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Stigma Warrior: Meet Michael
Meet Today's Stigma Warrior:
My name is Michael Duff, I am the Director of Philanthropy at American Cancer Society.
Stigma and discrimination create an unbalanced and unequal society. They misinform how people interact with and react to individuals and communities that might be different from what they know or are used to. They are fear- or ignorance-based rationalizations that can severely deter progress and limit the opportunities for those who are being marginalized.
Specifically, I work for the American Cancer Society, and we see the disproportionate cancer burden on certain communities every day. Stigma and discrimination have directly caused this burden. Issues like access to care and proper cancer screenings, safe environments created by medical providers, and tobacco targeting are among the barriers faced by the LGBTQ+ community. We are working to break down these barriers and make sure every individual has equal opportunity to fight cancer.
I fight stigma in my own life by leading a group at the American Cancer Society that is focused on education and awareness about cancer in the LGBTQ+ community. This group was formed by staff who are fellow stigma warriors and who recognized an opportunity to make change toward health equity. We work internally to educate and empower staff to operate with the LGBTQ+ lens when working in their roles. Externally, we strive to connect with the LGBTQ+ community across New England to share our information about cancer so that the community can make informed decisions about their health. Specifically, we started an event called “SPEAK UP for your Health: Cancer and Wellness in the LGBTQ+ Community.” This program brings leaders from the LGBTQ+ community together to discuss issues around cancer prevention, treatment, and survivorship and how to empower people to overcome these challenges with the proper tools and resources.
My advice to anyone facing stigma and discrimination in their life is to "Push Back." Question current practices. Don’t let stigma and discrimination control the narrative. Try to understand where the fear and ignorance stems from so that the community can address it, learn, and then grow (if safe and appropriate).
One word to describe me in my authentic state is "Fulfilled" – I am not sure that I have mastered the art of living as my true, authentic self. It is probably something I will be working toward my entire life. But when I am with those who I am most comfortable with and am free to be most like myself – I feel fulfilled.