Ten Trans Folks Talk About Their Health Care Priorities

Contributing Editor
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Tim Murphy

On Oct. 18 and 19, Community Healthcare Network, a federally qualified health center with 15 sites throughout New York City, hosted its 8th Annual Conference on Transgender Health: TRANSforming Social Justice through Healthcare. Held at The New School in New York City, it was co-sponsored by Amida Care, New York's largest Medicaid not-for-profit special needs health plan.

"The conference explores the multiple issues that impact the lives and health of people of trans experience through the lens of social justice," said Freddy Molano, vice president of Infectious Diseases and LGBTQ Programs with Community Healthcare Network, beforehand. "Although amazing advancements have taken place on the clinical front, much more needs to be done to ensure there is a clear understanding of people of trans experience. Our conference will address that."

The event's keynote speakers were Jason Robert Ballard, founder and CEO of FTM Magazine, and Cecilia Gentili, director of policy with GMHC.

TheBody asked participants what they had found to be the most important aspect of their own trans health care journey. Here's what they said.

These transcripts have been lightly edited for style.

Tim Murphy has been living with HIV since 2000 and writing about HIV activism, science and treatment since 1994. He writes for and has been a staffer at POZ, and writes for the New York Times, New York Magazine, Out Magazine, The Advocate, Details and many other publications. He is also the author of the NYC AIDS-era novel Christodora.

Tim Murphy

Gia Valentina Rodriguez

Rodriguez is a restaurant server from Jamaica, Queens.

We need specialized health care for trans people. A lot of endocrinologists don't know about our hormone issues; they only know the basic stuff. Trans treatment overall is getting better. When I started transitioning 14 years ago, it was hard, and hormone treatment was not covered by insurance. Now there's more access.

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Lorena Borgas

Borgas is a patient navigator with Community Healthcare Network and activist with Colectivio Intercultural TRANSgrediendo. Borgas lives in Elmhurst, Queens.

Immigration issues are really important. If you have papers, if you're a permanent resident, then you can do whatever you need health-wise because you can get insurance. They need to decriminalize sex work because an arrest can keep you from getting your legal papers.

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Brenda Miranda

Miranda lives in Jackson Heights, Queens.

Hormones are the most important thing because they make me feel like more of a woman. And HIV services are really important -- we need information on everything!

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Sir Knight

Knight is a model and cofounder of #blacktranstv on Instagram. Knight lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.

Overall, awareness is the most important thing because when you know who you are, you can learn what you want or need to do health-wise. Awareness is the first step toward getting out of that dark place where your body doesn't align with your identity.

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Tashan Lovemore

Lovemore is a public speaker and cofounder of #blacktranstv on Instagram. Lovemore lives in Rosedale, Queens.

Mental health is really important. I used to work for a community health clinic that said they were inclusive but couldn't even get our pronouns right. Places need proper trans education and training. If you say you're trans-inclusive but then you misgender us, where are we supposed to go?

Tim Murphy

Linda Dominguez

Dominguez lives in Grand Concourse, Bronx.

Vitamins are the most important thing to me! That and my hormone treatment. It's going well.

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Ashley Rendon

Rendon is a performer who lives in Elmhurst, Queens.

It's good to have all the things we have now for trans health in New York City. Hormones are important. They make you look and feel like a woman. I go to APICHA for my health care. I get all my tests and medications in one place there. They also have a monthly group for trans women where you hear all sorts of different transition stories.

Tim Murphy

Jada Legend

Legend is a linkage-to-care specialist and receptionist at the Alliance for Positive Change. Legend lives in the Bronx.

Surgery is really important to me. I wouldn't say it completed me, but it enhanced the parts of my body where I needed to be more comfortable with myself in the mirror. I had the original work done at NYU then had some revision work done at The Mt. Sinai Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery under Jess Ting, M.D.,. They were the best. They walked me through everything. Sometimes after the surgery, you have depression and need therapy, and my husband can only do so much, and they were there for me. The staff was outstanding.

Tim Murphy

Kiara St. James

St. James is founder and executive director of New York Transgender Advocacy Group. St. James lives in Flatbush, Brooklyn.

Mental health is so important. We need to be having these ongoing conversations, especially around surgery aftercare. A lot of trans folks don't realize they can have depression afterward. I'm looking to get funding for that because not as many places are addressing that. Even just to give people a safe zone to go to after surgery with healing music if they don't want to talk about it directly.

I tell people, "You have rights and access now, but you may still be stuck in a space of trauma." Especially older trans folks, because a lot of the current conversations and funding are focused on younger people, say 16 to 24. You don't necessarily get all your shit together by 35! I'm 42 and sometimes now with younger trans folks, I feel like my grandmother telling us what it was like growing up black in the South years ago.

Tim Murphy

Sedrick Giacobe

Giacobe is a fitness trainer and former volunteer at Hudson Pride Center. Giacobe lives in Bayonne, New Jersey.

I dealt with a lot of struggles getting coverage for my mental and physical needs in New Jersey throughout my transition. I'm getting surgery in December under Jonathan Keith, M.D., FACS, at Rutgers. I finally got approved for it this week!

But I've had to fight to get my insurance to cover my hormones. When I started them, I had suicidal thoughts and flashbacks to childhood trauma, so I went to Callen-Lorde in Manhattan for therapy. I was also depressed because I was obese. I was just sitting there in a hole waiting for help. But I started watching fitness videos of handicapped people working out, and I thought, "If they can do it, I can." Now I've been working out for a year and it's changed me. I also watched a lot of videos about self-care and self-love.