Transformations: Tips for choosing a LGB (and T) -friendly healthcare provider

Editor's Note: The commentary below is strictly the author's opinion. SDGLN does not endorse or recommend the use of any particular physician or services over any other.

A negative experience in a doctor’s office? We’ve all been there.

Sitting on a doctor’s table, practically buck-naked in a backless gown (leave your dignity at the door!) only to be faced with a physician who’s likely overworked, tired, and seeing far too many patients each and every day.

If you’re lucky, you get to spend a grand total of 10-15 minutes with them, trying in vain to explain your symptoms and concerns (and even if you have medical knowledge, it can be difficult to explain what’s going on with your own body), only to feel vaguely brushed-off and not listened to.

You might get a couple of prescriptions … you dress hurriedly, make a follow-up appointment to be seen in a few weeks and you go home feeling discouraged.

When my partner and I moved to San Diego six years ago, it took both of us a while to find physicians and therapists we felt comfortable with.

My partner is a transgender woman, and surprisingly, she found a great internist and endocrinologist right away! It ended up taking me not months, but several years until I found a general practitioner that seemed to really understand and listen to me. Sometimes, it’s a matter of hit-and-miss; other times, it’s just a matter of luck; other times, it’s a matter of digging in and doing the mundane research.

So I wondered – if I, a cis-gender woman, had difficulty finding a good physician, what might it be like for someone who identifies as transgender? What might it be like, indeed?

Here is a brief compilation of tips (and a few do's and don'ts) that might be helpful for members of the entire LGBT community when beginning the search for a competent, understanding physician or therapist.

1. Do ask around! You’d be surprised how willing your family and friends will be to talk about how much they either love (or loathe) their past and/or present physicians! If you’re transgender, make it a point to ask around in our LGBT community – word-of-mouth is sometimes the best indicator of satisfaction with an LGBT-friendly doctor or therapist. When you attend LGBT events, don’t be afraid to make small talk – if you’re new in town, simply "network" during these events. Exchange business cards, explain your situation and let folks know that you’re looking for a competent, understanding and respectful physician.

2. Check out the Internet. Use the Internet and social networking sites to your advantage! Don’t be afraid to use Google to search for a physician/therapist in your city, and if the sites contain reviews, read them all. If you’re surfing online for LGBT-friendly publications, pay attention to the banner ads (and articles) that contain information on local physicians, dentists, and therapists. A few sites that contain a plethora of information are: Dr. Becky, Find a Provider, TG Lynn's Place.

3. Take your time. Don’t be in such a rush that you find yourself making appointments with a physician or therapist that doesn’t treat you with dignity and respect. Remember, your health is a vital concern and should be given top priority. If you are transgender, there are crucial blood work tests and hormone therapy treatments that must be monitored on a regular basis. If you feel your needs aren’t being addressed (or if you don’t feel listened to) by your physician, by all means, speak up! You might be the first transgender patient they’ve met and they’re just hesitant about asking the "wrong" questions.

4. Don’t put off finding medical care. Yes, it can be a chore, but nothing is more important than one’s physical and mental health. If you’re insured, give your healthcare provider a call -- they can be a valuable resource. Explain your particular medical concerns, and they can assist you in finding competent care.

Here in San Diego, Family Health Centers, states the following on their website:

Family Health Centers of San Diego's mission to provide healthcare services to medically underserved people extends to the transgender community. As one of the most underserved populations by San Diego's healthcare community, Family Health Centers of San Diego is proud to provide respectful, culturally competent, high quality services to transgender individuals.

The following services are offered to our transgender patients:

  • Assistance with Barriers to Accessing Health and Social Services
  • Case Management
  • Monitored Hormone Therapy
  • Supportive Services for those At-Risk for HIV and STDs
  • Transition-related Issues

Transgender Health Locations:

The also show two options available locally.

North Park's Tuesday Night Clinic, and the HIV Coordinated Services Center.

For more information about these two locations, or to make an appointment, call 619-515-2449. For more information about the Family Health Services Center, call 619-515-2300.

Other News of Interest

Last week Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) announced the launch of a new "literary and arts magazine intended to celebrate diverse visions and understandings of the transgender community."

It is called Bodies in Motion and after years of frustration with being told that transgender literature was not "commercially viable." Initially it will be published three times per year (and available online).

Read more about this new magazine from Angela Dallara, GLAAD's National News / Transgender Advocacy Fellow at the
GLAAD BLOG.

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