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Making Eau Claire a safer place for LGBTQ+ people

| Judy Berthiaume

Community members will gather this month to celebrate a new Blugold-led initiative aimed at making Eau Claire a safer place for LGBTQ+ individuals seeking medical care.

Safe Spaces Coalition of the Chippewa Valley will celebrate the first edition of its “Resource Guide to LGBTQ+ Friendly and Competent Service Providers” during an April 17 launch party.

The event, open to all members of the community, will run from 6-8 p.m. in the Eau Claire Room of L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library in downtown Eau Claire.

The guide aims to assist LGBTQ+ people in locating and sharing information about service providers within the Chippewa Valley who are supportive to LGBTQ+ people, said Dr. Theresa Kemp, professor of women’s studies and English at UW-Eau Claire and one of three Blugolds leading the resource guide initiative.

“The Resource Guide responds to the inequities often faced by LGBTQ+ people in seeking services they need,” Kemp said. “When a heterosexual, cisgender person walks into a social service agency or a hospital, for example, the last thing on their mind is whether or not their service provider will treat them differently because of their sexuality and/or gender identity. That is a luxury those who identify as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or queer do not always have. The guide will help to connect people.”

Electronic and print surveys were used to solicit recommendations from members of the LGBTQ+ community, who were asked to list providers who they are "out" to, feel comfortable discussing their sexuality and/or gender identity with, and feel are knowledgeable on issues regarding sexuality and/or gender identity.

Respondents provided recommendations to nearly 40 local service providers in the areas of mental health, medicine, alternative medicine, social services and legal services.

Kemp worked on the resource guide project with Alex DeLakis, a senior social work major at UW-Eau Claire, and alumna Alison Harder, a former prevention specialist at the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin Eau Claire and director of the teen support group Q2.

The mission of Safe Spaces Coalition of the Chippewa Valley is to improve the safety, visibility, health and well-being of LGBTQ+ people of all ages in the Chippewa Valley, said Kemp, adding that the coalition focuses on policy, education, and identifying and cultivating resources.

Members include people from the campus and area communities who work in partnership with organizations, businesses and other service providers throughout Eau Claire, Chippewa and Dunn counties.

“By bringing together groups and individuals, along with their particular areas of knowledge and expertise, we can collectively have a greater impact,” Kemp said.

State, federal, and other health organization data confirm disparities in accessing equitable health care, Kemp said of the need for the guide.

Since some providers may be consciously or unconsciously biased, fear of discrimination may lead LGBTQ+ people to avoid seeking health care and other services they need, Kemp said.

In response, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that health care providers develop cultural competency regarding sexual orientation and gender identity in order to “enhance the patient-provider interaction and promote regular use of care.”

Support for the resource guide project came in part from UW-Eau Claire Blugold Commitment Differential Tuition funds through the UW-Eau Claire Summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates program.

You can read more about the project here.

For additional information, visit the organization's Facebook page.

You can reach Alex DeLakis at or Dr. Theresa Kemp at

Photo caption: Alex DeLakis meets with Dr. Theresa Kemp (middle) and Alison Harder to discuss strategies for helping LGBTQ+ individuals find medical care providers who create safe environments.