Safe, Supportive, Affirming, Joyful- The Gender JOY Program at Chase Brexton Healthcare

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The world today is often a difficult place to feel much joy. We are living in a landscape of incredible trauma- historical, medical, structural, interpersonal. Some days it seems as if we are getting pulled back into the past with all the unique stressors of modern reality. And as we navigate this experience, yearning for peace, understanding, affirmation, policy, and yes, joy… so too do our resilient gender diverse youth. Chase Brexton Health Care’s (CHBC) Gender JOY (Journeys of Youth) program delivers this desperately needed joy for thousands of folks locally, nationally, and even worldwide.

CBHC has long been a healthcare leader in the community, beginning as a gay men’s health clinic in 1978 and seeing dramatic growth as a Federally Qualified Health Center in the decades to follow. We know that LGBTQ patients have often faced apathy, discrimination, and ridicule in many health systems, and come to us with real trauma and fear. The Center for LGBTQ Health Equity at CBHC and the Gender JOY program housed within it, aims to ensure our communities have access to affirming healthcare, education, research, and advocacy- addressing needs across the lifespan- from young children to older adults.

Gender JOY began in 2016 as the region’s first multi-disciplinary care program for gender diverse children, adolescents (up to age 26) and their families. Led by world-renowned pediatric endocrinologist, Dr. Elyse Pine, Gender JOY is so much more than doctor appointments. Each child and family is met with kind, understanding, and competent care specially tailored to their needs. This affirming care includes a full range of comprehensive services such as medical, behavioral health, and pharmacy all supported by our team of passionate and knowledgeable physicians, therapists, and case managers.

We know that gender diverse youth are often carrying the trauma of negative treatment, internalizing the cruel words and actions of individuals and systems around them. We understand that the work we do carries a high degree of responsibility, and we take that seriously in providing care that is safe, supportive, and affirming.

We are here to consult with families, exploring different ways to support their child in being able to exist in the world as themselves, whether that be with expression exploration/affirmation, puberty blockers, hormones in young adults, or a combination. We connect individuals to support groups and community programs such as Single Carrot Theatre’s Be You! Camps specifically for gender diverse kids. In doing so, Gender JOY facilitates friendship-building, community-making, self-expression, and joy.

Sam McClure, The Center for LGBTQ Health Equity Executive Director says, “One supportive adult can save the life of a gender diverse child. These services are needed, these services are lifesaving, and I’m proud we can provide our patients and their families the Gender JOY program.