As promised, love-fest part two…
For those who don’t know, finding a doctor to help you with your medical transition is a tricky business. Not only do you have to work with your insurance and find a doctor who is actually educated on how to assist transgender folks, but you have to hope that your doctor is accepting, supportive, and won’t trigger you by misgendering you the entire time. Making the choice to medically transition can be hard enough in itself, but then you have to realize that you’re basically handing over all of this hard to talk about information to a doctor and then hoping that they see you as “trans enough” and actually help you.
Doctors are the gatekeepers not only to our health and transitions, but to our futures and if we’ll have them. Once you’ve decided to take hormones or get some sort of surgery, every day waiting for that to happen is hell. The worry that you’ll pour out your soul and hand over your life to a doctor who will deny you access to medically transition is a constant and legit fear. And can lead to thoughts of ending it all if it means not being able to transition.
When I started my own search, I ran into road blocks because my insurance groups anything transgender as a mental disorder. That means I needed to get a therapist to diagnose me as having gender identity disorder before I could talk to a doctor about hormones. The problem came that not many therapist in my area accepted my insurance. Those that did were not educated in diagnosing and treating transgender people. Even if I could have found a therapist in my area, I would have needed to wait (sometimes months) to get an appointment. Then after my initial appointment under WPATH that therapist would need to see me for 3-6 months before giving me a diagnosis and referral letter to see a doctor about getting on hormones. At this time all I could think about was getting on testosterone. Every time I got misgender was complete misery. So each time I got a reply from a therapist saying I couldn’t be treated by them felt like someone was shoving me towards the edge of a cliff.
Then one of my friends told me to check out Mazzoni Center. Though I had heard of them before I didn’t consider them a real option because of the distance they are from me. I live in New Jersey and don’t drive so even though Mazzoni is just in the next state, I would need to figure out a way to get to my appointments. Lucky for me, one of my very close (and amazingly supportive) friends offered to help me out.
I have to say in a way I’m grateful I was forced to travel to Mazzoni. Though the back and forth was hard to schedule sometimes, I couldn’t imagine a better place for people to seek help for any part of their transition.
From the moment I arrived at Mazzoni I felt accepted. Every member of the staff was careful to avoid names and pronouns until they knew which I used. The walls were covered with posters supporting the LGBT community, fliers for free or low-cost programs, and (even though it didn’t appeal to me personally) free condoms and lube in a side corner of the entrance way. Mazzoni doesn’t just treat transgender folks. Anyone can come for STD testing, AIDS treatment, and other general health care. They also partner with a Walgreens that is literally attached to the clinic where people without insurance (or people who’s insurance will not cover trans/lgb related stuff) can go and get their meds at a reduced cost.)
During my very first appointment, my doctor made sure I understood the way Mazzoni worked. They use what’s called Informed Consent. This means that instead of waiting longer and dealing with a therapist, the doctors do a few tests to make sure my body is healthy enough to medically transition and I meet with a social worker to discuss any social concerns I might have and make sure I have a support system in place. After that I only needed to sign some paper work saying I understand the effects of taking hormones and I would get my prescription. In the future, any letters I need for surgery the doctors at Mazzoni will be happy to help me with those too.
Mazzoni worked with both my financial situation (I had to pay out of pocket but they work on a sliding scale) and the distance I needed to travel. They scheduled my initial appointments on the same day so that I wouldn’t need to travel twice unnecessarily to meet with both the doctor and the social worker.
Even the way the doctor talked about me being trans was a welcome relief. Instead of using female terms to describe my body, he kept things as un-gendered as possible. Instead of saying I was trans, he talked about how my hormones were just the wrong ones. When going over changes I should expect after starting testosterone, he kept saying things like “your voice will drop, just like it should have when you were a teenager.”
It was amazing and validating to not feel like I was mentally ill. Instead being trans was seen as a medical condition. It was like I was stopping by to pick up insulin or something.
The doctor answered any questions I might have. The staff was eager to help me try to find a support group back in New Jersey if I ever decided I wanted or needed that. They even helped me get the right forms for my name and gender marker change on my New Jersey licence.
I’ve heard of people traveling as far as from Kentucky to go to this clinic and and I can easily see why. In areas where it’s still hard to find educated doctors, Mazzoni is not only the best option, it’s worth the trip.
I still make that trip into Philadelphia for all of my trans health care needs. I could really go on and on, but I see that my post is getting lengthy. Maybe on another day I’ll talk about the day I got my first shot and gush some more about how amazing Mazzoni handle that landmark day for me.
Be sure to check them out at their website!