Dr. Abbott answers questions about Transgender health care

BY IN Transgender On November 30, 2016

Since 2007, Western North Carolina Community Health Services (WNCCHS) has offered high quality, culturally competent transgender health services and now serves more than 200 gender nonconforming patients, including adults and adolescents in their Transgender Health Program.

“We strive to provide appropriate, up to date, evidence-based care for our trans patients, including preventive services, behavioral health services, hormone therapy, general medical care, and referral to community resources. We recognize that there is a huge gap in healthcare that is accessible and appropriate for transgender patients in the United States and especially in the South.” – Dr. Jennifer Abbott.

Dr. Jennifer Abbott is the director of WNCCHS’ transgender health program. The Campaign for Southern Equality reached out to Dr. Abbott to see how patients are responding to the election results.

What are the primary concerns you are hearing post-election from LGBTQ patients at WNCCHS?

Will I still be able to get my hormones? Should I “stockpile?” How will this affect my ability to get my gender marker changed? (Since HB2 no driver’s license changes have been allowed, and folks are worried that the law pertaining to passport gender marker changes will be changed. Passport gender marker changes currently are fairly straightforward and only require a letter from a physician.) 

What will become of the status of my marriage if marriage equality is overturned? Many concerns from teens and their providers/allies, “Maybe this means that I will NEVER be able to start blockers or hormone therapy, especially not before I turn 18.” Fears about lack of access to care, particularly if current care-providing clinics close or fewer providers are available.

We’re hearing from a lot of people who are worried that they won’t be able to get hormones anymore. If someone has health insurance, should they be worried?

In terms of access to hormones, the majority of our gender nonconforming patients are uninsured, or if they have insurance, the insurance is already not covering their hormone therapy. WNCCHS is committed to continuing to provide medically necessary hormones at the most affordable cost possible. Since our founding in 1993, WNCCHS has been dedicated to caring for “underserved” communities including immigrants, people living with HIV/AIDS, LGBTQ patients, and people living in poverty. We intend to continue this work in the spirit of social justice and care for all, regardless of ability to pay or insurance status. Furthermore, we will continue our work in outreach and education to other health care clinics and providers to increase access to appropriate transgender health care in our state and in the South.

What are you saying to people who ask if they should “stockpile”?

I do not anticipate legislation that will regulate what medications physicians are able to prescribe. That would be a type of government intervention that we have not seen in healthcare in the past and I anticipate would cause an extreme outcry among physicians, even those who may have supported the President-elect. If patients have a good relationship with their provider, I would advise maintaining that and that care should be able to continue.   

And how do you respond to “Maybe this means that I will NEVER be able to start blockers or hormone therapy, especially not before I turn 18”?

In terms of teen care, for now, the same applies. There is no current law or government regulation specific to transgender care for any age of patient. I believe that we can and must continue to provide care for youth and teens in accordance with WPATH Standards of Care. There are still very few medical providers in our state and in the South with competence in caring for youth and adolescents, so we need to grow this resource. We encourage transgender teens and their parents to reach out to behavioral health providers if in need of increased support.

You can learn more about WNCCHS Transgender Health Program from this profile published in the Mountain X in 2013.


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