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KC PrideFest vendors, attendees discuss importance of gender-affirming health care

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Posted at 11:27 AM, Jun 10, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — PrideFest 2024 ended Sunday, but gender-affirming health care concerns remain ongoing for many members of Kansas City's LGBTQ+ community.

“I’ve been looked down upon, I’ve been looked at weirdly and I’ve felt like I was in an uncomfortable situation,” said Connor Benson, an attendee at PrideFest.

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Benson, 21, said he expects to be affirmed at a place like PrideFest, but he can’t necessarily say the same for his health care.

“Whenever I go into any sort of healthcare facility, I want to feel welcomed, I want to feel understood and I just don’t want to be looked at in a certain way,” Benson said. “You know, I’m a human being.”

Health care is not just top of mind for young adults but for parents, too.

“As a mom, it absolutely warms my heart to know that my kids have an opportunity to come out here and see what resources are available to them,” said parent Stacee Showalter.

The available resources included free HIV testing, something Laura Saturamsky helps facilitate with Vivent Health.

“I think providers need to be more comfortable with the topic of LGBTQ health,” Saturamsky said. “The medical part of it is only one piece, someone having a place to live and food to eat, that’s also part of the overall well-being.”

At Vivent, individuals with HIV can receive medical, dental, housing and other forms of care all in one place.

“It is something that’s getting more popular to realize that a whole being is what we need to take care of, not just a particular disease or infection or whatever the case may be,” Saturamsky said. “So, we like to take a whole-person approach.”

Vivent wasn't alone at PrideFest. For the first time, HCA’s Menorah Medical Center advertised it offers breast and chest screenings specifically for transgender and non-binary individuals.

“I’ve had a lot of people say, ‘Wow, thank you, we need this,’” said Jennifer Wegner, a nurse with HCA who helped spearhead the screenings. “Most of my career as a nurse has been trying to eliminate barriers to care. So this feels natural to me to do this, and it’s important, it needs to be done.”

Wegner said a mammogram can sometimes be the difference between life and death.

“Sometimes prior bad experiences with health care providers or traumatic experiences, just personally, people can avoid these screenings, and early detection is the best way to get early treatment and a potential cure,” Wegner said.

Inclusive approaches like these are a start. However, it’s only the beginning.

“Progression takes time,” Benson said. “It takes a lot of energy. We have to be patient, and we have to keep spreading awareness.”