It’s easy to forget, especially in a place like New York City, that queer people are more often than not in need of safe spaces to maintain their physical and emotional well being. Charlie Solidum prioritizes the underserved members of the queer community. You may have seen his face this year gracing one of the many posters across the city, sponsored by the New York City Commission on Human Rights, that reminds all New Yorkers of their right to use the bathroom most consistent with their gender identity. Solidum’s presence in New York reiterates the work done to ensure safe spaces for everyone across the five boroughs, and his passion for ensuring health and medical services for members of the trans community proves that he’s more than a poster boy for a movement—he’s actively working to extend the city’s most valuable resources to those who need it most.
How old are you and where you do you live? 30, Ditmas Park.
What made you first interested in your profession, and how old were you when that happened?
I have been working in healthcare since I was about 21 or so. I got my start as a peer educator working for one of the first transgender care programs in the city—but at the start, I was literally just handing out condoms on Christopher Street. I’ve always been a gregarious person, so it seemed like a pretty easy job to have while I was finishing up college. But as I became more engaged with the work and with the community, I came to learn how desperately underserved trans people are in most aspects, but particularly when it comes to competent and accessible health care. So what started as an easy job turned into a cause I am passionate about committing my life to.
Do you feel Brooklyn is still a viable place for a young person to build a career?
I’d like to think so, but it seems like it is harder than ever to be young and broke in New York. Even at this point in my life, with a stable, full-time job in the largest hospital system in NYC, it is still incredibly stressful trying to find affordable housing in Brooklyn. I can barely imagine how impossible it is for young folks with limited credit or no proof of income. The opportunities are certainly here for those who hustle, but it seems like the folks who can afford to stick around to chase them are people who are coming here with a sizable financial safety net.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I’m planning on going to nursing school in the next few years, with the long term goal of becoming a nurse practitioner. So hopefully in ten years I’ll have established my own private family practice, providing care to trans patients across the life span, with a particular focus on trans kids, teens, and young adults. And as much as I love Brooklyn, I’d probably want to be situated outside of a major metropolitan area, as services are much harder to come by in more rural areas.
Have you ever felt like leaving your career path?
Oh, I feel like leaving all the time. As it turns out, working in nonprofits, particularly coordinating care for people who are homeless, undocumented, or uninsured doesn’t really pay a lot of money. Occasionally I approach a feeling of burnout where I feel like selling out and going corporate, but I never entertain that opportunity for very long. When it comes down to it, I’d rather have work that feels meaningful than have buckets of money but hate going to work every day.
What’s felt like you biggest professional accomplishment?
I just passed the torch on a consulting project I was on for the past three years, developing and facilitating a support group for trans teenagers. Creating a space where gender non-conforming kids could not just feel safe being themselves, but a space where they could feel celebrated, felt like the most important thing I done in my professional life thus far.
What’s some advice you’d give to people trying to get a foothold in your industry?
There are plenty of opportunities to get your foot in the door, but I think emotional maintenance through self care and maintaining boundaries is crucial. Keep the fire in your belly, but also lead with the understanding that it is not up to you to singlehandedly solve all the world’s problems. Surround yourself with similarly driven people whose work you admire. And try your best to leave your work at work.
Who are your role models in your industry?
There is a woman named Zil Goldstein who is a Family Nurse Practitioner and the Director of the Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery at Mount Sinai. I’m lucky enough to get to call her a friend and colleague, and the work she does at CTMS is revolutionizing the kind of health care that is available to trans people in NYC. I’m not sure she knows it, but I’ve always looked up to her as an example of what it can look like to provide compassionate and informed care to communities that you are also a part of, which can definitely be a tricky role to navigate.
To learn about 29 more sub-thirty standouts, visit this years list of 30 Under 30.