When Q Hailey began her chaplain residency at NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital in 2017, she made a decision to be herself.
“In the past I would dress very feminine and try and perform heteronormative norms of society in the workplace,” says Hailey. “Most of my life, I was trying to fit into what everyone else wanted me to be.”
While she was at seminary school, she cultivated her relationship with God, which helped bring her to a place of acceptance, and during her clinical pastoral education at NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, she began to embrace what makes her unique: “I love me, I love who I am.”
Now a staff chaplain on the hospital’s pastoral care team, Hailey, who is genderqueer, says embracing her identity and not conforming to gender norms helps her bring comfort to members of the LGBTQ+ community, particularly those who have been rejected by their families. “I am a visible representation of the thing that they’re not allowed to be, or their family rejects.
“This is who I am, and this is an opportunity to provide visibility to those who may need it,” Hailey says. “It’s intentional and important to me to visibly represent a community I’m part of that has been marginalized. There are people who you wouldn’t necessarily know identify as queer who have said to me, ‘I saw you and I felt a little bit more comfortable talking to you because of that.’”
She feels it is essential to be her true self to establish trust with those she seeks to comfort. “I try to make myself available to people in their vulnerable moments, particularly those in the LGBTQ+ community,” she says. “It is what I wish I had in those moments where I was tossed aside or in spaces that weren’t safe. I try to bring that compassion into the hospital.”
As a chaplain, Hailey provides spiritual guidance and pastoral care to patients and their families, supporting those who are sick and, in some cases, helping them through the dying process.
“I work to help people get to the place where they understand that there is a way that they can still have their dignity, no matter how sick they are,” Hailey says, “and to give people dignity in death.”
Hailey says her presence is the most important part of her work, both in ministering to patients and advocating for the LGBTQ+ community. “I hold space for people in their time of trauma, allowing them to sort through whatever it is they are going through,” she says. “Probably about 75% of what we do, if not 90%, is just presence. People let you know what they need if you’re able to hear them.”
Work provided a salve for Hailey when going through personal struggles this past year, on top of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I’m so thankful for my department. They model pastoral care — who chaplains are and what we do, and how we should be present with our patients,” she says. “My boss told me, ‘Just show up,’ and the work carried me through the day.”
By bringing her full self to work, Hailey offers compassion, sensitivity, and a unique perspective not only to patients but to colleagues as well. “Being who I am allows me to bring more to the group,” says Hailey, who sits on the Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging Committee and the LGBTQ Task Force. “I am able to see things differently than other people would and offer alternative viewpoints.” She has been called to the bedsides of patients who are estranged from their families, and can offer a different perspective on why an LGBTQ+ person may not want their family with them if they were rejected by them. She says that unfortunately reconciliation doesn’t often happen, even during illness and death.
She also supports members of the LGBTQ+ community outside of work and runs Free Zone for Us, which she describes as “a sacred space of healing for queer and trans people of color.” One of her goals this year is to make self-care kits for those who have been kicked out of their homes, or have been living in a home environment that’s toxic for them, “so they know someone cares — things I wish I had in my tough moments,” she says.
Hailey says she feels at home and is embraced for who she is at NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital: “People are so accepting of me, all of me.”