Thursday, 14 October 2010

The Extent of the Problem

Report reveals discrimination against transgender people by health providers, high HIV rates, lack of access to necessary care | National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:
"My experiences in dealing with police and hospital personnel after my rape was not pleasant and lacked a lot of sensitivity to trans issues." — Survey Respondent

"Finding doctors who will treat, will prescribe, and will even look at you like a human being rather than a thing has been problematic. Have been denied care by doctors and major hospitals so much that I now use only urgent care physician assistants, and I never reveal my gender history." — Survey Respondent
While I've not had experience of the first, and managed to locate an extremely competent and kind medical team for myself - not without a few false starts - yes, I've experienced the second.
Usually it's just cluelessness. Sometimes... not.
  • Nearly 1 in 5 (19 percent) reported being refused care outright because they were transgender or gender non-conforming.
  • Survey participants reported very high levels of postponing medical care when sick or injured due to discrimination and disrespect (28 percent).
  • Harassment: 28 percent of respondents were subjected to harassment in medical settings.
  • Significant lack of provider knowledge: 50 percent of the sample reported having to teach their medical providers about transgender care.
  • Despite barriers, the majority has accessed some form of transition-related medical care, but only a minority has had any surgery, despite the fact that a strong majority stated wanting to have it someday.
  • Respondents reported more than four times the national average of HIV infection, 2.64 percent in our sample compared to 0.6 percent in the general population, with rates for transgender women at 3.76 percent, and with those who are unemployed (4.67 percent) or who have engaged in sex work (15.32 percent) even higher.
  • Over a quarter of the respondents reported misusing drugs or alcohol specifically to cope with the discrimination they faced due to their gender identity or expression.
  • A staggering 41 percent of respondents reported attempting suicide compared to 1.6 percent of the general population.
I'm one of the few I know in a similar situation who have not attempted self-destruction. If anything, this figure is likely to be understated. Three of my friends are only alive because the gun didn't go off when they pulled the trigger.

And I've had to teach all of my medical team about some of the finer details of this issue, even the experts. How did they become expert? By listening to their patients. That's how they maintain their reputation and proficiency too. They just don't have the time to go through all the myriad medical papers giving the latest findings. We do.

As regards the substance abuse and sex work - I can believe that too. I know all about the feeling you get when you think your life is in the toilet, there's no way out.

I made the decision to endeavour to be the best man any woman could be. And to gain a victory over cruel fate by helping others, those who were in a better position that myself, to salvage their lives. I could never be more than a fake male. I could never be the woman I was supposed to be - barring some miracle. But I could still be a decent human being, I could win by helping others, and be an asset to myself, and the world, rather than a liability.

Others dive into pill bottles, or booze. I can understand that. All too well.

Another study showed that the average age that Trans kids are ejected from their home by "loving" parents is thirteen and a half. Think about that.

Thirteen and a half. And that's an average, some are younger. To be put out on the streets, no home, no education, nothing but the clothes on your back...and all too often, refused admission to the few shelters and help programs for homeless youth, because "they don't deal with your kind here". And to have one asset - a fresh, unspoilt, innocent body that's much in demand by some with exotic tastes in sex.

And you don't care about yourself. Why should you? You're society's refuse, not fit to exist.

There but for the Grace of God - and loving parents, and the fact that I was able to hide - go I. Oh yes, I can believe those figures.

Which is why I blog about it. You see, although my life is worth living now, I got into the habit of doing what I could to help others more fortunate than myself. Once you get into that habit, the urge to do something, however small, to help others less fortunate is something I find overwhelming. It's as much a part of myself as, well, my sex. And it's not as if I do much, nothing compared with many others who devote their lives to this work.

So, having read this post... what are you going to do to help?


Cynthia Lee said...

I was one of the self destructive ones.
I will not go into the string of miracles and breaks I have recieved over the years that have kept me alive to be here now.
I am lucky to be here.
Now that I am in transition and have embraced my female soul I am doing so much better.
I am no longer trying to kill myself with excess. I have friends and I am happy now.

You had a part in that Zoe. Never forget that you have helped other transwomen.
Thank you
Hugz and luv
Cynthia Lee

Zoe Brain said...

Cynthia - you've done some helping there yourself, haven't you?

Right now, please concentrate on helping yourself a bit more, just for now. You're in the process of transition, and not without Life also throwing you some not-transitionally-related curveballs, and dealing with that should be taking up your time.

Thanks for the kind words. Now please rest up, heal, and then when things aren't quite so hectic, you can do more for others.

As you will. You're that kind of gal.

Hugs, Zoe