15 Struggles Black Trans People Face When Getting Health Care


Your Post Has Been Launched!

Fabulous! Don’t forget to share with your friends on Twitter
and Facebook.

Navigating health care appointments and insurance
while trans can be challenging enough, but it can
be especially difficult for trans people of color.

View this image ›

According to the
2015 US Transgender Survey released late last
year, one third of respondents who saw a doctor in
the past year reported at least one negative
experience related to being transgender. In
addition to that, 40% of black trans people said
they hadn’t seen a doctor in the past year because
they couldn’t afford it while 26% said they didn’t
see a doctor for fear of being mistreated. These
are only two of several factors that contribute to
a range of health disparities among black trans
people — among them, 19% of black trans women live
with HIV compared to 1.4% of all trans people and
0.3% of the US population. Another one: 47% of
black trans people have attempted suicide compared
to 40% of all trans people and
0.6% of the US population.

For Black
History Month, we’re sharing the experiences of
black trans people across the country in order to
highlight the many obstacles they have to overcome
just to stay healthy — both mentally and
physically. For some extra input, we also spoke to
Dr. Andrew Goodman, associate director of medicine
at the Callen-Lorde Community
Health Center.

Here are their stories:

ID: 10578629

1. “I know I
need to go to the dentist but I’m not going to go
if they’re not going to use my preferred name.”

"I know I need to go to the dentist but I’m not going to go if they’re not going to use my preferred name."

View this image ›

Yaz Burrell

“I’m working with this dentist. It’s not bad, but
it’s not great. The dentist that I’m working with
will text me to set up an appointment, and I’ve
asked them repeatedly to refer to me by the name
that I use and they forget it every time — they’ll
still use my government legal name. Even when they
see me, they’ll use my legal name but then refer to
me with the correct gender. So I’ve ghosted on them
a few times, and as a result of that, I know I
need to go to the dentist but I’m not going to go
if they’re not going to use my preferred name. It’s
not a good feeling.

—Yaz Burrell, 27, Brooklyn, New York, Trans Male

ID: 10578146

2. “It went
beyond what it seemed like a doctor would be
interested in — I felt like an eccentricity when I
was in his office.”

"It went beyond what it seemed like a doctor would be interested in — I felt like an eccentricity when I was in his office."

View this image ›

Syd Robbie

The first doctor I went to seemed
knowledgeable, but ultimately he made me
uncomfortable because he was obsessed with my
facial hair and body hair. It went beyond what it
seemed like a doctor would be interested in
— I
felt like an eccentricity when I was in his office.
I was going to him to find out about hormone
replacement therapy, and for your everyday checkup.
After I stopped talking to him, I went about a
year-and-a-half without seeing other doctors
because I didn’t want to go out on that limb
again.”

—Syd Robbie, 34, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Trans Man

ID: 10577996

3. “I don’t
have to go to therapy just so you can tell me I’m
not crazy and that this is a legitimate thing.”

"I don't have to go to therapy just so you can tell me I’m not crazy and that this is a legitimate thing."

View this image ›

“When I was going to have my top surgery, they have
these requirements that you need to go through
before insurance will cover your surgery. You need
to have gender identity disorder diagnostics with a
mental health provider. You need to be approved for
hormone therapy — and a lot of people, especially
non-binary people like myself don’t need hormone
therapy for others to see them in the light that
they see themselves. Another requirement is to have
at least one year’s life experience living and
working in your desired gender. What’s wrong
with that is that here we have people dictating
what it’s like to be trans while I’ve been this
gender my whole life. I always knew what my
identity was and I don’t need a therapist to verify
that.
I don’t have to go to therapy just so you
can tell me I’m not crazy and that this is a
legitimate thing.”

—Devin-Norelle, 28, New York City, New York,
Androgynous

Goodman says these “requirements” likely came
from the World Professional Association for
Transgender Health (WPATH), which comes up with
guidance for what needs to be done before surgery.
“That being said, it does seem like an awful lot to
go through, and I think the medical community needs
to continue to look at these to make sure they’re
appropriate for safety while not throwing
unnecessary barriers down in front of patients.” As
of this writing,
WPATH’s Standards of Care don’t require
testosterone therapy for top surgery, but Goodman
says “this all comes down to what insurance
companies are asking for.”

