This is the third Werk for Peace event that I’ve attended and I so admire the leadership, courage, and creativity I see here, for the most pressing issues of our time. As courageous and innovative I have seen among people who have 100 times the resources, which makes sense, because innovation always happens in the out of the way places.
Note also the LGBTQ visibility and TransVisibility that this group brings to our nation’s capital. We know that the drive to be visible and live in one’s identity is one of the most powerful in human existence, so powerful that when taken away people may lose the will to live altogether. From that perspective, a dance party like this saves lives, too.
What We’re Here For
Each event I have attended begins with a ritual, a moment of silence for those who were lost to murder (Pulse Nightclub and countless other violent acts), or in this case, neglect, of the health care system, which has probably resulted in more death than many Pulse nightclub massacres.
The photograph at the top of this post is the only one that wasn’t taken this year. It was taken on June 11, 2016, in Washington, DC, the day before 49 human beings were massacred in Orlando for living in their identities.
Celebrate. And, help the world learn to love better. If you’re not sure how to do that, ask someone who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. We’re here to help you work to be an ally 🙂 .
I believe I first met SaVanna at Ruby Corado’s wedding – she is also a photographer and we always seek each other out 🙂 .
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.
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
In Washington, DC, you can walk down the street to make today matter. It’s why we came here.
Why I came here, to the National Center for Transgender Equality (@TransEquality) gala is to see transformational leadership of the kind I don’t see in many other parts of society. I also came to thank all of the people who work to protect me every day and to learn what I can do to make this day matter, too. Allies need allies.
Because they never worked for their freedom, their travel experiences have no personal reference— no connection to the rest of their lives. Talk to them, and they’ll tell you they’re searching for something “meaningful.” What they’re really looking for, however, is the reason why they started traveling in the first place.
Ferriss, Timothy (2016-12-06). Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers (p. 366). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.
Most people forget that innovation (and investing in innovation) is a business of exceptions.
Ferriss, Timothy (2016-12-06). Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers (p. 360). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.
A few evenings ago evening I attended a public dialogue with the LGBTQ communities of Washington, DC and the Capital Pride Alliance (@CapitalPrideDC) organization. I was present as a member of the producer team for Capital Transpride (@TransPrideDC).
I came to Washington, DC and found out I wanted to work to be a better ally. When my generation of physicians needed them, they (allies) were few and far between….
I met Jen McCoy a few weeks ago, in an almost rushed conversation, when she approached me to ask about transgender person care. Following our conversation I received this message from her, which she’s given me permission to repost here.
Hi Dr. Eytan,
We spoke for a couple minutes in March at ACHP about health care for the transgender population and you handed me your card with your pronouns on it. That was a changing point for me and I want to let you know.
When I returned, I began attending a transgender support group as an ally, ear and liaison for my health care company. To me, it all boiled down to this: the community members are living their authentic lives and 99% of the population doesn’t live their truth for whatever reason (I think it’s fear). As a result, I’ve made friends and also feel very committed to ensuring safe, accessible, affordable health care (as does my company).
This week, I received an email from a woman in the support group who said it’s important to have cisgender allies. I’ve gained so much from attending, including the cathartic share of my friend’s suicide, who was gay and bullied. I’ve carried guilt about not saving him for years, attend therapy for more than a decade, and once I told the group–a weight was finally lifted. They cried with me. I got a group hug. It was incredible.
This morning, I was reading the Huffington Post and saw a photo gallery of a dance party outside Ivanka Trump’s place. When I saw the name of the photographer, I wondered if it was you and as you know, it is! I found you on Instagram and just had to email you to let you know that YOU made a BIG difference. Thank you for taking the time to talk with me; thank you for being approachable and accessible; thank you for being an incredible advocate in health care.
I almost didn’t attend the conference because of anxiety, but if I would’ve let fear stop me then I would’ve never ran into you; probably would’ve been too timid to attend a support group; never would’ve made the connections and friendships; and wouldn’t have you as a resource for our company. I learned this morning that I should step into the fear. Full circle, huge learning moment on my part.
