When Kade Clark moved to New York City from Dallas, a search for a new healthcare provider led him to the LGBT-centric Callen-Lorde clinic. But Callen-Lorde was oversaturated and not taking new clients. The clinic offered a list of outside referrals, which led him to a doctor that had never treated a transgender man before.
“She asked me how to write a prescription, what it was, how often I took it, and things that you expect your doctor to know,” Clark said in an interview with Daily Dot. “And after about six months, I realized she had written me the wrong prescription and I had been taking it. It wasn’t until I saw some side effects that I realized maybe something was wrong.”
But thanks to MyTransHealth, a site founded by Clark and three trans-identified partners, the dangerous potential for error when it comes to trans health could be eradicated.
Trans people often have to jump significant hurdles in accessing healthcare, according to the Transgender Law Center. Insurance companies sometimes deny coverage, healthcare staff often lacks the appropriate knowledge and training for providing trans healthcare, and trans individuals can face discrimination at the hands of medical and mental health professionals.
“Over half of trans people educate their doctors on how to treat them,” Clark said. “And then about 19 percent are refused care. They don’t even have the chance to educate the doctor because they won’t even see them. So people get to a point where they stop looking for care, which is the biggest issue.”
Clark and partners founded MyTransHealth after about a year of researching the gaps in trans healthcare in the U.S. Though not yet in beta phase, MyTransHealth is poised to be the first doctor-search referral site that is targeted to an identity population.
Like ZocDoc or DocMatcher, MyTransHealth will allow users to search for medical providers by location and speciality. The difference is that all of the providers will be screened for their training in the unique needs of the transgender population.
In July, the startup launches a fundraising campaign on Kickstarter and soon after will begin beta testing the site in New York City and Miami. Those cities were chosen, Clark explained, because they represent opposite ends of the spectrum: both have large transgender populations, and while New York offers a plethora of options for care, Miami lags behind.
“We built four different categories into MyTransHealth: medical, legal, mental health, and crisis,” Clark said. “And once you delve into those categories you can still filter down through different needs, like wheelchair accessibility, insurance coverage, or language. In Miami, for example, there’s a huge need for Spanish-speaking providers that are also skilled to serve transgender people.”
Clark said it was difficult to encounter useful data on the percentage of medical providers in the U.S. that specialize in treating trans people. While some health data is tracked by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health—which also lists appropriate medical providers on its site—there’s not yet a comprehensive body of research that delves into topics like the long-term health effects of hormone therapy.
Those gaps in information (and in care) are also being tackled by another startup called Rad Remedy, also in beta launch mode. Rad Remedy’s homepage states its mission is to “connect trans, gender non-conforming, intersex, and queer folks to accurate, safe, respectful, and comprehensive care in order to improve individual and community health.”
The search form leads users through the usual healthcare categories like adolescent medicine, allergy and immunology, and oncology, but also offers categories you won’t find on a typical ZocDoc-type referral database: feminizing hormones, puberty blockers, voice training, or masculinizing bottom surgery are just a few examples.
Unique to both sites is the stray away from the venture capital model usually employed by healthcare startups. MyTransHealth and Rad Remedy are both nonprofits, with an intention toward remaining independent and authentic to the mission of trans community needs.
Clark said that with all of the recent attention on the trans community, some are a bit skeptical about how long the spotlight will last.
“We want the site to remain free for the community and for it to be self-sustaining. We want to be here to stay.” Clark said. “We have no intention of becoming millionaires ourselves.”
Illustration by Fernando Alfonso III