Leading up to our NYC event, we’ve been lucky to interview key people from some of the NY LGBT organizations joining us. For today’s interview, I was lucky enough to get to know Caitlin Quigley, the Manager of Development & Communications at Callen-Lorde Community Health Center. Read on to learn about how Callen-Lorde strives to help those in the LGBT community who need it the most.

What is the mission of Callen-Lorde Community Health Center?
Callen-Lorde provides sensitive, quality healthcare and related services targeted to New York’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities — in all their diversity — regardless of ability to pay. To further this mission, Callen-Lorde promotes health education and wellness, and advocates for LGBT health issues.

What are your current priorities as an LGBT health center?
To care for the most vulnerable members of our communities, especially those who are at the intersections of marginalized populations including TGNC individuals, people of color, those who are economically disenfranchised, and people who are homeless or unstably housed. We also strive to serve as a center of excellence, sharing and providing best practices, care standards and protocols with other healthcare institutions on caring for LGBT people.

What inspired you to get involved with Callen-Lorde Community Health Center?
Social justice has always been a passion of mine. As an undergrad at Northeastern University I volunteered with Fenway Health, a sister organization of Callen-Lorde located in Boston, and upon graduation, I was fortunate enough to land an admin position in their Development Department. I worked my way up from there and made the leap to New York and to Callen-Lorde in 2011.

How has the climate around LGBT issues changed since gay marriage was legalized in the US?
The climate is always changing though at times, it has been a splintered process. The B’s and T’s in LGBT have too often been left out of the conversation – and though that’s shifting, there are still many of us, particularly at the intersections of marginalized communities, that bear the burden of the struggle for equality. Violence against trans women, especially towards trans women of color, is at a fever pitch. While there have been a great many policy strides in the past few years including gay marriage, the lived experiences of many LGBT people in the US do not always reflect that.

If you’re open to it, can you share a powerful moment or story of someone who has been helped by Callen-Lorde Community Health Center?
Though many people come to mind, one in particular stands out. A woman of trans experience who has gone through more than most people can ever imagine came to Callen-Lorde as a referral through AVP (The Anti-Violence Project). She didn’t know herself to be trans at the time but had struggled in and out of prison and homeless shelters for years. When she came to Callen-Lorde for a check-up, she saw other trans and gender non-conforming people – not only in the waiting room but behind the front desk. She said “I didn’t know the gender of anyone and I was so blown away, I started to cry. I knew that I had come home.” She’s now healthy, happy and housed, on the road to her transition at 53 years old and in the process of writing a book about her experience. She’s an incredible person that I’m lucky to know.

What are the biggest roadblocks facing LGBT organizations like yours?
Capacity and funding. People are sharing desks and workspaces to free up additional rooms to be turned into clinical space. The demand for our services consistently outweighs our capacity. As soon as we have open slots, they’re filled, and people are frustrated. We want to help everyone and know that realistically, we can’t. So we do everything we can to grow, expand, and train other clinicians around the city and around the country on best practices in caring for LGBT people. You should be able to walk into a clinic in Oklahoma and be treated and cared for with the same knowledge, respect and nuance that you can get at Callen-Lorde. We’re not there yet, but we’re doing everything we can.

How has the LGBT community in NY impacted you? How would you like to impact it?
It’s not just one community, it’s many. The diversity of LGBT individuals could not be more celebrated than it is in New York. The influence is everywhere, in culture, nightlife, activism and industry, it’s a constant source of energy and inspiration. I’d love to see even more collaboration and opportunity for sharing resources among LGBT non-profits and business.

What have you learned through working at Callen-Lorde Community Health Center?
Resilience — the struggle is real and it doesn’t stop. We see people from every walk of life that have truly seen it all and still remain positive, still keep going and still remain focused on improving not only their own lives but the lives of others. The positivity in the face of adversity is contagious. It motivates me every day.

Why are you excited about this event?
I’m psyched to network, share resources and information with like-minded people who want to change the world!

To learn more about Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, visit their website and follow them on Twitter and Facebook. You can also meet Caitlin on November 2nd at our NYC event.

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