BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — In a world dominated by the effects of COVID-19, a lot of transgender people have had to halt their medical treatments, therapy, etc., thereby making it extremely difficult to successfully transition.
One trans woman reflects on how difficult it is for transgender people to continue much needed medical treatment, ranging from gender-affirming surgery, mental health treatment as well as access to much-needed hormone therapy.
What's more, these treatments had already proven difficult in a pre-COVID world.
Transgender serves as an umbrella term that represents a wide range of gender identities and expressions.
Trans people do not identify either fully or partially with the gender identity associated with their assigned sex at birth.
Gender identity refers to a personal conception of one’s place on the gender spectrum; the gender that one identifies as may be the same or different from their birth-assigned sex.
President and Chair of the Board of Directors of The Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity, Brie Chartier, offers a reflection on how difficult it is for trans people to actually transition, and the impact COVID-19 has on that process.
"Mental health care is really important, before COVID, a lot of us went to see our mental health provides face to face, in offices, regularly and I think that's the way a lot of folks are used to getting that kind of support. When COVID happened, all of a sudden of course everything switched to online."
Brie began her transition two years ago, hoping to be accepted as a woman.
Coming out to her friends and family was the first step to being seen as who she really was.
"Society saw me for the first time," she said.
It can be difficult for an already marginalized group of people to get to the point of living their lives as who they really are. Some don't have support from their families, or friends, some don't have a place to call their own. It can be difficult to bear all this weight while dealing with the stresses of everyday life.
Suicide rates among the transgender community are astronomical. Consider this, not being able to live as who you really are, for a large portion of your life. This often leads to something called dysphoria.
When asked what dysphoria is and how it affects the transgender community, she had this to say: "I'd describe it as a disconnect between your emotional image of yourself and your physical image of yourself, and when those don't align, it's really agonizing."
The Center for Suicide Prevention had this graphic to offer:
Gender-affirming hormone therapy and surgery can really help some people to feel at home in their bodies and feel safer in the world.
“For me, hormones and gender-affirming surgery is an absolute necessity. Having access to this medical care has meant the difference between spending all my energy trying to cope with crippling dysphoria or being happy and thriving in all aspects of my life,” says Brie.
"Gender-affirming surgery -- that's key to fitting in in a lot of spaces and not feeling exposed all the time, or just not feeling exposed all the time. It changes your quality of life, your baseline kind of place where you start from and go out in the world from," said Brie. "There's really no way to say how critical it is. The numbers speak for themselves, the suicide rate in trans people is so high."
Surgeries have become sparse since the pandemic began. People who were in line waiting for their surgeries to come up were disappointed, to say the least.
Not only is the process of getting a surgery scheduled difficult, but its nearly impossible now that these surgeries aren't happening as often, causing a bit of impatience and anxiety in the trans community.
A lot of factors have to be considered in regards to scheduling a surgery. For example, some metrics hospitals must abide by include how many patients are diagnosed with COVID-19, how many ventilators are available, how many beds are available as well as recovery time. Think of it this way, if any of these metrics increase or decrease, this has a direct impact on whether these gender-affirming surgeries happen at all.
During these adversities, Brie says it's important for the community to take care of themselves, people are already dealing with so much.
In times such as these, it's easy to forget depression's hold on the ability for people to function, especially if they lack access to helpful resources or meaningful and helpful coping mechanisms to make it through their day.
"It's a hard place to be if you're in this process anywhere right now, even if you're at the beginning or right at the very end waiting for that surgical date, it's going to be delayed, we just have to be patient and keep faith, and not close up, and keep reaching out, The Center has great resources.," said Brie.
All of those resources range from free virtual counseling to free virtual support groups where you can get in touch with others that share the same difficulties right now.
Transgender specific resources can be found here.
Health and Safety resources can be found here.
"I think we're still at a place in our society where not everyone is accepting, where a lot of folks will bring their own values and their own beliefs to bear to judge what I should be, and that hurts because I'm an individual. I'm not crazy, I know who I am. I have a very strong sense of self. I'm proud of the person I'm becoming. A big part of the things that helped me be that person in this society where transgender people do face a lot of discrimination and even danger, is these medical interventions that help me feel like I fit in."
Brie encourages the trans community to remember to be patient, it will happen and finally, enjoy the space that you're in.