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NYC First Lady Announces “NYC Unity Project” Launch To Combat LGBTQ Inequality

First Lady Chirlane McCray has launched a new initiative in NYC to help fight against the struggles faced by LGBTQ persons. “NYC Unity Project” is a step in the right direction, taking on the social, physical, mental and financial issues that plague the community at a higher rate than hetero counterparts. New York city has been a major center of life for the LGBTQ Community for decades, and a birthplace for much of the movement.

In a letter from McCray, she stated, “For so many people—including me—New York is the first place they ever truly felt at home. This is a city where 8.5 million people from all different backgrounds live and work together, and where everyone can find a sense of community.” She continues by stating, “That includes our LGBTQ community, a treasured part of New York City’s past, present and future. Our LGBTQ New Yorkers contribute to the life of our city in countless ways—as leaders and public servants, as workers and entrepreneurs, as artists, thinkers, and activists.”

This is an important step for a major city to be taking, especially during a time when the Trump Administration has made LGBTQ people targets of their agenda. Earlier this year, the administration placed a ban on transgender members being able to serve in the military. It was a hasty decision made without much consideration for those 15,000 members already serving in the armed forces, and the countless number of trans members who have this path as a vehicle to obtaining healthcare, wages, and benefits. The NYC Unity Project is a direct pushback against a narrative that excludes people who are marginalized by their sex and gender identity.

I spoke with First Lady McCray about “NYC Unity Project,” and below is how she explained, in greater detail, what the project will provide city-wide.

To accomplish this task, a needs assessment within the LGBTQ community was needed so that the city could appropriately address “the unique challenges that LGBTQ people face” while also deepening “investments in key LGBTQ resources and programs and double down on our work to make New York City the most welcoming and affirming city in the world.” To do this “sixteen agencies across the City came together to survey existing programs and services, identify gaps and assess needs.” Working as a collective they chose to use an “approach that recognizes the intersection oppressions they endure based on color, neighborhood, class, ability, immigration status, language and many other factors.”

On the healthcare side of this project, they are going to focus on six key points that include:

  • Creating Groundbreaking Provider Certification Program
  • Provide affirming healthcare services to New Yorkers across the gender spectrum
  • Prevent and Treat HIV
  • Train Mental Health Clinicians
  • Combat Substance Misuse
  • Collect Better Data

The approach to healthcare services is the promise that “NYC Health + Hospitals will train 50 healthcare providers to provide clinical care—including transition care—to gender expansive youth throughout the city. By Fiscal Year 2019, NYC Health + Hospitals will have emerging adult clinical programs that specialize in affirming health services for LGBTQ youth.”

To prevent and treat HIV, “The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has expanded support for youth with HIV and those at increased risk of contracting HIV, including three clinical sites to provide young men who have sex with men of color with risk screening, education, and clinical care. The sites are also providing supportive services and patient navigation to reduce the behavioral health, structural, financial, and psychological factors related to HIV risk. The City will also work to make sure that all young people—including LGBTQ youth—are aware of their right to consent to and receive HIV treatment and prevention services, including pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), without parental or guardian consent.”

In speaking directly with First Lady Chirlane McCray about this project, she spoke about her hopes from outcomes of the project stating “in terms of short-term outcomes, we want to see many more young people engaging in the services that we’re providing, we want to see them connect with our GSAs; they are student run and student funded and we want to give them resources and things they could use. We want to see more utilization of our community centers and most importantly want to see them connect to our healthline. We know there are huge disparities between the LGBTQ community and the young people vs their peers in terms of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases. We want to reduce those disparities, and that may be a longer term goal but want to reduce them.”

First Lady McCray makes it clear that “this is a New York City plan, so it is geared towards NYC, but of course we are willing to share” when speaking about other major cities and how comprehensive this plan is in comparison to them. She states that “she is always willing to talk with other cities and serve as the model,” but makes it clear that “we have to be a success here first!”

The NYC Unity project is now in effect.