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Blog Out in Healthcare

Out in Healthcare: Enrique Puentes, OTS

Name: Enrique Puentes

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Identity: Gay

Background: Both of my parents immigrated from Colombia, and I was born in Washington, D.C. I grew up in Northern Virginia but have spent the last fourteen years living in Central Florida. I have spent the past eight years working in catastrophe property insurance but have always had a longing for wanting to be in a profession that helped others improve. I finally decided to make the career transition and now am in my second term of my master’s degree.

Profession: Occupational Therapy Student (MOT)

Area(s) of Practice or Interest: I have huge interests in both Mental Health and Inpatient Rehabilitation but am unsure of where I may ultimately end up.

What does being ‘Out in Healthcare’ mean to you?: For me, being out in healthcare for me means inviting people to see my truest self. Representation of LGBT people in healthcare is important because not only does it create safe spaces for clients to feel they are being advocated for, but it also can help demystify misunderstandings that non-queer people have of the very community that I am a part of. I see being out in healthcare as a form of activism for anyone who has ever felt either marginalized in a society that has long celebrated heteronormativity.  

What is one thing everyone should know about your identity?: I want people to know that I am embracing the best possible version of myself by being out as an individual in healthcare. It is important for me to not be ‘discrete’ about my sexuality, because by me fully loving all aspects of my identity, I can in turn emanate the same level of love and care for others. 

How do you feel when your identity is included?: When my identity is included as both brown and gay, I feel included and seen as an equal amongst a group.

What does “taking up space” mean to you?: Taking up space means feeling pride about my own visibility and feeling the confidence in the fact that my visibility matters. I unfortunately did not always think/feel this way, so it’s empowering for me to live in this truth.

What is one piece of advice that you would give to healthcare workers who aren’t sure how to honor the identities of their patients?: I think with any profession that involves interacting with all kinds of people (with varying cultures, backgrounds, political and religious beliefs, sexual orientations or gender expressions), we will almost certainly at some point, come to meet someone that we lack the education on, on how to honor and respect these individuals. Maintaining a sense of humility when engaging in these interactions is key to posturing yourself in a manner that is receptive to learning from these interactions. For healthcare professions in particular, it would behoove the practitioner to educate themselves on available resources that speaks on best care practices. Remember the importance of being client-centered in your approach and advocating for the client’s desires and wishes. 

Has your identity influenced healthcare that you’ve received?: My identity has impacted the healthcare that I have received. I have encountered practicing physicians who have not been aware of pre-exposure prophylaxis medications. It’s an odd feeling having to educate your own doctor on what this is and why you are requesting a prescription for this. I have also had experiences where healthcare professionals made assumptions of my sexual orientation. I greatly see the need for education of healthcare professions in working with LGBTQ clients.

Where can people find you?: Follow me on Instagram! (@ProudOTStudent)

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Blog Out in Healthcare

Out in Healthcare: Emma Baldwin, OTS

Name: Emma Baldwin

Identity: Cisgender gay/lesbian woman, White, Anti-racist

Pronouns: She/her/hers

Background: I am a 23-year-old born and raised in Oak Park, Illinois (the first suburb West of Chicago). I have been in Indiana for my years in higher education and I am ready to take on a new place following graduation! I studied kinesiology and studio art in undergrad, and was a life-long student-athlete. I love hiking, making art, and traveling, but I am the most passionate about advocating and learning. 

Profession: I am currently a 3rd year Occupational Therapy Student (3rd year), and an artist on the side.

Area(s) of Practice or Interest: Pediatric or adult home health, early intervention, hospice home health, sexuality and mental health, neuro… primarily emerging practice areas and places where I can take on leadership roles.

What does being ‘Out in Healthcare’ mean to you?: To me so far (newbie to healthcare over here), it has meant learning how to advocate for myself and others in my school, on my fieldworks, and beyond. I found ways in my school to advocate for bias-free language, better LGBTQIA+ client education, and many more purposes, all by trying to foster inclusive conversations and providing resources. I recognize that I don’t have all the answers but I sure do have a lot of ideas, and being ‘out in healthcare’ or ‘out’ at my school allows me to advocate first-hand. Shoutout to the Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity (COTAD) for helping support us students in doing so!

What is one thing everyone should know about your identity?: I think the interesting thing about my identity is that I can blend in. It can be a blessing at times and a curse in others, but it is definitely a privilege. It is challenging for me still to own who I am and vocally identify myself as queer in healthcare because no one asks. Sometimes breaking apart from the assumptions is more challenging than simply stating how I identify awkwardly off the bat… but it’s still a balancing game that I am working to figure out. 

How do you feel when your identity is included?: I think that goofy smile, one that you couldn’t wipe off my face if you tried, says it all. There is really no feeling like it.

