Our People in Profile: prideHealth program navigator Hanqing Yang says we need to ‘motivate people to change behaviours’

prideHealth program navigator Hanqing Yang
prideHealth program navigator Hanqing Yang (Nayo Upshaw/NSHA).

As prideHealth navigator for Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA), Hanqing Yang supports engagement with community members, directing individuals to resources and education sessions related to 2SLGBTQ+* health. 

“It’s difficult to know what the experience for the 2SLGBTQ+ community is because we’re invisible,” said Yang, a member of NSHA’s primary care team.

In health care, Yang said, “2SLGBTQ+ identities are under-reported and a lot of time being a queer person is quite invisible.”

Yang is open about his gender identity and believes we have to start changing our practices to allow people to express who they are. 

“I get a lot of questions based on the assumption I’m cisgender* and that can be challenging,” said Yang. “I don’t feel like the culture is there for us to be open.”

The discrimination and stigma that the 2SLGBTQ+ community faces prevent a lot of people from accessing the services they need.  

“If we’re talking about equity in health care, we need to do more for people who have been historically marginalized and stigmatized.” 

The voice of marginalized individuals is often dismissed because no one speaks up, Yang said, but a lot of times there’s no space for them to do so. 

“It’s about what we do to create a space to allow other voices.”

Within NSHA, Yang does see positive changes happening. 

“I see a lot of positive changes; there are managers, educators, clinical areas and community partners looking for education and realizing the importance of diversity and inclusion.”

The lack of resources for the 2SLGBTQ+ community is an ongoing challenge, one that Yang doesn’t believe is specific to NSHA. 

“It’s a constant battle to think strategically on how to utilize the resources that we have,” said Yang.

Wait times, lack of physicians and access to gender-affirming services are just a few of the issues Yang mentions that need addressing. 

“It’s important for people who are doing advocacy work to educate health care providers to be more inclusive in the way they practise,” Yang said. 

The educational piece can be difficult because it’s subjective. 

“We can identify approaches we want people to use, but it’s going to be very individualized.”

When it comes to educating staff and the public on 2SLGBTQ+ issues, Yang believes that multiple approaches may be necessary.

“We can list all the things we know should work, but will it work all the time? Not necessarily.” 

So how are we going to help individuals change? 

“It’s important to be engaging in educational conversations,” Yang said. “That interaction is going to stimulate critical thinking, reflection and motivate people to change behaviours.”

“One of the values of NSHA is integrity and for me; integrity means who we are.”

To improve health care for the 2SLGBTQ+ community, Yang argues change must be transformational. 

“If we can influence just one person a week, we’re going to see a huge change for the 2SLGBTQ+ community.” 

Quick facts from prideHealth:

2SLGBTQ+: prideHealth adopted the practice of placing 2S for Two Spirit at the beginning of LGBTQ to acknowledge that Two Spirit Indigenous people were the first sexual and gender minority people in North America, and also to demonstrate solidarity with them in this period of truth and reconciliation in Canada. 2SLGBTQ+ stands for Two Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning. 

Misgendering: Misgendering means using a word, especially a pronoun or form of address, that does not correctly reflect the gender with which they identify, especially when referring to a transgender person.

Cisgender: Cisgender describes when a person’s gender identity matches their assigned sex at birth.