New York's Jay Kallio faced a "stone wall of non-acceptance" when trying to receive medical attention, delaying his care past the "therapeutic window for chemotherapy"
A transgender man is speaking out against alleged discrimination towards the transgendered community by the medical community – while describing his own ordeal, in which he says a physician never told him about his breast cancer diagnosis because he was bewildered by the man's transgender status.
Jay (formerly Joy) Kallio of New York says he learned that he had cancer later on "accidentally," when he received a call from a radiologist asking how he was dealing with the condition - a condition he didn't know he had at the time. Afterward, he says he faced a long line of rejections when seeking medical treatment.
"I kept hitting this stone wall of non-acceptance," Kallio told the Daily News. "It's a systemic problem. It was at all levels of providers, from doctors to housekeeping to the nursing staff. People need to be aware that this discrimination will not be tolerated."
The government also says this kind of discrimination is now illegal, as part of the new health care law. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the Affordable Care Act - so-called Obamacare - signed into law by the President in March 2010 - prohibits physicians from discriminating against LGBT patients.
Kallio was thrilled to hear about the ACA. "It's incredibly important to me that this not happen to other transgender people," he said. "To have all this added stress and rejection and to be denied care from providers was daunting - it was awful."
Kallio, now 56, transitioned from female to male at age 50. He only took hormone treatment and never underwent anatomical surgery, so when the head of surgery at a major New York hospital saw that Kallio's body didn't correspond with his gender identification, he was bewildered. The surgeon told Kallio to get a mammogram. After the exam determined that a lump in Kallio's breast was cancerous, the surgeon reportedly never informed Kallio.
Aside from the humiliation, Kallio's health suffered because he needed to search for new doctors for chemotherapy. This search too was hindered when he confronted hostility from an oncologist who refused to advise him, reports ABC News.
"It delayed my care past the therapeutic window for chemotherapy," Kallio said. "You should have chemotherapy within three months of cancer therapy. Because I had to change providers and kept encountering discrimination, it delayed the care. So much of cancer care has to do with early treatment."
Kallio became an LBGT activist after being fired for being a lesbian in 1972, according to Service and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders. He claims that he was distressed by the absence of legal protection from discrimination of LGBT people. Kallio hopes the ACA puts an end to such discrimination.
When gay activists asked for clarification concerning the act's effect on the LGBT community, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Director Leon Rodriguez responded. "Section 1557's sex discrimination prohibition," Rodriguez wrote," extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity and will accept such complaints for investigation."
On March 26, HHS published a press release reaffirming their commitment to the health of all Americans. "Our Department is committed to improving the health of all Americans, including LGBT Americans, and we look forward to continuing this work during LGBT Health Awareness Week and beyond."
Kallio told ABC News he has since been forced into an HMO that doesn’t accept his current oncologist, so he will need to find another provider who will treat a transgender person.
“I’m now 2 years post-treatment, so I’ve entered a peak recurrence time,” Kallio told the Daily News, emphasizing the importance of continued medical attention.
Most of the time, discussions of trans* healthcare focus on access to treatment which we need to transition. Obviously this is incredibly important for many trans* folk, but it means that discrimination in other areas of healthcare provision doesn't get discussed so much. Clearly there's still a lot of work to be done in this area.