Monthly Archives: March 2020

rainbow heart with trans and black and brown flag colors with the caption "This is what family looks like"

Love in the Time of Corona

rainbow heart with trans and black and brown flag colors with the caption "This is what family looks like"These are exceptional times. And we need to make an exceptional ask.

Nearly two weeks ago, OFC became one of the first nonprofits in the Bay Area to undertake dramatic and immediate changes to much of our direct services work in response to COVID-19. Changes that we believed, and now know, demonstrated the greatest care and commitment to our community’s health, as well as our solidarity with those at greatest risk – those whose lives are already likely to be devalued.

When we made the decision to temporarily suspend in-person support programming, it was a difficult and sometimes even lonely one. But every passing hour confirms that it was the right one.

At the same time, we knew even before yesterday’s order to shelter in place that isolation is not an option; that community connection and emotional support is as essential to our health as minimizing exposure and spread. For two weeks, our staff has been working around the clock – building a remote support system from the ground up in just four days and planning over a dozen virtual programs in March alone.

For as long as it’s needed, our community will have the ability to call in or get on a video chat, to connect with others facing childcare shortages, trying to build families, or facing the unique needs of raising infants and toddlers, or little kids, or even tweens and teens. We’re also hosting several community forums: listening sessions in which we can all just share what we want and need from each other – and what we can give. Wherever we can, we’re transforming in-person informational workshops into virtual ones, and fast-tracking an online forum in which our community can continue to connect ’round the clock. And not only are we serving our community, other direct services organizations are using the system OFC has created to serve theirs. Now, more than ever, we are all in this together.

Care isn’t just what we do; love is who we are. For generations, LGBTQ people have supported one another through the most challenging times. And now we need your support. We here at OFC are proud that we were among the first to put our community’s health and well-being first. But stepping up this much, this fast, has taken significant resources at a moment when nonprofits are facing unprecedented uncertainty.

We simply cannot continue to meet this surge in need without a surge of support. We need help. If you are able, we need you to make a donation in an amount that is significant to you.

The work of community care may be more important today than it has ever been in history. The dramatic changes we’re facing as a community, a nation, and a planet can feel like they’re pushing people apart, but OFC is here on the front lines doing what we do best: bringing people together. We know better than anyone what it means not only to build family but to expand its reach. Together, we can transform this moment of unforeseeable isolation into an opportunity for unimaginable community care.

Today, we are all family.

7 Programs staff pose smiling on a bluff with Pacific Ocean behind

A dozen OFC Virtual Programs for March – & links to register

by Cheryl Lala, M.S., Director of Family Programs

As many of you have read, we had to cancel or reschedule our in-person community events and support groups due to COVID-19-related precautions, acting on social distancing recommendations from the CDC.

In this time of uncertainty, we know one thing: we need more connection instead of less. That’s why our Programs team has been working around the clock to offer enhanced opportunities for us to share space – albeit virtually.

Our hope is that we can continue to talk about the things that unite us: our children, our hope for children, and family-building specific to the LGBTQ+ community.

Join us remotely. Call or video conference in, knowing the line is secure and HIPAA-compliant (more here).

In order to ensure security we’re asking all participants to pre-register for our virtual programs. Once registered, our programs team will reach out to you directly with the phone number and link to the video line on the day of the event.

Please choose any link below to learn more and register for the following virtual offerings this month:

VIRTUAL GROUP DAY DATE TIME DESCRIPTION
Community Check-In for Family Participants Monday March16 12-1PM This check-in is a community forum to let us know what more you need from us.
OFC Parent Advisory Council Meeting Monday March 16 6-8PM On-going, regularly scheduled group that will now meet online.
Prospective & Expectant Group Mondays March 16, 23, & 30 6-8PM For those participants in the family building process.
Community Check-In for Family Participants Tuesday March 17 8-9PM This check-in is a community forum to let us know what more you from us.
LGBTQ+ Parents/ Caregivers of Teens Tuesday March 17 & March 24 8-9:30PM For those caring for teens and tweens: a space to address our stresses, challenges, and opportunities.
Weekly Community Check-in for Parents of School-aged kids every Wednesday
(until we resume in-person programs)
starting March 18 7:30-9PM For parents with children in elementary school and beyond.
Weekly Community Check-in for Parents with kids aged 0-4 every Monday
(until we resume in-person programs)
starting March 23 11:30AM-1PM For parents of our tiniest humans!

