In the midst of the battle for equal rights for the transgender community, individuals are standing up one by one, declaring better healthcare, benefits, and humane treatment for all across the community. They and their allies will all converge in Atlanta at this year’s National Trans Health Conference from Nov. 8–10 putting an emphasis on the theme “Transgender Wholeness: Mind | Body | Spirit.”
“Whether you’re a front desk receptionist, police officer, therapist, case manager, social worker, nurse or a primary care provider, this conference is for you,” said founder and CEO of Someone Cares, Inc., Ronnie Bass.
He knows what it takes to help transgender individuals live their most authentic lives. For the past 22 years, his non-profit organization has served more than 80,000 individuals — including those in the trans community — stay proactive with their physical health. At this year’s conference, however, an emphasis on mental and spiritual health will give even more depth to the journey transgender individuals undertake in their lives.
Speakers from around the country will dive deep into educational topics including trans youth, spirituality, HIV criminalization, PrEP, holistic care, and pre- and post-reassignment surgery. Clinical sexologist and psychotherapist Kristie Overstreet joins the conference for the first time as a keynote speaker, discussing Transgender Healthcare in Action.
“It’s all about the issues, barriers, and fears that transgender individuals face when they’re seeking healthcare,” she said. “I’ll also get to talk to providers and any healthcare givers in the audience to learn best practices, how you set up an inclusive practice, and how you work best with the transgender individual.”
In her experience as a healthcare professional, she’s witnessed many hurdles transgender patients are faced with, including discriminatory medical-ofﬁce environments, financial instability, and even geographical location barriers, according to national statistics.
For example, the Center for American Progress reports that 33 percent of patients delayed seeking preventative care because of mistreatment within the healthcare system; Fenway Health asserted that one in five transgender people were turned away from their healthcare provider; the National Center for Transgender Equality stated that transgender and gender non-conforming individuals were three times more likely to travel more than 50 miles for transgender-competent care.
“They need to know that they’re not alone and there’s a lot of people out there suffering,” said Overstreet. “They’re suffering because of how our society and culture is treating them.” Recently, through a memo released by the Department of Health and Human Services, officials considered narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth. It sparked outrage across the country with the transgender community and trans allies standing up to the current administration stating, “Trans people will not be erased.”
Overstreet says conferences like this one are what binds the trans community and its allies even closer together even during such a tumultuous political climate. “We are advocates, we are allies, we speak out, we support, and we will do everything in our power to make sure that doesn’t happen,” she said.
The multiple aspects of a transgender individual’s life, as emphasized in this year’s conference theme, allows speakers from across the country to converge and provide a better understanding of the transgender journey. Overstreet knows it’s about many different areas of development during an individual’s transition.
“It’s the integration. Someone’s identity and awareness of who they are is only one part of their whole self, and transgender individuals work hard enough to find out their true [selves] and then be able to integrate the emotional, physical, intellectual, spiritual, and sexual selves as a whole person,” she said.
Dr. Jason Schneider works at Emory School of Medicine and specializes in LGBT Health. He’ll bring another angle of healthcare to the table, one encompassing spiritual health and beyond: holistic health.
“Trans people are human like the rest of us,” said Dr. Schneider. “They struggle and persevere as it relates to health in a holistic sense just like anybody else. We have to think about spirituality, we have to think about support systems, including family and religious institutions to support trans-identified people through their transitions.”
He’s part of a conference that was created to give the community a place to meet, discuss differing perspectives, and learn a new approach to connecting the trans community within as well as with allies around the country. It’s doing just that. Because of this conference, medical professionals have a way to improve healthcare for transgender individuals, allowing them to transition seamlessly into a new life truly meant for them. The end goal is a world where fear doesn’t dictate whether appropriate medical care is given and it starts with knowledge, understanding, and power.
“You get that dialogue, you get the ideas, and you learn about other resources that are out there, right here in Georgia and also beyond,” Overstreet said. “That’s what’s so great about having so many of us coming outside of Georgia to bring in our resources, best tips, and practices to the attendees.”
To register for the 2018 National Trans Health Conference, go to S1CATL.org or call their headquarters at 678-921-2706.