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"I’m trans, and I’ve avoided going to any doctor for a long time. I have no idea how to find someone who will understand and make me feel safe. How do I find a trans inclusive doctor?? And what should I ask once I’m there to make sure they’re actually accepting?"

-Question submitted by Anonymous

Riley Johnson Says:

Congrats on seeking care after some time away! I have had this tendency for avoidance a time or two myself. Accessing care and being consistently on top of one’s health can be a challenge for trans folks. In 2011, the National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 28% of respondents postponed medical care due to discrimination and 48% postponed because they couldn’t afford it. So we are definitely not alone, unfortunately. There is definitely help on the horizon though.

RAD Remedy is a community-driven, nonprofit organization that created the first review and referral site for trans, gender non-conforming, intersex, and queer health. The Referral Aggregator Database (RAD) is live in open beta and has approximately 3,000 providers with more being added daily. RAD Remedy aims to make it possible for folks to find great doctors nationwide and know precisely what to expect when accessing care. Providers come to RAD in one of three ways – through an intensive questionnaire about their practice and expertise, through referrals from community organizations, and through the reviews of folks like us who have seen the provider. I would encourage you to check the database first, and if you have trouble finding what you need, drop RAD Remedy a line and we’ll work with you to find a good solution. [I can be reached at riley@radremedy.org.]

Next, I’d like to talk briefly about strategies for getting care safely and knowing the questions you can ask to find a welcoming and knowledgeable provider. I think it’s important to be real and say that we as trans folks need to meet providers where they’re at. Looking for a provider who is an expert and has many trans clients is great, but it can be unrealistic at times depending on your location. More often you will find a provider who is interested in serving trans clients but hasn’t done so yet. TransLine operates a medical consultation service to help those providers, and RAD Remedy works with providers to improve their practices, forms, and processes to make them more welcoming.

It’s also important to note that what I consider acceptable in a provider may not be what you might. Gather all of the information you can and make the best choice for your situation. Before you make your choice, I find it’s helpful to sit down with yourself and identify the following:

Must Haves: [an example from my list: providers must use my right name.]
It Would Be Nice: [an example from my list: I would prefer that a provider has experience with trans clients but I’m willing to work with one who hasn’t done so yet.]
Dealbreakers: [an example from my list: messing up my medications, being hostile or fatphobic, etc.]

Some key questions you can ask the provider (or ask the front desk person to ask the provider personally) to ascertain whether or not a provider is trans-affirming:

1. I am a transgender man (trans woman, nonbinary person, etc.) in need of primary care/gynecological care/etc. Will this be a problem?
2. Does the provider have experience with trans clients?
3. Have the provider and clinic staff been trained about trans issues?

Here are some best practices for providers serving trans clients (and ways patients like us can subtly see whether a provider is affirming):

*Do the intake forms have a spot for preferred name and/or pronoun?
*Does the office location have gender neutral or single stall restrooms?
*Does the office art reflect the clientele? If there are pictures, are the people in them diverse in age, race, etc?
*Does the office have magazine subscriptions for LGBTQ publications?
*Does the office have an efficient and transparent means of providing feedback or complaints if needed?

Here are some key general strategies for getting the most out of your time with your provider and feeling safe while you do it:

*Use the buddy system. Other than in some domestic violence screenings, you’re allowed to have a friend or loved one in with you for office visits and exams. You can insist that they come in with you to the exam room.
*Know the questions you’d like answered or the medical issues you’re having. Some folks find it helpful to jot down a short list so they’ve got a plan for the visit. Try to keep your list short and prioritized, since you often won’t have a lot of time with the provider.
* If you are concerned about information being listed “on the record”, discuss the issue with your provider. Providers will usually tell you the sort of information they feel compelled to record and what can be discussed “off the record”.
*Take notes when in with the provider (or have your buddy do it). It can be hard to remember what gets said in a visit – particularly if you’re nervous.

Lastly, know that you have the right to access health care without experiencing discrimination. Earlier this year, a federal court in Minnesota issued a preliminary ruling that discrimination against an individual because of his gender identity is prohibited under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act. For more information on how to file a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services (usually after a provider-based complaint has failed or if things are particularly egregious), check out their website.

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“I grew up in a Muslim household. I’ve recently come to terms with being trans, and while I want to stay connected to my faith, I’m not sure how to reconcile my identity as a trans person with my identity as a Muslim.”

-Question submitted by Anonymous

Mahdia Lynn Says:

Mash’allah! What a blessing, to be Muslim and trans. Islam is such a beautiful and dynamic faith. And! Trans people are friggin’ awesome. Being a TRANS MUSLIM!? This is awesome. You are awesome. Yes.

