The Emory Pride Employee Network hosted a panel on Oct. 3 which featured several voices in Emory University’s LGBTQ community. The panel discussions focused on educating the greater Emory community to improve the quality of health care, day-to-day interaction and sense of belonging at the University for transgender individuals. 

Organized by Senior Operations Manager of Goizueta Business School Haley Murray, the Zoom webinar welcomed around 50 viewers. Panelists including Chloe Corcoran, Jamie Harrell, Royce Soble and Abbie Smith highlighted the practice of “radical empathy” to improve experiences for the Emory community. 

Director of Alumni Relations at Palo Alto University (Calif.) Chloe Corcoran, who previously worked for Emory as the Senior Associate Director of West Coast Regional Engagement, elaborated on her struggles as a trans woman to feel safe in many different environments, including at Emory. 

She noted that transitioning is “in most … ways … freeing,” but that she continuously struggles with vulnerability. “I mean, now I have to be brave to literally go get a cup of coffee, but I feel better,” she said. 

Corcoran encouraged all individuals to “practice radical empathy toward all the historically and purposely excluded communities in [their lives].” She is expanding her current efforts to spread awareness to LGBTQ issues with her podcast, “BEINGTrans.” 

Jamie Harrell (16B), a business intelligence and analytics lead at Goizueta, also stressed the lack of transgender representation in the Emory workforce. 

“We are the biggest employer in Atlanta, Georgia … and as the biggest employer, there should be statistically speaking, just based on the percent of [the] trans population of Atlanta, and Georgia, … over 230 trans [employees] at Emory,” she said. 

Harrell said she knew of faculty members at Emory who have expressed hesitancy to socially transition, emphasizing the negative impacts of a lack of representation and diversity in the workforce. Harrell further explained the “structural barriers” that trans individuals face on a daily basis in health care, specifying problems with insurance coverage and receiving treatments. 

Atlanta documentary photographer and artist Royce Soble agreed with Harell, emphasizing that they have struggled to feel seen in health care settings despite other spaces becoming more inclusive. They said that they had uncomfortable experiences as a nonbinary and transmasculine person in health care, such as getting misgendered because of biological sex markers. Oftentimes, paperwork and legal documentation lead to this misgendering in public settings, such as a doctor’s office.  

Soble noted that while health care could still be an exclusive space, “[radical empathy] is starting everywhere else: in the school system … even in certain religious spaces.” 

Continuing with an emphasis on transgender presence at Emory, Soble mentioned their documentation work of LGBTQ communities in Atlanta, much of which is stored in Emory’s Rose Library. 

Abbie Smith, a Ph.D. researcher at Emory’s Hope Clinic, which specializes in HIV research, said that her team is working to improve transgender representation in the medical field, and has recently reorganized their work to be more inclusive of sex and gender as variables in their research.

 “The NIH has shifted funding to … put more emphasis on including sex as a biological variable,” she said.  

She noted that applied grants to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for research including transgender populations often “get dinged on review” due to difference in type and extent of hormone replacement therapy and other medications transgender individuals sometimes take. Smith emphasized the importance of research including transgender individuals, since some drugs may be found to work better for individuals with certain hormone levels, regardless of their biological sex. 

 “These findings … give a better idea of humanity and our immune responses,” she said. 

Corcoran reiterated that radical empathy is vital to solving some of these problems with transgender inclusion in health care.

The Emory Pride Employee Network hosted a panel on Oct. 3. (Hunter Mere/Contributing Writer)

 “We are all part of humanity … we have to take care of each other, and that’s all.”