KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Reports show that LGBTQ people are less likely to have access to health care for many reasons, including insurance issues, cost and bias.
For the at least 28,000 people in the Kansas City region who are transgender, four organizations are working to make it easier to access health care.
Places that serve the LGBTQ community are getting more phone calls from people needing health services.
"Over the last five months, I have had about 40 individuals call just to establish care," said Kim Tilson, nurse care manager at Truman Medical Center. She also leads the LGBTQ Patient Advocacy program there.
Tilson said when many people hear “transgender,” they think health care means hormone therapy. But she says the majority of calls she receives are simply to set up primary care.
"There's so much more than just hormones,” Tilson said. “You have to take care of the physical and mental body before you take care of that hormonal piece.”
That's why Truman Medical Center, Thrive Health Connection, The Transgender Institute and the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project are launching an intensive six-week seminar for transgender people who have questions about health care. The organizations received a grant from Prime Health Foundation to make the seminar possible.
The seminar is free and will take place at Thrive Health Connection at East 50th Street and Prospect Avenue once a week beginning Sept. 10. The sessions will feature expert speakers, panels and different conversation points.
"It'll allow people to have more information to make decisions in terms of how they live their lives, how they access care and how they receive support in the community," said Caroline Huffman, executive director of Thrive Health Connection.
Korea Kelly, a youth and adult empowerment specialist at the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project, said many times, doctors do not know how to respond to transgender people’s needs.
"As an older trans woman myself, going into the doctor, it's really teaching the doctor about your body, about communicating," Kelly said.
Tilson said many doctors and nurses don't have the training to give culturally sensitive care, and that's why she has done training programs with area medical schools.
It's getting better, but she says the city still doesn't have many resources that offer specialized care for transgender people.
"You have issues, like for a trans man, they may or may not still have female parts,” Tilson said. “They may still need well-woman exams, and those are things you have to take into account. For a post-operative trans woman, they may still have a prostate, which still needs to be checked."
Leaders at these four organizations hope the seminar will help people approach health care without fear.
"We have different health care needs, but we're still just an individual that needs treated," Tilson said.
Caroline Gibbs, executive director of The Transgender Institute, said the reason she's getting more phone calls is because people are less afraid to come out now.
The Transgender Institute provides counseling for mental health and also helps connect patients to surgeons and endocrinologists to plan their journey to transitioning.
Gibbs says the No. 1 thing transgender people say they need is for people to simply ask them who they are and what pronouns they prefer to use.
"I would like to see the people we serve in these groups to walk away with, primarily, a feeling of great respect for themselves and a belief that others truly care for them," Gibbs said.
Anyone interested in signing up for the six-week seminar should contact Huffman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 816-561-8784.