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“Language is really important, especially in this context. Not only do our words have power, but it also reflects how we interact with one another.”

Jorien Brock and Siobhan Fitzgerald-Cushing

From Chaz Bono’s public transition to popular series Orange is the New Black, transgender individuals have been receiving more attention in popular media. However, this growing awareness has not yet translated into transgender cultural competence among health and human service providers. Jorien Brock, JD, MSW, Senior Director of the Pride Center of Western New York, and Siobhan Fitzgerald-Cushing, Outreach Coordinator of the Pride Center’s Transgender Health Initiative, are working to change this gap in service knowledge.

In this podcast, Brock and Fitzgerald-Cushing discuss the needs and challenges that transgender individuals face with regard to healthcare. They explain the importance of the careful use of language in social work practice, and distinguish among importantly distinct concepts that are often confused. They also draw upon both research data and practice experience to outline major health needs of the transgender community, as well as challenges transgender and gender non-conforming individuals face in accessing and utilizing services. Brock and Fitzgerald-Cushing translate this research and practice knowledge into best practices for working with transgender persons that are of value to social workers at all levels of practice. Throughout the conversation, they bring us back to the importance of core social work values: listening to clients, open and honest communication, advocating for client wellbeing, and treating people as they themselves want to be treated.

Jorien Brock is the Senior Director of the Pride Center of WNY, serving the eight counties of WNY. The mission of the Pride Center is to work with the community to make Western New York a safe, healthy, and satisfying place for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people to live, work, and establish their families. Jorien works closely with community partners in health and human services, government agencies, academic institutions, and private businesses, offering trainings on LGBT issues including cultural competency, intimate partner violence, health, and the law. Jorien has been an advocate with LGBT communities for over 18 years, and is also active with issues related to women, poverty, and homelessness. Jorien is a licensed attorney, has her Master of Social Work degree, is a consultant, artist, adjunct professor, and an experienced mediator.

Siobhan Fitzgerald-Cushing is the Outreach Coordinator for the Transgender Health Initiative at the Pride Center of WNY, Inc. She graduated from St. Lawrence University in 2010 with a BA in Sociology and a Minor in Gender and Sexuality Studies. She is responsible for identifying and coordinating staff outreach events and capacity building within the THI program. She hopes to one day open her own non-profit for transgender and genderqueer youth, after pursuing her Master’s Degree in Social Work. Siobhan enjoys playing folk music in her local band during her free time.

Interviewer: Steven Halady, PhD

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