A man goes to the doctor and says to the doctor: “It hurts when I press here” (pressing his side) “And when I press here” (pressing the other side) “And here” (his leg) “And here, here and here” (his other leg, and both arms)
The doctor examined him all over and finally discovered what was wrong… “You’ve got a broken finger!”
“…it must be related to the hormones.”
Trans Health is no laughing matter and as stupid as the above joke is, many in the health care field seem to believe this is a proper method of practicing medicine. When a transgender person goes to a doctor or emergency facility for any reason and in any way indicates they are a trans person on HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) the go-to response is that it must be related to the hormones.
Naith Payton over at the UK Pink News coined the term “Trans Broken Arm Syndrome” back in July, 2015. Despite the ongoing publicity that trans people are gaining and the push to educate health care providers (among so many others) about trans-care, there’s still a surprising lack of understanding. Many health care people seem to feel that being trans is, in itself, something that needs to be diagnosed and “cured” or is somehow an underlying condition that is the root of all our medical and mental health problems.
Around the same time that Naith released this article a Twitter Hashtag started to trend #TransHealthFail where people would post about their experiences where the health care system failed them based almost entirely on the fact that they were trans. My own personal experience resulted in my cardiologist blaming everything on my HRT. HRT, in particular testosterone, carries a certain level of side effects or risks (which vary depending on each person and their specific history) such as increased risk for heart complications, increased cholesterol, an increase of red blood cells (which could result in an increased risk of stroke or clots). It’s important for medical teams to understand these and be able to express them to the patient and to monitor them with the patient, but not necessarily use them as the end-all-be-all solution to every problem. My cardiac history stems back from when I was about 15 years old and continued until I was about 18 where it was finally discovered I had something called SVT that required surgery to fix. Over 20 years later when I signed on with a new cardiologist, suddenly my long history of previous cardiac issues didn’t matter – suddenly it was entirely about my testosterone that was causing my chest pains. While it could have be a contributing factor, the doctor seemed thoroughly uninterested in my history and blamed it entirely on the HRT despite the fact that I had been on it for years and never experienced any chest pains previously.
This isn’t to say that some medical issues can’t be connected to being transgender. Robyn Kanner developed a much needed resource to find trans-aware medical professionals called MyTransHealth (main site or visit their blog page) and shares her own story in August, 2015 with the Daily Dot that turned out to be trans-related. Kanner reported to the hospital in a lot of pain due to kidney stones and the end result wound up being because there was so much anxiety about using public restrooms they were holding their pee in and that could result in stones. This could be a larger-scale issue when, a year later, bathroom bills are popping up across the country.
“We, as the transgender population, cannot accept that, nor can we wait for others to step forward and demand medical equality.”
Many states are starting to understand that trans-care is vital to our well-being both mentally and physically as they are mandating that insurance carriers cover vital services for trans-care. While they still have a long way to go in understanding the full spectrum of what trans-care requires and that it is different for each person, there is now forward momentum. Unfortunately, the medical schools are part of the problem in that none (as of yet) cover transgender related care in their curriculum. We, as the transgender population, cannot accept that, nor can we wait for others to step forward and demand medical equality. We need to be responsible for our own health care and educate our physicians and caretakers the best that we can. I have included a letter that I sent out to all my primary physicians – you’re welcome to use it or tweak it as needed.
Dear Doctor —– and Staff:
I am a patient with you and realize that I may be the only transgender patient you may have. As such I would like to take this opportunity to cover a few basic things to ensure we maintain a healthy Doctor/patient relationship. While my insurance and/or ID may state my name to be (LEGAL NAME) and my insurance company may require that my gender marker be female this is not how I should be referred. While I understand that your records must reflect the ‘legal’ name and some paperwork may require an incorrect gender marker of female it’s vitally important to me, as your patient, to be referred to as male and as Jude Samson.
It is not just appreciated but required that when referring to me, calling me in from the waiting room, or in any other direct communication that you refer to me as he/him/sir/mister or Jude.
I will keep you abreast of any changes to my documentation over time so that your records can be updated accordingly. In the meantime I would be happy to speak with you and/or your staff to address any questions or concerns or to provide you and the office with resource materials regarding being transgender and treating transgender patients at your request.
If a physician or their staff continues to disregard your statements to refer to you in the correct manner, then it’s time to seek out a new office. Failure to comply with proper gender/name references is detrimental to emotional and mental well-being – i.e. it’s harmful – and a doctor’s oath is to do no harm. They are, when it comes down to it, a business and you do not have to give someone your business who blatantly disrespects you. We will fight together to take charge of our health and well-being.