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Pride: Why We Celebrate and Why We Fight

Posted on: June 9th, 2017 by Collective Conscience

Curious why my chosen family and I post pictures with rainbows all month? Because it’s PRIDE!

Pride comes from the years of building up the courage to tell your family who you really are. It is then having conversations a second time, and a third. It is “coming out” over and over again to cousins, colleagues, new friends. For some, it is the moment when you willingly let go of a meaningful family relationship or friend because they will not accept you. Pride is self-respect and self-love.

Pride is slowly but surely shedding the shame so that you can hold the hand of the guy you love in public. And, it is terrifying to do in many cities in America still, no matter that it is 2017 and you have been “out” for a decade or longer. Pride is posting that first picture of you and your first boyfriend on social media. In that moment, it is accompanied by a slight anxiety, but a recognition that you want the world to know ho happy you are together. Pride is displaying your family photo on your desk at work, knowing you can be fired in many states if the boss doesn’t like what he or she sees.

Pride is standing on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court with your best friend and partner hearing that, for the first time, your government affirms that you are equal. Imagine how that feels after living decades knowing that the government actively denied your equality.

Pride is seeing you father’s corporate America embrace their LGBTQ family and customers with rainbow products and LGBT affirming display windows. Pride is joining a parade with co-workers and friends, seeing signs everywhere that society loves you. Pride is major league ballparks hosting LGBTQ Pride Nights, where the kiss cam may stop and you, and the crowd will cheer at the result, despite the fact that we still don’t have an out major league ball player. And Pride is seeing families embrace their out and proud high school (and younger) LGBTQ children!

This year, Pride is also resistance. Pride originated in riots and protests in the late 1960s. It was LGBT Americans claiming our power and telling society and government that we would no longer accept being marginalized; we would not acquiesce to facing discrimination daily. Today, that threat is real once again. So now, Pride is fighting hard and demanding our protections and progress not face erosion. This White House hasn’t issued a Pride Proclamation. Instead, they have issued executive orders offering loopholes for federal contractors to discriminate against us. They have turned their back on our civil rights, through decisions made at the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services. And, they are attacking our equality by attacking the Affordable Care Act, which has helped LGBTQ Americans to get health insurance and culturally competent health care.

So, while we thank you for celebrating with us, this year we need more. Your presence marching in the parade, attending a party, or offering a Happy Pride to a friend of colleague is a meaningful symbol of your commitment as an ally. Now, join us at a protest march. Join us in calling Congress to demand that they NOT pass a health care law that threatens our health. Join us in holding Trump and those who marginalize us accountable. Join us with Pride…

A Personal Take On The Health Care Battle

Posted on: March 9th, 2017 by Collective Conscience

Coverage, access and non-discrimination protections matter.

Before 2014, I was the archetypal young invincible – abandoning my traditional career path in favor of entrepreneurship, and often without health insurance. My decision to get (or keep) health coverage (or not) was a function of how my startup was performing and my ability or patience to navigate the enrollment process. Frankly, it was an adventurous, but terrifying way to live. There were times that I didn’t see a doctor, unsure how much it might cost if I needed a strep test; there were lengthy periods when I would not fill a prescription, because I didn’t have insurance to cover it. I cut back on hiking, recreational sports, and fitness for fear that one injury could bankrupt me.

There were times that I didn’t see a doctor, unsure how much it might cost… There were lengthy periods when I would not fill a prescription, because I didn’t have insurance to cover it.

But, that changed with the Affordable Care Act (ACA). My business was growing up, and so was I. It was the perfect time to enroll in health insurance through the California marketplace, known as Covered California. Finally, I had access to quality, affordable health insurance. More importantly, now I could get health care.

I was one of the millions of healthy young adults who found plenty of plan options, especially compared to what I had previously purchased (or forgone). And, it just so happened that one of my clients since then has been Out2Enroll — a national initiative to connect LGBTQ people with ACA health coverage. With first-hand knowledge, I have preached the importance of the Affordable Care Act. And, through my work, I have heard and retold story after story of the peace of mind, financial security, and lives saved because of the ACA.

Then last October, I became acutely aware of the critical importance of the ACA. We were working long hours on a project thousands of miles from home; late one night on this extended trip, my boyfriend woke up vomiting, with a severe fever. The fever persisted for two days, despite multiple (and futile) trips to urgent care clinics. When the fever reached its peak at 3 AM on the third night, I desperately called my primary care physician emergency help line.

I was forced to confront all the stigma, potential discrimination, and additional anxiety that being a gay couple needing emergency care produced.

That was the first time I was forced to think about rushing a loved one to the ER. And, beyond my concern for my boyfriend’s well-being, I was forced to confront all the stigma, potential discrimination, and additional anxiety that being a gay couple needing emergency care produced. I didn’t know, for instance, if the nearest hospital, a faith-based facility, in this Southern city would be culturally competent or welcoming. We weren’t in the liberal bubble of D.C. anymore.

