By Emily Clute
A brand new LGBTQ+ Health and Wellness Resource Directory has been released for 2020, compiled by two UAlbany Ph.D. students, in cooperation with the Rainbow Access Initiative (RAI).
The two students— Mairead Carr, a fourth-year Ph.D. student of Sociology, and Michelle Meyer, a second-year Ph.D. student of Educational Psych and Method— spent 8 weeks compiling and vetting service providers across the Capital District in order to build the directory, which is the first iteration the RAI has released.
The Rainbow Access Initiative is a nonprofit organization that serves to ensure “comprehensive, accessible, and culturally appropriate mental and physical health care,” to LGBTQ+ people in the Capital Region, as their mission statement in the directory explains.
“Our goal was to be as comprehensive under the umbrella of health and wellness as possible,” Carr explained. “We thought very broadly— gyms, hairstylists, makeup artists, people who help people to feel affirmed— it’s a part of wellness more broadly. That was really one of our goals.”
It offers resources in health care (general practitioners, pediatricians, dentists, etc), mental health care (mental health practitioners, psychiatrists), social services (gyms, adoption professionals, community groups) and many more. It then identifies members who were highly recommended to work with different demographics of the LGBTQ+ community— providers recommended for lesbian, gay, and bisexual patients, trans-health specialists, and polyamorous, kink-positive and sex therapy practices.
“The goal of the document at the outset was two umbrellas; one umbrella being everyone in the LGBTQ+ community, and on the umbrella, health and wellness,” Meyer explained. “Think of if someone comes to the mind that they need a health care service, they’re going to go through a hell of a process finding one that’s actually going to give them what they want. How much of that leg work can we do for them already?”
The directory includes a comprehensive list of healthcare and wellness providers in three counties— Albany, Schenectady, and Rennselaer— that are competent in providing care for those in the LGBTQ+ community.
To make the list, providers must be recommended by local LGBTQ+ residents or organizations and list expertise with LGBTQ+ patients on their website. Providers were also able to purchase advertisements inside the directory.
For those deciding on providers on or off the directory, it offers a few suggested questions to help screen potential candidates, including “Do you provide LGBTQ+ inclusivity training to your staff?” and “have you ever worked with a gender-nonconforming/trans client?”
The provided questions were added to empower those going through the difficult process of choosing their own healthcare provider.
Carr says they’re about “empowering people to be able to make decisions like, ‘Okay, this provider is not on this list, but I think they might be good for me, what are some questions I can ask to ensure that that care is going to be a positive experience for me?’”
Meyer explained that the stress of picking a healthcare provider often discourages those in the LGBTQ+ community from getting the services they need. Building the directory was about doing “anything we can do that can make the work at least marginally easier for someone seeking those services, and to encourage them to do so rather than them not getting them at all.”
Another concern in building the directory was the idea of accessibility. The purpose of the digital document was to ensure that all people in the community had access to the information and that that information could be easily shared— even for those with vision impairments.
“We wanted it to be super accessible so that everyone in the LGBTQ community could find someone that could help them,” Carr explained. “Just because you’re a small portion of the LGBTQ population doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have the best access possible to this directory.”
To find the directory, and more information about the Rainbow Access Initiative, visit https://www.raialbany.com/lgbtq-resource-directory.