Dr. David Breland has been singing and dancing with Seattle Men's Chorus since 2011. Recently, he was a driving force behind the creation of the Gender Clinic at Seattle Children's Hospital, which opened in late 2016. The clinic serves youth who are transgender or gender nonconforming.
You can see David on stage April 1st and 2nd in Born This Way, a concert full of bold and inspiring music that celebrates the diversity of our community. Born This Way features a brand new commission from an up-and-coming transgender composer, Mari Esabel Valverde.
How did the Gender Clinic get started and how long did it take to make it a reality? I have been working with trans* youth for the past 6 years and these patients and families would remark that it was very hard to find knowledgeable providers for affirming care and that they were lucky to find me. As a result, I co-wrote a grant to the Seattle Children's Center for Diversity and Health Equity to do research looking at the barriers to health care for transgender youth and caregivers. With this data, I was able to publish these results in the Journal of Adolescent Health and write a business plan for the hospital to create the Gender Clinic. The whole process took about 2-3 years and finally it is a reality.
What do you feel is the most critical element of the Gender Clinic? The most critical element is our multidisciplinary team; it allows us to provide coordinated care. Families can call in and speak with our Care Navigator who gives a road map for the process to affirm gender. In addition to the Navigator, I work with two endocrinologists, our psychiatry department, and community mental health providers.
What are the biggest challenges trans* youth are facing today? How can we as a community help them? Trans* youth are dealing with high rates of anxiety, depression, suicide, victimization, health care inequities and even homelessness. These are the products of stigma that is imposed by society, transphobia, and parent/family rejection. Our community can support them by understanding that gender is on a spectrum, just like sexual orientation. We need to affirm the trans* experience by supporting the notion that gender is not binary and that we accept people as they are. I think there is a lack of knowledge in the LGBQ community about trans* identified people, but we can overcome that by seeking knowledge for a better understanding.
What is your favorite part of being a member of SMC? Being in the chorus allows me to take off my many hats and just enjoy the music. I love the eclectic members of the chorus and the mission of the organization. I also love being a part of Sparkle Motion (the unofficial name for SMC dancers). I feel like a different person when I am dancing in this group; they are fantastic and talented! And Paul Caldwell is a great addition; he brings a fresh and invigorating presence to the chorus.
What is your involvement with Seattle Counseling Service? I have been a board member for 7 years and am currently the Board President. SCS has served the mental health and chemical dependency needs of the LGBTQ community since 1969. I really enjoy working with this organization, especially the executive director, Ann McGettigan, and the other board members!
How does your involvement in the Gender Clinic, SCS, and SMC collectively guide your path and work? When I decided to become a physician, I knew I didn't want to just work in a clinic day in and day out. I wanted to have connection to the community and that is what SCS and SMC allow me to do. As for the Gender clinic, it was created because there was a need in our community for such services.