Where is the health-care industry in terms of transgender issues?
I think that trans people have such mixed reactions based on the provider, their reputation, what’s going on. I’ve had both amazing experiences and hard experiences. I feel really lucky to have a primary-care provider who is very familiar with providing care to the transgender community. I feel like I’m able to get the care I need and the questions I get asked are relevant to the reasons that I go in.
I had an experience when I was visiting back East. I had sprained my ankle, and I ended up having an urgent-care provider basically grilling me about how I was able to grow facial hair, which had nothing to do with my sprained ankle. I understand that person was not really well-resourced, but it felt like a totally inappropriate way to spend my time having to educate a provider who seemed to have no idea how hormones or secondary sex characteristics work.
I know people who have been denied care. There is still a wide range in terms of what people are able to access. Because there are so many negative stories within the community and knowing that a lot of that spreads via word of mouth around who is safe and who is unsafe, a lot of trans people still aren’t even necessarily accessing the care they need because of all the stigma and all the stories of people having negative experiences with providers.
Talk about how your experience navigating this will impact your work as a storyteller.
As a storyteller, I am pretty public about my life and try to share those experiences with people. Even though I’m not in an advocacy position anymore, I’ve been trying to find ways to tell my story and share my experiences in a way that will be helpful to other people. When I do most of my storytelling, I try to make it relevant and entertaining. The workshop that I’m doing with CAVP is a place where I thought that if I tell my story and name my experience, that may be helpful to other people. Again, it won’t necessarily be a checklist of how to go through it. It will be different depending on who your provider is, assuming you have insurance and what type of plan you have. I think there is something powerful, when we do have successes, in being able to create a base of knowledge and to create a community that can help advocate and hold each other accountable to that process.
Talk about what it was like to go through the process and win?
In a lot of ways, I’m actually shocked it was not a more painful process than I expected it to be. I will say, it was a long process from start to finish. It was really frustrating and involved a lot of phone calls.
I’m super organized and have a binder with all of my documents. When I would have phone calls and they would give me a different answer, I would be able to refer back to my process and to other calls. I think without having all of that different information, it would be so easy to get derailed and have other people take over. Having gone through that step by step and staying on top of it, when it moved into a place of actually winning the case, there was something really surreal about it.
I had actually received a denial letter within the same week I received another one that said, oh, never mind, we’re actually overturning that denial. Within a series of days, I had to sit down and decide if I was going to do a second-level appeal. How am I going to build up the emotional energy to make these phone calls and who was I was going to reach out to?
It was a success when the letter came through. It was almost unreal that it was happening. I hope to be able to share that with people in the hopes that my case was only the first of many.
It’s amazing to see anyone successfully navigate the healthcare system. A case like this could begin to set some precedents.
It feels really exciting to be a part of that history. There will have to be a lot of us creating a space to navigate this.
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