What's an ally? How can I help improve a patient transitioning?

Posted by PitcherSF @tallpitchersf, Jun 20, 2017

Recently, current coworkers started talking about becoming an ally. What is an ally? Can an ally help advocate on behalf of a person’s care? A prior colleague told me his child is transitioning–like I Am Jazz TV show. I think it’s great, but the colleague is petrified for the child’s health and safety. How can someone support a person going through the transition process? Is that what an ally does….?

Hi @tallpitchersf, welcome to Connect.
What a great question. An ally may include helping to advocate for someone’s care, but it can also include examining word choices — yours and those around you. What words are you choosing? What words do you accept from other people? Here are a couple of articles to help understand more about being an ally of someone who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or intersex (LGBTQI).

– Tips for Allies of Transgender People https://www.glaad.org/transgender/allies
– How to be an LGBT Ally http://www.hrc.org/blog/how-to-be-an-lgbt-ally

Your role as an ally might be in supporting your former colleague and letting her/him know that they can talk openly with you about their fears. I’m tagging @gailb on this conversation. I think she might you have something to add.

Tallpitchersf, I’m encouraged that your coworkers are talking openly about what it means to be an ally.

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@tallpitchersf I admire the relationship that you must share with your prior colleague. To be able to enter into this conversation must indicate a great deal of trust in your friendship. I love the term “ally” especially when it refers to folks who are trying to find their “voice” when it might be considered contrary to public opinion. I believe that being a voice and a force for good for others is responsibility that we should all take seriously. I would also like to invite @contentandwell into this discussion. Teresa

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Thank you both for your input and encouragement. I’m very proud of the father and child. If I suggest something, I want to know it’s best for the father and the child.

In this small California town, how do I tell my colleague that his child’s doctor information is confidential? The father risks alienation by his coworkers if they find out his child is transitioning. Does anyone suggest what he and his child can do for help and/or support groups? “I Am Jazz” has really helped his child; too bad Jazz’s parents don’t have a TV show or a book to help my friend.

Where does the father go to get his child transgender medical care? I’ve read about insurance requiring psych “review” for pre-authorization. Then, the patient bounces from different doctors, different clinics and multiple hospitals. Is there 1 place where the child can get most of the transition care? Last thing I want to do is recommend another country to get more than hormones.

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@tallpitchersf

Thank you both for your input and encouragement. I’m very proud of the father and child. If I suggest something, I want to know it’s best for the father and the child.

In this small California town, how do I tell my colleague that his child’s doctor information is confidential? The father risks alienation by his coworkers if they find out his child is transitioning. Does anyone suggest what he and his child can do for help and/or support groups? “I Am Jazz” has really helped his child; too bad Jazz’s parents don’t have a TV show or a book to help my friend.

Where does the father go to get his child transgender medical care? I’ve read about insurance requiring psych “review” for pre-authorization. Then, the patient bounces from different doctors, different clinics and multiple hospitals. Is there 1 place where the child can get most of the transition care? Last thing I want to do is recommend another country to get more than hormones.

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@tallpitchersf, your friend is very fortunate knowing that he can confide in you. I have no idea how to answer your question but I do offer my support. Frankly I am surprised that this is California. California is always considered to be such a liberal state. New England tends to be very progressive because of the number of universities here. The young students are more accepting of people than many older people.
JK

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@tallpitchersf, thank you for reaching out. All persons are fortunate to have a trusted person such as you, supporting them. What you’re doing is exactly one of many ways an ally supports another.

My disclaimer: I am no doctor or nurse. What I’m expressing is just from life experiences, but I hope it helps nonetheless.

Regarding what the child and the parent could do for comprehensive transgender medicine, the parent and/or the child could contact their existing family doctor for any suggestions. I know there are medical centers in California, providing comprehensive transgender care. These include UCSF as an example.