 


Please attend any and all virtual events you’d like. We’ve segmented the groups for easier facilitation, however we’re open to anyone attending who just needs the safe space.

 

In community and best wishes,
Cheryl & The Programs Team

OPEN LETTER ABOUT CORONAVIRUS AND THE LGBTQ+ COMMUNITIES

Over 100 Organizations Sign On To Letter Outlining Added Risk

As the spread of the novel coronavirus a.k.a. COVID-19 increases, many LGBTQ+ people are understandably concerned about how this virus may affect us and our communities. The undersigned want to remind all parties handling COVID-19 surveillance, response, treatment, and media coverage that LGBTQ+ communities are among those who are particularly vulnerable to the negative health effects of this virus.

Our increased vulnerability is a direct result of three factors:

  1. 
The LGBTQ+ population uses tobacco at rates that are 50% higher than the general population. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that has proven particularly harmful to smokers.
  2. The LGBTQ+ population has higher rates of HIV and cancer, which means a greater number of us may have compromised immune systems, leaving us more vulnerable to COVID-19 infections.
  3. LGBTQ+ people continue to experience discrimination, unwelcoming attitudes, and lack of understanding from providers and staff in many health care settings, and as a result, many are reluctant to seek medical care except in situations that feel urgent – and perhaps not even then.

In addition, there are more than 3 million LGBTQ+ older people living in the United States. LGBTQ+ elders are already less likely than their heterosexual and cisgender peers to reach out to health and aging providers, like senior centers, meal programs, and other programs designed to ensure their health and wellness, because they fear discrimination and harassment. The devastating impact of COVID-19 on older people – the current mortality rate is at 15% for this population – makes this a huge issue for the LGBTQ+ communities as well.

LGBTQ+ communities are very familiar with the phenomena of stigma and epidemics. We want to urge people involved with the COVID-19 response to ensure that LGBTQ+ communities are adequately served during this outbreak. Depending on your role, appropriately serving our communities could involve any of the following actions:

  • 
Ensuring that media coverage notes the particular vulnerabilities of any person with pre-existing respiratory illnesses, compromised immune systems or who uses tobacco products. While populations – like LGBTQ+ communities – can be at increased risk, it is important to note the overall state of health that contributes to any person’s increased vulnerability to contracting COVID-19.
  • 
Ensuring health messaging includes information tailored to communities at increased risk for COVID-19, including LGBTQ+ populations. An example of such tailored messaging is including imagery of LGBTQ+ persons in any graphic ads.
  • Providing LGBTQ+ individuals resources to find welcoming providers, such as the ones provided here, if they are experiencing symptoms like a cough or fever and need to seek medical attention.
  • Ensuring funding to community health centers is distributed in a fashion that accounts for the additional burden anticipated by LGBTQ-identified health centers.
Whenever possible ensuring health agencies partner with community-based organizations to get messaging out through channels we trust.
  • Ensuring surveillance efforts capture sexual orientation and gender identity as part of routine demographics.
  • 
Ensuring health workers are directed to provide equal care to all regardless of their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity/presentation, ability, age, national origin, immigration status, race, or ethnicity.
  • Ensuring that all COVID-19 responses take into account exceptionally vulnerable members of the LGBTQ+ communities, including our elders, bi people, and black and brown trans and gender nonconforming/nonbinary people.
  • Since xenophobic responses are heavily impacting the Asian American communities, ensuring all communications and responses related to COVID-19 attempt to counter any such xenophobic responses, avoid racial profiling, and discourage the public from doing so as well.
  • Ensuring LGBTQ+ health leadership, along with all providers and health care centers, are provided with timely and accurate information to disseminate.

