How an iMessage App helped make history at the first transgender pride crosswalk in the United States

2017.06.10 Painting of #DCRainbowCrosswalks Washington, DC USA 6410
2017.06.10 Painting of #DCRainbowCrosswalks Washington, DC USA 6410 (View on Flickr.com)

Washington, DC did it first (again). The first transgender pride crosswalk in the United States, the second in North America. (see: Photo Friday: Where crosswalks are inclusive, too. Washington, DC USA for more information about this work)

The history on top of the history is that the crosswalk’s creation included the creator of the transgender pride flag, Monica Helms (@MF_Helms).

Monica learned about the crosswalk because of this blog post:

Special Pride Project Complete: Transgender Pride Flag iMessage App

Which was shared on Facebook, which she responded to, and connected this work to her work. It turned out that Monica and her partner Darlene happened to be in Washington, DC (they are from Atlanta area) on the day we painted, and so, we painted.

A Crisscross of History – Monica and Ted

The first transgender pride flag was unveiled in the LGBTQ Pride Celebrations in Phoenix, Arizona in the year 2000. I was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, and it turns out I was born and raised less than a mile from where Monica grew up. My father completed his residency training at a new hospital in the newish community that Monica’s family settled in at the time.

I’d like to be able to say that many who leave Arizona go on to do great things, or great things for the LGBTQ community specifically (Cleve Jones @CleveJones1 is also an Arizona native)….maybe it is that the places that are at times the least tolerant create the greatest innovation.

A 5 Star Experience

2017.06.10 Painting of #DCRainbowCrosswalks Washington, DC USA 6336
2017.06.10 Painting of #DCRainbowCrosswalks Washington, DC USA 6336 (View on Flickr.com)

As Oprah herself defines 5 star experiences, this was one of those. Maybe a 6 star. My favorite images in the collection below are of my fellow citizens, humans, leaders, marking their identity on the streets of our nation’s capital. Fully sanctioned, fully supported, following in the footsteps of the Mayor herself who painted the previous day, protected by a Metropolitan Police Sergeant who also happens to be transgender herself.

The power of a flag to indicate that a person exists, that they matter, is undeniable to someone who is LGBTQ. Others may never understand it, but they can work to understand it πŸ™‚ .

When I said goodbye to Monica my voice cracked a little when I said “thanks for changing the world.” A person doesn’t get to say that to a lot of people in their lifetimes. Although, in Washington, DC, I seem to say that to a lot more people than any other place I’ve been.

2017.06.10 Painting of #DCRainbowCrosswalks Washington, DC USA 6415
2017.06.10 Painting of #DCRainbowCrosswalks Washington, DC USA 6415 (View on Flickr.com)

Isn’t this century the best? (It is)

Photos below. As Washington DC goes, so goes the nation.

I am what I am
And what I am needs no excuses
I deal my own deck
Sometimes the aces sometimes the deuces
It’s one life and there’s no return and no deposit
One life so it’s time to open up your closet
Life’s not worth a damn till you can shout out
I am what I amGloria Gaynor

Thanks for publishing my photo in Breakfast links: Not your average Pride weekend – @ggwash

Trans Solidarity Rally and March 55401
Trans Solidarity Rally and March 55401 (View on Flickr.com)

Thanks for publishing my photo Greater Greater Washington (@ggwash). Today is Pride day in the nation’s capital, the most inclusive city in the world, as the photograph shows. More photos coming.

Capital Pride gets underway this weekend, and this year’s event feels particularly political. Our region’sΒ security agencies are housed in a subset of architecture all their own. DC workers may have to start paying more to fund paid family leave.

Source: Breakfast links: Not your average Pride weekend – Greater Greater Washington

Special Pride Project Complete: Transgender Pride Flag iMessage App

As I mentioned in this Month’s Now Update, I worked on a special emoji creation project for a friend, and that project is now complete.

