By Stephan Davis, DNP, FACHE
Pride Month has always been special for me as an adult. Having grown up in a conservative Black family in the Midwest, I was raised to believe that being gay was morally wrong, and I was required by my parents to attend correction therapy in effort to alter my orientation. It was only as an adult that I was able to begin to embrace all of who I am. For me, this is what National Pride Month is all about.
Beyond the celebrations and festivities that typically occur during the month of June, Pride is a moment for us to recognize the progress that has been made for the LGBTQ community. Particularly in healthcare, I have witnessed tremendous change since I began working in hospitals in 2005. We see organizations making bold commitments to LGBTQ inclusion and pursuing designations in LGBTQ healthcare equality with the Human Rights Campaign. We have seen increasing numbers of LGBTQ healthcare executives reaching the highest levels of leadership and doing so while “out.” We have also witnessed progress from the Joint Commission’s release of standards for LGBTQ inclusion in hospitals nearly a decade ago. From the perspective of executive healthcare leadership, ACHE released its initial statement “The Healthcare Executive’s Role in Fostering LGBTQ Inclusion” seven years ago, and established its LGBTQ Forum four years ago, with the intention of increasing the representation of LGBTQ healthcare executives and advancing LGBTQ health equity.
The amount of progress that has been made in healthcare in my decade- and-a-half of working in clinical, leadership and education roles has been inspiring. And yet, I recognize that we still have far to go. In addition to the tremendous health disparities faced by many minority populations, we are all too frequently victims of violence. On June 12, 2016, we lost 49 members of the LGBTQ community and allies at the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla. Black transgender women are being killed at alarming rates. Coronavirus has led to increased victimization and hate crimes against members of the Asian community. And most recently, the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery have made clear to many in our nation and around the globe that systemic racism persists in the United States.
Needless to say, as a Black gay man, this Pride Month feels a bit different. I am deeply concerned about the current state of affairs for members of my own communities, and for groups to which I do not personally belong. In this moment, I believe it is clear that no group will advance and realize true equity without the allyship of others. We have greater strength in our collective voice rather than in our silos. But this requires us to recognize some clear issues within our respective communities. It would be naive for us to pretend that racism and transphobia, for instance, do not exist within the LGBTQ community. Similarly, we cannot deny that it is possible for one to be a strong voice for change with regard to systemic racism while not being a champion for other injustices. In order for members from all historically marginalized and excluded groups to be safe from victimization, achieve health, realize their full potential, and contribute to society, we must be allies to one another and work collectively to advance equity, inclusion, and belonging for all people.
ACHE’s partnership with several diverse healthcare leadership groups—referred to as the Better Together Collaborative—includes the LGBTQ Forum and was formed in recognition of these complex issues facing historically marginalized and excluded groups. We must foster dialogue across identities and form broad coalitions to address injustice wherever it exists. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, “whatever affects one of us directly, affects all of us indirectly.” Coronavirus, in particular, has reminded us of just how interconnected we all are. Furthermore, recent peaceful demonstrations around the globe have illuminated the power of people across generations, identities and ideologies, coming together for the betterment of humanity. Therefore, it is essential that during Pride Month 2020 we engage in dialogue focused on how we can be better allies, build broad coalitions and seek justice for all people. This is requisite to the achievement of LGBTQ health equity.
Stephan Davis, DNP, FACHE, is the MHA director/assistant professor at University of North Texas Health Science Center, School of Public Health, Fort Worth, Texas. He also serves as chair of the ACHE LGBTQ Forum.