An advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community, Wilfredo Flores, Ph.D. Candidate in Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures at Michigan State University set to graduate this spring, is being recognized, both locally and on a national level, for his dedication to delivering health and medical knowledge to LGBTQIA+ people.
“People who are not straight or cisgender often have to be really attendant to their health because often medicine doesn’t know what to do with our bodies, our cultural practices, and our general ways of being in the world,” said Flores, who helped co-found Queering Medicine in 2017, which is a grassroots advocacy organization that aims to improve health outcomes for LGBTQIA+ people.
“Building better health and medical experiences for queer and trans folks is at the core of my community work and my research,” he said. “If anything I put out into the world helps make clinical experiences better for these communities, then I think I am on the right path.”
Queering Medicine is a coalition of graduate and medical students, health care professionals, and volunteers dedicated to improving LGBTQIA+ health in the Greater Lansing area. The organization helps generate new knowledge, disseminate information, address barriers to healthcare access, and build coalitions and partnerships for the LBGTQIA+ community.
“As the sole humanities-trained person in Queering Medicine, I have worked to leverage my expertise in professional and technical writing, and my savvy in science and health communication, to create texts for our general audience that communicate health and medical knowledge for several projects,” Flores said.
“Building better health and medical experiences for queer and trans folks is at the core of my community work and my research. If anything I put out into the world helps make clinical experiences better for these communities, then I think I am on the right path.”Wilfredo Flores
Queering Medicine’s communications projects are all geared toward improving the health and medical experiences of LGBTQIA+ people. These projects include building a database of queer-friendly medical providers in the Greater Lansing area, provider meet-and-greet events, sensitivity training for local providers, and recommendations documents for healthcare intake forms. Queering Medicine recently secured $10,000 to support outreach regarding COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy amid local LGBTQIA+ communities.
“One thing I learned in my time with Queering Medicine is that folks in the area have plenty of knowledge and practices to keep each other healthy,” Flores said. “I think that community often knows best for itself, and medical providers would do well to learn how to tap into those fonts of knowledge.”
Local and National Awards
This dedication to delivering health and medical knowledge to the LGBTQIA+ community has earned Flores a few awards, the most recent being the Scholars for the Dream Travel Award presented by the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC), which aims to encourage scholarship by historically underrepresented groups.
Scholars for the Dream Travel Award winners are recognized for originality of research, significance of pedagogical or theoretical contributions to the field, and potential for larger, subsequent projects. Each of this year’s 18 recipients received $1,000 and have the opportunity to work with career mentors who are CCCC members.
In addition to the Scholars for the Dream Travel Award, Flores also received a 2022 Graduate Student Award for Community Engagement Scholarship from MSU’s University Outreach and Engagement. Both awards recognize the hard work Flores has put into supporting community members and the contributions he’s made to the field of writing and rhetoric.
As a doctoral student in MSU’s Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures, his research goals aim to understand how internet-based cultural communities share knowledge about their sexual health. Within this research, he centers Indigenous communities and bases his projects around the maxim that community knows itself best, allowing him to cultivate research methods from communities themselves and therefore produce more effective outcomes.
In his dissertation, OK Sexual Health Twitter: Toward a Community Framework of Sexual Health Literacy, Flores created a qualitative study informed by Indigenous and decolonial methodologies of how queer and trans people of color generate and share knowledge about their sexual health on Twitter with regards to HIV/AIDS.
Flores’s work and research emphasize the important role that effective communications play in reaching marginalized communities. By increasing the accessibility to medical resources and knowledge, Flores demonstrates how scholars can support community through writing and rhetoric.
In addition to a Ph.D., Flores also is working toward certificates in Community Engagement and Indigenous Studies. He also hosts the podcast Tell Me More!, which amplifies the work of graduate students.