The annual observance shines a light on health inequities experienced by LGBTQ+ folk – and uplifts LGBTQ+ providers working to turn the tide.
By Barrett White
Every day, Legacy honors the ethos of National LGBTQ+ Health Awareness Week, dating back to our humble beginnings as a volunteer-run STI clinic operating out of a house on Westheimer. The health and wellness of Houston’s LGBTQ+ community has always been operative to the agency, long before the observance officially began in 2003.
“As we faced COVID-19 health disparities last year, health equity rose to the top of a national dialogue about healthcare,” says Jen Hadayia, Senior Director of Public Health at Legacy. “But, there won’t be true health equity if members of the LGBTQ community are still facing discrimination in healthcare and disproportionate rates of adverse health outcomes. National LGBTQ Health Awareness Week reminds us all of the critical importance of affirming health care, and we at Legacy Community Health are committed to reaching this goal. It’s not only what’s best for the health of our community, but it’s what LBGTQ people deserve.”
Part of the work is ensuring LGBTQ+ providers have a voice in the health care system:
“I have been part of the Legacy team for almost two years. As a transgender woman, I am so proud of what we do as a team and every day I am reminded of the struggle I have gone through in my life and how much better is has gotten. From being referred to as an ‘it’ at a DPS office to not being able to use a gym in the early portion of my transition in the early 2000s. It means the world to me that things that might seem normal to cisgender people – such as showing your license, filling out paperwork, or being called by a birth name, which could all be terrifying or embarrassing for trans and gender-nonconforming people – are not the norm here at Legacy. I love my job. I am happy and grateful to come to work every day with people like my Legacy colleagues, to serve my community regardless of their gender identity. I am thankful to all of the people who fought for my rights and for us to walk with pride. Every day is a beautiful day for me… but that was not always the case.”
Leenah Bacchus Jones, Patient Health Educator
“As a proud, out, gay, HIV-positive man working in Public Health at Legacy, I am filled with a sense of accomplishment and joy almost daily! After working in ASOs for 30-plus years, it is so great to be a part of HIV prevention through PrEP. My first 20 years of HIV work were filled with so much sadness, I consider myself lucky to be around to help get at-risk men and women on PrEP while helping our community to become less stigmatized and more sex-positive. I am also so happy to work in the era of ‘U=U’ and TASP [treatment as prevention], and to be able to tell newly diagnosed persons that they should live a normal lifespan if they take medication! It means a lot to me as a member of the LGBTQ community to be able to help take care of ‘my people’, including the HIV-positive community. I am proud to work for Legacy because we offer healthcare to those who otherwise might not be able to access it due to social and economic reasons that affect the LGBTQ community.”
Steve Stellenwerf, Patient Health Educator
“There is something uplifting working for an agency that embraces you for who you are. Working for an agency that supports you to empower lives is very rewarding.”
Miguel Jacquez, Outreach Coordinator
Despite advancements in equality for the LGBTQ+ community, inequities still exist – especially in health care. Legacy aims to change that through considered and competent leadership. No one should ever feel unwelcome during their most vulnerable times, like when discussing health concerns with a physician or accessing STI or HIV testing services.
One of Legacy’s foremost guiding principles is diversity and inclusion, caring for anyone who walks through our doors, without judgment.
Legacy understands that receiving care without discrimination can be a challenge, but it shouldn’t prevent you from getting the care you need. Health care is a right – not a privilege – and Legacy is here for you.