May 21, 2020
(updated May 21, 2020)
Published by Dennis Velco
Disruptive Technologists mission is to inspire, guide, advise, teach, change, and create disrupters. Their in-person New York City meetings draw a weekly impressive crowd of 300 with standing room only. It is graciously hosted by Microsoft in their NYC building auditorium. Their communication distribution reaches over 20,000 developers, founders, investors, hackers, startup teams, professors, students, journalists, other media, vendors, corporations, and entrepreneurs.
Each week the panel of regulars and guests discuss pressing issues of the day and how technology can be positively leveraged as well as issues such as security and privacy. The May 20th discussion revolved around the COVID-19 pandemic. This week, Dennis Velco of OutBüro was invited to be a panelist bringing an LGBTQ perspective to the discussion.
The full panelist line up:
Esther Dyson, Executive Founder at Wellville & Angel Investor
Q1: New York Cities’ poorest are dying at more than twice the rate of more affluent neighborhoods. Is this just to be expected in Modern America? – Poorer areas lack adequate medical care.- Diabetes and Hypertension are more prevalent in low-income communities.- 94,327 US Deaths. – What could we do better?
Q2: The Apple/Google contact tracing app update was released today. Is it too little, too late? – Combined Market Cap over $2 Trillion Dollars.- First Chinese cases December, US cases in February. – Only for Bluetooth enabled smartphones.- What are the better solutions?
Q3: Amazon has called itself ‘The New Red Cross’. Without useful Government assistance, is this the new reality? – A workforce of 270,000 in the US and 800,000 globally. – Vast majority working in warehouses at $15 per hour. – During this talk Jeff Bezos made an additional $9 Million dollars.
There are more important things than living and that’s saving this country.
Dan Patrick – Lt. Governor of Texas – March 31, 2020
Who is your: Hero of the week and villain of the week What technology or Diversity & Inclusion approaches do you like right now?
To learn more about Disruptive Technologies find them on their many soical media chennels listed below:
HIV-AIDS taught us that silence = death, and information = power.
Picture this: It’s 1985. You’re a young gay man, living in Washington, DC.
AIDS has been all over the news since the actor Rock Hudson went public with his own diagnosis in July—and died in October. A new test to determine whether you have been exposed to HIV has just become available, although even the AIDS organizations are advising against taking it because no one yet knows what a positive result means.
Every morning you look up above the escalators going down into the Metro station at Dupont Circle and check the latest tally of AIDS deaths flashing across the ticker board—like a silent bell tolling across the gayest neighborhood in the city, reminding you that a deadly virus is on the loose, killing people, mostly other gay men, right there in your own neighborhood.
On the streets you see guys you knew from the gym, muscle boys now looking like shriveled old men, their faces polka-dotted with the purple lesions of Kaposi’s sarcoma.
You see more and more of their obituaries each week in the Washington Blade, the city’s LGBTQ newspaper and the most reliable source of information about the growing HIV pandemic.
The virus haunts your intimate moments, each coupling now an unwelcome and terrifying ménage á trois with one of the three not even visible and yet dominating the exchange, standing between the ecstasy of sex and the precipice of potential death.
Posters, flyers, and newspaper ads yell at you to protect yourself and your partners against the deadly microbe. Most heed the warnings; many do not.
And the Blade publishes yet more obituaries.
It’s a frightening experience to live through a deadly viral pandemic, especially one as lethal as HIV. But an important lesson from the HIV pandemic is that it is not only possible, but imperative, to get on with your life even as you practice the safety precautions that credible public health experts recommend.
In the case of the novel coronavirus now spreading across the world and throughout America, it’s particularly important to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations—including regular hand-washing, disinfecting frequently used surfaces, and ‘social distancing’ from people who are sick or crowds in which the virus can more easily be transmitted.
Something we learned in the HIV-AIDS pandemic that is highly relevant to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus: Words matter. Facts matter. It matters how we talk about something like a virus, the illness it causes, and those affected by it.
We learned that silence (and ignorance) equals death—and information equals power. Armed with fact-based information, we are best prepared to address the challenges that will lie ahead for many of us.
As the World Health Organization makes clear in its recommendations, it’s not useful to talk about a “plague,” and COVID-19 is not a “Chinese” or “Asian” disease. People diagnosed with the virus are not “vectors” or “carriers”—they are people first and foremost. “Stigma can undermine social cohesion and prompt possible social isolation of groups, which might contribute to a situation where the virus is more, not less, likely to spread,” the WHO says.
The first people diagnosed with HIV-AIDS—openly, proudly gay men—understood that words and language can make all the difference between hope and despair, between fear-driven hatred and compassion. “We are people with AIDS,” they insisted, not ‘AIDS victims.’” HIV-AIDS was an illness they had; it was not who they are. Their humanity defined them, not their diagnosis.
We are susceptible to the novel coronavirus, and the multitudes of other microbes around us and within our bodies at any given moment, simply because we are fragile, physical humans living in a sometimes dangerous world—not because of our ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, skin tone, or any other immutable trait.
