Bridging the Gap Between Community and Self
When you think of community, the first thing that may come to mind is leadership. Leaders are the driving force toward change as well as advocate for accountability. The National Center for Gender Spectrum Health aims to not only trailblaze the aspect and fullness of community but one that challenges gender-based stigma and discrimination against transgender and non-binary individuals. Nic Rider, Ph. D. and Leonardo Candelario Perez, Ph.D. are two very distinct leaders that advocate for gender-affirming care through education, research, community work, and policy.
Dr. Rider is the Director of NCGSH; Assistant Professor at the Institute for Sexual and Gender Health, University of Minnesota Medical School who works as a partner with Dr. Candelario Perez, the Co-Educational Consultant of NCGSH; Lead Sexual and Gender Health Psychologist at HealthPartners. Together these two create dynamic action toward closing gaps in gender-affirming care that is intentional by community members and alleys.
Leadership looks different for every organization. For instance, Dr. Rider and Dr. Candelario Perez explained that there are significant efforts to lead and promote gender-affirming care within Minneapolis on purpose. With an example of transgender and non-binary residents requiring additional support through exposure therapy. It is safe to understand that every journey is different, and therefore clinical and professional integration is extremely important.
There are creative ways to bring attention to the numbed voices that cry out to be heard and listened to. One method taken by the youth, elders, and members of the transgender and non-binary community was an Open-Source Form to encourage unified strength through The PhotoVoice Project. A bold. Intentional. And a clear statement from those most affected by society’s pretenses of insecurity that causes divisiveness towards the gender spectrum and care. Dr. Rider and Dr. Candelario Perez stand at the gateway of continuous change.
Science and education in gender-affirming care go beyond possibility from a basic lens. Reclaiming the narrative brings comfort, strength, and productive action to areas that need the most support. Dr. Rider describes that their life’s work is dedicated to feeling connected to roots and relationships with others. Similar to Dr. Candelario Perez, they took on this path to better understand the world around them while pursuing their truth. Both had dedicated countless hours is clinical research, political criteria, and educational efforts within the community.
Representation matters. Regardless of background, story, and societal outlook- having a community is the first step in defining safe spaces that promote acceptance. Dr. Rider’s work at the Institute for Gender and Sexual Health (ISGH) focuses on the demographic of adults and research on how healthcare could better represent transgender and non-binary individuals. Many issues that transgender and nonbinary people face differ significantly from that of those who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. When asked how difficult conversations could be had while respecting the space and understanding of participants, Dr. Rider shared their response,
“I think there is a need to have more conversations from a place of curiosity and love, while also keeping boundaries that make sense at that moment. It takes a tremendous amount of emotional labor to have such conversations and keep educating others about basic human rights. With that said, I also think it is important to speak directly and honestly about all of the misinformation that is perpetuating harmful narratives about trans and nonbinary people.”
Dr. Candelario Perez chimed in and shared their perspective: “I think there needs to be a space for people to feel it’s ok to make mistakes as they learn. If we approach people and distance them by making them feel bad for the mistakes they make when working with certain communities, we will continue to have division. It’s very cliche, but it’s one of those calling in vs. calling out situations.”
Dr. Candelario Perez’s mission at HealthPartners primarily focuses on joining education and clinical research and practice for transgender and nonbinary people through Urology and Gynecology practices. As a co-educational consultant in communication with The National Center for Gender Spectrum Health. Leonardo ensures that there are accurate and efficient health resources available to transgender and nonbinary individuals today.
Efforts that effectively challenge change are on the rise. As a community, we can start by educating ourselves and bridging the gaps that afflict our community members that identify as transgender and nonbinary. Equality is more than seeing people from a distance, it’s also enabling the resources. Having conversations, going to events, and becoming more informed is act of care that will continue to build over generations. We are our ancestors’ wildest dreams when we come together as a community—we rise as one as well.
C. S. Lewis once said, “What I call my ‘self’ now is hardly a person at all. It’s mainly a meeting place for various natural forces, desires, and fears, etcetera, some of which come from my ancestors, some from my education, some perhaps from devils. The self you were really intended to be is something that lives not from nature but from God.
We charge forward because of where we came from and that is something to be eternally PROUD of.
If you would like to know more about the efforts of The National Center for Gender Spectrum Health, please visit: https://med.umn.edu/sexualhealth/national-center-gender-spectrum-health and support the everyday efforts of our leaders who continue to trailblaze toward a greater tomorrow.