Garden State Equality, an Asbury Park-based nonprofit, created an interactive Affirming Healthcare Map to connect LGBTQ+ individuals to gender-affirming healthcare. There are already 140 medical professionals listed, from optometrists to therapists. The map came together after a five-year process of collecting information on gender-affirming providers throughout the state.
Providers who affirm LGBTQ+ identities “understand the complexities of being an LGBTQ person or the experiences that we face,” according to Garden State Equality trainer and project manager, Jamilah Smith. Gender-affirming care includes technicians, desk staff, and other employees within the practice and is not limited to care provided by doctors and nurses.
“It’s a multi-leveled, layered approach… making sure patients are met with the knowledge and compassion straight at the door,” says Smith.
Some providers undergo training in order to be included on the map. Smith also notes a lack of cultural inclusion among the providers, but hopes that will change as more medical professionals are added to the list.
The map allows users to enter their address and select from a list of specialties in order to find the provider closest to them. Providers can opt in by filling out a brief form that is then reviewed by Garden State Equality. Providers can also be nominated by patients based on the level and quality of care.
As of last year, 7.1% of US adults identified as LGBTQ, and with increasing restrictions put on gender-affirming care, particularly for transgender individuals, the need for inclusive and competent health care is at an all-time high.
Smith hopes to expand the map to include information for older LGBTQ+ individuals and expand on mental health services. “The more information out there, and the more services we can promote on the site the better, because we don’t know who it’s going to help,” says Smith.