These five steps will help us get through our latest public health crisis:
Stay informed about the novel coronavirus—it’s the best defense against anxiety and to avoid ‘groupthink‘ and hysteria;
Practice the recommended safety precautions;
Seek testing and treatment if you’re ill;
Respect your own and others’ humanity if you or they become ill; and
Use words and language that don’t stigmatize anyone.
There is no need to panic or catastrophize (“the end of the world is here!”), and there is no room for hysteria borne of ignorance. Remember: Information equals power. Take it from a formerly young gay man who, beginning in 1985, lived through the “dark years” of AIDS in our hard-hit nation’s capital.
This article was originally posted on Physcology Today on March 12, 2020 and issued here OutBüro on by the author.
Being resilient means controlling how much we let our traumas define us.
We’re hearing a lot about what in the COVID-19 pandemic is becoming “the new normal,” including face masks, hand-washing, sheltering-in-place, and social distancing.
Unfortunately for tens of millions, even billions, the new normal also features tremendous anxiety, depression, grief, and financial hardship.
I can only offer empathy where it comes to financial hardship. I truly feel your pain as I know this hardship all too well. But I also know a few things about resilience that have helped me through some really tough times when I have experienced all of these emotional and mental health challenges.
For one thing, it’s unrealistic to expect yourself not to be changed by the trauma of losing a job, struggling to pay bills, worrying about a high-risk loved one’s health, or the new and widespread fear of simply going into a grocery store with unmasked shoppers. These experiences can rattle us to the core, make us question ourselves and our value, maybe even wonder whether life is worth all the effort it requires.
We’re also hearing a lot of talk about “getting back to normal.” But resilient people understand that there is no such thing as going back to “how things used to be.” We understand that there are only two options: Either stay stuck in the anxiety, depression, and fear by repeatedly rehashing the details of your trauma and the suffering it caused you. Or you move on.
By moving on, I am not suggesting you must forget what you’ve suffered, as if it’s even possible. No. I mean you deliberately choose—yes, it is a choice—not to allow the emotions and thoughts linked to the trauma control or define your present. You can’t undo what was done, but you get to decide how big a part it plays in defining you now.
The important starting point is in how you frame the story you tell yourself about what the traumatic experience—in this case, the COVID-19 pandemic—”means” in the bigger story of your life, your relationships, your place in the world.
Instead of thinking of yourself as a victim—singled out by fate for cruel and unusual punishment—it’s important to recognize the difference between events and forces beyond your control, and how you handle and respond to them. You can tell the story either as a victim—or as a survivor. The first reflects a sense of powerlessness, the second resilience.
I am here to say from experience that even resilient people continue to face challenging times—like COVID-19. But I can also say from experience that it’s possible to give the pandemic the attention and priority it requires without letting it become the dominant, defining event and force in your life.
First, you do that by staying informed and practicing recommended safety precautions, as well as actively taking steps to care for yourself—including getting exercise, eating properly and staying connected with others.
I learned how important these things are after my HIV diagnosis in 2005. After telling so many others’ stories as a reporter for so many years by that point, I had to learn how to tell my own story.
I had to decide what having HIV was going to mean to me. I had to choose how big or small a role I would allow my positive HIV status, and the things I had to do to care for my health, to play in my life and my sense of myself. I had to learn to understand that even with something as personal as a serious medical diagnosis, there had been events and forces beyond my control that brought me to that moment. That’s how I moved from wondering “why me?” to “why not me?” as I came to understand the traumas in my own past that had wounded me psychologically and put me at such high risk.
What things look like “on the other side” of COVID-19 for us as individuals, after we have a cure and/or preventive vaccine will depend largely on what they look like now, as we move through it. Either we take steps while it is happening to protect our mental and physical health and well-being, or we risk long-term harm.
Expecting to “go back” isn’t a smart personal reopening strategy. Try moving forward instead, but knowing you and everyone around you have been changed by the public health crisis. Live in the “new normal” even if it continues to mean masks and social distancing. It’s not a personal punishment. Focus on how you have pulled through this tough time and earlier tough times, on your resilience, rather than on all that has changed.
Just because COVID-19 has victimized all of us in one way or another doesn’t mean we have to live our lives as its victims.
This article was originally posted on Physcology Today on May 7, 2020 and issued here OutBüro on by the author.
Just as we gay and bisexual men measured our personal histories in relation to AIDS — starting in 1981 — everyone now speaks of the world, and our lives, “before” and “after” COVID-19.
Organizations created in the 1980s to serve very ill, homebound people with HIV/AIDS are demonstrating in this “after” that there is a greater-than-ever need for what they know about feeding and caring for people with life-challenging illness.
To get a picture of COVID-19 from the point of view of people whose work in local communities is rooted in caring for ill people in a pandemic, I checked in with some of the country’s leading service organizations created in the 1980s to serve people with AIDS.
What I found are organizations that pioneered volunteer-driven food programs and buddy services that today, in the midst of another public health crisis, are brilliantly demonstrating how to provide the strongest kind of social safety net — friends and neighbors, communities, caring for one another.
A Legacy of Love in Action
The word “legacy” came up a lot in these interviews. Each organization was founded across genders, often by one individual who brought friends along, and grew out of a simple sense of neighborly kindness.
