The Network

for LGBT Tobacco Control

MidMO Teaser

Megan Lee

Goddess and She rocked my socks off, I got a whole row of seats on the flight home (!!!), the weather has finally warmed up, and though it’s taken me two weeks, I’m back in action.

Creating Change gave me such opportunties to connect with others, learn about work being done across the country, and share with folks the work that I’m a part of. Now that Creating Change has come and gone, why stop the sharing?

That’s right, folks. I’ve got some more things to say and you, lucky internet audience, get to read all about it.

There is so much LGBTQ health disparity and tobacco related work being done right now here in MidMO and I’m stoked that I’ll be getting to share it with you. But, before I jump on that wagon, I wanted to give you a quick introduction to where I’m coming from.

Columbia, Missouri is pretty much smack-dab in the middle of the state of Missouri (which is pretty much smack-dab in the middle of the country). If you’re looking for middle America, we’ve got it. CoMo is home to several major colleges, including the University of MO (Mizzou Tigers, for those who care about collegiate sports), which means we have some awesome opportunities related to rural outreach and research (which is what I’ll be sharing with you most).

Columbia isn’t the only thing happening in Missouri, though. Between St. Louis to the east, Kansas City to the west, and Springfield to the south, there’s a lot happening here in MO. We’ve got a huge array of populations and communities from vastly rural to major metropolitain. We may not have it all figured out yet, but we’re taking huge steps to lead the way here in the Midwest, especially in tobacco related research.

And, on that note, stay tuned for updates from Missouri in the coming weeks and months. I’ll look forward to hearing from you, too!

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February 18, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Reflection

Megan Lee
Blogger Scholar, reporting from Creating Change, Minneapolis 2011


As a “blogger scholar” at this conference, I have been charged with blogging about the sessions I’ve attended in order to share information with those not at the conference or those not in the particular sessions I’ve attended. But my time in Minneapolis hasn’t been all learning and note-taking. Far from it. And in that spirit, as the 2011 Creating Change Conference begins to wind down, I’d like to give a few shout-outs to some other rockin’ things I’ve gotten to expeirence in this great city.

Hell’s Kitchen. Delicious steak and eggs, homemade peanut butter, and decor to envy. Also a wonderful venue for Soul Friday and Drrty Queers providing a space for queer women of color and their allies and excellent dance space.

Soul Friday. A dance party by and for women of color and their allies. The fact that there isn’t any space to stretch your arms is a testament to how awesome this dance party is.

Dirty Queers. Dirty, kinky, queer, sexuality and art show featuring all your favorite sex toys from whips to baked goods. Genderific performances followed by a ridiculous dance party. Hott.

During a break between sessions, sitting at the Cyber Cafe, I struck up conversation with Mary and Margaret, two ab-fab dykes over 60 who are doing major work to collect the oral histories of older lesbians. Their project is called The Old Lesbian Oral Herstory Project and it involves gathering life stories, archiving them at Smith College, and re-presenting women’s stories back to them in a book. Margaret’s even written a book about it.

My conversation reminded me of something I too often forget: we have to talk to our elders. In the queer community, there are myriad reasons causing disconnect between generations, but we have to work to rebuild this bridge lest we lose our rich history. When our stories aren’t written down, aren’t spoken, aren’t shared, aren’t celebrated, they are lost. Talking to Mary and Margaret reminded me that sometimes the best learning doesn’t come from anything more than a quick chat over coffee. I hope we keep in touch.

And now, it’s time for God-des and She. Look for one more post from me and then it’s back to CoMo!

February 6, 2011 Posted by | Creating Change 2011 | Leave a comment

Queering Reproductive Justice

  Megan Lee
  Blogger Scholar, reporting on Creating Change, Minneapolis 2011

  Queering Reproductive Justice: The Intersection of Reproductive Health and LGBTQ Liberation
  Veronica Bayetti Flores, Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas

Reproductive justice is the profound idea that everyone, regardless of race, age, ability, national origin, socio-economic status, spirituality, sexuality, language, gender identity and/or expression, has equal rights and access to reproductive health services in order to make informed decisions about their health, if/when/how they decide to have a family, and to parent children if they choose to do so. Wow. Doesn’t this seem like an obvious right that we should all have access to? Reproductive justice is not a solidarity issue for LGBTQ individuals; it is OUR issue.

The importance of recognizing the intersections of reproductive justice with the LGBTQ community.

If a transman needs a pap smear, what does he do? Will his insurance cover this preventative care (an effective means of preventing cervical cancer) if he is listed as “male” on his insurance? And if he is diagnosed with cervical cancer and needs to receive care, will his provider be able to adequately serve him? Will he even be able to find a provider that’s willing to talk to him?

I want to talk about abortion for a minute. Veronica Bayetti Flores spoke to the point that some people, even in the LGBTQ community, don’t feel like abortion is a queer issue. This is ridiculous and short-sighted and leaves out huge facets of our communities. Consider:

  • Behavior is not the same as identity. And that’s okay.
  • Bisexuals.
  • Research has shown that LGBQ youth are at higher risks for unintended pregnancies as they work out their identities as young people.
  • Anyone with a functional uterus can get pregnant.
  • Sexual assault.
  • Even intentional pregnancies sometimes need to be terminated (example: if a pregnancy is carried out, the mother would need to be on dialysis for life).

