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Pride Stories: Derek Croissette

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Community By Birth and By Choic

Derek Croissette, 29, first tried cannabis his senior year of college, never thinking then that it would become such a central and important part of his life. What began as “willy nilly” consumption for the sake of trying something new suddenly became medical when Croissette fell ill that summer.

“I found out I have HIV a couple of months after I graduated college,” Croissette said. “I was super sick over the summertime wondering what was going on.”

What was occasional, casual consumption became necessary to sustain an appetite, Croissette said. He began consuming cannabis regularly as a means of getting through meals.

“I recalled a couple of times I got the ‘munchies.’ After that, it’s not the munchies, it’s ‘now I have an appetite’, period,” he said. 

Noticing the difference cannabis made in his everyday well-being, Croissette sought out a doctor’s recommendation to become a medical cannabis patient under Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program. Ultimately, Croissette said, he received a medical cannabis card for anxiety and depression, which he had been living with following his HIV diagnosis. (HIV/AIDS is a qualifying condition on its own in Pennsylvania’s program.

But it wasn’t just medicine that Croissette found in cannabis – he also found a community. Maybe it was that cannabis consumers also knew what facing unfair stigma felt like, something Croissette said he experienced both as a gay man and after his HIV-positive diagnosis. Or maybe it was just that people were more relaxed when consuming cannabis. Ultimately, Croissette realized this cannabis community was a natural fit for him.

“I just always thought it was a cool and fun thing, the friendliness and welcoming [attitude] of people who consume cannabis,” he said. “It was nice to have support from that community and the LGBTQ+ community at the same time for these new things I was going through.”

Croissette said he found conversations flowing naturally when consuming cannabis with others, and he felt compelled to be more open and share more with acquaintances, which boosted his mental health as well. Croissette emphasized the importance of the intersection of the LGBTQ+ community and cannabis community – one he was born into, and one he chose to join.

“[It’s important] to feel comfortable with who you are in more ways than one,” Croissette said. “It feels good to have support in both the community I’m innately a part of and one that I choose to belong to.”

When he was hired at Ethos in Philadelphia’s “gayborhood” as a Patient Care Associate, Croissette made sure to reinforce the intersection between cannabis and the LGBTQ+ community which had been so important to him.

“[We want to make] people feel immediately more comfortable and we try very hard when we check people in at Ethos to ask for their pronouns on their first visit, or if they have a preferred name or a deadname they don’t want us to use,” Croisette said. “Some people who come in are very nervous; I try to find those people and talk to them and make them feel like a friend.”

The cannabis community, like the LGTBQ+ community, is vast, Croissette said. He added it includes people that many often overlook – non-consumers. 

“Another thing to think about too is just because you don’t consume cannabis doesn’t mean you’re not in the cannabis community,” Croissette said, emphasizing the importance of allyship. “If you don’t consume regularly or even at all, but you can see the benefits that it gives the patients, that is all that really matters.”

The importance of that support in the face of prohibition cannot be understated, Croissete said. And, as a gay cannabis consumer living with HIV, that support extends beyond the cannabis community alone.

“It’s silly, but they’re an ally to the cannabis community, LGBTQA, and their allies,” Croissette said.

Croissette is no stranger to the intersection of other communities as well, including in his life as an athlete and a volunteer. He is an active member of the Philadelphia chapter of Stonewall Sports, most recently playing on the LGBTQ+ athletic club’s kickball team. In addition, he volunteers for HOBY – Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership, a high school leadership seminar. In each of these communities, Croissette said authenticity is always his goal. 

“HOBY is not LGBTQ+ … but I receive message[s from the students] thanking me for being my authentic self and presenting myself in a true way,” Croissette said. “It’s nice to know that being my true self, even at this leadership seminar, they are seeing me as someone who is living their best life and not hiding who they are.”

Read more Pride Stories here

 

Community By Birth and By Choic

Derek Croissette, 29, first tried cannabis his senior year of college, never thinking then that it would become such a central and important part of his life. What began as “willy nilly” consumption for the sake of trying something new suddenly became medical when Croissette fell ill that summer.

“I found out I have HIV a couple of months after I graduated college,” Croissette said. “I was super sick over the summertime wondering what was going on.”

What was occasional, casual consumption became necessary to sustain an appetite, Croissette said. He began consuming cannabis regularly as a means of getting through meals.

“I recalled a couple of times I got the ‘munchies.’ After that, it’s not the munchies, it’s ‘now I have an appetite’, period,” he said. 

Noticing the difference cannabis made in his everyday well-being, Croissette sought out a doctor’s recommendation to become a medical cannabis patient under Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program. Ultimately, Croissette said, he received a medical cannabis card for anxiety and depression, which he had been living with following his HIV diagnosis. (HIV/AIDS is a qualifying condition on its own in Pennsylvania’s program.

But it wasn’t just medicine that Croissette found in cannabis – he also found a community. Maybe it was that cannabis consumers also knew what facing unfair stigma felt like, something Croissette said he experienced both as a gay man and after his HIV-positive diagnosis. Or maybe it was just that people were more relaxed when consuming cannabis. Ultimately, Croissette realized this cannabis community was a natural fit for him.

“I just always thought it was a cool and fun thing, the friendliness and welcoming [attitude] of people who consume cannabis,” he said. “It was nice to have support from that community and the LGBTQ+ community at the same time for these new things I was going through.”

Croissette said he found conversations flowing naturally when consuming cannabis with others, and he felt compelled to be more open and share more with acquaintances, which boosted his mental health as well. Croissette emphasized the importance of the intersection of the LGBTQ+ community and cannabis community – one he was born into, and one he chose to join.

“[It’s important] to feel comfortable with who you are in more ways than one,” Croissette said. “It feels good to have support in both the community I’m innately a part of and one that I choose to belong to.”

When he was hired at Ethos in Philadelphia’s “gayborhood” as a Patient Care Associate, Croissette made sure to reinforce the intersection between cannabis and the LGBTQ+ community which had been so important to him.

“[We want to make] people feel immediately more comfortable and we try very hard when we check people in at Ethos to ask for their pronouns on their first visit, or if they have a preferred name or a deadname they don’t want us to use,” Croisette said. “Some people who come in are very nervous; I try to find those people and talk to them and make them feel like a friend.”

The cannabis community, like the LGTBQ+ community, is vast, Croissette said. He added it includes people that many often overlook – non-consumers. 

“Another thing to think about too is just because you don’t consume cannabis doesn’t mean you’re not in the cannabis community,” Croissette said, emphasizing the importance of allyship. “If you don’t consume regularly or even at all, but you can see the benefits that it gives the patients, that is all that really matters.”

The importance of that support in the face of prohibition cannot be understated, Croissete said. And, as a gay cannabis consumer living with HIV, that support extends beyond the cannabis community alone.

“It’s silly, but they’re an ally to the cannabis community, LGBTQA, and their allies,” Croissette said.

Croissette is no stranger to the intersection of other communities as well, including in his life as an athlete and a volunteer. He is an active member of the Philadelphia chapter of Stonewall Sports, most recently playing on the LGBTQ+ athletic club’s kickball team. In addition, he volunteers for HOBY – Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership, a high school leadership seminar. In each of these communities, Croissette said authenticity is always his goal. 

“HOBY is not LGBTQ+ … but I receive message[s from the students] thanking me for being my authentic self and presenting myself in a true way,” Croissette said. “It’s nice to know that being my true self, even at this leadership seminar, they are seeing me as someone who is living their best life and not hiding who they are.”

Read more Pride Stories here

 

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