Bakersfield hosts first-ever Healthcare Symposium focused on advancing health equity

May 28, 2024 /

Local organizations are sending a message with its first-ever Advancing Health Equity, Sexuality, and Gender Identity Healthcare Symposium. One major topic will be how best to hold city and county agencies accountable for collecting vital data according to the new law passed SB 957 regarding Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI).

Register for this free event before June 7 by visiting The event is on Friday, June 14. It will start with a traditional indigenous smudging at 8 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. It will be held in the Bakersfield College’s (BC) Renegade Event Center. Light refreshments during the morning will be provided with several different food options for lunch.

BC students can receive Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for participation in certain workshops.

Organizers will have American Sign Language interpreters available at the event.

The target audience for the event is the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, which is comprised of 2 Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Queer or Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, and a plus sign to signify the growing identities within this community.

Feedback from 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals about their healthcare experience is important for service providers and city and county officials to know. Laws like SB 957 ensure that local healthcare providers and electronic healthcare systems ask deeper questions regarding gender and culture to give appropriate care that has a positive impact.

The Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity Bakersfield and BC alongside community organizations such as the BC Lavender Initiatives, Kern Family Health Care, Bakersfield American Indian Health Project (BAIHP), Kern Public Health, and the BC Native American Student Support & Success Program (NASSSP) made this event possible.

The symposium is the first event of many to come to Kern during the Pride festivities. During Pride month The Center will host a fair on June 29, they are still seeking 2SLGBTQIA+ vendors to apply to take part until June 4.

Jesus Martell Gonzalez, Executive Director at The Center, shared that his background in healthcare for over a decade showed him there was a lack of resources and gender-affirming care.

“A lot of times at The Center people come and they seek mental health services or counseling, and we hear so many stories about a lack of understanding in the community about the things we face- we go into these spaces to get health services or counseling and their pronouns aren’t respected,” said Gonzalez.

Although many local organizations came together to plan this symposium Gonzalez states that health care liaisons with BAIHP should be credited with the inclusive idea. Johnny Delgado and Cheyenne Bond with BAIHP offer a safe and informed space for 2 Spirit Indigenous individuals and those who are native and queer, these are vulnerable communities that are often overlooked.

The Center was able to use community focus groups and digital surveys to get feedback from the 2SLGBTQIA+ community and allies on how healthcare providers could better serve them. A 2022 study by the National Library of Medicine published Mental Health Outcomes in Transgender and Nonbinary Youths Receiving Gender-Affirming Care which found that gender-affirming care was linked to lower rates of depression and suicides.

“Gender-affirming care in essence it’s just healthcare. If a man wants to go get hair implants that’s gender-affirming care. If a woman wants to get a breast augmentation that’s gender-affirming care,” explained Gonzalez.

Senate Bill 957, introduced by Senator Scott Wiener, regarding Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI), is another way data is used to help identify how many 2SLGBTQIA+ people are in the healthcare system. Gonzalez stated that SOGI data is vital for positive change.

“There’s a lot of healthcare institutions that aren’t collecting that data, so in essence our community is then invisible. How can they provide tailored services if they don’t know what percentage of the population identifies as Bisexual, Gay or Lesbian or Trans,” Gonzalez said.

To help bridge that data gap Gonzalez stated that The Center and other nonprofits have stepped in to help individuals find the care they need. Unfortunately, many Kern residents have reported to Gonzalez that they have traveled to bigger cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles to get healthcare.

“We’re hoping that leaders from the community as well as medical providers will begin to understand the need to collect that data, and to provide these culturally affirming services here in Kern County,” Gonzalez stated.

He continued, “There have been programs in the past, but they’re shut down when a provider moves out of town. There’s no consistency.”

The symposium will also facilitate a dialogue around healthcare insurance and what your coverage can do for you.