The 2014 Meaningful Care Conference took place recently on Friday, March 28th in Portland, which is an effort of a group of LGBTQ-focused community programs who have joined together to promote cultural competency for healthcare and social service providers working with members of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) community. This key step in local efforts will improve health care utilization, satisfaction, and outcomes for LGBTQ consumers through expanding access to culturally competent care.
One of our Transgender Justice Working Group members, Gavin Everard attended the daylong event of workshops and resource, and we asked him to relay his experience while there.
I recently attended the 2014 meaningful care conference, and I was struck by one overwhelming impression: we are an amazingly canny, resourceful people. While LGBT people and our allies face very real and persistent oppression, we also have an enormous and powerful network of care and connection that we have painstakingly built over the years, and that we are continually expanding and strengthening.
I came in part representing the work of the Basic Rights Oregon transgender justice program, with which I volunteer. We are often involved in policy changes that seem obscure, yet dramatically impact the lives of transgender Oregonians, such as the rules about what it takes to change the gender marker on a birth certificate. This work can be exhilarating, because much of it is happening for the first time in this country, and it can also be incredibly daunting. I always find it refreshing then, to pan out from my own personal work and the work of my organization, and to see the fantastic breadth and depth of the community’s power.
As a millennial, I am acutely aware that I was blessed to come of age in the world that HIV/AIDS activists built for me. I had access to local organizations that educated me about safer sex, healthy relationships and sexual health screenings. While my home town was not exactly a queer-friendly place (just google Wheaton Christian college), it was also not characterized by anti-gay hysteria. There were older LGBT people that I could go to and ask questions, and who had done work that I can only fathom just to survive.
The resources that were there for me in my community were not there because of generous government support, or financial support from wealthy business people. Though those things do sometimes happen, the people who made my coming out and coming of age possible created their organizations in their spare time, without being paid in anything but the satisfaction of knowing they were building a better world.
This is the true measure of a successful social movement: not how many paid organizers there are (though they are lovely and necessary people), but to what extent the average person is willing and able to volunteer some of their precious time to the cause. I was struck many times by the unpaid labor that people put forth for this community at the conference, particularly in the case of Steven Barrios, who has worked for over and decade to do HIV testing and education, and almost entirely for free. There were many such people in Portland last week, doing work that is both public and private, seemingly great and small. Whether we are finding referrals for community members in need, advocating for changes in company policies, going on strike for better treatment, or educating the people around us (often at great personal emotional cost), our community has survived and thrived because of our collective actions.
Category: News: Transgender Justice