A big issue transgender people face today is finding the right doctor. And it's not just discrimination — in many cases, physicians just might not be savvy to trans individuals' health needs.
MyTransHealth, a new health-care website, seeks to address the disparity. Launching sometime this year, first in New York City and Miami, it will connect locals with doctors who have been pre-screened by the site's staff and then rated and evaluated by the community. Ideally, this process will allow people to find a trans-friendly doctor to match their individual needs. But the project is still in the early phase of development, with a Kickstarter fundraising campaign currently underway.
RAD Remedy, another website currently in open beta, is seeking to meet a similar need, describing itself as "a nationally collaborative referral network identifying care providers who serve trans, gender nonconforming, intersex, and queer folks nationwide." Other organizations, like the World Professional Association of Transgender Health and GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality, also provide searchable provider databases.
That these kinds of websites are necessary speaks to some of the disparities trans people face in health-care access. Robyn Kanner, who's one of the four people helping launch MyTransHealth, explained in a video for the website that she was denied hormone treatments by three different therapists, all of whom said they didn't have the tools or skill to help her. For Kanner, this made it clear that there was a systemic problem.
"Having a gatekeeper to this thing that can change your life can really hurt," Kanner told me. "We want to get people access to this kind of care."
Trans people face several disparities in health care
Trans people generally have less access to care. Surveys show trans individuals can face verbal harassment, physical assault, and denial of care at doctors' offices and hospitals. Trans people are also less likely to be insured — reporting an uninsured rate of 19 percent, compared with the national rate of 14 to 15 percent, at the time of the survey. If they do have insurance, their health plans may not cover trans health needs, such as hormones and gender-affirming surgeries — and these exclusions of coverage are legal in some form in 45 states, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.
For some trans people, this makes it difficult to access care that may be literally lifesaving. Some trans people suffer from severe gender dysphoria, a state of emotional distress caused by how the gender someone was designated at birth conflicts with their gender identity. This condition, the American Medical Association noted in a 2008 resolution, can lead to "distress, dysfunction, debilitating depression and, for some people without access to appropriate medical care and treatment, suicidality and death."
The lack of access to treatment and consequences of untreated gender dysphoria help explain one of the most haunting stats about trans people: A 2014 study by the Williams Institute and American Foundation for Suicide Prevention found that 46 percent of trans men and 42 percent of trans women have attempted suicide at some point in their lives, compared with 4.6 percent of the general population.
These are the health gaps that MyTransHealth, RAD Remedy, and others are trying to fill. After experiencing some of these problems firsthand, Kanner and the other trans people involved in these projects know this is something trans communities desperately need.