ID: 10578674

4. “He was
just always asking how you’d have sex, and it was
almost like a pure fascination to it rather than
something related to your health care.”

"He was just always asking how you’d have sex, and it was almost like a pure fascination to it rather than something related to your health care."

View this image ›

Rae Nelson

“I’m a nurse, so I exist in a unique intersection
of being a person who needs healthcare and working
in health care. One of the things for me in trying
to navigate my health care has been determining
which direction it will go in versus being told
which direction it will go in.

One of the earliest issues was my doctor asking me
really sexually inappropriate questions. And I
never caught on till I started talking to other
trans people who had seen the same doctor. They
were always sexual and inappropriate and unrelated
to the health care we needed. He was just always
asking how you’d have sex, and it was almost like a
pure fascination to it rather than something
related to your health care.

Another time, I had a UTI and had to go to the
doctor for it, so i was describing my symptoms to
this doctor and she was telling me that she would
have to see my genitals in order to make a proper
diagnosis. But as a nurse, I knew better. The tests
you have to run to detect the UTI have nothing to
do with seeing the genitals, so I knew it was out
of her curiosity. So that’s been an issue for me —
I shouldn’t have to teach doctors how to treat
me, both professionally and as a human being,
without wanting to dissect my body.

—Rae Nelson, 25, Little Rock, Arkansas, Trans Woman

ID: 10578013

5. “Before I
found out I was autistic, mental health providers
would tell me I was trans because I’m a sexual
assault survivor.”

"Before I found out I was autistic, mental health providers would tell me I was trans because I’m a sexual assault survivor."

View this image ›

“Before I found out I was autistic, mental health
providers would tell me I was trans because I’m a
sexual assault survivor. But now, when my autism is
brought up alongside the subject of being trans,
people will say, “Oh, you’re not really trans,
you’re just autistic.’ And it’s just like no —
I’m just trans, autistic, and a rape survivor.
Those three things occur within their own space.
They’re all true and they influence each other, but
they do not completely overwhelm one another.

One does not exist just because the other one is
there.”

—Zandra Gibson, 21, Detroit, Michigan, Non-Binary
Femme and Trans Woman

ID: 10578268

6. “Because
of the anxiety I get from how people treat
minorities like me, I haven’t been able to go out
and take care of myself.”

"Because of the anxiety I get from how people treat minorities like me, I haven’t been able to go out and take care of myself."

View this image ›

Kaden Barrett

“I haven’t gone to a doctor or any other mental
health professionals since I left Florida. Georgia
isn’t really known to be a liberal leaning state,
so I’m kind of afraid of confrontation or just
dealing with people who will step out of place to
try to say what I should do with my life. Because
of the anxiety I get from how people treat
minorities like me, I haven’t been able to go out
and take care of myself. So I try to do home
remedies and natural stuff that don’t involve me
interacting with people. You don’t know who’s going
to have a really shitty reaction to you and I would
rather not deal with that.

—Kaden Barrett, 21, Savannah, Georgia, Trans Man

ID: 10578179

7. “Multiple
white trans people are telling me to go to you for
a service I need, so why can’t you do the same
thing for me?”

"Multiple white trans people are telling me to go to you for a service I need, so why can’t you do the same thing for me?"

View this image ›

TK Morton

“The main thing for me is how hard it is to access
hormones in the midwest. I grew up in Southwest
Michigan, and I had a lot of white trans friends
with doctors who prescribed them hormones. They
would tell me, ‘Oh yeah, these doctors are good,
they’re OK.’

But these doctors were extremely racist toward me
and they also did not feel comfortable prescribing
me hormones because they thought there was going to
be a lawsuit if something went wrong — they thought
they were going to lose their license. Part of that
I understand, but the other part of me is like,
multiple white trans people are telling me to go
to you for a service I need, so why can’t you do
the same thing for me?