What does “taking up space” mean to you?: To me, taking up space means being visibly unapologetically who I am. It means paving the way for future generations of me’s & you’s who don’t see ourselves represented in our fieldwork educators, healthcare providers, clients, and professors (etc.) as often. To me it means constantly navigating how to come out, when to come out, and how to feel okay with how people view me… yet it seems like the big key to all of that, is feeling okay with how I view myself. Doing this interview is just one step towards me being sure that I show my true colors and be my true self in my future work settings, for myself and for others.

What is one piece of advice that you would give to healthcare workers who aren’t sure how to honor the identities of their patients?: Simply asking questions and giving me the space to answer, before assuming literally ANYTHING. That is the difference between making me want to come back and avoiding it at all costs. It really is true that sometimes LGBTQIA+ individuals may not feel comfortable in receiving care from someone after assumptions are made. I recognize that healthcare is crucial and that seems crazy to say, but even knowing all of that, I have avoided seeing specific doctors or changed providers due to discomfort. To be as researched and well-informed as possible on how to make your LGBTQIA+ patients comfortable and feel included will go so far. There are so many resources out there.

Has your identity influenced healthcare that you’ve received?: Yes, and you don’t want to listen to the long uncomfortable stories. Simply asking questions at the very beginning (even on a form) could have prevented these unfortunate incidents.

Where can people find you?: You can email me at embaldwin00@gmail.com or follow me on instagram at @em.baldwin.00 & @emmabaldwindesigns. Really, feel free to reach out!!

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Blog Out in Healthcare

Out in Healthcare: Rhia Reed, OTS

Name: Rhia Reed

Pronouns: They/Them

Identity: I am a genderqueer, trans*, non-binary Korean-American with mixed heritage. I also identify as an anti-capitalist, intersectional feminist committed to the life-long work of anti-racism.

Background: My background has been primarily as a choreographer, dancer, and somatics practitioner. I am currently in school for Occupational Therapy.

Profession: Occupational Therapy

Area(s) of Practice or Interest: I’m most interested to work within the following areas of practice: mental health, neuro, palliative care, people experiencing homelessness, and currently/formerly incarcerated people.

What does being ‘Out in Healthcare’ mean to you?: Currently, I help organize a monthly zoom meeting for fellow trans/gender non-conforming (TGNC) occupational therapy students and practitioners; sign-up link below. On a more personal note, being out in healthcare means being a resource to colleagues, and one day as an advocate for my patients. I am the first trans* non-binary person that most of my classmates and professors have met, and I don’t take that lightly. I see these relationships as a huge opportunity to be a representative for the TGNC community. My hope is for my peers to feel comfortable to work through their questions and ignorance with me instead of with future TGNC patients. Once I become a clinician, I hope to create a safe space for all of my patients, especially those of trans experience. My long-term goal is to continue my work as an advocate for trans patients within the scope of occupational therapy and the greater healthcare field.

What is one thing everyone should know about your identity?: I love to laugh at myself as much as I take my identity seriously. Sometimes I joke that my gender identity is simply Tired. On other days it feels Expansive. Most days it feels Fluid.

How do you feel when your identity is included?: Whew, what a question! It is impactful to feel seen! Moments where I don’t have to direct effort to be visible or taken seriously, I feel like I can direct my energy toward all of the other things that I am passionate about. I don’t need others to validate my identity, but it’s definitely a nice surprise when the things that make me me are seen and valued. It makes me feel safer to be me.

What does “taking up space” mean to you?: First, I think of the word marginalized and what that means in a literal sense. If you’re running out of space when writing on lined paper, you end up writing in the margins. “Taking up space” means putting whatever has been relegated to the margins front and center. Pragmatically, this means reallocation of opportunities, attention, time, money, access, and resources. It’s worth mentioning that taking up space isn’t something to apologize for or feel bad about. I love to loudly celebrate members of the Queer, TGNC community.

What is one piece of advice that you would give to healthcare workers who aren’t sure how to honor the identities of their patients?: Great question! Ask questions and be patient with yourself while you are learning something new. Practice compassion and release shame. When getting things wrong, we often feel ashamed, but everyone makes mistakes. Shame bends a person’s attention inward toward their shortcomings. Instead, compassion maintains attention outward at the person they are helping. Shame is just a story we tell ourselves about ourselves to keep us small: “I messed up and I’m terrible.” Self-compassion is a different narrative: “I messed up and I’m learning. I can try again.” Compassion and mindfulness propel us to say “I messed up, and I see how my actions caused harm. I want to center that person’s experience instead of focusing on my mistake.”

Has your identity influenced healthcare that you’ve received?: Yes…I’ll keep it brief by saying that sometimes I often allow myself to be misgendered and avoid disclosing my identity out of self-preservation.

