Highlights from Kern’s First Health Equity Symposium

June 24, 2024 /

On June 14, 2024, at 8 a.m. was the start of the inaugural Sexuality and Gender Identity Healthcare Symposium. Healthcare providers discussed several impactful topics such as Transgender healthcare for providers, Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer, deconstructing binaries in Bisexuality, zero suicide – awareness and prevention, plus more regarding substance use disorders and holistic ways of healing. 

The event was held at the Campus Center at Bakersfield College (BC), and was hosted in collaboration with Bakersfield American Indian Health Project (BAIHP), BC’s Lavender Initiatives, The Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity, and other organizations. Attendees registered upon entering where there were stickers available to openly display your pronouns. On the main event level, there were several tables and organizations like The Open Door Network handing out resources. Some resources included Fentanyl testing strips and informational pamphlets from organizations like the Dolores Huerta Foundation and Planned Parenthood. 

Venus Fultz shared at the symposium that he only has healthcare when enrolled as a college student or affiliated with a corporate job. One of Fultz’s goals for going to the event was to get more information on accessing testosterone hormones and resources on other gender-affirming care. 

“It was important for me to come here today because I don’t qualify for [Medi-Cal]. I just applied and they said I make 200 over the minimum and I’m a temporary employee here at BC, so I don’t have healthcare through them and what they do offer is too expensive,” Fultz stated.

Along with mentioning the struggles with accessing hormones and an appropriate counselor, Fultz continued by stating concerns about the safety of chest binding, which is using materials like cloth to wrap around one’s body to create a flatter chested look.

“When I was a teenager I had none of the information for that, I would bind using saran wrap and stuff like that, and that’s actually really really dangerous. But that conversation- nobody was having it with us,” said Fultz. 

Medical professionals were among some of the speakers helping educate the audience on updated terminology, prevention methods, and tips for working with a queer client. 

Mita Beach, Director of Gender Health and Wellness at DAP Health was the first main speaker. They empowered the audience to redefine the word “ally” from a noun to a verb, asking individuals to show the 2SLGBTQIA+ community your allyship in action. Beach also encourages healthcare providers in attendance to reach out to other queer coworkers or healthcare experts on information relating to queer identity and sexuality, and not to ask the client to educate the provider. 

The suicide prevention workshop was led by Kim Kartinen, Recovery Specialist for Kern Zero Suicide Team. She shared a presentation that highlighted a helpful acronym for suicide prevention: L.E.A.D. The letters stand for look and listen, explore the reason why the person is feeling suicidal, directly ask the person if they’re having suicidal thoughts, and don’t hesitate to get help or develop a plan of action to de-escalate the situation. 

Erik James Escareño also spoke and educated from their Two-spirit Indigiqueer, Deaf, and Yavapai and Chiricahua perspective. During one of the workshops Escareño held, they explained that Indigiqueer is a new contemporary term for native and indigenous individuals who are a part of the Queer community but who don’t identify as Two-Spirit. 

Between workshops, attendees were given refreshments and lunch. Ending the event was a native talking circle led by Tonantzin Guerra-Rennick, a Native spiritual leader and chaplain,  that aimed to help participants process what they learned throughout the day and to receive a blessing and smudging.