Transgender health fundraiser also raises controversy over inclusion at CWHC

Matthew Clark or DJ Summer Clearance. Photo: Brynn Cassie West.

Subject to Change in conjunction with the Chicago Women’s Health Center put on Boom and Bloom, a dance party fundraiser to benefit CWHC’s Trans Greater Access Program Wednesday night at The Bulington in Logan Square, where the organization was met by critics who question their transgender inclusiveness.

The packed speakers event focused on DJ performances and dancing while raising money for TGAP.

“The goal is to provide a space where people can relate to the music that speaks to them through a mix of music from three different DJs,” said Joe Erbentraut. “Styles like rock are under-represented in the community.”

Erbentraut, one of the DJs for Subject to Change, described the event as growing out of a desire to provide a broad mix of music to the LGBTQ community outside of the typical dance music.

Despite the party and DJ sets, organizers of the event were met with tension from some in attendance over the language and inclusion of the TGAP program.

The organization faces criticism that the program, which presents itself as providing affirming health services for transgender-identified individuals, leaves transgender women and transgender feminine people out by not providing the same hormone care as it does for transgender men and transgender masculine individuals.

Dee Michel created a petition aimed at Chicago Women’s Health Center, demanding changes to the program in order to make it live up to its transgender-inclusive language.

Specifically, the demands include a statement of apology and explanation of the center’s priority in serving transgender men and transmasculine over transgender women and transfeminine individuals, a rewriting of “women’s” to “cisgender women’s” where applicable on the center’s website and a comprehensive plan to provide gender affirming services to trans women and transfeminine individuals.

Lindsey Dietzler, who is a founder of Subject to Change and benefits from the TGAP program, explained that while these criticisms are valid, the history of the center and particularly the TGAP program must be taken into account.

“The TGAP program has been in progress for about a year and my experience is that the program is informed and compassionate due to how well researched it is,” Dietzler said.

This commitment to being well-researched is in contrast to the experiences of many transgender individuals who seek health care. Fifty percent of respondents in a survey reported having to teach their medical providers about transgender care, according to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey Report on Health and Health Care conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Members of the Chicago Women’s Health Center’s collective declined to comment at the event but released a statement penned by Clinical Services Director and TGAP Coordinator Jess Kane Thursday addressing the criticism.

“We value and appreciate community input as it helps us to better serve and be accountable to our clients,” Kane said. “We did not intend to be misleading. We recognize this error and we apologize for the hurt we have caused. We are working to modify our language to accurately reflect the services we currently offer as well as those in development.”

Kane also acknowledged that TGAP has more services for transmasculine clients than transfeminine clients, and said that while their services have had an impact on the community, they have a long way to go to be fully inclusive.

“CWHC recognizes the very real history of institutional harm and exclusion of trans women from feminist organizations. We do not want to perpetuate this harm and exclusion,” Kane said. “We are committed to providing informed, affirming, and affordable care for all communities that we serve. Providing informed care is a process and for us, a slow one. In order to provide transfeminine communities with the informed care that they deserve, this process must be intentional.”

In addition, Kane requested that feedback and input from the community be directed to CWHC.

The TGAP program was created last year in response to discussions of what the needs were in the transgender community and how Chicago Women’s Health Center could help with the available resources. The name of the program used to be Trans Gynecology Access Project and was changed, in part, due to the pilot program to provide masculinizing hormone services as well as to signal an intent to expand services to all transgender identified individuals.

The program has stated that it is in the process of creating a program to provide sliding scale feminization hormones and will be conducting focus groups in May of 2012 with plans to launch in September of 2012.

Dietzler explained how he felt amid the accusations that the event was only for and by transmasculine individuals and said that while he uses male pronouns he is not strictly male identified.

“[My identity] is much more complicated than that, like most of the people here,” he said. “We’re just trying to live and do what’s right.”

While the Chicago Women’s Health Center is moving forward on its plan to do what is right, Subject to Change is also moving forward with it’s own mission in providing gender and music inclusive spaces.

In the spirit of ‘if you build it they will come,’ the organizers plan to hold more events with an eclectic mix of music that it hopes will draw a fun and diverse crowd.

“If we play the music, people who are invested in that music will come,” said Matthew Clark, also known as DJ Miss Summer Clearance.

While a date was not set Subject to Change intends to have another event at the end of the month.