Where can people find you?: mreed9@lsuhsc.edu, and here’s the sign-up sheet for the monthly TGNC OT meeting: Click here!

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OT and Transfeminine Equipment: Breast Forms, Gaffs, and Tucking Oh My!

Transfeminine equipment or equipment for those with feminine gender expression among people assigned a male sex at birth, particularly transgender and gender non-conforming individuals may include: prostheses, breast forms, gaff, tape, tucking, padding.

Padding: Padding refers to the use of undergarments to create the appearance of larger breasts, hips or buttocks. Padding may also assist in minimizing dysphoria.

            Some padding-specific garments include:

–       Padded undergarments: Typically, useful for facilitating appearance of wide hips or full buttocks

–       Bras with pockets: Also known as mastectomy bras, they are designed to accommodate breast forms and other associated prostheses

–       Padded bras: May be preferable if breast growth is present but not at the desired size.

Prostheses: An artificial body part(s), typically made from plastics, lightweight metals, or composites. May be formed to represent a breasts, penis, scrotum, or other anatomy.

Breast forms: Prostheses that have the appearance of breasts. Typically made of soft silicone gel and adhere to one’s body or are placed in a bra. Can be considered a form of padding.

Tucking: Tucking is the practice of arranging and supporting external genitals between the legs, including the penis, scrotum, and testicles so they are not visible in clothing. There are many ways to tuck, such as pushing the penis and other anatomy between your legs and then pulling on a pair of undergarments, to tucking the testicles inside of you. People tuck for many different reasons. One might tuck in order to feel more at ease in their body (minimize dysphoria), to feel more comfortable in their clothing, or to facilitate affirmation as one’s gender. There is minimal research on the safety of tucking.

Gaff: compression underwear that minimizes the appearance of a penis, scrotum, and testicles.

Tape: tape may be used with or instead of a gaff to “tuck” or minimize the appearance of the penis, scrotum, and testicles.

Important gaff considerations:

o Choosing the right size gaff is like choosing the right size underwear. One can also measure the circumference of their waist, just above the hips for correct sizing.

o Safe tucking/gaff techniques mirror those of binding:

o Minimize frequency of wearing, take breaks throughout the week (although it may not be ideal, it is particularly important for involved anatomical and physiological systems). Reducing the intensity of wearing (daytime donning) can also reduce risk of negative effects, though not as significantly as reducing the frequency.

o Minimize duration of wearing, as in reducing the wear time throughout the years. Bottom surgery is an alternate to tucking, however it is important to note that not every individual that tucks will want bottom surgery, nor will all individuals have access to the procedure (cost, access to healthcare, etc.)

o Unsafe tucking can affect the circulatory system, musculoskeletal anatomy, fertility issues, sex and intimacy, and skin integrity.

Gaff/ tucking garment maintenance: First and foremost, follow the washing/care instructions on the packaging/garment. In general, hand washing is the best. Avoid using bleach and/or a dryer as they accelerate material breakdown/ reduce integrity of the material. Pay special attention to skin folds, folding in the tucking garments (gaffs), bulging skin adjacent to the gaff or selected garment, redness, skin abnormalities, and prolonged indentations. Pay extra attention to the effects of the trans affirming/generally affirming care that you provide.  

The risks and contraindications are 𝕒𝕝𝕞𝕠𝕤𝕥 𝕒𝕝𝕨𝕒𝕪𝕤 𝕒 𝕣𝕖𝕤𝕦𝕝𝕥 𝕠𝕗 𝕦𝕟𝕤𝕒𝕗𝕖 𝕥𝕦𝕔𝕜𝕚𝕟𝕘 and 𝕒 𝕣𝕖𝕤𝕦𝕝𝕥 𝕠𝕗 𝕒 𝕙𝕖𝕒𝕝𝕥𝕙 𝕤𝕪𝕤𝕥𝕖𝕞 𝕥𝕙𝕒𝕥 𝕗𝕒𝕚𝕝𝕖𝕕 𝕒𝕥 𝕞𝕖𝕖𝕥𝕚𝕟𝕘 𝕒𝕟 𝕚𝕟𝕕𝕚𝕧𝕚𝕕𝕦𝕒𝕝𝕤 𝕟𝕖𝕖𝕕𝕤. We need to have the knowledge based to educate our clients on safe tucking practices as healthcare provides and 𝕖𝕤𝕡𝕖𝕔𝕚𝕒𝕝𝕝𝕪 as occupational therapists. HELLO!! ADLS!! DRESSING!! Anotha time for the people in the back: we alllll know that our professors/we talk about dressing all of the time throughout our programs and throughout providing care 𝕒𝕔𝕣𝕠𝕤𝕤 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕝𝕚𝕗𝕖𝕤𝕡𝕒𝕟. That’s right peds friends, I’m calling you in on this too. You may have a child, adolescent, or young adult that is going to need 𝕪𝕠𝕦 to educate them on safe tucking practices.

