Accessing Gender Affirming Care as a Non-Binary Person
Gender affirming care is a term that has gotten a lot of attention in the past year. Many people use gender affirming care to better align their physical appearance, gender expression, and overall well-being with their gender identity. Gender-affirming care is a broad term that encompasses a range of medical, psychological, and social support aimed at helping individuals feel affirmed and comfortable in their gender identity. When you are navigating accessing gender affirming care as a non-binary person, it may be overwhelming to consider what you need in order to feel more comfortable. As a start, consider the following sections below when beginning your gender affirming care search.
What does gender affirming care look like?
Gender affirming care comes in many shapes, sizes, and forms. As you’ll see later on, we will talk about community support and social influences as gender affirming care. First, it may be helpful to learn about medications. One of the most popular forms of gender affirming care is medication to change your hormones levels. This is done in two main ways: through testosterone or hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Testosterone can come in many forms like pills, patches, gel, and injections. Some people decide to pursue testosterone treatment to target hair growth, body shape, and vocal range. All of these things can be gender affirming, in the way that it might provide more comfort with your body. HRT works in a similar way, but is used to introduce more estrogen and progesterone into the body. This approach may also contribute to hair growth, encourage breast growth, and mood changes. HRT comes in many forms such as pills, patches and gels. Before deciding if medication is right for you, it is best to consult with a licensed medical professional. It may be daunting to approach a medical professional, so below are some considerations you might take and questions you might bring to your appointment.
How do you find gender affirming care?
If you have decided to pursue medications as part of your gender affirming care as a non-binary person, first and foremost, congratulations. This can be a big step in becoming more comfortable with your body and easing some anxiety created by physical discomfort. Finding a medical provider that you trust can be a daunting task. Research can provide insight into how providers may approach providing gender affirming care. When researching your provider, consider looking for the following:
Statements about respecting trans and non-binary clients.
Previous positive reviews from other trans and non-binary clients.
Specialization/training in working with trans and non-binary populations in physician biographies.
Questions for your provider.
When having a consultation with a provider, there are certain things you might like to know before agreeing to begin your gender affirming journey with them. Below are some examples of questions you or an advocate may bring to an appointment:
What is your experience with working with non-binary clients?
What is your professional philosophy behind providing gender affirming hormones?
What does your office do to ensure proper gender affirming documentation?
How does your office take a holistic approach to care?
You deserve to have a positive relationship with your healthcare provider. If you feel disrespected or that you and your provider are not a good fit, you have no obligation to continue receiving their services.
What can gender affirming care do for you?
Accessing gender affirming care as a non-binary person can mean a wide range of things. While medication is one avenue, not everyone is ready to take that step. Perhaps you aren’t interested in taking medication, but would like to find other avenues that make you feel safe, comfortable, and accepted in your own body. Consider these other forms of gender affirming care that might be helpful for you.
Hair Removal. Unwanted hair growth can be disconcerting, and shaving or using hair removal treatments can be irritating to the skin. One option is electrolysis hair removal. This is a more permanent option that typically takes multiple sessions to completely get rid of the hair. When inquiring about electrolysis, many of the above questions may still be applicable in ensuring you have a safe and affirming experience.
Undergarments. Depending on your goal, there are a multitude of undergarments available to help you feel more comfortable with your body. If you are interested in reducing the appearance of your chest, binders are an area to explore. Binders are pieces of fabric that apply pressure to your chest to reduce the appearance of breasts. Binders are safer to use than other alternatives, but still may require special considerations if you prefer to use them for long periods of time.
Other gender affirming products. Socially transitioning, or being perceived by others as your preferred gender identity, is often a big hurdle to face. Additionally, this can look significantly different for many people. For some, part of being perceived correctly is how they present themselves to others. This may include the use of: clothes, make-up, or other topical changes that increase comfort in one's body while out in social settings. If accessing these resources is difficult or not feasible right now, consider thrift stores and clothing swaps sponsored by queer spaces. Typically, searching on Facebook or Google for “queer clothing swap” in your local area can produce events that may be of interest to you.
Community & gender affirming care
While all the above mentioned ways to access gender affirming care as a non-binary person can provide real relief, they also require some form of access to financial resources. This can be a hard point to reach if you do not have access to proper medical insurance. However, this does not mean that you don’t deserve proper gender affirming experiences. In lieu of medical or material services, consider the following:
Non-binary support groups. Talking to other people with similar experiences can be a significantly fulfilling experience. This is an especially helpful option if you don’t have many other non-binary people in your life that can sympathize with your life experiences. By connecting with others that are able to affirm your identity, you can begin to build a supportive, nurturing, and helpful resource group. The Center for Growth is proud to offer a support group for non-binary adults (18 or older) living in Pennsylvania or New Jersey. You can learn more about the group and schedule a quick screening call with the co-facilitators here.
Queer Community Centers. If you are looking for a more variable setting to interact with more trans and non-binary people, queer community centers are a great place to look. Community centers often have free or low cost medical care given by people who are trained in working with queer populations. If they do not provide services at that location, they may have reference lists of gender affirming providers that you can request access to. Additionally, queer community centers often have affirming programming for trans and non-binary people. From clothes swaps, queer movie screenings, and Q&A sessions, community centers are a great low-commitment place to begin accessing gender affirming care if you do not have access to great financial means.
Queer friendly interest groups. Perhaps you’re interested in being around other trans and non-binary people, but want to discuss other topics. Interest groups and clubs are a great place to look. Whether you are interested in reading, table top games, or sports, there are many groups designed for trans and non-binary individuals to gather and discuss common interests. If you are interested in finding groups for your interests, try searching your interest then adding “queer group Philly '' to find welcoming spaces. An additional place to search is Facebook groups if you are over the age of 18. By engaging with other people related to a specific interest, you may cultivate positive relationships around hobbies while also establishing safe spaces to discuss your experience as a non-binary person.
Gender affirming care for non-binary individuals is a vast and varying topic. Depending on your goal, your journey may look different than others. Additionally, the resources you have access to may play a big role in your choices for gender affirming care. If you’d like to begin with individual services and are looking for questions to ask your individual therapist, consider this tip by intern Raegan Galleher about exploring your identity in therapy. Regardless of your choice or circumstances, you deserve to feel comfort, joy, and celebration in your body. If you are interested in exploring your relationship with gender with qualified mental health specialists, The Center for Growth is here to support you. At TCFG you can schedule directly online with a therapist. If you prefer talking to a therapist first, you may call (215) 922-LOVE (5683) ext 100 to be connected with our intake department. Lastly, you can call our Director, “Alex” Caroline Robboy, CAS, MSW, LCSW at (267) 324–9564 to discuss your particular situation. For your convenience, we have five physical therapy offices and can also provide counseling and therapy virtually.