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.
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: email@example.com
L represents Lesbian. The term or identity Lesbian, describes an individual that identifies as a woman (yes, both cis and/or trans) and is primarily emotionally, physically, sexually, and/or spiritually attracted to women.
G represents Gay! The term or identity gay, describes an individual that identifies as a man (yes, both cis and/or trans) and is primarily emotionally, physically, sexually, and/or spiritually attracted to men. The term Gay is also used generally to describe individuals who are primarily emotionally, physically, sexually, and/or spiritually attracted to those of the same sex and/or gender.
B represents Bisexual (Bi)! The term or identity Bisexual, describes individuals who are emotionally, physically, sexually, and/or spiritually attracted to more than one gender. Those who identify as bisexual aren’t “greedy” or “confused”, their identity is valid.
T represents Transgender (Trans)! The term or identity Transgender, describes individuals whose gender identity is different from the gender assumed at birth. Fun fact, those who identify as a trans female are equally as female as those who identify as a cis female. Transgender refers to gender identity, not sexual orientation or preference.
Q represents Queer OR Questioning! The term or identity Queer, is an umbrella term for people who don’t identify as heterosexual and/or cisgender. Queer is also used interchangeably with the acronyms LGBT, LGBTQIA, LGBTQIA+, etc., to represent the community as a whole 🏳️🌈. However, Queer is not always a preferred term or identity for those within the LGBTQIA+ community, due to is historical use as a derogatory term.
Q is also used to represent the term or identity, Questioning. Questioning represents an individual that is unsure about and/or is exploring their own sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
I represents Intersex! Intersex is a term for a combination of chromosomes, hormones, sex organs, or genitals that differs from the male/female binary. For example, a person might be born appearing to be female on the outside, but having mostly male-typical anatomy on the inside. A person may be born with mosaic genetics, so that some of her cells have XX chromosomes and some of them have XY. Interesting fact: Intersex is often thought of as an inborn condition, though intersex anatomy doesn’t always show up at birth. Sometimes a person isn’t found to have intersex anatomy until they reach the age of puberty, or finds themself as an infertile adult. Some people live and die with intersex anatomy without anyone (including themselves) ever knowing. Reference: https://isna.org/faq/what_is_intersex/
A represents Asexual! The term or identity Asexual, describes individuals who experienced little or no sexual attraction to others and/or lack of interest in sexual relationships and/or behaviors. Asexual is also used as an umbrella term, for additional identities within the spectrum of sexual orientation. Myth buster: People who consider themselves asexual may have relationships, but they would not have the interest in adding a sexual component to the relationship. Individuals that identify as asexual can and do have romantic relationships with others.
➕ represents the inclusion of all identities within the LGBTQIA+ community! The ➕ represents identities, genders, and orientations that fall under umbrella terms used within and outside of the LGBTQIA+ acronym. Some (but not all) of the identities represented by the ➕ include: Pansexual, Fluidity, and Demisexual. Pansexual (Pan) refers someone who is emotionally, physically, spiritually, and sexually attracted to all gender indentured. As @instadanjlevy wrote in @schittscreek episode 10 of season 1 for his character David that identifies as Pansexual, “I like the wine and not the label.” (see next picture from Andrea Van Sickle on fb) Fluidity (or Gender Fluid) refers to a gender identity that may shift or change over time. Demisexual is a term or identity that represents an individual that has little or no sexual attraction to another individual, unless there is romantic connection/involvement. This term or identity is mostly considered to be under the umbrella of Asexuality, though some view it separately.
GQ represents Gender Queer! The term or identity Gender Queer, is an umbrella term for those who identify as Gender Non Conforming (GNC) or Non-Binary. It is a gender identity label that is used by those who may identify outside of the societal gender binary (male/female). Gender nonconformity, is an identity or gender expression by an individual that does not match expected/societal masculine or feminine gender norms. It is important to note that the term Queer is not accepted by all within the community, due to the derogatory use of the term throughout history. A L W A Y S ask an individual, “How would you like to be identified.”