Again, thank you. Please never underestimate your interactions because they create positive change. I hope you know it and embrace it.
I believe that we’ve discovered that our generation does have the power to change everything, and the world, ultimately, is learning to love better.
Everyone deserves to be safe, and to live a long, healthy life. It’s why we’re here.
At the same time, because this is a blog about what I learned yesterday, I’m reflecting on similar actions in our nation’s capital in 2008 that I was at:
What I learned is that LGBTQ communities have become healthier, more able to control its destiny, and in an intersectional, non-binary way, in 10 years.
And why wouldn’t they?
Resilient people and companies face reality with staunchness, make meaning of hardship instead of crying out in despair, and improvise solutions from thin air. Others do not. This is the nature of resilience, and we will never completely understand it. – Coutu DL. How resilience works. Harv. Bus. Rev. 2002;80(5):46.
Earlier in my career, I remember a colleague saying to me, in a challenge to observed, biased behavior, “this is organization x, those things don’t happen here.” He said it with a dismissive chuckle. And yet, it did happen…
One of the authors, Daniel Effron now at London Business School (@lbs), has written another piece more recently which I’ll post on next.
It’s yet-another-place where the professions outside of medicine can teach us a lot, and why shouldn’t they, we need each other, and our patients need us to perform our best for them.
Moral Self-License, a fascinating concept that shapes our actions
When under the threat that their next action might be (or appear to be) morally dubious, individuals can derive confidence from their past moral behavior, such that an impeccable track record increases their propensity to engage in otherwise suspect actions. Such moral self-licensing (Monin & Miller, 2001) occurs when past moral behavior makes people more likely to do poten- tially immoral things without worrying about feeling or appearing immoral.
Several study situations of note (summarized here, you can review for control situations, etc):
When people expressed support for a Black presidential candidate (Barack Obama), they were more likely to subsequently express bias toward less-qualified White candidates for a police job.
People asked to describe a time in their past when they acted immorally were more likely to endorse prosocial activities such as giving to charities.
The converse situation, people describing a moral act in the past were more likely to cheat on a math task
So there is something about doing (or even thinking) about past behavior that causes people to engage in less-than-virtuous behavior or to minimize the less-than-virtuousness of the behavior.
What does this mean for health care?
There is much public controversy presently around institutions and people who express commitment to an unbiased environment, and yet biased environments persist.
Interestingly, further research shows that there is greater sensitivity to what is seen as hypocrisy by people in the affected, targeted groups, which makes sense. The converse, however, is that people who are not in the targeted groups are less likely to see hypocrisy and license biased behavior, which allows it to persist. This is a difficult problem if the actors and the licensors are all part of the same ingroup – there will be less introspection.
Here’s a reason why this is important
Because, today, medical students feel comfortable explicitly stating bias against lesbian and gay individuals (and even more bias against obese individuals), an atmosphere of moral license (“we don’t do that here, our policies say so”) can allow this to continue.
There appears to be a protective effect in the understanding of a person’s commitment (who they are and what they stand for) versus what they do (progress toward a goal). Labeling is tied into this:
several studies have found that labeling people as ‘‘helpful’’ after they agree to a small request increases their likelihood of acting consistently by agreeing to a subsequent, large request
Value of Listening, Introspection
There are a few more papers that I’m going to summarize here, because this is such a fascinating topic, and frankly, a head scratcher for people in vulnerable groups who observe repeated, biased behavior in people who otherwise are committed to being bias free.
The reconciliation of all of this is that we are all human, and the “this doesn’t happen here” turns out to be one of the most dangerous statements that can ever be made.
Right now, I think one of the most topic areas for this exploration is the work of being an ally, to a group of people that is not your own. This is a space where the research points to a great risk of moral license (because the actor and the target are not in the same ingroup), and where, consistency is needed the most for the persons an ally is working to support.
Maybe good advice here is to be introspective about actions, query those who you are working to be an ally for about actions, and listen to their answer. Otherwise, a person may be inadvertently licensing themselves to do things they will not notice are unhelpful, and later regret. It’s what all humans do, therefore, work with other humans to mitigate this risk :).