These days the importance of community and connection is clearer than ever. Gay City continues to provide in-person sexual health screenings, online resources, healthcare navigation, virtual support for LGBTQ youth, and much more.
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The coronavirus outbreak is disproportionately affecting LGBTQ folks, especially BIPOC (Black, Indiginous, and People of Color) Queer and Trans folks, leaving a population already vulnerable to health care and employment discrimination suffering from high job losses and a growing rate of positive cases. Throughout the upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gay City: Seattle’s LGBTQ Center has continued to provide vital services to support the physical and mental health of King County’s LGBTQ communities. As the leading HIV/STI testing provider in King County, our Wellness Center has remained open throughout the pandemic to provide affirming, responsive, and multilingual HIV/STI testing and vital PrEP services. Helping identify recent HIV infections and connecting folks to health insurance and healthcare is more critical than ever. When people living with HIV have the tools and access to achieve HIV viral suppression, and when other sexually transmitted co-infections are successfully treated, the particular vulnerabilities to COVID-19 present in immunocompromised individuals no longer apply.
We’ve also moved rapidly to create innovative virtual support for our communities to connect through a variety of ways: We are hosting bi-weekly Queer Community Conversations, online conversations where we discuss the concerns affecting LGBTQ people in Washington State during COVID-19, share queer-affirming resources, and create a space for LGBTQ voices to be heard. Some recent and upcoming conversations include Supporting Substance Users, Tenant Rights, Resources for Homeless LGBTQ Youth, and Resources for Parents and Families.
Gay City’s Youth Advisory Council, a cohort of BIPOC Queer and Trans youth, now hosts weekly Queer N' Teen instagram live chats where they connect LGBTQ+ youth to mental health support and community building. This by-and-for virtual space not only helps reduce feelings of isolation, but also creates space for young folks to step into leadership roles. Outlets and opportunities for marginalized youth communities to find connection and build collective action allows for self-determination practices that increase protective factors to combat inequities that LGBTQ youth face such as racism, ageism, homophobia, and transphobia, all of which contribute to increased risk for substance use and abuse, high-risk sexual practices, homelessness/unstable housing, economic instability, and suicidality among other negative health outcomes.
We've created a robust COVID-19 Resources page on our website in which we've collected resources available throughout the city and county, and sorted them into categories to make them more accessible, such as specific resources for People Living With HIV, or Harm Reduction resources. As the only organization providing LGBTQ specific and affirming healthcare navigation, we are providing virtual navigation appointments to connect folks with access to healthcare at this critical time, and we are also facilitating trainings to healthcare navigators across the county.
25 years ago, a group of activists started Gay City to build a community stronger than HIV. We knew we had lost nearly an entire generation of gay men to AIDS, but we also knew that our response to the AIDS crisis had demonstrated our capacity to fight and to show up for one another. Building on our resilience and focusing on our strengths, Gay City has grown to be a comprehensive resource for LGBTQ communities across Washington, the leading sexual health provider in the region, a trusted training provider for people wanting to support LGBTQ folks, a hub of youth advocacy, and a home to queer artists and storytellers.
Gay City: Seattle’s LGBTQ Center’s mission is to cultivate access and connections to promote self-determination, liberation and joy in our communities. Our values include intersectionality, accessibility, stewardship, transparency, advocacy, and being sex and body positive. We dream of a world in which LGBTQ elders, adults, youth, and children can live vibrant, whole, self-determined and liberated lives free of limitations, oppression or restrictions.