June 29, 2023
ACHP is proud to recognize and celebrate the efforts and achievements made by members of the LGBTQ+ community during Pride Month. June provides us all a time to reflect on the unique needs and lived experiences of members of this community and the work that has been done to secure and protect individual freedoms. Improving health equity is at the core of ACHP’s mission – ACHP member companies are deeply ingrained in their communities and are working each day to close gaps in care among their communities. We are proud to champion equality and LGBTQ+ rights by sharing thoughts from people such as ACHP’s Mat Gulick on the importance of promoting a culture of diversity and inclusivity.
Tell us about yourself and your role in your organization.
My name is Mat Gulick, and it’s been my pleasure to be ACHP’s Communications Director since September 2022. I sometimes describe my role as being the organization’s “chief storyteller,” because one of my responsibilities is identifying opportunities to amplify stories about our member companies’ innovative programs and benefits via earned media, social media, industry events or other channels. ACHP’s members are unique in the communities they serve, making them better able to improve the health of families within their coverage area, and I find myself learning something new from our members and from my ACHP colleagues every day.
What does “living authentically” mean to you?
To me, “living authentically” means giving yourself permission to be and express your true self in any situation, whether professionally or personally. Walking down the street in my neighborhood holding my husband’s hand and not being afraid to have a photo of the two of us on my desk at work are seemingly simple gestures that tell others who I am, what I value and that I’m unafraid to be true to myself. I feel very fortunate to live and work in an area that celebrates and embraces the full spectrum of backgrounds and experiences that – when given the opportunity – allow each of us to flourish. ACHP encourages its staff to bring their authentic selves to work every day, because we know that creativity and innovation flourish when given a safe space to do so. Being free to represent your true self at work contributes to higher job satisfaction, builds trust and credibility, develops leadership skills and leads to a healthier work-life integration.
I was moved by Brandon Uranowitz’s comment when accepting his Tony award for Best Featured Actor for his role in Leopoldstadt last month; he said “an authentic life is a limitless life,” which struck me as a timely reminder for all of us, whether in the LGBTQI+ community or not, to embrace who we are, our backgrounds and the experiences that brought us to this moment in time. It is only by celebrating who we are that we can have the greatest impact.
From an equity perspective, what do you think our health care system can do to reach – and care for – members of the LGBTQI+ community?
I think it is essential that medical providers be offered opportunities to learn ways to create safe spaces for members of the LGBTQI+ community. Whether that is recognizing the unconscious biases inherent in pronoun usage in some clinical situations, to being on the lookout for children and adults who might be struggling to openly admit their sexual orientation or gender identity. When patients do not feel comfortable speaking freely with their medical providers, they miss opportunities to be fully cared for. This is particularly true for younger members of the LGBTQI+ community, who might need to turn to their doctors or nurses if their parents or guardians are unsupportive. LGBTQI+ teens are nearly four times as likely to consider suicide (and more than twice as likely to be successful) compared to straight teens, making supportive medical professionals even more urgently needed. Giving youngsters a safe space to seek advice and to get unbiased and accurate information from someone who sees and values them for who they are will give more people the chance to grow up and celebrate their authentic selves.
Which members of the LGBTQI+ community, living or deceased, would you most like to sit down with and share a meal?
I would relish the opportunity to sit down with Harvey Milk and Senator Tammy Baldwin. Supervisor Milk was a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and one of the first openly gay individuals elected to public office in the United States. He was wickedly smart, keenly strategic and unapologetically gay and is remembered – amongst other things – for encouraging members of the queer community to come out of the closet. He knew it is much harder for people to advocate against the community when they knew their sons, daughters, sisters, brothers or parents would be impacted by anti-LGBTQ policies. Knowing the enormous impact he had, and how young he was when he was murdered, I would love to sit down with Harvey and tell him how far we have come as a community in acceptance and celebration from so many allies across the country and to thank him for all he accomplished in his short life.
Tammy Baldwin is a trailblazer and the first openly LGBTQI+ individual elected to the U.S. Senate. Recognizing the progress the LGBTQI+ community has made in acceptance, including housing rights, marriage equality, employment protections and family law, to name a few, I would be fascinated to talk with her about the current state of U.S. politics and strategize ways to stop the avalanche of anti-equality legislation across the country that seeks to divide us and subject members of the community – particularly children – to harm.
While it can sometimes feel overwhelming to face all the negative headwinds aligned against the LGBTQI+ community, sharing a meal with Harvey and Tammy would be an amazing opportunity to reflect on the seemingly unimaginable progress we have made in such a short period and to thoughtfully discuss ways to continue the forward momentum without rolling back the rights and protections so many have fought for.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Given the chance, I would tell my younger self that “coming out” is not a one-time event. Coming out is a lifelong process that starts again every time I reference my husband to someone for the first time, whether that is a coworker, a doctor or anyone else in a situation where it feels natural in the flow of conversation. No matter how old I get or how far I come in my career, there is always a twinge of “what are they going to say” when I reference being gay. However, I would also tell my younger self those twinges get smaller each time as our culture becomes more accepting and that I am incredibly fortunate to live in a place and time where I and my LGBTQI+ friends and community are seen, celebrated and valued.