Carrie Stoltzfus, executive director of Washington, D.C.’s Food & Friends, spoke about “the legacy of the amazing outpouring of love and generosity” that led a small group of volunteers in 1988 to begin preparing food in the kitchen of Westminster Presbyterian Church and deliver one meal a day, five days a week, to homebound people with AIDS.
“The moral and ethical leadership of those people in those early days…that’s what we stand on now,” Stoltzfus says, referring again to the legacy of the AIDS epidemic.
In 2020, Monday through Saturday, more than 8,000 volunteers help Food & Friends deliver free meals from its 11 specialized meal plans, medically tailored to meet clients’ specific nutritional needs. That includes the option of pureed or chopped foods and accommodations for special diets.
Sheltering-in-place during the COVID-19 pandemic has increased many people’s need for support who aren’t ordinarily homebound.
Only one in five clients today is living with HIV, thanks to reduced new infections and effective medical treatment that allows many HIV-positive people to live normal lifespans. Nearly half of Food & Friends’ clients are living with cancer; another third have other life-challenging illnesses such as heart or kidney failure.
With COVID-19 in the mix, even family caregivers are turning to Food & Friends’ services.
In the pre-COVID past, said Stoltzfus, a caregiver might be able to directly help their loved one with food and may not have been referred to Food & Friends based on the circumstances in the home. But now, caregivers may be self-isolating so as not to put the one they care for at risk.
Sheltering-in-place during the COVID-19 pandemic has increased many people’s need for support who aren’t ordinarily homebound. While many of us have had a hard time getting used to spending so much time at home, community-based nutrition and buddy programs have been working hard to care for their clients who were already, or are newly, homebound.
Food & Friends and other nutrition agencies around the country have taken strenuous precautions to protect staff, volunteers, clients and, of course, the food through sanitation and disinfection. This includes changing staff schedules to reduce building traffic, control the number of volunteers present at one time, moving operations outside, workspaces with six-foot markers, screening visitors, and “dropping and knocking” rather than hand-delivering meals.
Food Is Medicine
“Serving people in a pandemic is in our DNA,” said Leah Hébert Welles, executive director of Open Arms of Minnesota, in Minneapolis. “The need has never gone away for us.”
Founded in 1986, Open Arms’ staff dietitians, chefs and over 7,300 volunteers prepare and deliver more than 600,000 nutritious and free meals a year to people in the Twin Cities. Open Arms offers nine menus medically tailored to clients’ particular needs.
Welles told me in a telephone interview that HIV clients “have always gone off and on our services” as their health has waxed and waned. People living with HIV/AIDS today are referred to as “legacy clients” as the agency, like Food & Friends, serves clients with other life-limiting illnesses.
“In the early years,” said David Waters, CEO of Community Servings in Boston, “the establishment — whether it was the government, Reagan or public health — weren’t really stepping up. A lot of gay men invented the programs themselves.”
Community Servings was created in 1990 after a group of HIV-positive gay Jewish men went to the American Jewish Congress and said Boston’s Jewish community wasn’t doing enough to address HIV/AIDS. Seventy different groups — including AIDS activists, faith groups and community organizations — joined forces to create the agency.
The lines blur as to whether one’s need is defined by chronological age, HIV status or another of the chronic health conditions that frequently affect older people.
From delivering hot meals to 30 clients in the Roxbury and Dorchester sections of Boston, Community Servings today serves thousands of people in Massachusetts who are unable to shop or cook for themselves because of illness. It offers 15 menus tailored to clients’ medical needs. All of the food is locally sourced and made from scratch. Depending on a client’s illness, Waters said, menus can be “cross-prescribed” —different diets for multiple health conditions addressed in the same meal in a way that mimics a prescription.
Like so many who stepped up in the early AIDS years before effective treatment, Waters, a former restaurateur and caterer, went to work for the agency because he could help with fundraising “and it was a way for me personally to cope with my own fear of the virus.”
Demand for the agency’s services is increasing in the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re getting a lot of calls,” said Waters, “and I think we’ll get even more in the near-term. We’re certainly ramping up with the expectation that there’ll be more people to be fed — both those who may be positive for the virus, but also those who have lost their jobs and are very isolated and don’t have the money.”
That the work is no longer about serving only gay men or HIV-positive people is beside the point; it’s all about applying what was learned in the AIDS pandemic to meet the bigger needs of the larger community. Besides, as effective treatment lets people age with HIV, the lines blur as to whether someone’s need is defined by chronological age, HIV status or another of the chronic health conditions that frequently affect older people.
“I sometimes say I came to this to care for my own,” said Waters. “And then I just kept realizing that what I called ‘my own’ was bigger and bigger, from feeding gay men to feeding people of color, to feeding people with other illnesses and feeding mothers with children. You just realize that they’re all very artificial distinctions.”
Making Room at the Table
I reported for The Washington Post in 2000 about Food & Friends’ expanded mission to serve more people than only those living with HIV. The organization’s decision to assist people with life-threatening illnesses in the Washington, D.C. area was a controversial step at the time. The gay community that had given rise to, and raised lots of money for, the agency was concerned that those “legacy” HIV/AIDS clients would be shortchanged.
