By Ward Bryson
On November 11, Equitas Health hosted the 1st Annual Gender Affirming Fall Fest in Athens, Ohio. It was an absolute blast! Over one hundred attendees soaked in the amazing atmosphere, indulged in delicious food, grooved to DJ Barticus’ queer playlist, and felt the love and support of their community. Fall Fest was a celebration where local transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming individuals had a fantastic time while accessing crucial gender-affirming services.
Former Athens Linkage to Care Specialist Salem Spinelli first envisioned the event. Our team has been working tirelessly for several months to make their vision a reality. Prevention Health Navigator Emilee Hemler and Medical Health Advocate Gabriela Grijalva, LSW took charge of the planning and coordination with incredible enthusiasm and support from our office and others. They did this all while juggling their usual duties and responsibilities.
All that hard work paid off big time!
Free legal clinics and local stylists offering gender-affirming haircuts were fully booked throughout the event. What’s more, the first-ever appearance of the Equitas Health MOVe Health Center in Athens was a game-changer! The MOVe team provided a range of medical services, including HIV & STI testing, financial counseling, and wellness checks.
Besides access to Equitas Health services and having a good time, the Gender Affirming Fall Fest was also about community and empowerment. Amidst the lively backdrop of food, music, and services, attendees had the chance to connect with other local organizations at an open-air resource fair.
Southeastern Ohio Legal Services and the Athens City-County Health Department helped make legal name and gender marker changes seem less daunting and more achievable. Rock Riffle Wellness, Survivor Advocacy Outreach Program, and the Athens County Suicide Prevention Coalition brought a focus on mental health. Southeastern Ohio Rainbow Alliance and Ohio University’s LGBT Center created connections for ongoing community building, while Sojourners Care Network and Kaleidoscope Youth Center reached out to the youth who attended the event.
We cannot overstate the impact this event had on the communities we serve. It was a joy to contribute to this amazing day and see my team’s goal come to fruition. The excitement was contagious. For example, everyone was so happy and genuinely touched to see how big the impact of getting a haircut in a safe and affirming space for the first time can be for someone. Many happy tears were shed throughout the day and smiles abounded.