MJ (they/them) moved to the United States from the Philippines in 2017, following their partner who had moved three years earlier. As new transplants in New York City, it was challenging to learn how to navigate the American healthcare system. 

“Services like these are non-existent in the Philippines,” says MJ for whom finding a primary care provider and figuring out the health insurance process was daunting. There was also an additional layer of finding care that was inclusive and gender-affirming. After some trial and error with other providers, MJ found their way to Callen-Lorde, drawn by its reputation for providing services specifically geared towards the queer and trans community. MJ recounted frustrating encounters with previous healthcare providers who were ill-equipped to address their needs, highlighting the importance of finding a space where they could feel seen and understood. 

One of the things that stood out for MJ was the relief they felt at how at Callen-Lorde they were not just able to receive medical services but also assistance with other systemic barriers that prevented them from receiving care. “Our situation was so unique because we are immigrants,” MJ says recalling a time when their application for health insurance was denied and despite their best efforts, they could not figure out the way forward. At Callen-Lorde, their healthcare provider put them in touch with a case manager. “The support at Callen-Lorde was just so integrated that at some point we were on the phone with someone who helped us navigate the health insurance system. That was really key for me – to be seen as a whole person and cared for holistically, and not just for a medical ailment.”  

Another thing that made a deep impact for MJ was the ease of being their authentic self at Callen-Lorde. “I felt so much more comfortable and open in sharing my experiences with my providers here.” MJ and their partner were in the early stages of navigating polyamory, and they felt comfortable talking about their medical needs as someone with multiple sexual partners. “It was helpful to know that this is a place that will embrace who I am.”  

Reflecting on their journey so far, MJ talks about how they have existed in queer and trans spaces for a very long time, and their approach to finding their place has always been to gravitate towards spaces that they are valued in. “That is also how I have approached healthcare,” says MJ. “So, finding Callen-Lorde was like finding a space where I am accepted and understood for who I am.”  

MJ’s journey with Callen-Lorde was about more than just healthcare—it was about finding a community that valued and supported them in all aspects of their life. MJ spoke passionately about their belief in integrating queer and trans inclusivity into all aspects of life, not just healthcare. They hope for a world where spaces like Callen-Lorde will be accessible to all LGBTQ+ individuals. “I hope that people will know that they do not need to compromise about their care. They can have it all. That is what Pride means to me too – to exist unapologetically in spaces that are meant for us.”