This week, hospitals and health care centers will begin scheduling non-emergency procedures and appointments that were postponed to allow the health care system to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For many transgender and nonbinary people, the cancellation of long-planned gender-affirming procedures or appointments has been devastating. Our communities experience higher rates of anxiety and depression than our cisgender peers, and that was before this pandemic. We are also five times more likely to be living with HIV compared with the general population. Forgoing gender-affirming care and routine appointments over the last two months may have exacerbated any anxiety or depression we were dealing with. And our chronic health conditions may have worsened.
So now is the time to reschedule those visits. You may still be worried about exposing yourself to the coronavirus by visiting a hospital or health care center. You’re not alone. Fear of exposure has become so widespread that Gov. Charlie Baker and the leaders of three hospitals in the Greater Boston area spent time during Baker’s April 23 press briefing reassuring the public that it was safe to seek care for urgent conditions.
“We’re decontaminating our surfaces, we’re practicing social distancing, we’re using masks and we’re doing everything we can to keep you safe,” Dr. Michael Apkon, president and CEO of Tufts Medical Center and Floating Hospital for Children. “If you are ill,” please call your physician to seek care.”
All three health care leaders said that urgent care visits had dropped by over 50 percent and gave disturbing examples of the lengths to which people were avoiding treatment for emergency conditions: a child with a ruptured appendix after toughing out several days of abdominal pain, patients with diabetes needing limb amputation because of untreated leg ulcers, stroke victims not coming in until they were long past the point at which physical damage could be mitigated, and increased cases of advanced cardiac and gastrointestinal disease.
We know that trans adults are more likely to rate our health as poor or fair compared with the general population and more than one in five of us has at least one or more chronic conditions like diabetes, arthritis, or asthma.
As trans people, we must always be vigilant about our mental and physical health. But it’s especially important now, when we know that a compromised immune system and pre-existing health conditions may put us at greater risk of developing serious complications from COVID-19 infection.
So, if you’ve been putting it off, now is the time to call your doctor. We get that it’s sometimes easier said than done. Even in the best of times, many trans and nonbinary people avoid medical care altogether due to stigma and fear of discrimination. But know this: discrimination against transgender people in the MA health care system is unlawful. You have rights. If you have concerns about any mistreatment that you experience during this public health emergency, please reach out to us at the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC) or contact GLADAnswers.org, the legal information service at GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders (GLAD).
But don’t put off getting the care you need. In the meantime, the best way to ensure your continued health during the pandemic is to practice safety measures and good hygiene. If you must go out, per the governor’s order you are required to wear a face mask. Keep a safe distance from others—at least six feet. Wash your hands thoroughly (scrub for at least 20 seconds) or use hand sanitizer if you have been in public and touched an item or surface that is frequently touched by others—door handles, tables, gas pumps, shopping carts, touchscreens, etc. Keep your hands away from your face, as germs enter our bodies through our mouth, nose and eyes.
And stay connected. It’s a difficult and scary time for everyone. We need each other. Keep in contact with loved ones and support networks via telephone, email, text, Zoom, etc. No matter your age, if you are feeling isolated there are options for you to seek and receive virtual support from within the LGBTQ and trans and nonbinary communities.
Fenway Health and the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) are each maintaining helpful lists of information and resources to help you stay safe(r) and healthy during the pandemic. Here are some resources specifically for our elders,
Check out the MA Trans Health Coalition’s Guiding Principles for Gender-Affirming Care During COVID-19 and the Validation Station, a new free service that sends validating and affirming daily text messages to transgender and nonbinary people during this crisis.
