Anti-Trans Health Care Discrimination Already Happens Here: Daniel’s Story
by Cerys Beckwith
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has proposed a new regulation that would promote discrimination by health care providers against anyone they don’t want to treat — including trans patients.
Under these new guidelines, providers would be encouraged to pick and choose who gets health care and who doesn’t.
Of course, even though this regulation isn’t in place yet, we know that trans people are already experiencing discrimination in health care. Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing stories of health care discrimination. These situations are already happening, and the federal government must not encourage them.
Whether or not you have a story of your own, let HHS hear your voice — submit your comments opposing the regulation by March 27.
Stories about trans people being turned down for treatment specific to gender transition, like hormone replacement therapy, are unfortunately common. However, trans people can be denied access to all kinds of health care that health care providers would give to someone who wasn’t trans without thinking about it.
Daniel Bryant-Gawne is a transgender man who has struggled with a variety of health issues, from ovarian cysts to tumors in his chest. Just after coming out, Daniel began pursuing care to resolve these health issues. Despite enrolling in a hospital system with three progressive gender clinics, Daniel faced a plethora of discriminatory situations.
While seeking health care, Daniel encountered receptionists who forced him to announce his “dead name” — the name he went by before transitioning. Doctors with little or no training around trans issues attempted to prescribe him hormonal birth control as a solution to his health issues, even though this would be medically inappropriate for him.
He was also treated differently from other patients with the same health conditions. He was forced to undergo repeated invasive and extensive tests to confirm his illnesses and was even denied for a mastectomy to remove a 10-year-old tumor in his chest tissue.
Despite the fact that cisgender women are routinely referred for surgical intervention for tumors that may potentially lead to breast cancer, Daniel’s request was ignored with insufficient review. Without even examining any medical records or scans, the clinic he conferred with told him that he would be denied surgical intervention due to the assumed harmlessness of the tumor.
Daniel had to go through a series of discriminatory interactions with the specialist who had been assigned to treat him, leaving him with anxiety about seeking health care. And he is not alone. Out of respondents to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey who had seen a health care provider in the year prior to taking the survey, one-third reported at least one negative experience, such as being harassed or refused treatment.
With the help of a local trans health advocate, Daniel was eventually able to have his health concerns addressed. He was finally able to have the mastectomy he had originally been denied access to. In addition, he received the first gender-affirming reconstructive chest surgery performed within his hospital system.
However, with the proposed HHS regulations looming, Daniel is terrified of continuing to be refused care or mistreated because of who he is. A Christian himself, Daniel finds the idea of turning away people in medical need by using religion as an excuse to be both wrong and frightening.
These proposals could put more people like Daniel in situations where they are denied appropriate treatments, prescribed inappropriate treatments, or dismissed by health care providers, simply because of who they are.
If you want to stop the Trump administration from passing regulations that would embolden health care providers who want to engage in discrimination like the kind Daniel had to endure, send your comments to HHS by March 27.
Cerys Beckwith was an undergraduate intern at NCTE.