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Members of Equitas Health in Athens pose for a photo while tabling on OU's campus.

Athens Equitas Health Fall Fest will provide gender-affirming services

In an effort to make gender-affirming healthcare and services more accessible, the team at Equitas Health in Athens will be hosting the first annual Gender-Affirming Fall Fest. 

The event will take place Friday, Nov. 10 from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Athens Community Center Parking lot, located at 701 E. State St., and is free to all those interested.

Emilee Hemler, the Prevention Health Navigator at Equitas in Athens, said the Fall Fest will bring a number of services to Athens in an effort to create a safe space for LGBTQ+ residents. From gender-affirming haircuts to legal name change services and medical check-ups, Hemler said she hopes the event fosters community connection and support.

The event will offer free food provided by New Leaf Marketplace, along with music by DJ Barticus, a free clothing closet, financial counseling, a community resource fair and door prizes.

“What we're wanting to do with this event is really focus on bringing gender-affirming and whole-person healthcare services into one easy and accessible spot,” Hemler said.

Legal name change clinic

During the event, the Equitas legal team and Southeastern Ohio Legal Services will be providing name change services to attendees. 

Ward Bryson, the Health Advocacy Case Aid at Equitas in Athens, explained a legal name change can be costly and confusing. The services at the Fall Fest will work to minimize these barriers.

Gender-affirming haircuts

Bryson also explained that the event will host gender-affirming hair stylists to provide free haircuts to reduce the stress of entering a salon. 

“It can be really daunting just as a trans person to go and get your haircut,” Bryson said. “Salons are really gendered places and definitely cis folks don't have to think about that in the same way.”

Medical services

Gabriela Grijalva, a Medical Health Advocate for Equitas in Athens, said the Fall Fest will provide a slew of medical services including free HIV, Hepatitis C and syphilis testing as well as linkage to PrEP, a medication that can help reduce the chances of contracting HIV through sex.

Grijalva said there will be referrals to the Equitas mental health recovery team in addition to free condoms, lube and other swag items. A Mobile Outreach Vehicle will be on site for medical check-ups.

The importance of gender-affirming events

As Bryson explained, there is a vast array of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation being introduced nationwide.

According to the ACLU, in Ohio alone, there are seven bills advancing in the Senate and House targeting the LGBTQ+ community.

“There's a lot of doom and gloom from folks who are transgender and who are non-binary, and in the world in the United States right now,” Bryson said. “So we just want to make services accessible and we want to do it in a fun and welcoming way.”

Hemler explained hosting events like the Fall Fest allows community members to navigate a tricky system with assistance from different allies and resources.

“An event like this is important because it creates an intentional space that celebrates and provides much-needed services to our gender diverse, transgender and non-binary individuals who live in our community and beyond our community,” Hemler said.

Grijalva explained that, as an Athens native, they are enthused to be able to help host an event that fosters a sense of community among Athens LGBTQ+ individuals.

“Reflecting on my experience growing up as a teenager and preteen, if I had known about the supportive environments and the supportive people and seen real-life, happy queer adults, it would have given me a lot of comfort within my own journey too,” Grijalva said.

For them, the first annual Gender-Affirming Fall Fest is an act of celebration and solidarity. 

“Bringing visibility and bringing a sense of community and knowing that hey, we're here, we're queer, we exist,” Grijalva said. “Really celebrating that is important, especially in trying times. We have a lot of legislation right now that's targeting queer youth, so it's really important to have these celebratory spaces of solidarity.”


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