Welcome to Pride Month!
Originally started to honor the 1969 Stonewall Riots and a significant turning point in the gay rights movement. Today Pride celebrations are varied, some communities will host a parade, others a month long series of lectures, events and parties. For healthcare providers, pride month is an opportunity to examine more closely the needs of LGBTQ people, their challenges, successes and how we can be an affirming resource.
Our health and aging systems are not currently meeting the needs of LGBTQ+ people in a variety of ways.
As a care navigation agency, which specializes in the needs of LGBTQ people (link to website about section), the last year has been particularly enlightening. Being ill or getting older is difficult for everyone. The feeling that you are not as productive, capable, or active as you once were is incredibly disheartening. However, if you factor in the life-long stigma and discrimination that many LGBTQ+ people experience, being ill or older presents additional challenges.
At The Care Plan we have witnessed the personal struggles of many clients. Our clients have expressed a deep fear of coming out to their medical providers, and a fear of going into long term care with strangers who may victimize them. We have seen staff at hospitals call transgender clients the wrong name and pronoun despite repeated correction. We’ve conducted close to 30 trainings and programs in the last year on LGBTQ cultural competency. For many medical professionals, these trainings are the first or second time they are learning about the experiences of LGBTQ people in healthcare.
When 80% of LGBTQ residents in long term care stay in the closet out of fear of harassment, we are not living into the ethics of social services and health communities. When LGBTQ people die 12 years earlier in areas where being gay is highly stigmatized, it is clear why we still need Pride.
The story of Marsha Wetzel, a Chicago area lesbian woman who has experienced discrimination within a senior living community highlights the experience of many LGBTQ elders.
So how do we create culture change as aging service providers? How do we authentically serve and celebrate LGBTQ+ people beyond the month of June?
In order to build trust and develop space where it is okay to be LGBTQ, visibility is an important step in the right direction. Inherent bias in advertising and hiring practices means that there may be no images or visibly LGBTQ people within an organization. Gendered bathrooms, and exclusionary intake forms can reinforce the message that LGBTQ people aren’t welcome. Providers can prioritize training of staff throughout the organization, review policies, procedures, and practices to enhance competence. Partnerships with local LGBTQ centers to recruit employees and learn about the needs of these communities is a hands on approach to change.
A struggle many LGBTQ people experience is social isolation and loneliness. By increasing visibility and opportunities for connection within our organizations, we enhance quality of life for LGBTQ clients, staff and partners. The Care Plan hosts a quarterly networking event called South Side Swell for LGBTQ people who live or work on the south side of Chicago. The next event is June 9th, 6pm-8pm at 7041 S. Jeffrey, Chicago IL . The goal is to encourage collaboration and connection between providers in an often underserved community. We’ve hosted a Community Open House following the Pulse Orlando tragedy of 2016 which opened up collective grieving and healing space. These were the right avenues for our organization to provide meaningful time to connect and address community concerns.
Your organization may begin with a focus group or survey of staff and clientele to understand what they would recommend. A movie night, mixer, or your own Pride month celebration would also be a great way to start encouraging connection for your team and client base.
After increasing visibility and connection within our organizations, advocacy may be the right next step. Advocacy can happen on the local, state or national level. Raising awareness about legislation that impacts LGBTQ people within your community makes a difference. Currently the Department of Health and Human Services has 2 surveys which have removed questions on LGBTQ identity. These surveys collect data on a national level and contributes to important funding decisions.
If you’d like to discuss additional options for your organization, please contact us at 630-479-0093. We are available to consult on LGBTQ competency, provide CEU accredited trainings, and keep you informed of the latest in best practices. We wish you a wonderful Pride Month and appreciate your support of LGBTQ communities.
SAGE advocacy efforts