by Kyle Lawson
Director of Operations
(Trigger warning article discusses sensitive topics)
“Growing up as a young gay man in rural Oklahoma during the 90s is when I learned about what happened to Matthew Sheppard,” Preston Armstrong said in sharing his experience growing up in rural Oklahoma.
“I kind of always assumed that was what the future held for me.”
For the past ten years, I have worked as a campaign manager and political/community organizer in Southern Oklahoma in some of the most rural areas of our state. Through my work, we hosted a series of listening sessions. During those sessions, it was learned that individuals, especially in the transgender, non-binary and gender-fluid community, are being refused access to healthcare.
As Wulf James shared with me, “…we are being refused care, providers are telling us they don’t do trans care for something as simple as a common cold. Well, my cold isn’t trans. It’s a cold, treat my cold and not my gender.”
In addition to this instance, numerous systemic barriers for LGBTQIA2+ folx were identified that all stemmed from having these conversations.
These barriers sat on my heart for quite some time. My immediate response was to work with a provider and set up an affirming clinic in one of the areas we heard there was an issue with access to care.
My colleague Ari and I contacted Diversity Family Health in partnership with Ardmore’s Light House Behavioral Wellness Centers to create an affirming clinic in the Ardmore area. It has been operating successfully in the area for a year now. It has worked with the local community and other local and statewide organizations to create Ardmore’s first Pride.
While this was a successful short-term solution to a long-term issue, it still stands. Even with the passage of State Question 802, which opened access to Medicaid to thousands of Oklahomans, we still have LGBTQIA2+ siblings in both Urban and Rural areas of Oklahoma that do not have direct access to health care and an affirming provider.
There is still work to be done. So much that I have stepped away from my career in the political world to join the folx over at Revan Health and Revan Rx, an affirming health provider and pharmacy. I work for them and other providers, connecting with services across the state to ensure all LGBTQIA2+ folx have access to care. We work to remove barriers preventing our community from achieving success and prosperity.
Recognizing that this was only one short-term solution to one of the many barriers, conversations were started, and folx began working together to take those barriers down. Where help from the greater community comes into play is through these conversations. We step into places we have access to, your networks, events, and other gathering spaces to have these conversations.
Our goal is to ensure those folx we meet with know there are services available. We want to work in unison, so folx know people can tear down systemic barriers and provide access to affirming care.
This article is the beginning of a series to be titled "Health Watch." Copyright The Gayly. 8.23.2021 @11:26 a.m. CST.