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Marriage Equality Is Great And All, But...

Cleveland's LGBT Community Is Focused On More Important Things Right Now

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Dr. Henry Ng, an internist-pediatrician working as part of the LGBT Pride Clinic at MetroHealth Medical Center says, however, that they're all part of the same ongoing conversation.

"Issues relating to ENDA and our state DOMA [Defense of Marriage Act] really go hand-in-hand at this point," he says.

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The Pride Clinic at MetroHealth, first opened in 2007, operates from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. or so on Wednesdays at the McCafferty Health Center, 4242 Lorain Ave. And that's the extent of the clinic's availability, apart from a few hours throughout the week that Ng and the crew work out of MetroHealth's Strongsville satellite.

Whether it's a matter of time or money, resources for serving LGBT patients are thin in Cuyahoga County, despite being at their most robust levels in years. But the Pride Clinic is an extraordinary asset that's advancing both real, well-rounded health services and the conversation that Harris and others continue bringing up. Ng also sees the value in maintaining public dialogue. In fact, he was kicking off those very discussions among Cleveland's medical community just shy of a decade ago.

There's no legislation on the table that would change what Ng and Dr. Douglas Van Auken are doing. Whereas the microscope of the state legislature is homing in on employment- and housing-related issues, there's no grand public effort to push the hands of private hospitals in the direction of justice. Those attempts at changing society are running under the radar to garner the attention of those who need them most.

"More people, through word-of-mouth, are hearing about the Pride Clinic," Ng says. "It all starts with the question: 'How can we help you?'"

The Pride Clinic builds on what other scattered organizations are offering (like the LGBT Community Center's free HIV and STD testing). The community's health needs go far beyond such offerings. "That's actually a very small part of what we do," Ng says, referencing child and adult health and wellness: prevention, check-ups, family planning and more. And providing that choice—the choice to receive treatment in a comfortable, caring setting, he says—is a slowly growing phenomenon in corners of the health care world.

"Five hours of medical education on average is dedicated to LGBT health in the United States in your first two years of school," Ng says, painting a picture of the roots of the matter. That's a problem—and one that echoes the country's distorted approach to considering the LGBT population in matters of health care, housing and employment.

That distortion is slowly ebbing. But the fact is that people—both leaders and followers—are starting to listen and respond to the needs of the population.

"It's a step in the right direction. There are a lot of other areas that need to be included," Jacob Nash, a board member of TransOhio, says of EHEA and ENDA. He notes additional concerts for the transgender community: "For instance, regarding documentation, Ohio is only one of three states that will not correct a birth certificate. That needs to be worked on. There's also the fact that hate crime legislation does not include gender identity."

People like Nash, Ng and Harris are working daily to promote a real shift in society, but the current state of affairs too often rests on a statewide vote nearly 10 years ago. It was a damning moment.

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