As a queer person, one of the most frustrating topics is gender confirmation. I know many people who would do anything for a top surgery or for hormones, but too many issues block their way. Whether it be family acceptance, fear or not knowing where to go, I still see the biggest issue being the costs to do such. To get on testosterone or estrogen, the prices could be around $800 for a month’s use, a price that seems outrageous to pay every month. Top surgery is usually somewhere around $11,000. This also comes with looking for doctors who will do such a surgery, and do it well, which could require traveling across the country. It could also be difficult for people who aren’t in the binary but still wish for these hormones and surgeries, but the places they go won’t provide it because it isn’t a female-to-male or male-to-female situation, leaving it in a “gray” area.
This is true even more so now, with the Trump Administration tumbling down on transgender rights, trying to diminish the term “transgender” as a whole. This makes education, school and health care much more difficult to receive as a trans person. Whether we know we are trans or not, it basically seems irrelevant because the government disagrees, leaving trans people forgotten and pushed to the side.
Needless to say, it is difficult to get the confirmation that so many need, especially with low incomes. But over the summer I learned about a health center called Howard Brown throughout the Chicago area. Howard Brown is helping queer people get what they need and are making it incredibly easy, and more people need to know about it.
A friend of mine was in search of hormones but isn’t out as trans to their family and struggles with the idea of explaining why, as a non-binary person, they want to go on testosterone. Their family may not understand or may not accept them, so they keep it a secret, but they still wanted to get the hormones, even without insurance, acceptance or income. Howard Brown is able to save them almost $800 dollars every month for their hormones and their visits to the health center cost around five dollars. Because of their student status and tiny income, Howard Brown works with them to make sure they are still getting the care they came for. Best of all, the charges on their debit card can come up as “debit card purchase” instead of revealing that they visited a hospital.
Telling my other queer friends about their services leaves them stunned. It is amazing the hopeful reaction it gives when they look through the Howard Brown website, adhering to a need they have been craving for years. Watching the amazing work that this health center does makes me wish that there were more hospitals and health centers that work hand-in-hand with queer people. Gender confirmation is terrifying, and having a resource could be a saving grace to someone in need, and how far they will go to help a single person out is astounding. It proves how badly the LGBTQ+ community needs health care, how desperate we are to have an understanding health community to guide us through these scary transformations. It shows still just how desperate we are to have someone accept us.
The queer community is still very misunderstood and will continue to be so, but as a health center, it is refreshing to have a community of doctors and nurses aching to provide care, acceptance, therapy and gender validation to the queer community. Living in the world as a trans person just got a little more frightening, and Howard Brown is one of the places that give us a little bit of hope.