To honor Pride Month, we sat down with De’Shea Coney, who works directly with the LGBTQ community in North Carolina on their unique and shared health needs, like finding medical professionals who will take their concerns seriously and with compassion. De’Shea is an expert at meeting members of the community where they are, organizing and connecting people to create networks of support across the state. We were thrilled at the chance to get to learn from him and his experiences. Watch the video to hear De’Shea’s full insights, and check out some highlights from De’Shea’s interview below.
When De’Shea knew he wanted to get involved with LGBTQ health: “As I was doing the work and interacting with doctors and physicians personally and professionally, I really saw that there were a lot of things that were keeping me from getting the best care that I needed… I realized that I had to be a bit more vocal and active, if not for my behalf, on behalf of some of the other people that I knew that needed those resources and to have access, like the same way that I needed it.”
On the uniqueness of LGBTQ health needs and people’s shared experiences: “There’s a human necessity for being able to connect with people and have some sort of empathy and camaraderie when it comes to addressing health needs, especially for individuals. And so it can be really difficult and challenging to find a physician or a doctor or a nurse that’s going to treat you like a human being and actually listen to the needs that you have.”
Explaining how LGBTQ health issues intersect with other minority issues: “There was really this idea that, well, you have to be of this shade and of this background and have all these categories of boxes checked off in order to potentially be at risk but that’s not the case. And so I’m hoping that this will actually increase the scope of the conversation for things like harm reduction, and HIV, not just within the LGBT community, but within all communities because many communities are affected by this.”
De’Shea explaining his long-term goals for his work: “Creating work that is sustainable for the next generation to come in and do, is so important. And I want to be able to make sure that I do that and I leave something that is able to continue to be carried on, not for myself for the sake of a legacy, but for the sake that the community’s going to benefit from this long term. Even if we forget the original founding members and all their original founding work, the work is still being done. And we’ve forgotten because there’s been so much progress that it’s hard to believe that’s what where we came from.”
De’Shea’s advice on finding your own power: “Your story is essential. I’ve got my own story for why I got engaged within the HIV space and doing advocacy. And my story is not someone else’s story. And that’s because their story is unique and it’s going to paint a perspective that mine couldn’t. So really embrace that perspective that you have, understand your why. Feel confident in your why.”