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Transgender Americans Struggle for Proper Healthcare

Jan 23, 2018

In terms of healthcare, almost a quarter of transgender respondents said they didn’t go to the doctor because they feared discrimination. Twenty-two percent did not have health insurance at the time of the survey.

In 2016, Elizabeth Dietz and Jessica Halem discussed some of the specific barriers transgender individuals face when trying to access healthcare in the AMA Journal of Ethics. Transgender people might not be able to find a specialist in transgender health in their local area. Travel to transgender health clinics can be difficult and expensive. And health insurance plans do not always cover services.

The consequences can be serious. Transgender patients may put off seeing the doctor for a medical need, making their condition more serious. Or, they may seek help through the black market or from well-meaning but unqualified peers online.

Last fall, Dr. Laura Arrowsmith wrote of her experiences as a trans woman seeking healthcare in the Washington Post:

When I began my journey to become my authentic self, my family-practice physician of many years refused to see me. She said that I had lied to her about who I was. This was a shock — but then, I guess I had lied to myself for decades, too. On numerous other occasions I have been refused care by physicians, sometimes because of discrimination and bigotry but at other times because of an expressed concern that “we have no idea how to care for a transgender patient.”

Gender reassignment surgery is one path toward living as one’s desired gender. But, as NPR reports, patients may still develop cancers that largely affect their birth sex. For example, a transman who has had a double mastectomy can still get breast cancer, as some of the original breast tissue remains.

Others decide to keep the reproductive organs they were born with because surgery is so expensive. As a result, some transmen develop gynecological cancers (like ovarian cancer) or need regular Pap screenings for cervical cancer.

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