Thanks to the efforts of five generous donors, Fenway Health would like to announce the launch of our Gender Affirming Care Fund. Joanne Herman, Jen Petter, Sarah Schochet-Hecken, Darrah March-O’Connor, and Glenn Rigoff have contributed a combined total of $325,000 to support gender affirming care at Fenway. We would like to share the incredible stories behind these generous gifts.
In October 2008, Fenway received its largest individual contribution from a woman, Joanne Herman. At the time, Joanne was serving as the first trans person on the Board of Directors. She was dedicated to bringing gender affirming care to Fenway. “From the start, I could see the huge opportunity Fenway had to address the unmet need for gender affirming care in the community.” Back then, the Trans Health Program at Fenway served only a few hundred people.
“I joined the board and found myself working closely with Ruben Hopwood and Alex Gonzalez, sharing a mutual interest in bringing gender affirming care to more people.” At the time, Ruben served on the Behavioral Health team and oversaw the blossoming Trans Health Program. Alex was Fenway’s Medical Director. Alex recalls, “Early on, some staff did not want to provide care for trans people. There was a considerable effort made to educate our own providers.” Together, the three brought Fenway’s integrated Trans Health Program to fruition.
Today, the impact of Joanne’s work is felt by the 5,000 trans and non -binary patients who receive their care at Fenway Health, the largest provider of gender affirming care in New England. Now, about 20% of the Fenway patient base is trans or non-binary. Additionally, Fenway has the largest practical percent of trans staff in the Greater Boston Area. Trans folks are seen, served, and involved in every aspect of at Fenway’s work, from public health to research and education.
Jen Petter, longtime Fenway supporter and a patient of Fenway’s trans health program, is a new member of our board. She follows in Joanne’s footsteps as a trans board member, generous donor, and trailblazer in her own right. Jen is actively working with the board to extend the reach of Fenway’s Trans Health Program. “I have seen the incredible work Fenway Health does for trans folks firsthand. I was amazed by the quality of care I received throughout my transition.”
Trevor O’Connor, a successful trans man in his early 30s, is another patient who deeply appreciates the care he receives from Fenway. Trevor’s two moms, Sarah and Darrah, are no stranger to Fenway or the value of culturally competent LGBTQIA+ care. When they witnessed Trevor’s joy as he began his transition, they were moved to increase their support for Fenway. Earlier this summer, Sarrah and Darrah joined Joanne in making a signature level contribution.
“Darrah and I discovered Fenway about 12 years ago, after we left our ‘traditional’ marriages and found each other. Fenway was one of the only sources of community that we had available to us since the lives we led before did not allow for that.” Sarah went on to say, “We recognize how privileged and lucky we are to live in Massachusetts, where we can fully benefit from what Fenway Health has to offer. However, trans people exist in every age group and socio-economic class. There are too many obstacles for trans folks to get the care they deserve. It is easy for someone like our son, Trevor, to get services at Fenway and self-advocate in other situations. Many trans people do not have the resources or emotional bandwidth to overcome these challenges.”
As public awareness of these systemic barriers expands, our donors are committed to help. Glenn Rigoff, cisgender man and dedicated Fenway supporter was moved by the plight of trans and non-binary people in the current social and political climate. Glenn has no direct family connection to the trans and gender diverse community yet donates generously to support gender affirming care. He sets an inspiring example for supporters from all kinds of lived experiences. Joanne, Jen, Sarah, Darrah, and Glenn’s contributions mark a bold step toward the expansion of gender affirming care at Fenway Health. Due to this generosity, Fenway Health will continue to offer the best gender affirming care in New England.