We have got to stop separating ourselves apart and pretending that just because we, as individuals, may not have any intention of getting pregnant, abortion and pregnancy related reproductive care isn’t relevant for our community. It is. And people are dying while we try to work all this out.

This session was amazing, wrought with super important information, and frankly, I wish I could just link to the full presentation. But, in the meantime, check out the organization that the amazing presenters hail from: National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.

Ultimately, this session was a huge reminder that our health is a crucial topic that we need to continue to focus on. And not just the issues relevant to ourselves as individuals, but those affecting everyone in our communities.

February 5, 2011 Posted by | Creating Change, Creating Change 2011, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Project H.E.A.L.T.H. (is awesome)

 Megan Lee
 Blogger Scholar

 Trailblazing for Transgender Health
 Kristina Wertz, Mason Davis, Michelle Enfield

The list of things transgender people need to be healthy is extensive: medical care, insurance coverage, mental health services, substance abuse providers, gender identity specific non-discrimination laws, sexual health education and screenings, case management support, community and interpersonal supports. Oh, and in order for this to all work adequately, all of these things need to be culturally competent, resepctful, affordable, and accessible. Providing healthcare that adequately serves the transgender community is no small feat, but Project H.E.A.L.T.H. is making some significant forays into creating a better system.

Mason Davis, of Lyon Martin Health Services, explains the clinic assessment given to clinics interested in better serving transgender people in their community.

Project H.E.A.L.T.H., which stands for Harnessing Education, Advocacy, and Leadership for Transgender Health, is a trifecta of community collaboration, bringing together Lyon Martin Health Services, Transgender Law Center, and Equality California to address three primary areas: training for medical staff and clinics, education related to legal rights and responsibilies for transgender health care, and community building and collaboration. Project H.E.A.L.T.H. works with clinics either on a short-term (one or two meetings) or long-term (6 months to one year) planning and creates work plans for cultural competency, clinical competency, connections with community, and evaluation. Seriously awesome stuff.

Coming from Columbia, Missouri (and not Los Angeles or San Francisco, California, where the Project is hosted), the work is a little down the road from where my community is. But the greatest take away for me was, as Mason Davis (originally from MO) reminded us: don’t underestimate the one provider or health clinic that wants to more adequately serve transgender individuals in their communities.

I’m stoked and geared up to get back to my community and share the resources from this session. We may be just beginning to look at gender identity non-discrimination policies in Columbia and we may have a long way to go, but there are some rock stars laying a great path for us out in California.

February 5, 2011 Posted by | Creating Change 2011 | 2 Comments

TranShorts

 

 Megan Lee
 Blogger Scholar

Last night, the Trans Hospitality Suite (#1936, for those at the conference) hosted a screening of some short films by and about transgender, genderqueer, and intersex people/issues/stories from the Los Angeles Transgender Film Festival. From avant garde to hilarious (and sometimes both), the films portrayed reality and fiction with stunning clarity for the humor and beauty that weaves in and out of transgender lives.

A Korean transwoman attends a public bath with her sister. The comedic journey of Facial Feminization Surgery (FFS). A cartoon play out of the eternally irritating inquiry: “what are you (Lil Basenji?)”. A surprisingly sweet, touching, and genderific interaction in front of a restaurant bathroom. The answer to how exactly you “TransProof” your apartment. And, ultimately Queerer Than Thou, written, produced, and directed by people who are self-identified as queerer than anyone watching the film. Who is the queerest and how do we decide? Queers and peers – you’re going to want to watch this. Hilarious.

The films are brought to us in part by Reel Boi Productions and, if last night was any indication of the types of films coming out of the TG Film Fest and Reel Boi Productions, there is a whole lot of good coming down the line.

February 5, 2011 Posted by | Creating Change 2011 | Leave a comment

All Sorts of Sexy!

 Megan Lee
 Blogger Scholar

 Mapping Your Desire
Dr. Jaime Grant, Ignacio Rivera, Jack Harrison, Amelie Zurn

Interested in getting 100 queers in the same room, attentive and ready to learn? Talk about sex. Title the session “Mapping Your Desire” and create a workshop designed to create a “life-long journey toward sexual empowerment and a more just world”, and believe me, they’ll be there. I mean, that’s why I went, right?

Desire Mapping is a tool designed to create a powerful and authentic understanding of yourself and your sexuality. As a concept, it sounds easy, but the process is surprisingly complex. As Dr. Jaime Grant explained, the most important thing in creating your sex biography is to tell the

Jaime Grant discusses plotting "points" on a Desire Map.

 truth, which is harder than it might seem. Getting honest about the “points” on your map requires really opening up to your own, well, desires.

Each of the panelists opened with one of their particular Desire Map points – stories from their pasts and the ways that has created the fulfilling and honest sexual experiences they have now. From there, the audience worked through our own Desire Maps. One of the things I appreciated from the session was that all range of sexual experiences were validated and welcomed from self-identified “vanilla” to “kinky switch whore”. As Dr. Grant pointed out, even people who have had no sexual experiences can still utilize and wholly benefit from a Desire Map because no sexual activity is still a concious choice.

