Leaders from the National Organization for Women (NOW) invited leaders of human rights organizations to discuss their efforts to support LGBTQ+ and other marginalized people in a June 23 panel during the organization's 2022 national conference in Chicago.
Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Interim President Joni Madison delivered the keynote speech and said people who believe in equality have to unite together amidst a "coordinated campaign to take away control over our bodies, our families, our lives, our futures."
In addition to addressing abortion rights, Madison spoke about the legislative attacks on trans and nonbinary youth across the country, such as laws preventing trans children from participating in sports, using the correct bathrooms and receiving life-saving medical care.
Madison explained activists need to work together to address all attacks on human rights since they're all born from the same ideology.
"When we uphold systems and institutions that maintain the status quo, a status quo of institutionalized white supremacy and its forces of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and xenophobia, we allow our democracy to decay," Madison said. "But, when we embrace the interconnected nature of our futures, we embrace the true possibility of liberation for ourselves, for each other, for generations to come."
The panel that followed included representatives from Equality Illinois, Youth Outlook and Brave Space Alliance. Speakers expanded upon the intersectional nature of their work and discussed the ongoing need for culturally competent and affirming healthcare for many marginalized groups.
Equality Illinois Deputy Director Mony Ruiz-Valesco spoke about legislation the organization introduced that would require healthcare providers to learn more about the needs of the LGBTQ+ community, communities of color, undocumented people and individuals with disabilities.
"We know that healthcare services are lacking in every way for so many communities," Ruiz-Valesco said. "We're making the case that without having this level of competency, doctors and others in healthcare really can't provide the care that's necessary and it's just as important as other kinds of continuing education they have to receive."
Nancy Mullenthe executive director of Youth Outlook, which operates centers where LGBTQ+ youth can access affirming resources and build community in suburban and rural areas of Illinoisapplauded these legislative efforts and expanded upon how difficult it can be for trans people to find doctors trained to provide care for them.
"By word of mouth, we might catch word of a doctor who's LGBTQ+ friendly in the western burbs, my own doctor is LGBTQ+ friendly but that does not make her LGTBQ+ competent," Mullen said. "I've been the lesbian, many times, where surgeons have insisted I take a pregnancy test while I'm standing there with my wife."
Brave Space Alliance (BSA) President and Founder LaSaia Wade agreed competency training is desperately needed and emphasized that healthcare providers should be required to treat patients equitably and reimagine healthcare in a less gendered way overall.
"A lot of the people who come to BSA have been through more horror stories from providers who were entrusted with their care than we can count," Wade said. "When we talk about competence, I want to couple that word with accountability because we know there are some folks who know full well what they're doing and not doing."