Hello it’s me! Your NB OT! NB represents Non Binary! The term or identity Non Binary describes an individual who does not identify with the assumed gender binary, male or female. It includes a spectrum of gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine. For all of my OT and healthcare friends, think of gender as a spectrum, just as we view some neuro diversities (ASD) as a spectrum. Real talk, what does this identity mean to me? Non Binary means freedom. Freedom from societal pressure to be X or Y. I can wear makeup, have a beard, wear heels, and engage in whatever occupation I want because all of it is ME. I don’t identify as male or female, I am non binary. I do not engage in occupations because they are ‘inherently’ masculine or feminine, I engage in them because they are meaningful to me and hold no relevance to gender or societal expectations. I am comfortable with he/him pronouns but they/them pronouns best represent ME, to the core of my being. I’m still exploring and adding new pieces to my identity puzzle and I have never felt more true to myself in my whole life. It’s okay to still not know who you are, but know I am a safe space for you and am here to protect, love, support, and include you. Your identity matters. Please note that gender identities and sexual orientations can be dynamic and change or evolve over time, even from day to day. Remember to A L W A Y S ask an individual, “How would you like to be identified.” Don’t argue with their identity, honor it.
C represents Cisgender (cis)! The term or identity Cisgender is a gender description for when someone’s sex assigned at birth and gender identity/ personal identity correspond in the “expected” way. Remember, gender identity does not include sexual orientation or identity. An individual could identify as cisgender and heterosexual, or within any identity of the LGBTQIA+ community.
I always found the idea of ‘coming out’ as strange or forced, but like many other LGBTQIA+ individuals I went through the same process on my journey to self-discovery and establishing my identity. I came out “officially” at the age of 17, or as I would prefer to say it, I started to let people in to who I am at 17. That is the same age that I decided to pursue an education in occupational therapy.
I applied to 9 schools originally and decided to attend D’Youville College in Buffalo, NY for my combined BS and MS of human occupation and occupational therapy. OT school was challenging, energizing, and fulfilling. I was fortunate to have incredible faculty, family, and friends who supported and challenged me with my crazy ideas like starting a community wellness clinic on campus or creating the official D’Youville OT instagram page – which is where the idea of @therainbowot grew from.
It was during professional development lecture in my final year of OT school where I found enough passion and frustration to start my lifelong mission for enhancing education, inclusion, representation, and advocacy for those within the LGBTQIA+ community, inside and outside of healthcare settings. I was so excited in class when we finally had a lecture where part of the class discussion was designated to address LGBT topics in OT. There was an objective to cover vast cultures including Korean and Latinx culture in a two hour span, leaving little time to cover all of the material, including LGBT+ topics. Without saying any names, it was clear to me that the professor was unprepared to answer questions about LGBT+ topics, especially those surrounding trans individuals – so the spotlight was turned to me (the token gay person). This wasn’t a new situation to me or the first time that I was placed with the responsibility to discuss LGBT+ topics in a class. I remember feeling powerful, frustrated, and concerned. There is a great amount of pressure when discussing topics and identities of the LGBT+ community, especially when my identity of being a white, gay, male (sex) does not come close to representing the entire community. It’s important to note that at the time of this class, I hadn’t really started acknowledging my non-binary identity, so I identified as a male. My concern came from the fact that I was one student, unable to represent or educate on all LGBT+ topics in only one section of the class. What did the other sections talk about? Did they discuss what it means to be trans? Did anyone validate the trans identity or provide definitions for the letters of the acronym? From there, the fire was lit to go on my own path of providing education and resources to anyone regarding these topics and more.
Where are we now? Well, The Rainbow OT has been running for just about a year. I launched my first LGBTQIA+ 101 series, a pronoun promise campaign, and have been a guest on two podcasts discussing LGBT+ related topics and occupational therapy’s role. With the support and safe space provided for friends that I owe the world to, I was able to let others in to who I am, a proud non-binary individual. I’m still in the beginning of my journey to self-discovery, but I am so happy with where I am when I look back at where I was. Where are we going next? You’ll just have to tag along and see.