—TK Morton. 24. Madison. Wisconsin. Trans Queer
Person

ID: 10578083

8. “To some
people it probably seemed alarming or surprising to
see this black dude sitting in a gynecologist’s
office.”

"To some people it probably seemed alarming or surprising to see this black dude sitting in a gynecologist’s office."

View this image ›

Tiq Milan

“Recently I had to see an OB-GYN and I had to go
into her office. So I’m the only black guy sitting
in the waiting room, and I could feel the eyes on
me. People don’t understand that gender isn’t
such a binary thing. So to some people it probably
seemed alarming or surprising to see this black
dude sitting in a gynecologist’s office.
But
this is a part of me getting my trans-related
health care, it’s a part of me getting my human
health care — I have to do these things. So that
could be difficult. ”

—Tiq Milan, 35, New York City, New York, Trans Man

ID: 10578068

9. “It just
seems like we have to do a lot more legwork than
people who are not of trans experience.”

"It just seems like we have to do a lot more legwork than people who are not of trans experience."

View this image ›

Alex Burns

“The biggest thing going on down here is the lack
of physicians who are willing to treat trans
people. There are also many who aren’t educated on
how to treat or deal with trans issues. So I’d
encounter situations where the doctor would use the
wrong pronouns. They wouldn’t outwardly say they
didn’t deal with trans people, but they weren’t
really willing to respect me or try to learn about
what being trans is to more adequately make me feel
comfortable or give me the services I was looking
for.
If they did decide to do research, they
would learn very outdated information.

For example, one surgeon wanted to get more
information before he’d do the top surgery on me.
He said he’d call me back, and it took about a
month for him to do that. He said another person
told him I’d need to be on testosterone for a year
before he was comfortable doing any type of surgery
on me. That’s considered to be very outdated
information because you have some individuals who
don’t want to go on hormones or can’t but they
still want to have the surgery to be comfortable in
their own bodies. Then there are doctors who want
to help the trans community, but don’t know where
to start, so you have to teach them how to treat
you. So you’re doing the research and bringing it
to them, telling them what you need and what they
need to do to you. Then they tell you they need to
go back and do their research just to make sure it
lines up, and that holds you back from getting the
type of medical attention you need.

It just seems like we have to do a lot more legwork
than people who are not of trans experience —
there’s research, calling doctors, following up on
everything from beginning to end. And if you don’t
check up on things, then it all kind of gets lost
in the shuffle because they don’t want to go
through the trouble.”

—Alex Burns, 32, New Orleans, Louisiana, Trans Male

ID: 10578120

10. “I had
insurance, but once they found out I was trans, I
guess they didn’t want to help me.”

"I had insurance, but once they found out I was trans, I guess they didn’t want to help me."

View this image ›

Jaiivon Lee Pagan

Last night I went to the hospital because I
wasn’t feeling too good. I never got seen.
I
had insurance, but once they found out I was trans,
I guess they didn’t want to help me. When I went
in, the lady who was taking my blood pressure asked
me all this personal stuff and made faces when I
first said I was trans. I waited for three hours,
then five hours in the waiting room, and they still
didn’t call me into a room — they left me sitting
in the waiting room the whole time while they just
kept calling other people to see a doctor. I
could’ve been sleeping, so I just got up and walked
out thinking they probably would have sent me a
crazy bill for something I could have done at home
anyway.”

—Jaiivon Lee Pagan, 27, Columbus, Ohio, Trans Man

ID: 10578207

11. “Either
they didn’t order the vials on time or they were on
backorder. That would throw my injection date off
for the week.”

"Either they didn’t order the vials on time or they were on backorder. That would throw my injection date off for the week."

View this image ›

Dezjorn Gauthier

“I pay out of pocket. My top surgery was $6,399 out
of state, in Ohio. My testosterone is $100 a vial
for 10ml and that’s when I use a discount card.
Without it, that goes into the $200 range.

