Qnotes is proud to announce the Charlotte Trans Health Group as Organization of the Year. Coincidentally, it comes in the same year they’re celebrating their monumental decade-length anniversary.
In 2012, during the month when most folks were celebrating the New Year and making resolutions to do some things differently and better in their lives, 13 friends all focused their energy on making life better for others.
This group had pictures on their vision boards very different from most. It was at this time, when Charlotte’s transgender healthcare landscape wasn’t much to celebrate, that five hormone prescribing providers, seven mental health professionals and a surgeon came together to form CTHG.
Back then, Dr. Lisa Griffin, a psychologist with 15 years of experience and dedication to serving a diverse population of clients was planning on moving out of the Charlotte area. Griffin couldn’t imagine leaving the region with the void her absence would have created without first making sure there would be a strong and competent community of providers in place to care for the gender diverse clients she enjoyed serving for so long.
At that time, the group of medical professionals were intent on collaborating, to discuss best practices in transgender healthcare, share new information and review complex cases. We doubt many could have imagined that goal would morph into the integrative care collaborative CTHG is today, which now boasts over 50 professionals.
Indeed, it was uncharted territory many gender diverse Charlotteans are happy to have explored by such skilled and compassionate professionals. NeShaun Rice is one of the individuals benefiting from the group’s formation. Mary Costner is another. In celebration of the group’s 10th anniversary, both were more than willing to share their thoughts on what the group has meant to them and so many in the area.
Rice, who is relatively new to receiving services from CTHG says she learned about the group by accident. “I was looking for a gender therapist because I needed a referral letter from a mental health professional in order for my insurance to approve my surgery. I was specifically looking for a provider of color. I went to Psychology Today’s website, and Dr. Moss was the only one that I found as a gender therapist. My primary care physician actually has a relationship with Ms. Moss and recommended her once I shared with him that I’d made an appointment.”
Beverly “Mecca” Moss, LCMHC-S LCAS-A, is a founding Board Member of CTHG. She’s a practicing therapist and a staunch Trans advocate who never minds being the loudest voice in the room and speaking for those whose voices have been oppressed for far too long. For Rice, the group’s offerings are invaluable. “It’s important because there are a lot of women in different walks of life who do not have access to care that is life sustaining.” Fortunately, Rice is no longer one of them.
Neither is Costner, who reflected on what it means for the network to be celebrating 10 years of service. “It means a lot, because in this day and age there’s still a lot of pushback towards the LGBTQ community, especially the Trans Community. So it means a lot, it’s been a blessing.”
She continued to share a story that, unfortunately, is all too familiar to a gender diverse and Queer community that still struggles with finding competent and compassionate professionals to provide care in a responsible and dignified manner.
“I live in Gastonia and had a therapist that didn’t know anything about the Trans Community,” Costner explained. “Honestly, it was a shock. It was 2016. I thought people who had been through college and knew something about psychology would be familiar with the Transgender Community.”
That experience led Costner to the network of healthcare providers at CTHG and she’s so pleased she connected with them. “Going forward, I’m hoping that the network becomes more and more accessible to people. I heard about them word-of-mouth; someone told me to look up Trans health care online and that’s how I found them.”
Costner, and anyone who happens to land on the group’s website at https://www.charlottetranshealth.org in search of affirming providers, will find a user-friendly site as comprehensive as the services offered by the group.
Once there, users will find they’re able to refine their searches to particular needs like a provider’s level of competency, the area of town where particular services are being offered, the age of clients being catered to and accepted insurance.
For those who aren’t looking for services but aim to provide them or simply gain knowledge and information there’s plenty to delve into and access as well. Through their website the group also offers membership, community resources and information on areas of interest like Medical Care & HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy), Affirming Surgery and more.
As valiant as these efforts are, work like this doesn’t come without challenges. When asked about what challenges the group has faced, founding member, past President and current Access to Care Program Chair Holly Savoy, PhD responded without hesitation: “The current political climate.”
“There’s a growing need for services,” she added. “Growth as an organization has joys and challenges in trying to rise to meet the need. Growth includes finding member providers of different competency levels. We’re always trying to ensure that our clients have providers that can not only meet the needs [but] who also have the willingness to develop competency of being inclusive and understanding of the intersectionality of all folks that we serve, especially considering that affirming clinicians may not necessarily have staff who are on the same page with these ideals.”
Fellow founding member Moss echoed Savoy’s sentiments.
“It’s more than just physical health. It’s also about education and advocacy,” she offered.
CTHG actively educates and advocates by providing training to work with the Trans community, which Savoy said is sorely lacking in the curriculums of undergraduate, graduate and medical schools.
Moss points out the importance of partnership, along with education. “That’s been key from the beginning,” she says. “So we show up in places like schools and the judicial system, as well as the political arena to support our clients and other affirming community agencies like Charlotte Black Pride, Time Out Youth and Transcend Charlotte to assist them in advocacy.”
Both Savoy and Moss have confirmed time and again how excited they are to continue to be part of such a dedicated and effective group over the past ten years, and as the organization looks toward the future, there is hope and anticipation for a continuing diversity among leaders and clients and a fully funded, year-round access to care with pro bono direct services and programs.