Black Trans TV: A digital media platform used to promote unity and dismantle the idea that Black queer/trans folx exist separately from the black community.
Zuna Institute: A National Advocacy Organization for Black Lesbians that was created to address the needs of black lesbians in the areas of Health, Public Policy, Economic Development, and Education. http://www.zunainstitute.org/
The National Black Gay Men’s Advocacy Coalition (NBGMAC): The NBGMAC is committed to improving the health and well-being of Black gay men through advocacy that is focused on research, policy, education and training. https://www.nbgmac.org/
The National Center for Black Equity: connects members of the Black LGBTQ+ community with information and resources to empower their fight for equity and access. https://centerforblackequity.org/
Black Transmen: A a nonprofit organization focused on social advocacy and empowering trans men with resources to aid in a healthy transition. https://blacktransmen.org/
Incite!: A national activist organization of trans and gender nonconforming people of color working to end violence against individuals and communities through direct action, dialogue, and grassroots organizing. https://incite-national.org/
Know Your Rights Camp: Works to advance the liberation and well-being of black and brown communities through education, self-empowerment, mass-mobilization, and the creation of new systems that elevate the next generation of change leaders.
The BQI Collective: Black Queer & Intersectional Collective is a grass-roots community organization that works towards the liberation of Black queer, trans, and intersex people through direct action, community organizing, education, and creating spaces to uplift our voices.
The Okra Project: Collective that seeks to address the global crisis faced by Black Trans people by bringing home-cooked meals and resources to the community. http://www.theokraproject.org
HBTW Fund: The Homeless Black Trans Woman Funs is a fund for the community of Black Trans women that live in Atlanta and are sex workers and/or homeless. gf.me/u/x3h8h
South Asian Sexual & Mental Health Alliance (SASMHA): SASMHA’s goal is to fight cultural stigmas, educate, and empower the South Asian American community by providing resources on issues most important to us, from sex and sexuality to mental health. They also have a podcast. http://www.sasmha.org
Queer the Land: A collaborative project that works towards the liberation of Black queer, trans, and intersex people through direct action, community organizing, education, and creating spaces to uplift our voices. Queertheland.org
Princess Janae Place: PJP provides referrals to housing for chronically homeless LGBTQ adults in the New York Tri-state area, with direct emphasis on Trans/GNC people of color.
Emergency Release Fund: Ensures that no trans person at risk in NYC jails remains in detention before trial. If cash bail is set for a trans person in NYC and no bars to release are in place, bail will be paid by the Emergency Release Fund. Emergencyreleasefund.com
House of GG: Creating safe and transformative spaces for community to heal, and nurturing them into tomorrow’s leaders, focusing on trans women of color in the south. http://www.houseofgg.org
The Starfruit Project: The Starfruit Project supports radical healing and brilliant growth through creative writing and performance programs that center queer and trans people of color. Offerings are for practicing artists, budding artists, and anyone seeking support on their journey toward healing and growth. https://www.thestarfruitproject.com/workshops
The Black Trans Advocacy Coalition: A National organization led by Black trans people to collectively address the inequities faced in the black transgender human experience.
The Marsha P. Johnson Institute: Defends the rights of Black transgender people.
National Queer & Trans Therapists of Color Network: A network committed to transforming mental health for queer and trans people of color.
Brave Space Alliance: A Black-led, Trans-led LGBTQ Center working on the South Side of Chicago. @bracespacealliance
SNAPCO: Builds power of Black Trans and queer people to force systemic divestment from the prison industrial complex and invest in community support. http://www.snap4freedom.org
The Brown Boi Project: a community of masculine center womxn, men, two-spirit people, transmen, and our allies committed to transforming our privilege of masculinity, gender, and race into tools for achieving racial and gender justice. Located in Oakland, CA. http://www.brownboiproject.org/
The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC): A civil rights organization dedicated to empowering Black lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. NBJC’s mission is to end racism and homophobia. http://nbjc.org/
Black Trans Travel Fund: Works on providing resources to Black trans women to be able to access safe transportation and travel alternatives.
