The summer is nearly over for me, the internships have winded down, and I am moving back to Charlotte before I go off to study abroad.
I had the opportunity to work for two incredible organizations this summer. After having spent eight weeks on the job, I have come to see how each interacted and informed the other throughout my growing understanding of the work and field. What stood out to me about the Gender Clinic was their focus on not only a hormonal transition, but also a social one. They encouraged families to come in and participate, and understood the larger factors at play for these patients, their families, the communities, and larger societal values and expectations. NCCASA, through Project No Rest, focuses on larger issues as well like community involvement, prevention work, and consciousness raising. They have a diverse group of people that are constantly meeting and collaborating in order to have the greatest impact in the community and for these vulnerable populations of people.
All of the people I worked with were involved in fields that are largely misunderstood and are located in a kind of perpetual “gray area”. Although there is rarely clear differentiation between right and wrong, both organizations maintain their focus on what is best for patients of their clinic and victims of trafficking. These are two well-established organizations that work for the betterment of vulnerable populations. Their work rests inside of much larger institutions and societies. For NCCASA, they have to consider not only human trafficking in North Carolina, but rape culture, gender inequality, demand, sexual violence, and many other aspects that seem much larger than their work. The clinic has to be mindful of school systems, the safety of their patients, gender inequality, families, and many more aspects as well.
Through both organizations, I met incredibly passionate and well-educated people that work hard in their service. There is constant collaboration and continuing education that makes these people some of the best in the area. I have learned so much from my time at both organizations, and am excited to bring my newfound knowledge and confidence to the classroom and future career aspirations.
This week was continued work on the transition map and various projects for NCCASA.
The brochure for NCCASA is done for now on my part. We worked hard on making the bulk of it, now it has to be sent around to other people in the office. It’s important that people with other specialties have a say in the brochure because it represents the work that NCCASA does within the anti-human trafficking movement.
A quote we have in the brochure for now is: “If we’re going to address trafficking in our country we have to address poverty, racism and gender based violence” – Rachel Lloyd
To me, this is a pretty cool idea to include because it so accurately reflects what I learn in the classroom at Dickinson.
Speaking of, part of my internship grant from Dickinson includes writing these weekly blog posts. Looking back on the weeks of posts I’ve created, I’m grateful to have this assignment attached to the grant. Writing blog posts, something I’d never done before, forced me to sit down and reflect on my weeks. I feel like I am able to write in my own voice, but it’s still an opportunity to think in-depth through the work I’m doing and the connections with my Dickinson education. It also forces me to sit down and look at where I might be able to better myself or my work for the next week.
This week’s thought from genius Gender Care Clinic social worker. She speaks in reference to people who are looking to transition, but who are also suffering from some kind of addiction:
“You wouldn’t delay [treatment] for a cancer patient because they had substance abuse issues”.
I had never really considered that before, but the chance for a person to transition can be integral to their life and happiness, and so they should receive the same quality of care that any other patient should receive.
This week I really just worked hard on my projects. The internships seem to be coming to an end at an alarming pace, and I want to make sure I can produce the best product possible.
The brochure is coming along well. I am collaborating with a few people in the office in order to make the most accurate and inclusive brochure. I think my favorite part of it so far is the section that heads: “Human Trafficking is more than individualized experiences of vulnerable populations. These are a few larger contributing factors to this global industry”. This section is an opportunity for me to really bring what I learned in the classroom to this project. I follow it with short blurbs on various topics like rape culture, poor economic conditions, and gender inequality. In my Contemporary Human Trafficking class, Professor Bickford challenged us to see that larger forces behind trafficking instead of just a single occurrence.
A few things I began to consider this week:
I conducted the informational interview with one of the women who works at the Coalition. It challenged my career intentions, and showed me the long-term reality of working in a field like this. I also look forward to asking other colleagues some questions, and, in particular, asking my boss how to negotiate a salary.
The woman I interviewed sends me articles about human trafficking every week that she is reading. Right now, I am reading one that calls attention to the language in the TVPA. It is an interesting look at how the movement got started and the emotional/religious/non-law language that it is based on. Earlier in the week she ran her idea by me about the whether-or-not-to-use-modern-day-slavery debate. She suggested that chattel slavery was centered around race, while contemporary human trafficking is dependent on vulnerability. I found it an interesting take on the debate, and a well articulated argument against the use of “modern day slavery”.
Working at the both the coalition and the clinic have forced me to reflect upon my education at Dickinson. One thing I’ve noticed that makes an enormous difference on the ground, but maybe doesn’t make its way into the classroom all the time is the importance of community. I find that we focus, to no fault, mostly on individual and institutional levels. However, a person’s community has a huge impact on how the people I work with do their work. For example, when looking over the various training programs the coalition wants to bring to the pilot sites, one aspect they take into consideration is who will come to facilitate the trainings. Its important that someone who is similar to the community members (dress, accent, demographics) addresses them. Also, in the clinic, community seems to have a huge impact on the patients’ decision to transition. Things like whether or not the school has a bathroom for them, what pronouns teachers use, and whether or not the family knows are all things to consider for these patients.
This was a little bit of a shorter week because it was sandwiched by my sister’s wedding and leaving for vacation. Nonetheless, it was an important week because I have been assigned two new projects to work on.
NCCASA Project: Updating the NCCASA brochure for human trafficking. It will be passed at a few upcoming events and trainings, as well as kept on hand in the office for future reference.
My ideas: I want to make it a powerful brochure, without being limiting and cheesy. I have a few basic myths (such as: there must be movement for an act to be considered trafficking and all trafficking victims are foreign nationals) that act as attention grabbers. I also think it is important to include contributing factors. These are larger societal institutions, constructs, and norms that perpetuate human trafficking. Some of these may include rape culture and civil unrest.
