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'Garden of Eve' to celebrate women's health
by Melissa Wasserman
2017-04-19

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Howard Brown Health celebrates queer and lesbian women's sexual and reproductive health at "Garden of Eve: Forward" on Friday, April 28, at Venue SIX10.

"Garden of Eve is one of our signature events that brings together Chicago's LGBT women and allies to celebrate queer and lesbian women's sexual and reproductive health," said Lia Taylor Stokes, lead research assistant with Special Projects of National Significance for Trans Women of Color ( SPNS/TWOC ) at Howard Brown Health Center and Garden of Eve: Forward co-chair.

Garden of Eve is an annual fundraiser that has been running with its current name since 2009. The festive event raises funds to enable Howard Brown Health to continue providing clinical, behavioral health and community health services, including gynecological care, alternative insemination, breast and cervical cancer screening, HIV and STI testing and prevention and wellness education for the LGBTQ community.

"Howard Brown remains diligent in building its relationship to the community as a whole," said Stokes. "For many years, people did not access healthcare via Howard Brown because of assumptions that we only catered to gay white men. We are proud to have had such an astounding increase of trans visibility over the last six years. [During] 2009-2015, we saw an incredulous 495-percent increase in trans patients, and that number continues to climb."

The addition of "forward" in this year's event title, Stokes explained, comes from the idea of moving forward in the future in terms of women's health and the different disparities and issues.

"We're at really crucial time in healthcare where women, diversity, healthcare, the LGBTQ community, we're under attack," said Stokes. "So, something like the Garden of Eve is very empowering for the community and it's very important at this point right now. It just gives us a chance to recognize and celebrate all of the minority identities that we provide for here at Howard Brown."

Stokes, a trans woman, added that many trans women of color do not have access to health care. Stokes shared that April is national minority health and disparities month and for her, getting involved as a co-chair with this event was a way to contribute.

"There's been a recent rash of murders in the trans community, primarily targeting trans women of color—African American trans women—who have been murdered and it's just a call to action that this has to stop," said Stokes of the trouble happening in the trans community. "It's something we can no longer sweep under the rug because this is happening and we're tired of it."

At Garden of Eve: Forward, attendees will be able to enjoy food, cocktails a photo booth, silent auction, raffle and dancing. DJ Slo 'Mo will spin the music. More than 300 people are expected to attend.

"We all vary by age, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity here," said Stokes. "It's just a wonderful thing because there are a lot of events that are involving women's health, but this is one of the few that recognizes trans women's health. That's important. I want people to realize the importance of women's health and all that it encompasses. Primarily, the perception of healthcare here and its inclusion of trans health."

For more information on Howard Brown Health and "Garden of Eve: Forward," visit howardbrown.org/wp/event/goe17/ .


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