June is pride month. My feelings about pride today come from knowing that Stonewall was a riot led by trans women of color. These people that I will never know putting their bodies at risk led to me being able to marry my wife, to file taxes as a single household, to grow our family through the birth of our daughter. To call her OUR daughter. Our house. Our marriage. To be momma and mommy. Being recognized matters.

While the Stonewall riots are commemorated by a nearby national historic park, the fight for equality is far from over.  We see this through violence against people of color every day. We see this in the differences in deaths rates from COVID-19. We have work to do.

One of the resources that really helped me understand what being gay feels like to someone who is not gay is Andrew Soloman’s Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity. He talks about the vertical identity that you may directly share with your parents and children such as being black, speaking Spanish, being Jewish; compared to horizonal identity that you do not necessarily share with your parents or children such as being gay, being deaf, being autistic. Soloman is gay and bases his perspective in that experience. As he thinks through his process of becoming a father, he talks to and learns from parents with children vastly different from themselves, often experiencing difficult circumstances like having schizophrenia, as they balance accepting their children with wanting to help their children find a place within our society. Through this process they find community, as I have found with my LGBTQ+ community.

I am listening to the blog All My Relations by hosts Matika and Adrienne discuss their identities as indigenous women. They talk about consenting to learning in public – a phrase that resonates with the conversations and the work that we do in our Bree Collaborative. Identity is both shared and individual. Your lived experience is no ones but yours – and I know that there is some intangible comfort that I find in being in the presence of other lesbian mommas. There is grace in the community of collective hardship and collective experience.

I am thinking about my experience learning in public at last week’s reproductive and sexual health workgroup meeting that trauma-informed care is not just being really nice. I believe that while any person can learn how a cell works, what insulin does to the body, how our body’s systems work together, we can never know what it truly means to walk in another person’s shoes and must honor this contribution to the patient-provider relationship. 

I come back to the idea of radical empathy that I mentioned in last week’s blog. Of wanting to be able to be empathetic to someone who has not had the opportunity of knowing how to try to walk in someone else’s shoes. Empathy requires a lot of energy, a lot of time spent building space within yourself between an interaction and jumping to a conclusion.

Taking the next step of bringing radical empathy into clinical care is essential if we are to impact disparities. Meeting a person where they are is based in autonomy and acknowledging that any one person is an expert at being them. This does not often happen to people of color, people of size, those who are transgender or gender non-conforming, those who are HIV+. Our medical system is often not empowering of those who do not fit what our American society has deemed the platonic ideal of personhood – white, straight, male, cisgender.

At every meeting, our Bree Collaborative consents to having our preconceived ideas about medical care challenged and informed by research and by lived experience all in the eye of the public – and that is powerful. I am grateful for that opportunity, for your community.

Although we cannot celebrate with the parade, the floats, the rainbow banners of years past, I feel proud to be myself, walking in my shoes, and I invite everyone to share in the community of pride as well. Remember to read our LGBTQ Health Care Recommendations too.

Ginny Weir, MPH
Director, Bree Collaborative