As I marched down Park Avenue during Rochester’s Pride parade on July 15, I was thinking a lot about distance – how far we have come, and how far we have yet to go.
How politics and the so-called “culture wars” try to drive us apart. And how Pride helps to bring us back together. Because that is the beauty of Pride and the message it sends – that no matter who you are, or who you love, you belong. You are a celebrated part of the Rochester community.
Sadly, we know this is not the message being shared in a growing portion of our country. It seems like every day there is another assault against the LGBTQ+ community – particularly against those who are trans and trans persons of color. New laws have been proposed to silence us and claw back the rights we have fought so hard to secure. Laws that restrict or outright ban our right to gender-affirming health care. Laws to limit what we say in schools and what we read in libraries. This wave of hatred and intolerance is not limited to the United States – we see it around the world.
It is another reminder of how lucky we are to call Rochester home. We are a community that has long embraced the LGBTQ+ community, as evidenced last year when we marked 50 years of Pride celebrations. However, our tradition of supporting LGBTQ+ causes has not made us immune to recent confrontations. In past months, we have seen a controversy over a drag story time for children, as well as threats related to an LGBTQ+ book in a school library. We still have work to do.
We are fortunate in our community that there is no shortage of people willing to do that hard work. They not only put forth the time, energy, and passion needed to support and care for the LGBTQ+ members of our community – they simultaneously strive to break down barriers, end stigma, and replace hate with love. I see this every day in the halls of Trillium Health. Although we are a community health center that serves everyone, LGBTQ+ health care will always be part of our core mission. We don’t just serve the LGBTQ+ community – we are a part of it. Many of our employees identify as LGBTQ+ – myself included. For us, this is personal.
I am so proud to work alongside our incredible team at Trillium Health, and I am so grateful for our dedicated community partners. From other organizations, to individuals, to elected officials – it will take all of us to continue this fight. To close the gap between love and hate. To build a better, stronger society where everyone can feel they belong. In this long-distance journey, our work is never really done.
Jason Barnecut-Kearns is the President and CEO of Trillium Health