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OT and Transmasculine Equipment: Binders, Packers, and Prostheses Oh My!

Transmasculine equipment or equipment for those with masculine gender expression among people assigned a female sex at birth, particularly transgender and gender non-conforming individuals may include: binders, packers, prostheses, and bandaging.

Prostheses: An artificial body part(s), typically made from plastics, lightweight metals, or composites. May be formed to represent a penis, scrotum, testicles, or other anatomy.

            Packers: A prosthesis with the form a penis

Binders: commercially produced binders designed for binding. Other options (usually less safe options) are sports bra, neoprene/athletic compression garments, plastic wrap, duct tape, and more. The benefits of binding far outweigh the risks, however 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕣𝕚𝕤𝕜𝕤 𝕒𝕣𝕖 𝕥𝕠 𝕓𝕖 𝕥𝕒𝕜𝕖𝕟 𝕧𝕖𝕣𝕪 𝕤𝕖𝕣𝕚𝕠𝕦𝕤𝕝𝕪.

Binding: Binding involves wearing tight clothing, bandages, or compression garments to flatten out one’s chest and/or other anatomical features. 

Safe binding practices include:

  • Donning neoprene/athletic compression garments or commercial binders. The limited research supports using neoprene/athletic binders over commercial binders.
  • Minimize frequency of wearing, take breaks throughout the week (although it may not be ideal, it is particularly important for involved anatomical and physiological systems). Reducing the intensity of wearing (daytime donning) can also reduce risk of negative effects, though not as significantly as reducing the frequency.
  • Minimize duration of wearing, as in reducing the wear time throughout the years. Top surgery is an alternate to binding, however it is important to note that not every individual that binds will want top surgery, nor will all individuals have access to the procedure (cost, access to healthcare, etc.)

Binding maintenance: First and foremost, follow the washing/care instructions on the packaging/garment. In general, hand washing is the best. Avoid using bleach and/or a dryer as they accelerate material breakdown/ reduce integrity of the material. A binder should never be too tight. Pay special attention to skin folds, folding in binding material, bulging skin adjacent to the binder, redness, and prolonged indentations. Pay extra special attention to the effects of the trans affirming/ generally affirming care that you provide.

According to research, some benefits of binding include:

– Increased self-esteem, confidence, ability to go out safely in public, positive mood

– Decreased suicidality, anxiety, and dysphoria

The research also notes the following risks and contraindications:

– Pain related to the musculoskeletal system and at times internal systems

– Musculoskeletal system changes including bad posturing, shoulder joint ‘popping’, fractures, and muscle atrophy

– Neurological system changes like numbness, dizziness, and more.

– GI system changes, decreased motility, and more

– Respiratory changes like SOB, coughing, and more

– Skin and tissue change like skin breakdown, wounds, and infection

𝕃𝕖𝕥’𝕤 𝕓𝕖 𝕤𝕦𝕡𝕖𝕣 𝕔𝕝𝕖𝕒𝕣

The risks and contraindications are 𝕒𝕝𝕞𝕠𝕤𝕥 𝕒𝕝𝕨𝕒𝕪𝕤 𝕒 𝕣𝕖𝕤𝕦𝕝𝕥 𝕠𝕗 𝕦𝕟𝕤𝕒𝕗𝕖 𝕓𝕚𝕟𝕕𝕚𝕟𝕘 and 𝕒 𝕣𝕖𝕤𝕦𝕝𝕥 𝕠𝕗 𝕒 𝕙𝕖𝕒𝕝𝕥𝕙 𝕤𝕪𝕤𝕥𝕖𝕞 𝕥𝕙𝕒𝕥 𝕗𝕒𝕚𝕝𝕖𝕕 𝕒𝕥 𝕞𝕖𝕖𝕥𝕚𝕟𝕘 𝕒𝕟 𝕚𝕟𝕕𝕚𝕧𝕚𝕕𝕦𝕒𝕝𝕤 𝕟𝕖𝕖𝕕𝕤. We need to have the knowledge based to educate our clients on safe binding practices as healthcare provides and 𝕖𝕤𝕡𝕖𝕔𝕚𝕒𝕝𝕝𝕪 as occupational therapists. HELLO!! ADLS!! DRESSING!! I don’t want to hear any of that “we don’t have room in our curriculum for LGBTQIA+ topics” anymore. Sis, honey, darling, we alllll know that our professors/we talk about dressing all of the time throughout our programs and throughout providing care 𝕒𝕔𝕣𝕠𝕤𝕤 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕝𝕚𝕗𝕖𝕤𝕡𝕒𝕟. That’s right peds friends, I’m calling you in on this too. You may have a child, adolescent, or young adult that is going to need 𝕪𝕠𝕦 to educate them on safe binding practices.

