On Sunday, May 21, GLAAD Media Institute alum Lucas Hall hosted a virtual expert panel, which he also moderated, titled “Understanding Transgender Healthcare & Wellness.” Hall is a trans advocate and consultant working to correct misinformation often produced by media outlets about trans lives.
The panel was composed of experts in trans health care based in Oklahoma: Dr. Al Carlozzi, Dr. Laura Arrowsmith, Dr. Shauna Lawlis, Elliot Parker, and Kelly Kemp, who is also a GLAAD Media Institute alum. Each panelist paired their healthcare expertise with their lived experiences and stories to help the audience understand that trans youth, trans adults, nonbinary youth and adults, and gender-diverse people are under significant attack in the United States.
Additionally, panelists demonstrated that families, friends, and loved ones can have both their Christian faith and love, and accept and embrace the trans community. In doing so, panelists shared fact-based information about trans health care, which has been missing from mainstream publications like the New York Times.
For months GLAAD has embarked on holding the Times accountable for their weaponized coverage against the trans community, which has been “actively contributing to an ongoing climate of discrimination and violence.” GLAAD has been urging the Times to cover the facts of trans health care versus fear mongered, baseless claims.
“While the Times has been ‘just asking questions’ about trans people on its front page, trans and nonbinary people and the families who support them have seen their lives being torn apart by the steady march of backlash across the country.”
— GLAAD (@glaad) May 18, 2023
Panelists corrected these problematic and incorrect narratives.
Dr. Al Carlozzi made sure he told the audience of almost 150 that “socialization doesn’t create trans identity” because being trans is not a choice.
“Socialization does the opposite,” he said.
In his information sharing, Carlozzi breaks down gender, sex, gender identity, gender expression, and gender expansiveness. His thoughts to parents, medical professionals, and adults with transgender, nonbinary. and gender-expansive children are to let kids be the experts on themselves and their gender.
“They’ll know when it’s time to know,” Dr. Carlozzi told the audience.
When they know, continues Carlozzi, kids “will feel comfortable in their own skin for the first time.” Moreover, Carlozzi explains that when children are affirmed and listened to, they grow into who they are, “not who people want them to be.”
Panelist Dr. Laura Arrowsmith, a graduate of the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences with more than 40 years of experience in private practice, agreed and gave similar advice to physicians.
“It’s about listening to your patient and learning what you can do as a physician to help,” Arrowsmith said.
She said that the most common form of trans health care for minors looks like listening and affirming a child’s pronouns, haircuts, and clothing. Anything else, such as surgery before the age of 18, is part of a dangerous wave of misinformation steered by choosing ignorance over the facts.
“That just doesn’t happen,” said Arrowsmith.
Good morning! A reminder that healthcare for transgender people is settled science. Every major medical association supports this critical life-saving care. https://t.co/dG8lRKrzvA
— GLAAD (@glaad) May 19, 2023
With that, the doctor continued by sharing how life was for her when she wasn’t embraced as a trans woman.
“Once I started to transition my church asked me to leave,” said Arrowsmith. That is until she saw and heard a message from God.
“I made you who you are, now go and help others,” recalls Arrowsmith hearing in prayer.
Her faith became an incredibly strong part of helping other trans, nonbinary, and gender-expansive people in and outside of the church.
The same applied to Kelly Kemp, a Certified Child Life Specialist. Kemp was a Roman Catholic who eventually became an Evangelical Protestant. She raised her kids in a “purity culture” house until her children began sharing they were LGBTQ, she told the panel audience.
While Kemp wasn’t always affirming – even sharing how she and her husband pushed her firstborn into conversion therapy – she changed. She changed because she realized her children were born LGBTQ.
Kemp told the audience how she began seeking out LGBTQ people of faith.
“We found an affirming church and never looked back,” said Kemp.
However, this wasn’t the case for all panelists. Elliot Parker, a public health graduate at Oklahoma State University, said finding an affirming church was never in the books for him. “I’m very much an atheist,” Parker said.
Through his recovery from the church, Parker built out a goal to systematically improve the social determinants of health for marginalized Oklahomans through education, advocacy, and community engagement.
Overall panelists left the audience with a message of hope.
“Learn your LGBTQ IQ,” Kemp said.
Dr. Carlozzi told listeners to remember that “pride is the anecdote to shame.”
“The people doing this care are extensively trained,” said Dr. Shauna Lawlis.
The panel discussion was recorded and will be available for viewing once uploaded to the web. This posting will be updated with the panel discussion link.