Pride Month Spotlight
Callen-Lorde Community Health Center
As a part of our Pride Month celebration, we want to recognize Callen-Lorde Community Health Center for their amazing work! Callen-Lorde is a global leader in LGBTQ+ healthcare based out of New York City. Callen-Lorde provides judgment-free healthcare to LGBTQ+ individuals regardless of gender, race, sexual-orientation and the ability to pay. We were able to sit down with Caitlin Quigley (she/her/hers), Director of Communications, at Callen-Lorde Community Health Center for an interview on how their company works and more information on the work they do. Thank you, Caitlin, for your time and your insights!
Can you tell our audience about what Callen-Lorde’s history and mission?
Callen-Lorde’s grassroots history extends back to 1969 – just after Stonewall – with the formation of two organizations – the St. Mark’s Clinic, and Gay Men’s Health Project. Both organizations provided free healthcare to people who were typically excluded from mainstream healthcare, including lesbians and gay men. In 1983, these two organizations merged in response to the AIDS epidemic and became “Community Health Project, Inc.” In 1998, we changed our name to Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in honor of AIDS and safer sex activist Michael Callen, and renowned writer, poet, and civil rights activist, Audre Lorde.
Today, our mission is to provide sensitive, affirming healthcare to LGBTQ+ communities, regardless of ability to pay. In addition, we pioneer research, advocacy, and education to drive positive change around the world, because we believe healthcare is a human right.
Can you tell us more about your Care with Action program and how it’s evolved, especially over the past several years?
Beyond providing direct health care services, Callen-Lorde also advocates for policies that impact our collective health and wellness on the federal, state, and local levels. Care with Action is a program that launched last summer that works to engage our patients and community members in our advocacy efforts to improve the health and safety of LGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities. We wanted to provide a space for our patients to be engaged in their own health beyond our doors – and Care with Action is a platform to do just that. Opportunities include signing petitions, marching at an event, attending a protest, or sharing a personal story to educate and inform lawmakers. These are just a few of the ways we hope that our patients will get involved!
Tell us more about your Pride Month Celebration: Express Your Health.
Each year we choose a theme to engage our communities in Pride, and this year’s theme is “Express Your Health,” focusing on individuality, self-expression, and the importance of bodily autonomy in health care – especially in light of recent attempts to strip our rights. Health care is incredibly personal, and everyone has their own journey and relationship to their own health. As providers, our role is to create spaces that affirm humanity and individuality to promote self-determination, encouraging each of our patients to express their health to the fullest.
You partner with many influential people in the NYC LGBTQ+ community, for example, Hugo Gyrl, for Pride Month. How do you choose your collaborators?
We have been fortunate to collaborate with so many great artists and illustrators in the past. We exclusively work with queer creators and center BIPOC creators as well. Many of our collaborators come to us organically – they know us or have received services from us and reach out to collaborate, or we’re fans of their work and reach out to them. Invariably, all of our collaborators have a personal connection to Callen-Lorde – it makes it so much more authentic and special.
What, based on your daily interactions and experience, is the most critical issue facing LGBTQ+ healthcare today?
Access and policy – which are really two sides of the same coin. Policy can help create access or strip it away, which can be seen in the many violent and vicious attempts across the country to reverse the progress we’ve made. Universal access to health care should be basic human right – regardless of insurance, income, race, immigration status, gender, gender identity, ability, or sexual orientation.
What is a meaningful action or service an ally of the LGBTQ+ community could do to show their support for the community during Pride Month and year round?
One great way to meaningfully support LGBTQ+ folks is by donating to non-profits that are by and for the LGBTQ+ community. If folks feel so moved, Callen-Lorde is doing a big fundraising push this month – all gifts will be matched dollar for dollar, so that $5 becomes $10, $10 becomes $20, etc. Folks can learn more and donate at callen-lorde.org/pride! Aside from donating, the most meaningful way allies can support the LGBTQ+ community is by making space, listening, educating themselves about issues that impact the LGBTQ+ community, and by speaking up when they witness injustice. We can all make a difference!