My Health Care Is Not Cosmetic

From The Advocate:

Even with Obamacare hanging on, trans folks are still pushing back against a tidal wave of ignorance in the insurance industry.

By Cole Hayes
March 21 2017

In June of 2014 Washington State insurance commissioner Mike Kreidler announced that insurers selling policies in the state cannot discriminate against transgender residents. This was exciting news, because up until that point trans people would have to jump through burning hoops to get the care they needed. While this announcement offered hope for the future, it seems many of us are still struggling to see the change.

When I started my transition, one of the first things I wanted was a hysterectomy, not necessarily because of my transition but because my reproductive organs had plagued me from the onset of puberty. It was a nightmare and, unfortunately, still is. While I no longer get visits from Aunt Flo, I still feel her pain every month.

My doctor at the time told me outright that insurance companies would not approve of this surgery for someone who was still considered female in the eyes of the law. I hadn’t even started hormones yet. She explained that insurance companies wanted women to go through a series of steps just to be sure nothing else could be done before permanently removing the uterus.

I could understand to a certain extent why that was, but for a trans man, aching to feel better for the first time in his life, it was disheartening news, especially because I had no plans to bear children. My doctor did say that it would be wise to refrain from changing my information if I ever did want my surgery covered, because once I was no longer technically female, the situation would get even stickier.

A year passed and, contrary to my doctor’s advice, I changed my information. I was and am legally male. My doctor signed the papers and I stood before a judge after my state approved my request for a name and gender change. I decided to make this change because I wasn’t willing to start birth control, which is counterproductive to my medical transition and one of many things I’d have to try before the prospect of a hysterectomy would be considered. By that time, I had heard about the change in trans coverage in Washington State and I felt hopeful that I would finally be allowed to have the most vital surgery of my life — something more important to me than top surgery.

Before my transition, my doctors just said I had dysmenorrhea, which means, “painful periods with cramps.” I had a sonogram, and nothing showed what was causing the pain. Truthfully, no one really knows why trans men continue to feel pain after our periods stop. Doctors say it’s the uterus’s way of dying dramatically. How’s that for implicit bias?

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