Karla Papula(she/her/they/them) is a Therapist, Belonging Activist and LGBTQQIA+ Youth Ambassador. She moved to the Bay Area from New York in 2014 and received a Master’s Degree in Holistic Counseling Psychology. She is now an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist and a doctoral student at Pacifica Graduate Institute in their Depth Psychology Program with a specialization in Community, Liberation, Indigenous and Eco-Psychologies. Her experience at community-based nonprofits committed to meeting the needs of folx that have been historically marginalized led her to ACS’ Outlet Program. She is dedicated to being an active agent in dismantling systems of oppression in the field of psychology and to making mental health education and therapy accessible to more people. She believes in the formation of a psychology and practice that reaches out beyond the fragility of the independent mind and into the interdependent heart, soul, culture, nature, spirit, body and politics of our modern world. She maintains a private practice where she works with queer couples, youth and families. Outside of advocacy, you can find Karla parenting her plants, near running water or drinking hot sauce from the bottle.
Dr. Philippe Rey (he/him/his) first joined Adolescent Counseling Services in 1998 as Caravan House Program Director. After three years at Caravan, he became a member of the executive team as Associate Director and has now been the agency’s Executive Director since 2004. Philippe was born and raised in the French-speaking region of Switzerland and came to the United States in 1984 to attend the University of California at San Diego. In 1997 his doctorate in clinical psychology with a concentration in child and family therapy was conferred by Alliant International University in San Diego. Before pursuing graduate studies and a career in psychology, Philippe graduated from business school in Sion, Switzerland. Philippe operates an “Underground Dining” establishment which has served as a cultivation & fundraising vehicle for ACS since 2011.
While activists and politicians continue to advocate for transgender rights across the country, people who are transgender, non-binary and gender diverse in the South Bay never have had specialized access to healthcare for years.
Santa Clara County established the Gender Health Center in November 2018—the first of its kind in the nation. The need for the health center came after then-President of the Board of Supervisors Ken Yeager called for a health assessment of the LGBTQ+ community in his January 2013 State of the County address. Not surprising, the report found that 28% of transgender, gender non-binary, and gender expansive people had experienced healthcare discrimination, while 38% were unable to access medical care at all.
Part of the second largest county-owned health and hospital system in the state of California, it was the first all-ages clinic dedicated to LGBTQ-centered medical, mental and emotional health care, including social work. By having the ability to partner with institutions across the county system, more comprehensive care can be readily provided for needs like transitioning, which often requires physical, mental and emotional support.
This unique opportunity within a public health system is why Jules Chyten-Brennan, the center’s medical director, moved from New York City to guide the center’s work two years ago. They said concerns ranging from hormones and loneliness to unsupportive families and unstable employment environments are more easily addressed when hosting services under one roof.
“The center is not just giving people hormones and doing those things which are essential,” they said, “It’s really seeing someone as a whole person, and being able to reach across those different departments to treat someone like a whole person.”
The need for the Gender Health Center was clear.
When Sera Fernando, a senior management analyst in the county’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, first came out as transgender, she had to travel to Santa Cruz or San Francisco monthly to find resources like a therapist and treatment.
When options finally became accessible in San Jose, she said those resources allowed her to live more authentically and create community in the place she was born and raised.
The specified care expanded beyond the Gender Health Center. Since LGBTQ folks comprise nearly one-third of homeless youth and young adults under the age of 25 and 10% of homeless adults, a separate, federally funded Gender Clinic within the Valley Homeless Healthcare Program was also started to offer a one-stop approach where people can access a primary care doctor, mental health support and housing assessments.
Being the first in the nation doesn’t mean the work stops to address gaps still present in healthcare. While 2019 solidified work in areas like primary care and surgery options, Jules said they staff will start offering services like speech therapy and electrolysis in the coming months, as well as partnering with community support groups.
“I think (those additions are) rare to have in a clinic in general, and will be such a huge door opened for a lot of our community,” they said. “We know so much of our health is not what happens in the clinic, but it’s community connection, finding those other supports that bring joy to our lives.”
Amy Caffrey’s father was in the military so she grew up moving around the country, but eventually settled in Virginia. She remembers growing up in Virginia as “a terrible place to come out. They’re still fighting the Civil War. I was dating a black woman and that really didn’t go well.” After doing research to find safer areas to live as a lesbian, she landed on moving to California and moved to San Jose in 1982.
A strong lesbian and women community existed at this time but they needed somewhere to meet. Amy had been collaborating with students at SJSU around the time that Sisterspirit was being born. “One of the reasons why Mary contacted me was due to my work at the San Jose State radio program, which I worked on with Kathy Carter. We played women’s music, which was a different type of music in the world at that time.” From there she met the other women and formed Sisterspirit alongside them.
Amy works in counseling, focusing on the LGBTQ community, and teaches at SJSU now. She advocates to have more conversations about same sex domestic violence and works with LGBTQ youth at SJSU to help them find community. Noticing that students come to her to try to find community, that it is not easy to get into groups, or it feels exclusive and not as open to everyone as it was previously. Amy does what she can to help guide them into the organizations she knows are still operating.
Reflecting on her time in San Jose, Amy said in a recent interview, “I’ve been here 37 years, which is cool because I’ve been with my partner for 36 of those, and it’s very cool that we still like each other. What’s interesting to me is that it’s a long time, but I’m not sure how much actually happened during that time in terms of progress. We have a lot further to go but how do you really get people interested again in fighting for rights when they think they already have them?”