Sources and Citations:

http://www.phsa.ca/transcarebc/care-support/transitioning/bind-pack-tuck-pad

https://www.lgbtq-ot.com/terminology

Peitzmeier, S., Gardner, I., Weinand, J., Corbet, A., & Acevedo, K. (2017). Health impact of chest binding among transgender adults: a community-engaged, cross-sectional study. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 19, 64-75. doi:10.1080/13691058.2016.1191675 

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Blog Out in Healthcare

Out in Healthcare: Wade Robinson, OTD

Name: Wade Robinson

Pronouns: He/his

Identity: Gay man 

Background: While completing my undergraduate degree, I became passionate about the field of sexual wellness while working with various non-profit organizations that provided HIV-related services and raised scholarships for LGBTQ students. Those experiences emphasized the importance of education around sexuality, and after beginning graduate school I was delighted to discover that sexual activity is included in the domain of occupational therapy. I was able to bring OT and sexuality education together and collaborate with @sexintimacyOT for my doctoral capstone project to create a continuing education course on LGBTQ0-inclusive practice.

Profession: Occupational Therapy

Area(s) of Practice or Interest: Sexual activity and education, pediatrics, hand/orthopedics

What does being ‘Out in Healthcare’ mean to you?: I believe that generally people have many misconceptions about what it means to be LGBTQ until they know that they know LGBTQ people. In my day-to-day life, I live by the mantra of “advocacy through visibility”, and I try to do the same in a professional setting by being authentic about my own sexual identity. I think this normalizes conversations about sexuality, models to colleagues how to respond, and indicates a safe-space to clients.

What is one thing everyone should know about your identity?: Overall I think that LGBTQ visibility is a good thing, but I’ve noticed that a lot of the mainstream media highlighting LGBTQ people are pretty narrow in their scope. I just want people to check themselves for implicit biases that are easy to subscribe to and know that being gay does not mean being into interior design, subscribing to a particular style of drag, or being into drag at all for that matter. Part of allyship is celebrating LGBTQ people for their identities, so just recognize that there are countless ways for identities to differ and each is as valid as the next.

How do you feel when your identity is included?: We [LGBTQ people] have gone so long without seeing proper representation or inclusion that I definitely notice when we are included in policies and media, even with little things.

What does “taking up space” mean to you?: To me this goes back to the idea of advocacy through visibility. It’s not like I always talk about being gay, queer culture, or anything like that, but I do think it is important to share my sexual identity with the people around me. I think its personal relationships that create allies. It’s so obvious to LGBTQ people how cisnormative/heteronormative everything is by default, and that creates a lot of marginalization that the majority never considers. I think that we can use that lens for the better to recognize how other minority groups could be excluded and erased, then aim for more inclusive, mindful practice.

What is one piece of advice that you would give to healthcare workers who aren’t sure how to honor the identities of their patients?: I know for OT in particular, there are not very many resources, which is why I created the LGBTQ-inclusive course for my capstone project. For healthcare professionals in general, I think the National LGBT Health Education Center is the best resource for practice guidelines. Time in the clinic is precious and the experience is often stressful for clients; it would be very unusual that that time would be best spent with the client educating the clinician about their sexuality. Being educated about sexuality before interacting with clients is best practice. If somebody finds themselves in a situation where they still are unsure, I think the most import thing they could do is approach the situation with humility. 

Has your identity influenced healthcare that you’ve received?: There are two instances that come to mind in which providers made assumptions about me after I disclosed that I am gay, and both instances were regarding sexual health interestingly enough. The first time I was just completing a routine check-up and getting some vaccinations to start graduate school, and the physician suggested that I complete a battery of STD tests. Even after I explained that I have worked in sexual health, am very aware of my relative risks, and was current on all my tests, the physician suggested that I at least get an HIV test. The second time, the nurse told me that they were going to ask me some questions about my sexual health, but once I said that I was gay, they moved on to ask me about other areas of health. Afterwards, without knowing any of my risk factors or sexual habits, they proceeded to try to administer a test that was completely inappropriate and did not apply to me at all. At this point, I said I would not be doing that test, explained that I previously worked in sexual health, and commented that I was surprised that they did not ask more questions to assess which tests were appropriate. The nurse brushed off my response and quickly said that there were more questions on the template but they were optional to ask and this was standard procedure. 