As LGBTQ+ community and health leadership, the undersigned organizations offer to stand shoulder to shoulder with the mainstream health leadership to make sure we learn from history and do not allow any population to be disproportionately impacted or further stigmatized by a virus.


Initial signers:
National LGBT Cancer Network
GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality
Whitman-Walker Health
SAGE
New York Transgender Advocacy Group
National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance

Additional Signers:
Advocates for Youth
Advocating Opportunity
Alder Health Services
Antioch University MFA Program
Athlete Ally
Atlanta Pride Committee
BiNet USA
Black Lives Matter Houston
Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center
California LGBTQ Health and Human Services Network
Callen-Lorde Community Health Center
CARES
Center on Halsted
CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers
Compass LGBTQ Community Center
Corktown Health Center
Counter Narrative Project
CreakyJoints & Global Healthy Living Foundation
CrescentCare
Darker Sister Center
Deaf Queer Resource Center
Desert AIDS Project
Desi Queer Diaspora
Equality California
Equality Federation
Equality North Carolina
Erie Gay News
Family Equality
Fenway Health
GALAEI
Gay City: Seattle’s LGBTQ Center
Gender Equality New York, Inc. (GENY)
Gender Justice League (Washington State)
Georgia Equality
GLAAD
GLBT Alliance of Santa Cruz
Greater Erie Alliance for Equality
Greater Palm Springs Pride
Harvey Milk Foundation
Hetrick-Martin Institute
HIV AIDS Alliance of Michigan
HIV Medicine Association
Horizons Foundation
Howard Brown Health
Human Rights Campaign
Independence Business Alliance
Indiana Youth Group
Infectious Diseases Society of America
Inside Out Youth Services
InterPride
Keystone Business Alliance
Lambda Legal
Lansing Area AIDS Network (LAAN)
Lansing Association for Human Rights
Legacy Community Health
LGBT Center of Greater Reading
LGBT Center of Raleigh
LGBT Elder Initiative
LGBTQ Center OC
MassEquality
Matthew Shepard Foundation
Milwaukee LGBT Community Center
Minority Veterans of America
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Center for Transgender Equality
National Coalition for LGBT Health
National Equality Action Team
National LGBTQ Task Force
Newburgh LGBTQ+ Center
No Justice No Pride
Oasis Legal Services
Oklahomans for Equality
Our Family Coalition
Out Alliance
Out And Equal
Out Boulder County
OutCenter of Southwest Michigan
OutFront Kalamazoo
OutRight International
Pennsylvania Youth Congress
Persad Center, Inc.
PFund Foundation
Pizza Klatch
Positive Women’s Network
Pride Center of the Capital Region
Pride Center Of Vermont
Princess Janae Place Inc
Rainbow Community Center of Contra Costa County
Rockland County Pride Center
San Francisco AIDS Foundation
SAVE – Safeguarding American Values for Everyone
SERO Project
SF LGBT Community Center
SisTers PGH
St. James Infirmary
Still Bisexual
The LGBTQ Center Long Beach
The LOFT LGBT Community Services Center
The Montrose Center
The Social Impact Center
The Source LGBT+ Center
The Trevor Project
Thomas Judd Care Center
Thundermist Health Center
Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT)
Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund
Triangle Community Center
Trillium Health
TriVersity Center for Gender and Sexual Diversity
UNIFIED-HIV Health and Beyond
U.S. People Living with HIV Caucus
Wellness AIDS Services
William Way LGBT Community Center

What Events We’re Holding Virtually (and How)

Beginning this week we’re transitioning as much programming as is practicable over to “virtual” service delivery, through the end of March.

What this means in real terms is that we’re going to offer as many support groups and informational workshops as we can using Google Hangouts – either as a phone line, or as a video conference.

