From coming out, to starting his medical transition at age 26, Xander has faced many changes – and many small victories – that have helped him become who he’s always wanted to be.
Transitioning looks different for everyone. For some, changing what they wear and what pronouns they use makes a world of difference in how they perceive themselves. For others, medical transition is also sought, but sometimes it can take years.
For me, becoming my true self came with the realization that something was missing – something I couldn’t quite place until I was in a stable and supportive relationship with my now-wife, Rose.
I knew something wasn’t right. There was a total disconnect between my body and soul. I was able to do a lot of soul searching, and that’s when I came out as trans. That did feel right.
For a couple of years, I weighed my options. What about gender-affirming hormone therapy? What about surgery? I wanted more information but making that call to a doctor was nerve-wracking.
This past April, I took that next step and stumbled upon Haddonfield Primary & Specialty Care, an LGBTQ+ Affirming Practice. Little did I know, it would spark an amazing journey.
I had been talking to my trans friends for a while about where we could go for adequate healthcare, so I started searching online. Most of the places I called, people were confused or curt with me – they didn’t know what hormone therapy was. Eventually, I found the number for the Haddonfield office. I spoke with Denine Gorniak, the practice manager, and she actually invited me to come meet her that very day. Everyone was so welcoming. Denine gave me all the information I needed to start the process, and Beth (Beth Meredith, lead patient service representative) helped me secure my health insurance.
About three weeks after meeting Denine, I had health insurance that would cover medical transitioning, and I was at my first primary care appointment. My provider, advanced practice nurse Marina Khazan was fully inclusive. She respected my pronouns, and I could tell she genuinely cared how I was doing and what my goals were.
Right off the bat, we discussed hormone therapy and top surgery. Before I could start hormone therapy, she informed me of the risks; with testosterone (and estrogen), there are some physical changes that will not reverse, even if you decide to stop taking it at some point. She then ordered a full bloodwork panel to ensure I didn’t have any health complications that would interfere with the treatment.
Over the course of the month, I also met with Christopher Huff, a behavioral health specialist, for counseling – an incredibly important step before I could move forward. His job was to make sure I was mentally ready and committed to the changes I was about to make. Then, I had my first top surgery consult with breast surgeon Dr. Susanna Nazarian.
Hormone Therapy: I started T (testosterone) on Wednesday the 9th. Euphoric is the best way to describe how it felt. I was slightly nervous, but I was more relieved than anything.
Ms. Khazan administered the first shot. She showed me how it works, and how I’m supposed to do it at home. I take it once a week, on the same day (every Wednesday). I will have to have my bloodwork checked every three months to make sure everything is on track.
Within just a month’s time, I’ve already noticed changes with my voice, hair and skin. My hairline has changed. I’ve started to grow a beard. My muscle mass and fat are redistributing, and my love handles are gone! The only frustrating changes so far have been an increase in acne and appetite, but they are manageable.
I have been working on my skin routine and meeting with registered dietitian Sara Madden for nutritional counseling. I want to keep my weight maintained as much as possible and start eating healthier. I know T poses certain health risks, such as blood clots, that could worsen with weight gain. This is definitely something people need to pay attention to, especially if they’re already a thicker person like I am.
I also just had my first visit with gynecologist Dr. Kelly Park. This can be taboo and uncomfortable for many in the trans community, but it’s important that we do include these check-ups in our doctors’ visits. I feel fortunate to say that my experiences with Dr. Park so far have been just as comfortable and supportive as with my other providers.
Top Surgery: During all of this, I had additional appointments regarding my top surgery with Dr. Nazarian and plastic surgeon Dr. Eric Chang to see if I was eligible for top surgery. They confirmed my eligibility and prepared me for the experience. Both of them have been amazing, from treating me with the utmost respect, to their bedside manner, to their willingness to answer every little question I’ve had. I couldn’t ask for anything more.
Now, I’m scheduled for surgery on July 27th! I don’t have enough words to describe how happy I am. When we found out, we were all crying – me, Rose, the receptionist. Our baby was over in the corner, squealing and clapping. I’ll never forget it.
Looking back on these past four months, it all seems surreal. I’ve known people who’ve had to wait years – a decade, even – to access this level of healthcare. There were no bumps. No obstacles. It was so easy.
The Haddonfield office has been a safe haven for me. Everyone is genuine. There’s no being treated as a number or as “other.” I’ve had disappointing and uncomfortable medical experiences before. Taking care of my health was on the “back burner.” I didn’t want to go to the doctors. Now, I look forward to it.
I just want people in the LGBTQ+ community to know, if they’re still searching for healthcare, there are resources out there. There are people out there who care. There’s a place for us.
[Editor’s Note: For more information on female to male (FTM) top surgery, click here.]