Pride: The Continued Fight for Equality in LGBTQ+ Community

In 2002, Carl Gaines had recently moved to New York City after being diagnosed with HIV. Like many young people who move to the city, he knew he needed healthcare as soon as possible, but he hadn’t lined up a job and didn’t have insurance. And he couldn’t focus on other areas of his life — relationships, friendships, employment — until he knew that his health was in good hands. 

Sadly, like many other LGBTQ+ individuals, Carl found there were unique challenges in his quest for healthcare. From a lack of providers who understand the unique needs of the LGBTQ+ population, to other barriers, including discrimination and income inequality, it seemed harder to access and receive quality care quality, compassionate care.

Seeking Refuge at Callen-Lorde Health Center

Carl finally found that care at Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, a federally-qualified health center (FQHC) in New York City. Such centers are “safety nets to provide primary medical care in medically underserved areas or communities,” explained Callen-Lorde’s Executive Director, Wendy Stark. Though there are 1,000 such centers across America, Callen-Lorde is unique in that it specializes in providing clinically and culturally competent care to LGBTQ+ communities who are not bound by a geographic area. People travel from all five of New York City’s boroughs and even from other states to utilize Callen-Lorde’s culturally competent services. And, they get the best possible healthcare regardless of insurance status or ability to pay. 

“There’s still a lack of knowledge and understanding of LGBTQ+ health issues in the medical community,” said Wendy. “LGBTQ+ health is not required in medical school, and there is often very little, if any, training. In many cases, it’s the patient educating the provider on their health needs, whether it be hormones, or interventions like PrEP. We do our part by providing hundreds of competency and sensitivity trainings at healthcare facilities and to clinicians-in-training, but it barely scratches the surface when you look at the country as a whole.”

Callen-Lorde’s mission isn’t just to offer medical care. “The staff at the center also work to build trust with patients who have been discriminated against or experienced stigma or trauma, especially in medical settings,” Wendy said. One of the biggest challenges the center faces is working with LGBTQ+ youth who have been ostracized from their families of origin and have deep mistrust of institutions, medical and otherwise. “But on the other side of that coin,” Wendy said, “is that Callen-Lorde builds lasting trust and community while empowering patients to invest in their health and wellness.”

Carl knew he was in the right place the moment he walked through the door of Callen-Lorde. He could tell this was a place where he’d be accepted and where the staff would go above and beyond to ensure he had all the tools he needed to keep his health in top shape. “To sit in the waiting room and see the wide spectrum of other clients, that definitely helped instill a sense of community and belonging,” he said. “That was really important to me, particularly in the beginning.”

Taking Pride in Capital One

Today, Carl still visits Callen-Lorde for his medical care. He also sits on the center’s board of directors. And, as part of the communications team at Capital One, he is a driving force behind the partnership between our company and the health center. 

“Capital One believes in bringing your whole self to work,” Carl said. “Part of the reason that I feel comfortable talking about my experiences at Callen-Lorde is because I know that I'll be supported within my work community. We also believe in supporting our community, and access to healthcare is a key component of any thriving community.”

Over the past few years, Capital One has made donations and contributions to Callen-Lorde in honor of Pride Month and in support of the health center’s important work. We’re proud to promote the center’s life-saving work through volunteer activities that give employees the opportunity to learn more about that work firsthand. We sponsor events like Callen-Lorde’s Rainbow Run, a virtual 5k this past May, that encouraged associates to get out and exercise for a good cause. 

“Those in the LGBTQ+ community—now and throughout our history—have demonstrated remarkable courage against unthinkable odds and have made extraordinary sacrifices to have the rights, freedom and safety to share their stories,” said Rolddy Levya, Vice President of Global Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging (DIB) for Capital One. “I am incredibly proud of Capital One for its commitment to advancing diversity, inclusion and belonging.”

For the seventeenth consecutive year, Capital One has received a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's Corporate Equality Index (CEI), designating us as one of the Best Places to Work for LGBTQ+ Equality. Our “Out Front” Business Resource Group enables associates to show up for the LGTBTQ+ community in meaningful ways like through volunteer events and educational opportunities, supporting LGBTQ+ owned business and nonprofits that serve the community.   

As a company, we believe we all have a role to play in creating a culture of belonging – where every voice is heard and matters, where people feel safe to live their lives authentically, and are empowered to achieve their dreams. We’re proud to stand together with the LGBTQ+ community in the continued fight for equality.