Back then, it was only possible to think about serving others because, beginning with the 1996 advent of combination therapy, people were starting to live with HIV rather than almost inevitably die from AIDS. It was certainly good news for people with HIV, but it meant the organizations created to serve them had the capacity to serve more people than those with HIV who no longer needed their support.
As Food & Friends’ former executive director Craig Shniderman said at the time, “If our mission is to serve people who are profoundly ill, and we are adequately serving those we have as clients and have excess capacity, isn’t there a duty to serve others?”
Food is far more than something to satisfy hunger pangs.
Open Hand Atlanta — founded in 1988 when Michael Edwards-Pruitt rounded up his neighbors to help cook and deliver meals to 14 friends dying from AIDS who were too sick to cook for themselves — also expanded its mission in 2000 to serve people with other critical illnesses, plus those living with disabilities and homebound elders. Its $500-per-month grocery bill in 1989 is now over $85,000 a week. Each day, the agency prepares, packs and delivers nearly 5,000 meals for people with HIV and people battling cancer, heart disease, renal failure, diabetes or other “nutrition-sensitive” diseases.
The expanded mission has likewise expanded the range of funders who support Open Hand Atlanta and other nutrition agencies like it in other cities. This is important for groups that have to raise all their money — and already faced a growing caseload even before COVID-19.
Working through the Food Is Medicine Coalition, these nutrition agencies advocate in Washington, D.C. to persuade federal funders to cover the relatively modest cost — relative to the cost of acute medical care, that is — of medically tailored nutrition for people whose condition warrants a specific diet.
Matthew Pieper, Open Hand Atlanta’s executive director, says the Food Is Medicine organizations are uniquely positioned to work with health plans and managed care plans willing to reimburse them for their services.
Food is far more than something to satisfy hunger pangs.
“It’s actually a tool all of us can use to better prevent or manage chronic disease,” said Pieper. “Food is medicine, but food is also love, and I think right now in this COVID-19 pandemic, that packaging up and delivering a meal for someone is still a profound way to say you’re cared about, your community has not forgotten about you. It’s a way we can show love.”
A Brave New World for Buddies
When New York City’s HIV/AIDS service organization GMHC (formerly known as the Gay Men’s Health Crisis) revived its buddy program in 2015, no one had any idea how vitally important it would become five years later as clients were forced to stay in because of COVID-19.
GMHC created the buddy program in 1982, one of the world’s first AIDS service organization’s first services. Back then, volunteer buddies visited and called their client, provided practical assistance and really helped people with AIDS know they were not alone. The program had stopped in 2005 when effective treatment meant there were far fewer seriously ill clients and a far greater need to help HIV-positive clients prepare to return to the workforce. But over the years it had become clear that too many long-term HIV survivors — those diagnosed before 1996 — were becoming depressed and isolated, some to the point they stopped taking their medications.
Susan Rowley, a former lawyer and licensed social worker, runs GMHC’s buddy program after managing the agency’s hotline since 1995. She says most of GMHC’s buddy program clients were mobile before COVID-19 forced them to become homebound.
Required isolation presents a challenge for a program whose purpose is to foster connection, but GMHC’s buddies are staying connected with their clients via phone calls and texts.
Rowley said that while buddies are expected to reach out at least weekly to their clients, “people are staying in touch daily just to let them know someone is there.”
Buddies are now also beginning to meet for the first time in Zoom video meetings.
“I don’t think it works for everyone, and I don’t think it’s necessarily what people need,” says Rowley. “It may be the only way to work with a client, and we’ll work with it. But we know that getting out of the house is critical. Even if it’s for a cup of coffee — that one-on-one interaction helps people.”
“One of our volunteers just a week before had helped his client get an iPad, and so the two of them have been having daily Skype sessions.”
Much like GMHC’s buddy program, the Friendly Visitor program at New York City-based LGBTQ elder advocacy nonprofit SAGE provides social support to elders who may be homebound and are often living with HIV or other health challenges. Friendly Visitor volunteers traditionally have visited clients once a week for an hour or two and made calls between visits. Sometimes, that has involved picking up groceries or prescriptions; other times it may be helping with such tasks as sorting mail or navigating the internet.
Although SAGE on March 15 put in-person visits on hold, volunteers have kept in touch with their Friends at Home, as clients are known. “One of our volunteers just a week before had helped his client get an iPad, and so the two of them have been having daily Skype sessions,” said Friendly Visitor program manager Bill Gross, who also ran GMHC’s buddy program 20 years ago.
Gross predicted that even after COVID-19, more Friendly Visitor check-ins will be conducted by Skype or Zoom. Friendly Visitors also are using phone calls and email to stay in touch, and middle-school students are creating postcards the program will use to connect with its Friends at Home.
In response to the coronavirus, SAGE has also launched SAGEConnect — a phone service where LGBTQ elders are matched with volunteers for weekly phone calls for six weeks. (Next Avenue Influencer in Aging Michael Adams, CEO of SAGE, wrote about SAGEConnect in his recent article, “Individual Heroism Propels LGBTQ Elders in COVID-19.”)
Stepping Into the Health Care Void
Forced to fend for ourselves as HIV/AIDS struck down tens of thousands, our community had to create our own service organizations.
