How two trans community leaders are making a difference at Swedish

November 8, 2021 Swedish Health Team

[4 MIN READ]

In this article:

  • Swedish is committed to providing inclusive, compassionate healthcare for members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
  • Vinny Fox and Mattie Mooney are members of the transgender community here in Seattle and are helping to lead Swedish’s LGBTQI+ Program.
  • Learn what motivates them to be part of the movement and what they hope it accomplishes for the transgender and gender-diverse community.

Nov. 13-19 is Transgender Awareness Week and Nov. 20 is Transgender Day of Remembrance. As the Swedish community marks these occasions, we continue to affirm that everyone should feel safe and cared for, especially when they receive medical care and regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. That’s the guiding principle behind a program at Swedish that focuses on meeting the health needs of the LGBTQIA+ community.

The program is part of our commitment to creating a more inclusive and supportive healthcare environment. Right now, one area of focus is ensuring that the patient experience is more inclusive. That means using gender-inclusive language in patient materials and on signs and redesigning patient forms so that people can indicate their chosen name, pronouns, sexual orientation and sex assigned at birth. We’re also working to offer comprehensive health services for the LGBTQIA+ community, including gender-affirming treatments.

You can learn more about the origins of the program in this blog article. Today, we’d like to introduce you to two talented, passionate people who are helping lead it.

Mattie Mooney (they/them/theirs) is senior program coordinator for transgender healthcare navigation at Swedish. Mattie helps our patients navigate care and provides connections to other LGBTQIA+ groups in the region. Vinny Fox (they/them/theirs) is program coordinator for LGBTQI+ education at Swedish. Vinny’s job is to develop training materials and programs for our physicians and caregivers to help improve understanding and care of the LGBTQIA+ community.

We asked Mattie and Vinny to share what brought them to the program and why they are passionate about their work at Swedish.

 

What can you tell us about your journey as a member of the transgender community?

Vinny: Growing up in Georgia, I didn’t even know the word “transgender” existed — you were either a girl or a boy and that was it. But as a child, I wondered, why do I have to be one or the other? I spent a lot of time trying to be more feminine but felt so uncomfortable in my skin. Then, in college, my best friend from grade school started dating a transwoman and, a year later, came out as a transman. I wanted to be supportive, so I started reading and researching what it means to be transgender.

It took many years of thinking about myself and reevaluating who I am before realizing that I am trans non-binary [not identifying exclusively as a man or woman]. I came out about four years ago when I was 29. By then, I lived on the West Coast, where people are more accepting of different gender identities. That helped a lot. It also helps that my husband accepts me 100% for who I am. Coming out has been a mostly positive experience, although my parents haven’t been supportive.

Mattie: I was in my early 30s when I came out as trans non-binary, but it was a long time coming. For years, I just didn’t have the language to describe how I felt about my gender identity. Educating myself, talking to friends and people in the LGBTQIA+ community, and spending time in inclusive community spaces helped me develop the language to describe and really “find myself,” however cliché that might sound.

As a trans person, have you ever had difficulty finding the healthcare you needed?  

Mattie: Yes. Folks often think that because I do this work, I don’t face challenges in the healthcare setting, but I do. Whenever I see a new provider, I feel apprehensive. I don’t know how they’ll react when I ask them to use my correct pronouns or if they’ll misgender me or ask insensitive questions.

A few years ago, I had [gender-affirming] top surgery. Afterward, I was in intense physical pain. I reached out for help after office hours, and the doctor on call didn’t know me. She spoke to me in a way that felt insensitive and unhelpful. It was a very demeaning experience that seemed to come from a place of ignorance about the transgender community.

Vinny: I think every trans person has a horror story like that. Right around the time when I came out, I had a check-up with my primary care provider. When I mentioned to her that I am non-binary, she seemed really judgmental and annoyed. It made me feel so uncomfortable. I never went back to her again.

Now, if I need a provider, I ask my gender-diverse friends for recommendations. If they don’t have any, I do a Google search to find places that state they are LGBTQIA+ friendly. And now, of course, Mattie is leading the Transgender Healthcare Navigation program at Swedish, which highlights gender-affirming providers and community resources.

Why are you excited about your role with Swedish’s LGBTQI+ Program?

Vinny: This is my absolute dream job. Even before I came out, I advocated for my transgender friends—being transgender is not an easy road. I’ve worked in healthcare for many years, and it frustrated me to see transgender people struggle to get the compassionate, inclusive care they need.

Before joining the LGBTQI+ Program, I worked as a patient care coordinator at a Swedish primary care clinic. I started meeting employees who were dedicated to creating a more inclusive and supportive healthcare environment at Swedish. I got involved in some projects as a volunteer. One thing led to another and I was hired as program coordinator for LGBTQI+ education. In my new role, I’ve already developed and started teaching a course for Swedish clinic employees. It is called LGBTQIA+ Introduction Training and covers sexual orientation and gender identity, health disparities, historical context and terminiology. These courses are part of creating a culture that fully supports the trans community.

Mattie: I was working at Ingersoll Gender Center in Seattle when I heard about what Swedish was doing to support transgender folks in their healthcare journeys. I was floored and super impressed and wanted to be part of it. A big part of my job now is working one-on-one with transgender folks to help them find the care they need and advocate for themselves in the healthcare setting. I also help providers understand how to treat trans people with respect and cultural humility, using appropriate language about transness, sexuality and gender identity.

What do you hope the LGBTQI+ Program at Swedish will accomplish?

Vinny: I want to help providers feel comfortable caring for people who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community. And I want to be able to recommend Swedish to my friends wholeheartedly. Swedish is already earning a reputation as a place where transgender people want to receive care, and I am glad to see that.

Mattie: I agree. And I am hoping our program helps people take charge of their own healthcare and receive care from people who accept and understand where they are coming from. That’s something everyone needs, no matter who they are.

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Learn more and find a provider

If you have questions or want to learn more about the LGBTQI+ Program efforts at Swedish, visit our transgender health website.

For referrals, help with coordination or general information about transgender health at Swedish, please call 1-866-366-0926.

Join our Patient and Family Advisory Council.

Related resources

Raising awareness of health disparities that affect LGBT communities

One-of-a-kind camp in the Pacific Northwest provides transformational experience for LGBTQ+ youth

Transgender and non-binary people FAQ

Understanding gender identities

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional’s instructions.

 

 

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