LGBT-friendly doctors in Ithaca, NY?
December 18, 2012 1:03 PM   Subscribe

My new doctor and I are a horrible match. Clearly the answer is "find a different doctor", but how do I make that work? (Bonus points: recommend an LGBT-emphasis-on-the-T friendly doctor in or near Ithaca NY. Willing to drive as far as Syracuse or Binghamton if they're sufficiently awesome.)

I had my first appointment (for a physical) with my new primary care doctor today and it was a disaster. (When my health insurance changed, I picked a practice at random from the insurance's list and she was the first doctor at that practice who had an appointment available.)

- She shamed me for being fat and assumed it's because I don't exercise, despite the fact that I reported getting >7 hours of vigorous exercise per week on my intake charts;
- Once corrected, she was dismissive of the weight I've successfully lost so far;
- She just about came out and said my (quite competent, tyvm) mental health providers were quacks for having me on "all these medications";
- When I told her I was sleeping 12+ hours a day, but it was such poor quality sleep that I didn't feel rested at all, she didn't seem at all interested in figuring out why and just told me to take melatonin;
- And this is not exactly her fault, but the rapport was so bad that I didn't feel comfortable telling her I'm transgender, as a result of which the chest exam and pap smear were hideously unpleasant. I'm seeking top surgery soon and can't imagine her being willing to do the required pre-op physical.

Writing this all down makes it seem so trivial, but the collective result was that I had to spend 10 minutes crying in the parking lot before I could safely drive home. I don't have the emotional wherewithal to go through this every time I try out a new doctor. How do I make sure any new doctor I pick won't be just as bad? Do I just need to toughen up and get over myself?
posted by dorque to Health & Fitness (16 answers total)
Could you get referrals from your mental health providers? Often, they work hand-in-hand with primary care physicians, and I'd be willing to bet that they would have an idea of who would be a decent match for you.
posted by xingcat at 1:19 PM on December 18, 2012

There are a lot of LGBT groups and resources available in Ithaca. You might query them and ask who the most trans-friendly doc is. Planned Parenthood is listed as a friendly resource and they might make a recommendation for a primary care doc. And there's an Ithaca Trans Group at Cornell. There's a Southern Tier Gender Alliance that has a Trans Group. Not sure how up to date the info is -- I just googled "LGBT Ithaca".

Your reaction is totally understandable and no -- the answer isn't to just "toughen up." If you can't trust you to be kind and understanding of yourself -- you won't be setting the bar high for other people.

I live in Rochester, (not a hotbed of liberalism) and someone just presented a grand rounds on Trans healthcare. Most physicians probably know who the friendliest doc is or would know whom to ask. I'm sure the same is true for Ithaca.

Actually, I just googled "Trans healthcare Cornell" and got a few web pages that look promising. The student healthcare center is sensitive and some of those docs might have private practices as well. I'm sure they could point you in the right direction.
posted by vitabellosi at 1:22 PM on December 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Just as support -- what you described is not "trivial." It is the opposite of trivial and you're doing the right thing.
posted by BlahLaLa at 1:25 PM on December 18, 2012 [16 favorites]

Best answer: There's also Transgender Health Services Network of Central New York, which seems to offer general medical services, albeit in Syracuse. You might try giving them a call too - they might have recommendations closer to you.

And I totally feel your pain. So many terrible doctors! So many traumatic exams! So much dread! (You want white coat hypertension? I am the poster child for white coat hypertension when I have annual exams. Jesus god.) So much unwillingness to believe that anyone can possibly exercise and still not be skinny.
posted by Frowner at 1:27 PM on December 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

I mean, I'm trans - more or less - too, hence the pain.
posted by Frowner at 1:28 PM on December 18, 2012

Seconding what BlahLaLa says -- your relationship with your primary care physician, especially as someone undergoing a medical procedure as extensive and long-lasting as gender transition, is so important that crying in your car after the first visit is not "trivial". Dump this (possibly very good, but not good for you) doctor and find someone that you won't dread talking to.
posted by Etrigan at 1:30 PM on December 18, 2012

As follow up -- here is a link to a .pdf from Southern Finger Lakes Planned Parenthood, titled : Providing Transgender Inclusive Healthcare Services.

It is aimed at Health Centers and Agencies, challenging them to become Trans-friendly -- but it tells you that they are your advocates.

I'm sorry I can't provide a specific recommendation -- but it is absolutely normal to call someone up and say "I need a trans-friendly doctor" and ask for what you want.

(It would be awesome if someone could just provide you with a doc's name, and you could make an appointment and be treated with respect without ever having to ask or telling them you're trans -- but even the friendly docs need to be reminded to be friendly, and need to know what your specific concerns are. For example, it would be okay from the get-go to say "I'm willing to talk about my weight, but I get 7 hours of exercise each week and I don't want to be shamed.")
posted by vitabellosi at 1:30 PM on December 18, 2012

I know this is easier said than done, but don't be afraid to just get up and walk out if the appointment is not going well. I would even encourage you to have a "cue," as in, "if the doctor fat-shames me, that is my signal to leave." You can say, "you know, I'm not comfortable with a physician who [does whatever you object to]" of you can say "you know, this just isn't working for me," or you can even just get up and go with absolutely no explanation if you can't muster one. Seriously, when this shit starts up just get up and walk out. You will be amazed at how empowering this is.
posted by Violet Hour at 2:33 PM on December 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

I feel for you. Ithaca is small. When I lived there, two of my friends and I all happily used this doctor, an internist. She took a lot of care and time with each of us and our particular health issues. None of us was/is LGBT, though. I hope your terrible experience wasn't with her, and I hope you find someone you trust and isn't horrible to you.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 3:14 PM on December 18, 2012

Call ahead.