It’s not all sunshine and roses, of course. Holding on to your faith while being “different” can be a real struggle—and being trans is a pretty big “different” to deal with. The highly normative, gender segregated culture that is so common can make navigating Muslim spaces a minefield of gender feels. And while a lot of people in the community are more accommodating and accepting of trans people than you’d think, it’s often the bigots who yell the loudest.

That doesn’t mean Islam as a whole is unaccepting of transgender people. In fact, multiple well-respected scholars have ruled in favor of transgender people’s rights (like the Grand Mufti Muhammad Sayyid Tantawy of Al-Azhar, the oldest Islamic university in the world, who ruled in favor of modern transgender pioneer Sally Mursi in 1992) and many governments have followed suit (like when the Islamic Republic of Pakistan provided a “third gender” option on legal documentation in 2009 or how the Islamic Republic of Iran provides financial and legal support for its citizens undergoing transition ever since 1987). While the language we use to describe ourselves may change over time, gender variant people have existed since well before the time of the Prophet Muhammad(SAW) and Islam is a dynamic and diverse faith that makes room for all its followers—cis and trans alike.

Here are some strategies that have worked for Muslims like us: A lot of people choose to avoid the masjid* during the early stages of transition. Some start visiting a new mosque, making it easier to use the washroom without being clocked from that one nosy aunt who’s known you from birth. Still a great number of people—trans and cis—have begun creating our own spaces out of exhaustion and frustration with the heteronormativity of it all. LGBTQ friendly, gender-equal, and trans affirming Muslim space is becoming more and more accessible every day—if you’re near any kind of major city (or even some less-than-major ones), chances are there’s a family of queer & trans Muslims meeting up for coffee or having a potluck this Friday. If you can’t find a real-world community quite yet, the el-Tawhid Unity Mosque in Toronto Skypes its jummah services every Friday.

One of the many blessings of my life is that I have a great deal of transgender Muslim family to help field questions like this. Sitting back with such lovely friends last week I asked, “If you could give advice to a Muslim just coming to terms with being trans, what would you say?” It sparked a great conversation—inspiring and engaging, much like most of the conversations I have with such family—but it was what my gender-nonspecific-sibling Fatima said which sums everything up better than I ever could:

“Allah(SWT) doesn’t make mistakes and as such you are not a mistake. Your knowing in yourself is leagues more honest and mature, with wisdom and intelligence, than the things society says/thinks/enforces. Trust in yourself and Allah and make room for the process to learn yourself even though it may be long and confusing and sometimes painful.”

Our faith does not belong to the bigots. Whatever happens and wherever your path leads, there is family to have your back and provide support. The way society divides and stresses it can seem like there’s nobody else on the planet like you. But we’re here. Getting by in our own quiet ways, living out Islam as best we can.

~

A glossary for some Muslim-y jargon used here:

– “Mash’allah” is a phrase that means something like “Allah has willed it,” used to express gratitude or happiness at a person or happening.

– “masjid” is another name for a mosque, or Islamic community center.

– After the name of the Prophet Muhammad, out of respect Muslims often use the acronym “S.A.W.”, a shortening of the salawat, which translates to something like “may Allah grant peace and honor upon him and his family.” Similarly, after the name of God we can use the acronym “s.w.t.” which translates to “Glory to God, the Exalted.”

– FUN FACT! The world “Allah” is just a literal Arabic translation of “God”—the same one Christians, Jews, and Baha’i pray to, to name a few faiths in the diverse dynamic family of monotheistic religions.

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“Hey there – so I’ve heard that there’s a thing called Intersex Awareness Day that’s happening. I’ve heard about intersex people so I know what that means, but I didn’t know that Intersex Awareness Day was a thing. What is it and how can I help celebrate it? thx!”

-Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Claudia Astorino as part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions

Claudia Says:

Hey, there, Anonymous! This is a great, timely question, since Intersex Awareness Day (lovingly acronym-ed IAD) is upon us, today on Oct 26th! It’s worth noting that IAD is actually just one of TWO days that 1) celebrate intersex people and 2) raise awareness about intersex human rights issues. Let’s talk about them!

IAD is celebrated on Oct 26th because this marks the day of the first public protest of the medically unnecessary, cosmetic procedures that are still today routinely performed on intersex kids without their consent. The protest took place in Boston, MA, outside a conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and it was led by the now-defunct organization Intersex Society of North America and their supporters from the group Transexual Menace. The protesters wore shirts and carrying signs proudly emblazoned “Hermaphrodites With Attitude.”  Just look at this image below—I mean, #swoon! The power of this image makes me feel huge things in my chest and tears springing into my eyes. This protest is one of several events that clearly marks the beginnings of intersex activism in the United States nearly two decades ago in 1996. This start date is also significant in that it shows how much younger a movement the fight for intersex human rights is than other LGBTQIA and civil rights movements. We might still be the new activists on the block, but we’ve got the attitude to keep on keepin’ on raising awareness!