We learned how to channel our love, power and resilience through organizations like Food & Friends, Open Arms, Community Servings, Open Hand Atlanta, GMHC and SAGE.
Today those organizations, created in the depths of a deadly pandemic that has continued for nearly 40 years, are not only rising to the new challenges of another pandemic but are demonstrating how to provide excellent, cost-effective care and support for people who are homebound — whether due to age-related debilitation, illness or shelter-in-place orders.
Informal caregivers are who mainly tend to the long-term needs that are “mostly ignored by the health care system.”
Amy Knowlton, a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, researches how people are connected in communities and how diseases happen within networks. Her work focuses on how people take care of one another, particularly those with limited resources.
“Unless we really take seriously how people are connected, the important relationships they have, how infections are transmitted as well as how support and care operates, we’re just not going to be able to have a meaningful impact on pandemics,” Knowlton said.
“Informal caregivers” — family members, friends, neighbors, community-based organizations — are “the only safety net we have,” she noted.
Informal caregivers are ones who mainly tend to the long-term needs that are “mostly ignored by the health care system.”
While AIDS brought about what Knowlton described as “a phenomenal galvanizing of communities and demonstrating what communities have to do for themselves,” volunteer-focused agencies that must raise the volunteer corps (as well as every dollar it costs to provide free services) can’t do the job without bigger support.
Knowlton said public resources must be invested in helping “to facilitate communities’ capacity for helping themselves and each other.”
As the live-in caregiver for my late mom until her passing last fall at 84, as the recipient of support from my own HIV case manager and others and as a longtime chronicler of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, I can attest to the essential role of informal caregivers and nonprofit organizations in plugging the gaping holes in our health care system.
I’ve spent a career documenting the extraordinary outpouring of caring, community and connectedness generated by HIV/AIDS because I believe it provides the absolute best homegrown solutions for serving America’s booming population of elders and those with health conditions that prevent them from being able to care for themselves.
“We need a public health care system that recognizes and strengthens supportive relationships across the lifespan and ensures their resources for meaningful assistance in everyday coping as well as in managing health problems,” Knowlton said. “Such a holistic approach recognizes that mind, body and relationships are integrally linked and important to tend to for truly promoting health and well-being.”
In other words: a health care system that the pioneering organizations profiled here have envisioned for decades and worked to bring about. Responding to AIDS taught them what is needed and how to provide it. COVID-19 is proving again how visionary, and necessary, they will continue to be going forward. As Knowlton put it, “COVID-19 is going to be a wake-up call in so many ways.”
March 11, 2020
(updated May 22, 2020)
Published by Dennis Velco
Part of being a productive professional employee or entrepreneur is being healthy. Due to many factors addiction is a larger problem in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer community. Getting help is a strong and brave thing to do for yourself.
Mission: To reduce the impact of substance abuse by helping people locate proper treatment.
The data in this directory comes from Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator by SAMSHA. Feedback from users of their addiction treatment directory convinced us that we need to create a user-friendly, easy to navigate, substance use disorder directory – Welcome to Drug Rehab USA. Your source for finding rehab near you and for you.
LGBTQIA+ Friendly Alcohol & Drug Rehab Centers
Locate addiction treatment facilities that provide LGBTQIA+ clients with an inclusive, welcoming and accepting place for addiction recovery through evidence-based treatment for substance abuse, sexual health and mental health
The LGBTQIA+ community faces a unique and specific set of circumstances that can lead to a variety of long-term psychological health issues. Lack of acceptance from their loved ones, constant anxiety over social judgment, depression stemming from the internalization of the toxic and misinformed perceptions of others, fear of bodily harm, and multiple other factors can take a tremendous emotional toll and often lead members of the community to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. As the addiction treatment community and the world at large gain a better understanding of the distinct struggles that this population faces, more and more facilities are offering LGBTQIA+-friendly alcohol and drug rehab centers.
Members of the LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer) are nearly three times as likely as their straight peers to use a controlled substance. For example, 25% of LGBTQ+s drink alcohol, while 5-10% of the general population does. We’ll discuss in this report, the unique situations that drive LGBTQ+ members to a greater increased risk for substance abuse. We’ll also discuss some of the drugs prominent in this population and their specific harms.
Defining Wellness Centers is a true labor of love. Wellness, mental health, and addiction treatment are what my wife, Robin, and I are passionate about and it is truly our life’s work. We believe so much in what we’re doing and the care we’re providing and we’ve put our heart and soul into developing an innovative treatment program with proven, evidence-based therapeutic techniques and cutting-edge biotechnological modalities.
Note: No direct mention on LGBTQ specifically, yet a potential rehab service offering in Fort Lauderdale, an LGBTQ capital.
Agape’s rehabilitation center in Fort Lauderdale for substance abuse embraces a universal, unconditional love that transcends, that serves regardless of circumstances. We provide individuals all over the country with the opportunity to achieve the gift of lasting sobriety. Our evidence-driven therapy and counseling methods are based on a belief that each and every individual is worth living a joyous and rewarding life free from the bondage of addiction. With a comprehensive treatment plan that includes multiple levels of care (partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, outpatient) you or your loved one can rest assured that our addiction specialists will get to the underlying root causes of substance abuse for complete inner healing. We offer a full spectrum of mental health services guided by a team of world-class addiction specialists. Experience the difference with AGAPE Treatment Center of South Florida: a twelve-step rehabilitation program created solely for the purpose of saving lives from the grip of chemical dependency and alcoholism.
