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Virtual support offered for trans, gender-expansive and non-conforming folks from Brainerd's WeARE Clinic

Banners in downtown Brainerd read "We're Here For Good," and "You Betcha"
Lorie Shaull
Special to KAXE
Banners in downtown Brainerd.

WeARE Clinic in Brainerd is a nonprofit organization with a commitment to promote and provide comprehensive reproductive and healthcare services for youths, young adults and the underserved in Brainerd and surrounding communities.

BRAINERD — Questions about gender and sexuality are complex, and can be even more so in rural places.

According to WeARE Clinic’s Executive Director Devon Charlier, over 40% of rural counties have no sexual health clinic locations.

“Patients are informed about medically accurate options for them, so that can include parenting, pregnancy, abortion and adoption.”
Executive Director Devon Charlier

“The lack of comprehensive sexual health education in our schools, the lack of just people having foundational knowledge about these topics,” she said, explaining WeARE is one of the only providers within a 60-mile radius.

In a recent KAXE Morning Show conversation Charlier talked about the stigma surrounding sexual health and politics. “There is so much in the socio-political context that really makes people feel shame about the questions they have or what they want for their lives.”

For the last year the Brainerd clinic has been offering in-person groups. “We’ve heard that folks really need that support,” said Charlier. “That group has gone really well.”

WeARE has now added virtual meetings for both parents as well as those who are questioning gender. Transgender and gender expansive people are invited to the second Wednesday of the month, and parents are welcome on the fourth Wednesdays. The groups meet at 5:30 p.m.

Charlier said the work of WeARE is founded on the idea of people deserving to have control over their health, including fertility and sexually transmitted infections (STI).

Crow Wing County’s chlamydia rates are 9th of 87 counties for 15–19-year-olds. Statistics from the MN Department of Health show Crow Wing County is 12th out of 87 counties for teen pregnancy rates.

Abortion politics

WeARE Clinic does not perform abortions. Charlier explained the focus is to care for people’s sexual health. “Patients are informed about medically accurate options for them, so that can include parenting, pregnancy, abortion and adoption.”

Despite the divisive politics of reproductive health and abortion she has hope.

A woman with glasses smiles.
WeAre Clinic
Devon Charlier is the Executive Director of WeAre Clinic in Brainerd.

“It’s amazing to see the compassion that our staff treats our patients and community members with, when talking about these really heavy and intense topics.”

Last year WeARE provided almost 2000 people with medically accurate information and education. Charlier says this doesn’t just mean sexual health, but also issues of consent and identity and healthy relationships.

Information and upcoming events

In addition to virtual support groups for transgender, gender expansive, non-conforming and questioning people and families, WeARE is sponsoring a Health Fair at Central Lakes College in Brainerd Wednesday, April 17 from 11 a.m. -1 p.m. The day includes information, vendors, prizes, food, games and more.

WeARE also offers monthly conversations at The Shop in Brainerd on reproductive health and topics like STIs.

The Youth Council’s Hygiene Hope Project is a student led project to support health and spread kindness with the distribution of basic hygiene products. Donations are still needed.

Appointments, information on support groups and volunteer information is available at their website or by text. Text the word SUPPORT to 218-270-8593.

WeARE’s website also provides links to sexual health and relationship resources.

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Heidi Holtan is KAXE's Director of Content and Public Affairs where she manages producers and is the local host of Morning Edition from NPR. Heidi is a regional correspondent for WDSE/WRPT's Duluth Public Television’s Almanac North.