Not all medical care is created equal. “The LGBTQ community faces various health disparities,” Tanekwah Hinds ’15 says. “One in five transgender folks have been turned away from a provider. And LGBTQ folks are less likely to seek medical attention.”
Addressing these disparities and others is just part of the work Tanekwah does as the women’s health program coordinator at Fenway Health in Boston. “The purpose of my role is to support the women’s health team here at Fenway, but also to support the community at large.” Initially, she organized training and educational programs just for the women’s health team, but that has expanded. “Everyone in the medical department is trained on how to care for a woman, especially LGBTQ+ women, and also women of different and diverse backgrounds.” She’s organized trainings on refugee women, bisexual women, and trans women of color, to name a few.
“The bulk of what I do is outreach for the communities. I create partnerships with different organizations such as BAGLY [Boston Alliance of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer Youth], Lesbians of Color Symposium, the Bisexual Resource Center,” and more, Tanekwah says. “I create these partnerships so we can have an open dialogue about what’s going on in these communities.” This then informs the internal work she does at Fenway Health, but it also shapes the kind of outreach events she creates for the communities. Events include things like panels (a recent one discussed queer feminism through an intergenerational lens), a yoga series, and annual programs, like the Audre Lorde Cancer Awareness brunch that is specifically for women of color cancer survivors.
This work wasn’t something that Tanekwah had planned to do as a political science major, but it has grown out of her interests and experiences. Between her junior and senior years, she spent a summer as an intern at the Office on Women’s Health at the Department of Health and Human Services. “That time introduced me to the health community, and specifically how HIV affects black women. And there’s not a lot of light shone on that,” Tanekwah says. Her time in Ethos at Wellesley also played a part in her career development. “That kind of propelled me into event planning and organizing, and dealing with that through an intersectional lens,” she says. “That was the first time that I was creating spaces for the community by the community, and I think Wellesley was the place where I found out why that was important.”
That theme resonates throughout her work now. When she plans community outreach events, she is careful to consider what she is doing, who she is doing it for—and where she is doing it. “Boston has a great LGBTQ community, but it tends to be very much in downtown Boston or the Fenway area,” Tanekwah says. “I’ve been trying to do more events in Roxbury and Dorchester. This isn’t a place where LGBTQ events traditionally happen, so making it accessible to those communities is really important.” She’s also planning to do events specifically for the transgender community to create a space where they feel safe and welcome.
The work Tanekwah does is getting noticed, and not just by the communities she works with. Last year, she was honored with a Healthy Community Leadership Award by the Boston Alliance for Community Health. It’s still early in her career, but she plans to keep on working toward long-term change. “I hope through my work that I’m helping to shift how people think about organizing, specifically LGBTQ organizing in Boston, and trying to open conversations around health topics that aren’t ordinarily talked about,” says Tanekwah.