Jacob was living in Arcata in 2018 when he had complications while recovering from gender-affirming surgery. He initially sought care at the only hospital in the region, St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka. But St. Joseph Hospital is Catholic, and Jacob is trans. When the doctor told Jacob he could not do the minor procedure Jacob needed, Jacob had no trust that the hospital had his best interest in mind and worried he was being discriminated against. The doctor would not even approach Jacob, choosing instead to stand at the door of Jacob’s hospital room. Jacob ended up driving in pain for five hours to San Francisco for his procedure. He then realized he had to relocate to San Francisco to finalize his transition, so that he could get care from providers he could trust. His wife, Ada, had to stay in Arcata, and the move and separation, on top of the initial experience, were traumatizing for the both of them.
Jacob’s experience goes to the very real consequences of Catholic hospitals discriminating against trans people. It’s not just the instances of discrimination that are harmful, but also the fear of future discrimination and the harm that does to care.
I was excited to move to Arcata so that I could live closer to nature. However, I didn’t know many people and not many folks knew that I was trans. When St. Joseph Hospital refused to treat me, my comfort in my health care was completely undermined in Arcata, to the point where I moved to San Francisco to make sure that I could safely get the care I needed to heal from the complications and finalize my transition. That’s when my world crumbled beneath me. It was a really difficult period, having the local hospital turn on us and making me feel like we weren’t safe. I felt further estranged from the town, and then because my wife stayed, from her as well. My wife and I have still not recovered from the fallout, and it’s hard to speculate what may happen in the future.
Ada stood by Jacob as he underwent multiple surgeries, but when Jacob was forced to move out of Arcata to access necessary health care, Ada had to stay behind. This separation took a huge toll on her own health and on their marriage.
Jacob at first thought that he was only going to have to move to San Francisco for a few months, but because of complications with the surgeries, he ended up staying longer. It was devastating being separated from him; I couldn’t believe that I was living in a town where a hospital would refuse care to someone who was in pain and danger. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a great support network, and since he wasn’t out as trans to most people, I couldn’t tell anyone about what was happening. We’re still figuring out if we can ever go back to Arcata; we loved the nature and the woods around there, but the fact is that Jacob can’t get the care he needs there if something were to come up. This experience has threatened our incredible, 13-year marriage, and we still have a lot of healing that we need to do for our relationship, and a lot of unknowns. There’s a chance that we won’t be able to make it, and in that case, we would both know that we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for him being denied care from St. Joseph.