TGI Justice Project: A group of transgender, gender variant, and intersex people – inside and outside of prisons, jails, and detention center – fighting against human rights abuses, imprisonment, police violence, racism, poverty, and societal pressures.
The National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network (NQTTCN): The NQTTCN is a healing justice organization that actively works to transform mental health for queer and trans people of color in North America. Together we build the capacity of QTPoC (queer and trans people of color) mental health practitioners, increase access to healing justice resources, provide technical assistance to social justice movement organizations to integrate healing justice into their work. Our overall goal is to increase access to healing justice resources for QTPoC. https://www.nqttcn.com/
Black Trans Femmes in the Arts: A collective of Black trans women and non-binary femmes who are dedicated to creating space for Black trans femmes in the arts. @btfacollective
By Us For Us: A collective of queer, femme, and non-binary Black and POC artists and organizers. @Bufu_byusforus
The Trevor Project: The Trevor Project’s Trainings for Professionals include in-person Ally and CARE trainings designed for adults who work with youth. These trainings help counselors, educators, administrators, school nurses, and social workers discuss LGBTQ-competent suicide prevention. https://www.thetrevorproject.org/education/
Sex and Intimacy OT: Our mission is to dismantle restrictive norms related to sexuality and intimacy which limit clients and limit ourselves. We strive to promote understanding, respect, and empowerment for individuals as sexual beings. https://www.sexintimacyot.com/
Sex Love and OT: a sexuality, mental health, and OT advocate, writer, and practitioner. Dr. Tickoo works as a school-based OT in Mumbai, however her work is not limited to kids. Dr. Tickoo’s work explores the integration of sexuality in OT practices for people of all ages. http://www.sexloveandot.in
The Transgender District: The transgender district aims to stabilize and economically empower the transgender community through ownership of homes, businesses, historic and cultural sites, and safe community spaces. http://www.transgenderdistrictsf.com
CHANGE: Promoting gender equality by advancing the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls worldwide. http://www.srhrforall.org/
National Center for Transgender Equality: advocates to change policies and society to increase understanding and acceptance of transgender people. In the nation’s capital and throughout the country, NCTE works to replace disrespect, discrimination, and violence with empathy, opportunity, and justice. https://transequality.org/
Youth Breakout: Works to end the criminalization of the LGBTQ+ youth in New Orleans to build a safer and more just community. http://www.youthbreakout.org
Trans Cultural District: The world’s first-ever legally recognized Trans district, which aims to stabilize and economically empower the Trans community. http://www.transgenderdistrictsf.com
LGBTQ+ Freedom Fund: Posts bail LGBTQ people held in jail or immigrant detention and raises awareness of the epidemic LGBTA overincarceration. http://www.lgbtqfund.org
GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality (previously known as the Gay & Lesbian Medical Association). http://www.glma.org/
NALGAP: The Association of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Addiction Professionals and Their Allies is a membership organization founded in 1979 and dedicated to the prevention and treatment of alcoholism, substance abuse, and other addictions in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer communities. http://www.nalgap.org/
Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity (COTAD): The Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity (COTAD) formed in 2014 through a collaboration that occurred between members of the AOTA Emerging Leaders Development Program. COTAD has grown tremendously since its early days and has added individuals to its Executive Board and general membership. Now established as a non-profit organization, COTAD operates as group of individuals from across the United States all working towards a common goal of promoting diversity and inclusion within the occupational therapy workforce and increase the ability to occupational therapy practitioners to serve an increasingly diverse population. COTAD’s new Ignite Series: https://www.cotad.org/ignite-series