On Being Well

Once a month, Mazzoni Center brings you “On Being Well,” a column that aims to address a broad range of health and wellness issues that impact LGBT communities. Mazzoni Center recognizes that wellness means more than just an annual visit to the doctor: It’s about having access to health insurance,and a culturally competent provider who understands your unique health concerns, as well as counseling/mental health and recovery support. It’s about making smart, informed decisions about your body. And it’s also about your social environment, and feeling safe, confident and empowered in your identity and within your community. For more about Mazzoni Center, Philadelphia’s home for LGBT health and well-being, visit www.mazzonicenter.org.


No matter who you are or how you identify, the holiday season can often produce anxiety and other uncomfortable feelings. For many LGBTQ folks, the holidays are especially hard: facing families who haven’t accepted you, rehashing political or religious differences and perhaps doing so while still managing confusion about your sexuality and gender expressions. I hope that the following advice can help get you through some of these difficult moments.

Without strong emotions, life would have far less meaning. We wouldn’t be excited about new friendships or romantic relationships. We wouldn’t be motivated to engage in important political action. A life dedicated to avoiding strong emotions would be devoid of inspiration.

As a newer member of the team at Mazzoni Center Family and Community Medicine, I’m frequently scheduled to see new patients. In many ways, this provides me with a unique vantage into the populations we serve. I am consistently struck by the high number of patients, especially women, who tell me they haven’t seen a health-care provider in many years, or they have delayed necessary medical care due to inconsistent insurance coverage or negative experiences with the health-care system. Given what I know about the mainstream health-care system, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. 

This time of year is both incredibly busy and exciting for all of us at Mazzoni Center as we prepare to present the annual Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference, which takes place June 4-6 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. This event got its start back in 2002 as a small, grassroots gathering at a Quaker Meeting House. Last year, the conference spanned three full days and drew more than 3,200 people from around the United States and beyond.

When I first walked through the doors, I faced a daunting challenge. The year was 1995. I had recently relocated from Los Angeles to the East Coast with my wife to be near family. I was approached about the opportunity to lead an organization that provided vital health care and HIV-related services to Philadelphia’s LGBT community.

This week we mark the 13th-annual LGBT Health Awareness Week, which this year is focused on the theme of “Time to Come Together: Trust, Transparency, Truth.” It’s a very personal connection for me, as I was one of the founding members of the National Coalition for LGBT Health, the organization that sponsors this annual event. Our coalition is comprised of leaders from national and state LGBT organizations, health centers, health departments, universities, health organizations, clinical and behavioral-health providers and LGBT individuals and allies.

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