Rape Victim Advocacy Program creates Queer Health Advocate Program

Medical appointments should be something that everyone can navigate safely, without fear of harassment, discrimination, or violence. Unfortunately, this is not the case for everyone, LGBTQIA people often do not feel safe in medical spaces; this is particularly true for the transgender community.

The 2015 US Transgender Survey found that 23% of respondents did not see a doctor when they needed to due to fear of being mistreated as a transgender person. One third of all respondents in the same survey experienced at least one negative experience related to being transgender, such a verbal harassment, refusal of treatment, or having to teach the health care provider about transgender people to receive appropriate care. Thanks to the University of Iowa Diversity Catalyst Seed Grant, RVAP has been able to create the Queer Health Advocate Program. The purpose of the program is to create additional safety and support for patients through medical accompaniment. This is a community effort to shift power dynamics in medical settings and promote safety.

Queer Health Advocates are volunteers trained to accompany and advocate for members of the community who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, transgender, intersex, asexual, aromantic, queer, or questioning during medical appointments. Queer Health Advocates will help their clients navigate the healthcare system, amplify clients' voices, promote feelings of safety, and help them get the care they deserve.

This training equips volunteers to accompany LGBTQIA folx to medical appointments, and creates an additional layer of support and safety for queer people who face many barriers to accessing health care systems. This training program is not a 101, so participants are expected to have basic knowledge about the LGBTQIA community and have implemented asking about and using correct pronouns as part of their personal work. To date, RVAP has held two trainings for Queer Health Advocates, and will continue to hold additional training opportunities as this team of advocates grows to meet the need in the community.

2019 Year In Review

This article is part of the 2019 Year in Review, which highlights some of the Division of Student Life's accomplishments from the previous academic year.

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