First Transgender Health Fair in Michigan

Held at Affirmations

(Crystal A. Proxmire)


AIDS prevention, art therapy, anti-aging, hair removal, gender reassignment surgery, support groups, free healthcare and counseling were just some of the services represented at the Transgender Health Fair at Affirmations on August 28, 2010.


Transgender Michigan and Affirmations teamed up to organize the event, which was the first of its kind in the state.  People also came up from Indiana and Ohio to attend, as there has never been a health fair like this there either. 


The fair connected FTMs, MTFs, allies and people considering transition with service providers.  “A lot of transgender people are afraid to go to the doctor of hospital because there are a lot of horror stories,” said Transgender Michigan founder Rachel Crandall.  “We hear from people all over the world, but even in my personal experience I know a transperson who went to a doctor for an exam and was sexually molested.  Another friend told their doctor they wanted to start taking hormones, and the doctor’s response was ‘I’ll give you 30 seconds to get out of my office before I call the police.’  These stories really happen and they get spread around.  But today is not about that.  Today we let patients know there are transfriendly service providers out there.  And also to let doctors and businesses know there are a lot of friendly transpeople out there.”


One popular booth at the event was for the FernCare free clinic which opened earlier this month at their temporary location in the Kulick Community Center in Ferndale.  The clinic sees patients aged 18-65 without health insurance for non-OBGYN-related medical issues.  “One of the first things we considered was that if we were going to open in Ferndale, we’d better make sure that our volunteer doctors and nurses knew how to address the concerns of the transgender population,” said FernCare Board President Ann Heler.  “We found out that trans issues are not even taught in medical school.  Not five minutes is spent introducing these doctors and nurses to a segment of the population that has their own health issues, and needs basic health care just like the rest of us.”  They recruited Dr. Neal Wilson to be available during the clinic hours to be on-call to answer patient or physician questions for transgender patients.  They also had Michelle Fox, founder of Transgender Detroit, come to speak to the doctors and nurses about the transgender experience.  “We are so grateful to be in this place, and to have people like Michelle and Dr. Wilson to give us the guidance we need so that every patient can feel comfortable coming to the clinic.”


Other services catered specifically to the mind, body and spirit of transgender individuals.  Licensed esthetician Heather Engbarth of the Be Well Medical Center in Berkley provided samples of beauty crèmes and information about hair removal, botox, and other services offered at the center.  Electrology expert Tracy Lynn is an MTF who does permanent hair removal, wigs and other beauty treatments designed to make the transwoman feel pampered and beautiful.  Her electrology treatments are permanent, whereas laser hair removal is only good for about a year.


Alfreda R. Rooks, Administrative Director of the Comprehensive Gender Services at University of Michigan hospital, was on hand to answer questions about surgery, counseling, and other issues of concern.  “Insurance is a big issue,” Rooks said.  “They consider chest surgery to be for cosmetic purposes and not medical ones.  In FTMs in particular there is a disparity in coverage, and it’s really hurtful to them to look in the mirror and see a part of the body they don’t feel reflects who they are.  Doctors are getting more accustomed to male to female surgeries because they’ve been around longer.”  U of M offers basic medical care for transgender patients as well as mental health counseling, surgery, workplace support and therepy groups.  They have just added at trangender support group which is held on the third Tuesday of each month at 2025 Traverwood Drive, Suite A1 in Ann Arbor.  For more information go to .


In addition to the successful health fair, Transgender Michigan is celebrating the opening of their first physical office, which will be in the Community Pride Building in Ferndale which is also the home of Michigan AIDS Coalition – who was also represented at the fair.  Alex Krasicky, who will be managing the Transgender Michigan office, says she’s excited about her career path.  “There are so many misconceptions out there about transpeople,” she said.  “And because of the internet things are changing quickly.  It used to be that the average age for transitioning was in the 50s.  Now there are more and more young people who make the decision early in life, before they have all the family and legal issues to deal with.  I’m glad I can be a part of this time of change.  And maybe make a difference in the lives of other transgender people.”