The take away message (beyond the idea that open, honest sexual desire is healthy, natural, and good)? Consent and mutual respect are the bedrock of healthy sexuality.

Panelists Dr. Jaime Grant, Ignacio Rivera, Jack Harrison, and Amelie Zurn listen as an audience member desribes a discovery “point” on their Desire Map.

February 5, 2011 Posted by | Creating Change 2011 | 2 Comments

Running the Right Way on a Moving Sidewalk

Megan Lee

Blogger Scholar

Walking Our Talk: Applying a Racial Justice Lens in Our Organizations
Gita Gulati-Partee, OpenSource Leadership Strategies, Inc.

In her book Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria, Beverly Daniel Tatum explains the roles we play in structures of systematic racism and white privilege as walking on a moving sidewalk with essentially three choices: walk forward, stand still, or turn around

Outlining organizational activities that (1) actively perpetuate, (2) passive collude, or (3) resist/interrupt systems of racism.

and walk the other way. The forward motion of the sidewalk is ultimately progressing towards the same end and whether you’re walking briskly in that direction or you’re standing still, things are still moving in that direction. Thinking about racism, individuals can fall into these three camps: moving briskly towards upholding systematic racism (Actively Perpetuate), passively “going with the flow” (Passively Collude), or working to dismantle the systems as they exist (Resist/Interrupt). Most folks identifying as progressive are likely working to find themselves in the latter.

The trouble is that the movement between these three camps is exactly that: movement. Action. Intentionality. Working to create an intentional movement towards racial equity and organizationally embodying not just diversity, not just cultural competency, and not just inclusion, but full, radical, racial equity is crucial to the success of any organization working to serve communities. This work does come from merely talking about race, it comes from taking a hardline look at the policies, procedures, structure, and approach of your organization and calling out passivism for what it is: passive compliance.

This morning’s academy was a fantastic opening to the weekend. The group was small, but it only allowed the conversation to get that much deeper, and I definitely walked away with tangible ideas to begin moving away from passivity and towards racial equity. It’s not just something I want to do, it’s something we need to do.

Rev. Rebecca Voelgel and Gita Gulati-Partee discuss the multiple approaches to moving our organizations towards racial equity.

Things are moving fast here. Last count I heard was pushing 2000 folks here at the conference (which is a lot of gay, trust me).

More soon.

February 4, 2011 Posted by | Creating Change 2011 | Leave a comment

We actually made it to Minneapolis!

 By Megan Lee

 Blogger Scholar

Despite several cancelled and rescheduled flights, closed highways and interstates, and 22.3 inches of snow, Dean and I have officially made it to the 2011 Creating Change conference! We got in half-way through the Thursday Day Institutes (ours was a focus on Health Advocacy – check out Dean’s blog entry for a great summary!) and have since been meeting, greeting, and eating.

During downtime, I’ve been trying to figure out my schedule for the weekend (yours truly falls on the ‘very’ end of the organized spectrum). Our agenda is packed to the gills with all sorts of great sessions to attend. A few that I’m looking forward to:

  • Walking Our Talking: Applying a Racial Justice Lens in Our Organizations
  • Beyond Transgender Inclusion to Transformation
  • Need a Fourth For Bridge: Small Town/Rural Organizing
  • White Privilege in the Queer Community: Holding Each Other Accountable
  • How to State an Anti-Violence Project: Lessons and Strategies from the NCAVP

And I haven’t even looked at all the session options yet. I’m just beyond excited.

Oh yeah. And God-Des and She are hosting the Closing Plenary Brunch. I’m just saying.

I think one of the really important things that Creating Change does is create space for all sorts of people and ideas and identities. At home, I have a wonderful, supportive group of family and friends and have the privilege of existing in spaces that feel safe for me. But being here, surrounded not just by hundreds upon hundreds of other LGBTQ folks, but hundreds of LGBTQ folks who think like me or look like me or believe the same things I do and hundreds of LGBTQ folks who don’t.  I’m really looking forward to the opportunities to experience, to watch, to hear,  to learn, to teach, to listen and to speak!

The last time I attended Creating Change, back in 2007, my world was absolutely rocked. I attended sessions on sex and sexuality in the Disabilities community, break-outs on the intersections of oppression, issues facing older LGBTQ individuals/families, and a day-long institute on economic justice (held by Queers for Economic Justice). At the end of the conference, my mind was blown by Loretta Ross. She shared her personal story (the personal IS political!) and her presentation on the Seven Basic Human Rights changed my life. Coming back to Creating Change 4 years later promises to expand my horizons and open my mind yet again. I’m stoked.

Many thanks to the Missouri Foundation for Health and The Network for LGBT Health Equity for this fantastic opportunity. Be sure to follow the blogs as we dip in and out of sessions and report back to our communities what we’re experiencing here.

Much love to all those digging out from the blizzard across the country (Albuquerque to New York, it seems!) and I wish all of you reading could be here!

February 4, 2011 Posted by | Creating Change 2011 | Leave a comment

   

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