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For Transgender Missourians, ‘There's Always A Fear Of Going To A Doctor’

Jordan Richards and Tracy Davis are both Board Members at The Center Project, an LGBTQ+ resource and community center for Mid-Missouri.

They spoke about some of the barriers transgender Missourians face when they need to go to the doctor – for gender-affirming health care or even for a simple checkup.

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org

Jordan Richards: I think that for trans people – even for things like a general checkup – there's always a fear of going to a doctor. I know that when they did the Trans Survey, it said something like 55 percent of people who sought care were denied for transition-related care.

And then, I mean, there was also a percent of people who sought care for normal things, and had, you know, some sort of discrimination against them. So, it's always a fear that when you're going to a doctor, even if it's not for transition-related care, that you're still gonna get some sort of discrimination against you.

And as far as transition related care, I mean, most people who go… I think we're lucky that with the [Transgender] Blender, and here in Mid-Missouri community, we sort of found a way to build a community [where] we can disseminate information about doctors who know what they're talking about, who know what they're doing, who are friendly.

But a lot of places – especially where I'm from in rural Missouri – there's no way to access gender-affirming health care there because there's no doctors who will do it, and if they say they'll do it, then you are going to have to teach them how to be a doctor for gender-affirming health care.

And it's just – it's really hard, and it's something that I think trans people all over the state struggle with. And I know a lot a lot of people have had negative experiences with physicians.

Tracy Davis: One obstacle that a lot of people run into, and Jordan has talked about this before, is avoidance of going to the doctor in the first place – because you're not sure what sort of treatment you're going to get while you're there.

Okay, so story time. I'll tell you a little story.

Now, I went through a lot of effort to get my name to be “Tracy Davis.” It wasn't always that. I used to go by a different name, but that name had a lot of painful memories for me. It wasn't something that matched my gender identity, and so, I went through a day in court and a couple hundred dollars to get rid of it.

And so, imagine my dismay, the first time I went to the doctor's office, and I walk in and I sign in and I sit down, and I've got my little Highlights magazine, and I'm waiting and what do I hear across the page in a room full of people? But my dead name.

My dead name right there.

Now, I at the time, was presenting as much feminine realness as you see right now. I didn't look like my name at all, but I had to meekly raise my hand and walk to the desk, and it basically outed me to that whole room of people as a transgender person.

Which I'm proud to be a transgender person, but unfortunately, there are situations where being outed in public can be a threat to your personal safety, and, you know, it also just wasn't a good time for me. I'll be honest – I wasn't excited to sign up to go to the doctor again.

So, just simple things – like updating paperwork – making it easy to change so that people are treated with respect when they go to the doctor.

Hannah France is a convergence radio student at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism – set to graduate with her Bachelor of Journalism in May 2021.