Recently, WCBU-FM, Peoria Public Radio, sat down with myself and one of our gender affirming hormone therapy (GAHT) Peoria patients “Rose”. It was a wonderful interview that really helps tell the story of how Planned Parenthood health centers started providing hormone therapy and the real life impact it has had.
But first some background, Peoria Planned Parenthood began offering gender affirming hormone therapy in 2016. Before it was available in Peoria, people had to travel to Chicago, St. Louis or beyond. Travel expenses and getting time off of work made it extremely difficult for people seeking to transition. We now have around 1,250 hormone therapy patients, and of those patients ⅔ are from downstate. Obviously, there was a need that wasn’t being met until Planned Parenthood stepped in.
So what happens when a new patient inquires about hormone therapy? First there is an initial interview to ask about their support system, current medications, what their needs are and to discuss what they want to do with their transition. Then, PPIL gets information together to help the patient with resources for their transition. Finally, patients have a clinical appointment to get a family history and talk about the pros and cons of hormone therapy. Once patients are completely informed and sign a consent form, they are off to the races with their transition.
Patients also have scheduled appointments at regular intervals to get their hormones at the right levels. Once that’s established patients can go up to a year in between visits for a check up. Their health is closely monitored The goal is to get patients to where they want without undue health risks.
A transition can take anywhere from one to three years which can be an awkward phase. It takes a while for the hormone to take effect and for people to learn how to live in their new identity. It also takes time for others to accept them in their new identity. Family sometimes has the hardest time accepting the transition.
Throughout the process, PPIL offers a resource guide with links to counseling, vocal therapy, electrolisis, surgery, name and gender marker changes on documents. We walk you through it and are there for our patients every step of the way.
Rose is an over the road truck driver who lives around the Peoria area. It was too much to have to drive to Chicago for hormone therapy and she doesn’t believe she would have started her transition if it wasn’t offered in Peoria.
“The transition has helped me. I have lost a lot of people but I’ve gained a lot of people too,” Rose said. “I look at it this way, if people don’t like me now, they wouldn’t have liked me for who I was on the inside before I went through the transition. I have experienced bad thoughts and that is the one piece of advice I would give is to have a good therapist.”
For the future, PPIL has 17 health centers and every one offers GAHT. We are now working with the national organization to offer it across the country.
Listen to the whole interview HERE.
Dana Garber is the Transgender Intake Coordinator and Community Educator at Planned Parenthood of Illinois.