Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The 2009 LGBTI Summit: A Recap of the Madness that was

by Pistol Pete

The 2009 LGBTI Health Summit, which ran August 14th – 18th, was a unique, knowledge-saturated conference where more than 350 LGBTI health professionals and community advocates joined to share the latest information and experiences in all subsets of LGBTI health. The Summit held more than 100 workshops and plenaries addressing such disparate subjects as dating, HIV prevention, data collection, aging, domestic violence, health care reform, social media campaigns, smoking issues, queer youth education and activism, among many, many others.

On Friday, we held the Bisexual Health Summit, thought to be the first conference devoted solely to bisexual health issues. The presentations highlighted the fact that bisexuals have worse health outcomes than both of their gay and straight counterparts, and called for higher visibility of and research on the issue of bisexuals and their health. For me, the best part was connecting with other openly bisexual individuals, especially men, who are often so closeted in a society that rejects the legitimacy of dual sexual attraction. Later, participants of the entire summit were treated to an opening blessing by Sister Porna and the Sisters of the Abbey of the Windy City.

The full summit got underway on Saturday morning, and all I can say is it was bustling; there were so many interesting workshops to choose from that I had to pop in and out of most sessions! Best of all, the top notch knowledge and perspectives I was able to hear were invaluable. While all of the hot button topics were covered – PrEP and PEP, health care reform, and LGBTI aging – other vital, yet less ubiquitous topics took center stage. For example, I had no idea how important data collection was to the promotion of LGBTI health, and I think I could have only learned it at a summit like this.

The summit also had a very positive, assets-based approach to problem-solving. Workshops like “What Vaginas Want,” “Exploring Sexual Pleasure,” and “Body Pride” addressed sexual and personal issues by imploring folks to have a positive, healthy view of themselves and their intimate interests, as opposed to the shaming and hidden sexual past so many of us endured.

The Health Summit also took on the controversial issue of barebacking at a live podcast forum entitled Risky Business. Moderated by Fausto Fernos and Marc Felion of the Feast of Fun podcast, the panelists (including writer and gay men’s health activist Tony Valenzuela, Dr. Braden Berkey of the Center on Halsted, and Mufasa Ali, founder of ONYX, a leathermen’s group for men of color) and audience members debated the affects of bareback porn on the risk behavior and health of gay men.

I was fortunate to have the chance to attend the 2009 LGBTI Health Summit. Being able to meet and connect with other colleuages in the field of LGBTI health and share ideas and experiences has helped me to grow both professionally and personally. I can’t wait for 2011 in (fingers crossed) Portland!

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