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LGBTI Health Summit in Boulder, Colorado

Representatives came from across the United States— and around the world. They included service providers, political activists, community organizers, health professionals, public health researchers, organizational leaders, and policy-makers concerned about the health and wellness of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) communities. The first-ever Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex Health Summit, held in Boulder Colorado from August 21 to 25, was very different from the typical health conference. Over two hundred activities, debates, workshops, performances, and speeches covered a rich mix of workshops focused on issues impacting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex health.

It was here that LGBTI health leaders began crafting a collective plan of action for supporting community health and wellness over the next five years and commited themselves to a health movement that links service provision with political activism, and that addresses the ways in which systems of oppression embedded in social, economic, and political structures create health disparities related to sexual and gender identity, race and ethnicity, and socioeconomic class.

What amounted to a major public conversation was launched to examine and clarify the relationship between LGBTI health movements and the federal, state, and local governments. Attendees discussed what their health movement’s relationship should be to the Bush administration, what happens when government-driven public health efforts conflict with our community-based health agenda, and what the relationship should be between LGBTI leaders in governmental positions and community-based LGBTI leaders.

Recognizing that their understanding of the health and wellness of LGBTI communities had to be reframed within the changing context of critical health challenges such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, violence, and mental health, the workshops and seminars focused on the strengths of LGBTI people and the assets of our communities that have allowed us to survive and thrive in the face of powerful threats to community wellness.

This Summit sought to neither pathologize our cultures nor demonize specific subcultures, but rather to confront head-on the problematic aspects of our diverse LGBTI cultures and internal community dynamics. The result was a new vision of LGBTI health which focuses on resilience, empowerment, and long-term vision.

In addition to the traditional academic presentations, the program included workshops on massage and touch, stress reduction, healing from trauma, yoga, movement, and dance. There was an entire track of holistic health workshops, designed to enhance the self-care of Summit participants. While filled with exciting workshops, plenaries, and activities, the Summit also included include leisurely breaks, extended time for relaxed conversations, and ample opportunity for retreat and solitude.

Pre-Summit sessions included a session focusing on Trans-health, titled Beyond Healthy People 2010: Transhealth in the New Millennium, coordinated by Jodi Sperber of John Snow, Inc. The primary focus of this session was on removing barriers to ANY health-care: being able to access medical needs (e.g. hormones,), dealing with self-denial (because of institutionalized phobias), and overcoming personal fears.

Participants expressed concern over the lack of a unified knowledge base as well as a variety of other topics, including:

  • Surviving the legal/prison systems
  • Trans- as a mental illness vs. a medical condition
  • What defines “Healthy” in the context of being Trans
  • Existing trans social networks and a culture of support
  • Integration of identities aiming at “ease and comfort”
  • The ability to “come out” in the work-place
  • Safety, Employment, Housing, and other basic needs
  • The need for a sense of Spirituality

A strategy for future action was discussed and a materials group planned to assemble research, contacts, URLs, and other resources and place them at a single source for compilation. A central website was proposed for links and pointers. The objective is to reach more than the usual “white middle-class” people who are typically considered. The example of Denver, which has no city-sponsored trans-health services, was cited as well as the problem of HMOs and doctors who don’t want to be educated about the needs of trans-people. How to get certain procedures that are considered “gender-specific” paid for by insurance that typically excludes them, because of the connection with trans-health needs, was designated a high priority.

For more information on Beyond Healthy People 2010: Transhealth in the New Millennium, contact Jodi Sperber at:

John Snow, Inc.
44 Farnsworth Street
Boston, MA 02210

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