Where can people find you?: Hidden away studying for the NBCOT exam, hiking, or on Instagram at @Wad_the_robin

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Out in Healthcare: Dr. Sakshi Tickoo, BOTh®, Personal Counselor

Name: Dr. Sakshi Tickoo

Pronouns: She/her/hers

Identity: Bisexual

Background: I am 23 year old cisgender female born and raised in Mumbai, India. From being an 8-year-old child interested in gynecology and pursuing Occupational Therapy at the age of 17, a lot has changed unlike my passion for understanding sexuality. When I joined OT all I knew was it enables independence, holistic in approach and has scope for creativity and research. I haven’t been disappointed with that idea ever since I graduated from Asia’s first Occupational Therapy school in 2019. I came out to my family and friends 2 years back. While my parents still believe “bisexuals” don’t exist; my brother, colleagues and friends have been extremely supportive of my choices. However, this relationship with
my own sexuality is ever evolving and I’ve so much to learn about my own body & desires. Currently, I am working as a school-based OT and on the mission of educating and equipping therapists with tools and resources to create and build upon safer, inclusive, and judgement-free spaces for sexual expression.

Profession: Occupational Therapist

Area(s) of Practice: Sexuality and Mental Health, Wellness and
Rehabilitation

What does being ‘Out in Healthcare’ mean to you?: It means to represent and own my authentic self as a person and professional. It allows me to be open, honest with my clients and get a better perspective towards intimacy and relationships. Moreover, it has become a means of creating safer spaces for awareness and sensitizing people on gender and sexuality. This further sets an example of courage for others to be themselves and represent what they believe in.

What is one thing everyone should know about your identity?: Bisexuals are not indecisive, confused, experimenting, or only engaging in polyamory. Sexuality is fluid and sexual expression is a personal choice. Bisexuality for me is having a slightly wider spectrum of choice- an attraction to the person of same or opposite gender. This may also look like attraction to two or more genders for someone else. So, even though it’s one identity, the way we all express it can be vastly different.

How do you feel when your identity is included?: The “B” in LGBTQ is often invisible to most people. Bisexuals aren’t straight enough for the heteronormative society and not gay enough to be included in the LGBTQ+ community. It’s a constant struggle for belongingness but as long as people who matter to me are a part of my life and let me be part of theirs, nothing else matters!

What does “taking up space” mean to you?: Taking up space is an act of resistance. To own and establish your unique brand of self in this beautiful mess of a world. This space has a certain vibe, healthy boundaries, and provides a sense of belongingness. I don’t have to wait to belong anywhere as I belong everywhere. My thought & idea matters. My voice matters. I matter.

What is one piece of advice that you would give to healthcare workers who aren’t sure how to honor the identities of their patients?: Look and create that space of communication about sexuality. It won’t naturally arise because most healthcare workers aren’t addressing this area making patients clueless about the services we could offer. It will be awkward but it’s a skill set we learn and get better at- just like sex! And if it’s too much for you, be open to learn from your patient and let them guide you through this.

Has your identity influenced healthcare that you’ve received?: There is often no acknowledgement or plain ignorance to how I identify. It’s always assumed that I’m a heterosexual because I identify as a cisgender woman. I’ve not been denied any healthcare facilities but most providers fail to understand what I need from them. They lack providing optimal quality care expected from them which makes it harder for me to trust them at times.

Where people can find you:
Website: sexloveandot.in
Instagram/Facebook: @sex.love.andot
Email: sex.love.andot@gmail.com

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Out in Healthcare: Sara Persutti MS, OTR/L

Name: Sara Persutti


Pronouns: They/Them


Identity: Lesbian, Non-binary


Background: I was born and raised in Buffalo, NY. I graduated with my Masters from D’Youville College. I have been practicing for 3 years (currently as a travel OT) and I have worked primarily with traumatized
youth in specialized behavior schools. This is where my passion lies and I plan to become a certified specialist in trauma interventions for youth.
I am lucky to have grown up in a city like Buffalo, where the LGBTQIA+ community is celebrated. I attend local LGBT events, hang out at LGBT bars and cafes, and support local arts and music. I have also modeled for a gender neutral shoot at my hair salon. When I am not being social I enjoy being as active as possible, whether with yoga, lifting, cycling, or hiking. Needless to say, I keep myself busy!


Profession: Occupational Therapist

Area of Practice: Youth-Young adult, School-based


What does being out in healthcare mean to you?: Since I primarily work with youth, coming out as a healthcare worker gives me the opportunity to be an LGBT role model for kids, who are experiencing their own journeys in a world that prioritizes being cisgender and straight. There is a common misguided idea that children are “too young” to be exposed to the concept of being queer, when everything they are exposed to in our current social climate emphasizes heterosexual, patriarchal relationships. Kids who feel they might be trans, gay, etc. have very little representation to identify with, and can be left confused, ashamed, and targeted by their peers. I value that my platform in healthcare allows me to be someone kids can be their authentic selves around, while showing them that being queer is both normal and something they can (and should) celebrate in themselves and others. Destigmatizing queerness in school will help kids feel safer and
more empowered to come to school, perform their occupations, and achieve to their full potential.


