Pride Perspective: History & Her Story

June 29, 2022 · NCQA Communications

Shannon Kern is a Senior Operations Engineer at NCQA and wrote some of her personal thoughts on Pride for us:  

Celebrating Pride Month is deeply rooted in LGBTQ+ history, as award-winning filmmaker Robert Camina presented at NCQA’s brown bag yesterday, June 28, 2022, titled “Triumph & Tragedy. A Look at Pride Month Through the Lens of LGBTQ+ History.”

The NYPD raided the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village June 28, 1969. Patrons were violently arrested and taken away in paddy wagons, and Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P Johnson were at the center of leading the Stonewall uprising. Riots broke out, and the modern-day LGBTQ+ Civil Rights Movement was born. Brenda Howard is known as the “Mother of Pride” for organizing one of the first Pride parades a month after the raid. These activists changed the course of history for us.

Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Shannon Kern, and I serve as the Senior Operations Engineer, Accreditation at NCQA and have worked here for over 8 years. I proudly serve as one of the founding Diversity Equity Inclusion (DEI) Councilmembers along with an incredibly diverse and brilliant group of committed colleagues. I later founded NCQA’s LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group (ERG), and I currently serve as Co-chair with the talented Shawn Trivette. I absolutely adore my NCQA family and appreciate the progress we have made together in the workplace and beyond. I genuinely appreciate the level of support we have received from our Executive Leadership Team, Human Resources, Marketing, Communications and our DEI Council. I was asked to share some of my experiences and shed some light on current LGBTQ+ health issues facing this country as we close on this year’s Pride Month.

I am a proud, Pansexual woman; born and raised in rural Ponder, Texas (population 432 at the time). I moved all over the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex from high school through graduate school. Many of my friends were horribly discriminated against at their workplaces, and many of them were fired for being gay. Growing up in Texas was not easy. Interloping state legislation proposed and often passed against my people never stopped. We experience one hit after another. And yet we must remain functional members of society, colleagues, workers, family members, and human beings. We are expected to remain calm and empathize with a society who “isn’t ready yet” for us, our families, our partners/spouses or our rights. Yet we remain hopeful, strong, resilient and fearlessly unstoppable when it comes to living our authentic selves and organizing for our full Federal equality.

My life changed on the 40th Anniversary of the Stonewall raid in Fort Worth, Texas. Police and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) hauntingly reenacted the Stonewall raid with vengeance. Four friends of mine were in the Rainbow Lounge bar that night, including Chad Gibson who went to the hospital with broken ribs, fractured skull and bleeding in the brain. After overcoming the initial shock, I converted my anger into nonviolent action towards solutions. This lit a fire in my soul. I threw myself into LGBTQ+ activism and advocacy June 28, 2009, and never looked back. Since then, we have made significant strides with the City of Fort Worth, Fort Worth Police Department, TABC, and cities across America. In fact, I even helped supply literature, cultural artifacts and other materials used for statewide LGBTQ sensitivity training for Texas Law Enforcement officers in the wake of the Rainbow Lounge raid.

The raid on the Rainbow Lounge happened while I was attending graduate school at the University of Texas at Arlington in the same county, just about a 25-minute drive from campus and my home. My concentration was in social movements and political sociology. My thesis, “With Liberty and Justice for Some” researched American attitudes towards LGBTQ+ civil rights, with an emphasis on marriage equality. Additionally in 2012, Humana launched their diverse Network Resource Groups (NRG) (equivalent to Employee Resource Groups) for staff. I volunteered to launch the LGBT NRG in Texas as the first Lone Star Ambassador for all Humana employees in the State of Texas. I’ve taught workshops on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) leadership in the workplace and speak at conferences and on panels regarding strategies, methods and outcomes of collective action.

Historically, my policy areas of focus on a local/state level were (1) Passing Employment Non-discrimination policies, (2) Securing Domestic Partnership benefits and (3) Stopping/preventing more hate crimes and suicides. My national areas of focus were (1) Repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT), (2) Repealing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and (3) Passing the Employment Non-discrimination Act (ENDA).

