Advocacy & Speaking
Journey from being active to advocate
Diversity | Equity | Inlusion
My journey in this second phase of my live, beginning with the death of Stefanie’s wife which gave life to me and my coming of age.
Since I’m only six I really do not have a large history or body of work, but I have shaped my 68 years being nurtured in the confines of the cocoon of being in a closet.
June 24, 2016 – Following my coming out and my gender affirming journey, I became active and visible but with no measurable results other than sheer volume.
My early work was influenced by a solicitation from SAGE, USA, a national advocacy and services organization that has been looking out for the LGBTQ+ elders since 1978 to present my life story reflecting the additional challenges that LGBTQ+ seniors have in accessing healthcare and housing. I have presented on this general topic over 50 times throughout the United States, Europe and the Mediterranean.
I have made presentations at many of our hospitals, universities, city colleges, medical teaching institutions, and retirement communities. I have also participated in many graduate school’s Capstone Projects and almost anybody else who listens on the topics around gender, diversity, inclusion, aging, and chosen vs. birth families. I even did a podcast with the DePaul School of Anthropology On “End of life issues.”
The entrance of COVID-19 and its required social distancing significantly changed my effectiveness. I thrive off a live audience and the ability to watch their eyes and read their need. One positive thing that Zoom has done is make me visible to a lot more people than I know. At one recent gala, four individuals came up to me and said “how nice to see you in person.” One went as far as to say “I follow you.”
So now I am active and visible. I get to find out that I can provide measurable services.
Below are the topics I can provide to those interested in my experience.
The Only Stefanie Clark engaged with State & Federal legislators to pass 5 bills in the past 2 years to support LGBTQ+ issues & finding solutions
Teaching Cisgender audiences nouns pronouns gender & inclusion
Need for cultural Competency within medical institutions, hospitals, & senior homes
Advocate for inclusion in the chicago fashion Industry
The AIDS Foundation Chicago:
I saw an invitation from a friend who of mine in the advocacy field, which said “join us for storytelling for advocacy.” I could read the words, but didn’t understand the meaning. The thought of AIDS was off-putting because I had never experienced AIDS in any of my life experiences: in my personal life and in any friendships so “how could I be qualified to talk on such the subject?” Lack of knowledge breeds lack of confidence, but I made the deficiencies short lived.
I respected the person making the solicitation, so I showed up – not the only one, but the first.
The underlying structure of the program was to tailor our life story in support of a legislative ask. At the time they said there would be a stipend. I did not know how to spell the word and $50 was not meaningful amount to me, but I went and later found out the $50 was per class. $200 became a meaning full number to me. It also makes me a paid speaker. Currently over $1000 per year to date.
The Aids Foundation, AFC, had 11 legislative asks for the year 2021 – I became comfortable with 4 of the 11.
"I respected the person making the solicitation, so I showed up, not the only one but the first."
- Stefanie clark
How Story Telling was the support in passing of these bills?
The Telehealth Bill – whose passage provided for reimbursement for remote services provided by medical practitioners to Illinois residences. This removed the stigma of having to go into a mental health practitioner’s office.
Decriminalization of AIDS – Illinois was the second state in the nation to pass such a law. It was only during the initial study that I realized what an injustice was placed on society that a person could be put in jail for two years if they had ever been diagnosed with AIDS and if they had sex with any other partner.
Getting to Zero by 2030 – The last topic was a little more obscure to me. It translated as reducing the infectiousness of AIDS to undetectability level by the year 2030. a huge goal
The 2021 legislations passed all 11 legislative components which included my four, became law. “Not bad for a newbie” and my first measurable report card. There was now progress and progressive changes that have come about through medications and preventive services like needle exchanges and general access to healthcare.
Through PrEP, (pre exposure prophylaxis) PEP, (involves taking medication before exposure to the virus), makes the disease undetectable in many human beings on these drugs. The goal is to get the whole HIV/AIDS population so that their conditions are undetectable by any current testing mechanisms resulting in a major health improvement in our society.
SOGIE is an acronym that stands for Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression) is close to my heart because the previous Republican administration attempted to remove us from existence by not counting us in the census, therefore we don’t exist and our specific needs are not funded. I believe this is an injustice and I have put my whole life and support behind turning this problem around here in Illinois.
I know of at least two data collection efforts:
1. Howard Brown Health is doing social data collection for transgender and non-binary individuals.
2. AIDS / Northwestern University study on HIV/AIDS
The HIV Aids Study
Facilitated with Northwestern University‘s graduate school on database management can can identify individual aids people, with identity protected, but followed down to current ZIP Code and the status of their health conditions we can even see when one ZIP Code is experiencing an uptick in incidence while others may have people coming through remission. This allows the fundraisers to target specific needs to a specific type of donor to provide affective fundraising results for both parties. And me.
Moving to 2022
Moving to 2022, the state was less flush with cash and the legislative asks were more focused. Again, the pro-dominant inferences was AIDS related and now not out of my bandwidth or attention span.
But a new law came directly into my vision and that related to the health disparities of LGBTQ+ seniors in access to culturally competent care in the healthcare market. I now find I had an answer to a question that was just coming to light, so my past five years of lecturing is now front of mind for everybody in the LGBTQ+ community.
The law broke into two sections:
One was a healthcare – A czar who was to provide guidance and access over disparity issues.
The second phase – defined a need for the provider community to demonstrate cultural competency when providing healthcare to the LGBTQ+ community and billing state agencies.
Always a money club.
The only problem I saw, was that there was very little education out in the marketplace and no apparent means of demonstrating cultural competency. They weren’t even putting a rainbow flag after MD in their medical credentials. When I went looking for a culturally competent provider it was a full-time job. The only benefit out of the strenuous search was that I learned that most transgender women do not live past age 50, that had to stop.
If my presence at age 80 can be the light shining for these young women that if they can make it through 50, the possibility of living to 80 is nearly a matter of courage- how’s that for a political statement.
I have spoken at two AFC, legislative breakfast at the state level and at the federal level.
The first one – I was an observer which got a chance to make a statement and I didn’t screw it up too badly, got of the stage unscathed.
The 2022 legislative breakfast was the 2nd one, which was with the Illinois congressional delegation. I was the lead off-speaker talking about the need for cultural competency and making the statement that “if a doctor doesn’t know me how to call me by name and who I’m sleeping with, how could they possibly provide cultural competent care to me? We got work to do.
I threw my mind and body into this project talking to almost anyone I could speak to again at colleges, universities, nursing homes and anybody who provided care to my community about the need for understanding their patient.
Both components of the bill were passed out of both Houses of the State legislation and the omnibus position was immediately signed into law in July.
Probably because it didn’t cost a lot of money. While my cultural competence component was languishing on the legislative floors, and I was being told that “it would most likely not get through the veto session because of opposition coming from the provider community.” But two days before the end of the legislative session, both bills were signed into law and a council created by the governor was legislatively created and are now taking appointments for this counsel. At this time I am being recommended for one of those council positions. Outcome to be determined could be political.
My journey has taken me from birth, being active, being visible, being authoritative both in; the humanitarian range and the political range.
Much of my philanthropy is channeled and processed through the Howard Brown medical philanthropic arm. Of which, I am one of its original founding members of the Vernita Gray Council for philanthropy from individuals which is then directed toward the Broadway Youth Center of Chicago.
I am a heartbeat giver, monthly contributor, the Leadership Contributions ladder
I have also made a legacy pledge upon my death from my trust.