Trans Man Denied Cancer Treatment; Now Feds Say It's Illegal

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Sex Discrimination Law Demands 'Respect'

"Now, if a patient divulges he or she is transgender, if the doctor consistently mixes the genders or misnames someone or treats anybody in unkind ways, [the transgender patient] has recourse to file complaints," said Villano.

The law does not require insurance coverage, but "basic respect," he said.

That is what 37-year-old Shane Morgan said was missing last August when he developed a urinary tract infection on a Friday. He couldn't get an appointment with his doctor, so he went to a grocery store clinic seeking antibiotics.

"I was in an open seating area and the nurse looked at the paperwork and looked at me and she said, 'You don't have a UTI, you have an STI (sexually transmitted infection)," said Morgan.

When he whispered to her that he was transgender, hoping they could speak privately about his female genitals he said the nurse was "very rude and uncomfortable" and refused to ask his symptoms or treat him.

"I am short, stocky, with a beard and am bald, but you can't judge a book by its cover," said Morgan, who has had his breasts removed and is on testosterone.

In the end, she said, "I am not comfortable with your anatomy," and handed him an over-the-counter product. "I was both shocked and floored," he said.

"Medical professionals take an oath to do no harm, and not providing care, regardless of what a person looks like, you could do them harm," said Morgan, who by Monday had a full-blown kidney infection.

As for Kallio, he spoke to hospital officials after both incidents of hostility, telling them he'd had "difficulty" communicating with them.

"In the first instance, I think the surgeon had a complex feeling of moral objection. A certain type of judgment and suspicion was made," said Kallio.

"He was an experienced surgeon and I needed the benefit of his opinion," said Kallio. "He didn't know what to call me ... and he had trouble with my transgender status. It was very overt, but at least he had the forthrightness to talk about it."

In the second instance, Kallio said the oncologist may have felt "de-skilled and defensive."

"Overall, they don't know what to do or how to handle your case," he said. "The endocrine stuff really intimidates them. They find your case terrifying and fear liability."

As a result of both incidents, he had to find new doctors. The experience was not only "demoralizing" but has likely affected Kallio's long-term health. So far, he has no idea if the cancer has come back.

"I have not been able to go back for follow up checks because I was forced into an HMO that does not accept the oncologist who is willing to treat me, so I will need to find another congenial provider who is willing to treat a transgender person," he said.

As for the new healthcare law and its ban on sex discrimination, Kallio said the clarification for transgender people is "a huge event."

"It is very important to me and other people that we don't face those kinds of obstacles," he said. "I am medically savvy with a medical background, white and speak English. If I have every advantage, it doesn't bode well for other people."

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