Laith Ashley De La Cruz worked for an LGBTQ health organization in New York City before becoming a full-time model and social media star. As a child of immigrants living in New York City, De La Cruz saw firsthand the fear and misinformation that runs through many immigrant communities that prevents people from accessing necessary healthcare. De La Cruz recently spoke on mitú‘s panel, “A Conversation With America: Know Your Health Rights,” hosted by actor and advocate Jaime Camil. He sat down with mitú before the panel to talk about the state of health care for immigrants.
Trans model and activist Laith Ashley De La Cruz is personally familiar with the healthcare issues facing immigrants.
For one, De La Cruz is the child of immigrants and grew up in a predominately immigrant community. That upbringing made him notice one common obstacle preventing immigrants from getting healthcare.
“Immigrants have this fear, especially if they are undocumented, that ‘la migra’ will find them,” De La Cruz says. “I worked at an LGBT health center in New York and one of the biggest issues when trying to get folks to sign up for healthcare was that they were afraid to give their personal information. They thought that if they were undocumented and the government found out that they had healthcare that someone was out to get them.”
As for trans immigrants seeking healthcare, De La Cruz says that respect plays a bigger role.
“For trans people, [healthcare] is even more difficult because you are hoping that this person understands you,” De La Cruz says. “[You hope] they’re not going to judge you for being ‘different’ and that they’re going to be respectful of your pronouns and your journey. A lot of the time, that’s just not the case.”
De La Cruz believes that respect from medical professionals is crucial to further proper healthcare information for trans people who fear being humiliated when seeking medical advice. Without respect for the patient, it is hard to build the trust necessary to ease those fears and encourage trans people to seek healthcare.
The recent statements made by President Donald Trump, banning trans people from serving in the military because of a “financial burden” they create, haven’t helped to better understanding and respect for the trans community.
De La Cruz says Donald Trump has “no idea how the military works,” and is creating a false narrative on why trans people join the military.
“The misconception that trans people are joining the military solely for medical reasons is ridiculous,” says De La Cruz. “They’re risking their lives. They’re fighting on the front lines for our liberty here in the States so for him to have said that is completely ridiculous.”
De La Cruz only needs to look to one of his best friends, military veteran and trans activist Shane Ortega.
“He was one of the folks who was right there in the movement trying to get rights for trans people in the military,” he says. “He told me that it was very difficult for him to navigate the system, but he was able to.”
“You need to get educated,” De La Cruz tells people about healthcare access.
De La Cruz says people need to do more than just understand the basics of the healthcare system in the U.S. People also need to learn which organizations have the best interest of the community in the heart of their mission. For Latinos, that means finding healthcare or social advocacy organizations that can break down information so they can benefit to the fullest.
He admits that he hasn’t spent a lot of time advocating for immigrant healthcare access, but that’s about to change.
Now that he has a decent social media following, De La Cruz plans on using his influence to start spreading the word about the importance of healthcare access for immigrants. He wants immigrants to understand that there is help for them to get the healthcare they deserve.
De La Cruz considers a lack of empathy in society as a major reason immigrants struggle to receive healthcare.
“People need to understand that even though they are not personally affected by something that other people face, in the grand scheme of things, it is possible that they can be affected,” De La Cruz says. “You should care for other people, not just yourself. There are other people who are facing all sorts of crises and you should be able to acknowledge that these things are an issue. Just because it doesn’t directly affect you now doesn’t mean that it won’t in the long run.”
Now, De La Cruz plans on showing how intersectionality plays a major role in the healthcare debate.
“Part of my job now is to speak at universities and I’m oftentimes asked to speak on different panels,” De La Cruz explains. “I do talk about healthcare issues with the trans community, but now I am looking to tie it in with the immigrant community as well.”
You can watch De La Cruz talk more about the importance of healthcare access for immigrants below.
Join us for A Conversation With America: Know Your Health Rights, streaming LIVE with host Jaime Camil and special guests Laith Ashley, Joanna Cifredo & more.
Millions of undocumented immigrants make this country great. Their health matters too.
Posted by We are mitú on Thursday, August 17, 2017