One of the more important things that I am both personally and professionally concerned with is the status of our overall well being. It worries me that we don't pay enough attention to our general health and worry most about getting HRT and the surgeries that we want to feel complete. Many of us ignore our health towards this goal by obtaining black market hormones off the street or from pharmacies that sell on line that don't even require a prescription. We don't really know what we are getting from these sources, but the imperative to move our bodies towards a better fit with our minds allows us to take risks risks with our health we would never consider doing otherwise regarding the rest of our health care. It is not entirely our fault, but we share some of the responsibility for this conundrum.
It has been notoriously difficult to find therapists, physicians and other health care providers to provide the care we need, yet more and more health care professionals are willing to treat us and more and more insurance companies are willing to pay for some, if not all of our health care needs on a parity to that comparable with other diagnoses. Many health care systems offer financial assistance based on income. There are also free clinics in many communities that offer health care to those who work, have no insurance and are of limited income.
When I began working with transsexuals, way before I ever considered that it would be possible for me to transition, I was the only therapist who provided transgender care for the greater part of Virginia. I had one resource for a physician who provided HRT for my male to female patients. I had no resources for my female to male patients, but I had never encountered one until the last 4 years and I was able to find a doctor willing to provide his care.
Today I have developed resources for my patients that include the psychotherapy I provide, substance abuse treatment, treatment for co occurring mental health problems and second letter evaluations (psychiatry), primary care, endocrinology, aesthetic dermatology and voice therapy. Generally, we think of male to female people benefiting from voice therapy, but female to male people can benefit from this service as well. That is because communication within our gender identity does not only include the pitch, tone and inflection, of our voices, but it also includes non verbal communication such as gestures and body movement.
For whatever reason, even if you decide to go the DIYS (do it yourself) HRT route, there are some things that are absolutely necessary and should not be neglected.Please do these to maintain your good health!
1. Blood work: We need to have some blood work done twice a year when first beginning hormone reassignment therapy and after full induction, at least once a year. These tests include a metabolic panel to check the functioning of your organs. The liver and kidneys are particularly stressed by hormone therapy. Having a lipid panel is important as well because hormones can elevate cholesterol and raise the risk of coronary artery disease.
2. Depression, anxiety and substance abuse: These problems are epidemic in our community and we have an overall suicide rate of 41% of those who have attempted suicide at least once. People of color have a much higher rate of attempted suicide than that reported overall.
3. Substance abuse is a particularly severe problem for us and exacerbates depression and anxiety and is often a huge factor in attempted suicides. It has been difficult for us to find substance abuse treatment that is sensitive to us as individuals, but this has been an emphasised area for improvement among substance abuse treatment professionals. This problem is taking too many good brothers and sisters away from us. It is so unnecessary too. There are 12 step programs available. They work for more people than anything else. Check out Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous
. Click on these links to find a meeting near you! http://aa.org/ or http://na.org/ . Some of the groups in some localities are for GLBT people specifically, if you don't feel comfortable with another type of meeting, but if there aren't any of those type meetings available in your area, please don't make that the excuse to not get the help you need. It is truly a matter of life and death.
4. Don't forget your annual mammography! While we generally have a lower rate of breast cancer than genetic women, we are at higher risk with family histories of our moms, sisters and aunts having had breast cancer, especially if they had one of the mutations that cause the more aggressive breast cancers. It is really a painless procedure and will be a life saver. Then there are a couple of tests that we hate as a reminder of having a body we felt was wrong for us. We still have to have the digital examination of our prostate glands. While the risk is reduced, we still are at risk for prostate cancer as we age, even though estrogen and progesterone are treatments used to slow the growth of prostate cancer. We also need to have the PSA blood test done on a yearly basis.
For the guys, it is important to continue to get that pelvic regularly along with a pap smear, and even if you have had a hysterectomy and oopherectomy, you will still need that done periodically, perhaps not as often.
5. See your dermatologist once a year, especially if you have had heavy sun exposure or have a history of skin cancer in your family. It is imperative that you do this yearly if you have has any relatives who had malignant melanoma. This is an extremely dangerous skin cancer and it is too often the case that when it is finally found, it is often too advanced to be successfully treated.
6. See your dentist twice a year! People who are able to keep their own teeth are healthier and live longer. Poor dental health can often lead to heart disease.
7. Don't smoke! It is the most difficult of all addictions to overcome, but it can be done! Smoking is a deceptive addiction, because it doesn't kill you as quickly as some other addictions, but the long term health consequences are devastating and are well known.
8. If you use alcohol, please use it in moderation. Alcohol in any quantity has negative effects on every tissue and organ in the body and is one of the more deadly addictions. Alcohol causes many ruined relationships and injuries due to accidents as well as fatalities. Know when you have had too much and don't be too proud to ask for someone else to drive or take you home. There is no shame in that and it may save some one's life if not your very own life.
9. Get some exercise daily! Even if you can just take 30 minutes and go for a brisk walk, it will improve your overall health as well as cardiac health. It will help you with weight control as well.
10. Be sure to laugh every day! Enjoying humor has been known to benefit general health and one's outlook. Cultivate a positive attitude. It is part of being healthy and attracting positive people. It will be part of being successful and happy in your own life. Smile! positive people are attracted to people who smile and are interested in their well being too.
11. Do something for someone else. It is good for one's outlook and overall attitude to do something nice for someone else. It doesn't have to be anything big, just look for that little opportunity to do something special to help someone else. The return will be ten times what it took to do that little helpful or kind thing!
I hope that you all have a happy and healthy 2012!