NATA Approves LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee

October 2, 2017 by Beth Sitzler

In September, the NATA Board of Directors approved the creation of the new LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee, which will advocate for LGBTQ+ athletic trainers and patients through research, education and community support.

The idea for the committee came from the Diversity and Inclusion Work Group, which was formed during the 2016 Joint Committee Meeting. The work group was tasked with investigating the concerns of those in the LGBTQ+ community and how NATA could advocate for change in any sort of discriminatory climate. Through this effort, it was determined that a permanent committee was vital to addressing the needs and concerns of the LGBTQ+ community within the athletic training profession and patient population.

Pat Aronson, PhD, ATC, PTA, chair of the LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee, said it’s about inclusivity. “When you don’t accept or recognize or see a person as their whole self, then that person is compromised.”

The mission of the LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee is to advocate for an environment of inclusion, respect, equality and appreciation of differences in athletic trainers and the patient population. To achieve this mission, the committee will identify, explore and address emerging topics and concerns relevant to the LGBTQ+ community within the profession as well as health care topics affecting patients in the LGBTQ+ community. 

“We call it being closeted when you’re not able to reveal your whole self,” she said. “There are private things and then there are things you should be able to share with other people. … So by bringing this out into the open, by talking about it, by educating our members, by seeing our members who [identify as LGBTQ+], I think that will be helpful. I think we need it.”

Aronson said the first order of business for the committee is to build its resources. This includes developing educational programing at the national, regional and state levels as well as creating and disseminating appropriate terminology to ensure consistency and inclusivity when referring to diverse sexualities, gender identities and gender expressions.

“I think if we all understand the needs of the LGBTQ+ community, then we can provide the best health care for our patients who identify differently from us,” she said. “Further, ATs need to create a climate in their clinics that is welcoming to all patients of diverse populations.”

The committee would also like to provide NATA members with a Safe Space Allies Training geared toward athletics or athletic training. Safe Space Ally programs provide a positive, trustworthy and respectful place to an LGBTQ+ community member in need of support or resources. Through the diversity training workshop, trainees learn about stereotypes and discuss appropriate terminology as well as how to help someone without being offensive. During the 2018 Joint Committee Meeting, the entire LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee will undergo a Safe Space Allies Training.

“This will put everyone on the committee, no matter how they identify, on the same page as far as language and understanding what we need to do next as far as advocating for our colleagues and our patients,” Aronson said.

As its resources are being built, the committee will also conduct research related to the membership’s current LGBTQ+ knowledge and needs as well as provide community support to address prejudice, stress and mental health considerations within the LGBTQ+ community. There also will be networking opportunities for LGBTQ+ ATs and athletic training students that foster collaboration, positive interaction and mutual support.

Ultimately, Aronson said she hopes that with the formation of the new LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee, those who are part of the athletic training profession, are interested in joining the profession or are patients of athletic trainers will know that they are accepted for who they are and won’t be turned away because of their sexuality, gender identity or gender expression.

“We call it open and affirming. … It’s saying, ‘Yes, I see you. I appreciate you. Your gender and sexual identity have nothing to do with our relationship in providing health care,’” she said. “Just being recognized as a committee is a step toward inclusivity.”

The committee is composed of  members of the LGBTQ+ community, allies and experts in improving diversity and inclusion, all of whom previously served on the Diversity and Inclusion Work Group. While the committee currently has eight members and isn’t district based, over the year, it will transition to being a district-based committee with each of the 10 districts represented.

You can contact the LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee on Twitter at @LGBTQNATA.