On October 2nd, 2020, I had been walking around in Concrete Plant Park to collect data for how our parks at the Bronx River were being used by park goers. There, I saw a group of people gathered near the boat launch area. There was so much about them that stood out to me, but overall, it was the dynamic between each person I remember the most. They were a close-knit group of people who clearly loved each other.
I found out that they were all from the health center, Callen-lorde. Ultimately, they were more than just coworkers, they were family. I had the privilege of interviewing Joel Jucino-Rodriguez, a registered nurse and clinical supervisor who is an avid Pokemon fan, and Lorena Rosales Boyle, a medical provider who loves Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches.
Broadly speaking, Callen-Lorde is “the global leader in LGBTQ healthcare.” Its main location is in Chelsea. They have not only provided superb care, free of judgement, and regardless of one’s ability to pay, but also health education in addition to that. The organization dates back fifty years to the St. Marks Clinic and the Gay Men’s Health Project. Callen-Lorde specifically provides primary care to LGBTQ patients or anyone living with HIV, but will treat anyone who asks.
Having an organization like Callen-Lorde is essential for the Bronx. Lorena spoke about how it was a huge burden for trans people (who make up 85% of their patients) in the Bronx to access hormone replacement therapy since they would have to go from the Bronx all the way down to lower Manhattan. Joel added that people in the Bronx are not always heard, especially Black trans folx. He said it is important for them to have a safe space, given their past traumatic experiences.
The people are what makes the organization enjoyable for everyone. Joel talked about how it is easy to be authentic. Often, we suppress our individuality to accommodate our environment, but at Callen-Lorde that is not the case. Lorena mentioned that the patients and colleagues are fun to be around. They are responsible behind the creation of wonderful, indelible memories, such as the canoeing they did when I saw them.
If there is one thing that people should take away from the organization, it would be to simply listen to people. Joel spoke about how people do not have the same experiences, but we have the same feelings from those experiences that we can share. Listening to people creates opportunities for change, change that will, for example, push people to be more accepting of LGBTQ+ folx. That is why Lorena emphasized that every person at Callen-Lorde is there because they are devoted to the mission of serving the LGBTQ community.
We appreciated having Callen-Lorde for canoeing and are excited for them to come more in the future!