Life-saving and life-changing health care.
A new clinic geared toward St. Louis transgender teens hopes to be a sort of one-stop shop for supporting trans youth.
After opening the first week of August, St. Louis' Transgender Center of Excellence is already booked through mid-September. It's one location complete with mental health, hormones, and other essential services, and it's getting rave reviews from patients already.
"Having support and acceptance is extremely important for this patient population," Dr. Christopher Lewis, physician and founder of the clinic, told WGN News. "Transgender patients already deal with harassment and discrimination within the medical community and that is a barrier to them accessing care."
A supportive medical environment is a big win for trans kids — take it from others, like myself, who wish those resources existed when we were growing up.
On Twitter, I reached out to my trans followers to find out what this type of clinic would have meant to them when they were younger. A few common themes emerged.
For many, it would have meant help and support for themselves and their parents.
Others remarked on how a supportive environment would have encouraged them to stop hiding, sidestepping some traumatic early-life experiences.
It would have provided a sense of identity for those who felt alone and isolated, who never saw accurate reflections of themselves in the media.
Then, the emails started rolling in. "If I'd had the words, if I'd known the concepts, if I had a supportive and professional environment to turn to. I would have been able to live without a dysphoria that came close to killing me, repeatedly," writes Alvhild Sand, a trans woman from Norway, about what a difference a resource like this would have made for her.
"It would have been fantastic if such a place had existed," writes Gwyn Ciesla, another trans woman, who grew up in a "highly Catholic town in the 1980s" where she was "not exposed to LGBTQ ideas or openly LGBTQ people."
"The only tools available were in the context of education, religion, and mental health, and were ineffective because they were incomplete," Ciesla explains. "If I had known then what I know now, and a clinic like this had been available, it would have been life-changing."
"Given what I did and didn't know at the time, I might not have been able to get to the point where I could take advantage of the clinic's services," Ciesla admits, expressing hope that "the presence of the clinic might have at least increased the information available to me and helped me to understand and begin to accept myself years earlier."
"I only survived my youth by a narrow margin, and I think this clinic might have widened that margin a lot. I hope this clinic can do that for youth now and in the future."
The new clinic in St. Louis joins a handful of other trans-specific children's medical programs across the country.
One of the most notable is the gender development services at Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago. The sad fact is that even though the Affordable Care Act effectively banned discriminating against people on the basis of their gender identity, many trans people continue to face either discrimination or confusion from their health care providers.
According to the National Center for Transgender Equality's 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, 33% of trans people who saw a health care provider in the previous year had at least one negative experience, were denied care, or had to actually teach their provider about trans patients. In other words, there's a lot of work to be done, and taking steps to ensure trans people have competent, knowledgeable medical care is a work in progress.
The new clinic in St. Louis is a big step in the right direction, providing care and benefits for years to come.