Beyond the Epidemic Conference

LGBT crew in parade
LGBT Center staff, members of the LGBT community, family, friends and allies participated in the 2015 Cortland County Dairy Parade.

The Cortland Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Center traveled to Troy, NY to attend the Beyond the Epidemic Conference that was held from July 13 to July 15. There were many health and human service providers, LGBT centers, and community members from all over New York State who came to discuss the future of LGBT health, including transgender health services, ending the HIV Epidemic in New York, and creating greater access to mental health services.

Ethan Lewis, Prevention Specialist and LGTB Program Assistant, presented at a panel on transgender health in rural communities. During the panel, Lewis touched on the challenges facing rural communities, including the lack of transportation and resources available and the substance abuse issues facing the entire community. But Lewis also emphasized that there is hope in rural communities for LGBT people. “There is this thing we tell LGBT youth living in small towns or rural areas, and that is in order to be happy you have to leave,”  said to those in attendance.“Well that’s not fair! Why don’t we work on making these places better instead of shipping youth out?”

During the panel, Lewis also discussed the work that the Cortland LGBT Center has done in order to create a more safe and welcoming environment within the community, including training health and human service providers on LGBT issues, having social events for LGBT people and their allies, and connecting people to much needed resources.

The staff was also able to highlight some of the more unusual and exciting events and programs they have going on, such as participating in the Cortland Dairy Parade. That alone created lots of animated conversation throughout the three-day conference about how LGBT centers throughout the state could potentially integrate into their local rural communities and cultures. It shows that there does not need to be a separation between the two. It also gave the Cortland LGBT Center staff a chance to brag about the greater Cortland community and the work done by many different individuals, groups, and agencies that make the community a better place for everyone living in it.

The conference was an excellent opportunity to brainstorm with agencies from every corner of the state on issues like HIV prevention, teaching cultural competency to health and human service providers, and creating safer schools for LGBT youth. The Cortland LGBT Resource Center was excited to be a part of that conversation.

The Cortland LGBT Resource Center is located at 73 Main Street.  Stop in, read more on the website or call (607) 756-8970 for more information.