A while back a friend told me about his decision to see an acupuncturist for a joint pain problem instead of seeing a doctor. Before I started in on my usual cautionary message about alternative medicine he said something interesting to me.
This friend is a transgender man, like me, but he is not what is sometimes called “visually-conforming.” This means that he is often mistaken for being female, and regularly has to remind even people who know him to use male pronouns. He also had the disadvantage of not living in a liberal city like I do. He faces a lot of barriers in his life.
He said “Why would I see a doctor? They all treat me like a freak. My acupuncturist treats me like a human, and she makes me feel better.”
I believed this guy when he told me he had very bad experiences with medical professionals. Furthermore, there is evidence that he is not alone. According to that study “Nineteen percent had been refused treatment by a doctor or other provider because of their transgender or gender non-conforming status” and many others encountered other forms of unequal treatment from a variety of medical professionals.
Transgender people aren’t the only community that faces real discrimination in medical care, but we may be one of the most stark examples. This goes way beyond stories of emergency medical professionals refusing to save the life transgender patients and into the regular day to day medical care of transgender clients.
I’m not surprised that after facing this kind of prejudice in the medical community some transgender folks make the same decision my friend did, and find someone to treat them who they can trust. Sometimes these people are like my friend, don’t know quite enough about the differences between science based medicine and alternative medicine, and end up seeking care from a friendly practitioner who offers them care without attached scorn.
I want to see them getting science based care in an accepting environment instead.