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Iowans push for gender-affirming health care

Members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community say counseling and health care for those seeking gender-affirming procedures are hard to come by.

DES MOINES, Iowa — The upcoming Pride Fest celebrations in downtown Des Moines honor both the history of the LGBTQ+ community in Iowa and highlight ongoing conversations concerning rights, resources and accessibility. 

For some transgender people, the ability to have gender-affirming procedures is an obstacle that seems almost impossible to overcome due to insurance issues, lack of health care catered to the community and legislation that undermines activists. 

"We just don't have enough [health care] providers. And you know, [the] University of Iowa is one of the only places you can get top surgery, for example, which is what I got," said activist Max Mowitz said. "And so I had to wait I think eight months total for the surgery after multiple years of trying to figure out insurance."

The demand for similar gender-affirming surgeries is high, said Jacob Priest, the director of the LGBTQ+ counseling clinic at the University of Iowa.

"We work closely with the hospital for trans and non-binary folks who want medical intervention so that their body can align with their gender identity," Priest said. "And this I think, is a really important need. And we do a lot of work around trying to eliminate the barriers."

Priest said the clinic is currently preparing other medical professionals to be better versed in the medical needs of the transgender community. This twofold approach aims to aid those seeking gender-affirming surgery, even outside of the University of Iowa. 

For Mowitz, the U of I and people like Priest were there every step of the way.

"I think what the University of Iowa has done that's different is teaching medical providers how to meet the needs of trans and non-binary individuals," Mowitz said. "And that wraparound care, right? So we want to see trans people outside of their transitions."

Pride celebrations began Thursday and will continue through Sun., June 12.

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