This is Wes. He is a friend of mine whom I met just a few years ago in Pittsburgh. I mostly know Wes as a parent to his wonderful genderfluid child and co-parent with his ex and their respective partners. I admire his activism, his professional work, and his devotion to Game of Thrones. He’s just a good guy who is making the world a better place for his kid and all of our kids. I think you’d really like Wes. You can read his #AMPLIFY Q&A here.
I have been following his journey to take the next steps in his medical transition. His urgency about being able to access these procedures with the support of the Affordable Care Act struck me – so I asked him if he would answer a few questions to help our readers understand why/how this was so important to pursue now. He graciously agreed. This is important because so many people don’t understand transgender health justice or transgender health care at all. I care about Wes and the many people who could lose access to vital health care if the ACA changes guidelines. It shocks (and disgusts me) that UPMC is a world class leader in so many health care areas, but there are no providers in this region who will offer these procedures.
Please take a moment to visit Wes’ crowdfundraiser and read more in his own words about his journey. And please donate. If everyone who reads this post donates $5, you will be participating in a radical act of trans health justice. For $5.
In your own words, you’ve said “I began transitioning later in life – age 39” Please explain to our readers what you mean by begining to transition. I have always felt more male in my heart than female. Even though I was in the LGBTQ community as an L since I was about 21 I had no idea people could transition. I never gave much thought to the T to be honest. When I was 38 I met my first transman. I knew from that moment on that I was like him and I wanted to start my transition as soon as possible. To transition means to take the steps to match my body with how my brain had always felt. For some people that could me taking testosterone, having top surgery, having a hysterectomy, and having bottom surgery. Any or all of those steps can be taken, however a trans person doesn’t have to do any of those things to be trans. It is a personal choice as to the steps a trans person takes to feel at peace with their gender. I changed my name legally, started testosterone, had top surgery and a hysterectomy pretty quickly after I started socially transitioning, which means to let family and friends know your plans, tell them your pronouns, and your new name if you chose one. Now I am preparing to finish my transition with bottom surgery, Phalloplasty, in May 2018.
You are fundraising for a surgical component of your transition – gender affirmation surgery. What can you tell us about these specific procedures? I am fund raising for Phalloplasty. Phalloplasty in short is the creation of a phallus from a graft from another part of the body, in my case, the forearm. There are other procedures that go along with Phalloplasty. Glansplasty, urethral lengthening, vagintecomy, scrotoplasty, and the placement of an erectile device are also procedures that are done with Phalloplasty. These surgeries are done in stages. There are many complications with this surgery.
Even though these surgeries are being covered by insurance there are a million other expenses that come along with this decision. There is no one here in Pittsburgh that does this surgery. I will be going to Texas and have to stay there for a month so there is the air b n b costs, the flights, transportation while there, food while there and medical supplies to name a few of the costs.
When you spoke about your journey, I was struck by your reference to the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare. How does the ACA impact your ability afford the medical care you need for gender affirmation? Recent clarifications on how to implement the ACA require insurance to cover transition medications and procedures. It’s by no means guaranteed that this will last with Trump on the attack. I’m so grateful for this opportunity to have surgery (hopefully!) within the window that insurance will cover some of those costs.
In Pennsylvania, their are proposed provisions to eliminate trans health care benefits for young adults benefitting from CHIP. What consequences do you foresee if this passes? The consequences for eliminating trans health care are many. Without health insurance young trans people and their families will have to shoulder the financial burden of transitioning. Hormone blockers for younger children, hormones therapy and surgeries are very expensive and some families might not even be able to afford to help their children. Not being able to transition could possibly create mental health issues and even suicidal children.
NOTE: It has been reported that this measure has been removed from some versions of this bill. We’ll keep you informed.
In your crowdfund, you mention ‘trans health justice.’ Please help our readers understand what that means. Some basics are: not assuming people’s gender. Sharing your preferred pronouns (even if you think it’s “obvious”) and asking others’ theirs. If you know of trans-friendly/welcoming/celeb
You have already raised about 2/3 of your goal from friends and family. That’s a lot of people who care about you and your family. How do you feel about those results? I think it is amazing how many people donated to my fund. The biggest surprise comes from the donations of people I barely even know! I am eternally grateful for those who have donated.
If you’d like to invest in trans health justice by supporting Wes’ fundraiser, you can find it here. He needs about $2100 to reach his goal.
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