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What Surprised Me About Transitioning: Health Care Becomes Difficult

For Transgender Awareness Week, transgender writer and activist Basil Soper is taking over our blog. Each day this week he will be talking about one thing that surprised him about transitioning from female to male. Transitioning (when a person begins living as the gender they identify with rather than the gender they were assigned at birth) can be liberating and life-saving, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a perfectly smooth process with no complications (or complicated feelings).

Before I started to transition, I didn’t really fully comprehend how hard going to the doctor was to become. When people think about trans health care, many only think about the process of transitioning. And while there are still major barriers to and issues with transition-related care, just getting basic primary and mental health care can be difficult. There is very little data available on trans health, and many trans people may find themselves receiving care from a medical provider who has not had a trans patient before. Too many doctors and therapists rely solely on the Standards of Care to treat trans patients. Some providers blame their patient’s gender identity for all their medical issues. This has become known as trans broken arm syndrome. As a result, our community has seen many medical providers mismanaging their patients’ care.

Other providers seem to simply forget how to be decent human beings, or outright harass and abuse trans patients. At one point in my transition, I got a new therapist to help with my depression. He asked me to bring in photos of myself before my medical transition– just because he wanted to “see what I looked like as a girl.”

Medical care, while challenging to receive for many in the United States, has finally made me a stable and happier person. I have been out as trans for five years, on hormones for four, and I had top surgery two and a half years ago. Before I started HRT (hormone replacement therapy) I felt like there were parts of my personality that could not come out. I overcompensated in many areas, and I suffered from depression and severe anxiety. I was given the opportunity to medically transition, and it has honestly saved my life. But so many parts of the country (and other countries) don’t offer any trans supportive health care. This needs to change. In order for trans people to live happy and healthy lives, all medical professionals need to become educated and willing to serve the trans community. I believe we’re on our way there, but we certainly have more work to do.

Basil Soper is a transgender writer, activist, and Southerner who wears his heart on his sleeve. He is the founder of the traveling trans documentary project Transilient. To learn more about Basil visit www.basilvsoper.com

The Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center is located in New York City. It provides comprehensive, confidential, judgment free health care at no charge to over 10,000 young people every year. This column is not intended to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services to you or to any other individual, only general information for education purposes only.

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