Connecting our world at UW Medicine

What Pride Month Means to Me

Nowadays, Pride events are usually revelatory parades and joyful celebrations — which is amazing but isn’t the way Pride started. The first Pride was an uprising.

On June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn in New York City, a local gay club. Such police raids were common at the time, and laws prohibited LGBTQ+ people from being themselves out in public.

The raid led to a six-day uprising — and was an important moment in the LGBTQ+ rights movement. Activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, both transgender, self-identified drag queens of color, are recognized as playing a major role in the Stonewall Uprising.

While Pride Month — and every month — is a perfect opportunity to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, it is also an important time to recognize that, while we have come a long way, there is still work to be done to truly achieve equity.

With this dual purpose in mind — celebrating and doing the work — we reached out to members of the LGBTQ+ community here at UW Medicine to get their reflections on pride, allyship and what progress still needs to be made.

Victor Moses, SLP, Health Services Manager, Comprehensive Outpatient Rehab Program

“I take pride in the fact we in the LGBTQIA+ community generally have a strong sense of community of help. We have been caretakers for our friends and chosen family when our families of origin and larger society have not seen, embraced or cared for us. I think this community of compassion and acceptance has only made me a better healthcare provider and a better person.

I think support in action is the best way to support the community — move beyond being an ally and become an accomplice. Heteronormative privilege may allow an accomplice to reach friends, family members, employers and our legislators in a way that we are not able to.”

Victor Moses
Victor Moses

Mariebeth (MB) Velasquez, MD, Clinical Instructor & Queer Medical Student Association (QMED) Faculty Advisor, UW School of Medicine

“I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in medicine after working with high-risk youth, in suicide prevention and in schizophrenia research. I wanted to understand all dimensions and components of a person’s health and be equipped to address the areas in need of healing, as well as promote wellness.

I take pride in the intersectionality of my identity as an underrepresented minority (second generation Filipina American), cisgender, queer woman with a disability. I also take pride in the UW Medicine Queer Community of students, residents, fellows, staff, faculty and allies who have stepped up to participate in our newly launched QMED Mentorship Program across all WWAMI regions.

As invisible minorities, we need to be more intentional about increasing LGBTQ+ visibility at UW Medicine to build community, identify and develop mentorship connections for personal and professional development, and feel that there is representative leadership to advocate for inclusion and equity through our lens as well. It’s time that we embrace our diverse and dynamic, authentic selves and have the institutional support to flourish in our scholastic and professional lives.

People can best support me and others in the LGBTQ+ community by having a posture of humility, recognizing power, privilege, bias and inequities, calling it out and keep showing up for members of our community when indicated. We need to do a better job of including LGBTQ+ health material in curricula and training. Celebrate PRIDE every day with us!”

Mariebeth Velasquez
Mariebeth Velasquez

Genya Shimkin, MPH, Assistant Teaching Professor of Family Medicine

“I was passionate about public health before I knew the field of public health existed; I was always interested in human rights and politics and activism. Then I learned about Stonewall and the AIDS crisis in high school, solidifying my passion for health justice. Public health gave me the language and tools to operationalize those values.

I love being part of a community with such incredible history and power. I stand on the shoulders of queer and trans giants. We have existed since time immemorial and we are still here, still fighting, still pushing towards a world that uplifts all LGBTQ+ people, especially our Black and brown trans siblings, who have always been on the front lines of our revolution.

Black transgender women and other trans women of color experience horrifying rates of violence. Supporting the LGBTQ+ community means uplifting our most marginalized members and not assuming a rising tide raises all boats. This means challenging your assumptions about gender, sexuality, pronouns and relationships. It means supporting policy proposals that address basic needs for LGBTQ+ people. It means be willing to stand in solidarity across lines of race, gender, sexuality, class, religion, ability and any other social category. It means recognizing that ours is a shared struggle.

Medicine is still a fraught space for many LGBTQ+ people. Indeed, we were classified as “mentally ill” until 1973 (and many trans people still are!), and our community still experiences significant health disparities and healthcare discrimination as a result of systemic oppression. We need to see more LGBTQ+ people in health care as possibility models so that LGBTQ+ youth know there is space for them in this world, and so that patients can see their life experiences reflected in their care teams, and we need LGBTQ+ people in health care leadership driving change that makes our system more equitable and affirming for all LGBTQ+ patients and community members.”

Genya Shimkin

Teresa Busch, MSW, LICSW Social Work and Care Coordination Manager

“My decision to pursue a career in social work was a culmination of life experiences. My home was unstable due to my father’s alcoholism. Our fundamentalist Christian church helped my family through poverty and stress. This made me want to help others, but I had no idea how. I was in Bible College, getting my BA in psychology, when I allowed myself to acknowledge that I was gay. This was painful as I had to wrestle with the beliefs I was raised with and the truth of who I am.

After graduation, I lived in a group home as a counselor for youth whose families were unable to care for them due to multiple psychosocial stressors. Pursuing social work allowed me to understand more about suffering because of systemic oppression and helped me develop the self-determination to accept myself and the tools to help others find their resilience.

I am proud that I have been able to accept myself. I am proud that I can withstand and not conform to the conservative notions of femininity. The queer community is about celebrating identity and diversity. For many of us, our families cannot provide celebration or validation, so being connected to others who fully see you, care about you and celebrate you makes a world of difference.”

Teresa Busch
Teresa Busch

Jonathan Miguel Jimenez, Assistant Nurse Manager, Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery Center

“I love, love that the LGBTQ+ community is constantly expanding and growing to include more people and identities. We still have a long way to go to become more inclusive and welcoming to everyone on the human spectrum, but there is always room for everyone.

