Mautner Project: The National Lesbian Health Organization arrived as a new member of the Whitman-Walker Health family in June 2013. With 26 years of expertise and passion for lesbian health and advocacy, Mautner Project aspired to bring that energy and rich experience to Whitman-Walker’s menu of services for lesbian and bisexual women.
Mautner Project is named for Mary Helen Mautner who died from breast cancer in 1988. Susan Hester, Mary Helen’s partner, along with a close circle of women friends formed a strong network to provide the emotional and practical support that Mary Helen and Susan needed during this difficult time. In one of the last notes written by Mary Helen documenting her cancer journey, she pointed out that many lesbian women did not have the level of support that she came to count on during her illness. She urged those who had helped her to turn their attention to other women who would need their support. Shortly after Mary Helen’s death, they came together to honor her wish in an amazing way.
Although Mautner Project grew to become a national lesbian health organization, the organization never lost its commitment to the women of the DC, Maryland and Virginia area, providing direct services such as transportation, shopping, yard work and emotional support.
Educating women about their bodies and how to best interact with medical providers was one of Mautner’s first program priorities. Gathering women together in a safe and friendly atmosphere allowed trained staff and volunteers to break down some of the shame and ignorance many lesbian and bisexual women felt as they attempted to receive medical care. By learning what health screenings were recommended to them and becoming familiar with some basic medical terminology, women found that this information eased the discomfort of most medical interactions.
From there, Mautner developed programs that became nationally recognized models including Removing The Barriers, a cultural competency training crafted to educate doctors, nurses, social workers and frontline medical staff in effective service delivery to LGBT communities. This curriculum was requested and evaluated by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. The Removing The Barriers training has been updated and expanded to be more inclusive of a larger representation of LGBTQ communities.
Looking forward as our community ages, the Removing the Barriers training now contains a “Silver” component that focuses on the health needs and lived experiences of LGBTQ elders. Other programs included S.H.E. (Spirit Health Education) Circle, a program based on information gained from the Spirit Study. This was the first study to look at health beliefs and behaviors of African American Lesbians. The survey and program was built to support African American lesbians in making healthy choices while respecting understood public health beliefs and behaviors. Additionally, this study helped create Making Our Vitality Evident (MOVE), a healthy weight program constructed for lesbian and bisexual women.
As a small, but dedicated staff of five, Mautner Project began our formal collaboration with Whitman-Walker, reinvigorating Whitman-Walker’s commitment to lesbian and bisexual women. Mautner Project has expanded its services to include all persons regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. This has allowed Mautner Project of Whitman-Walker Health to provide services and fill in the gaps for people who may have otherwise had difficulty maintaining a cancer treatment schedule. With knowledge, sensitivity, and caring, Mautner Project has successfully integrated into the health service delivery model of Whitman-Walker while maintaining our original commitment to education, direct services, and emotional support that sees and respects the needs and experiences of each client Mautner encounters.
Mautner Project has also proven to be a vital asset to the Whitman-Walker Community Health team, providing HIV testing and counseling for literally thousands of clients.
Mautner Project of Whitman-Walker continues our commitment of creating an environment that inspires new ideas to provide better care for all people.