A Texas border college teamed up with a local physicians group to fill a need for transgender health care in the Rio Grande Valley. The result is a “gender care” clinic and among the patients they serve are a community of transgender migrants.

“I see trans-immigrants, people who are literally fleeing for their lives,” said Dr. Michelle Cordoba-Kissee, a Doctors Hospital of Renaissance (DHR) endocrinologist in Edinburg and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) School of Medicine internal medicine residency program director. She said the need for the comprehensive care of transgender people in the Rio Grande Valley birthed the Gender Care Clinic, located at the new DHR-UTRGV Family Medicine Center. It opened last Thursday, The Monitor reported.

“Transgender women in El Salvador don’t have a very good chance of surviving,” added Cordoba-Kissee, who also treats local transgender patients.

The clinic offers hormone replacement consultation, primary care including preventative measures like cancer screening and vaccines, counseling and mental health services, a pharmacy, plus referrals for legal consultation and for speech pathology.

“We struggled as a working group, (because) we don’t want to pigeonhole trans health … and contain it in this one clinic, because my goal would be that every clinic is trans friendly,” Cordoba-Kissee told The Monitor. “However, after much discussion, we did identify that there are very specific needs that could be best served in one location.”

Cordoba-Kissee credited her transgender patients’ for their input, which she indicated will continue to play a role in how the clinic evolves.

The Gender Care clinic opened on March 16, one day after the Texas Senate passed Senate Bill 6 (SB 6), the “Texas Privacy Act,” in a 21-10 vote. Better known as the “bathroom bill,” SB 6 would require people to use a public bathroom that corresponds to their biological sex and not based on gender identity, if it becomes law. Authored by Senator Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), the bill moved onto a reportedly less enthusiastic Texas House.

This clinic was actually the second transgender healthcare facility to open up this month in Texas. KVUE reported Texas Health Action’s (THA) Kind Clinic, the first of its kind in central Texas, began to work with transgender patients on March 9. THA Medical Director Dr. Cynthia Brinson said: “Right now, there’s no specific clinic where people who are seeking help for gender issues can feel at home.”

She added, transgender people do not always feel welcome in a traditional medical facility. Brinson is one of the doctors serving patients at the Austin-based free transgender clinic. Besides medical care, the Kind Clinic offers female and male hormones, SDT screenings, plus HIV treatment and prevention drugs. Clinic officials hope to add counseling services. All treatment comes at no cost to the patient. Expenses not covered by a patient’s insurance will be paid by THA.

A 2016 study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, How Many Adults Identify as Transgender in The United States, estimated 1.4 million, or 0.6 percent of adults identified as transgender in the nation. Based on state-level surveys, they approximated 125,350, or 0.66 percent, of Texas adults identified as transgender. This was second to California where 218,400, or o.76 percent, of its adult population identified as transgender. Since the study ranked all states by percentages and by demographics, Texas placed fifth-largest transgender population behind Hawaii, California, New Mexico, and Georgia.

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