Sexual abuse, whether direct physical assault or pattern of ongoing behavioral harassment, can precipitate a variety of ongoing mental health and quality-of-life issues from which it can be tremendously difficult to recover. One of these issues is the onset of substance use disorder (SUD). Drug and alcohol use can often become a coping mechanism for victims of all types of sexual assault, including those who suffer sudden and violent rape or attempted sexual assault; those who are sexually molested as children; and those who are consistently sexually objectified in various areas of their lives. Understanding the scope of sexual violence and its relationship to corresponding SUD can better influence treatment protocols and lead to more intuitive care.
Note: No direct mention on LGBTQ specifically, yet a potential rehab service offering.
At Choices Recovery, we understand the urgency of providing effective treatment for those individuals who are struggling with addictions to drugs or alcohol. Our goal is to help addiction sufferers reverse the physical and emotional damages so they can resume their place in society and enjoy productive, happy lives.
To help our clients in every way possible, we have created a treatment program that aims to address every contributing factor in the addiction. None of our clients are forced to participate in a treatment plan they are not comfortable with. Regardless of the drug involved, the severity of the addiction, or the physical and mental health of the individual, we have a program that will bring about a lasting recovery.
This is a new and growing resource page. Do you know of any others that should be listed? Comment or send us a message to have additional resources added.
January 2, 2020
(updated January 3, 2020)
Published by Dennis Velco
Understanding gender identity and expression to support education in LGBTQ corporate equality for a welcoming workplace.
Most people when they hear – LGBTQ – they think of it is a group of individuals who are attracted to members of the same sex to some degree. Interestingly, most don’t realize that the “T” does not directly relate to a person’s sexual attraction at all. It is separate and refers to a person’s sense of gender. Inside, do they feel like a male or female or even somewhere in between the two. This is referred to as gender identity.
Before the 19th century, the terms gender and sex were interchangeable. It was believed was what you physically appeared as at birth was cut and dry. Binary. Female or male from birth in body, mind, and soul.
Around 1925, a sexologist named Magnus Hirschfeld from Germany published an article. In it, he described for the first time the difference between the sexual desire for persons of the same gender compared to a deep desire to live and/or dress as the opposite gender because it matches how you feel and view yourself.
In the 1950s the concepts and theories about gender, gender roles, and gender identity were introduced and defined in the psychological literature. Psychologists, such as Jerome Kagan and John Money, initially believed that gender identity was simply a degree a person felt feminine or masculine coupled with the ability to live openly and freely as who they are supporting a secure sense of self.
From around 1965 through 1985 researchers such as Sandra Bem, Richard Green, Harry Benjamin, and, Robert Stoller furthered the understanding of gender and gender identity. Green, Benjamin, and Stoller pioneered gender identity clinics, as well as gender-related medical and surgical treatments.
The ongoing work of these and other pioneer researchers in the field of gender identity development raised awareness that gender is not exclusively determined by assigned sex at birth but determined by a person’s sense, belief, and the ultimate expression of self.
A bit more to understand
The term transgender is an overall term for people whose gender identity, expression and/or behavior is different from those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth. Since the 1990s, transgender has also been used to describe:
gender non-conforming people
Transgender men had or have female body parts; however, they may identify and/or express themselves as male. Female to male or F2M.
Transgender women had or have male body parts; however, they may identify and/or express themselves as female. Male to female or M2F.
Research shows that gender identity, in many cases, is independent of sexual orientation.
Androphilic are people that were born with a male body, have a female gender identity, and are attracted to men. My understanding is like this:
Gynephilia is people that were born with a male body, have a female gender and are attracted to women. My understanding is like this:
Cis-Gender, is a person who feels that how they mentally identify matches their physical body.
Marketors, employers, prevention specialists, and healthcare providers should be aware that beliefs impact almost all areas of a person’s life, their feeling of accepted and being welcomed.
Think about not only your own beliefs and attitudes but how can you impact your place of business, your working environment, policies, benefits. How can you make your company, business, institution more accessible and in some cases safe?
If in my attempts to simplify for the sake of understanding a very complex field I’m happy to be constructively corrected and happy to edit the content if necessary. Please add your comments below.
I’ve already written about the Surrey University study demonstrating a clear bias against persons who are perceived as LGBT in the hiring process, promotions, and salary. Added to the stress of work anyone faces, adds being verbally harassed or worse not just at work but everywhere.
At this point, it’s – Duh!. In order to understand you have to get to know.
If you work for a company if not already happening, suggest or start social gatherings to get to know others out of the work environment. Maybe host a company talent show or other activities that foster interaction embracing the differences. The biggest is connect with others and be open and willing to give everyone an opportunity to shine. Listen carefully. Do you have interests in common? Do you hear an opportunity to partner on a project to help each other and maybe others in the company or community?
