Transgender Medical Care

By Jubilee Lopez

CatlinSpeak (Portland, Oregon)

“There’s no winning. There’s no way out. I’m sad enough already, I don’t need my life to get any worse. People say ‘it gets better’ but that isn’t true in my case. It gets worse. Each day I get worse.” These words, written by Leelah Alcorn, an Ohio transgender teen who committed suicide, put transgender medical care at the forefront of media again last month.

This coverage made Oregon’s decision to join California, Massachusetts, Vermont and Washington D.C., as a place where Medicaid covers medical treatments for gender dysphoria.

The State of Oregon is begins to assist to help people with gender dysphoria which, as defined by the U.S National Library of Medicine, is a condition in which there is a conflict between a person’s physical gender and the gender he or she identifies with.

“I’m really happy for everyone in the community,” Rebekah Brewisk, a Portland woman who castrated herself in prison after the state refused her access to hormone treatment and surgery, added. “It’s enormous. It’s amazing to know I have the options if I need, the whole world is opening up,” she continued in her interview with Willamette Week the day of the Medicare hearing.

The state previously covered mental health treatment, doctor visits, and puberty suppression drugs for transgender patients through the Oregon Health Plan. Oregon’s expanded coverage now includes reassignment surgery, hormone therapy, and puberty suppression.

According to Oregon medical records, there is expected to be 175 people who will use these new services this year.

Until Oregon’s Health Evidence Review Commission decided to look into coverage for gender dysphoria last year, the disorder was lumped with conditions like pedophilia and fetishism.

“People with gender dysphoria that did not receive treatment had a much higher rate of hospitalizations or ER visits or doctor visits for depression and anxiety,” says Dr. Ariel Smits, director of the commission in an interview with Jezebel news blog.

According to a survey conducted in October 2010 of 7,000 transgender people, the National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found that 41 percent of transgender people living in the United States have attempted suicide.

Research shows that after people with gender dysphoria received treatment their rate of depression and anxiety became normal compared to the general population.

According to the Willamette Week the total cost increase for the state will be roughly $300,000 every two years. To give perspective,this is .00003 percent of the current 9.7 billion dollar healthcare budget.

“There’s also the possibility that it’ll be less, or even cost savings, because, hopefully, these folks will no longer be going to the ER or being hospitalized for their severe depression or suicide attempts” adds Smit.

“This is monumental for low income transgender people across the country. It signals that Medicaid has an obligation to cover medically necessary lifesaving care,” says Danielle Askini, policy director for Basic Rights Oregon. “But we still have a lot of work to do to assure these policies are implemented in an appropriate manner.”

“It’s very inspiring that transgender medical care is now being acknowledged and supported by the government; it has allowed friends of mine to transition who would have financially struggled otherwise. Most people don’t realize how difficult it is to just find and consult with doctors about it, but now we are making very positive steps towards a more welcoming environment in medicine for trans people.” added Max Fournier ’15.

If you would like more information on the treatments covered and when coverage will begin, click here for an information sheet sponsored by Basic Rights, TransActive, the Q Center and Cascade Aids Project.

For more on Leelah and her death linked here is an article that includes more information.

Photo Credit: Doug Wheller

About Grace Masback

Grace Masback, 17, aspires to give voice to the voiceless and holds the modest ambition of becoming the voice of Gen Z. Frustrated by the dearth of impactful platforms for teen journalists, she founded WANT, a news, sports, and entertainment website that aggregates the best in high school journalism from school newspapers and teen bloggers around the world (

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