons!

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.