What is one thing everyone should know about your identity?: Non-binary lesbians are valid! My gender identity is non-binary, which means I do not identify within the culturally imposed male-female binary. Gender is socially constructed, and I don’t feel compelled to participate in concepts of masculinity and femininity. I’m just Sara! My sexuality is lesbian, which means I am attracted to women and non-binary folk (this frequently misunderstood and sometimes argued, but non-binary people have historically always been included in lesbianism!)


How do you feel when your identity is included?: Even within the LGBT community, non-binary lesbians are often looked at with a sideways head. Even people within the community need to be further educated on inclusivity. When my identity is acknowledged and respected, it feels affirming and great. At work, I have been hesitant to even come out as a lesbian at certain jobs, mostly when it seemed like there weren’t any other queer people around. Once I started encountering openly gay colleagues, I was much more confident to come out. I enjoy feeling empowered to come out on my own terms rather than let people make assumptions and judgments. Fortunately, I’ve never been in a workplace where I felt ostracized after coming out, which has made it easier and more comfortable to be myself while doing my best work.


What does “taking up space” mean to you?: Taking up space means that I feel empowered and safe to be openly and proudly queer. I should be able
to live my truth as fully as my cis and straight peers do, without any shame or disrespect. Unfortunately, LGBT people do still face stigma and discrimination, but the more we take up space and come out, the more we demand that we be considered as equals in healthcare and society as a whole.


What is one piece of advice that I would give to healthcare workers who aren’t sure how to honor the identities of their patients?: The most important thing is learning the needs of each individual patient, rather than relying on generalizations or assumptions. Ask the patient directly what their name and pronouns are so you can always address them and speak about them without invalidating their identity (and never refer to them with labels they have not used themselves). If you are unsure of something related to gender/sexual identity and need to know to help you can work with your patient, ask the patient directly, with open-ended, non-invasive questions (i.e “Are you sexually active? With which genders?”) Never assume that someone performs certain tasks or behaviors because of their identity.


Has your identity influenced healthcare that you have received?: I don’t feel I’ve been discriminated against due to my identity, but I do feel the system needs work in its approach to sexual health in general. All my doctors know that I am a lesbian, and I have been asked if I am with a partner and if I am sexually active. This is usually where the questions end, and I feel patients
would benefit from more in depth questioning. I was once asked about sex toy usage and cleaning, which may have been asked since I am a lesbian, but I would hope practitioners would ask all individuals this question.

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Blog Out in Healthcare

Out in Healthcare: Matt Wild BSN, RN

Name: Matthew Wild


Pronouns: He/him/his


Identity: Gay

Background: I was born and raised in Buffalo, NY. I decided to  enter nursing school because I was always inspired by the compassionate care that nurses provided me throughout my life. 

Profession: Nursing

Area(s) of practice: Mental/Behavioral Health

What does being out in healthcare mean to you?: Being out in healthcare means accepting that you are a role model to those around you. Living my truth is not always easy, but even if it eventually inspires one person to do the same, or feel represented in some way, I’m happy. 

What is one thing you think everyone should know about your specific identity or the LGBTQIA+ community as a whole?: It’s important to never make assumptions about an individual based on your stereotypes of the collective group. Each person is unique in their own way and should be treated so.

How do you feel when your identity is acknowledged and included, in the workplace/ in media OR how do you feel when your identity is not included or acknowledged?: It is amazing to see in my lifetime, the drastic changes that have already occurred in regards to LGBTQIA+ representation in the media and in workplaces. I’m hoping that the ball keeps rolling and that this can be the case for every member of the community.

What does “taking up space” mean to you?: It means living my truth and helping those around me understand better. It means showing clients who come through the clinic doors that this is a safe space, and while we may not get everything right the first time for them, they can count on the fact that we are always evolving for the better

What is one piece of advice that you would give to a healthcare professional that is unsure of how to/inexperienced with honoring and including the identity on someone within the LGBTQIA+ community while receiving healthcare services?: Accepting that you don’t have all of the answers is the first step to a therapeutic relationship with a client in the LGBTQIA+ community. Even for me, my experiences as a gay man may be completely different than those of another gay man. Understanding that a client shouldn’t have to constantly explain their existence and identity to healthcare professionals is also important.