The reason I get a 10ml vial is because it was
always very difficult with a 1ml vial, which is a
month’s supply. That 1ml vial was covered under my
parents’ insurance when I first started, but 10ml
vials weren’t covered and they still aren’t. It was
so difficult to go to Walgreens every single month
— either they didn’t order the vials on time or
they were on backorder. That would throw my
injection date off for the week. Especially
early on, when you miss an injection, it can throw
your levels off. There are mood swings, other
problems, and I couldn’t do it.
So I told my
endocrinologist and he prescribed me a 10ml vial —
it’s just a lot easier paying for it all upfront.”

—Dezjorn Gauthier, 25, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Trans
Male

“Someone who stops testosterone therapy may
notice decreases in facial or body hair that may
have grown, small increases in chest or breast
size, and menstrual cycles may return,” Goodman
says. “Many folks will also notice changes in their
mood — they probably won’t feel so great.”

ID: 10578295

12. “My
friend would order the testosterone online and
bring it to me.”

"My friend would order the testosterone online and bring it to me."

View this image ›

Amari Vendely

“After a lot of research, I found that it was
going to be really hard for me, financially, to
start my transition the right way. So I made a bad
decision and got some testosterone from a friend
online
, and I did that for the first seven
months. I started hearing really bad stories about
people who started doing it that way, so I reached
out to my mom and asked for help. She’s supportive
in that she wants me to be happy, but she said that
she would never help me financially because it was
such a personal decision — she was probably a
little worried, too.

So my friend would order the testosterone online
and bring it to me. I didn’t have the money to pay
for it here in the US — it said I had to do therapy
x number of times before I could even get a
letter of approval to do hormone therapy. And then
for the testosterone itself, you have to schedule
endocrinologist appointments. It was just a lot
that I could not afford, so it went on like that
for a while until I could get a very amazing
therapist in Miami who helped me do it all the
right way.”

—Amari Vendely, 33, Mt. Dora, Florida, Transgender
Male

There are several reasons buying hormones online
is dangerous, Goodman says. For one, there’s the
risk that it’s mixed with other chemicals (or isn’t
even testosterone). A doctor also needs to teach
their patients how to inject properly. But most
importantly, he says, doses are personalized, so
taking a dose that’s too small will be ineffective,
while too-large doses can cause severe mood swings
(anger and rage), thicken the blood (upping risk of
stroke and headaches), damage the liver, and change
cholesterol levels.

ID: 10578228

13. “Because
I wasn’t able to afford insurance, I couldn’t see a
doctor, and I was paying out of pocket, I moved to
Portland to get the services I needed.”

"Because I wasn’t able to afford insurance, I couldn’t see a doctor, and I was paying out of pocket, I moved to Portland to get the services I needed."

View this image ›

Christian Branch

“I currently live in Portland, but when I started
my transition I was living in Houston, Texas. I
felt like it was one of the best places to go to
get the care that I need because in Houston, it was
hard. Even though I had a job, the health care
plans they offered were too expensive — $400 a
month — and they were not likely to cover my
testosterone or surgeries. So I paid out of pocket
during the first year I was on hormones. I didn’t
have a primary care provider and I went to one of
those clinics for underinsured or uninsured people,
so there were really long waits to get seen by
anyone — months versus a couple of weeks. I went in
October to start hormones and my next appointment
wasn’t until January. So because I wasn’t able
to afford insurance, I couldn’t see a doctor, and I
was paying out of pocket, I moved to Portland to
get the services I needed.

With the ACA, you had to look through the
marketplace if you didn’t get insurance through
your employer. So I looked to see if they would
cover hormones (I wasn’t even looking for plans to
cover top surgery at the time), and they were still
$200 a month. I wasn’t making that much money where
I could afford that on top of my other bills. I
think that’s the biggest issue — insurance plans
cost way too much just to get the bare minimum of
care. Luckily I get insurance through my job now
and I pay $115 a month. It’s a big difference. I’m
currently home recovering from top surgery and all
I paid was a $10 copay. Monthly, all my meds cost
me $26. It’s a great feeling knowing that
everything is covered now, down to every surgery —
bottom surgery and hysterectomy even. It’s one less
stress that I have now.”

