This is not a partisan or a political post, it’s an observation on the interplay between policy makers and health care in leading health in society.
Health care as a sector is usually targeted for its inefficiency and poor quality, for its designing away of hope…..and then scenes like this happen.
The image is of the iconic Whitman Walker Health (@WhitmanWalker) on 14th Street NW in Washington, DC, lit in the colors of the transgender pride flag, immediately following 2017 Capital TransPride, of which Whitman Walker is a presenting sponsor. (See: Because Life is Amazing and We Can: My 5th Capital TransPride )
Given the location, in one of the busiest corridors in our nation’s capital, the sight is as stunning and meaningful as was the lighting of the White House in the colors of the LGBTQ Pride flag in 2015.
Not the first time Whitman Walker preceded policy makers
This scene immediately reminded me of this one, in December, 2007, when I snapped this photograph, just a few blocks north, on World AIDS day:
Remarkably, my thoughts from that moment are here on this blog (See: Photo Friday: Miracles Happen ), and they relate the feeling present at the time, that health care would have to lead our policy makers down the street, because they weren’t going to.
3 years later, a beautifully designed red ribbon appeared on the White House for the first time, on World AIDS Day, and it would adorn the House every year after that (and I’ve photographed it most years, it’s that stunning).
Whitman Walker has the longest track record for providing compassionate health care to the LGBTQ community – all the letters. And in this location, which for many years was forgotten and without hope as Washington, DC struggled after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr, and then the drug and HIV epidemics that followed.
And then policy makers caught up
In 2014, Washington, DC Mayor Vince Gray banned exclusions for transgender person care in health insurance. He went even farther – requiring that medically supervised, science-based transgender person care be covered as a requirement to sell insurance in the District of Columbia.
It was an incredible day – the policy was landmark not just for Washington, DC, but the entire nation, which is slowly catching up to Washington, DC in LGBTQ-supportive health policy. Washington, DC is still the national leader.
At the time we lamented that mainstream health care was incapable of being a leader in health.
There are always leaders in health in health care
Several of us hoped that the White House would follow-up the 2015 lighting by lighting with the transgender pride flag in 2016 after the series of health and life promoting policy actions undertaken by the Obama administration.
This didn’t happen. So we wait, and watch as Whitman Walker and every health system in Washington, DC innovates in LGBTQ health (because it’s required by policy).
One day policy makers will catch up again.
It’s happened before. 🙂