Your Friendly, Gayborhood Clinic:
The Allentown Women's Center
by Cynthia Rodriguez
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was the beginning of 2005 and the worst of it was that the former "King George the Second" was beginning his second term of office. I had just completed my latest activist adventure "celebrating" this momentous occasion by last minute organizing a rally in front of our town's City Hall for myself and like minded individuals to express our discontent over the matter.
As soon as I was done with that, I knew I needed to move on with another cause to keep my mind off my political depression. I happened to be perusing through the local paper the day after and a particular article caught my eye. The local abortion clinic getting a hard time from the local anti-choice protesters. From the looks of things, it seemed like an on-going thing.
I decided right then and there to "cold-call" the Director, Jennifer Boulanger, which I knew just from reading that article, and see if she'd let me organize an art event as a response to the "anti's" in the community. For a second, I thought to myself, "This is probably gonna sound crazy. She doesn't even know me". However, I didn't let that stop me.
So I called and fortunetly she was there at the moment. I introduced myself over the phone that I was an artist, activist, etc, etc, etc. We clicked immediately. I explained to her what I was interested in doing and she was ALL FOR IT. At one point I exclaimed "Why don't I know you?! and why don't you know ME?!" We promptly set up an appointment to meet and I was on my way.
Thus began a voyage into a whole new world. The best of times being when I stepped foot at the clinic the day of our meeting and started my journey with The Allentown Women's Center...
The following is an interview with the Director, Jennifer Boulanger:
1- How would you describe the clinic's relationship with the gay community?
"I would describe the Allentown Women's Center's relationship with the GLBTQI community as one that is friendly and developing over time. We provide gynecological care to the lesbian and bisexual community and we are in the process of expanding our health care services to include the transgender and intersex communities. We employ GLBTQI individuals and many of our volunteers are also part of the GLBTQI community.
We consider ourselves to be allies with the GLBTQI community as we are both groups that experience oppression in our society and are continuously fighting for basic human rights. We strongly believe in reproductive justice for all human beings, and in order to obtain true reproductive justice, our basic human rights must be met. This includes the right to determine one’s sexuality, the right to determine if and when you will marry, if and when you will have children, and if and when you will have sexual pleasure. Reproductive rights and GLBTQI rights are inherently interconnected - if either groups rights are violated, it will have an impact on the other.
Recently, the National Gay and Lesbian task force has identified Reproductive Justice as an LGBT issue - see http://www.thetaskforce.org/blog/20090601-tfstaff-tiller "
2- How would you describe the clinic's relationship with the gay
community in the past? Has it changed? If yes, how has it changed?
"Our relationship with the GLBTQI community has grown over the years. I think having GLBTQI employees has been a big part of that. It is important for our clinic to reflect who we are reaching out to in our community – this is a basic component of cultural competency.
We participate in more GLBTQI events more than ever before; in the next few years it is our goal to expand health service provision to treat transgender people and increase and expand our knowledge of treating intersex individuals. We want all people needing gynecological services to feel like they can receive healthcare in a confidential, non-judgmental environment.
It is a tragedy when someone feels like they cannot seek health care services for fear of being judged or ridiculed. We want to help break down the barriers for those in the GLBTQI community seeking health care services."
3- What has the Allentown Women's Center done to establish
communications and a connection to the local gay community?
"AWC has participated in many local GLBTQI events, such as the annual Pride in the Park festival in Allentown. We are members of the Pennsylvania Diversity Network and have sponsored their events, and we have collaborated with the Muhlenberg College Gay-Straight Alliance on various projects. Facebook has been a great way to network with individuals in the gay community and keep each other posted on events and issues on a local and national level.
I look up to the local GLBTQI leaders, like Liz Bradbury*, who have worked so hard and faced incredible obstacles in fighting for equal rights, but who has been instrumental in making positive changes in our community. "
4- What are your feelings on same-sex marriage?
"I believe in equal rights for all human beings, which includes the right to choose if, when, and who you will marry. When marriage rights are violated, it opens the door for other human rights violations. It is simply unacceptable."
5- What are your feelings on GLBTQI parents adopting children?
"I have seen some GLBTQI parents provide a better, more stable home life to children than some straight parents. I believe that GLBTQI couples are entitled to the same rights as straight couples in deciding whether or not to have a family."
6- What are your feelings on hate crimes/gay bashing?
"In a civil society, there is no place for any form of discrimination or hate crimes. Hate crimes should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. I believe that there needs to be stronger federal legislation against harassment, intimidation, threats, and violence for both the GLBTQI community, as well as the abortion provider community."
7- Do you think your personal views reflect the clinic's views in general?
"I wrote this speaking for the Allentown Women’s Center, but as the clinic’s director, it reflects my own personal views as well. Seeing things from a human rights framework puts everything in perspective. It is a challenge, a fight, and it is a lot of work. But we need to recognize everyone’s struggles and work together in order to move forward and make change."
8- Do you think local businesses can improve their relations with the
gay community? Any suggestions on how they can do that?
"There are so many opportunities for businesses to network within the GLBTQI community and improve their relations. Go to and sponsor GLBTQI events. Hire GLBTQI individuals. Advertise in GLBTQI publications. The expense is minimal, but the benefits are invaluable."
9- What do think of healthcare and it's treatment of the GLBTQI community?
"I think that there is still a lot of misinformation and stigma within the health care community which contributes to a set of unique barriers that GLBTQI individuals face when seeking health care services. There may be a certain level of fear or intimidation in seeking services as they may have at one time been subjected to derogatory comments, being treated like a deviant, neglect, attempts to change their sexual orientation, hostility towards a same-sex partner, undue roughness in a physical exam, or even denial of care.
Health care providers need more education, cultural competency / sensitivity training and work towards creating safe, respectful, patient-centered health care environments that do not discriminate against anyone based on sexual orientation or gender identity."
10- Any additional comments?
"I had an interesting moment in the clinic the other day when I was speaking with a group of staff members. I realized that I, the straight girl, was the minority in the room! It is just an example of how common (and normal) it is to be a member of the GLBTQI community. To not work with this community would jeopardize the success of any business.
Thank you for the opportunity to talk about this, and to work with you!"
In closing, I have to mention I truly love this place, and I am proud to be a part of such a progressive, and friendly GLBTQI workplace. Any business of any kind can learn a great deal from this. Imagine if everyone's place of employment was this gay friendly?
On a side note, being that this is LESBIATOPIA, I'd like to say, yes, I know my boss is hot. How many people can say that about their boss? Being that she was recently featured on our much loved Rachel Maddow show, among other things, she is a celebrity in her own right. Because of that I nominate her to be on Lesbiatopia's "Red Head List"...
(*Liz Bradbury is a local activist and author whose book was the first lesbian book review I did at Lesbiatopia.)
Check out: www.allentownwomenscenter.com