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OHIO LGBT Center co-hosts virtual Rural Voices conference on caring for gender diverse and trans communities in rural America

Published: February 3, 2021 Author: Staff reports

Scholarship application for free student registration open until Feb. 19

The Ohio University Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) Center is co-hosting the one-day virtual conference “Rural Voices: Caring for Gender Diverse and Trans Communities in Rural America” on Friday, Feb. 26. 

Open to the public, the conference is jointly organized with Equitas Health, TransOhio, the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, and the Southeastern Ohio Rainbow Alliance (SEORA). OhioHealth is a financial sponsor of the conference.

Rural Voices brings together healthcare and social service professionals, community members and activists to focus on the healthcare needs and experiences of gender diverse people in rural areas. Panels include patient perspectives, provider experiences and conversations around parenting and reproduction. Through lenses of intersectionality, allyship and advocacy, all sessions feature panelists from a range of backgrounds and lived experiences.

Psychologist Maureen Osborne, Ph.D., will deliver a keynote address titled, “Differences in Rural vs Urban/Suburban Mental Health Services: Tips for Providers Working with Gender Diverse Clients.”

The conference’s key learning objective is to “develop a foundational knowledge about gender diversity, including health needs and disparities.” According to a 2019 report by the Movement Advancement Project, “transgender people in rural areas face significant health disparities” including lack of access to healthcare as well as a lack of healthcare providers who are knowledgeable and supportive of their identities.

Luvina Cooley, a second-year anthropology student in the Honors Tutorial College, is one of the panelists. “While there are many stereotypes around the quality of care for gender-diverse people in rural areas, I've found that the most important aspect has been a lack of education,” Cooley said. “Conferences like this help to decrease that disparity, and I'm so excited to be a part of it. There's a lot that we can learn from people's lived experiences like mine.”

“We are thrilled to have worked with Equitas Health and all our collaborators to put this conference together,” said Dr. Jan Huebenthal, Assistant Director of the LGBT Center. “From our conversations with students and community members, we know it can be tricky for trans folks in rural areas to find healthcare that supports and affirms their full identities. While we in Athens are lucky to have many exceptional providers, this conference offers a timely forum to have those conversations with a larger audience.”

Dr. Jane Balbo, Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine and physician at OhioHealth, will be moderating a panel on the experiences of transgender parents. 

“I’m thrilled about the conference content the planning committee has prepared,” Balbo said. “Medical providers in rural areas face different challenges and opportunities when providing gender-affirming care to our transgender and gender-diverse patients, and having an opportunity to learn from community members, activists and medical providers is so important to me.”

Continuing Medical Education (CME) credit is also available.

All interested students, community members, faculty, and staff are invited to learn more and register for the Rural Voices at: https://equitashealthinstitute.com/conferences/rural-voices-summit/

Scholarships applications for free student registration are available at the above link until Friday, Feb. 19.