MTPC Signs on to Open Letter to Human Rights Campaign: Trans people don’t need HRC to save us – we need HRC to back usPosted by: Kelsey Grunstra | Posted on: October 3, 2019
“After reading the article in Out Magazine, a few trans leaders, including representatives from the Transgender Law Center, Transgender Gender-Variant & Intersex Justice Project, Transgender Legal Defense, and Education Fund and The TransLatin@ Coalition, gathered to discuss our concerns. We made the difficult decision to draft this open letter because trans people have worked hard to build an infrastructure to support our movement, and we saw that work being dangerously invisibilized in the way HRC composed its plan and rolled out the announcement. For the biggest LGBT organization in the world to ignore hard-won existing trans movement infrastructure and leadership – and claim to speak for us – threatens our ability to maintain a strong trans-led movement for liberation. Under Alphonso David’s leadership, we see a new willingness from HRC to prioritize trans people of color. Our letter is an invitation for HRC to do so in partnership with us – rather than for us.”
MTPC is proud to join with our fellow trans-focused and trans-led organizations in sending HRC this message.
Joint Statement of GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) and Massachusetts Trans Political Coalition (MTPC) on the Treatment of Individuals Arrested for Protesting ‘Straight Pride’ Parade in BostonPosted by: Kelsey Grunstra | Posted on: September 9, 2019
We are profoundly disturbed by the events surrounding the ‘Straight Pride’ parade in Boston on August 31, including the cascading missteps surrounding the counter-protest and its aftermath, at the hands of the police and the justice system. They are reminders of how far we have to go before our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and especially transgender communities can trust that our voices will be heard, and our identities respected, in the public square, without fear of mistreatment or discrimination.
The individuals who gathered to protest the ‘Straight Pride’ parade did so to voice disagreement with the event’s extremist messages, including the message that LGBTQ people are not “normal.” Such dehumanizing statements, made by parade organizers who have ties to White Supremacist and other alt right ideologies, threaten not only the dignity but also the safety of LGB and especially transgender lives.
Our aspirations for equal justice in our nation require protection of avenues of dissent. And yet, the heavy-handed police tactics at the rally, resulting in the arrests of protesters, threatens to squelch the voices of marginalized people, particularly the transgender community who already experience harassment and discrimination at the hands of the police.
What happened subsequently in the courtroom did little to restore our community’s trust in the justice system. While prosecutors, under the leadership of Suffolk County District Attorney Rachel Rollins, tried to do the right thing by declining to prosecute the minor charges levied against the protesters, Suffolk Municipal Court Judge Sinnott refused to defer to prosecutorial discretion and instead insisted that many of these charges go forward. Judicial resources are not well spent on prosecuting people who showed up at a rally to engage civic values of discourse.
To make matters worse, Judge Sinnott later mistreated one defendant, Kai De Jesus, a transgender woman of color, with humiliating and dehumanizing statements about her gender and name, including equating her name with a criminal alias. Whether intentional or not, comments like those made by Judge Sinnott send the message to transgender people that they may not receive a fair hearing in court – the opposite of the expectation we should be ensuring all residents of the Commonwealth can confidently hold with regards to our justice system.
But we have the power to change that. In 2018 the trial court created a mandated training, required of every trial court employee, including judges, setting out expectations for fair, respectful and inclusive treatment of transgender people in our courts. Last week demonstrated how critical such trainings are to continue on an ongoing basis for all court staff, including the judges who are entrusted with delivering unbiased justice.
Last year the Massachusetts community voted overwhelmingly to uphold protections for transgender individuals in public spaces, including on the streets and in the courts. It is up to all of us to live up to our collective aspirations of upholding fairness, dignity, and respect for LGB and transgender people, and for all people in the Commonwealth.
Through strategic litigation, public policy advocacy, and education, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders works in New England and nationally to create a just society free of discrimination based on gender identity and expression, HIV status, and sexual orientation. GLAD participated in the development of the 2018 trial court training on inclusive and respectful treatment of transgender people in the court system.
The Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC) is dedicated to ending oppression and discrimination on the basis on gender identity and gender expression. Rooted in social justice, we educate the public; advocate with state, local and federal government; engage in activism; and encourage the empowerment of community members through collective action. MTPC offers regular trainings throughout the state on trans and non-binary identities and on developing accessibility and inclusion for trans and non-binary communities.