You can read more about it at community colleague Chad Cipiti’s website.

And of course, download the App here (iOS only at this time).

As it says in the website description, visibility and identity is important, one of the most primal human drives there is.

If I am impressed by anything in my career as a physician, it is the fact, as data clearly shows, that suppression or denial of identity by outside forces has catastrophic health and life consequences. So why would we want to do that? In any event, diversity is what allows the human species to survive.

iMessage full of pride, smiles ear to ear when I see great people who are visible and amazing. . App submitted to iTunes waiting for approval ✌️ #TransVisibility #transpride #transrespect capitaltranspride As Washington, DC goes, so goes the nation
iMessage full of pride, smiles ear to ear when I see great people who are visible and amazing. . App submitted to iTunes waiting for approval ✌️ #TransVisibility #transpride #transrespect @capitaltranspride As Washington, DC goes, so goes the nation (View on Flickr.com)

We decided to do this because there’s a need, and it’s better for health. There’s a movement underway to add the transgender pride flag symbol to Unicode. Hopefully it will follow the rainbow pride flag, which was added in 2016.

We’ll also be working on another special visibility project this week, which I hope to post photographs of as well.

Thank you Chad (@chaddashwick), Bianca (@BiancaRey), and the 21st Century, for being here with us πŸ™‚ – and Happy Pride Month!

If you don’t like the news … go out and make some of your own Wes Nisker

#WhatAHeroLooks like: 27 Years of DC Black Pride

2017.05.23 DC Black Pride, Washington, DC USA 5343
2017.05.23 DC Black Pride, Washington, DC USA 5343 (View on Flickr.com)

I’m so glad I went to the 2017 DC Black Pride Awards Reception last week.

It’s where SaVanna Wanzer was given the 2017 Unsung Hero Award. It’s where I also heard the stories of the other awardees this year. In a world where those who have what they need can say “be lesser, do more,” these are people who are treated as lesser, and do a lot more than those work to act lesser.

2017.05.23 DC Black Pride, Washington, DC USA 5303
2017.05.23 DC Black Pride, Washington, DC USA 5303 (View on Flickr.com)

I believe I first met SaVanna at Ruby Corado’s wedding – she is also a photographer and we always seek each other out πŸ™‚ .

Ever since then, working with her as a volunteer on the producers group for Capital TransPride (@TransprideDC) has been a highlight of my life in Washington, DC. Some people go places for the music, I go to see the leadership. All of the places I see her lead, I am so impressed at the potential of people to create change and affirm others.

In her remarks at the Awards, SaVanna told us that one of her earliest volunteer activities was standing in line on behalf of those who sought care for HIV infection, because they were unable to, in a health system (@WhitmanWalker) that offered care when other physicians refused to.

I suppose now it could be said that our generation is doing the same for the next generation, so that they can receive care and live long, healthy lives.

There are few photos of us below that I’ve curated. Lots of favorite, 5-star moments, true life pleasures.

In the 20th Century, they used to say that as another State went, so went the nation. In this century, it’s Washington, DC.

SaVanna Wanzer has dedicated the last 25 years of her life to serving the transgender community with Whitman-Walker Health. She was the first transgender African-American woman to be named as a member of its board of directors; serving for nine years. During the early years, she was instrumental in ensuring the transgender community received medical services for HIV care and hormone therapy at the Whitman-Walker Health transgender care clinic”. She regularly volunteered at the food bank and prepared an annual Thanksgiving Dinner for seven years for clients that had no family or loved ones with whom to celebrate. She continues to volunteer her time at the Name and Gender Legal Clinic at Whitman-Walker Health that brings her so much joy in life.SaVanna Wanzer, Unsung Hero, DC Black Pride

Photo Friday: In Washington, DC, health care does what policy makers can’t…until later

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 Photo

2017.05.20 Capital TransPride Washington, DC USA 5249
They see us. Whitman Walker Health lit in the colors of the transgender pride flag. 2017.05.20 Capital TransPride Washington, DC USA 5249 (View on Flickr.com)
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:

Whitman Walker Clinic - Miracles Happen
Whitman Walker Clinic – Miracles Happen (View on Flickr.com)
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.

