The Micro and Macro Levels of LGBTQ+ Justice

June 21, 2024

Image Source: Facebook

Max Mowitz believes it's our dual power that will produce the inclusive future we hope for.

There’s the advocacy work we engage in on the macro level. Calling our legislators. Showing up to demonstrations. Donating to nonprofits. 

Equally important is the work we do on a micro level between loved ones and community members. Gathering clothing for someone in need. Passing out free meals to the unhoused in our neighborhood. Helping someone fill out paperwork as they navigate a complex bureaucratic system. 

Both of these levels of justice work are integral to Max’s personal and professional dedication to building safe and affirming spaces for LGBTQ+ folks across Iowa. They are the Program Director for One Iowa, a nonprofit that advances, empowers, and improves the lives of LGBTQ+ Iowans statewide. 

Outside of work, they volunteer their time and expertise to help individuals live as their truest selves. 

Through all their work, Max is connecting LGBTQ+ Iowans and their allies with the resources and training they need to achieve an Iowa that’s more welcoming to all genders and sexualities.

Education is power

Max has been with One Iowa for nearly five years and has spent most of that time as Program Director. With the organization’s focus on six initiatives—healthcare access, workplace culture, the LGBTQ Leadership Institute, LGBTQ inclusivity training, transgender Iowans, and LGBTQ older adults—Max has their hands in many different types of work to serve the LGBTQ+ community.

“If you don’t know where to start, I can send you more information than you probably know what to do with,” they said. 

One Iowa’s work focuses on support and resources, with their 501(c)(4) branch, One Iowa Action, focusing on legislative policy and advocacy. Much of Max’s work begins with managing the negative cultural opinions some Iowans hold about the LGBTQ+ community. Those opinions seep into many different facets of life. 

Then enters Max, with the knowledge and training to help folks see and understand who the members of the LGBTQ+ community really are. 

Much of Max’s time is spent helping businesses create more affirming spaces for their LGBTQ+ employees and customers. They’ve worked with everyone from small businesses with teams of two to institutions like Principal Financial Group. 

“With these larger corporate trainings, I’m thinking a lot about how culture can be shifted and how organizations can have broader conversations around inclusion,” Max said. “During the smaller scale trainings, we focus more on changes folks can implement such as handbooks, processes, and policies.” 

In 2021, One Iowa developed and implemented an LGBTQ Health Needs Assessment in partnership with the Iowa Department of Public Health. They received responses from 82 out of the 99 counties in Iowa, helping to build a comprehensive idea of the healthcare disparities for LGBTQ+ Iowans. 

The results showed what One Iowa suspected—LGBTQ+ Iowans face many more challenges in healthcare than non-LGBTQ+ folks, with 16% reporting having been denied medical care based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

“LGBTQ folks are more likely to experience discrimination, homelessness, and poverty, which limits their access to healthcare. We also see a lack of LGBTQ-specific care,” Max said. They added that if they live in a rural part of the state, their access to healthcare in general is already limited. 

One Iowa partners with Unity Point Health at the UnityPoint Clinic for LGBTQ+ Health. The clinic employs all LGBTQ+ friendly providers who have received training from the nonprofit. 

One Iowa’s LGBTQ Resource Guide lists affirming healthcare and mental health care providers across the state. They’ve also built resource guides to help Iowans navigate the effects of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, such as the ban on gender-affirming care for minors.

Max and part of the One Iowa team at Pridefest 2024. Image Source: Facebook

Community is power

Max encourages you to reach out for support for any issue you run into in regard to LGBTQ+ issues in Iowa. If they can’t provide a One Iowa resource or training, they’ll connect you with another nonprofit that can help. 

The network of support organizations is key to Max’s ideas around community building and liberation. In their eyes, none of us can create affirming spaces completely on our own, and no organization can have all of the answers. For folks who need support in ways that One Iowa can’t provide, Max will point them to nonprofits like Iowa Safe Schools, the Queer Youth Resource Center, and Central Iowa Rainbow Families. 

Max’s care for Iowa’s LGBTQ+ community runs deep, and they engage in even more advocacy outside of work. They’re a member of the Iowa Trans Mutual Aid Fund Board of Directors. They also volunteer their services as a gender and transition doula. 

Max speaking at the 2022 One Iowa Gala Image Source: Facebook

“I support trans or non-binary folk as they access gender-affirming care, explore their gender, come out,” said Max. “I meet with folks to talk through what their goals and questions are, help them talk with insurance if they want to get top surgery, all the way to planning for their care around their top surgery.” 

Max is not a therapist or a healthcare provider, so their doula work centers more on navigating the systems around gender. 

Education matters to Max. They believe in having conversations with folks, meeting them where they are, and helping to understand and navigate gaps and barriers that result from anti-LGBTQ+ hostility. This type of work is multi-faceted. Max wants everyone to come along.

“We have to work within these larger, challenging systems. They are important spaces for us to be in and do advocacy work. But we can also take care of each other on a one-to-one level,” they said. “People think you have to choose between the two, but you can show up at the Capitol, and you can take care of your neighbor. I encourage you to not think of things as black and white but recognize that we need to be engaged in a lot of ways to get the future that we want.” 

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