I have been on my own almost my entire adult life when it comes to health care. I have only been covered with health insurance for maybe five of the last 45 years.
Outside of about a 5 year period when I was in transition and surgery including the labial revision my seeing doctors has been a rather hit or miss affair.
I’ve gone to doctors at free clinics who wrote scripts for my hormones.
In the past, on occasions when I’ve had access to someone who has a lot of TS/TG patients, I’ve felt comfortable enough to be open about my medical history and actually get a physical exam.
But for most of my life I’ve tended to avoid doctors unless I was in need of emergency medical attention.
In most cases where it wasn’t relevant for me to share my information I haven’t shared it.
That includes when I required the emergency surgery to remove the breast implants that were causing the breast tissue above them to die and were coming out one way or another.
Then Tina found a really good doctor, one we both felt comfortable with and who didn’t have a problem with us both in the exam room at the same time.
Having a doctor recognize that you are a family unit and not act strange because you are a same sex couple is important.
He also took Medicare.
Late last year Tina insisted I see a doctor.
Just as a couple of years before that I had insisted she see one.
She learned she is diabetic. I learned that along with being over weight I have high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
We, initially she found the doctor, who is now our family doctor through several references from the doctor who removed my implants.
I think sometimes we are more driven by fear of prejudice than by actual prejudice.
We are afraid doctors will mistreat us or not value our relationships. In some cases they do mistreat us and in some cases they are prejudiced. But we are in a way not just patients, but consumers of medical services.
This means we can do a certain degree of shopping.
Now for some matters how much we share with the doctor treating us may well be based on, “How much do they need to know?” Does a dentist really need to know about our having been transsexual years ago? Or our being in transition? Or our being transgender, lesbian, gay, bisexual?
Now mileage may vary, and someone such as an optometrist, whose questionnaire lists medications you are taking may well need to know if you are taking hormones, because of the potential side effects of certain medications.
At the same time when I was treated for a broken wrist I didn’t feel compelled to share my past medical history.
As L/G and especially as people with either transsexualism or transgenderism, we often have medical needs that straight people do not. At the same time we sometimes do not have the needs that they have.
Medicine is not nor should it ever be the same as religion.
We should not have to fear discrimination or unequal treatment. We should demand our relationships be treated with the same dignity and respect accorded straight people.
Call it Radical Egalitarianism if you will, but human dignity demands no less.
The United States has what is perhaps the worst Health Care Insurance structure in the developed world.
It leaves many of us uncovered until we reach the age where we are eligible for Medicare.
Lack of marriage equality plays a major role in this lack of coverage since we are often not eligible to be covered by partner’s benefits. Add to this the fact that so many of us are victims of the erosion of the middle class, coupled with minority group status means that often we are either unemployed or under-employed. Either way that means we are uninsured as part-time employees are rarely covered by health insurance.
This means we are paying out of pocket and postponing medical treatment.
Way too many of us engage in risky sex, drug and alcohol abuse. L/G and especially TS/TG people smoke at a much higher rate than the general population. Yesterday I was listening to Michelangelo Signorile, who was speaking to some one involved with an LGBT/T health study and I learned that in general the rate of smoking among LGBT/T people is double that of the straight communities.
Many of us are afraid of doctors. That fear probably dates from childhood when many of us were threatened with horrifying treatments and cures because we were born different.
We literally are everywhere. From the smallest village to the biggest city. Many of us do not have the luxury of living in a ghetto or even near one where one can look up a doctor in the LGBT/T Yellow Pages.
This means that when we look for a family doctor and find one who is open we may have to become a teacher for someone who is an authority figure we are going to for help. Sort of the way many TS/TG people had to do in the 1960s and 1970s.
You can’t do this from the closet. Your relationship with your family practitioner is one of the most intimate relationships you will ever have.
Tina says I am not a complainer. We are both in the exam room when our doctor examines either of us. We each bring up things that the other one of us glosses over or fails to admit. I am sometimes afraid to mention I have chronic injuries that bother me. I tough it out and compartmentalize pain. I had planer fascitis for over a year while I was working on the concrete floor of the big box. I took ibuprofen and worked through it.
I didn’t tell my doctor for the first six months of seeing him. I guess I figured it would just heal itself as I was on my feet less. When I told him he gave me a name for the condition and suggested a couple of things I could do to help it heal. I went home and searched for information on the condition, discovered that Birkenstocks were highly recommended. Now some three months later the pain has diminished considerably.
Most of my friends from the early days are dead. Or perhaps I should clarify that a bit, with most of my friends who lived fast, died young. Often times they refused to see doctors about issues until they got to a point where they were seriously ill.
I know it is embarrassing, especially when you have to teach your doctor, but decent medical care should be our right as human beings. Even if we were born different. Along with equal access to health care our relationships deserve to be treated as being equal in every respect to those of straights.