So long as it’s not noted as “cancelled” or “postponed” on our website’s calendar, just register for an event the way you always would via the event’s registration page, and we’ll send you the necessary phone and video access info.

Concerned about privacy? So are we! We’ve upgraded our Google Hangout video and audio conferencing lines to ensure they are HIPAA-compliant and preserve the security and confidentiality of all our participants to the highest standards possible. [Further information about G Suite HIPAA Compliance here.]

Most of the playgroup and community activities don’t transfer to a virtual format, but we’re ramping up another means for folks to connect beyond a phone or video conference, and will be rolling that out soon.

Meanwhile, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network offers a wonderful 5-page guide to help parents and caregivers, including recommendations regarding what you should know, practical ways to improve your family’s and household’s readiness, and – perhaps most important, and most overlooked – ways to manage the stress of misinformation, super-saturation of alarming messaging, and/or isolation on your children:

 

 

 

Take good care!

graphic-with-text-caution-and-care

Care & Caution During Coronavirus: Why OFC is Temporarily Going Virtual

by Sam Ames, Esq., JD, MTS
Interim Executive Director
on behalf of the OFC Board of Directors & Leadership

The first cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the United States not traceable to recent travel have been confirmed, and the Bay Area is emerging as one of the most affected regions. Many news outlets have been using the word “pandemic” to refer to the virus. It is important to remember that this word is about spread, not severity, and has already been used as a scare tactic targeting people of color – especially immigrants and those from Asian Pacific Islander communities – for xenophobic attacks and discrimination.

While COVID-19 is not yet a pandemic, it could become one soon. Vulnerable populations include those over 50, those over 80, and those with preexisting respiratory illnesses or compromised immune systems – all of whom are part of the OFC community. It is important that we protect ourselves and one another during this time and during all moments of increased risk to our community, including flu season.

We have been monitoring the situation closely and following all recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and local departments of public health. While all schools and nonprofits serving children and families are taking sanitation and contact precautions, additional measures are beginning to include closing schools, instructing employees to work from home if possible, and asking those who do need to leave the house to remain six feet from others. OFC’s office and services are unique in several ways, including the fact that we draw participants from several counties across the Bay Area, serve many multigenerational families, are members of a community with higher rates of compromised immune systems, and count among our participants many parents who may face rising shortages of childcare in the weeks to come.

In an abundance of caution and care for our community, the board and leadership of OFC have decided to follow the lead of other Bay Area nonprofits, schools, and companies and temporarily suspend in-person programs, transitioning to virtual programming for the next two weeks wherever possible.

We are building systems as we speak that will enable us to offer support, connection, and community by video and phone whenever possible. During a time when we may all begin to experience increased feelings of stress and isolation, we know how important it is that we retain connections with our community. Updated to add: info on virtual events at our next post, “What Events We’re Holding Virtually (and How).”

It is our job now to remain calm and to be mindful of the difference between caution and fear. These measures are primarily about slowing and reducing the spread of the virus so our health systems have enough time to handle cases as they do appear. OFC is taking these precautions in an effort to resume our programming as soon as possible, rather than run the risk that someone who attends one of our events grows ill or that we are required to suspend in-person programming any longer than absolutely necessary. This community means everything to us.

The OFC offices will be open at intermittent hours for the next two weeks while our staff is encouraged to work from home. You will be able to find more information on our website as we are able to update it, but in the meantime you can stay up-to-date with local virus responses using the links below.

We will be in touch over the next two weeks as changes develop and we know more about when normal operations will resume. In the meantime, visit the Coronavirus Plan page on our website, or reach out for information on specific groups and events, and for details of the virtual alternatives we will be offering: info@ourfamily.org.

Thank you for your continued care for this extraordinary community. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out: sam@ourfamily.org.

CDC Situation Summary:
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/summary.html

San Francisco Department of Public Health:
https://www.sfdph.org/dph/alerts/coronavirus.asp

Berkeley Public Health Division:
https://www.cityofberkeley.info/coronavirus/