Zeke Swim sits on a soft black couch sipping deeply from his coffee. The 20-year-old University of Iowa psychology and sociology student has a partner, gets good grades, and is involved in his community. But life was not always so comfortable for him.
Swim is a transgender male — a person who was born female but has sometimes undergone steps to physically alter her body through hormonal treatment and possible surgery and identifies as a male. He has been undergoing hormone therapy for almost seven years — since he was 15.
But in July 2010, the onset of unexpected abdominal pain and vaginal bleeding caused him to seek medical attention. Swim's subsequent treatment — a seven-month ordeal that, he says, consisted of 15 emergency-room visits, 78 vials of blood drawn, and one major surgery — led him to make some stark realizations about the current treatment of transgender patients in local hospitals:
Some doctors and hospital staff don't know how to treat a patient who doesn't exactly fit into the gender description of female or male. And as at least two University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics doctors confirm that the medical world may be behind the times, the UIHC is taking steps to better serve the transgender community.