Em Neiport, MA, is project manager at the College of Medicine and staff co-chair of the LGBTQ* Advisory Committee.

Q: What are your roles at the UK College of Medicine?

A: I’m a project manager in the College of Medicine. The projects I’ve worked on are so varied and have allowed me to see just how expansive academic medicine really is. It’s fascinating! The best part of my role is having a chance to work with so many amazing people in all areas of the college.

I’ve also been the staff co-chair of the College of Medicine LGBTQ* Advisory Committee since the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion established the committee last summer.

Q: Why did you want to be a part of the LGBTQ* Advisory Committee?

A: When I became aware that the College of Medicine was planning to roll out an LGBTQ* Advisory Committee I knew immediately that I wanted to be involved in some capacity. I first came out over 20 years ago. Although safety and feelings of inclusiveness have improved over the last 20 years, there are still so many people within the LGBTQ* community that continue to experience safety as a luxury, rather than a basic need.

It was an easy decision to join a committee that includes faculty, staff, and learner to help work toward all bodies within the LGBTQ* community being safe and feeling valid.

Q: What goals do you hope to accomplish through this committee?

A: I love the diversity in the LGBTQ* community. There are so many unique gender and sexual identities and each are valid. For me, my gender and sexuality are such a small part of what makes me who I am, but if I’m in a space where my body is not welcome or worse, is disrespected, I am less willing to be fully engaged or share my authentic self and my ideas because I don’t feel safe. I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling

Our 2019 College of Medicine Diversity Engagement Survey, supported by the dean and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, tells us that at least 11 percent of our internal College of Medicine community identifies as belonging to the LGBTQ* community. We have an opportunity to do better within the College of Medicine, and I think we have a responsibility to encourage others to do better. When I think about our goals, this is what comes to mind first for me.

The college is on an excellent trajectory of inclusion, and a lot of work has been done to hold safe spaces for hard conversations. We, as a college, have so much opportunity to value intersectionality and work together across identities, committees, and work streams. When we come together as a college unit, we can improve our ability to work together to build an inclusive community for all bodies, regardless of identity.

Q: How has being part of the committee impacted your own journey at the college?

A: This is an excellent question. For me, I feel less isolated. In the work and learning environment, we rarely get to a point of talking of gender or sexuality with our peers, so it’s easy to feel that no one we work with can understand this part of ourselves.

It’s comforting to know that other people I encounter on a daily basis understand the importance of the seemingly small things that add up every day. Most people don’t necessarily understand the importance of a 10-minute bathroom rule for safety, why a seemingly minor request to use a name or nickname is such a big deal to us, or why being asked what my pronouns are produces a huge smile of gratitude in response.

Q: What was it like helping lead the college’s first-ever Pride Week last fall?

A: It was so much fun! It was really important to the LGBTQ* Advisory Committee to have a Pride Week that was inclusive to all identities. We looked for ways Pride Week could be fun, educational, and helpful to the LGBTQ* community, as well as friends and allies. This was a little challenging since so many ideas weren’t feasible due to COVID-19, but overall, I think we succeeded. I can’t wait to see what this year brings!

Q: What are some upcoming events, resources, groups the college should know about that your committee has helped establish?

A: Last fall during Pride Week, we implemented the LGBTQ* SAFE Pledge within the College of Medicine. Now that everyone is working toward returning to campus, we’re at a point where we can finish operationalizing the associated pledge badge distribution. We expect it to launch during June for Pride Month.

Additionally, we’ve started planning this year’s Pride Week for late September, right around Lexington Pride’s Sept. 25 date. Our goal is to make the College of Medicine Pride Week as inclusive as possible, and ideas are always welcome. We actually have space available on a Pride Week planning committee if anyone is interested in helping plan and implement the week. In addition to events, we also have committees focused on mentoring and educational opportunities. Now that the LGBTQ* Advisory Committee has a structure in place, I can’t wait to see what we accomplish this year.

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