Written by Wes Chernin for The Apraxia Foundation • September 2023
Hey! My name is Wes, my pronouns are he/him, and I’m delighted to be a guest blogger for The Apraxia Foundation.
I am a Nationally Certified Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP), Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) Strategist, LGBTQ+ Educator and Consultant, and Founder of ‘Hey Wes,’ a boutique consulting agency fostering queer and trans belonging across industries and cultures.
Everyone needs to feel heard, understood, and like they belong. Unfortunately, when an individual falls outside of social expectations and norms, feeling seen and affirmed can be a big challenge. The heartbeat of my work is unwavering dedication to enhancing the quality of life and genuine care for the evolving needs and experiences of diverse populations. As a transgender person, I am intimately familiar with the challenges of feeling unheard and misunderstood, feelings that individuals within many marginalized or minoritized groups, including disabled people, might experience.
Showing up for each other in authentic and impactful ways is essential to our overall well being. When we’re open to actively listening and celebrating people who are different from us, we build meaningful relationships, nourish human connections, elicit joyful experiences, and affirm our communication partners. The coolest thing about all of this is that it saves lives.
LGBTQ+ individuals are at increased risk for suicide, not because they are LGBTQ, but because of the ways in which LGBTQ people are mistreated and stigmatized in our society. The Trevor Project’s 2023 U.S. National Survey on the Mental Health of LGBTQ Young People helps us see, through research, that LGBTQ-affirming practices (e.g., using a person’s chosen name and pronouns, providing access to psychologically safe spaces, supporting personal autonomy in clothing and expression, celebrating diversity through representation, communicating allyship through explicit and implicit messaging) significantly reduce suicidality. In other words, showing up for each other through our actions nourishes feelings of connection and belonging, and the impact is tangible.
Did you know that neurodivergent individuals are much more likely to be gender variant than neurotypical individuals, and that they are also more likely to have or grow up to have an LGBTQ+ identity? It’s undeniable that there is a high percentage of neurodivergent individuals and people with disabilities who are also LGBTQ+. This means that speech-language pathologists and anyone who cares for a neurodivergent or disabled person has an ethical obligation to put intentional effort into fostering inclusion, celebrating differences, and honoring autonomy, so that discrimination is minimized, and quality of life is enhanced. It’s time – let’s be there for each other and help diverse populations access their full potential, feel their value, and thrive in the world.
The Apraxia Foundation’s President and Founder, Jordan, and Professional Advisor, Laura, and I sat down for an intimate conversation about the intersection of speech-language pathology, apraxia of speech, and LGBTQ affirming practices. Come hang out with us as we dive in and explore these inextricably linked topics. Listen to the full podcast episode here!
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