Trans folks are those whose gender identity, expression, or behavior is not traditionally associated with their birth sex. Some trans individuals experience gender identity as incongruent with their anatomical sex and may seek some degree of sex reassignment surgery or hormonal treatments. Others may pursue gender expression through external self-presentation and behavior. In honor of National GLBT Health Awareness Week (March 26th-30th), I give you:
5 Things Trans Persons Should Discuss with their Healthcare Provider
(Compiled from info provided by the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association [GLMA] and the Centers for Disease Control [CDC])
Hormone therapy may give desirable effects for those who are transitioning, but it also carries risks. Estrogen may cause blood clotting, high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar and water retention. Testosterone carries the associated risk of liver damage. Some trans persons bypass the health care system by using injectable silicone, often administered by non-medical persons, instead of injectable estrogen. Silicone used in this manner may actually migrate in the tissues and cause disfigurement years later. Hepatitis may also spread through the use of shared needles. The CDC recommends that hormone use be monitored by the patient and provider. Utilizing the health care system not only ensures safety in hormone therapy use, but also regulates the dosage of hormone use so that the desired effects can be obtained.
Trans men who have not had surgical removal of the uterus, ovaries, or breasts are still at risk to develop cancer of these organs. Trans women are at risk, although low, for cancer of the prostate. Even if your gender identity or expression do not coincide with your internal reproductive organs, it is important not to neglect their health.
STDs and Safe Sex
Risky behaviors may be high among trans persons, according to multiple HIV/AIDS trans needs assessments. Behaviors that may put persons at risk for contracting an STI include having multiple sex partners and irregular barrier method contraceptive use. Trans folks also face stigma and discrimination, which exacerbates their STI/ HIV risk, since the stigma of a trans status is associated with lower self-esteem, increased likelihood of substance abuse and survival sex work in male-to-female trans individuals, and lessened likelihood of safe sex practices.
Alcohol and Tobacco
Due to the social isolation, unemployment and other factors affecting trans folks, feeling of depression and anxiety may lead to alcohol use. Alcohol combined with sex hormone administration increases the risk of liver damage, while risk of heart attack and stroke are increased in those who smoke tobacco and take estrogen or testosterone.
Fitness (Diet & Exercise)
Many trans folks work long hours in order to cover the medical costs of transitions, which insurance often does not cover. Exercise and proper nutrition are important however, especially prior to sex reassignment surgery as they will reduce a person’s operative risk and promote faster recovery.
Some people may be reluctant to share the details of any previous transitioning they have undergone when seeking a new health care provider. The GLMA suggests that trans folks share their medical and health history with their medical providers in order to allow their medical personnel to provide the best possible and most relevant care.
If you identify as trans, intersex or genderqueer and would like to connect with others that do or continue to have discussions relevant to trans health, check out the UNC Chapel Hill LGBTQ Center by stopping by their office in SASB North 3226, and attending their Trans Talk Tuesdays from 6:15-7:15pm at Open Eye in Carrboro on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of every month.
The UNC Campus Health Services website also has a page specific to health related issues for trans folks. Check it out here.