Welcome to the 2016 CFHA Annual Conference! The opening
plenary session included remarks by current president Natalie Levkovich and
incoming president Tina Runyan. The Don Bloch award was presented by John
Rolland and given to Barry Jacobs, a worthy recipient. Check here for a video
of the presentation.
The actual plenary session was an incredible, multimodal
presentation of video, music, and live speakers. Directed by Randall Reitz and
moderated by Jodi Polaha, the theme was “LGBT at CFHA” and included a panel with Beth
Evelyn Barber, Michelle Evers, Steven Migalski, and Stacey Williams.
The first video introduced the audience to several LGBT
advocates: a University of Chicago student, a state department worker in Brazil,
and a Mormon couple in Seattle. Jodi started with a question: what does an
organization do when they’re locked into a conference site in a state that
passed controversial legislation affecting the LGBT community? Here is our
response: we will hold up the LGBT community!
During the first video, the Seattle couple shared their
experience of raising a 10 year old transgendered boy. When he was younger, he
hated his hair and insisted on wearing hats to hide his hair. One day, when the
boy was three years old, the mother found him in bed crying and asked him what
was wrong. He said, “Why would Heavenly Father make me a girl when I’m a boy”.
The mother responded, “I love you no matter what”. Years later, the boy was
teased at a Sam’s Club store which upset the entire family. The mother pleaded
with the father “Get us out of this state. We can’t raise our child here”.
Stacey Williams then took the stage to explain the terrible
health disparities that LGBT patients face. She attributes these disparities to
minority stress at the individual and structural levels. “Even if they don’t
experience it firsthand” Stacey says, “they can experience it through
anticipation, constantly monitoring the environment to see if it’s safe”. She
quoted one study that demonstrated the higher rates of mortality that LGBT face
compared to the general population.
Beth Barber then identified the barriers to affirmative
healthcare. “One of the easiest ways to demonstrate your acceptance of LGBT as
a clinic” Beth says, “is to place a rainbow sticker or sign on your building”.
Other strategies include developing non-discrimination policy, labeling
bathrooms as gender neutral, placing LGBT-friendly reading materials in the
waiting room, and being willing to open the conversation about LGBT
health-related issues. She cited the Fenway Institute
Guidelines as an excellent resource for talking to patients about gender,
assigned sex, and preferred names.
The panel then discussed together the need for addressing
LGBT health in every health setting and how clinicians can assess if minority
stress is contributing to the presenting problem at a medical visit.
Steven Migalski continued the plenary by recounting his
story of coming out as a gay man. After growing up in Chicago, he completed
graduate studies at Auburn University where he came out and then became involved
in LGBT advocacy efforts. At one point he was interviewed on CNN which is how
his family learned about his orientation. “We have come a long way since I
started at Auburn” Steven says. “The fact that I can speak to you this openly
is a sign of that. Please, let’s keep it moving forward.”
The next video included the student, the state department
worker, and the couple all suggesting ways in which clinicians be
person-centered and address LGBT health issues.
Steven then took the stage again to deliver ten guiding
principles for compassionate care:
Use sex and gender accurately
A binary for gender and sex does not reflect
Differentiate between gender role, expression,
Know and use gender queer appropriately
Use transgender and cisgender
Appropriately use transman and transwoman
Distinguish between social, emotional, and
Understand intersectionality of sexual and
Mange pronouns sensitively
assume homogeneity of identity and experience
Steven also identified several common missteps to avoid: education
burdening, gender inflation, gender narrowing, gender avoidance, gender generalizing,
gender repairing, gender pathologizing, and rigid gate-keeping. He encouraged
clinicians to show their humanity to patients because then that gives
permission to patients to do so as well.
The final story was given by Michelle Evers who shared her
experience of growing up in a loving family in Ohio and then slowly discovering
her identity as a lesbian woman over time. This discovery included periods of
uneasiness, recognizing she did not fit in with the normative. She considers
herself to be on a continuum of sexual orientation rather than a concrete
binary. She then shares how her story has affected her work as a nurse
practitioner with LGBT patients.
The audience left feeling inspired and informed. The
presentation ended with a quote by Mia Kirshner: “I think one’s sexuality can
be the center of life, and coming out and discovering your sexuality is
something that really can define your existence”.