Transgendered in Nebraska


Facility serves and educates about minority group For many, the word “transgender” calls to mind the murder of Brandon Teena in Humboldt in 1993, an incident that inspired the 1999 Academy Award-winning film Boys Don’t Cry. Fast forward almost two decades, however, and services offered at a facility in the same city where Teena was born could have saved his life. “If Brandon were going through today what he went through back in the early 1990s, he’d still be with us,” says Ryan Sallans, health educator at Lincoln’s Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, 2246 O St. “One of the reasons he left was lack of support in Lincoln.” Planned Parenthood has been offering support groups for transgendered or questioning individuals for the last three and a half years, and the facility began offering hormone prescriptions in January. Sallans also offers training for agencies and organizations who work with transgender populations, including domestic violence shelters in Lincoln and people training to be alcohol and drug counselors. For transgendered people, health care can be a complicated, uncomfortable and costly process. Because of the anxiety many transgendered people feel about their bodies, Sallans says, they often simply avoid sexual and reproductive health care. Procedures and general care are often explicitly excluded from health insurance policies, and the costs can be daunting. Those who offer services can be few and far-between. And even if patients want and can afford health care, their experiences with doctors and providers are overwhelmingly negative, he says. Results released Oct. 13 from a survey by the National Center for Trans Equality and the Gay and Lesbian Task Force from a sample of about 6,500 people found that 19 percent were refused health care because of their nonconforming gender status. An additional 28 percent says they suffered harassment in medical settings. And 2 percent — or about 130 people — reported being victims of violence in the offices of those meant to keep them safe and healthy. Ignorance is also an issue — half of respondents reported having to teach their medical providers about being transgender. This is why Planned Parenthood’s services are so important, says Jamison Green, member of the board of directors for the World Professional Association for Transgender Health and chair of the organization’s public policy, advocacy and liaison committee. “Across the country, trans people are often very much discriminated against in terms of accessing even basic health care that has nothing to do with their [sexual] transition process,” he says. Alex and Jamie, who requested their real names not be used, began their transitioning processes from female to male through Lincoln’s Planned Parenthood. (Read more about Alex and Jamie in Up Front at right.) The concept of transgenderism is something Jamie never encountered until he came to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for college. In the small town where he was raised, Jamie says, such things were never discussed. Though the facility is based in Lincoln, Sallans says the 25 or so clients Planned Parenthood has served come from across the state. “The majority come from Omaha or Lincoln, but we have people from smaller rural areas who are also seeing us,” he says. “Some people travel three hours to see us.” It’s the same in San Francisco, where Green’s based, he says. “People travel from Sacramento, which is over 100 miles away, way down into the Central Valley in order to come to these places” that offer health care, he says. “If it’s happening here in California, I imagine it’s happening in the Midwest, where resources are even less available.” While not comprehensive, a search on the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association’s website listed only five providers in Nebraska; only one specifically listed transgender services as a specialty. All were located in Omaha. “There aren’t many resources out there,” Jamie says, “especially in Nebraska.” Support is also a key component of transgender health care — while the reported attempted suicide rate for the general population is about 1.6 percent, it skyrockets to 40 percent for transgendered individuals, Green says. “Many trans people suffer from post-traumatic-stress disorder, just because of the way they’re treated because of gender variance,” he says. “Depression and anxiety are very common.” Lincoln’s Planned Parenthood offers two support groups: one for female-to-male transgendered people; and one for those born female but questioning their gender. While Alex’s co-workers, family and friends have been supportive, his story is not the norm — and even with that support, he says meeting with other FTM transgendered people helps. “We share the same experience, but we don’t share the same life,” he says. “It’s been a good eye-opening experience.” Jamie says he was grateful for the services Planned Parenthood offers. “It’s just nice to have somebody out there,” he says. “Maybe it isn’t the most popular thing to do, but they’re doing it anyway because they know it’s right.”


Category: News

Leave a Reply