We continue the conversation on Pride Month this week as we hear from QMG Behavioral Health Therapist Macy Ferguson-Smith. Ferguson-Smith shared that Pride Month is an important time to honor those who came before her and led the way, allowing her to be her authentic self.

“Pride, for me, is a celebration of the LGBTQ+ elders who forged a path for people like me to live my life openly and have the same rights and liberties as other humans. People like Harvey Milk and Marsha P. Johnson, among so many others, who had the courage to be themselves at a time when protection was nonexistent for the LGBTQ+ community,” she said.

Their courage inspired her to dedicate her career to supporting others in her field of mental health.

“Growing up in this area, I didn’t have a ton of guidance as an LGBTQ+ teen,” she said. “I needed a therapist or an adult like me when I was that age to help sort through everything. Unfortunately, therapists with that skillset were not as readily available in the mid-2000s. Pride Month taps into my inner child to remind me that my younger self would be incredibly proud of who I am today and the affirming and inclusive care I choose to provide to my patients.”

When speaking about healthcare, Ferguson-Smith said, “Inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community in healthcare is paramount because we still need medical care like all other humans.”

She continued, “LGBTQ+ folks need healthcare just like any other population. It is up to us as part of the Quincy community and QMG family to understand the disproportionate rates of negative mental health outcomes due to lack of support. This is especially important in young people as studies published earlier this year discuss the impact of COVID-19 in the school setting and how LGBTQ+ students were at a larger disadvantage when doing remote learning due to the possibility of not having supportive adults in their lives and no outlet to express themselves.”

The impact of having a healthcare provider who welcomed her is a particularly poignant moment for Ferguson-Smith. Prior to this experience, she had delayed seeking care.

“Dr. Ada Kagumba (Obstetrician/Gynecologist at QMG) was my first introduction to affirming and inclusive healthcare at QMG. I can still remember one of my first appointments with her. I was terrified and I brought my mom because I’d never talked about ALL of who I was with any doctor, but it’s vital information for any medical professional I choose to lead my care,” she shared. “Early on in the appointment, Dr. Kagumba shared her experiences in caring for LGBTQ+ humans, which allowed me to speak openly and honestly about my lived experience as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. It was so REGULAR. She talked with me about my partner like we were any other couple. I hadn’t experienced that feeling in a medical setting until that appointment, because I skipped going to the doctor for so many years before that year. It’s been six or so years ago and I have her to thank for helping me take back control of my health. Dr. Kagumba’s sincerity and commitment to providing an affirming and inclusive space didn’t come from a manual, expensive training, or set of rules she had to follow. She was a human talking to another human about their health, who happened to be in a relationship with a woman. I’ll never forget how incredible that made me feel, and I aim to do the same with all of my patients.”

Ferguson-Smith explained that it’s not being part of LGBTQ+ community that is stressful, but rather the lack of empathy that those in the community face.

“The lack of empathy continues to be something we must address to ensure the healthcare needs of all individuals, including the LGBTQ+ community, are met in environments where they feel safe,” she said.

She encourages all to use Pride Month as an opportunity to get more involved.

“When it comes to Pride, I would love for my peers and other members of the Quincy Community to know that it’s an opportunity to support local organizations doing incredible work to create affirming and inclusive spaces for the LGBTQ+ population. The Gender-Sexuality Alliances at Quincy Senior High School and Quincy University, respectively, the Tri-State Diversity Coalition which launched their first Pride Celebration in Quincy last Fall, and the PFLAG group that serves the Quincy-Hannibal area as a safe space to gather and debrief on their lived experiences once a month.”