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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!