By Daniel Reynolds
Originally published on Advocate.com August 10 2012 1:45 PM ET
Transgender man Jay Kallio is shining a light on LGBT discrimination in the medical community -- after his own physician failed to inform him of a cancer diagnosis.
When Kallio, 56, underwent a medical exam at a major New York hospital, he claims that the surgeon appeared bewildered by his patient's body. Though the doctor ordered a mammogram, he failed to inform Kallio that the lump on his breast had tested positive for cancer.
Kallio, who transitioned from female to male six years ago, learned of his condition "accidentally" when a lab techician called to inquire about the diagnosis. "Which diagnosis?" Kallio asked, bewildered as well.
"I kept hitting this stone wall of non-acceptance," Kallio told the New York Daily News. "It's a systemic problem. It was at all levels of providers, from doctors to housekeeping to the nursing staff. People need to be aware that this discrimination will not be tolerated."
Although the doctor later apologized, Kallio told the Daily News that the time spent to find new physicians has put his health in greater danger.
"It delayed my care past the therapeutic window for chemotherapy," said Kallio. "You should have chemotherapy within three months of cancer therapy. Because I had to change providers and kept encountering discrimination, it delayed the care. So much of cancer care has to do with early treatment."
The Affordable Care Act, passed by President Obama in 2010, prohibits physicians from discriminating against LGBT patients. But according to activists, many medical centers are unaware of their lawful obligations.
"Our community needs medical providers to know what their obligations are and passing a law is the strongest and clearest way to do that," said Mara Keisling, director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, to ABC News.
"It's incredibly important to me that this not happen to other transgender people," said Kallio. "To have all this added stress and rejection and to be denied care from providers was daunting - it was awful."