Has your identity influenced healthcare that you’ve received in the past? Absolutely, I remember being asked on a physical if I was “safe when I was privately with girls,” or, “a guy like you must have no problem finding a nice girl.” It’s hard for some people to understand that their assumptions can be really harmful to the mental health of people in the LGBTQIA+ community, and even in some cases deter them from receiving treatment.

Where you can find Matt:

Instagram: @mjameswild

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Blog Out in Healthcare

Out in Healthcare: Molly Sabido PA, PA-C

Name: Molly Sabido


Pronouns: She/her/hers


Identity: Panromantic, asexual spectrum


Background: I was born and raised in Rochester NY where my whole family is from. Growing up I always wanted to be in medicine because I’m passionate about human connection and the human body. As soon as I researched the PA profession I knew it was a perfect fit; it is versatile, allows me a wonderful work/life balance, and provides abundant opportunities to learn and grow every day. I went to PA school at D’Youville College in Buffalo, NY and now I work at a community hospital back home in Rochester. Outside of work I love to draw, hike, sing, and spend as much time as possible with my friends and family.


Profession: Physician Assistant


Area of practice: Hospital medicine

What does being out in healthcare means to you?: I am a person who is proud to display rainbows on my ID badge and my identity in the queer community isn’t something I shy away from, especially at work. I truly believe that love is love, and this openness is something I talk about often and freely. I don’t hold myself back from ignorant people, instead leaning into my queer identity as a tool to educate. I am living proof that kindness and compassion can exist within any body. I have had coworkers thank me for breaking down their own stereotypes about queer folx. I have had patients thank me for creating a safe space to relax and be themselves in an otherwise scary and unfamiliar environment. I am fortunate to be a feminine, straight passing cis woman and I recognize the ease at which I can walk through the world. It is my hope that by gently challenging people’s preconceived notions someday everyone in the queer community will be met with love and acceptance, no matter their identity or outward presentation.


What is one thing everyone should know about your identity?: We ace (asexual) folx don’t get a lot of attention! This is a new area of my identity that I’ve recently been exploring and coming to terms with. Even writing this gives me some anxiety but the more asexuality is talked about, the more normal it becomes, the more people will understand it and maybe even recognize it within themselves. One important thing to know is that asexuality really is a spectrum and people experience it very differently. For me, being asexual and panromantic means I experience romantic attraction to people of all genders, and I very rarely experience sexual attraction (this is where the spectrum comes in). Sex is the least interesting and stimulating part of a relationship; I just don’t get much out of it. I still enjoy physical intimacy, but mostly because it facilitates emotional intimacy. I’m still capable of loving, fulfilling romantic relationships built on solid communication and clear expectations. For a long time I saw my asexuality as something that needed to be fixed or worked through, and it caused a lot of inner turmoil. But I’m finally learning that it is a beautiful part of my identity and something to embrace, not hide from! 

How do you feel when your identity is included?: Historically, the media overwhelmingly acknowledges gay, straight, and bisexual. Lately, it seems like more shows/movies mention pansexuality (Schitts Creek) which is gratifying because it makes me feel really seen and it also makes “pan” a more commonly recognized concept (no, I’m not attracted to skillets or bread). Asexuality however doesn’t get much recognition so my expectations are usually really low when I’m consuming media, and whenever it’s included it’s a lovely little treat. I recently watched a show on Netflix called Sex Education (WATCH IT) and when they had a subplot about an asexual girl I legitimately cried. Generally, I do think we have a lot of work to do in recognizing sexual and romantic attraction are very separate for some people.

What does “taking up space” mean to you?: Simple. This means I can freely be myself in any room I walk into. When I picture myself taking up space I am not minimizing myself. I am proud to be queer regardless of who is in that room with me. Even in situations where people might not understand me, I stay true to myself. I wear that rainbow on my badge and show it off rather that hide.

What is one piece of advice that I would give to healthcare workers who aren’t sure how to honor the identities of their patients?: Most of my coworkers understand and acknowledge my identity because it revolves around who I date. However, some of them still really struggle with understanding trans/non-binary/non-conforming folx and honoring pronouns or addressing sexuality is uncomfortable for them. My advice is this: when it comes to gender identity, a patient’s pronouns aren’t up to you, they are up to the patient. Your job as a healthcare worker is to create safe spaces for patients where they feel comfortable and taken care of, not further isolated by ignorance. Using correct pronouns is an extremely simple way to facilitate a sense of safety and trust. In regards to sexuality, if you aren’t comfortable addressing this topic, then don’t bring it up, just be a kind human and let someone else be a queer ally. If you absolutely have to bring it up because it’s relevant to your job, then do it in a neutral, non-judgmental way please.

Has your identity influenced healthcare that you have received?: Fortunately, no!  

Where you can find Molly:
Instagram: @mollysabidi AND @molly_makes_things