2016.12.01 World AIDS Day at The White House, Washington, DC USA 09223
2016.12.01 World AIDS Day at The White House, Washington, DC USA 09223 (View on Flickr.com)

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

Prohibition of Discrimination in Health Insurance based on Gender Identity or Expression 38007
Prohibition of Discrimination in Health Insurance based on Gender Identity or Expression 38007 (View on Flickr.com)

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. πŸ™‚

Celebrating a new America #lovewins 58190
Next time, in the transgender pride flag colors. Until then, we have Whitman Walker (View on Flickr.com)

Because Life is Amazing and We Can: My 5th Capital TransPride

2017.05.20 Capital TransPride Washington, DC USA 5127
With Vanessa and Ellie Ford – Photographer Credit – Ronnie Ford πŸ™‚ 2017.05.20 Capital TransPride Washington, DC USA 5127 (View on Flickr.com)
I didn’t take the photograph above – it was taken by Ronnie Ford, Ellie Ford’s older brother. He wanted to take some photos and he knows what he’s doing, so why not?

Ronnie and Ellie were at Capital TransPride (@TransPrideDC) this weekend, with their mother and father, Vanessa (@VanessaFordDC) and JR (@CrunchyDCGuy). The Ford family have been visible leaders (see these links to multiple national media outlets covering their story) in one of the most defining social movements our time. Their work is as valuable if not more than any physician’s in promoting health and long lives for LGBTQ human beings.

Health and Healing

2017.05.20 Capital TransPride Washington, DC USA 5250
They see us. @WhitmanWalker lights up Washington, DC in the colors of the transgender pride flag. 2017.05.20 Capital TransPride Washington, DC USA 5250 (View on Flickr.com)

It’s what it felt like to be at Capital TransPride, now my 5th in a row. There was both the image of health and healing. This was the first year that Kaiser Permanente formally introduced a comprehensive transgender health program to these communities. Not one but four Permanente physicians (@PermanenteDocs) were present, along with therapists, researchers, and other health leaders. Whitman Walker Health (@WhitmanWalker), a national leader in transgender person health, and LGBTQ health in general, was also present (of course).

Whitman Walker also treated Washington, DC to a transgender pride flag light show from the windows of its health center, in one of the busiest night time corridors in the city. This is not the first time that Whitman Walker has done what the White House wasn’t able to in being a leader for health. I’ll be posting about that this week.

The world is learning to love better.

Leadership and Much Much More to do

2017.05.20 Capital TransPride Washington, DC USA 5129
On May 16, 2017, Kaiser Permanente signed the friend of the court brief for Gavin Grimm in Grimm vs Gloucester County School Board. The nurses, doctors, therapists, researchers, and people who power Kaiser Permanente met Gavin and gave him a hug on behalf of the organization.
2017.05.20 Capital TransPride Washington, DC USA 5129 (View on Flickr.com)

At the same time, these are communities whose health and life trajectory are under threat, as told by Vanessa and Ron Ford as well as Gavin Grimm (@GavinGrimmVA) whose School Board worked to socially isolate transgender children based on non-scienced based views of reality.

We are also nearing the 1 year anniversary of the massacre of 49 human beings in Orlando, Florida, based on their identities as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer. What we do here matters.

I was asked by an attendee how a busy doctor would have time to be part of Capital TransPride, and my answer is that health is what a doctor is supposed to be busy doing πŸ™‚ .

My photographs are below, and I have a few more things to post in the next day(s). With thanks to the gracious hosts at Studio Theatre (@Studio_Theatre) – not only was the space this year amazing, but the lighting inside a place built for art makes for beautiful pictures as well.