Following a Need

Extending gender care services is a mission for two Minnesota advocates

“There was a need, and I follow-ed the need,” said Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd, the chief education officer and medical director of the Gender Health Program at Children’s Minnesota.

Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd, the Chief Education Officer for Children’s Minnesota, poses for a photo inside the Anderson Student Center at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul on Wednesday, June 21, 2023.

Goepferd identifies as nonbinary and dedicates their career to providing health care for transgender youth. The lack of resources for the community was obvious to Goepferd while growing up and going through college. And so, they became what they had needed in their youth.

“The need was very tied to my identity and community,” they said. 

In college, Goepferd realized there were no LGBTQ+ teachings in the curriculum. They wanted change. Going into pediatrics, they knew there were other youth that needed resources, the same as they did growing up, and Goepferd wanted to be the person to provide that care.

“It feels really important to represent my community,” they said.

Like Goepferd, Ani Koch is a nonbinary health care professional, but is working more behind the scenes. Their focus is insurance and reducing disparities in health care for marginalized communities, especially the transgender community.

Koch grew up in Dubuque, Iowa, in the ’90s. “It was not the safest place to be anything different,” they said. They created a gay-straight alliance in high school, and later, a youth resource center for young people who identify as LGBTQ+.

Neither Koch nor Goepferd began their careers intending to focus on transgender care and services, but the lack of resources in their field kept bringing them back. 

Gender Care Ani Koch 1
Ani Koch, principle equity systems specialist at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, poses for a photo inside the Anderson Student Center at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul on Wednesday, June 21, 2023.

“It was a matter of need. Not necessarily wanting to do it,” Koch said. “But somebody had to.” 

Koch is the principal equity specialist working in the Racial and Health Equity Department at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. They work at an internal systems level, changing how the business operates. Due to the country’s current political climate, Koch’s work is mainly centered around LGBTQ+ health and the challenges surrounding the transgender population. 

Goepferd and Koch’s work is now as important as ever. States all over the country are banning health care resources for the transgender community. But Minnesota has gone the other direction: lawmakers passed a law making the state a refuge for minors seeking gender-affirming care.

According to Goepferd, calls from out of state looking for care at the clinic have increased 30% to 40%. Goepferd and Koch say there are challenges to handling a large influx of patients traveling here from out of state, both in limited resources and an issue of health insurance tied down to state lines.

This does not mean they won’t try to do what they can. 

“When young people are seen and believed and understood for who they are, they do better,” said Goepferd.

ThreeSixty Journalism students are passionate about mental health and how it impacts their community, which is why the stories produced at News Reporter Academy this summer are so important. In partnership with the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and led by MinnPost, students are profiling mental health resources in underrepresented communities. This resource guide highlights important people and organizations doing mental health work throughout the Twin Cities. Click to read more stories.

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