Historically and currently, my LBTQ+ outreach areas of focus are on (1) Stopping bullying, (2) Stopping suicide and (3) Securing resources for homeless/refugee human beings. I have been an avid international activist, successfully working to stop the Anti-homosexuality Bill (also known as the “Kill the Gays” Bill) in Uganda from 2009 to 2014. I have been assisting LGBTQ+ homeless and refugees with a trusted network, supplying nutrition, bedding, medical expenses, funeral expenses and building sustainable solutions in Uganda and Kenya ever our victory for LGBTQ+ Ugandans. I am thankful for the NCQAers who have volunteered to help me in this global effort!

What are some policy issues I’m concerned with now? Protecting trans people (e.g., safe bathrooms, covered medical treatment such as hormones), protecting homeless youth (40% are LGBTQ+ but represent only about 9% of the total youth population), banning conversion therapy at the federal leveladvancing adoption and parental rightsimproving mental health and medical care.

As we have seen in recent, unprecedented history, the Supreme Court can giveth, and the Supreme Court can taketh away. We are terrified of what is next for LGBTQ+ people. Are our marriages on the brink of becoming illegal in some states? Are we going to lose custody over our children in some states? Are we going to lose our protections against workplace discrimination, which we finally achieved from the Supreme Court in July 2020! These are just some of our fears at the current moment. Our love and our identities have been politicized for a long while, but it does not make it easier. And then there are layers of discrimination with intersectionality for women and people of color. We must stay united in our journey towards equality and equity. One of my favorite chants from my street activism is “A people united will never be divided.”

NCQA’s LGBTQ+ ERG launched in January 2022. Here are some of our key areas of interest and projects.

  • Established our formation and goals, including NCQA’s first official month-long Pride celebration for all staff!
  • Create a safe and welcome community for LGBTQ+ staff and allies to connect and collaborate.
  • Retention of and recruitment efforts of a diverse workforce.
  • Provide resources for LGBTQ+ staff, parents of LGBTQ+, and everyone.
  • Awareness of intersectional issues and needs.
  • Building a strong network of allies supporting our community.
  • Making our presence known and “out” so that staff always have a place to come for help.
  • Enhancing external-facing systems inclusive of all, including applications (e.g., optional prefixes for nonbinary customers).
  • Recruiting leading experts on LGBTQ+ healthcare to our Health Equity Taskforce.
  • Converting to gender-neutral terms in applicable NCQA HEDIS measures.
  • Expanding equality and equity of LGBTQ+ patients in NCQA’s Health Equity Accreditation product.

I will refrain from diving into an ocean of LGBTQ+ health stats for the sake of time. However, there are great resources available at The Fenway Institute. Some of the key healthcare issues and needs NCQA’s LGBTQ+ ERG is currently discussing with the Health Equity Accreditation team are:

  • Collecting data for sex vs. gender. For example, using and normalizing terms, such as “cisgender” (i.e., male and female) and the need for allowing for intersex options (i.e., hermaphrodites) are more common than people might think.
    • We are hearing concerns in the healthcare field about how to address patient fears of disclosing personal Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) data. As we have learned from discussions with leaders of Fenway Institute, this can be addressed by transparently disclosing to patients (1) why is the data being collected, (2) what will the data be used for, (3) confirm no retaliation can be used against the patient for disclosing their sexual orientation and gender identity and (4) what the hope is for collecting the data (e.g., improve the quality of care).
  • Provider networks are often missing LGBTQ friendly specialty for medical and mental health practitioners. Therefore, searching for this specialty difficult.
  • Advanced and accredited training for all medical and mental health practitioners.
  • Importance of using preferred pronouns from the very first point of contact and throughout treatment.
  • Adopting standardized best practices.
  • Accredited training for providers.
  • Collecting SOGI patient experience and satisfaction feedback.
  • Quality improvement activities around improving access to LGBTQ friendly medical and mental health providers.

We are human beings; although, our rights and our mere existence is controversial to some. We are grandmothers, mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, grandfathers, fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, friends and colleagues. We are doctors, lawyers, artists and engineers. We are integrated into society, and our history is also woven into the fabric of America. Many thanks to all our allies supporting us and amplifying our voices as we make the change we need to see in this country!

What are some ways to be a good ally?

  • Support LGBTQ-owned businesses.
  • Attend a Pride event with an LGBTQ+ loved one.
  • Showcase LGBTQ+ leaders in communities, workplaces, etc.
  • Start an LGBTQ+ ERG at your workplace!
  • Display your preferred pronouns in solidarity and promote mindfulness

Love Always Wins! Be kind.

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