Some transgender youths look to black-market hormones
Meisha Montierro shrugs off concerns that she is not being monitored for potential liver and blood clot complications, or even an increased risk of cancer, that might result from the four estrogen-packed pills she consumes daily to help coax the rounded hips, softened skin, and high voice she wants from her born-boy body.
“I know how to take care of myself,” said Montierro, 21, atranssexual from Far Rockaway.
Medicaid paid for her estrogen until a clerical mistake again designated her as “male,” cutting her off from prescriptions. Her physician wrote a letter to correct the error, but Montierro hasn’t submitted it. It’s so much easier, she explained, just to order estrogen from the Internet.
“I take the highest dosage I can take,” she said.
Transsexual youths are obtaining hormones on the grey and black markets to help their outsides match their insides, doctors and transgender youth told amNewYork.
While numbers are elusive, for every transgender kid seeing a physician, “there are 10 we’re not seeing,” said Johanna Olson, an assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles.
Transsexual people have always faced insurance and cultural discrimination, as well as other obstacles to good medical care. But even when trans-sensitive care is available, some youth prefer to self-prescribe, amNY found.
“What I’ve noticed in this younger generation is that people are not patient,” said Jakhari Xavier, 22, a midtown trans man.
Trinity Lorenzo, 22, gives credence to Xavier’s observation. “I don’t have any obstacles” to medical care, said the Crown Heights resident. “I just don’t feel like seeing a doctor.” She buys her estrogen “from a friend,” who takes it, too. She says she has confidence in what she buys because the $70 bottles she buys are "unopened."
Xavier’s desire to have medical guidance was strengthened after a friend wound up hospitalized “for almost a year,” after self-administering black-market testosterone. Xavier suspects his friend obtained testosterone that was somehow tainted.
Contaminated or counterfeit drugs are indeed a danger when obtaining drugs via unorthodox means. Law enforcement sources said that while it is illegal to obtain estrogen and testosterone without a physician's prescription, users are rarely if ever prosecuted: Most enforcement efforts are targeted at dealers peddling testosterone and anabolic steroids, classified as Schedule III drugs, they said.
Transgender youth are disproportionately likely to be rejected by their parents and to wind up homeless – a condition very much at odds with consistent medical care.
But research shows that trans kids who are given supportive, appropriate medical care and psychological services early in life tend to be less depressed and anxious, less likely to commit or try to suicide, and more successful in life.
“The urge to live authentically is an urge that is unparalleled. It’s so powerful, people will take their own life and put it at risk,” Olson said.
A 2009 study in the American Journal of Public Health showed that a lack of transgender friendly and transgender knowledgeable medical specialists were major barriers to care for transgender people. Other studies of urban male to female transgender persons have shown that unsupervised hormone use ranges from 29 to 63%. Being under a physician’s care is associated with reduction in high risk behaviors, from smoking cessation to obtaining needles from a licensed physician.