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.

Uncategorized

I Did It: Lunch With a Total Stranger

liz margolies

 

 

Liz Margolies, L.C.S.W.

Founder and Executive Director, National LGBT Cancer Network

 

 

woman-dines-alone-in-omotesando-1280x

As published on Huffington Post’s new LGBT Wellness blog, see original at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/liz-margolies-lcsw/i-did-it-lunch-with-a-total-stranger_b_5090289.html

When a white, atheist psychotherapist has lunch with the founder of Depressed Black Gay Men (DBGM), they each get food for thought.

We met by email when someone forwarded his information to me. The email didn’t even contain a last name, but it was one of the most eloquently written requests for information about LGBT cultural competency trainings I had ever read. Over the course of that day, Antoine Craigwell and I corresponded several times about our respective organizations, but he always avoided answering my direct questions about himself, his profession, or how he came to write so well. Instead he asked to meet for a one-hour lunch the next day at a Cuban restaurant in my neighborhood. I requested a picture so that I would recognize him when he arrived; he sent me a selfie with an intense gaze.

I arrived on time. (Remember, I’m a psychotherapist.) He was 20 minutes late, meaning a full third of our time was already gone, but he vanquished my annoyance with an immediate apology and charm. We took the last two seats at the counter, and I ordered the only vegetarian options available: rice, beans and tostones. He got liver and onions over his rice and beans. I tried to find out more about his personal life, but again, he gently deflected those attempts, keeping our discussion fascinating but academic, until we gradually moved to the focus of his work.

Several years ago, after attending the funeral of a young, black gay man who had taken his own life, Antoine decided to write a book. He is not a mental health professional but noticed three things that can make the experience of depression different for many black gay men: religiously fueled homophobia, stigma, and intraracism. Through interviews and extensive research he discovered that in this population depression is expressed not only in typical ways but often in ways that may include violence, anger, drug use and unsafe sexual practices. We engaged in an intense conversation about racism in diagnoses and untreated depression. When the form of depression is unrecognized and therefore undiagnosed, it is also left untreated. In fact, most studies report far lower rates of depression and mood disorders among blacks and Latinos than among whites. And yet, just as Antoine said, LGB youth who are also members of racial/ethnic minorities have a significantly increased risk of suicide attempts. Clearly, the measurement tools for diagnosing depression are inadequate for recognizing depression in many black gay men. In one report that I found after that lunch, 43 percent of black gay youth reported having thought about or attempted suicide as a result of issues related to their sexual orientation.

Antoine explained to me that the black church is the bedrock of many families and the community, but that in spite of offering invaluable systems for coping with sociocultural stressors, it often espouses a fundamentalist perspective on sexuality, causing some mothers to cast their sons out of families, sometimes for even a hint of homosexuality. The results are often disastrous. As an atheist mother of a queer son, my heart twisted in despair: I don’t think about religion very much, so I was struck by how support and condemnation contradict each other yet are so closely intertwined.

Feeling an urgency to reach more people than books can, Antoine switched directions, producing the documentary You Are Not Alone and founding DBGM, a nonprofit organization with a mission to raise awareness and save lives. “If by what I’m doing, one black gay man could be prevented from killing himself, then my job is done; his healing begins,” he said. Antoine has been showing the documentary around the country. It features powerful interviews with black gay men, religious leaders (Christian and Islamic) and mental health professionals.

According to Antoine, DBGM will soon launch a program entitled “I Am Working on Healing,” with two support groups: “Sons and Mothers” for black gay boys and their mothers, to encourage acceptance of their gay sons, and “My Sons” for black mothers whose sons have committed suicide. Antoine also offers cultural competency trainings wherever possible. “Aha!” I thought. “This may be where our work together begins.”

After lunch I thought about my own social activism, which is primarily focused oncancer, a disease that usually strikes later in life. I then thought about the young black gay men who would never reach adulthood and whose untreated and undiagnosed depression would mean that they would also never likely reach a psychotherapist’s office. I thought about how a good psychotherapist had saved my own son’s life and realized how fortunate we both are that he did. The 40-minute lunch shook me.

When I returned home, I Googled Antoine’s name and learned that my humble lunch-mate is an award-winning journalist. He is also, surely, a powerful agent for change.

To learn more about DBGM, visit their website.

Need help? Visit The Trevor Project or call them at 1-866-488-7386. You can also call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Follow Liz Margolies, L.C.S.W. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cancerlgbt

Uncategorized

CVS PHARMACY, TOBACCO AND THE LGBT COMMUNITY

MGB-headshot

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Michael G. Bare, MPH
Program Coordinator
National LGBT Cancer Network 

As you may have heard CVS pharmacy announced that it will no longer be carrying cigarettes and tobacco products. The CEO of CVS, whose father smoked and died young from cancer, stated that “cigarettes and tobacco products have no place in a setting where healthcare is delivered. This is the right thing to do.” Absolutely!

What does this have to do with LGBT people you ask? Plenty. Tobacco is one of our community’s biggest health problems. Even the federal government knows that. The 2014 Surgeon General’s Report on smoking clearly defined LGBT peoples as a population experiencing tobacco disparities. LGBT people smoke at a 68% higher rate than the population at large.  Prevalence of smoking among LGBT youth is somewhere in the range of 38% to 59%, whereas prevalence of smoking among all youth is in the 28% to 35% range. (1)  Removing tobacco products from the shelves of CVS stores’ will hopefully assist in lowering rates of smoking by reducing the availability and convenience of tobacco products.  Of course smokers could walk or drive down the street and get there cigarettes elsewhere, but there is reason to believe that the lack of availability can help cut the smoking rate. This new study shows that lesbian, gay and bisexual adults were more likely to smoke in states that had more permissive smoking laws. So, restricting access to tobacco is an effective way to reduce the tobacco use of LGBT people. CVS’ new policy is a step towards reversing the trend where tobacco sales have been normalized throughout society. This will hopefully shift some of the attitudes and conversation around smoking, especially in the LGBT community.

SmokingLGBT

But why stop there? With the diabetes epidemic growing, how can pharmacies that carry diabetes medications also justify carrying high sugar foods with little to no nutritional value? There is hope that CVS will inspire more shifts like this to enable a better health access and deliver paradigm.

Because of this action, and the potential prevention implications, the American Public Health Association has a petition to end tobacco sales in healthcare settings. I highly encourage you to sign and share this petition with your friends and loved ones!

(1) Lee JG, Griffin GK and Melvin CL. Tobacco use among sexual minorities in the USA, 1987 to May 2007: A systematic review. Tobacco Control. 2009; 18:275-282.