Transgender health clinic opens in Florence
|Published: 05-04-2021 6:53 PM
NORTHAMPTON — About five years ago, Perry Cohen moved to Northampton with his family. “We basically moved to Northampton because it was so queer,” he said. “What an amazing place.”
But, he found his family was driving to Providence and Boston to get gender-affirming care.
“We’re a trans family,” Cohen said. He heard from other families about how they also found it hard at times to find the care they needed nearby.
To get care, Cohen said, “we shouldn’t have to leave our community.”
A new health center Cohen founded aims to address that gap. On Tuesday, Transhealth Northampton officially opened in Florence. The center offers services including adult and pediatric primary care, mental health care, and gender-affirming hormone care. They also plan to offer community programming.
“We’re led by the trans community. We are for the trans community,” said CEO Dallas Ducar. “Trans folks have been locked out of health care for most of at least modern American medical history. We’re really trying to center those voices that have really been left out.”
With support from Cohen’s parents, Jan and Rick Cohen, they were able to start the organization. The clinic is independent and has filed the paperwork to be a nonprofit organization, according to Ducar. There are many trans clinics across the country, she said, but they are usually tied to a hospital or larger group. Transhealth Northampton is the first independent comprehensive trans health care center nationwide, according to Ducar.
The center is in Florence, but Ducar did not want to publicize the exact location. “I don’t want to necessarily give out the address for security concerns,” she said. “There have been some threats to some centers in the past.”
For years, the center has been in the works, Cohen said. The PATH Project (Plan and Act for Transgender Health) looked at health care for transgender people in central and western Massachusetts and other parts of New England with collaborators including The Fenway Institute, Cooley Dickinson Health Care and researchers from Harvard Medical School.
“Lack of ability to get to a health center was the No. 1 issue,” Ducar said.
When people think about transgender people, many think about coastal cities and urban areas, Ducar said. “Not many people think rural spaces,” she said. “We are dedicating ourselves to rural LGBTQ care … rural trans care specifically.”
One PATH participant said, “(We need) informed, experienced local pediatricians and doctors who can provide gender-related care and who can refer to specialists who have actually gained expertise, rather than gaining expertise through us,” according to a report on the project.
Ducar said she wished that when she was a kid that “one of my wellness child visits could have been with at least a trans-affirming pediatrics provider. Imagine if they were trans. Imagine if I could look to them and see myself in them,” she said. “We’re trying to build a staff that is reflective of our community.”
Though the center is for transgender people, Cohen noted that some people may want everyone in their family to see the same doctor. “This a center for gender-diverse folks and their families,” he said.
Cohen is also excited about the potential to collaborate with other providers in the area. “This is not meant to be in competition,” he said, “it’s simply to offer more options for folks.”
More about Transhealth Northampton can be found online at www.transhealth.org.Greta Jochem can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.