Helping people become who they are with Rocky Mountain Health Plans

Compassionate, inclusive, affirming care in Colorado

When Oliver began developing through the physical stages of getting older, he felt like he was living in the wrong body.

“It’s almost like you are a ghost inhabiting somebody else’s body,” he said, “a body that you do not believe is your own.”

He felt so uncomfortable with his growing chest that he sought professional counseling to better understand what he was feeling — something called gender dysphoria. In other words, his physical body was not aligning with how he felt on the inside.

The barriers to gender-affirming care, and full acceptance, can be steep for those who identify as LGBTQIA+. According to the Trevor Project’s National Survey that looks at mental health issues affecting young people in this community:

  • 67% reported symptoms of anxiety
  • 56% who wanted mental health care were not able to receive it, including nearly 3 in 5 transgender and non-binary young people
  • 27% of transgender and non-binary young people said that they’ve been physically harmed or threatened during the last year due to their gender identity

Through a better understanding of the transgender community, Oliver came out to his family and expressed his desire to transition. And he finally felt at home.

“After coming out as transgender, I started feeling more like myself,” Oliver said. “Every time someone used he/him pronouns, it felt a little more uplifting, and I felt a lot more happy.”

As Oliver looked into gender-affirming surgery, he was led to Identity Insights Counseling, which focuses on LGBTQIA+ affirming care, including therapy, referrals for surgery and hormone therapy and help in removing barriers to care. There, he met Devin Pinkston, owner and clinical director of Identity Insights — she became one of the first people Oliver was able to open up to about his desire to transition, his mom Caryn said.

Outside the support from his family, Oliver felt like he had someone else in his corner for the first time — someone else to talk to about the internalized pain of living in a body that you don’t feel is your own, and the anxiety, depression and lack of identity that can come with it.

On top of the emotional and mental support, Oliver worried about the cost that comes with transition surgery. Often these procedures are seen as “elective,” making them expensive and sometimes difficult to secure coverage for. Through Devin’s partnership with Rocky Mountain Health Plans and UnitedHealthcare, she was able to ensure Oliver’s surgery was covered by Medicaid.

“When we moved here, I really noticed there was just a lack of counseling resources for the LGBTQIA+ community and felt like that’s where I need to hone in,” Devin said.

As a mother, Caryn feels like she has her child back. After a rough start to high school, with failing grades and a poor social structure, Oliver blossomed after his surgery and transition. Caryn is immensely proud of her son. Supportive from the beginning, Caryn put up boundaries to protect Oliver when other family members struggled to support their decisions. She credits Identity Insights with helping her son find his own identity.

While Oliver is well on his journey to healing, Devin’s work in the community is just getting started. Seeing a dramatic increase in LGBTQIA+ needs, Devin continues to work with Rocky Mountain Health Plans and community partners to ensure everyone has the support they need to live fully authentic lives.

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