November 9, 2023 – Rainbow leis, community solidarity, and laughter were front and center at the first-ever celebratory soirée for the LGBTQIA+ community and allies at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The November 6 event, held in the Kresge Cafeteria, featured welcome remarks from Interim Dean Jane Kim, Brittany Charlton, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology, and Colleen Reynolds, PhD student in epidemiology. The celebration also featured the “queer Harvard edition” of the NPR radio show “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me”—complete with prizes such as gift cards to LGBTQIA+ owned restaurants.
Organized by a working group of faculty, staff, and students, the event was aimed at bringing the LGBTQIA+ community together and recognizing their contributions at Harvard Chan School, across the University, and more broadly in the field of public health, said Charlton, whose research has helped shine a light on LGBTQIA+ health issues.
In her remarks, Kim highlighted resources for the LGBTQIA+ community, including an LGBTQIA+ Faculty and Staff List of people who can provide support, guidance, and mentorship, and a list of LGBTQIA+ social and community organizations across Boston. In addition, Kim said, the School plans to launch a standing LGBTQIA+ Working Group.
Charlton spoke about the importance of recognizing the challenges facing the LGBTQIA+ community. “Decades of research have revealed that queer folks often experience discrimination that results in adverse physical and mental health,” she said. “Additionally, we’re in the midst of an unprecedented wave of anti-LGBTQ policies and a targeted assault on clinicians offering gender-affirming care, not to mention on queer researchers and advocates.”
The LGBTQIA+ community at Harvard Chan School is working to counteract those challenges, Charlton noted. For example, the School is working with the Department of Population Medicine at Harvard Medical School, where Charlton holds a primary appointment, to launch a new initiative focused on training the next generation of queer health leaders, conducting research to expand the evidence base of queer health, and disseminating information to healthcare providers, policymakers, and the public.
Interviewed after the event, Alberto Inzulza, MPH ’25, Harvard Chan Student Association vice president of student advocacy and a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, said that the celebration “reminds us of the importance of feeling part of the community, that it’s safe to express ourselves, and that as health professionals we can contribute to more inclusion and respect for people.” He added, “Solidarity with one another is crucial in these times.”
The soirée ended on a humorous note with the queer version of Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me—featuring questions about queer history, culture, and news—hosted by Jarvis Chen, senior lecturer on social and behavioral sciences, and Nancy Turnbull, senior lecturer on health policy and senior associate dean for academic programs. Lilu Barbosa, chief diversity, inclusion, and belonging officer, helped choose contestants using a rainbow scepter.
The event was “really wonderful,” said Charlton. “It gave us the opportunity to celebrate the vibrancy, the diversity, and the unyielding spirit of the queer community.”
Photos: Kent Dayton