by James Whitely -
SGN Staff Writer
LGBTQ Allyship is currently presenting the fifth season of Queerly Classed, its signature discussion series. The most recent forum, held May 30 in South Seattle and titled 'Limited Access,' focused on health-care disparities unique to the LGBT community.
Allyship says the reason it puts on these forums is twofold: to teach and to learn, in a real community setting - and this value is wholly integrated with the group's mission. This is what makes Allyship unique and different from other advocacy organizations - not just LGBT groups, but those representing other marginalized communities.
'Oppressions are interconnected, and in the possibility of a world free of oppression, we seek to work in solidarity with marginalized communities to understand the interconnectedness of oppression and to support the systematic liberation of all people,' says Allyship.
Debbie Carlsen, director of Allyship, started the organization in 2005 with about 12 other activists after conducting a needs assessment. The idea was to create a group that makes gender and racial connections, and which works outside of the LGBT community, advocating on its behalf to both government and service pro-viders.
'People were excited about it, and nothing like this existed,' Carlsen told SGN.
Regarding the 'Limited Access' forum, Carlsen said, 'The speakers were connected to the organization and possible campaigns that we as Allyship want to en-gage in. This year we want to make a stronger connection.'
In addition to featured speaker Sara Jaye Sanford of the Immunization Action Coalition of Washington, who spoke on health-care disparities unique to Lesbian, Bisexual, and Queer women, many speakers and attendees raised questions about such disparities in regard to older LGBT people.
'There's going to be this burst of older people retiring and needing long-term care,' said Carlsen.
The forum explored the various ways LGBT people can be institutionally discriminated against in health care and discussed how we as a community might ad-dress such discrimination.
Jack Johnson, a longtime local activist who is HIV-positive, shared a story about how his need for dental care and his HIV status put him in a life-threatening situation because of his weakened immune system.
'Seniors are going back into the closet because of inherent discrimination,' said Carlsen. 'There's a need for culturally appropriate training for caregivers, and a burst in the need for more of those caregivers [is] coming.'
Queerly Classed came from a belief that to grow and thrive, the community must have a space where it can come together, discuss issues that matter, find common ground, and take action. Over the years, topics have included the displacement of LGBT individuals, organizations, and businesses from Capitol Hill; the intersection of immigrant and LGBT rights; and many others.
Allyship's upcoming forum, 'Welcome to the Hunger Games,' will focus on how the LGBT community can be allies to homeless youth. Recently, Allyship held fo-cus groups with homeless LGBT young people and local youth service providers such as YouthCare. At the forum, Allyship will not only present what it learned, but engage and learn from those who attend the forum. 'Welcome to the Hunger Games' will be held July 25 at Southside Commons (3518 S. Edmunds St.), start-ing at 6:30 p.m.
From its inception, Allyship has been an all-volunteer organization, but Carlsen says she wants to take it in a more professional nonprofit direction and hire staff. To learn more, donate, or get involved with Allyship, visit www.lgbtqallyship.org.
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