While North America primarily celebrates IAD, many countries instead or additionally observe International Intersex Solidarity Day (also called International Intersex Day of Remembrance) on Nov 8th, the birthday of Herculine Barbin, a French person with intersex traits. Barbin’s posthumously-published diary is the earliest known record of intersex lived experience written by an intersex person.

So how can you celebrate Intersex Awareness Day & Intersex Solidarity Day? I’M GLAD YOU ASKED—there are so many ways! If you want to see if there are any intersex events being held near you, you can use the “Intersex Day” online hub, created by Morgan Carpenter. You can also participate online with the Intersex Awareness Day Twitterstorm, in which intersex folks will be raising awareness with the hashtag #IntersexStories. Give this campaign, created by Pidgeon Pagonis, an even bigger signal boost by donating to the “Intersex Stories NOT Surgeries” Thunderclap event—if it makes its goal, Thunderclap will help our #IntersexStories reach others further and faster. This campaign has only a few days left, so hop to it if you’re so inclined!

Aside from attending an event and participating in the Twitterstorm, the best thing you can do is simply to TALK ABOUT INTERSEX and SHARE CONTENT BY INTERSEX PEOPLE with others. Have you read or watched a great piece about intersex lately? Then tell a friend, start a convo, and/or post about it on social media! There are so many great resources and activists out there. Check ‘em out and share with others!

Well, Awarenessmous, I hope you feel prepped and PUMPED for all of the fab IAD and ISD events coming up!  See you on the 26th / 8th!  #everyoneisintersex

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“I’m genderqueer, and my friend has been super supportive…up until I came out as asexual as well. She keeps asking me if I’m sure I’m really asexual or if it’s just because I’m genderqueer or ‘confused’ about my gender. What do I say to her?”

-Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Kara Kratcha as part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions

Kara Says:

Dear anonymous friend,

How are you? I hope you and your genderqueer ace self are doing well enough and avoiding all of the nonsense that sometimes comes with existing as a genderqueer and/or ace person. I’m sure you’re great and that you’re doing a great job.

Anyway, I have to admit that this kind of reaction to a combination of queer identities in one human frustrates and confuses me. There doesn’t seem to be any reason an ace identity should invalidate a genderqueer (or nonbinary or trans) identity. More broadly, there doesn’t seem to be any reason a sexual identity should invalidate a gender identity or vise versa.

That said, I am a human who has gone to great lengths to educate themselves about queer sexualities and genders and I bet you are too, so maybe your first move should be to explain some terms to your friend. I know you have probably already done some of this. I know you might find this a little more exhausting every time you have to do it (I know I do).

Still, there’s so much confusion in the world about the difference between gender and sexuality that sometimes we have to explain ourselves if we want to be understood. Once I told a coworker that I was doing research about asexuality and narrative. He responded with a monologue about how gender roles are collapsing in the United States and that the difference between men and women is disappearing and isn’t that a shame? I think he thought we were talking about agender people or maybe trans people generally. In any case, we did not share a vocabulary about the topic we were supposedly discussing and therefore could not communicate about it. If you want to be able to talk with your friend about your identity, you may have to establish a common vocabulary.

(You should also remember that you have not failed if you decide that you cannot or do not want to explain yourself until you are understood right now. Both asexuality and genderqueerness are complicated topics, and combining them makes them even more complicated and difficult to explain to someone who has never experienced them. In the situation with my coworker, I decided that making myself understood wasn’t worth it. You may decide differently with your friend, but that’s your call.)

The other reason I am so baffled by your friend’s reaction to your aceness and genderqueerness, dear anon, is because I myself experience my ace identity and my nonbinary identity as intertwined and inseparable. My gender complements and complicates my sexuality in ways I continue to discover. I don’t know what it’s like for you, but I find the gender binary in relation to sexual activity a lot like a fruit fly infestation: always buzzing in the background, sometimes hard to see from a distance, and almost impossible to get rid of. Even the concept of “gay sex” relies on the idea that the people involved conform to the same end of a binary gender system.

Even more frustratingly, sometimes perceptions of gay sex fall into “masculine” and “feminine” roles. I recently told someone that I am into girls and thereby implied that I’m gay or maybe bi (this, by the way, is a strategy I use when being read as a straight girl in gay spaces gets to be too much for me but I don’t feel safe explaining how I actually identify) and their first response was to ask if I’m a top or a bottom. Yuck!

By asking this question, this person presumes that all people who have same-sex interactions take on one binary gender role in sex all the time. As you perhaps perceive, my nonbinary trans identity and my ace identity are interacting here in ways that are difficult for me to pick apart. Does that response to my perceived identity squick me out because I don’t want to have to identify as top (coded masculine) or bottom (coded feminine)? Or because I don’t want to be associated with sex acts I’m not performing? Or because the gendering of sex makes it difficult for me to access it as something I want at all? I don’t know, but I’m definitely sure it makes me uncomfortable. If you have had similar experiences, maybe you would like to share them with your friend so that she can think about how the labels you use make up one whole person who experiences the world from multiple standpoints all at once.

