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UC People: Luz Venegas, champion of gender-expansive perspectives

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UCSF Research Analyst Luz Venegas
UCSF Research Analyst Luz Venegas

By the UCSF Newsroom

A Q&A with Research Analyst Luz Venegas (pronouns she/her) of the UCSF Division of Prevention Science

How does the Gender Recognition and Lived Name Policy affect you personally? Or how do you imagine or hope it might affect you? 

It’s critical to recognize individuals’ lived experiences, and the name and pronouns policy contributes to this. We are leaders in health research and the provision of health care. Transgender and gender-expansive people exist in all domains of life. 

It is critical that we learn how to address patients, participants, colleagues, peers, etc. 

There are data demonstrating that using a person’s chosen name and correct pronouns reduces depression and suicidality among youth. Transgender adults are documented as avoiding health care settings due to anticipated discrimination, including being addressed by the incorrect pronoun and name. We need not only to ask names and pronouns of individuals who we perceive as gender-expansive – that is transphobic. 

We need an institution-wide culture that asks this of everyone. 

That normalizes introducing ourselves with our names and pronouns in meetings. That we have systems in place that facilitate this communication for patients, study participants, staff, providers, professors, etc. 

The policy affects me because it affects the populations we partner with to reduce health disparities. It affects me because these policies are what will contribute to one domain that we know impacts health care and resource utilization for individuals. 

It affects me because I know the courage and strength it takes to be one’s authentic self when transgender and gender-expansive individuals continue to face disproportionate incidences of violence and discrimination globally. 

“Every person, regardless of their circumstances, has the right to be treated with kindness, empathy and understanding. ”
— Luz Venegas

What’s one thing you would like people to know or understand about you and your experience? 

Be respectful and treat everyone with the dignity and respect you would like others to treat you. It is not necessary to know someone’s personal story or background to recognize that they are a human being who inherently deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. 

Every person, regardless of their circumstances, has the right to be treated with kindness, empathy and understanding. 

By extending this fundamental respect to all individuals, we create a more compassionate and inclusive environment for everyone. 

What’s something you wish more people did when getting to know you, especially at work? 

I study and work with gender-expansive populations. 

I am well aware of the health disparities said populations face. It’s disheartening that the earliest research published with transgender populations continues to hold true today. It’s disheartening to see a lack of representation within our institution. 

It’s disheartening that this population is continually studied and not the ones leading the studies. It’s disheartening that globally, individuals immigrate to the United States only to be met with different forms of discrimination rooted in transphobia, xenophobia and racism. 

We study these health disparities, and we need to acknowledge our roles in contributing to them. 

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