Name: Caroline Cuyler, LMSW
Identity: Pansexual Cisgender Female
Background: I was born and raised in a suburb of Rochester, NY. I went to the University at Buffalo for my bachelors in psychology and did 1 year of my masters in social work at Hunter College in New York City and my 2nd year at the University at Buffalo. I now live in Rochester with my fiancé and our fur children. I have spent my career working with many different populations beginning with survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. I am newly out as of about 2 years ago and it was a rollercoaster ride of an experience but, overall, quite positive. In my free time I enjoy camping, traveling and playing video games.
Profession: Medical Social Worker
Area(s) of Practice or Interest: I pretty much do it all in the inpatient medical world. The main unit that I work on is an adult medicine unit that is staffed by resident medical teams.
What is one thing everyone should know about your identity?: When trying to find the “right” identity for me, bisexual never felt right because it excluded folks that didn’t fall into the gender binary. I felt pansexual really suited me and my attraction to people for who they are rather than based on their gender. My fiancé is non-binary and is starting the first steps with top surgery and low dose hormones. I am proud that she is becoming the person she always knew she was.
How do you feel when your identity is included?: When my identity is included I feel seen. There is nothing better than when your identity is not something you have to explain or review over and over with others. That is why I focus so much on educating staff on practices such as asking for preferred pronouns and not assuming a patient is in a heterosexual relationship.
What does “taking up space” mean to you?: Taking up space is really about being your most authentic self, whatever that means for each person. I think it can be easy to shrink down who you are to make a situation feel more “comfortable” for everyone but when you take up space it paves a path for others to be able to also take up space. It’s a form of activism and advocacy for others as well as yourself.
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?: This is a part of my role every day as a social worker. Constantly educating staff about how to honor patient’s identities. My number one piece of advice is ASK QUESTIONS. Our patients are the experts on their own lives. You can never assume anything about anyone’s identity and just ignoring or not seeing parts of someone is not treating the whole patient. If you make a mistake about someone’s identity, apologize. We are all humans who make errors but it’s important to commit to correcting the mistake. I think it’s also important to take an intersectional approach to honoring our patient’s identities. Each person’s experience is unique and much of that has to do with how the different parts of our identity shape how we experience the world.
Has your identity influenced healthcare that you’ve received?: I have only been out for 2 years but even in that short amount of time some things have come up. Specifically around sexual health there is always the assumption that I am in a heterosexual relationship and constantly having to correct my providers can get a little exhausting.
Where can people find you?: I am on Instagram (private account) @cecuyler and if you are ever at Strong Memorial Hospital, I am sure you will see me floating around!