Faces of Pride: The Doctors

CHARLOTTE — About 15 percent of LGBTQ Americans reported postponing or avoiding medical treatment due to discrimination, according to the Center for American Progress.

Channel 9 spoke with medical professionals in the Charlotte area who are also members of the LGBTQ community to hear their perspectives on how they provide care.

“I’m [Dr.] Ashlan Van Cleeff; I am a cardiologist for 26 years. I’m a parent to two loving sons who mean the world to me. I’m a dog owner. I’m someone who trains for half-marathons. Who loves to snowboard and mountain bike, and I’m also a trans woman.”

“My name is [Dr.] Cramer McCullen, I’m a family physician, I’m the medical director for LGBTQ+ health services for Novant health, I love Latin dancing, I’m a dog dad and I’m gay.”

“My name is Dr. Benjamin Simmons, pronouns he, him I’m with atrium health, I’m a family physician ... And I’m gay.”

“I’ve always realized I’m not like other people,” said Van Cleeff. “I’ve always spent my whole life not like the other kids. I started suffering from fairly significant depression; I realized pretty early on what that depression was from. And it was from the fact that I couldn’t live authentically. I was so afraid, even with privacy laws, people say you need to see someone about your depression but I can’t do that because I can’t have a conversation without admitting I’m trans. And if I admit I’m trans, I could lose my whole world, right?”

“About 20% of LGBTQ individuals experience some sort of discrimination in the medical space,” said Simmons. “What that does, is [people say,] ‘I’m not going to tell anything. I’m only going to come to the doctor when it’s an emergency.’”

“Everyone, when they come to a healthcare provider, wants to be seen and understood for who they are,” said McCullen. “When I was growing up, I didn’t have a doctor who understood me as a gay man. There were a lot of things I had to teach my doctor about healthcare and medications that may be indicated for me.”

Simmons said he felt nervous and afraid to tell his doctors that he was gay. He said all of his doctors never knew.

“I think when you have patients who have been marginalized from the health system and they find a place to feel safe ... there’s nothing more rewarding,” McCullen said. “We know that when patients are taken care of by providers who look like them or are part of their communities, that they often receive better care and have better health outcomes.”

“A friend of mine, [an] internist, does a lot of trans care so I told him what was going on,” Van Cleeff said. “Eventually I made a plan, I said you need to actually start living authentically, period.”

Health Resources

RAIN Carolina - A nonprofit committed to ending HIV in the Charlotte area.

RAO Community Health - A non-profit in the Charlotte area providing support services to people living with HIV.

Amity Medical Group - Offering healthcare to LGBTQ+ folks and providing gender-affirming care in Charlotte.

Carolinas Care Partnership - A nonprofit focusing on health and housing services for LGBTQ+ communities.

Dudley’s Place - Supporting the needs of people living with HIV/AIDS through Rosedale Health and Wellness.

Charlotte Trans Health - A group of providers from several local counties aimed at increasing trans-specialized provider clinical competency and best practice interdisciplinary collaboration in the greater Charlotte area.

Dan Matics

Dan Matics,

Dan is a reporter and anchor for Channel 9.