Seeing leaders that you identify with is so powerful, but it is especially meaningful for folks in the LGBTQ+ community, who, like so many other groups, are marginalized here in the U.S. and around the globe. UW Medicine is such a wonderful organization because of the people who work here and, as the saying goes, variety is the spice of life. SO, let’s continue to spice it up!”

Jonathan Jimenez
Jonathan Jimenez

Stephen L., BSN, RN, OCN

“I wanted to do something in my career that is challenging, evolving and makes a difference in others’ lives. As a nurse I have been an educator, mentor, leader and advocate for both my patients and peers. My lived experiences and understanding of LGBTQIA+ health disparities guide my passion to promote public health initiatives for LGBTQIA+ individuals. I hope to make healthcare safer and more accessible for my community within my career and provide services in sexual and reproductive health or transgender health in the future.

I often find it challenging to navigate the healthcare system as a Queer individual and a person of color. When I reflect on my own experiences as a patient, there were many moments in which I experienced being misunderstood, harassed and denied access to healthcare due to ignorance and fear. This often led me to put my own health at risk and avoid seeking further healthcare services due to my negative experiences with uneducated providers. Representation of LGBTQIA+ staff at all levels of at UW allows the institution to have providers that are aware and capable to care for the unique and different health needs of those within this community. In turn, this creates positive impacts on workplace culture as well.

I have chosen to identify as Queer — reclaiming a word with a history of pain. I understand Queer to be unyielding, proud, encompassing and flexible. To identify as Queer means to find love in difficult spaces and to escape all definition of what society mandates of me. Coming out as Queer was an arduous journey, but every adversity I encountered shaped each aspect of my nursing practice and leadership. I now proudly wear the pride symbol on my badge as a nurse, not only to give myself permission to be who I am but also to let my patients know it’s okay for them to safely be their authentic selves at UW as well.”

Stephen L.
Stephen L.

Meri Gilman, MSW, LICSW, Hematology Oncology Social Worker

“The first thing that comes to mind about pride is having the opportunity to live the values of inclusivity, compassion and respect. I have witnessed over many years the expansion of inclusivity and acceptance within the LGBTQIA+ identified community and I hope this acceptance continues to evolve. I stand in solidarity with any person or community whose values reflect acceptance, respect, inclusiveness and equity.

I think that dialoging and getting to know people as multifaceted individuals with a spectrum of life experiences is the best support anyone can provide to others. I am not just one identity and that is also the joy of sharing and getting to know people for who they are and respect what they choose to share with me. It is important not to make assumptions and let others share with you according to their comfort level, which can build trust. UW Medicine can continue to provide support with healthcare programs, services and education in serving the LGBTQIA+ community where those receiving and providing care can feel safe.”

Meri Gilman

Ashley McLoud, Clinical Social Worker

“I’m proud that I’ve never felt ashamed of myself or who I was with and expected the same rights and treatment as everyone else. I fought for marriage equality in California in 2008 when Prop 8 passed, which was a pivotal moment where I realized my rights couldn’t be taken for granted. It’s mind-boggling to me that my marriage to my wife wouldn’t have been possible not long ago.

I like it when people use the same terms I use. For example, when I say, ‘my wife’ and then someone refers to her as ‘your partner,’ it feels diminishing. Also, we should try to use gender-neutral pronouns until we know the pronouns of a person’s significant other and feel comfortable correcting ourselves. When I told one co-worker I was engaged, he said, ‘Who’s the lucky guy?’ and I told him about my fiancée. He later apologized over email for the assumption. I hadn’t felt that offended in the moment but it felt really good that he took the time to recognize the mistake and write an apology.

Diversity is so important because we need all backgrounds and identities at the table making decisions. LGBTQ+ rights, especially transgender rights, are under attack so we need to continue to prioritize justice and activism as an institution. It’s important that LGBTQ+ folks feel safe and supported at work, which to me means seeing UW actively engage in advocacy work.”

Ashley McLoud

Jeremy Wyatt, MBA, Manager of Perioperative Services

“I take Pride in being an openly gay man within the healthcare world. What adds even more personal Pride is being in management and helping to make the world a more inclusive place for our patients and staff.

To support the LGBTQ+ community, have an open mind to different perspectives. Know that we can help our patients and staff more when we acknowledge our own personal bias and put aside fear from the unknown. Know that an open and inclusive environment does not take away from one group and give it to another. It simply just offers everyone the same level of privilege.

If you see me, you can be me. It’s important for the youth of today to see people that they can connect with, people that represent them or have the same identity as they do in key positions. This will help enable them to follow their dream and be their best person.”

Jeremy Wyatt
Jeremy Wyatt

Dan Brelsford, MD, Family Physician and Chair of the Valley LGBTQ Advisory Committee

“I was always interested in health and athletics, but it wasn’t until a few years after university that I realized medicine was my calling. I love being a gay family physician — to offer tailored care to the LGBTQ+ community. I know many of us have had poor interactions with healthcare in the past, and I am actively working to counteract that going forward.

We can support the LGBTQ community by showing up and showing you care. Go to queer spaces, follow queer artists, vote for queer politicians and allies. Hold those around us accountable.”

Dan Brelsford
Dan Brelsford

Matthew Holzknecht, RN

“I am proud of the resilience that many in the LGBTQ+ community have developed in ourselves as we navigate through different spaces. Treat us with the same kindness that you treat others with. Ask questions when you don’t understand something. Show extra support for the younger LGBTQ+ people in your life.

Having LGBTQ+ people at all levels at UW Medical Center has set a high standard of support. You can see it in our policies, the care we provide to our patients and the respect we show each other in our practice.”

Matthew Holzknecht
Matthew Holzknecht

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