Clare Madrigal works as a LGBTQ resource nurse and has also been a vegan and animal rights activist since 2014.
She lives in Washington D.C., USA, with her wife and their dog. She is also officially certified in Plant-Based Nutrition and uses her knowledge when when talking to her patients about improving their diets.
Q: You are working as the very first LGBTQ resource nurse at Sibley Memorial Hospital. What exactly is your job there and why is it so important?
I am working as the LGBTQ Resource Nurse at Sibley Hospital, this role is so unique because it is the first of its kind. To have a nurse in this position allows an added layer of clinical experience to fill a much needed gap. My role is to educate staff, be an advocate for patients and staff, and give outreach to the community. When LGBTQ folks seek care, there’s always that added anxiety of having to come out to your provider and worry about if you will be treated respectfully and appropriately. My goal is to educate healthcare providers to give competent care to our community. Most doctors and nurses do not yet LGBTQ education in our training. The LGBTQ community has specific health disparities that need to be addressed appropriately.
Q: Could you share your story of how you ended up in your current working position?
When I was younger I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. My mom, who is also a nurse encouraged me to go into the field. For the last 12 years, my nursing career has been in the emergency department. I like the excitement and variety of situations. I see people at their worst, mentally and physically. When my wife and I moved to Miami, there was an amazing LGBTQ activist community that we became a part of. I learned so much from these amazing folks, and when we moved to the DC area, I knew I wanted to get involved in LGBTQ health education.
I started at Sibley in 2016 and immediately got involved in the LGBTQ committee that was just getting started. As the work grew, we knew we needed someone to have a dedicated role to be able to carry out the work. My current manager wrote up a job description and we asked for hours from the administration. They were very supportive, and approved the position. As a nurse, committee member and passionate about LGBTQ health, I took on the role and have been in it since.
Q: In addition to being a nurse you are also an active animal rights activist. Does this affect your work and if so, how?
As a nurse and animal rights activist, I am not shy about my activism and most of my co-workers know how much the plight of the animals mean to me. When there are potlucks or situations with food at work, I make sure to always bring a vegan dish that will impress my coworkers. I also include information about how animals are treated when in conversation. For example, my co-workers last week were talking about what they will be bringing for our Thanksgiving potluck. I said I’d be bringing the tofurkey, and how unfortunate it is that 46 million turkeys are killed for the one day. My coworkers have told me that they’ve learned alot from me. I think being an out vegan is important, and being approachable, so that curious people can ask questions. I have had several coworker come to me for advice on how to go vegan. I have pre-prepared resources and recipes ready to send them.
I also have a “vegan” heart rate tattoo on my forearm that is a conversation starter for my patients. They are curious why I am vegan and I tell them I am vegan for the the rights of animals and have learned how beneficial eating plant-based is for our health.
Q: Where do you see the connections between being a nurse, your work for the LGBTQ community, and animal activism?
As a nurse, LGBTQ and animal activist, the connections are everywhere! The intersections of compassion encompass all
of my identities. I use every opportunity to point out the relationship between caring for humans of all cultures and all sentient living beings. When I host LGBTQ events at the hospital, I use a vegan vendor. If someone asks why the food is all veg, I tell them that this is an event that respects the lives of all living beings, and in the hospital setting, especially, we should all be eating optimally.
Q: Do you also talk about the benefits of vegan nutrition with your patients?
When it comes to my patients, I always talk to them about their diet. The majority of the patients I see, have health-issues that are directly related to diet. Most healthcare providers never counsel patients on what they are consuming. I’ve had patients get extremely defensive and angry with me when I’ve suggested cutting back on meat and dairy. Mostly I plant seeds for patients to make small changes. I also have resources that I carry with me, like PETA’s starter kit, COK (Compassion Over Killing)’s magazines, and I often print the African-American Starter Guide for patients.
I have my Plant-Based Nutrition Certification, and use that as an opening when I talk to patients about improving their diet.
Q: You and your wife are married. Were you both vegan when you met, or did you have a joined journey towards veganism?
When my wife and I met, we were both not vegan. My wife was vegan decades before, when it was not as easy. When we moved to Miami, I started protesting for Lolita, the orca at the Miami Seaquarium, I began meeting vegans and making the connection between the whale I was protesting for, and the food on my plate. In 2014, I participated in the VegWeek Challenge, felt better than I ever had in my life, and have been vegan ever since! I was also working with a vegan doctor at the time, who helped me with my journey. I’ve learned to cook and really enjoy creating beautiful, tasty, vegan dishes for my family
Q: You feed your dog vegan food, just like I do. I have experienced various negative reactions from people regarding this. Do you also receive negative comments and how do you deal with criticism?
Our dog Pumpkin, a 9 year old American Bulldog, is also vegan! For years, Pumpkin had been breaking out in skin rashes. Her face would swell up and we had to give her Benadryl 3 times per day. When I went vegan, I also learned of the horrible ingredients that are in dog food. I started her on a vegan diet and within 2 weeks, her rashes cleared up, and she has been rash free since! People always comment on how healthy she looks. Even the veterinarians think she is younger than what she is. Most people have no idea the awful things that are in dog food, so when I tell them Pumpkin’s story, and they see how happy and healthy she is, they ask me about the brands of dog food I get for her. Pumpkin is an activist in her own way, and is very vocal on her Instagram page @Pumpkin_MD.
Q: Times for the LGBTQIA community in the USA are changing under the current administration, and not for the best. Has this affected your work and how do you deal with this on a personal level?
Under the current United States government administration, LGBTQ rights are under attack. As are the rights of women, people of color, immigrants, the differently abled and of course animals. My work as a LGBTQ nurse eduator has changed, because I’ve had to become more political and vocal. When I give education to a group of healthcare providers, I make a point to inform them of how the current administration is negatively affecting the rights of the Queer community, especially transgender persons.
Personally, I have lost a lot of friends because of their support for Trump. There is no justification for voting for someone who is stripping the rights of marginalized communities. I will use my fear of this administration to be a strong, unwavering activist for all living beings, and this planet. It is so important, right now to include animals in the conversation, because they often get left out, especially with all of the constant attack on human rights.
Q: Is there anything else that you would like to share with us? Maybe a piece for thought for others?
Going vegan was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I encourage others to use your privilege and your voice to speak up for injustice. The foundation of veganism intersects with every social justice fight, and it is important to help others make that connection. Be an example of kindness, compassion and equality, that others will want to emulate!
Fotocredit: Clare Madrigal
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this interview are prepared to the interviewee’s and the interviewer’s best capacity and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of The Vegan Rainbow Project itself. Please also not that people change and so do their opinions. We kindly ask you to be mindful of that when reading past articles and/ or statements that are referenced in this interview.