OutBüro’s Gender Identity and Expression Model
The concept of gender identity and expression graphic to help explain the concepts is not new. Hower, OutBüro decided to create our own with some modifications to past models to help further clarify the concepts.
Most models to date have a scale with feminine on one end of a spectrum and masculine on the opposite. We believe that having them separately represented is more accurate was of thinking and helps to better understand.
Meet Chris – the OutBüro Gender Identity and Expression Model
In the diagram below consider the lines noting masculine and feminine as each independent sliding scales from 0 to 100%.
Gender Identity is how you, in your head, experience and define your gender, based on how much you align (or don’t align) with what you understand the options for gender to be. Common associations: personality traits, jobs, hobbies, likes, dislikes, roles, expectations
Gender Expression is how you present gender (through your actions, clothing, and demeanor, to name a few), and how those presentations are viewed based on social expectations. Common associations: style, grooming, clothing, mannerisms, affect, appearance, hair, make-up
Anatomical Sex is the physical traits you’re born with or develop that we think of as “sex characteristics,” as well as the sex you are assigned at birth. Common associations: body hair, chest, hips, shoulders, hormones penis, vulva, chromosomes, voice pitch
Attraction is how you find yourself feeling drawn (or not drawn) to some other people, in sexual, romantic, and/or other ways (often categorized within gender).
Produced by George Zuber, President of Buddha Dog Productions also based in Fort Lauderdale. The documentary was simply captivating and alarming as 6 transgender women share their stories of being incarcerated. Their stories are a collective of mental and physical abuse, torture, blatant denial of safety, and medical care. Some live quietly and others have the amazing perseverance to be instruments of change. Some struggling with how to move on at so many levels from dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and trying to find and/or build a solid steady legal income.
Attending the event was Carine Chehad, Miami Director, Human Rights Watch. Chehad stated that the Human Rights Watch has been around for quite some time but that once this administration started showing itself that the Human Rights Watch started to focus on the United States. She further stated that it is now one of the Human Rights Watch largest operation.
How I identified
Although I’m a cis-gender gay male, I could identify in several not pleasent ways. That comonality however helped me understand and empathize with these women. Although right now single in Wilton Manors, Florida, one of the gay capitals of the USA, my life has taken me all over the US and some of Europe. During those travels while just trying to not live in my hotel room due to business travels, I would go out for conversation.
On more than one occasion I’ve been raped by one and more than one guy. I was drunk and/or drugged. I was not completely coherent to give consent or purposely drugged to render me not capable of consent for fighting back.
I have a safety word and have for years due to this. If I say it, and it’s not honored prepare, if I am mentally able and physically able, to receive a stern punch in the nose with an upward motion or short hard chop to the throat.
I cannot imagine the additional issues of being incarcerated, trapped, completely aware, coherent of those actions.
After my divorce of a 17-year relationship almost 2 years ago I got into a bit of trouble. I was used to having a cocktail or 3 at home – not out. I got DUI’s. Yes. Two. Luckily my seconds was in Pinellas County with a Veterans Program. I was fortunate. I didn’t have those experiences in Pinellas or Polk County jails. But the potential was there. I was scared, frighted, came close to a knockdown twice. I cannot fathom the amount of fear, anguish and terror these women must have felt and gone through.
How Those Affected Move Forward
I’m not attempting to diminish by any stretch. Everyone has different ways of dealing with trauma. Most don’t get the mental or physical health treatment they need. It’s not what has been done to us that defines us. It’s what we do with it. It’s how much do we allow it to eat us up or surrender and focus on the positive in life and what you can do with it.
For those finding it difficult to find employment maybe start your own business or organization. Have a purpose while doing other jobs if necessary until your passion becomes a fully financially supporting enterprise. Find some resources here on OutBüro.
Realize your value in your experiences. Value yourself and what you have to offer. Be true to yourself first, then others. Believe in yourself and take actions toward your vision. When you do; magic and miracle happen.
Wishing you all the best and if there’s anything I can do and have the ability to do via myself or with others let me know.
April is Testicular Cancer awareness month. Since moving to Fort Lauderdale I’ve been meeting some great people. One of which Renee Platiau. Renee lost her 19-year-old son, Hunter Lee McGhee, just 8 months ago to testicular cancer. One day he was coughing up blood. Renee took him to the emergency room where he was diagnosed with stage 4 testicular cancer. Because he didn’t know what to look for and never talked about it, it had the opportunity to advance spreading to his lungs and lymph nodes.
Had Hunter known the signs and felt comfortable talking about his balls with her, a teacher, a friend or a sexual partner he might still be living a healthy life.
It’s never easy when you lose a family member, but to watch your child get sicker and sicker when if it were caught earlier it may have been curable. His chances would have been so much greater.
Renee is doing her best to cope with the loss of her son. She has started to network with local school district health and sex education teachers as well as youth sporting groups to get the word out. She has obtained a first small shipment of literature including a wallet-sized pocket guide for testicular self-exam title “Go Ahead, Touch Yourself” from the Testicular Cancer Awareness Foundation.
