December Newsletter

Affirming Healthcare Map Event Launch

Jahmila Smith, Project Manager & Trainer

Garden State Equality is committed to the health and wellness of the LGBTQ+ community. To address the realities that LGBTQ+ people are often overlooked, ignored, or experience poor treatment while navigating the healthcare system, we’ve created our Affirming Healthcare Map. Garden State Equality’s Affirming Healthcare Map is a directory of healthcare providers that have proactively identified themselves as LGBTQ-friendly. This includes providing supportive services for gender affirmation, health considerations specific to LGBTQ+ people’s unique needs, and more. Some of the providers featured on the map, have also been trained by Garden State Equality staff on best practices in LGBTQ+ care.

To celebrate and acknowledge the launch of the map, please join Garden State Equality on Tuesday, January 26 from 5-7pm at NICO Kitchen + Bar in Newark. Interested participants can register for this event here.

LGBTQ+ people get overlooked in healthcare due to lack of cultural competence from medical providers and staff. Bias and discrimination are common experiences for LGBTQ+ people, and fear of blame or shame of their health outcomes due to their sexual orientation or gender identity can lead many LGBTQ+ people to avoid seeking care altogether. As a result, LGBTQ+ people may be unaware of their healthcare needs because they aren’t addressed. Having culturally knowledgeable practitioners and providers is one of the ways that healthcare facilities have made efforts to change these disparities.

The goal of the map is to provide patients with safer and more compassionate experiences while seeking care, and also aid in the barrier of accessing care in their county. The map allows for a quick and easy search for healthcare beyond the basics, featuring 20+ specialty areas in medicine such as psychotherapy, transgender care, dentistry, optometry, and more. Seeking care should not be a burden, and quick access aids in better health outcomes. The map also allows for LGBTQ-friendly practitioners and providers who aren’t featured to be included.

Holiday Cheer and Self Care: Understanding Mental Health During the Holidays

Damien A. Lopez, Project Manager & Trainer

The holiday season is a time when those within the LGBTQ+ community often resurface depression, anxiety, and unpleasant feelings. Students may be going back to unsupportive home environments, where they may have not heard their name or pronouns in months. Alongside hybrid learning, and a social media cloud where we are constantly being overwhelmed with often unsettling information at our fingertips, our minds can become desensitized to the world around us. This can cause a strain to LGBTQ+ individuals’ mental health on top of already active stressors due to the holiday season.

Mental health affects everyone. We see that now with the passing of Stephen Boss, who was an acclaimed DJ, dancer and more. Self care and reaching out to friends and family for the holidays is imperative, especially for those within the LGBTQ+ community.

Support for the holiday time can seem scarce for some. Garden State Equality wants to remind those who may be anxious about being home for the holidays this year that we see you and we understand your feelings! Having a network of support can make the world of a difference. Garden State Equality partnered with Make It Better For Youth to create Educators for Equality, a network of LGBTQ+ educators and allies across the state of New Jersey with nearly 600 members and counting! We offer support services, networks, and friendships. Soon Garden State Equality will relaunch our youth advisory board, where students are spearheading the ways in which they need to be supported and more!

Finding your community can take time, but know we are out there, supporting and rooting for you always. Happy holidays!

Here are a few tips for navigating the holiday season this year:

  • Don’t let anyone steal your joy
  • Remember who you are and your values
  • Set boundaries with friends and family
  • Make time for yourself to decompress and ground yourself

Keep a few resources on hand that you can turn to for support:

World AIDS Day: Fight the Stigma!

Aleyah Lopez, Project Manager & Trainer

World AIDS Day (December 1) is an international day dedicated to raising awareness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and used to commemorate those who have died from the disease. This year, Garden State Equality wanted to host our very own event to celebrate this day and spread awareness of issues that still face people living with HIV. My colleague Jahmila Smith and I planned an event that included tabling, a panel discussion, and free HIV testing. We knew this type of event would have a great impact on attendees by offering multiple opportunities to learn and celebrate.

The event kicked off with tabling by Garden State Equality, Robert Wood Johnson Newark, Bridges 4 Life, and Rutgers Public Health: Center for Health, Identity, Behavior and Prevention Studies. Each organization provided resources and takeaways for attendees, as the goal is to make information more accessible to community members, as well as HIV testing, which was free for everyone there.