Thinking about my gender identity and my sexual identity together often brings up more questions than answers for me, but that doesn’t mean that I’m confused about one or the other or both. My guess is that you feel similarly at least some of the time. If your friend is really your friend, then you should be able to engage in identity uncertainty and exploration with her and leave feeling that your identity is still valid. Alternately, maybe you feel entirely certain about who you are and what that means, in which case I think you should tell your friend who you are and what that means as clearly as you can and hope she takes you at your word. If she doesn’t, then maybe you should reconsider whether this person is capable of supporting and loving you the way a friend should.

All of the best,

Kara

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“Hi, I’m intersex, but I’ve never met another intersex person before. Where is everyone?! I want to meet another intersex person so much. Where do I find them?”

- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Claudia Astorino as part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions

Claudia Says:

Hi, Anonymous!  This is a great question – I don’t think I’ve ever met another intersex person that didn’t share these sentiments.  I remember dreaming about what it would be like to meet another intersex person as a kid, wondering where they all were, wondering when it would happen. When I finally did meet an out intersex person for the first time, I felt like my heart and my life exploded in the best of all possible ways.    I had been told for years and years by doctors, my family, society at large that I had to keep my body and myself a secret, that other people wouldn’t understand, that I had to try my best to be “normal” at all costs.  To finally meet someone that not only understood but VALIDATED my intersex self? Was nothing less than life-changing. I count that as one of many turning-points in my life.  Meeting other intersex people is important and great, and I hope that you can connect with some fantastic intersex folks soon!

That being said, WE ARE NOT AN EASY BUNCH TO FIND out in the world nowadays.  That shame and secrecy I referenced just a moment ago is still the party line that a lot of intersex kids are given – and what a lot of intersex teens and adults stick to because 1) there aren’t a ton of models out there showing closeted intersex people that you can come out and live a fulfilling life and it will be okay, and 2) the medicalization most of us undergo and the intersexphobia we feel in society is a deterrent to coming out when most of us are still closeted. Intersex people looking to connect have historically had a difficult time doing so.  Furthermore, doctors have not been helpful for putting intersex kids and families in contact with one another, at least in part because of patient confidentiality agreements.

But one giant thing has changed since the dark ages of the 1980’s when I was born, that’s helping intersex people find one another today:  THE POWER OF THE INTERNET.  There has been, like, approx. eleventy billion articles and thinkpieces on how the internet has changed social landscapes, in ways that are argued to be either awesomesauce or awfulsauce #makinwordsup #fakewordfriday #justgowithit  #awfulsauceyum??  In this particular case, the internet has been enormously helpful in enabling intersex people to connect with one another – both online and in real life.  In short:  THE INTERNET IS RIDICULOUSLY HELPFUL, DO YOU KNOW, WHY DON’T YOU LOG ON NOW #dialupnoises #ughlikeyouknowwhatthosearenow #speakingofthe80s #halpimdecrepit

There are multiple ways you can search for awesome, out intersex people to connect with.  You can search the #intersex hashtag on social media, like Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook or Google search terms like “intersex organization” or “intersex activist.”  (You may not care if the wonderful intersex people you wanna connect with are activists/affiliates of an intersex organization or not, but these are nevertheless starting points to meet other intersex people!)  Follow some intersex folks and orgs that advocate for intersex human rights and/or provide support for intersex folks.  If you find some people or groups you think you like, check em out online and learn more.  Check out some stuff they’ve written.  Subscribe to a newsletter.  See if they host a chatroom, forum, or closed Facebook group you can join, where intersex people can talk with one another.  (These exist out there, with some that are specific for people with a particular intersex variation.)  See if the intersex folks or orgs you like give talks or workshops, or take part in or host (bi-)annual meetings you’d like to attend, AND THEN GO!  Going to a real-life event is a great way to meet intersex people in person!  You have the opportunity to not only meet awesome intersex folks who live far away but you can keep up with through the wonders of text message, Gchat, and Skype, but you may also find intersex people you like that live near you! And now you’re straight-up hanging out with intersex people, ALL BECAUSE YOU SEARCHED A HASHTAG ON THE INTERNETS, man are you good!

A further note:  if you don’t have a lot of $$$, that’s not necessarily a problem – you can still totally go to an event!  Many talks and workshops are free or donation-based for participants, and big annual meetings – which do cost money, and are hosted in different places that require travel – sometimes offer scholarships to help those in need attend. See what’s in your area or close-by, and what seems worth saving up for, traveling to, and applying for scholarships to attend.

FIRE UP YR SEARCH ENGINES, Anonymous, and go find some friends!  <3

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