The Testicular Cancer Awareness Foundation (TCAF) provides
Online Support Community
… and so much more
Signs & symptoms
According to the TCAF, in most cases, early stages of testicular cancer present themselves in a completely painless manner. The early warning signs and symptoms are:
A lump of any size on the testicle
A dull ache or sense of pressure in the lower abdomen or back
Enlargement of the testicle, change in shape, size or any irregularities
Pain or discomfort in the scrotum or testicle
A feeling of heaviness or fullness in the scrotum
Enlargement or tenderness of the breasts due to elevated hormone levels
March 15, 2019
(updated June 18, 2019)
Published by Dennis Velco
launched today, OutBüro
Care+Plan is a
of service providers. It
is unique in that it is
lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community.
Believed to be the first of it’s kind.
Care+Plans are for individuals, couples, and families residing in the
United States regardless of citizenship status. It has opportunities
for independent entrepreneur, small business owners and non-profits
with a member base. OutBüro Care+Plans is focused on the LGBTQ
community, however it’s not exclusive – we aren’t meanies.
We’d welcome anyone to the OutBüro Care+Plans who meet the general
There are other
similar plans out there that anyone may use. OutBüro’s focuses
its content and service on the LGBTQ professional and entrepreneur
community. It is difficult or impossible to be your best on the job
or tending to your client as an LGBTQ entrepreneur when you have
health concerns. Your sinuses may be killing you, or you met a hot
guy and all you can think about is your erectile dysfunction.
management reached out to me, within our first call my interest was
high. I had already written articles based on studies including lack
of access and high
health risk LGBTQ people face,” Velco states.
reports indicate that a large number of persons residing in the
United States don’t have health insurance or are considering
dropping it in 2019. This is partially in part due to the Affordable
Care Act (ACA) mandate repeal that removed penalizes Americans on
federal taxes. LGBTQ persons are part of that group although we have
not found any study quantifying that to date.
Health insurance as emergency only plan
Velco states, “I
personally know many people who have health insurance but due to the
every rising costs they can only afford a plan with a very high
annual deductible, say $5,000. They treat their health insurance as
an emergency only plan.
They could leverage
the OutBüro Care+Plan for out of pocket cash payment discounts that
can still count toward the health insurance annual deductible. Why
pay full walk-in or insurance billing rates when you are trying to
reach your high heath insurance annual deductible if under normal
routine care you likely won’t reach it?
There are LGBTQ
immigrants and likely some are undocumented too. For most in that
status it can be challenging to impossible to even get health
insurance no matter how much they are willing to pay. The OutBüro
Care+Plan is not an insurance plan, but it can help reduce costs.
My own proof
Velco continues, “As
I learned more I quickly added up my own health care cost I racked up
over the past 3 months and found that had I had this plan, I would
have used the exact same vendors and would have saved enough to have
covered a full year of cost of the plan. I thought that if this
makes no brainier sense to me it’s going to hit home with others.”
February 26, 2019
(updated June 18, 2019)
Published by Dennis Velco
The effectiveness of safer sex practices for reducing the rate of HIV infection is one of the gay community’s great success stories. Safer sex is effective in reducing the risk of receiving and transmitting HIV. However, studies over the last few years have demonstrated the return of many unsafe sex practices.
As a gay man who was a teenager when HIV/AIDS became prominent, it has always been a looming thought. Medicines and treatments have come so far and luckily today it’s not an instant death sentence it once was. Since my divorce almost two years ago I’ve started to use PrEP to help prevent getting infected with HIV. Over my life so far, I’ve had a couple minor sexually transmitted diseases. PrEP does not prevent or lessen your chances of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases beyond HIV.
Currently not only do I get the required testing every three months while taking PrEP, but I also get tested for every sexually transmitted disease. Getting the blood work done every three months is a little nerve racking knowing I’m at high risk, very active and will admit to rarely using condoms. I’ve recently moved to Fort Lauderdale where all I’ll say is OMG – it’s off the chain.
Why am I sharing this with you? Because I’ve heard from so many guys that they don’t take PrEP, don’t use condoms and go from vanilla to piggy in two blinks of an eye.
For most, it comes down to:
Feeling uncomfortable talking about PrEP and sexually transmitted diseases with their current primary doctor.
Lack of funds to pay for co-pays.
Not having health insurance to cover a good portion of the costs.
Their health insurance deductible very high and it’s a cost issue to reach full deductible in a year timeframe.
Lack of knowledge or apathy.
An Option for Access to Healthcare
Wouldn’t it be great to be able to pick up your phone, or sit at your computer and discuss your health concerns with a Registered Nurse and/or Doctor who can diagnose, order lab testing and prescribe medication all at pre-negotiated low rates? Find out more about the OutBüro Care+Plan.
HPV The human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes anal and genital warts, is often downplayed as an unsightly inconvenience. However, HPV infections may play a role in the increased rates of anal cancers among gay men. Gay and bisexual men are estimated to be 17 times more likely to develop anal cancer than heterosexual men. While treatments for HPV do exist, recurrences of the warts and the rate at which the infection can be spread between partners are very high. Certain populations (including gay and bisexual men, people with weak immune systems, and people with HIV/AIDS) are also at higher risk for some HPV-related health problems. There is no doubt that safer sex reduces the risk of STDs; prevention of these infections through safer sex is key.