I got lucky. I got lucky in the sense that Seattle is a very proud city, especially when it comes to its LGBT community. There are organizations, doctors and mentors around every corner. When I got tested for HIV for the first time, I was nervous, but I knew I was in good hands.
Capitol Hill Medical is an LGBT clinic and strives in helping Seattle's queer people when it comes to their health. April 18th is National Transgender HIV Testing Day and on this day it's important to spread the word. Routine tests are vital when it comes to maintaining our health, and having the resources available for trans-specific people makes testing a lot less stressful and scary.
It's about reaching out to as many people as possible and showing that trans people are included in that call. Overall, we want to feel safe and heard when it comes to our bodies and our identities. Having spaces available for trans people to go for their medical check ups is the goal!
Websites like Transhealth provide heaps of information on where to go and how to get tested, knowing that who you are is not only valued but validated. What makes this so special to me is it shows that as a trans person, my health care needs are a little different, and there are people who want to ensure I'm taken care of appropriately.
The fact is that trans people want to be seen for who we are, but ignorance is very much alive.
This ignorance in the medical field often keeps trans people from seeing a doctor, which can lead to a variety of complications and issues. Having a day that hones in on trans needs is amazing and hopefully will encourage more trans people to get tested for HIV, knowing there really are places and people who care, understand, and want to help.
A few weeks after I slept with my boyfriend for the first time, I was sitting in the doctors office having a routine blood draw to check my hormone levels. Once the needle was out and I was all patched up, my doctor turned to me and asked if I wanted them to check my status for HIV. I almost said no but she explained it was a free test. Even if it hadn't been, I knew it was important, so I agreed.
I was nervous, and while I waited I texted the boy I had previously slept with. As my doctor came back into the room with the results, he responded telling me he had been tested months prior. Then, my doctor announced I was HIV-negative.
I was happy I had decided to do it because I knew I was doing my body a service.
Spreading awareness and sharing the news to your fellow trans folk could help so many. We shouldn't have to shy away from clinics and hospitals, we shouldn't have to worry about being misgendered or mistreated because of who we are. Our care is specific and we deserve to work with doctors who understand that.
I can't tell you how many times I've heard nurses and doctors tell trans people they couldn't help them, simply because they are trans. Having resources that provide ongoing counseling, treatment, repeat HIV testing, information on where to go, who to see and support (specifically for transgender individuals) can make a difference.
There are people who care, and they want you to know that they do. Facing stigma and having negative past experiences is something almost every trans person can relate to. I'm proud to speak out on this day, knowing that the barriers keeping trans people from the health care they need is finally starting to dissipate.
COLE HAYES is a 25-year-old trans writer who lives in Seattle, Washington. Follow him on Twitter @itscolehayes. Photo by Kyler St John.