Treat it Queer
Treat it Queer is a foundation dedicated to inclusive healthcare. They operate on the philosophy “that queer people around the world deserve safe, comprehensive and high-quality healthcare adapted to their unique needs, free from prejudice and discrimination.” I sat down with one of the founders to discuss this fine cause.
Would you like to introduce yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
I am Maddalena Giacomozzi (they/them). I am from Italy and I am a doctor. I have lived in the Netherlands for ten years now and also studied medicine here. I think it is better to live here and have Italy as a holiday destination, rather than the other way around. Northern Italy, where I come from, is very nice for hiking in the Alps, though. Sometimes that’s why I go back, but I have no intention of moving back permanently. I am right at home here.
I am currently doing PhD research on endometriosis in transgender en gender-diverse individuals at Radboud UMC. Endometriosis is a condition treated within gynaecology. Research into this condition has so far always been done from a cisgender perspective. The research I am doing now focuses on trans and gender-diverse people, both those who use gender-affirming care and those who do not. Besides, I study sexology and am president and co-founder of the Treat it Queer foundation. That’s my hobby that got out of control, I always say.
How did this out-of-control hobby originate?
I had a group of friends who were all studying something in the direction of healthcare. After our studies, we realised that we had not actually learned anything about our own community. All the knowledge we had about the Queer community came from experience and not from teaching. We found it very strange that we didn’t learn about this structurally, as we did about other things. That was something we wanted to change.
We first conducted an online workshop for Maastricht University and it was very well received. There appeared to be a real need for this knowledge. That’s when we decided to set up a foundation. That has now been two years since. Not very long yet, but we have grown rapidly.
It didn’t just stop at the workshop, what else are you doing now?
True, we actually operate on several pillars. The workshops have always remained, and we now offer several. These workshops cover inclusive language and how healthcare providers can best approach queer persons, care for Queer refugees, intersectional approaches to care, gender non-conformity in reproductive care and, finally, gender-affirming care. We now do these workshops on demand at universities, student associations, and healthcare providers in the Netherlands and abroad. We would like to make this as broad as possible and not just focus on Europe, but we are largely white European so there is that limitation.
Besides workshops, we also have other projects, such as creating teaching materials in the form of small knowledge cards. In addition, we also did a youth exchange on Queer care in Italy last year, and are currently working on a project around sexual health care. Sometimes the projects are more activist, for young people for example, and sometimes our work is more academic, like being at conferences. We are really trying to mean something in both ‘worlds’.
“It is not just about the Queer perspective on sexual health; we also look at it from the point of view of disability, chronic illness and neurodivergence”
That’s a lot of great stuff, how many people are you doing this with?
There are now six of us working structurally in the foundation and we engage in many different partnerships. We sometimes work with volunteers for certain projects as well.
So one of those projects focuses on sexual health care. Can you share more about that?
We will soon begin research through a survey and focus groups. We like to hear from the community what is really needed. It is not just about the Queer perspective on sexual health; we also look at it from the point of view of disability, chronic illness and neurodivergence. So we work from an intersectional perspective.
You mention that you also operate outside the Netherlands. What difference do you notice between the Netherlands and other countries?
From my own experience, I can best compare Italy and the Netherlands. What strikes me in this is that people in the Netherlands act as if discrimination doesn’t exist here. Rights in the Netherlands are very good, so people do not recognise that discrimination still occurs structurally or in small ways. People also often react very defensively that they are not discriminating against anyone. Firstly, that is not always the case. Secondly, it is not about treating everyone equally, but treating someone according to their specific needs.
Italy has a strong transgender community fighting for their rights. At the same time, you also have politicians making statements that really can’t be done. Religion still plays a very big role in this, it is very culturally determined. That is often the challenge. Different norms and values prevail that leave less room for diversity. We are now also working with partners from Georgia and Armenia. There the situation is very different again, which calls for a different kind of activism.
Very special and beautiful that you are working in different places and different ways. What has been a moment that has really stayed with you?
The best part is when I share a general knowledge and then slowly see it making sense to people. I always try to include them in that this is a whole galaxy and not just an extra label. That happens to be often the narrative in the Netherlands. You address someone as male, female or non-binary. This view, despite the good intention, is completely wrong. I try to make people understand that it is more complex and that it is okay not to understand everything, as long as you approach people respectfully. For many people, it is really a revelation that there is more diversity and that it is not a new trend. Gender diversity has always existed and is present in other cultures as well. With young medical students, I also explain that there is more to biology than just XY and XX chromosomes.
“I always try to include them in that this is a whole galaxy and not just an extra label […] You address someone as male, female or non-binary”
In an ultimate dream scenario, what do you hope Treat it Queer will bring about?
We hope health care will become more inclusive. Not just for the Queer community, but more broadly. This is partly about recognising discrimination and prejudice within healthcare. We also want to make caregivers aware that everyone’s care needs are different. As a healthcare provider, you need to be able to adapt to that situation. What works for a cis person does not necessarily work for a trans person. What works for a white Dutchman does not necessarily work for someone from a migration background. What works for a neurotypical person does not necessarily work for a neurodiverse person.
All care should be broadly inclusive, not just gender clinics. Whatever care you need, you should be able to trust your healthcare provider.
To learn more about Treat it Queer’s beautiful mission, please visit
www.treatitqueer.org. You can also follow the organisation on various social media platforms. There you can read, among other things, how you can participate in the project on sexual health.