Another important aspect we wanted to include on this day was a panel discussion. Yolanda Frazier, a Project Manager from RWJ Family Treatment Center, wanted the discussion to be focused on the stigma surrounding HIV, especially from the medical provider perspective. This is such an important topic to shed light on because stigma can negatively impact the mental and physical health of people living with HIV, which discourages some individuals from getting tested, learning their HIV status, accessing treatment, and even trusting healthcare providers. Our very own John Juska was a part of the panel, and spoke about his experience living with HIV and being a part of the LGBTQ+ community. The discussion really highlighted the importance of understanding stigma and learning how to combat it, and it was great to hear this information from different people with differing perspectives and experiences. 

World AIDS Day is such an important day to remember and continue to celebrate, especially as the fight to end the HIV epidemic continues. It is important to remember pioneers in this work and all those who have been lost. Next year, we plan to make this event bigger and better and we hope to have you there!

Reducing the Need to Smoke

D Belinfanti, Project Manager & Trainer

We all know the famous saying, “It’s easier said than done,” and for most individuals who suffer from addiction, this is their response. It must be acknowledged that addiction is a powerful stimulant. 20.5 percent of LGBTQ+ adults smoke cigarettes, and our youth smoke at four times the rate of their cisgender heterosexual counterparts. In an effort to reduce and inform on the epidemic of tobacco consumption within the LGBTQ+ community, Garden State Equality will be hosting our first annual tobacco cessation summit. Registration ends January 5th. To register for the event as an attendee or an exhibitor, please click here.

The Take Pride in Being Tobacco-Free summit will occur virtually on January 12, 2023 from 9 am to 3:30 pm. Khari Bryce from the National LGBT Cancer Network will be our keynote speaker. Khari will be delivering his message on LGBTQ+ health disparities in relation to tobacco use. Providers and community members will have the opportunity to join workshops that focus on research-based interventions, mental health and substance use, and various discussion groups. We invite you to join this summit in an effort to change the narrative of tobacco consumption within the LGBTQ+ community and close the gap in services. All are welcome! Hope to see you there. 

The American Maternal Mortality Crisis: How One Documentary is Shining Light on Preventable Death Across the Nation

Justine Evyn Saliski, Project Manager & Trainer

At the end of October, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend an exclusive screening and panel discussion of “Aftershock”, presented by Horizon BCBSNJ and with special guest First Lady Tammy Murphy at the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center. “Aftershock” made its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, winning the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award: Impact for Change, for its in-depth analysis and depiction of the maternal mortality crisis that is plaguing the United States, particularly for black and brown women and child-bearing individuals. FIlmmakers Paula Eiselt and Tonya Lewis Lee, and Bruce McIntyre III, the partner of Amber Rose Isaac, who tragically lost her life from a preventable death after childbirth, took the stage for a panel discussion on how this grave crisis is impacting the country. 

At the conclusion of the documentary screening, First Lady Tammy Murphy took the stage to introduce the guest panelists. As a New Jersey trailblazer in the fight for combating New Jersey’s maternal and infant mortality, Tammy Murphy has created Nurture NJ, a statewide awareness campaign committed to reducing maternal and infant mortality and ensuring equitable care among women and children of all races and ethnicities. This campaign focuses on improving collaboration and programming between all departments, agencies, and stakeholders to make New Jersey the safest and most equitable place in the nation to give birth and raise a baby. Currently, New Jersey ranks 47th in the nation for maternal deaths, and a black mother is seven times more likely to die from a preventable childbirth death when compared to the rates of a white mother. As a leading state in the fight to end the maternal mortality crisis, Governor Murphy signed an executive order stating that pregnant women and persons in labor can be accompanied by a doula and a support person during the entire duration of their hospital stay. 

New Jersey and Garden State Equality know that parenthood should be an accessible and seamless process for all who desire children. Join Garden State Equality and Southern New Jersey Perinatal Cooperative on January 23, 2023 from 1 to 3 pm for a virtual discussion on the Pathways to Parenthood. Hear from professional experts in the field and personal stories on the journey to parenthood, nuances in healthcare, and considerations for those wanting to or are in the process of family planning. This event is also open to medical providers interested in diversifying their work, and expanding their knowledge on best ways to support LGBTQ+ families and people. Discussion topics include: policy, legal rights, parental rights, and family planning options such as IVF, surrogacy, adoption, and foster parenting for LGBTQ+ people. 

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