Beth Chandler joins conversation on LGBTQ Leaders Making an Impact in Health and Human Services


The importance of having LGBTQ leaders in positions related to health and human service.

On June 25, Beth Chandler, YW Boston’s President and CEO, participated in a discussion at Boston City Hall entitled “LGBTQ Leaders Making an Impact in Health and Human Services.” During this conversation, the panelists discussed the ways in which they bring their identities to their work, the importance of focusing on serving LGBTQ populations, and how we can work collaboratively to address these specific needs. While YW Boston’s mission focuses specifically on race and gender, we recognize that all aspects of identity are interconnected. We must understand the specific needs of LGBTQ communities in order to fulfill our mission of eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all.

The panelists for the event included:

Roxanne Longoria, LeadBoston Class of 2017 and Director of Strategic Initiatives & Partnerships at Mayor’s Office of Health & Human Services, moderated the panel discussion. She spoke of her experience serving on Boston City Hall’s LGBTQ Employee Resource Group for its two years.

Here are our top takeaways from LGBTQ Leaders Making an Impact in Health and Human Services

1. Progress requires looking back at LGBTQ history.

June is LGTBQ Pride Month and this June 28th marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, which is considered by some to be the catalyst of the gay rights movement. A number of times during the event, panelists paid homage to the LGBTQ leaders who came before them and encouraged the audience to recognize this history. Gary Bailey stated that he often speaks with Grace Sterling-Stowell about how “we stand on the shoulders of greats” and he seeks to honor the sacrifices they made for LGBTQ freedoms. Bailey also spoke of the importance of recognizing Stonewall as not just a moment, but as a movement against policy brutality and degradation.

Each of the speakers touched on this history as a reason why they were proud to be open about their identities at work. Marty Martinez said that he has always worked to be an openly gay man in the office and bring this specific lens to his work. Beth Chandler noted before switching to the nonprofit sector, she worked in finance. She knew of no one in her office who was openly LGBTQ and there were few African Americans or women in leadership roles. Now, there are more role models of diverse leaders across industries, but Chandler spoke about the necessity of not waiting your turn and instead actively working to serve as role models for others. Just as these panelists are inspired by LGBTQ leaders over the past 50 years, the panelists too serve as inspiration for upcoming generations.

2. Understanding intersectionality is crucial to addressing the needs of LGBTQ populations.

A number of the panelists discussed the many personal identities they brought to their work, such as their race, ethnicity, and class. For instance, Gary Bailey spoke of his experiences as a black gay man and of being proud of the intersections of these two identities while also being aware of the unique challenges he faces. During a discussion about LGBTQ youth suicide he brought up the fact that people often see black men as “low risk” for suicide, but this research does not take an intersectional approach to the data. Instead, he stated, suicide prevention programs must take race and LGBTQ trauma into account.

Beth Chandler spoke about YW Boston’s collaboration with Bentley University on the report “Intersectionality in the Workplace: Broadening the Lens of Inclusion“. Workplaces often view all women as a monolith, Chandler explained, but work experiences can vary widely based on one’s race, sexual orientation, disability, and their other identities. In order to address challenges, we do research and have a better understanding of what LGBTQ people face at work.

During the Q+A period of the event, an audience member brought up both the intersection of sexual orientation and disability. As they stated, these community members often experience more difficulty accessing both disability and LGBTQ resources, and she asked the room to remember this aspect of identity when discussing LGBTQ intersectionality.

3. We must create accessible ways for people to connect and work through individual and community trauma.

Moderator Roxanne Longoria informed the panel and audience of a number of troubling statistics, including that 48% of Massachusetts LGBTQ youth state that they have attempted suicide. Each of the panelists spoke about the importance of creating access for LGBTQ youth to the mental health resources they need. BAGLY serves as a social support organization for LGBTQ youth, and Grace Sterling-Stowell spoke of the organization’s work to extend their programming through their new community center. She stated that many youth experience trauma-related issues, but that those with marginalized identities are more likely to have compounded experiences and need access to programs to help them cope.

Beth Chandler brought up the fact that in an increasingly digital world, youth are more likely to feel disconnected from their peers. Therefore, both Bailey and Marty Martinez called for increased connection between generations to reduce social isolation for both youth and seniors. As Sterling-Stowell pointed out, youth have more and more access to information, good and bad, but not additional resources to help them process this information. One measure is to increase the number of mental health counseling options for LGBTQ individuals, but as Bailey pointed out, people seek to see therapists who share a number of their identities while the profession as a whole is not fully diverse.

4. We need to engage partners outside of the Health and Human Services sector to create innovative solutions.

In her remarks, Beth Chandler spoke about the false belief that Massachusetts is so liberal that the state has solved issues of equity. However, she stated, that is just a way for the state to “pat itself on the back.” Grace Sterling-Stowell echoed her sentiments, stating that she hears people asking if we even need LGBTQ-oriented organizations even more. However, the above statistic on LGBTQ suicide and the fact that LGBTQ youth are 120% more likely to experience homelessness beg to differ. Instead of reducing the number of resources available, the panelists spoke of the many ways they seek to partner with other sectors to address LGBTQ-specific issues.

Gary Bailey, for instance, is working on his church council to help the church determine how to be more inclusive as their relationship with LGBTQ communities evolves. Marty Martinez spoke of working with a number of other city offices to end youth homelessness, because the Health and Human Services sector cannot end it alone. Sterling-Stowell spoke of BAGLY’s partnership with the Boston Children’s Hospital to increase access to mental health services for LGBTQ youth. You don’t have to be the leader of an organization to work to address LGBTQ-specific issues, though. As Beth Chandler told an audience member who hopes to improve LGBTQ inclusion in their workplace, you can always find a way to move the needle forward. She recommended reaching out to your Human Resources department to start a conversation about how diversity and inclusion helps advance all workplaces.


About YW Boston

As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I services—InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.