Medical Professionals Meet in Fort Lauderdale for Transgender Education

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When it comes to being LGBT, Judith Reichman calls the T a sort of “crooked T,” a member of the group that tends to be overlooked.

“We should be an all-inclusive community. It’s like the ‘T’ is kind of hanging on to the LGB,” she said.

In South Florida, there’s been a move to change this attitude. Reichman, the transgender program manager for the Broward County Health Department, founded the Transgender Symposium three years ago. Teaming up with the local chapter of the cancer support group Gilda’s Club, the club is hosting a Transgender Professional’s Meet and Greet to follow the first day symposium.

“It encourages professionals working with transgender to encourage their clients to receive early screenings,” said Gilda’s Club Program Manager Sam Budyszewick. “ what doctors to go to, what doctors are sympathetic and familiar working with the transgender community.”

The meet and greet is April 12 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Duffy’s Bar and Grill in Fort Lauderdale. Professionals who attended the symposium, which lasts two days from April 12 to 13 at the Embassy Suites in Fort Lauderdale, are invited to attend the meet and greet, as well as anyone in the public interested in learning more about transgender health.

Tiffany Arieagus, a case manager at SunServe, drag legend in the South Florida community, and an 18-year cancer survivor, will be the guest speaker at the event.

For transgender individuals, being proactive in their health can require overcoming multiple hurdles both financially and emotionally. With the symposium and networking opportunity, health professionals of all fields can learn about how to better serve the transgender community.

Reichman has been working with HIV/AIDS for almost 30 years and with the Broward County Health Department for the last four. In her years working in the LGBT community, she has seen many transgender men and women deterred from going to the doctor because of doctors who are not understanding or educated in their special needs.

“Let’s take a female-to-male who still has gynecological problems, still needs certain things done. If you were sitting in a gynecologist’s office with tattoos and a beard, you would feel very uncomfortable. If you were to go into an emergency room and somebody were to give you a checkup and find that the lower half of your body is not the way your upper half looks, there are problems there. It’s being not only culturally sensitive but it’s being culturally educated,” Reichman said.

The symposium is from April 12 to 13 at the Embassy Suites in Fort Lauderdale and has grown from a one-day, standing room only event to a two-day affair filled with speakers covering all sorts of topics. This year, multiple medical schools and nursing school programs are sending students to attend. With the interest in the symposium growing, as well as help from funders, the transgender community has been getting more of the attention it deserves.

Gilda’s Club has always had special cancer support groups and programs for LGBT patients and their loved ones, but only recently had been able to specifically reach out to the transgender community. In June, the chapter will be launching an LBT group, a monthly support and networking group for patients, caregivers, partners and parents of lesbians, bisexuals and female-to-male transgender.

“We want to include everybody and there are definitely barriers when it comes to the transgender community,” Budyszewick said.

To learn more about the Gilda’s Club Meet and Greet on April 12, call 954-763-6776.Christiana Lilly

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