Love Letter To Fan Free Clinic, Pt. 2
Read More: Fan Free Clinic
Editor’s Note: Fan Free Clinic was Virginia’s first free clinic. Shawn McNulty, Director of Health Outreach at Fan Free Clinic, reflects on over a decade of service to the organization in this series of articles.
In October 1999, at age 24, on my very first day working for Fan Free Clinic, I was assigned to represent the agency at Pride. Needless to say I was frightened… the little queer boy I was. I was there to represent an agency that played a key, but often background role in support of the LGBTQ community. Fan Free Clinic wasn’t just any agency and Richmond was full of activists who were wiser and more accomplished. It felt daunting.
From its earliest days, Fan Free Clinic has been deeply committed to the LGBTQ community. In those days LGBTQ folks had a difficult time getting the help they needed from official organizations like local health departments. Fan Free Clinic helped provide answers and much needed clinical services. The agency’s commitment to non-judgment is a hallmark of its work and has served as a steady and constant guide. Whether being a friend to the dying, a source of information and hope, or food for the hungry, the LGBTQ community has been welcomed at Fan Free Clinic before there was an acronym for us. The agency has been proactive in its reach, from the early 80s as the first street outreach project to being a first responder to one of our community’s greatest crises–HIV. Today, Fan Free Clinic continues these services rooted in its historic work to advocate, educate and care for the all of those at risk, particularly the transgender community.
Agencies come and go and often efforts become footnotes in the pages of time. So many people have dedicated their life work to helping better the lives of LGBTQ Richmonders… people like Ryland Roane, better known to some as Ms. Nita, who has spent the last 25 years reaching out to the LGBTQ community to bring information and hope to those most affected and infected with HIV…… Elaine Martin is an institution, in and of herself, at the Virginia Department of Health .Her stamp rests on much of the brilliantly formed HIV prevention work conducted throughout the state. Jim Beckner, now with IVNA, provided many years of leadership at Fan Free Clinic and continues to build collaboration within the community. These are but a few of the many people whose work is the stuff of legend and for whose trailblazing I am grateful and whose work should not be forgotten.
It is because of people like these and agencies like Fan Free Clinic that so much has been accomplished in the fight for those of us who are LGBTQ. Their work humbles and encourages me to remain determined in my own work. I hope it will inspire others to join the fight to make the world a better place for us all.
Shawn Patrick McNulty, Director of Health Outreach for Fan Free Clinic, has worked in HIV/AIDS Education and Prevention for more than twelve years. Born in Hampton, Virginia in 1975, Shawn ventured to Richmond in 1993 to come to VCU. After a service learning course he took on campus in 1994, he dreamed that one day he might have the opportunity to work for a place as amazing as Fan Free Clinic. More than twelve years since that dream became a reality Shawn has determined that it is time to move on, but not without first paying homage to the place that has been his “home away from home,” for so long.
“We are marching forward, leaning in, charging forward because we take seriously the importance of helping people restore their health”June 24, 2016
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