Public Health Post: Your organization has been working to further health for trans people in New England for a year and a half now. How is it going?
Dallas Ducar We support and empower trans and gender-diverse people. Throughout our history as a community, people have oftentimes looked to each other for healing, for support, for affirmation. Health care has done a terrible job at getting to know the whole individual, getting to affirm them, and respect their choices. When I transitioned, they made me jump through really traumatic hoops. I had to get a letter from my therapist saying my diagnosis was severe enough. We believe that gender-affirming health care can be a model for all health care.
What needs to change about how we treat trans people in healthcare?
For most of us, health care is not a safe space. Safety is about more than just a little flag pin. It’s about empowerment and respecting boundaries. I never want patients to have to prove their transness to get the care they want. We ask our patients what will make them feel safe. When I was a nurse, a patient came in off the street with a beard wearing baggy clothes, recovering from addiction. She said I was the first person to ask her pronouns in a hospital. She had stopped her transition when she became unhoused. While I treated her, she wanted to re-transition, but doctors would not let her because of health concerns. She was later diagnosed with terminal cancer and allowed to transition. She didn’t get the body she wanted to live in until she was dying. That’s what this is about: getting people like her the care they want before it’s too late.
How do we build a system that can make these changes and support trans people?
We just don’t have enough providers. Our organization is great, but we only see 1,500 people. But there are 20,000 people, trans or gender-diverse, in our area. We just need more health care access because otherwise we will see trans people be disproportionately harmed and failed by systems that don’t see them, don’t count them, and don’t help them to live happy and successful lives.
What can the average person do to combat disinformation and support trans and gender-diverse communities?
Be an ally. Arm yourself with facts and fight against the spreading disinformation because it can spread like wildfire. The GOP is the biggest threat to trans people. The disinformation that Fox News peddles is the biggest threat, the false dialogue about people who regret transitioning. My own father was fighting to keep trans kids out of sports back home, and I was heartbroken when I found out. I wanted to put my shields up and not engage with him, but eventually we talked. I couldn’t engage him emotionally, so I tried intellectually. When I explained the state of trans rights in the U.S. and disproved the disinformation, he was shocked. He stopped fighting against trans rights. We cannot mix up values and disinformation. Most people are reasonable, they just don’t have the right information. I really believe that the victories we have here extend far beyond our community.
Ducar will appear on Dec. 7, at 1 p.m. as a part of The Threat to Trans Rights and the Public’s Health, a public health conversation hosted by the Boston University School of Public Health. Register or view the recording here.