Though there are few medical centers that provide all transgender medical care in the same location, Mayo Clinic-Rochester (MN) has a Transgender Intersex Specialty Care Clinic (TISCC). This clinic is part of world-famous Mayo Clinic; it does everything for the patient, including psychological assessments, hormonal therapy, transition surgery, etc.

If the parent and child are able to travel to Minnesota, consider the Mayo Clinic-Rochester’s Endocrinology Department for an appointment in the transgender clinic. The entire staff is well versed in transgender and intersex care. Persons are treated with great respect, privacy and safety.

If the parent or child are not able to visit Minnesota, they could visit large medical centers in California, including UCSF, for transition care and on-going care.

I wish you, the father and the child all the best in the future!

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@tallpitchersf @messenger905 today Mayo Clinic Connect hosted "Video Q&A about Assuring Inclusive Care for Transgender Individuals." I thought you might want to see it: https://mayocl.in/2tZiaa1.

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Hi @tallpitchersf. I can't speak from the position of an ally, but as a person who identifies as transgender and has worked with trans youth. I think the best thing for an ally to do is to educate themselves in order to be as supportive as possible. One way that adults can support the trans kids in their community is by attending meetings where they can connect with other parents/guardians of trans youth or speaking to the leader of a local NGO that works with trans youth. Try and become a part of the community to bridge that gap in understanding and find support from others who have trans youth in their lives or communities. I'm not sure if you're based in Rochester, but the Rochester Public Library hosts a support group for transgender, gender non-conforming, and questioning youth and their families, which I think could be a great place to start! 3rd Saturdays, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m., Meeting Room C

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Hi, @ayeshasharma – I wanted to add my welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect and thank you for adding your perspective to this discussion on being an advocate on behalf of a person’s care who is in gender transition.

A few other members who have mentioned something about transgender or transitioning whom I'd like to invite into this conversation include @strawberry500 @zoobditty @janieak @paulalina @gailb.

@ayeshasharma – how have others supported you in your decisions in ways that made an impact on you?

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@lisalucier, thank you so much for the reply and welcome. I think ways in which allies have supported me have been in speaking out for me when I didn't have the energy (in situations where I was a minority) and offering resources that they had access to when I was in processes of learning and growing. I think what allies can offer in terms of support really depends on the needs of the individual they are seeking to advocate for or support at that particular time. The basics for many trans kids/adults have to do with language, as @colleenyoung mentioned. What pronouns (he/him, she/her, they/them, etc.) is the person comfortable with? But, also, as @tallpitchersf mentioned, it's a matter of care and support. I apologize, I'm only now seeing you're based in a small California town. I think there are great chances your town/region hosts supportive spaces for trans youth or the parents of trans youth, however. Perhaps UCSF as @messenger905 suggested.

I find grassroots organizations and NGOs that are working on LGBTQ+ advocacy to be the more supportive of the needs of trans youth and their guardians than hospitals. Last Monday, the American College of Physicians issued its first guidelines on caring for trans patients, which I see as a positive step toward reducing barriers to trans medical care in the U.S. I am hopeful that more medical practitioners will educate themselves to reduce barriers for trans youth and adults seeking care. However, not all states/regions have ideal access to trans medical care nor do they all have the most informed providers.

These NGOs can possibly help by suggesting the best route to treatment and the best providers in the area as well as providing emotional support spaces for the trans youth and guardians. In one NGO I was previously involved with in South Carolina, trans youth had issues with the care they received at the local hospital (they were being misgendered and ridiculed by nurses), and the youth shared this information with the organization and its members. Being that NGOs often act as community liaisons between trans individuals/their families and institutions, that could be a good place to start for the dilemmas you believe your colleague may face.

I think there is only so much the trans community can do for allies who are seeking to understand how they should navigate advocating for the trans people in their lives. That's why I believe ally-only support spaces are very valuable. If physical spaces aren't available, there are always online spaces. There is one article entitled "7 Parents on What They Learned from Their Trans Kids" on Vice which you can search to find advice. There are lots of articles like these, and even a book called The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals, though I haven't read it so can't give my thoughts.

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