Even though I knew that the ACA prohibits discrimination, the reality felt uncertain at best. I knew our rights, I knew how to self-advocate, and I had a significant degree of privilege. Still, at 3 AM, I was paralyzed. I cannot imagine how others with less privilege — or in a more medically vulnerable state—must feel.

Fortunately, my boyfriend got the fluids and medicine he needed without incident, and he made a full recovery. And, thanks to the ACA, he was insured under his father’s policy — which meant his emergency room visit was covered and wouldn’t cause financial ruin or leave him with medical debt for years to come.

This is just one small example — my lived example — of why the ACA matters: because coverage, access and non-discrimination protections matter.

This week, the Republicans in Congress and the Administration have released their “plan,” which, unsurprisingly, is no plan at all. Their alternative will result in less access, fewer benefits, and more uninsured Americans (and they want to proceed without bothering to know what the bill will cost or what the impact of their proposed changes will be on American families). This “plan” would be devastating for young people, for LGBTQ people, and for the approximately 30 million Americans who stand to lose access to quality affordable health coverage and care.

This ‘plan’ would be devastating for young people and LGBTQ people…

Those with preexisting conditions, whether mental health or cancer or asthma, may never be able to access coverage again. And, changes to the law could mean the rollback of significant protections for our trans community, in particular.

As one of the wealthiest nations on earth, we must prioritize health care for the individuals and families that call America home; and we should work together to strengthen, not dismantle, health care.

An Open Letter To My Midwestern Republican (And Independent) Family

Posted on: August 23rd, 2016 by Collective Conscience

I know that we don’t always agree on politics, but I also know that you have always been open-minded and supportive of my personal and professional civic and political work.  So, I am hoping for some real talk…

As the 2016 election approaches, I need to know that you are with me. I could give you every reason that Donald Trump is uniquely and profoundly unqualified to be president when it comes to national security or foreign affairs, but many of our nation’s leading military minds have already done that. We could talk about his sub-par business record as evidence that he is not an economic genius, but the Washington Post already did that. I could try to convince you that he should release his taxes, or should be more honest about his relationship with Putin. But, his fellow Republicans are writing op-eds to that end.  Together, I am fairly certain that you find these arguments persuasive.

However, the real reason that I need to believe you will vote against Trump – and for Hillary Clinton – is much more simple: his words… I cannot bear the thought that you could look your kids in the eye and tell them you were proud to cast your ballot for a man to lead our country who says the things Donald Trump says. We could be here all day reciting the list of egregious offenses to so many Americans, including many statements that ridicule members in our family: strong women (“pigs”), immigrants (“criminals”), military officers and veterans (“loser” POWs). And then after he spews his special brand of huge gold adorned hate, he has the arrogance to play us all for fools by having his surrogates provide b.s. (“blatant spin”) the next day. We all hear what he says. No one – Democrat, Republican, or Independent – believes Katrina or Kellyanne (including Katrina or Kellyanne) as they stumble through their half-hearted explanations. Our family may not be Manhattan born and Upper East Side educated, but us corn-fed, cow-eyed Midwestern hicks have a sense of decency for our fellow Americans; we have a deep sense of respect for our military and veterans; and we have an abiding love of this country that our great grandparents immigrated to not so long ago. A man applying to be our President that shows up for the interview and mocks those asking the questions, or threatens the fellow-applicants, and then takes this electorate for gullible fools isn’t worthy of the job.

Look, we have 70-some days until the election, and I’m imagining you feel like you are in a bit of a pickle. I know you well enough to know that you cannot vote for him to lead America. BUT, I also recognize that you aren’t a Hillary fan. I know you don’t agree with certain policies. And let’s be honest, you do not trust her for reasons both real and imagined (though that’s a conversation for another day). Here is the thing: you can still vote for her. You can trust the many Republicans who you respect and who have said they will vote for her because she is supremely qualified; you can trust many of our nation’s military leaders, who worked with her as Secretary of State and trust her to be our commander in chief and lead our troops. You can trust that when she’s elected, even if she is going to appoint judges further left than you, she has the utmost respect for our Constitution (and unlike Trump, she most certainly has read it!). And, you can trust that she is going to put our country ahead of her ego. For the love of our country, I can trust that you are going to vote for her.

So I want to ask you to do one thing for me, as someone who is working tirelessly because I believe so strongly that she must be our next president — don’t hide. Don’t be afraid to be public about your vote. Offer all the caveats you want; make it known that you are holding your nose, whatever. But, share your opinions on Facebook and at book club that with whatever reservations you may have, you are going to cast a vote for Hillary Clinton on November 8. You see, I am pretty sure that your friends are in the same boat; and if everyone in the suburbs of Indianapolis, Chicago, Fairfax County and Denver, or across Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania gives one another permission to support this incredibly smart, hardworking, dedicated public servant, we will all wake up November 9 proud to look our children in the eye and tell them that this amazing country made history last night by defeating hate-filled and bigoted rhetoric, and elected a woman who we may not always love or agree with, but who we know will be a leader our country can be proud to call Madam President.