Name: Ryan Ellenbaum
Identity: Cisgender Woman, Queer/Lesbian
Background: I was born and raised in Philly, PA. I live with my wife and our two dogs. I love anything creative – lately I’ve been obsessed with weaving but I’ve dabbled in just about every textile craft. I also enjoy powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting. I studied Russian in undergrad which sparked my interest in communication sciences. Now I work with Russian-speaking families in early intervention and I’m co-owner of a private practice that specializes in gender affirming voice modification for the trans and non-binary community.
Profession: Speech-language Pathologist
Area(s) of Practice or Interest: Gender affirming voice modification, pediatrics, stroke rehabilitation.
What does being ‘Out in Healthcare’ mean to you?: The SLP field is full of compassionate and good hearted people but it can be a pretty homogeneous crowd in terms of race, gender, and sexual orientation. I’m proud to be a queer provider who is in tune with the issues that impact queer people seeking healthcare, especially working in trans voice. It’s important to me to make the services I provide a safe space that helps queer people access care that they might otherwise not feel comfortable seeking.
What is one thing everyone should know about your identity?: I am generally “assumed straight” based on how I look and dress, which has been both a form of privilege and source of frustration since I came out when I was in high school. In my early intervention work, I am often subjected to unsolicited political opinions and people’s views on the LGBTQ community (while treating in families’ homes). This often forces me to make the split-second decision between being an advocate for my community and feeling safe at work. The message I would spread is not specific to me, but it is to never assume someone’s identity based on how they look. Challenge yourself to be inclusive and to provide space for people you meet to identify themselves as uniquely them, whatever the context.
How do you feel when your identity is included?: Safe and validated.
What does “taking up space” mean to you?: Taking up space and being visible as a queer person is a form of advocacy. Queer people are everywhere, in every setting, in every town. The more visible we are, the more included we are in the conversation. The more included we are as healthcare providers, the more we can educate and guide our fellow providers to be more compassionate caregivers to patients.
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?: Take the time to thoughtfully educate yourself. Seek out positive, affirming resources – especially ones that amplify real voices and experiences of the population you are seeking to learn about. Don’t make assumptions about your patients, give them the opportunity to identify themselves by using inclusive language and questioning.
Has your identity influenced healthcare that you’ve received?: I’ve been fortunate enough to not experience any healthcare nightmares directly related to my sexual orientation, but I always consider queer-friendliness or referrals from queer friends who have had good experiences when seeking healthcare providers.