—Christian Branch, 29, Portland, Oregon, Trans Man

ID: 10578163

14. “Unlike a
lot of trans folk of color, I make a decent wage
and it’s still hard to find inexpensive resources
around transitioning.”

"Unlike a lot of trans folk of color, I make a decent wage and it’s still hard to find inexpensive resources around transitioning."

View this image ›

Ray(nise) Cange

I haven’t been getting hormone therapy because
it’s too expensive.
Unlike a lot of trans folk
of color, I make a decent wage and it’s still hard
to find inexpensive resources around transitioning.
I decided to hold off until I can financially
afford it, and that might mean going to Baltimore
where my mom’s a hospital employee — it’s a little
inconvenient because I’d have to make time to go
there, but financially it’s going to be a better
decision.”

—Ray(nise) Cange, 24, New York City, New York,
Black Afro-Latino, Afro-Indigenous Gender
Non-Conforming

ID: 10578190

15. “Now the
challenge that I’m having is that they’re so well
known for serving the LGBT community that their
therapy list fills up, and the wait can be
literally months.”

"Now the challenge that I’m having is that they’re so well known for serving the LGBT community that their therapy list fills up, and the wait can be literally months."

View this image ›

Renee Vallejo

“I get my primary care out of Fenway Health here in
Boston. I’ve been doing it for five years now
because they’re known for serving the LGBT
community. I attended therapy there, I see my
doctor there, and I went for top surgery there.
They were very hands on with what I needed. But now
the challenge that I’m having is that they’re so
well known for serving the LGBT community that
their therapy list fills up, the wait can be
literally months.

I deal with high-functioning depression and
anxiety, so when it was time for me to seek out the
necessary help that I needed, I wasn’t able to see
anyone. And that’s really sad because that’s the
only place that I’ve ever known, or gone to, for my
health care.
It’s always been my go-to place,
so when they said they couldn’t take me, my anxiety
came full-throttle. It’s not just that there aren’t
enough organizations that provide LGBT healthcare,
there also aren’t enough organizations with the
amount of different resources that Fenway Health
has.”

—Renee Vallejo, 23, Cambridge, Massachusetts,
Gender Non-Conforming

ID: 10578041

If you’ve had trouble finding good health care,
here are some resources provided by the people
above (plus some extras).

Susan’s
Place is essentially a one-stop-shop for
anything trans-related, with chat rooms, forums,
and links to resources in the US and
internationally.

FORGE is
a national transgender anti-violence organization
based in Wisconsin that also provides directories
to trans-friendly mental health providers and
physicians.

Louisiana
Trans Advocates holds five monthly support
groups across the state and connects people to
trans-friendly health care providers.

The
Mazzoni Center in Philadelphia is “the only
health care provider in the Philadelphia region
specifically targeting the health care needs” of
the LGBT communities.

Lambda
Legal is a national non-profit LGBT
organization that works on impact litigation,
meaning it takes on cases that will impact the
most people and advance their rights.

Family Tree Clinic in Minnesota provides
sexual and reproductive health care —as well as
limited primary care — to everyone, including
LGBT folks.

The
Ali Forney Center provides food, medical
care, mental health services and counseling
support to LGBT youth.

ID: 10584413

Some responses have been edited for length
and/or clarity.

ID: 10585593

Check out more
articles on BuzzFeed.com!

Facebook Conversations

Sorry, but you can only react up to 3 times!

Oops! It looks like you’ve already used that reaction
on this post.

You are signed in as .

I know, right? Will your friends agree?

Share this Link

Your link was successfully shared!

Tagged:transgender,
aca, androgynous,
black
and trans, black and transgender,
black
transgender, body hair, bottom surgery,
education,
estrogen,
facial hair,
gender, gender
non-conforming, gynecologist, gyno, health care,
healthcare,
hormone
therapy, hormones, hysterectomy,
mental health,
nonconforming,
obamacare,
obgyn, prescriptions,
primary care,
sexual health,
sexual
health care, surgery, testosterone,
top surgery,
trans, uti, blackhistorymonth

Facebook Conversations

Contributions

Now Buzzing



Source link