Ahimsa Tea bout is a guardian ad litem, a court-appointed person to look after neglected or abused minors, to a young girl confused about her identity.
Teabout was also confused. She didn’t know what to make of her young girl wondering whether or not she wanted to use male pronouns. To educate herself and be a supportive guardian, Teabout attended the Compass LGBT center of the Palm Beaches’ fifth annual Women’s Wellness Conference. There, she attended a session on transgender mental health and said she left knowing more than she did when she went in.
“[I learned] she’s not alone, and the confusion is normal,” Teabout said about the session. “What she’s feeling is normal.”
Dozens of other men and women like Teabout showed up two weeks ago to the conference to learn about health issues affecting lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LBT) women. Palm Beach County Victim Services, social workers, mental health counselors, nurses and doctors all touched on aspects of women’s health that go overlooked.
Compass Health Services Coordinator Lysette Perez organized the event alongside a board of community leaders. Perez expressed her frustration with traditional health conferences targeted toward providers — not consumers — during her opening remarks.
“When they have health [events], it’s usually focused on stress relief techniques, like pedicures and drinking wine,” she said. “This is the only conference I’ve been to that teaches consumers how to be well and reduce their own risks.”
Among one of the most crowded sessions was “Heart Disease in Women,” led by registered nurse Jennifer LaChapelle. She informed the audience that symptoms of heart disease are much more subtle in women than in men.
Unlike dramatizations in movies and television, women don’t experience paralyzing chest pain — they instead get less severe symptoms like nausea, shortness of breath and back pain.
“Women take care of everyone else, but we don’t take care of ourselves … this information needs to be out there,” LaChapelle said.
According to the academic healthcare nonprofit , most cardiovascular disease research is largely conducted with male subjects, so women are assumed to have the same symptoms. Heart disease the leading cause of death for both men and women, according to the .
Reproductive, relationship and mental health were also talked about at length. Teabout’s session, Transgender Mental Health with social worker Lynn Allen, had to be kicked out of their space to make room for the next session because the audience was locked in discussion.
“It’s not an easy world to live in, and it’s toughest on transgenders,” said Allen, who specializes in working with transgender youth, adults and their families.
Chiropractor Victoria Cunnea shared her and her wife’s fertility journey in her “Fertility: Puberty to Parenthood” session. The couple has successfully had two kids — one who’s 2 months old and another who’s 4 years old.
But while Cunnea researched different methods for her and her wife to have a baby, she realized there was no one-stop place to do research — which incentivized her to teach the session at the conference.
“It took a lot of digging and looking at blog after blog,” she said about the research process. “I wanted to put all of it together with each component there.”
Palm Beach County Victim Services also took an in-depth look at the prevalence of intimate LBT partner violence.
Compass offered free HIV testing and CVS provided free flu shots throughout the day.
Perez called the event a success, and said she sees the event getting bigger on an annual basis. This was “the most engaged group of attendees” the event has ever had, she said.
“I’m a big believer in [the idea] nothing for us, without us, is about us.” Perez said. “There are things we need to keep on learning.”