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Blog Out in Healthcare

Out in Healthcare: Ryan Ellenbaum, MA CCC-SLP

Name: Ryan Ellenbaum 

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

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. 

Where can people find you?: You can find me on Instagram at @authenticvoicesllc, my website www.authenticvoicesllc.com, or reach out by email to authenticvoicesllc@gmail.com!

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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!