This isn't as easy as it sounds, sometimes, but I've had ok luck phoning and asking if I could speak to doctor whomever. Some people will immediately take a message and have the doctor call back; others will interrogate you as to why. Say you're a new patient with a complex medical history and you'd like to discuss the doctor's willingness to work with you.

When you get the doctor on the line, lay it out: I'm a pre-op FtM/MtF transgender person who [is/is not] on hormones. I [am/am not] under the care of a psychiatrist/endocrinologist/whatever, and I'm seeking [a GP/a physician who will help manage my transition/something else entirely]. Additionally, I have [medical/mental health issue, as appropriate]. Finally, I am fat, and [am trying to lose weight/am not interested in losing weight at this time], and lecturing me about my fatness is not a welcome trait in a doctor. Knowing these things, are you comfortable taking me on as a patient?

This is not idiot proof. Some people will insist that you come in to have this discussion, in which case, make an appointment for a consultation only and be prepared to walk out if they turn douchey--Violet Hour's tips for this are great. Some doctors will claim on the phone that they're fine with all these things, then will be completely different in person. Most of the time, though, this will at least weed out the worst of it and, hopefully, help you avoid situations like you had today.

If you have friends or a significant other who you trust, you can have them do this on your behalf--I've been the person who makes this call for quite a few friends. (If you are particularly phone-phobic and would like a random person from the internet to do some prescreening for you, memail me.) If your friends have doctors they like, see if they'd ask these questions at their next appointment.

You'll find someone who'll treat you with the respect that you deserve--don't give up.
posted by MeghanC at 4:40 PM on December 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

As an additional reference, the Minnesota Trans Health Coalition has a good list of links to national trans health resources.

Echoing BlahLaLa, Frowner and others, I feel for you. It can be hard to find providers who aren't jerks, but it's important, because you're important. Take care of yourself.
posted by jiawen at 5:22 PM on December 18, 2012

Best answer: Oh my lord, that is not trivial at all. It sounds traumatic. Healthcare was traumatic for me until I moved and found an LGBT health center. Even if that's not possible for you at the moment, I guarantee there will be a trans-friendly doctor in Ithaca.

Here are some places to start asking. Send an email if possible, asking for LGBT friendly doctors.

Trans care at Gannett: Medical services, including hormone prescriptions, are provided under the direction of Beth Kutler, NP with support from AJ Rubineau, MD and Katie Zang, MD. Call them and even if you can't see them because of insurance reasons, ask for a referral to a trans-friendly doctor.

LGBT Center at Ithaca College.

Cornell LGBT Resource Center.

Planned Parenthood local chapter. They specifically mention offering resources and referrals for LGBT folks.

I searched the Gay & Lesbian Medical Association database for LGBT friendly physicians in Ithaca and it lists Maureen Kelly, Planned Parenthood, Out for Health, 111 East Seneca Street, Ithaca, NY 14850
607-216-0021 ext. 134.

Ithaca LGBT Task Force

Ithaca Transgender Support Group
Meetings are held every other Sunday afternoon from 5 p.m.—7 p.m. at the Cornell LGBT Resource Center. Contact the facilitator at for meeting dates.

Out for Health
- LGBT Project from Planned Parenthood including this great resource on healthcare especially for trans folks.

You will find someone. Promise. Ask friends to help you make the first call, and perhaps they can just drive you to the appointment, even if you don't want them in the room with you.

Stay strong and healthy!
posted by barnone at 8:00 PM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you are at all Cornell-affiliated my suspicion is that Gannett is surprisingly good about this (based on the fact that all of their pre-appointment forms are really careful about asking questions about your gender identification, even for gyn visits, which made me really happy when I noticed it). I have plenty of issues with other aspects of their care, but it sounds like they'll definitely be better than what has happened to you so far. They're also generally nice enough that they would probably be willing to give you some recommendations even if you're not Cornell-affiliated.

Good luck & I'm so sorry you had to deal with this!
posted by dizziest at 9:24 AM on December 19, 2012

Just wanted to answer your other question: This is all very serious stuff, and you're totally right to feel this way. You don't need to "toughen up" to see your doctor. You need a doctor who doesn't suck. So, you're on the right track.
posted by Citrus at 10:39 AM on December 19, 2012

Best answer: dorque, please check Me-Mail for blob of a message from me. It took some back-and-forthing, but I think (hope) the name/email/info I sent will be useful. Good luck, and be well.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 3:34 PM on December 20, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you all so much. Tuesday was a pretty rotten day for me and you all really came through to help me hang in there and make some phone calls. I've got a couple meet-and-greets lined up with new doctors thanks to this thread -- nothing definite yet, but I've got my fingers crossed.
posted by dorque at 4:30 PM on December 21, 2012

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