I can tell you this firsthand: Gender-affirming care changes lives.
Since going through puberty, I’ve always felt weird about my chest. Seeing photos or studying myself in the mirror, I would zero in on that area, trying to reconcile it with the version of myself I innately had in my head. During the height of the pandemic, I realized I was purposely arranging my laptop so nobody could ever see my chest during virtual meetings.
I’d always told myself surgery wasn’t necessary—it wasn’t that bad, I wasn’t one of those people. Then I turned 30, stopped letting the opinions of people who suck dictate my own inner monologue, and decided it was finally time to do something about this.
One month ago, I got gender-affirming top surgery. I wanted—I needed—to make my appearance match the transmasculine, nonbinary image of myself I’ve always had in my head.
I’m overjoyed with the results. It’s a relief and an elation to catch my reflection in the mirror and see a body that finally makes sense to me. But it isn’t lost on me that as I experience this great gender euphoria, other trans folks across the country are watching their rights erode in real time.
I’m sure you’re aware of what’s at stake. The 2023 state legislative session has seen a full-on assault on LGBTQ2SIA+ rights, from drag show restrictions to trans medical bans. I’m finally at a place in my life where I’ve overcome my own internalized transphobia, found a supportive community, and advocated for myself to get the medical care I need—but in the back of my head, there’s a fear that all this hard-won validation can be struck down with the swipe of a hostile politician’s pen.
Luckily for me, I live in Oregon, and I have the added good fortune of working for Basic Rights Oregon, the state’s longest-serving LGBTQ2SIA+ advocacy organization. I know Oregon is currently a leader in transgender rights, and I get to see the hard work our small but mighty team does every day to protect and advance those rights.
Oregon didn’t become a haven for trans rights overnight. When Oregon enacted a law in 2015 that required the Oregon Health Plan to cover many gender-affirming care procedures, it was the result of years of hard work and advocacy from Basic Rights Oregon and many organizational partners. It was also the result of countless individual Oregonians making the choice to stand up for trans rights and support our work.
Right now, Oregon is at a crossroads for trans rights. We can keep up the fight, and continue to pass legislation that further protects and empowers trans folks. (We’re working on passing that legislation this session!) Or we can rest on our laurels, surrender the fight, and watch an all-too eager opposition creep into our state.
Several bills were introduced to the Oregon Legislature this year aiming to roll back LGBTQ2SIA+ rights. Those bills didn’t get any hearings, because we’ve got pro-equality majorities in Salem. But they remind us what’s at stake, even here, and drive home how important it is to be an active, vocal supporter of trans rights in Oregon.
One month post-surgery, I’m through the worst of my recovery. I did experience some physical pain in the last month, but it pales in comparison to the mental and emotional peace I finally feel. Every trans person deserves to have this feeling.
Will you take action by committing to a monthly donation in any amount to Basic Rights Oregon? Together, we can protect and expand trans rights in Oregon.
Blair Stenvick (they/them) is the communications manager for Basic Rights Oregon. They previously were a reporter and editor for the Mercury.