As a trans man, I feel ignored. I don’t see myself represented in mainstream media. There is hardly any research on trans men. Even in the trans community, transgender often seems to default to trans women.
In my current line of work, I’m part of a larger organization working to end the HIV epidemic. One of the priority populations of that epidemic is the transgender community. However, adequate research on the trans community is hard to find but then to find research specifically on trans men and HIV is even more difficult.
The Human Rights Campaign’s website states, “Despite several years of research on HIV/AIDS and the populations it affects, we know very little about transgender people and HIV…The few recent studies that consider transgender women (and even fewer that consider transgender men) reveal alarmingly high HIV infection rates.” Even though we’ve been dealing with the HIV epidemic for almost 40 years, we still know next to nothing about HIV and transgender people, and even less about trans men and HIV.
Even though I don’t feel represented in the public health world of HIV, I hoped that my own doctors would know about my health issues, but that hasn’t been the case. When I first started HRT (hormone therapy) in December 2013, my prescribing doctor asked me if I wanted to freeze my eggs first because my eggs wouldn’t be viable after starting hormones and I therefore couldn’t have biological children. I looked into it, but was told it would cost $10,000 to extract the eggs and then $2,000 a year to store them for up to 10 years. After 10 years, the eggs are essentially freezer burnt and unable to be used. I didn’t, and still don’t, have that kind of money so I chose not to freeze them.
A few years later when I was consulting with surgeons before my hysterectomy, my wife and I were interested in the possibility of having a biological child together and wanted to speak to a fertility doctor before removing most of my reproductive organs. The fertility doctor told me it was possible for my eggs to be viable to have a biological child but that it wasn’t a sure thing. Ultimately, we decided not to freeze my eggs but instead to leave my ovaries in for the possibility that my eggs may be usable if we decided to have children biologically down the road.
However, when it came time to consult with the surgeons for the hysterectomy, one doctor told me to leave my fallopian tubes in because it would keep the blood supply to the ovaries and help increase the eggs’ chance of staying viable, while another surgeon said they had never heard of that and told me to remove the fallopian tubes because if I was to get ovarian cancer it could likely start in the fallopian tubes. My doctors didn’t know the best thing for me and they readily admitted that there isn’t enough research on trans men and the effects of HRT on fertility or reproductive organs. The research simply doesn’t exist.
It hasn’t just been in the research fields, though, where I haven’t seen myself properly represented. Even in transgender-specific spaces, unless it is specifically geared toward transmasculine individuals, then the premise is often that it’s for trans women. When I was an intern in graduate school, there was a transgender support group at the organization I was interning with. Almost every attendee was a trans woman. I didn’t feel like that group met my needs so I wanted to start a support group specifically for trans men. At the time, it was thought that trans men simply weren’t interested in support groups, which is why they didn’t come. But I knew that the men just weren’t feeling heard. So I started a support group specifically for transmasculine individuals and 18 trans guys showed up for the first group.
It’s frustrating to feel like your doctors, mainstream media, and even members of the LGBTQ+ community don’t know you at all. We need more representation. I want to see more trans guys in advertisements that isn’t even specifically geared towards transgender people. I want to see more trans men of color in leadership positions. I want to see trans men in discussions about abortion and reproductive justice. There’s room for everyone at my table.