Celebrating Pride Month: Fatima Melendez

Fatima Melendez is an Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) who has spent the last two decades of her career with Southcoast Health’s Visiting Nurse Association (VNA).

When she started her career, Fatima was unsure which role she would take in healthcare, until she discovered her calling in occupational therapy. “This is it, this is the path I was meant to take,” she thought. Initially, Fatima was hesitant about working in patients’ homes, but she soon realized how much of a difference she could make in helping people remain safe in spaces where they were comfortable.

Fatima’s three children all identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, and she affectionately refers to them as her “gaybies.” It was her transgender middle child who inspired Fatima to become a more visible ally, particularly for LGBTQ+ youth navigating gender transitions.

Her son was the first openly transgender student at his high school, and Fatima actively advocated for his rights when teachers and fellow students were unsupportive. She fought for his access to facilities, like bathrooms and locker rooms, that aligned with his gender identity. “I even had to copy and highlight MA state laws that showed my son’s right to use these facilities,” she reflects. Fatima notes that her son paved the way for other students, and she dubbed him ‘the Queer Pioneer.’ “I hope he realizes the role he played and how, because of the sacrifices he made, it is so much easier for the students that came after him,” Fatima says.

Celebrating Pride means a lot to Fatima and her family. The year her son came out as transgender, she took her eldest two children to a pride festival. “What an amazing experience and community of people,” Fatima says. “My daughter had an incredible time, but my son… it was the first time in what seemed like forever that he felt at home, himself and safe to express himself. I get emotional every time I think about it.” Since then, Fatima and her family have made it a yearly tradition to participate in Pride celebrations.

Fatima also expresses her gratitude for Southcoast’s LGBTQIA+ Welcoming and Knowledgeable initiative, which focuses on ensuring full access to high-quality care for all patients. One of its greatest accomplishments has been adapting the medical records system to gather Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) information required to provide optimal care for LGBTQIA+ patients.

“Having the SOGI questions in place gives me, as a parent, a sense of relief that my child will be provided the most effective care,” she says. “I know firsthand trying to quietly approach the front staff at a medical appointment to make sure they used the correct name and pronouns when speaking with my son.” Fatima takes great pride in working for an organization that genuinely cares about its staff and patients.

Looking ahead, Fatima is committed to providing the best possible care to patients of all races, religions, disabilities, sexual orientations, and gender identities. She is considering taking coursework to pursue a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) certificate to help others attain the rights that she has fought for on behalf of her family.

Learn More about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Southcoast Health by visiting Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Southcoast Health | Southcoast Health.