History of the Q Card Project

Click here to download and print a one-page info sheet!

Project Founder Genya Shimkin developed the Q Card idea in 2012, while working on a master’s degree at the University of Washington School of Public Health. With help from a classmate, Genya set out to create a simple communication tool that could improve healthcare for queer youth. Between 2012 and 2013, she developed a sample version of the Q Card, and brought it to interviews with local healthcare providers, educators, youth advocates, and queer/trans* youth themselves. In these conversations, she asked for feedback on the card content and design, and asked about ways to improve relationships between queer youth and healthcare providers.

After collecting all of their input and ideas, which showed that people loved the concept of a Q Card, Genya drafted a new version, this time with the help of professional graphic designer Alice Lee. In the fall of 2013, she raised over $3,000, enough money to print 35,000 copies of the Q Card, plus Q Card stickers and note cards. (Check out our queer-owned printer, Girlie Press!) Since the beginning of the project, a number of local partners volunteered their time and services to make the Q Card a reality. The Q Card has always been a community-based and community-driven project, and the team is proud to work with diverse partners committed to improving the health of queer and trans* youth.

The Q Card project has always used an asset-based framework, which acknowledges that most queer and trans* youth are healthy and well-adjusted. They are not inherently broken, sick, or disordered. They are smart and resilient and strong and creative, and they deserve the best care in environments free from judgment and stigma. The history of healthcare in this country is unfortunately tied up in many forms of oppression (racism, sexism, cissexism, heterosexism, ageism, ableism, etc.) which carry through to today, and often make it harder for queer/trans* communities- and especially queer/trans* youth- to access and navigate healthcare systems and services. We believe the Q Card is a small but powerful way to challenge the oppression that permeates the healthcare system.

If you’d like to get involved in the Q Card Project, please email Genya at genya@qcardproject.com.

Read Q Card's Executive Summary

How to use a Q Card

Youth can find Q Cards all over King County, Washington. During the research phase of the project, youth suggested a number of places they’d want to find Q Cards, so that’s where we tried to put them: drop-in centers, libraries, community centers, clinics, and schools.

The Q Card itself has a three-panel design that lets youth fill in their name, pronouns, sexual orientation, gender identity, and provides additional space for youth to list any concerns or questions. We imagine youth picking up a Q Card out in the world, filling it out (if that feels safe), and bringing it to an appointment with a healthcare provider (physician, nurse, naturopath, therapist, etc.). Then we hope that youth can use the Q Card to start (or continue) an open and honest conversation with their provider about privacy, confidentiality, and their healthcare needs. Youth can do this by handing the Q Card to a provider in the exam room, by reading through it with a provider, or simply by having a blank Q Card and talking about their answers to the different questions printed inside.

It is important that young patients understand what information healthcare providers can and cannot share with other people. By talking about what information it’s OK to share and with whom, youth and providers can build trusting relationships built on mutual respect. In addition, youth should feel safe in healthcare settings, and dialogue about confidentiality can help validate their experiences and encourage them to remain engaged in care. One they’ve established this level of trust, youth may feel more comfortable disclosing personal issues related to sexuality and gender.

The bottom panel of the Q Card is a tear-off, and is meant to be left with the healthcare provider. This panel has tips for providers on how to provide more sensitive care to queer youth. Of course, it is totally up to youth to decide what happens to the Q Card after the visit. They may decide to keep the whole thing, hand it over to a provider, or just tear off the bottom section and leave that after the visit.

Though the concept is simple, we believe that the Q Card has the potential to change the way queer youth interact with healthcare. If you have used a Q Card, or received one from a patient, please be sure to fill out our quick survey to let us know how it went!


Genya Shimkin, Founder

Genya moved to Seattle in 2011 to pursue a Master’s Degree in Community-Oriented Public Health Practice at the University of Washington, and graduated in June 2013. Her primary areas of research and practice include LGBTQ health and healthcare disparities, HIV prevention and education, and harm reduction. Originally from Albany, New York, Genya holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Rights and Russian Studies from Bard College. She has completed a range of community-based public health projects in New York’s Hudson Valley, St. Petersburg (the Russian one), Baltimore, and around Puget Sound. Genya currently works at Teen Feed in Seattle, where she serves as Team Lead for the Youth Access to Care project, which works to link homeless and unstably housed young adults with healthcare services. She runs the Q Card Project with a dedicated group of friends and volunteers, and offers trainings for youth and providers throughout the Seattle area (email genya@qcardproject.com if you’re interested in having her talk to your group!). Genya enjoys drinking tea, petting puppies, and wearing bow ties.

To learn more about the rest of the team, visit their websites below!

Alice Lee, Graphic Designer

Amy Hagopian, Research Advisor

Ian Maki, Community Evaluation Advisor

Citizen Code, Development Partner