Catholic Bishops Stopped My Surgery Because I’m Transgender

After years of working to affirm my identity in a world where transgender people are questioned constantly about their decisions, I felt hopeful as I arrived for the surgery I had waited so long for. I was 27, and I would finally be closer to calling my body home.

Since I was a kid, I’ve felt like my body didn’t match my soul. I felt uncomfortable in clothes. I felt disgusting when I showered. Everything felt wrong, but it took me a while to figure out why.

Once I discovered that I am a man, I went to my doctor to start the process of medically transitioning. I began taking testosterone. I had a double mastectomy. The next step was a hysterectomy.

My surgery was scheduled for Aug. 30, 2017, at St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka, California. It’s the only hospital in the area, and I was so excited that my community offered transgender care. I could get the operation close to home and then recover with my loved ones.

I had a pre-op appointment on Aug. 24 that went smoothly, and I followed all the instructions to prepare for my surgery.

On Aug. 30, I arrived at the hospital and they checked me in and did the surgery prep, which was extremely uncomfortable and triggering. I was given a pink gown. I asked the nurse if I could have a blue gown, but she told me I was having a “female surgery” and should wear the pink. I felt like a child all over again, sitting uncomfortably in a pink dress. But I forced myself to do it, I had been waiting so long for this.

They hooked me up to an IV to get ready to put me to sleep. About an hour after waiting, my surgeon finally came to get me. But when I saw the look on his face, I got a terrible feeling. He told me my surgery was canceled. It was denied by the Catholic Church for ethical reasons. I didn’t understand how this could be happening. The Catholic bishops didn’t approve of my surgery. It seemed unreal.

I had an anxiety attack and thought about all the pre-op and mental preparedness I had to go through just to get here. I freaked out and started crying. I was given medication to calm me down.

Fifteen minutes after that, the hospital staff asked me to leave. I still had booties on my feet as a nurse led me outside. I felt humiliated and queasy as I sat on the curb waiting for my roommate to pick me up.

It seems the hospital does not understand how it feels to be treated inhumanely just because your body parts do not match your soul. This surgery was important — it was meant to balance my hormones. The delay disrupted my life. I felt like the hospital’s bigotry had set me back years.

Today, with the help of the ACLU, I filed a lawsuit. It’s unfair for St. Joseph to deny me care because I’m a transgender man. I should be able to go to the hospital where I live. Life in Humboldt County has been tough enough. Everyone thinks it’s a liberal place, but it’s not for trans people. I am regularly harassed and called names.

I didn’t expect discrimination from a hospital. The sting from the rejection remains, but I hope my story lets others know that this is unacceptable. And we should continue to fight until we are all treated fairly. No one should be denied health care because of who they are.

View comments (144)
Read the Terms of Use

Anonymous

This certainly was handled very poorly for this young man. Obviously there was little training
for the staff on transgender health, and what surgeries they may anticipate at their facility. Also the physician did not help his or her client by not asking if he would like to talk to a social worker. Finally the nurse had the last responsibility to ask him to if he wanted to talk with anyone. It appears that no-one recognized his needs.
Finally the difficulty with doing a hysterectomy for a female who does not have a medical indication
such as cancer under the age of 50-55yrs meaning past reproductivity, dates back to about 1974 when prior especially from 1925-1970 it was legal and done to sterilize women and men that the state/government felt when mental incompetent due to intellectual or psychiatric illness and thus laws were changed to prevent the government from taking that right away in most states if not all by late 1970"s. Thus those laws to prevent women and men to be sterilized are still on the books and make it extremely difficult to do a hysterectomy on any young women even if she has a medical reason unless it goes to a ethic board review and also many Catholic church funded hospitals also do not allow any surgeries that affect reproduction.
Hope that explains why the surgeon at the last moment probably could not due the procedure. Again state law prevents sterilization with out ethics board review and since catholic facility the facility also does not allow sterilization.
Poor facility training of handling the situation from the physcian not asking if he would like to talk with social worker or other and nurse also not doing the same

Jonathan Vargas

Please stop the hateful comments. I am a gay man and honestly, I don't know all the new terms for all the identities and I am not going to be a bigot for not calling them properly. Since when the gay community became such a wuss and literally feeling offended about everything around us? Where is the gaytionary to properly name each person? Maybe I can find a definition for each of you: Assholes. Shitholes. Feel offended for that. Call me ignorant, call me a troll, whatever. I am not the one replying to a real comment as "Anonymous". You are just a pussy.

Cai

You actively chose to go to a Catholic hospital, where you knew our kind aren't accepted. As a transsexual myself, I feel no pity. You should have saved to find a hospital that would have done your surgery without issue, or clocked yourself as a woman to get your surgeries.

Anonymous

How could a priest stop surgery?

Anonymous

So sorry this happened to you. The hospital knew well in advance this surgery was happening- you were treated terribly!

Jerry

Hang in there buddy. Been there, done that. Finally at ease in my right body.

Anonymous

And now Republicans and evangelicals are *advocating for* transgender sterilization as a matter of course. What a bunch of evil trolls and goblins.

Anonymous

The Catholic Church cost me an unnecessary surgery and my insurance (thank goodness) about $7k because they refused to tie my tubes after my second C section. Since my baby was a bit early I had her at the sister hospital of the year planned one. They told me I should have known the Pope was in charge of the medical care because the name is St Mary’s.

Jules' Momma

Sure Jules , hunny, just the same way you got enough taught to you in school to write things which you might feel makes you look like a homo sapiens, but you'll never be one. It's a brain development thang.

Jorge Tovar

Its sad that the hospital didn't do the surgery he is a normal human being that wants to be what he should have been in the first place. If its hurting someone. How is that hurting anyone can someone clarify please. Thanks

Pages

Stay Informed