Gender Care Clinic Project: Creating a transition treasure map to give to their patients. (See above image). I have started working on a map that can guide patients through their transition. I pick the doctor’s brain for the hormonal and medical changes to a person’s body while the social worker’s brain provides more of the social aspect to any transition.
My ideas: One of my goals with the map is to portray the idea that one can ‘get on and off’ the path at any point during their transition. I want for the patients to understand that no one person’s path will be the same, and that one can move about more-or-less freely throughout their transition. There are some options like a tracheotomy shave that may not be reversible, but something like hormone blockers during puberty doesn’t have to be the forever decision or desire.
Social worker quote of the week: “When did you choose?”
One patient was struggling with explaining to kids at school and family that this wasn’t a choice. The social worker brilliantly retorted to instead press them on when they chose to be heterosexual.
1. I was overwhelmed this week with acronyms. Half of the notes I take during meetings are various acronyms to look up later.
2. I need to get better at networking.
I finally finished my research and document on the training programs for the pilot sites. I will present them to the team in the upcoming week.
This week again was working on my project, sandwiched by two meetings.
The first was a visit to a pilot site. We got to meet with the coordinator at that site to learn about what she’s been doing to further the organization, and where she could use more support from the Coalition. It was a good opportunity for me to see where my work on the trainings are going. After having visited a site, I was able to better cater my work to who the document will be going to. It was also just nice to see that my hard work would actually help people out, even if just a little bit.
The second meeting was the Human Trafficking Commission meeting at the Governor’s Crime Commission. This meeting was unique from the others because it was very formal: minutes were kept, motions were made, and pretty high up people attended. This was another people full of people from diverse backgrounds. They discussed the status and future of North Carolina and it’s collective effort to eradicate human trafficking and to better provide for both the service providers and victims.
I would say a highlight of my week was the car ride to and from the pilot site. This was an opportunity to hear unfiltered opinions from my colleagues regarding their jobs and the work they’re doing. They are all incredibly passionate men and women, and they are really just full of life experience and incredible knowledge.
For now, I sit patiently in the airport as my flight gets pushed back farther and farther. Soon, I will be in Michigan for the weekend for my sister’s wedding. In the meantime, I’ll people watch.
This week I attended two SUPER interesting meetings and finished up my project in-between.
Location: CBC Fox 50 News Headquarters
People Attending: The combined skills of people who work with the news channel and PR, along with experts on human trafficking from the Project No Rest team
Purpose: To brainstorm for the next step of the Project No Rest marketing campaign, specifically working on the next public service announcement
At this meeting we met with members of the CBC Fox 50 team to discuss the next PSA campaign for Project No Rest. It truly was a brainstorming session where each person would throw out an idea to be discussed, critiqued, and bettered by the others. Some of the challenges they talked about were similar to those we discussed in class. For example: they discussed how to portray a victim of human trafficking. Should an actor be used? Would using a survivor re-exploit them? How do they still stir up public support without portraying an “ideal” victim?
Location: UNC School of Social Work
People Attending: Almost all members of the Project No Rest team
Purpose: To discuss their approach to the media when the Polaris human trafficking rankings by state come out early next year.
North Carolina is at the forefront among other states in their anti-human trafficking work. Polaris has a human trafficking hotline, and ranks states based on how many calls come in from that state. Calls can include anything from victims seeking help, to curious community members. Project No Rest not only attends to victims, but raises awareness in the community as well. Because of this, NC has had more calls to the hotline. For those who don’t understand the process, when the rankings come out, it will look like NC has more cases of human trafficking than other states. In this meeting, the team attacked how to approach the media when these rankings come out. They want to be prepared to answer questions and even to start the stories now, so that they can set the record straight.
One thing I noted was the diversity of people at each meeting in both their backgrounds and expertise. This project clearly takes an interdisciplinary approach to ending human trafficking: something we always talk about in class, but plays out almost perfectly here.
Week two was finally a time when I could start to settle in to my internships and dorm.
To start, I live on a college campus in Summer Intern Housing. This ideal living situation would not have been possible without the internship grant from Dickinson. Living here, I get to experience a little bit of what college life is like outside of Dickinson, as well as the opportunity to network with other students who are involved in really unique and interesting internships as well.
What stood out to me this week was the Gender Care Clinic.
Again I was able to sit in while either the doctor or social worker met with the patients.
The social worker that works with the clinic, aka the super woman that goes out of her way for each and every patient, was a goldmine of quotes this last Friday. For one girl who was struggling with understanding where she fit within the ever-complicated labeling system of LGBTQ+, the social worker instead suggested to worry less about the labels themselves. She explained that humans need labels and categories, but she need not identify with something immediately. Instead, she should worry about the person in front of her, not the label.
One thing I learned this week: Many of the drugs that are prescribed to transgender people in order to transition are not FDA-approved. This acts as a way for insurance companies to justify systemic discrimination by not covering these medications because they’re not FDA-approved.
This week I began to see how my two internships interact.
Coalition Against Sexual Assault
Duke Gender Care Clinic
How they Interact
For the Sexual Assault Coalition, I am still working on putting together various training programs for pilot sites.
At the same time, for the clinic, I am working on designing a gender transition map that represents both the medical and social aspect of transitioning.
Through my in-depth research into various training programs, I have come to see the importance of bringing multiple programs to the sites. It will take more than just sexual assault training, service providers support, or collaboration with law enforcement to provide victims with the best possible support. In the same sense, the clinic wouldn’t be the incredible resource that it is without the whole team of professionals that work together. Working on the gender map, I have come to see how both the medical doctor and social worker are essential members of the team, not to mention the therapists, psychologists, and many others that work together.
June 4th – June 10th
A Dickinson College Student Navigating her Summer Internships