About half the time Ricky Hill of Chicago goes to the doctor, Hill has to educate the doctor about being transgender. Other times, clinic workers have called Hill by the wrong name. These are experiences with which many other transgender people can identify.
“We figure out who is a doctor that’s not going to mis-gender me, or get my name wrong every single time I go in. Or, look at me like I’m a weirdo. Or, ask a bunch of inappropriate questions that have nothing to do with the sinus infection that I came in for,” Hill says.
Hill, 32, identifies between the male and female genders, and prefers the pronouns them and they, versus him or her. “I identify as a trans-masculine, gender-queer person,” Hill says.
Hill is always on the lookout for doctors, hairstylists, gender-neutral bathrooms, and any other service or business where they can feel accepted.
“It is a constant explanation,” Hill says, “I would love to have a day where my gender was not the topic of some sort of conversation.”
This is why a non-profit advocacy group in Chicago has created an online database to help transgender people find businesses and service providers that are not just friendly, but understanding of their needs. Most of the online directory is comprised of healthcare services, and it includes a rate and review function, as well as the ability to search for businesses and providers by location.
The directory, called RAD Remedy — RAD stands for Referral Aggregator Database — is online, but still in development mode. It could potentially make a big impact, because of the sizable population of transgender Americans; up to 700,000 people, according to an estimate by UCLA’s Williams Institute.
“Our, sort of, hope is to provide as much information to people as possible, for them to know what they’re walking into,” says Riley Johnson, RAD Remedy’s co-founder.
It is not just an issue of convenience. More than a quarter of transgender people report harassment in a medical setting, says Daphna Stroumsa, a resident OBGYN at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.
Stroumsa has researched transgender healthcare, finding that it can even be difficult to identify surgeons willing to work with patients who are transitioning.
“Trans people have suffered so much from the way the healthcare system has treated them,” Stroumsa says. “The medical professions have not been taught and trained the cultural sensitivity issues and the medical issues.”
Among the clinic’s listed on RAD Remedy is Chicago-based Lurie Children’s Hospital’s outpatient clinic for transgender youth. It is one of few focused on that population.
“We’ve had … patients come from as far as Kentucky, Michigan … Iowa. All the surrounding states of the Midwest,” says Robert Garofalo, a specialist in pediatrics and adolescent medicine, who runs the clinic.
Garofalo says there are only a couple of dozen other clinics like his.