I moved to Memphis from Minnesota this past July. I was support staff in a middle school in Minneapolis and generally did five jobs every year because that’s how public schools are these days. So I’ve been working with 12 to 17 year olds for basically my whole career now. As queer person myself, I was looking for a space here in Memphis — just any kind of connection. I looked into OUTMemphis and then just happened to find the PRYSM Care Navigator position online, and I was like, “Oh, I’ve done all these things!” 

The PRYSM Care Navigator is basically a case manager that helps youth and their parents or caregivers navigate not only finding gender affirming health care in terms of blockers or hormone therapy, but also finding pediatricians or doctors who won’t laugh in their faces when they seek care, or mental health therapists who won’t be like, “Are you sure?”  

We also help them navigate things like social transition, which is super important, especially in a state with so much anti-trans legislation and sentiment. That could be finding somebody to help them do their nails or hair or makeup if they need it. We help them navigate finding schools, and help them with name changes and gender markers on official documents. People don’t really think about all the red tape that goes around all of this. I love being in the space where people can come and say, “I have to do all of this and I don‘t even know where to start”. And I can say, “It’s literally my job to help you start.” 

It’s definitely different coming from the north to the south — the culture shock coming from a very liberal state to a very conservative state. Trans kids here don’t have anywhere near the support that they have up there. My philosophy with working with youth is always being the adult that I wish I had as a youth for myself. Knowing that this is a space that does provide that support, and being the adult that can help with that is very motivating because it’s kind of self healing. I guess it’s a little selfish in a way, because I want to heal myself, but just making sure that they don’t have to heal themselves alone is super important to me.  

We don’t want LGBTQ+ youth to end up in a place where they’re kicked out for coming out or where their family doesn’t understand the first step of being trans or coming out. I see PRYSM and the new care navigation program as essentially an early intervention project. I think we’re mitigating a lot of traffic going to the Youth Emergency Center later by having a program like this to start earlier on. 

These are social services that really aren’t provided for folks. Like, if OUTMemphis wasn’t here to serve LGBTQ+ folks of all ages, these kinds of services wouldn’t exist in our region for the most part. And with the new PRYSM Care Navigation program, we want youth and families to tell us what they need. And on the other side of that same coin, we want to connect with local stakeholders, teachers, counselors, social workers, police, and affirming health care providers, so we can make referrals to you. Give us your contact information and let’s send people your way. We’re here. We’re queer. Call us.  

Interested in or have questions about PRYSM Care Navigation? Fill out our interest form here or contact Sarah at [email protected].