Health Care a Growing Fight for Transgender Patients

From The Progressive:

By Nina Martin, Pro Publica,
Oct. 22, 2013

Last spring, Jennifer Blair, a 62-year-old aspiring therapist who lives in Denver, noticed the kind of changes in her breast tissue 2014 rapid, abnormal growth on one side of her chest 2014 that would frighten any woman and alarm any physician.

Blair didn’t have health insurance, but because she didn’t earn much money, she qualified for Colorado’s state-run Women’s Wellness Connection program, which funds free mammograms through Planned Parenthood and other health-care providers.

Or so she thought. Blair was born a man, undergoing gender-reassignment surgery a decade ago. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which pays for the mammogram program, requires clients getting free screenings to be “genetically female.”

Blair eventually was able to scrape together the $400 cost of the mammogram, which ruled out cancer. But she said the frustration and humiliation still linger.

“It was so patently discriminatory and wrong,” she said.

Right or wrong, Blair’s predicament is one that advocates say more and more transgender people are confronting.

“This is just one example of the minefield that health care can be for a transgender person,” said Shane Snowdon, director of the Human Rights Campaign‘s Health & Aging Program (and before that, founding director of the Center for LGBT Health & Equity at the University of California San Francisco). “It’s very seldom that you don’t encounter some kind of problem accessing care.”

It’s a considerable conundrum, given the complicated medical issues many transgender people face. In Blair’s case, these include exposure to large amounts of estrogen, the side effects of which have been found to include an elevated risk of breast cancer and life-threatening blood clots.

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