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Weiland Initiative plans new LGBT health programming

The Weiland Health Initiative, an interdisciplinary program chartered to promote health and wellness across the spectrum of gender identities and sexual orientations, began its second official year with plans for new programming.

“Our goal… is to really figure out what size and what programs are the best fit and what’s really sustainable over time,” Director Inge Hansen said of the initiative’s plans for this year.

A partnership between Vaden Health Center and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Resources Center (LGBT-CRC), the Weiland Initiative was established in September 2011 after receiving funding from the estate of the late Richard Weiland ’76. Weiland, a Stanford alumnus who identified as gay, committed suicide in 2006 after years of struggling with depression. The initiative, named in his honor, was structured to help young people through some of the same obstacles Weiland faced.

Hansen, who began working at Stanford as a general psychologist after working at the LGBT Community Center in San Diego, now directs the initiative.

“It’s about health equity,” Hansen said of the initiative’s work, “It’s about making sure that students who are in a disadvantaged group are able to access the same health services as students who are in the more privileged group.”

Although many universities, including Princeton University and the University of California at Berkeley, have strong partnerships between their health centers and their LGBT centers, Hansen said she does not know of any program similar to the Weiland Initiative in its dedication and narrow focus.

“A lot of what is going on here is actually groundbreaking,” Hansen said.

While the Weiland Initiative does not expect a significant expansion in size in its second year, it has introduced new programs and increased collaboration with other University bodies. According to Hansen, the initiative plans to invite monthly speakers to Vaden to discuss clinical practices concerning sexual identity and gender orientation, as well as offer drop-in counseling hours with Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) counselors with specific interest in LGBT issues. In addition, the Weiland Initiative will coordinate a team of CAPS professionals, medical staff and case managers to support students who are transitioning genders.

This is also the first year that the initiative has welcomed students onto its staff.

“I really love that it exists because it really shows Stanford’s commitment to the mental health and wellbeing of… all students across all gender and sexuality orientations,” said Lea Gee-Tong ’13, the Weiland Initiative’s community and outreach coordinator and one of two student interns.

According to Gee-Tong, the initiative will also continue its peer and alumni mentorship programs, its postdoctoral LGBT fellowship within CAPS and its effort to make health resources accessible online.

As part of its mission to promote discussion and dialogue surrounding issues of gender identity and sexual orientation, the initiative also hosts an annual conference for interested students, health professionals, and community members.

This year’s conference, titled “Faith & Sexuality” will take place on Oct. 19.

“Faith and sexuality is a part of all of our lives,” Hansen said, “Whether or not you’re a person of faith, we live in a world were faith is relevant and we’re all going to be navigating issues related to faith… It’s a really important thing to know about and to be able to know what it means for us. And sexuality is the same way.”

Although the conference will be capped at 60 people to allow for deeper discussions, Hansen said that she hopes more students will attend the conference this year.  In particular, Hansen would like the conference to engage people who are not typically involved in LGBT discussion.

Ben Davidson, director of the LGBT-CRC and advisor for the Weiland Initiative, described student response to the Weiland Initiative’s work as positive.

“I’ve noted a good deal of enthusiasm about Weiland on the part of students,” Davidson wrote in an email to The Daily. “The LGBT-CRC student staff has in particular been especially excited about new opportunities for collaboration that the [Weiland] partnership has made possible.”

Hansen, Davison, and Gee-Tong all stressed the importance of the Weiland Initiative for all students at Stanford.

“We believe that the better-equipped Stanford is to provide sensitive, knowledgeable, sophisticated mental health and wellness services to all students, the better-equipped those students will be… to learn and to teach,” Davidson said, “We see our mission as linked organically to the core mission of the university.”